This past week he told stories from his last trip overseas–around a table and over sandwiches– that still-fresh ink crawling out from under his shirt sleeve. I’d heard the story several times before, but there was something about this telling that felt different, scarier to me.
Maybe it was the natural responses from our friends. Maybe it was my mood. Maybe it was remnants of the tv show I’d seen the night before about killers and guns and heroes that still got dead.
He’s a good storyteller, that one. And this evening was no exception. He talked about doing covert investigations with the team in India and what the process was like to walk into a locked brothel there in Mumbai. He told of the long alley, littered with scurrying rats, dirty diapers, trash, and how they came to a dead end– surrounded by three sides, the only escape going back the way they walked in.
But then, like something out of a spy movie, the taxi driver moved a piece of corrugated tin that was resting against the dead-end wall. It revealed a makeshift door. The driver knocked a particular number of times, and the door opened to reveal a sliding gate, also locked. The Indian man from inside spoke in Hindi to the team of undercover investigators, toting along their white friend– a bizarre character in this common back-alley scene. The gate locks were turned, the cheap metal slid to the side. One more door after that, three more locks.
And the inside revealed a standard brothel, a grimy entrance room with a couch and a bed.
And at a dinner table thousands of miles away, I heard this man I went to senior prom with talk about what it felt like in that moment to hear the locks turn again behind them, the rattle of the gate closing, the scraping of the tin as it covered again the entrance back in the alley.
Locked in. No easy escape.
And my friend, she turned to me, wide-eyed, “Aren’t you scared of this stuff, of what could happen? I mean, it’s giving me chills just hearing about it.”
And, honestly, I don’t remember what I answered her; it was a fair question, absolutely. But I do remember my mind rolling that night in the reality of possibilities– spinning out all the things that could go wrong in a back alley, behind locked doors, on foreign soil, in a place that sells flesh for cash.
Are we just really, really stupid?
Three weeks ago, fear did grip me with strong fingers, walking my mind down trails of a funeral and single-motherhood. It was during that same trip of Matt’s to India, and I knew he was out for the evening with the investigators, testing some new covert gear. And our system when he travels, since typically he is about 12 hours ahead of me in time, is that he’ll call me when he gets back to his hotel at night (and I’m hustling kids out the door for school), and then he’ll call again when he wakes up to start his day (and I’m shushing children to bed). But for some reason, that morning a few weeks ago, he didn’t call.
I carried my phone with me like an appendage, but it didn’t ring. No texts, no emails, no Skype. The kids walked into their schools, nothing. I cleaned up breakfast, silence. I went to the gym for an hour, blank.
And that’s when I really started to worry. I knew it was late, late, late there in India. I checked the world clock on my phone, and then I looked back through emails to check that I hadn’t missed this as a travel day, putting him on a plane and out of reach. And like I said, I started running scenarios in my mind, and they all involved me wearing black and crying a lot.
And, then, a text flew across oceans and continents: So sorry, internet was down. I’ve been back at hotel for a while now. I’m fine.
And again, the whispering voice, “Sending the father of your kids into danger? That’s a pretty dumb thing to be doing, isn’t it? Isn’t it?”
And maybe it is. Goodness knows, there’ve been plenty of people that have said that very thing to our faces over the last two years. And behind our backs I’d assume, as well. Maybe it is stupid to risk for the sake of another, a girl that I’ll probably never lay real-life eyes on. Maybe it is foolish to think that God could use someone extremely unqualified to help spark justice. Perhaps it’s stupid to believe that we’re in a Story, penned by a Divine hand, and that the path we’re walking, He is able to uniquely equip us for as we walk it. Maybe it’s just really dumb to think that fear shouldn’t have the last word.
Or maybe, maybe, it isn’t stupid at all.
What if in the Kingdom, this is exactly how it works? What if the formula God uses most — the weak, the scared, the impossible, the under qualified, the mustard-seed-faith — is the very one the world calls stupid?
And I went to bed that night after our sandwich dinner party, at peace. Because the wide-world doesn’t have to understand our story. The logical whispers aren’t always speaking truth, and fear of the “could happens” won’t dictate our next chapter.
And if that makes me stupid, well, maybe there are worse things I could be.
Update: Thanks for your grace as this blog space has been quiet recently. Honestly, I’ve been swamped with managing working full-time with Exodus Road and mothering/wife-ing full-time. It’s been a lot. Another project that has proven a blog-distraction is that I’ve written a small book that will be out by summer’s end (!!!!). It’s the story of how The Exodus Road got started and walks through that first year of doing undercover investigations in SE Asia. Honestly, it’s been a cathartic thing for me to write. And Matt’s cried every time I’ve read it out loud to him, so I guess it’s been cathartic for him, too. I can’t promise when this blog space will be consistent again, but I can say that this break won’t last forever.
And for those who’d love a visual, here’s a clip of covert footage Matt took from a similar locked brothel in India, as the one described in this post. We were able to empower this team in India this past month to rescue 89 victims of trafficking. 32 of the girls were under the age of 18. Click here: Exodus Road Covert Footage. MUST WATCH.
Tried anything stupid yourself lately? How’d that work out?
And, yes, for you literalists, we’re huge proponents of practical wisdom, too. For example, this: Everything is Spiritual, Except When It Isn’t