Their husbands had gone to South Africa to work. Several months had passed already, but still no word or paycheck arrived back home. Neither woman had a phone to contact them. With 11 children between the two families and financial difficulties stacking up, the women began to reach a breaking point.
When a stranger named Emmanuel* came to their village in Mozambique claiming to be a friend of their husbands, how could they resist hoping he could be trusted?
“I know your husbands,” he said. “They sent me to bring you and your children to meet them in South Africa. They have very good jobs and have been able to purchase big houses for you to live in. It’s a beautiful town and a safe neighborhood with very good schools for your children. Your husbands are waiting for you now. They told me to tell you how much they miss you.”
The women had no way of proving Emmanuel was telling the truth, but the dream he painted of being reunited with their husbands and living in safety and comfort was too great a hope for skepticism. They wanted to believe him.
“We will go with you.”
Emmanuel loaded the two families into cars and drove them towards the border. Neither woman had ever traveled abroad before. They didn’t know anything about the destination, nor did they speak the language where they were going. They didn’t even have proper documentation required to cross the border legally.
Because of this last detail, Emmanuel told them they would have to cross illegally with the help of smugglers, but he promised it would be a calm and peaceful process.
“I’ve done it many times before. It’s very easy. Plenty of people cross this way,” he said.
Like trusting sheep, they followed the wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing into the dangerous forest of the illegal border crossing.
Fortunately, LJI had monitors stationed to watch this illegal crossing. They stopped the group for questioning.
Emmanuel immediately fled the scene. The monitors tried to follow him, but he disappeared.
The LJI team spent considerable time with the women, explaining to them the potential dangers of traveling to another country with a stranger without any resources to survive on their own.
“Because of the way he fled when we intervened—in addition to a number of other red flags—it’s likely that he was trafficking you for labor or perhaps something worse, like organ harvesting,” they explained.
It took a long time to convince the women. Unlike Emmanuel’s promises to give them their greatest desire by reuniting them with their husbands, the women did not want to believe the monitors. They did not want to believe that it had all been a lie.
But Emmanuel wasn’t there to reassure them or explain anything; he had fled, leaving them all on their own in the forest to figure out what to do with their 11 children.
Eventually, they began to understand and accept the reality of what had almost happened. They agreed to take their children and return home.
Accompanied by the LJI monitors, the women went to the police station to file a complaint against Emmanuel. The LJI team promised to follow up with the police about it later.
Then they brought the two families to the care of another trusted organization who provided them with food, a place to rest, and safe transportation home. Before saying goodbye, the team shared the Word of God with them and made sure they boarded their transportation safely.
Shortly after the women and children arrived home, they contacted the team to let them know and to thank them for their care and intervention.
This is how traffickers work. Most often trafficking does not happen through random kidnappings as people might imagine, but through deception that works because it preys on people’s deepest needs and desires.
You can help us place monitors at more illegal border crossings to prevent more people—like these two families—from being trafficked. Visit here to learn how.
*Names, photos, and locations changed or omitted for the security and privacy of those involved.
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