What kind of persons do you work with? What are their basic needs?
I minister to young female victims of human trafficking in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and teens at risk of trafficking. Poverty is one of the major causes of trafficking in third world countries. While some are taken into trafficking with false promises and hopes to get their basic needs met, others want an easy access to the best things in life (clothes, cars, etc.).
In what ways have your assumptions about the plight of humanity and what it means to be human been challenged through this work?
Before Natasha and I started this ministry, we did not realize that human nature was so fallen—that even in the 21st century some people would be selling others into slavery. Trafficking today is regarded as a modern form of slavery. Having been raised in a Christian family, I did not realize how corrupt human hearts can be so evil as even to take teenage girls into prostitution. Romans 3:23 spoke to me in an entirely new way. I realized that human race is truly hopeless without God.
In what way has your work informed your thinking about what it means to respect another person’s humanity?
To respect another person’s humanity means treating people as persons and not as machines or means for one’s profit. Young women that are taken into prostitution are treated precisely as machines that bring immediate profit and are thrown out once they reach a certain age, get sick with venereal diseases, or become pregnant.
What theological insights have been helpful in ministering to the people you minster to?
Young women that we minister to value it when we see them as persons and that God sees them as his daughters created by him. They are encouraged when we tell them that God created people so that they could have fellowship with him. God is not using people as means and does not treat them as things. For Jesus, even the woman that was caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), one of grave sins, was valuable. He did not give up on her at the time when others turned their backs to her.
Are there broader applications that go beyond the demographic or the group, the kind of person you work with that help you think more generally about being human in our day and age?
I would say that one of my big frustrations is seeing how much human life is undervalued in both the East and West. Humans are being dehumanized. I grew up in the Communist Soviet Union, where an individual life did not matter very much. The masses, being part of a larger group was of essence. Unfortunately, in the West, the value of persons is being diminished because people are judged on the basis whether they can or cannot perform. People are valued for what they do and not for who they are—persons created in the image of God. Also, it seems like, especially in urban settings, the further the society moves away from Christian values to post-Christian understanding of life (postmodernism, humanism, self-centeredness), the less people are being treated as persons.
What kind of character traits, virtues or approaches has your ministry helped you form? How has your ministry shaped you as a person?As a result of my ministry to trafficked persons and those in poverty, I learned to be more compassionate. I understood why Jesus, while keeping up with His purpose of saving the world from sin through the cross, devoted considerable amount of time to healing the sick and helping those in need. I also learned to be grateful for what I have and for the privilege to know that I am valuable not for what I have achieved (or have not achieved), but because I am a child of God created in his image.