“Meaningless! This is meaningless! Someone please tell me the truth!”

Katie McTavish listened to these words screamed by a young American man outside Del Ray—the largest brothel in Central America. “Intoxicated and physically exhausted, this man put words to the cry of the human heart,” says McTavish, who spent time last summer working with Face of Justice Ministries in Costa Rica, an organization whose mission is to bring justice and freedom to those trapped in sexual exploitation and prostitution through prevention, intervention and restoration.

A college student and member of Newday Church, McTavish was serving as an intern with Face of Justice Ministries when she heard those words of hopelessness spoken by the man on the street.

McTavish says she was honored to do ministry alongside staff and other volunteers by working in their safe home, Casa Libertad—or Freedom House­—where girls ages 12-17 have been removed from situations of sexual exploitation and are experiencing restoration by receiving counseling, education and freedom.

In the Red Zone, the area of the city where many women are in prostitution, the ministry runs an outreach called Casa Esperanza, or Hope House. There women are invited to receive job training, food, safety, and to participate in Bible studies. One powerful experience in ministry for FOJ, explains McTavish, is to go onto the streets for night ministry bearing cups of coffee, cookies, warm hugs and prayer for the men and women in prostitution. By pursuing these friendships, she continues, the ministry can offer practical opportunities for a new way of life and share the truth of Jesus.

Many facets of this organization are motivated by prevention, intervention and restoration, but in short, this ministry operates with the heart that every person deserves justice and freedom through love, which truly comes from knowing God.

One difficult week during McTavish’s internship, some girls ran away from the safe house, followed by ambulance visits, suicide attempts and cutting incidents. Like a domino effect, as one girl’s trauma resurfaced, another hit rock bottom. “I held a woman in the red light district while she sobbed and showed me wounds, burns and bruises from the abusive relationship she is trapped in,” recalls McTavish. “At the same time a few feet away, a woman who overdosed was unresponsive for nearly 30 minutes. We called an ambulance, but it never showed up because the system is broken.”

McTavish says with emotion, “Jesus chose to throw His heart into the mess [of humanity] again and again. The intentional, reckless love of God doesn’t ‘return the favor’ when we abandon, reject and curse Him. When despair paralyzes the human heart, prayer enables us to cling to hope as our anchor.”

McTavish continues, “I was 14 years old, sitting in church at Newday Parker when I first heard God calling me to be a proclaimer of freedom. Since then, I’ve spent much time learning about the issue of human trafficking and how to effectively combat it. God calls all his believers to be proclaimers of freedom and justice, and ultimately, this freedom only comes from knowing the truth of Jesus. Humanity is crying out for freedom and truth, and the desire of the Father is to set the hearts of His people free.”

McTavish says her prayer is that the freedom in truth empowers people to fight for the freedom of others, whether it’s the girl trapped in sex trafficking or the coworker who does not know Jesus.

Photo: Katie McTavish