Sarah grew up not knowing her parents or her real family. The mother that she thought was her own was in fact her aunt and the siblings she grew up with were in fact her cousins. When she turned 9, they moved to Manila and her aunt brought her to a family to work as a housemaid. Sarah, though being hardworking, was never able to receive a single peso from being a maid because her aunt would take this from her.
At the age of 14, Sarah was brought to work at a bar to earn money and pay for her aunt’s debts. She never in a million years thought of working in a bar. Sarah tried to fight, but this provoked her aunt to physically and verbally abuse her in front of other people. She didn’t have a choice and was forced to enter the business. In the beginning, Sarah thought the job would be temporary, but her aunt continued to borrow money from the bar owner and demanding Sarah work it off. This meant she would work, and receive no pay.
Sarah felt hopeless. She thought that she had reached the point of having to accept what her life is now, being an object in the eyes of many. The life she hoped for was not a dream anymore but a distant memory that has turned into a lie.
Still at the age of 14, a Filipino customer kept visiting her at the bar. She was always asked if she was still a virgin and would offer Php 10,000 (or $200) for a night with him. In that business, virginity has a great price and is a “valued commodity”. Sarah knew this as she valued it herself, in a different way. She did not want this. She didn’t care about the money. To her, her virginity was something she treasured and no amount of money could take that from her. She believed that if she could fight for her virginity, at least she had some dignity left for herself. Sarah fought for this in spite of her aunt finding out and beating her up on the stage of the bar and even at home. To make matters worse, her aunt even told her that she should stop acting up because whatever she does, she has already been tainted and will never be pure again. Her aunt told her that Sarah was only a dirty woman working in a bar. She was brought to be embarrassed and degraded even more in front of everyone.
In spite of this, she still did not want to give up her virginity. She was also afraid of getting pregnant and being too young to take care of a child especially considering the nature of her job and circumstance she was in. Because of this, the abuse she received from her aunt got even worse. She would work at the bar at night, go home and take a beating from her aunt, wake up the next day filled with bruises, and the cycle would continue everyday. There are bars intended for locals and bars intended for tourists or other nationalities in the area Sarah worked at. The rule is that each girl working for the bars for other nationalities must be at least 18 years old. After 4 years of working at a Filipino bar, Sarah was moved to an American bar when she turned 18. At this point she would ask herself why was it that she had to be the one to work and suffer like that to pay off the debts of a person maltreating and devaluing her. She also couldn’t leave her aunt because she had no clue of where to find the rest of her relatives. She had no other place to stay but with the person who caused her to lose her youth and innocence.
A harder time was up ahead when she started working at the American bar. During this time, she was not able to fight for her virginity any longer. A customer drugged her and when she awoke, she found herself naked, in a hotel room, with bloodied sheets. She frantically ran and locked herself in the bathroom. It was then that she believed what her aunt previously said. She was a dirty woman. It was then that she yearned to end her life. She believed that her life was over. She had nothing to hope for or live for. Her purity and virginity was paid off for Php 75,000 (or $1,500). Again, she didn’t care about the money. She stood firm on the fact that money cannot do anything for her now that she has lost herself to something so evil.
Through time, the customer that took away her virginity kept coming back for her until she found herself pregnant. But when she found out that she was carrying a child, it was too late. She had suffered a miscarriage because she did not know she was with child. She blamed herself for this. She believed that she was an even greater sinner now that a life has been lost because of her. After finding about her pregnancy, Sarah told the father of the child, a consistent customer, what happened. He didn’t accept this child nor console Sarah for her loss. He even tried to convince her to forget what happened by saying that it was all in the past. Before she knew it, she was pregnant with the same man again and suffered another miscarriage. After consulting a doctor, she was told that her pregnancies were sensitive cases. Her body has a hard time dealing with pregnancy, which was why her previous pregnancies ended at the 2-month mark. Since then, she started to live her life hopelessly.
Sarah started to enjoy the job she had, or at least convinced herself to. She also accepted more and more customers that would bring her “home”. The pimp assigned to her bar would even force her to take customers even when she had her menstruation. She struggled at first but as time went on, Sarah began to fight with the other girls at the bar just to get more customers. She thought that she had no choice but accept the situation she is in because there was no other option for her. Sarah was in captivity.
One day, a group of people from Wipe Every Tear (W.E.T.) entered the bar Sarah was working at. They saw her dancing on the stage and asked her to join their table. It was then that they offered her the option to freedom and a new life. Sarah couldn’t believe what they were saying. She said that they were all just feeding her lies. At first, she thought that the people from Wipe Every Tear were assets of the police. Her impression was that they were going to give the police some intel to raid the bar and arrest everyone there. She feared this because she had a previous experience of being arrested. Misconceptions and rumors about Wipe Every Tear were circulating the bars saying that W.E.T. is not real and that they are there to traffic women to other countries. Sarah would avoid them and tell them that they were liars. However, Wipe Every Tear was insistent to help Sarah break free from bondages. She was given a calling card that she kept with her. One night, she had a hard time sleeping and the calling card caught her eye. That night that she decided to call the number on the card.
She and her friends were invited to go on a vacation with Wipe Every Tear. Initially, they were hesitant to come because they were afraid of the possibility that the rumors about W.E.T. were true. Despite this, they chose to go with the mindset that they have nothing to lose. Little did they know, that was the moment their lives were going to change forever. One of the girls that was saved and helped by W.E.T. stood up and gave her testimony of the pain she was in before and how God, through Wipe Every Tear, transformed her brokenness into wholeness. After hearing that girl’s story and being filled with love by the people from W.E.T., Sarah decided to go be with W.E.T. and leave the life she was trapped in. She also vowed never to go back to that life again. This new life did not come easy though. When she decided to go with W.E.T., she did not tell her aunt about this. When her aunt discovered what she had done, she threw threats at Sarah and Wipe Every Tear. The staff at the organization encouraged Sarah not to be in fear or worry because this fear was haunting her in her dreams.
During that time, Sarah was still filled with hatred and bitterness towards her aunt and God. She blamed God for everything she went through. Sarah believed that if God was real, He would not have allowed those evil things to happen to her. She would say that God isn’t real and that He was merely a fictional character people believed in. Her heart slowly changed when the staff and other girls at W.E.T. started inviting her to their daily devotions. She did not receive this well at first and would criticize Christians for believing in God. But, this was only her way to cover up the fact that she grew up believing that she was not loved and
she had no value. One day, someone shared about God’s love and gospel to her. God touched her heart that day and she decided to attend the devotion in her safe house that night. Because of God’s transforming and overwhelming love, Sarah now helps during outreaches at the bars as an outreach leader. She is also a house leader in her safe house and would help the girls in their transition to a new life. Alongside this, she is the leader for the livelihood program, TAYO. She, with a few other girls, create jewelry by hand to earn extra income.
Sarah, now 25, is also currently finishing her studies in high school and hopes to one day be a missionary to share the love and truth she experienced in Jesus. Actually, a few years ago, just after 3 months of being with Wipe Every Tear, she desired to bring some of her friends from the bar she used to work at to the safe house. Sarah knew that these friends of hers wanted so deeply to finish their studies and have a better life. She did not go back to the bar to work but she returned to the darkest of places to bring the light she has found in Jesus. She could not let a single day pass by and not share this good news with her dear friends. God has changed her heart and aligned it with His. Now finding her true identity and value in God, she has forgiven the people that have caused pain in her life.
She was once broken, filled with anger and bitterness but is now overflowing with God’s love, compassion, and joy. Sarah is one of many girls Wipe Every Tear has helped and God has transformed; from a life in bondages and shattered into pieces to a life set free and made brand new filled with hope.