Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles related to the issues of Human Trafficking and how it affects our state. As a way to educate and bring awareness to our churches, this article tells the story of Barbara Maphet, member of Woodward, First.

by Lyn Smith

She just wanted to love and be loved.

When God is not the One meeting the need for love, disaster is certain.

Born to and given up by a mentally challenged woman and an alcoholic man, Barbara Maphet bounced around in the foster care system in Oklahoma until she was adopted. Plagued by abandonment issues, she had difficulty bonding with her adoptive parents. Years of trying and failing to love led her to a handful of pills and a mental institution. She felt helpless and hopeless.

As a result of ineffective treatment, she went through five institutions in a year and a half. The depression she entered treatment with turned into anger. Experiencing fits of rage, she often found herself strapped on a table in a padded cell, in isolation.

Maphet was released at age 15 into the care of her adoptive parents. Her dad died shortly after that, and her mother asked her to leave. Life became about survival. She eventually moved in with a boyfriend, where she became heavily addicted to drugs, got pregnant, had an abortion and hated her life. Desperately wanting change, she checked herself into an adult rehabilitation center at just 17. More than anything, she wanted to become a person others would not reject.

Describing that period of her life, Maphet says, “Being addicted, lost, and going from one depth of darkness to another is a miserable life.”

After four months, she left the center and met a woman with an escort service who found Maphet a “job” opportunity with two men. It sounded legitimate so, with no options, she went for the interview. After the “interview” and dinner, they took her to a hotel room where they told her to strip. With the promise of clothes, drugs, a nice place to stay . . . and nowhere else to go, she turned her first trick. Her journey into sex trafficking began as she serviced these two men and was taken as a minor, back and forth across state lines.

Maphet was just one of thousands of children in Oklahoma who wanted to be loved. Countless others today are wandering the streets, looking for love, vulnerable to drug dealers and pimps.

It is estimated that 1.5 million kids run away from home in the United States every year. One million of them are girls. When a girl runs away from home, she is usually sexually propositioned within 24 hours to trade sex for food and shelter. Seventy two percent of runaway girls admit to survival sex outside the home. Thirteen is the average age for a runaway girl to get her first pimp. All victims end up self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and will often cut themselves in an attempt to manage their emotional pain.

Many of these girls end up in jail. Maphet was arrested for drugs and incarcerated multiple times in Oklahoma County and Woodward County. Frustrated over her condition and life, she began reading a small Bible that was in the cell. She always opened it to the middle where she read Psalms, and began to relate to the honest expression of those writers. Two women began coming by her cell once a week. They talked to her about Jesus through the feed hole. During one conversation, Maphet asked if she had to go through hell on Earth to get to Heaven. They told her she could experience joy and peace here! She did not have to wait for Heaven. Jesus could change her life now. That conversation led her to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Psychology and treatment programs never gave her the power she needed to overcome. Only when the fruit of the Spirit began producing His character in her was she able to overcome. She experienced joy and peace for the first time.

Maphet has been out of jail and clean for 12 years. God has done a miraculous ashes-to-beauty transformation in her life. She radiates the joy and peace of Jesus, because she finally knows she is loved, and loves back.

What can you and your church do to make that happen for someone else?
(You can reach Barbara Maphet at www.freeatlastministries.com)

Lyn Smith is a member of the Women’s Missions and Ministries Human Trafficking Task Force.