Ms. Lin's story of human trafficking - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2023 newsletter


Hang Tran, Cambodia


Ms. Lin at the Missionaries of Charity (left) and with Hang in a garden (right)

A few years ago, the Missionaries of Charity, with whom I work, found a greatly agitated woman at their door steps. She was barely able to convey in Khmer language that she came from China. She was called Ms. Lin.

The local doctor gave Ms. Lin a check-up and some medicines, but she kept throwing the medicines away. I was asked to help.

I tried to talk with her in my limited Chinese: Ni hao ma? (How are you?) Her gaze changed from fear to rest. I sat down on the floor with her. Ms. Lin, who was exhausted, leaned on me and sobbed. Her tears began to flow, and her body was trembling. I comforted her quietly. As she finished sobbing, she became calmer and fell asleep.

Apparently Ms. Lin was married and had one grown daughter in China. Due to financial difficulties, her husband had told her to go to work for a Chinese company in Cambodia. When Ms. Lin arrived in Cambodia, the Chinese boss took possession of her passport. He informed Ms. Lin that her husband owed him a large sum of money, which she would have to repay by working as a prostitute. She was beaten into compliance and drugged into dependency.

On that fateful day, Ms. Lin hit rock-bottom. She had taken off all her clothes and was walking in the street naked — luckily, in front of the Missionaries of Charity house. Her loud cries and curses got the attention of the sisters, and they invited her inside.

Ms. Lin looking after the children of others in need.

Over the next few weeks, with proper care and plenty of food, Ms. Lin regained her strength and a sound mind. When I came to visit her again, she was able to look after the children of others in need. Ms. Lin showed me the rosary around her neck and expressed her wish to leave Cambodia.

The Missionaries of Charity sisters intervened on her behalf. At first the boss was tough and demanded that Ms. Lin return to “work.” However, he was no match for the sisters. It was bad for his business to be seen with nuns! He finally returned Ms. Lin’s passport. The sisters then contacted the Chinese embassy and Ms. Lin’s daughter. The following week Ms. Lin boarded a plane to fly home to China.

The issues surrounding the horrible ordeal of Ms. Lin and others who have been trafficked are many — betrayal, corruption, exploitation, violence. Fortunately, people like the Missionary Sisters of Charity hear their cries and are working with a number of organizations and governmental agencies on these issues.

Her journey from lost to found was nothing less than miraculous. In her case, the victim’s cry for help from the bondage of trafficking was heard! I hoped and prayed that the healing process would continue as she was reunited with her daughter.

For me, Ms. Lin’s story brought this scripture passage to life: “If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to Me in distress, I will surely hear their cry” (Ex 22:23).

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Hang Tran
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 2013, Hang Tran works with young people living with disabilities at the Home of Hope in Chom Chao, Cambodia.