Voice for the Voiceless
By Phil Wagler
A few months ago I was on a layover at an Asian aiport. My friend and I were standing near the ticket counters when a man nearby started screaming. “Call police! Call police!” Over and over in Asiatic English, the bright, blue-suited man hollered these disconcerting appeals.
“Peculiar,” I thought. “Why is he calling out in English in this most non-western place?” It was all rather confusing, given that we were on the only non-Asians around. The man kept pleading. My friend and I stood within four meters of this drama-king and were looking around for police to come running, this being a major international airport in the age of terrorism, after all.
Nothing. Nobody came. In fact, no one even stopped. People drifted by, looking over their shoulders, but no one did anything. Well, neither did we exactly. We just stood there trying to figure out what was going on.
Then we saw her. Boxed in protectively behind the pleading man and two of his comrades was a young woman—perhaps 18 to 20 years of age; it was hard to tell—her eyes darting with fear. Then to our left approached a well-dressed couple. The closer they got to the small cloister, the louder came the cry for help. The couple would then back off and the screamer would bow in oriental honour to the increasingly agitated couple. Clearly they had an interest in the girl, and clearly the men were not interested in cooperating. Who were the “bad guys” in this scenario?
The strange tussle playing out in front of us suddenly changed because we two westerners hadn’t moved. Now the bellower approached us, asking us to call security. This, we noticed, made the couple retreat. Yet, when the blue suit returned to the young girl, the other party approached us, seemingly seeking to justify himself in a language we could not follow. Finally, another of the men surrounding the terrified daughter came our way and through piece-meal English explained they needed help, had discovered this girl on her way from their homeland because she had found “work” with this couple, and they were now her posse, a wall around her, and would buy her a ticket home and out of the clutches of whatever unknown exploitations lay outside these wide, generic, echoing airport halls.
So, we stepped a bit closer, her terrorized eyes now clearer to view. The determined couple tried one last ditch effort, but with more of us now unrelenting they angrily protested with flailing arms and huffed off disgusted. The man in the blue suit bowed in their direction one last time. Then, he bowed toward us, and his group shepherded the girl off into the long ticket line.
My colleague and I stood in silence for quite some time. Would they get to the counter? They did. We breathed. And, it suddenly struck me, almost overwhelmingly, that this same scenario could happen in countless airports around the world, and nobody would be the wiser, if not for a man who screamed.
To the prophet in Israel’s broken times the LORD said, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30). “Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves,” calls the wisdom of Proverbs 31:8. And, in sparkling clarity, Jesus speaks, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).
The world is a messy, broken place, and sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of the confusion. What is to be done? Well, perhaps, we just need some men who scream.
PHIL WAGLER serves the area of training with MB Mission and lives in Surrey, BC.
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