It is difficult to watch the news sometimes. Human suffering and poverty are bad enough. But when natural disasters are added to the mix, poverty makes vulnerable people susceptible to a host of other evils.
Vulnerable Girls and Women in Nepal
The latest news coming out of Nepal is that human traffickers are taking advantage of the recent earthquakes. Nepalese girls are easy targets for traffickers who pose as disaster-relief workers offering food and shelter.
In a time when these impoverished girls and young women need to be able to trust strangers for help, their gender and their economic status put them at risk for being enslaved as sex workers.
They are vulnerable because they are poor, and they are even more vulnerable because they are female.
God’s Concern for the Vulnerable
Throughout Scripture we are reminded that God has a preference for the poor and the powerless, i.e., the vulnerable. And believe it or not, God expects us to be concerned about them, too.
In Proverbs 31:8-9 we are urged to be concerned AND to advocate for vulnerable people:
Open your mouth in behalf of the mute,
and for the rights of the destitute;
Open your mouth, judge justly,
defend the needy and the poor!
Living a world away from Nepal, I feel powerless to help the vulnerable young women that are being exploited by sex traffickers. But that doesn’t let me off the hook because you don’t have to look very far to find someone who is vulnerable.
Vulnerable People Are Closer Than You Think
While natural disaster has made life much worse for the poor of Nepal, there are other kinds of disasters closer to home that make people just as vulnerable.
I have a friend, Sara (not her real name), who works with vulnerable youth right here in Rochester, in a neighborhood just 15 minutes away from my home.
Recently, a young teen she was helping was forced to spend nights on whatever neighborhood couch she could find because her family had been evicted from their apartment.
The girl’s mother was drug addicted and had left the girl to fend for herself. With no other family to turn to, the girl had become a regular at the youth center.
And that’s where Sara entered the picture.
At her church’s youth center, Sara struck up a conversation with the girl. Part of Sara’s job was to find a program that would house the girl and get her the help that she needed.
The girl didn’t want to be with strangers. She wanted to be with family. But my friend knew that the girl couldn’t depend on her mother right now.
Why? Because she was vulnerable:
- Vulnerable to abuse.
- Vulnerable to dropping out of school.
- Vulnerable to all kinds of problems that could destroy her life.
Staying with strangers may not have been what the young girl wanted, but that’s what was needed to keep her safe.
Open Your Eyes to Vulnerable People
You probably can’t do much to help vulnerable people half a world away. You may not have the skills to work with vulnerable youth in your city. But there are vulnerable people all around you who need your help in a variety of ways.
They may be vulnerable because of poverty. Or, they may be vulnerable because of age, infirmity, or disability.
The point is that we are called by God to defend the needy and the poor.
And if we open our eyes to see people’s vulnerability, they might be closer than we think.