She just couldn’t be a slave anymore. What she’d learned about how good God is, and that He and His goodness are everywhere, and that she was loved by Spirit in every way, didn’t jibe with her enslavement to the fraudulent contract that had enticed her to leave her family and home in the Philippines with promises of good pay, pleasant accommodations, and a round-trip ticket home every two years.
Maria (not her real name) had been in a country in the Middle East three years when I arrived almost a year ago. She cleaned apartments and did laundry six days a week, 10 hours a day – sometimes longer. She typifies mothers from impoverished economies who leave their children with loving family members and send money back home so the whole family can finally meet basic expenses. They come from all over Asia as well as Europe and the United States.
Maria hadn’t seen her three children or parents since she left home. Her employer hadn’t honored his agreement to provide a plane ticket or to give her time off to go. And he didn’t pay overtime, despite local labor laws.
I’d seen Maria, up with the sun, scrubbing the parking lot with a push broom and a hose, washing away the thick dust from the shamals, relentless dust storms that dampen spirits and visibility for miles, sometimes day after day. One day, I was walking our corgis on a nearby empty lot amid a sea of high-rise apartment buildings, and she came up to me. “Hello, madam,” she said, tugging on my sleeve. “Do you need a maid?”
I hesitated. Our apartment wasn’t that big, and I was keen on saving money. But after a few weeks of sleeve-tugging, she was cleaning our apartment better and faster than higher-priced maid services in the States.
Once while she was dusting my office, things got very quiet. I found her reading a brightly colored printout of myBibleLesson, the young thinker’s version of the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson.
“You are Christian?” she asked. I happily nodded.
“Me, too!” and she hugged the papers to her chest. We started talking about God and how He cares for us, and then, with a circular motion of her arms she shared, “He is over, under, around, and through. He is everywhere.” I gave her my copy of the lesson to take home.
From then on, our friendship moved from employer-employee to partners in seeing that “everywhereness” of God in her life. We prayed, knowing that God loves her as His treasured daughter and that there were no limitations to the good she could have. After several weeks of praying and sharing our understanding of God, she started to look for a new job. She was steadfast in her faith that all things are possible to God.
After a few weeks, a well-respected company offered her a job with higher pay and no more housecleaning. But her employer had to agree to release her.
Her original contract required two years, and she had surpassed that. She had also repaid what she owed – her entire first-year salary – for her visa, work permit, and airline fees. She went to the head office and asked to be released. They said no. She went every day, crying, begging. They not only said no, but said that if she left their employ, they would have her sent back home immediately. Though she would see her family, the more dismal employment situation there was not a viable option.
My husband investigated sponsoring her, but his employment status disqualified him.
Maria was then at risk of her employer trumping up a bogus charge against her to have her picked up by the police, a common practice by employers who want to expel such “troublesome” employees and who don’t want to pay their airfare home.
She came to me in tears and said, “Pray for me, madam.” The window for her new job was open only for a few more days. The Bible Lesson that week included statements of truth from Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” regarding man’s God-given freedom. It was so clear in my prayers, clinging to the truth that Jesus said makes free, that God’s sons and daughters could not be enslaved, but rather naturally express love, joy, freedom, goodness, and harmony. Science and Health states: “Truth brings the elements of liberty.... The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love” (p. 224).
It came to Maria to ask for help from her embassy. The ambassador’s office called her employer, who claimed he’d never heard of her. Upon showing her employee ID to the embassy representative, the employer agreed to give her until the end of the month to find a new job – or he would send her home. Then he claimed that she hadn’t repaid her employment fees, which she had done two years earlier, although she’d not received a receipt.
At that point, I shared her story with my church members in the States, asking them to pray about human trafficking and slavery, referring them to the same statements of the God-given rights of man as His image and likeness. When I told Maria that my whole church was praying for her, she started crying and gave me a hug.
Just as Peter’s chains fell from him in prison when members of his church prayed for him (see Acts 12:1-11), within 24 hours, her old employer dropped the claims, and her new employer covered her work permit and ID expenses. She was also blessed with a room and bathroom to share with only one roommate, housed in a spacious apartment with a view and a full kitchen.
No problem is too big for the freeing effects of prayer.
Statement from Maria – the Middle East, and Mindanao, Philippines:
I’m crying while Madam Wendy is reading this to me. Thanks, God. I love my job now. It is very good and every month the salary is coming, and they are not as strict. God is good, all the time, here at my side, all the time. I call to God anytime.