It is not unusual to trust your religious leaders. A pastor is called by God to look after their flock, protect them and seek their best interests. However, in *Grace’s case- her pastor turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing
For *Grace and her mother, *Angeline, it was normal to seek help from someone trusted as a spiritual leader in their community, they did not understand why Grace was having dreams that they could not explain. *Thulani, a pastor in the area, identified her as being allegedly possessed by demon and immediately suggested they take Thulani to see a well-known prophet in a far-away country. Thulani also named his price, emphasising that this would be a very expensive process and that it would be important for him to take Grace and Angeline there personally. In her vulnerability, Angeline saw the opportunity to help her daughter and agreed to pay him for his help. Grace’s freedom was close, the price was costly but no price is to dear for a mother to see her child set free.
Upon receiving payment, Angeline was told that she would not be accompanying the pastor and her daughter to this place and made up an excuse that she wouldn’t get a visa. He insisted that he take Grace anyway, he was after all the one who knew the esteemed prophet and it was the child who needed help. He assured her safety and the success of their trip, he would return her daughter to her as she was before- innocent.
As they set out upon their journey, Grace and Thulani were questioned, and many red flags were uncovered. What was the team to make of a young girl who was travelling with an older gentleman to whom she was not related, through a suspicious route to a country she was not from? Thulani was unable to provide any proof that they were expected by the prophet or that they had had any contact with the church at all. At this stage for the LJSA team, there were still big pieces missing from Thulani’s story.
Upon further assessment, there was one discrepancy which was enough to make the team suspect that this may be a case of human trafficking. Thulani had an outstanding warrant for his arrest in a neighbouring country and there were good reasons to believe that Thulani had no intentions of taking Grace to the prophet. After contacting the girl’s father who was unaware of the trip, it became obvious to the LJSA team that this was not a normal religious trip and that Grace was in grave danger of being trafficked. Her case was handed over to the South African Police and for reasons other than this one case, Thulani was placed under arrest. Grace is now safe and has a chance at a truly free life.