She grew up in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area and from a very young age knew nothing but physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a male family member.
“In the 6th grade I was yanked out of school,” Melissa Woodward shared withPure Passion Ministries in a heartbreaking video exposé of trafficking in America.
The family member began taking her to bars at night, selling Melissa to different men. “Sometimes the acts of service would occur in my bedroom,” she recounted. “Other times they would occur outside the bar.”
Sometimes she woke up drugged, not knowing what happened or where she was. “I would have to find my way back home on a city bus,” she recalled.
Truancy officers began to wonder why Melissa was not in school and started “snooping around.” This pressure – along with mounting gambling debts by her family member — led to her sale into the dark, nether world of trafficking in America.
“He traded me off like a piece of property,” she said. One night she woke up and found herself in an underground storage area.
“There were 14 other little girls with me. We were each chained to a metal twin-sized bed. We were given no more than a sandwich a day to eat or whatever food they would throw on the floor to us.”
But at night things changed. “Women came in an doll you up and make you look like Cinderella and they present you to their customers as a willing little girl,” she recounted.
Melissa said her customers involved with the trafficking ring were often businessmen, lawyers, and doctors. She was forced to service between five and 30 men a night.
Some of the girls left and never come back. “I knew they weren’t alive anymore. It was really scary so I just did the best I could. We were never allowed to say no.”
One day — after she had already spent 18 months in this horrible world — a customer uploaded an idea from the pit of hell.
“He said he had the fantasy of watching a little girl burn to death,” she recounted, as she began to sob quietly. “He took me and poured kerosene from the waist down and struck a match.”
She woke up a few days later in a trash dumpster and heard someone saying, “She needs help. She needs help. I think she’s still alive.”
She spent a year in a Dallas hospital and went through 30 reconstructive surgeries “to be made into a little girl again.”
When the time came for her release she informed the hospital it wasn’t safe for her to go back to her family. Incomprehensibly, they released her to the custody of the man who found her in the dumpster.
“Now I’m 14 staying with a strange man I didn’t know, who was involved in a lot of bad stuff. Within a year I was back out on the streets and he was my new pimp.”
Back on the streets
In addition to prostitution, she began running drugs for this individual and found herself arrested multiple times.
“I told people bits and parts of my story but nobody really listened,” she said. “I was just a prostitute, a throwaway.”
She continued working the streets. “I would take the money back to my pimp, who I thought was my boyfriend, and we were going to have a glorious life together…”
At 17, Melissa’s pimp went to jail, so she decided to become a stripper. “I had no education and no family. I didn’t know anything but making money this way,” she noted.
She was also addicted to alcohol and drugs. “I would do anything I could to get the money to have my fix,” she said.
After two miscarriages, Melissa got pregnant and delivered a daughter. She went on to have three children with different men in a relatively short time. But by the time her oldest was four-years-old, all three children were taken from her.
“I couldn’t be a mom and an addict at the same time,” she admitted.
After Melissa lost custody of her children, she gave up all hope. “I was tired of the flashbacks and the nightmares. I was tired of everything and just wanted it to end.
She drove to a lake outside Houston with a loaded gun and a bottle of tequila. When the last shot of liquor was gone, she fired a test-round into the water.
“I turned it on myself and pulled the trigger three times and nothing happened.
Oh my God, she thought, I can’t even commit suicide right.
Then the still small voice of the Lord broke through her despondency: What if things could be different? What if things could change?
Melissa didn’t think change was possible because she couldn’t remember a time when she was happy, healthy or functioning like a regular person.
She made a 9-1-1 call to a friend who drove her to the hospital and checked her in for drug rehab. “I didn’t want to keep shooting up drugs. I was done. I was tired. I had tried to get clean and sober but nothing had worked.”
Sadly, when she was released from the program, she was still not clean and sober. “I was trying to use less, but every morning was another needle in my arm and another half bottle of tequila before I climbed out of bed.”
From the mouth of a child
One day her five-year-old daughter, China, was brought over for a visit. It was the first time Melissa had seen her daughter in many months. The sight of her daughter’s face brought a flash of momentary joy.
“I want to tell you a story mommy. I think you can get help,” China said.
“Baby, I’ve tried. Momma’s tried everything, but I’m not doing very well.”
“But I’ve got a story about a man named Jesus, my big Jesus can help you,” the little girl insisted.
Melissa thought Jesus didn’t care about her, couldn’t possibly love her because of everything she had done. “I pushed her away and told her I didn’t want to talk about it.”
But China – prompted by the Holy Spirit – persisted. Right before bed she said, “Mom, you told me you would talk to me about anything.”
“OK, China, what do you want to talk about?”
“I want to tell you about my big Jesus.”
Melissa decided to listen. China began to tell her mother about God’s grace, love and forgiveness and she thought, Wow, this must be some God she serves.
“Why do you really love Jesus?” Melissa asked.
“Because when nobody else is there for me, he always is. And he will be there for you too.”
Melissa tucked her daughter in bed and walked outside. A fierce thunderstorm began to hit, with belting wind and rain.
She stared up in the heavens and said, “God, I’ve got one question. Where have you been in all of this? Where have you been? Why has this happened to me?
A powerful vision
Then God gave her an unusual vision in the form of flashbacks from her life. “He was showing me where he had been through everything and how my life could have purpose.”
Then with a tender love He spoke to her heart, I love you and you’re my daughter.
“Okay God, if you’re real you have to change me, because I can’t do it anymore. I can’t live this way anymore.”
Melissa took her booze and drug paraphernalia and laid them out in the lashing rain. She stood and looked up as the rain pelted her cheeks, threw her arms up and cried out, “God, fill me full!”
The next morning when she woke up she instinctively started to reach for her tequila and a needle, and a strange new sensation stopped her.
I don’t need this, she realized. It was the first time she could remember not needing drugs or alcohol in 20 years.
Oh my, she thought, there is really something about this guy named Jesus!
It was Sunday morning and Melissa put on the only white clothes she owned and headed for church. She admits her clothes were not necessarily appropriate for church.
“I knew He had changed my life and nothing was going to be the same.
Over time, with the Lord as her strong foundation, God rebuilt her life. “ He gave me back my children and we have an amazing relationship. He gave me the husband of my dreams. Everything I should not have he gave to me.”
Slowly, she was able to forgive the people who abused her. “I was no longer bitter and angry and harsh. God began to soften my heart and transform me from the inside out.”
“No matter where you’ve been, God can take your life and transform it. He can give you beauty from ashes. He will help you if you call out his name. There is nothing too big for our God.”