by Emily Walton in Leading Hearts Magazine
Congrats Emily for receiving 4th Place from the Evangelical Press Association for Student Writer of the Year
“FORGIVENESS IS A GIFT, AND YOU CAN GIVE IT TO YOURSELF AND GIVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE,” Sioni says. Sold three times and a survivor of unspeakable horrors, Sioni Rodriguez is a champion of the healing power that God and forgiveness can bring.
Raised in Costa Rica with her younger brother, Sioni’s early years were torturous.
“I was confused and afraid, living in poverty. I was
abused and violated,” Sioni says. “Our mother seemed to hate us so much.”
Her parents were alcoholics who physically, mentally and verbally abused them daily. When she was five she began getting raped nightly by her mother’s lover. “I would sit in my bed [at night], dreading his arrival,” Sioni says.
Sioni was sold for the first time when she was nine. Her mother took her to a brothel in the city and left her there. She accepted Jesus into her heart that day.
“We don’t know who’s going to walk into the church. Just looking at someone in theeyes a different way can make someone turn around,” Sioni says.
While her heart and spirit had changed, Sioni’s daily life did not. Her mother sold her for a second time when she was 13. This time, Sioni did not get to escape right away. Sioni spent three unspeakable years in a brothel, but she now had something to help her through it. While many with her turned to drugs, Sioni would think God is going to take me out of here.
“It never entered my mind that my own mother was going to leave me in the hand of evil,” Sioni remembers.
She eventually snuck out of the house and was able to get home. Sioni’s pain would not end that day, but something was coming that would help her through everything she was about to endure.
While running an errand for her mother one day, Sioni heard a sound that would foreshadow a change in her life. The sound was unlike anything she had ever heard. It was so full of joy. Following the sound, Sioni walked into a house to see that the sound was tambourines. She had just walked into a church service.
The people in that house were so welcoming that she stayed. “That was the first time I ever felt love,” Sioni says. They did not judge her because of who she was or what had happened to her. “We don’t God eventually did give Sioni a chance to escape, and she returned home again with nowhere else to go. There, her mother would sell her for a third time, to a man in the U.
S. when she was 16. He took her as his wife and moved them to the states. What seemed like an escape soon turned into a nightmare as he became abusive as well.
After the birth of her two children, Sioni was able to leave him. She later met a man named Richard Rodriguez and married him in 2005. Even with her new life, Sioni still felt like something was missing. She still held anger and resentment towards those who hurt her. A call in February 2003 changed this. She found out that her mother was dying. Upon seeing her mother in a hospital bed, weak and covered in tubes, Sioni realized that she had finally come to a place of true forgiveness in her heart.
“When you don’t forgive, it’s like a wall that you build, The Devil should have killed me when he had the chance because now God’s going to use my story to speak life to people. and God cannot reach out to us,” Sioni says.
She later forgave her father and let go of the anger she had towards the other men who had hurt her. No longer burdened, Sioni was able to fully open her heart to God and others.
“People would expect that I would be emotionally crippled,” Sioni says, “that I wouldn’t be able to live a meaningful or happy life. Yet, here I am today. Everything the devil makes to be ugly, God turns around and makes it beautiful.”
Sioni now spends her time volunteering with her church’s prison ministry, with A Time To Heal Beyond Survival, and speaking at churches to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Not only does Sioni support the ministry of Project Rescue (projectrescue.com) as an ambassador, she takes missions trips to minister to children and survivors of sexual slavery and promotes awareness of this growing issue. She has also published her story, Three Times Sold, and prays for it to give comfort, hope, healing and encouragement to others.
“It’s to tell other people that if God did this for me, He can do it for you. I’m not different or special. The Devil should have killed me when he had the chance because now God’s going to use my story to speak life to people.”