Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
It's an awful thing to be aware of, isn't it? It haunts me in a way that few other things do. It causes me to lose sleep, to lose my appetite, to scream in anger, to shudder while I kiss my children goodnight.
It causes me to watch my children like a hawk. It causes me to want to ask every teen girl I see if she is safe and well-loved. It causes me to want to stop every young man I see and ask him if he knows what it means to be a protector in this world. It causes me to question the intentions of seemingly innocent situations, because I refuse to let my guard down if it puts my babies at risk.
And honestly, I'm not even all that aware. I'm not an expert on this topic. I know enough to make me sick to my stomach, but I don't know enough.
But I'm intentionally gaining more awareness because I refuse to look away.
I sometimes joke about the "Stay-at-Home-Mom-Bubble" in which I exist. It's good and it's where God needs me to focus right now, but it's a bubble nonetheless. I go to the gym and piano lessons and skating lessons and doctor appointments and read a thousand books a day and clean up a hundred meals and wash crayola paint off my walls and go to gymnastics and hug my kids a lot. It's an awesome world in which to exist. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
But it also leaves me too tired to watch the news in the evenings, and I can't expose my babies to the horrors of the news during the day, and I don't have time to read a newspaper (Obviously I'm reading Brown Bear a hundred times today though!), and I don't have very many conversations with adults...so my world is a bit of a cute, cuddly (and chaotic) bubble.
But I'm working really hard at breaking my bubble a bit because I can't do nothing anymore about the fact that 100,000 children right here in my "land of the free" are being used and abused daily for sex.
While my precious adorable two-year-old is drawing on my walls again with blue marker, other children are being sold for horrid atrocities and evil beyond my imagination. And since I know about it, I cannot do nothing any longer.
The other day I had an opportunity to expand my world-view a bit by watching a movie called 8 Days...it's based on a true story of a beautiful 16-year-old girl from Texas who was sold into a sex-trafficking ring by her own peers who drugged her with date-rape drugs and then sold her for cash and drugs.
Now, whatever your thoughts are about the demographics of the children being trafficked, know this: this girl was Caucasian, from an upper-middle class, intact two-married-parent, Christian family, whose parents were doing everything they could to raise her well with a solid head on her shoulders, meeting her friends' parents, being aware of the risks of the world, etc.
And yet, trafficked she was. For 8 horrific days until she was found by the police. While not visually graphic, the movie was horrid it's portrayal of the depraved treatment of these girls and the evil of the subject matter, leaving me distraught the whole time.
But even worse than the main story line was the beginning of the movie, which showed the entrance of young children into the sex trade. The reality of addicted mothers selling their young daughters to evil men because they are so desperate for the crack or heroine being offered in exchange. Or selling one child to pay for food for the other children.
And the men - many of them professional, married fathers - who would come into the rooms, abuse the girls in total atrocity, and then go back to their families.
It's all too evil for words and I really can't stand even typing about it.
But I have to, friends. Because it's here. It's happening. Right now, in my own city, while I type these words, there are young girls and boys being sold as sex slaves. I can no longer ignore it or turn my back or be too busy in my own little world.
Sometimes issues arise when I think, "This is it, Church. This is our time." Few things matter more than this. Children being sold for sex. Children being treated far worse than animals. Children being sold so that their parents can maintain their drug addictions. Mothers being so broken and shattered and empty that they would even sell their child. Men being so void of their God-given natures of protection and honor that they would do such atrocities to children.
This matters, Church. This is our time.
There are more slaves now than ever before in human history. The average age that a girl is sold into sex trafficking is 13 years old. THIRTEEN YEARS OLD, FRIENDS. That brings me near vomiting and weeping simultaneously. One fourth of all children sold into the sex trade are boys. 1-2% of trafficking victims are ever rescued. There are 27 MILLION slaves in the world right this very minute.
As I type the awful statistics above, I'm reminded of the words that the prophet Isaiah used to describe the coming Savior...the words Jesus said were written about himself:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
This is why it's the Church's time, friends. Because only Jesus can set the captives free.
Because this atrocity is too big and too evil to fight with human attempts alone. We need Jesus.
And the Church doesn't fight as mere humans...the Church fights as the Body of Christ, as ambassadors with Christ, for Christ, in Christ.
And as we turn our faces toward the children in bondage, we bring them Jesus. We bring them the One for whom nothing is impossible. And when we bring Jesus to these children, their broken hearts are comforted, the captives are freed, ashes become crowns of beauty, despair can turn to rejoicing.
But we have to actually do something about it, friends. We can't do nothing. As Edmund Burke wrote a really long time ago, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
So, what should we do?
Like I said, my journey to awareness on this issue is relatively new, so I don't know what I'm supposed to do exactly. But I have some ideas:
1. I will be a ferocious mama. First and foremost, I will protect my children. I've always admired the animal kingdom in the way they protect their young. We humans kind of fail at protecting our young, don't we? So I will be a mama bear and protect my children in every way I can.
2. I will learn. Research. Watch documentaries. Read. I have a brave friend who is an expert - I will learn from her. I will not be unaware. If knowledge is power, I can't be powerfully helpful to the victims if I don't have knowledge.
So where can you go to learn? Lots of places but I'll give you a couple favorites:
Voice for the Captives - a local North Dakota non-profit founded by my very brave friend who is working hard to teach and equip North Dakotans
A21 Campaign - a worldwide ministry freeing slaves daily, founded by brilliant preacher and woman of God Christine Caine
Shared Hope International - my brave friend told me to research this website to learn more, so I'm passing it on to you too.
3. I will educate. God has given me a voice and I will use it. On this blog, in my speaking ministry, in my church, with my friends, in my circle of influence. My circle of influence is not huge. This blog is rather small. But it's the circle of influence God has given to me so I will use it. I will tell others. I will help young women to whom I minister know how to be aware of the culture around them. I will help parents to whom I minister know how to protect their children. I will teach teen boys and girls that pornography is where this starts. You have a circle of influence too...at work, at your church, in your cycling class, whatever, whenever, wherever.
4. I will teach zero tolerance for porn. If you think the women in porn movies want to be there, you're wrong. Many in that industry are being trafficked. Many are victims of childhood abuse. Do not feed the industry by using it. And friends, this includes things like "5o Shades of Gray." It's porn. Just because there's a dramatic story line involved that doesn't mean it's not pornography. When the movie is released in your theater in a couple weeks, please don't go. Your ticket money would be supporting pornography that visualizes harmful sexual acts that are most often used in violence against women. Please don't go.
5.. I will love. The victims desperately need love. The pimps or "johns" clearly don't know what love is...they've likely never been loved well. The parents who sell their children haven't experienced true love. The only way to teach others of the love of Jesus is to show it. To love in such action that people see and are impacted. I will love. Jesus said to even love your enemies and pray for those who persecute. I will try. In this instance, I don't know how to do that, but Jesus can teach me.
6. I will never use the word prostitute. Here's the deal: No woman wants to sell herself. Often, she's doing it because she was abused as a child, then at some age started using drugs to erase the memories and numb the pain of her past, then got addicted, and only knows one way to make money to feed the addiction.
Or, perhaps she is broken in every way, has never been told of the innate value of her own body and soul, and doing the only thing she knows of to put food in her children's tummies.
Whatever her story, she needs to be loved, not judged.
7. I will pray. Pray for the children in your community that are being sold. Pray for the women being sold, by themselves or others. Pray for the men buying sex. Pray for the pimps "johns" who are selling little girls, little boys, and women ruthlessly and hatefully.
Pray for the Church at large - the body of Christ in this world - to stop with the trite things and advance on the massive things - like the dignity of every human person, created in the image of God. Pray for the middle & high schools, where this so often begins. Pray that we can teach love and honor to the next generation.
We cannot do nothing friends. These are our daughter and our sons. Our sisters, our brothers, our friends.
If we, as mere humans, are disgusted and distraught and angered by this atrocity, imagine the heartache and anger of the loving God and Savior who created each and every child in His own image...who loves them so much He died on a cross for them, and then watches as they are abused by another person that He also created and loves? I mean really. Imagine. We can't imagine.
But we can act.
So let's not do nothing friends. This is our time.
"You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know."