Bright, Lucky and Sweet – {Heather Caliri}

Oh, I so love this guest post from Heather Caliri. Moms: listen up to my friend’s words.

Encouragement for moms: spiky, scary beginnings truly can become something bright, lucky and sweet.

 

My sister called on a day that wasn’t working.

My three-month old daughter was supposed to nap at noon. Like most nights, I hadn’t slept well, and was exhausted instead of rested in the morning. I was hungry for sleep at 9, yearning by 10:23, biding time anxiously at 11:15 and 11:37.

When noon came around, I lay down with my baby in our big bed and tried to be patient while she fell asleep.

Except she didn’t.

Desperate, I tried, and tried again while she turned from side to side and gurgled and fussed when I didn’t pick her up to play.

Every minute that passed, I ran through why she wasn’t falling asleep. I’d gotten five different books on sleep, and tried, in my exhaustion, to decide which of the methods I should follow. All of them had suggestions, many conflicting, and all of them would need a level of commitment and sanity from me that I hadn’t had since before my child was born. I didn’t feel skillful enough or brave enough to do anything, but if I didn’t do something, I—well, I didn’t know what I’d do.

A year later, I’d see my darkness for what it was: depression. But at the time, I couldn’t see clearly enough to understand why my brain was going haywire.

All I knew was at the moment, the house felt like a cage.

My daughter fretted, and I fretted, and then I scooped her up, almost ran outside, and put her in the stroller.

Just as I rolled around the corner on our street, my cell phone rang. My sister, Katie.

“How are you?” she asked. Her voice sounded far away, cheerful. It made me want to cry.

“She didn’t sleep,” I said, my voice bitter. “She was just supposed to take a nap, and she didn’t, and I don’t know why.”

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” Katie said. “You’re doing great. You’re a great mom.”

My sister knew from motherhood—her own daughter was ten—but I shrugged my shoulders as if to flick off her affirmation before it sank in. “I feel like I’m doing everything wrong,” I said. “I feel like there’s something I could do that would make everything better—and I keep messing it up. I just wish I knew what to do.”

“Oh, Heather,” she said. “Oh, honey, you’re not doing anything wrong.”

“But I just—I read these books, and they have ideas, and I try them, and they kind of work, but then they don’t and I—“

“Heather, it’s just hard,” Her voice had changed. Instead of being reassuring, it was hot, emphatic. Suddenly I remembered that when her own daughter was small Katie had struggled too. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like shrugging her off.

She continued. “Sometimes with babies there’s nothing you can do. It’s not that you’re doing it wrong. It’s just hard.”

I considered her words. The idea that the exhaustion I felt wasn’t because of my bungling was like a small seed planted in my heart. It sent out tendrils into dry soil. The movement felt good. It felt like hope.

Katie’s voice softened again. “You’re doing the best you can,” she said. “You’re just doing your best. And that is okay.”

I breathed in, and breathed out, and noticed that the fall light was golden through the hedge on my left. In a year, my daughter would be walking, and we’d toddle along this very stretch of sidewalk.  We’d find hundreds of ladybugs on the leaves of the sage-green bushes. Strange ladybugs, orange and light yellow and only an occasional red.

On the same branches, we’d find thorny, odd bugs, long as my fingernail, black and orange. I’d avoid them, sure they were poisonous.

But then I’d discover that the ugly bugs were simply ladybug larvae, repulsive in their infancy. I would not believe how much a ladybug could change. That a spiky, scary beginning could become something bright, lucky, and sweet.

I realized I’d been clutching the phone with aching fingers. I loosened my grip. “Thank you,” I said, meaning it. “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”

“You’re welcome,” Katie said. “I love you so much.”

She hung up, and I kept walking, getting ever closer to my own transformation.

 

h bio pic_june 2014 edits-1Heather Caliri is a writer from San Diego. She started saying yes to joy in her faith and was surprised to find that joy led straight to Jesus. Her new journal for people anxious about the Bible is called Unquiet Time: A devotional for the rest of us. She blogs at heathercaliri.com, or you can find her on Twitter (@heathercaliri) or on Facebook

 

 

Photo Credit: Ladybug Larva/Eric Begin (Flickr Creative Commons), edited by Bronwyn Lea.

Pick of the Clicks 11/22/14

A quick hello and round up of EXCELLENCE from the web, and then I am off to celebrate the weekend. Enjoy…

First, this PSA from my friend April Fiet:

1487440_10152370248665940_6397372991746569603_n

I usually close the pick of the clicks with a link to whatever was the most read on my blog this week, but this week I’m starting with my favorite link for the week – an artistic rendering from Corrie Haffly based on this week’s 5-day #ACourageousOne series. Corrie took a quote from each of this week’s posts about trafficking, and turned them into haunting, beautiful images. Whether you read none, one, or all of this week’s posts – take a look at Corrie’s gallery on Sex Trafficking Awareness as part of her NaNoDrawMo project (and share it!)

Other links I loved this week:

I am generally not a fan of closed captioning, but this music video is arguably the funniest I’ve ever come across:

And this little gem of a video has Grover of Sesame Street learning about Autism from a sweet big sister:

That’s all for this week. What caught your eye? What did you write or unearth which deserves to be shared? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading, and happy clicking!

A Letter to Men

LetterToMen

Dear Men,

A few months ago, a conversation on Twitter got my attention. Using the hashtag #YesAllWomen, women shared incredible and awful stories of ways in which they had been harassed, marginalized, ridiculed, leered at and exploited by men.

Yes, all women.

Soon the conversation changed, and people began to respond with #NotAllMen hashtags. Not all men are rapists. Not all men are addicted to pornography. Not all men pay for sex. Not all men disrespect and degrade women.

No, not all men.

This letter is for you: the not all men. And I’m writing to say We Need You. And, Please Help.

I am just beginning to uncover how close to home some very dark things are. Vulnerable women and children are being trafficked in our neighborhoods: they are preyed on and prostituted, and I didn’t know that so many of those who seem to be prostitutes are, in fact, victims who are drugged, manipulated and abused to be there.

Economics 101 teaches us that supply meets demand. This is true in the sex industry too. I didn’t know (and maybe you didn’t either) that the primary demographic of those buying sex are white, middle-class, well-educated, white-collar workers. Women and children are being trafficked to supply the demands of the very people society deems to be the most respectable.

But not all men are like that, which is why we need your help.

If you are a man who is white, or middle-class, or well-educated, or white-collar (or any combination of those descriptions), then you have a voice with these men that we don’t. You may not know who they are, exactly, but they’re among the every day guys at work, in class, at the gym, at the game. They’re the guys on the golf green, and at your business conference.

Women talk differently around women than when men are around, and men talk differently around men than when women are around. When women are around, men are less likely to suggest a couple of hours of entertainment at a strip club, or to make lewd remarks about how they’d like to “see her naked”.

Perhaps you hear men around you talk like that, and you find it uncomfortable. It might be funny, but it’s not who you are – so you say nothing. You let it go, finish your drink, and make your way home. I want you to know first of all that I really respect you not taking them up on the invitation.

But I am writing to ask you to do more. I’m asking you to please speak up and take a stand that it’s not okay to speak to women or about women like that. To point out that the massage parlor or gentlemen’s club they’re suggesting probably has trafficked women or children working there – did they know that? To say that prostitution may not mean what they think it means. To say you’ve heard some stories from women who worked the streets and it has changed your opinion on what was really going on there.

But maybe you don’t even need to say that much. A man saying something like “hey, that’s not cool,” in response to a “guy’s joke” might not seem like much, but it means so much.

If you stay silent, you may have protected your own character in that situation, but your silence is interpreted as indifference. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” wrote Bonhoeffer. The sex trafficking industry relies on secrecy to thrive, and when we fail to say something, we allow it to keep its secrets. Our silence become complicity.

Art by Corrie Haffly.

Art by Corrie Haffly

Please, don’t let the sexist joke go unchallenged.

Please, don’t let the guy next to you jest about “showing her who’s boss” without speaking up.

Please, don’t stay silent when someone makes a “movie suggestion”. The line between pornography and trafficking is a very thin on.

Please, if you are on a business trip and are invited out for an evening of entertainment, don’t just say “no thanks” and walk away. Say, “You shouldn’t go either.” Perhaps even invite them to do something else.

There are men in our communities who are predators and pedophiles. But not all men are like that. You are not like that. So I’m asking you: will you please be our protectors? Would you be a voice of conscience to the men around you?

For my sake. For my daughters sake. For all the #YesAllWomen,

Please, speak up.

We need you.


End-New-3DChris and Beth Bruno have written a FREE E-BOOK entitled End: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. Download your copy today.

I am grateful to the Brunos for offering this resource as part of the #ACourageousOne project.


This #ACourageousOne project is a 5-day series of blog posts to raise awareness, money and hope about the reality of sex trafficking right around us. There are tens of thousands of invisible women and children – courageous ones – in need of rescue and restoration.

We can help. This week, support a courageous one by giving #ACourageousOne of your own:

  • Donate ONE DOLLAR to fight sex trafficking (here, here, or here, if you need a suggestion.)
  • Pray for ONE MINUTE for God to rescue victims, and give courage to women and men to speak and act as we ought. (Here is a Psalm to meditate on, as a suggestion)
  • Share ONE POST on social media to raise awareness about this issue. This is happening in our communities, so if we speak up within our communities, someone directly involved is going to hear.

Thank you for supporting the thousands of courageous ones with your Courageous One. We can make a difference!

Psalm for the 29 Million

A Psalm for the 29 Million - #trafficking #endit

There are 29.8 million slaves in the world today. 60,000 of those are in the USA. Reflecting on this led my friend, Liz Below, to write a Psalm for the 29 Million. In support of this week’s #ACourageousOne project, she kindly agreed to share it.

Hear my cry, O God,
O Lord, listen to my plea.
You are merciful and just,
Your righteousness and love know no bounds.
But where do you hide your mercy?
Why does Justice slumber?
Night and day evildoers roam the earth
Morning, noon, and night they steal away innocence
They trade gold for pleasure
Offer treasures for a moment of ecstasy
They torture, threaten, and terrify
They kidnap, keep, and kill
They sell innocents for profit
They barter lives for luxuries
The lost and fatherless scream in pain
The hopeless and forgotten cry out in desperation
Are you not God, the Father?
Speak up for your Children!
O that you would reach down your mighty hand of Justice
And wipe away these vile creatures who defile your offspring.
O that your Spirit would come down and free these slaves;
Restore to them their purity,
Return to them their innocence,
And give them a home like they’ve never known before.
Hear my cry, O God,
O Lord, listen to my plea.
Rescue the children from these hungry lions,
Save them from the monsters of this world.
The lonely and abandoned,
The lost and forgotten –
Let them be loved and adopted,
Found and remembered.
Give them Courage and a Hope
For your Love endures forever.
Hear my cry, O God,
O Lord, listen to my plea.

********

The #ACourageousOne project is aimed to raise awareness, money and hope on behalf of those individuals who are hidden and suffering among us in sexual slavery. To read more about The Courageous One project, click here. To read the story of a survivor of childhood sex trafficking, read Liz’s story.

There are more courageous ones out there in need of rescue, like Liz. This week, show your support by giving YOUR Courageous One:

  1. One DOLLAR to end sex trafficking (consider Courage Worldwide and International Justice Mission)

  2. One MINUTE in prayer (pray today’s Psalm!)

  3. One ARTICLE SHARED on social media. (Share Liz’s story, or why Prostitute doesn’t mean what you think it means. Share today’s Psalm, or  this excellent article on 10 things you didn’t know about sex trafficking (and what you can do about it.) And use the hashtag #ACourageousOne, if you’re into that kind of thing. :-)

Your Courageous One can help one of the courageous ones. Thank you for partnering!

Prostitute: It may not mean what you think it means

Prostitution doesn't mean what we think it does. Let's change the conversation.

In the fight to abolish slavery two hundred years ago, those seeking reform faced a number of obstacles. The social and economic structures had a powerful interest in maintaining the slave trade, and people at home had little idea of what was really going on aboard slave ships. To expose the evil underbelly of the slave trade, abolitionists needed to challenge the political powers and incite the moral imagination of the culture.

Part of that task involved a painstaking process of explaining what the word slave meant. Yes, there was slavery in the Bible – but the socioeconomic situation of slaves in the first century was not the same as the slavery the abolitionists were talking about in the eighteenth. Slave didn’t mean what people think it meant – and so, reading about beloved slaves like Onesimus did not give Christians a pass at saying the eighteenth-century slave trade was justifiable. As John Newton pointed out, the better biblical word to describe the situation was not slave, but people-stealing as 1 Timothy 1 describes:

Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (KJV – 1 Timothy 1:9-11)

Words teach us how to think, and showing people that the slavery they were dealing with was more accurately men-stealing marked a pivotal change in the way people responded to the issue.

Today the word prostitute needs an overhaul in our thinking too. The way we’ve been using it (and seeing it in the Bible) doesn’t reflect the reality of what is going on in our world at the moment.

I remember when people started to call prostitutes sex workers, a term which emphasized the business-nature of the women involved. Whether it is called prostitution, whoring, or “the oldest profession in the book” – the terms have all focused on it being a woman’s chosen way to earn money.

A quick search through the Scriptures for the word “prostitute” supports this idea: people are repeatedly told not to prostitute themselves, and shame and judgment are reserved for those who would prostitute themselves in this way (Exodus 34:15-16, Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 23:18, to name but a few). Prostitutes in the Bible are women who have made shameful and sinful choices, as Proverbs 7:10 describes: “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.” The prostitute of Babylon in Revelation is the ultimate depiction of one who has chosen a path of evil and reaped all its rewards.

For sure: there are women (and men) in our world who choose to sell their bodies for sex. They are prostitutes, or sex workers, by choice. However, the alarming truth of the sex trade today is that a vast majority of those who exchange sex for money in our day and age are not choosing to do so. The truth is, the “prostitutes” today are more often than not vulnerable woman who have been exploited, beaten and violently forced into a trade. They are, to all extents and purposes, sex SLAVES: sold for another’s profit. They are beaten, drugged, brainwashed and manipulated to keep them enslaved. And it does no good to say, “Well, they say this is their choice,” when the truth is that someone is threatening to kill them if they say anything different. Read Liz’s story for a glimpse into what was really going on behind the words of compliance she was forced to utter.

If it is true that many (if not most) of those whose sex is for sale are being held against their will, then the appropriate Biblical word for today’s “prostitutes” is not prostitutes, it is “victims of violence,” “the oppressed,” and “the fatherless.” For most, there is no choice involved. And if the appropriate word is not prostitute, but victim; then the appropriate response from us is mercy, not judgment.

We need to stop thinking of these women and children as prostitutes, if by prostitutes we mean someone who has made a sad and unfortunate choice of career. Children, by law, cannot even legally make this choice. Anyone under the age of eighteen by definition cannot consent to prostitution. They are by definition victims of sex trafficking and victims of violence.

We also need to stop thinking of pimps as “managers” of these shady career women, and instead start to see them as prison guards or slave owners. Their offer of “protection and shelter” is as heinous as the “protection and shelter” offered by the mafia. The relationship between pimp and prostitute is not one of business-partnership: it is one of fear and exploitation.

The right word to describe these women and children is not prostitute (or sex worker, or ho, or whore), but victim.

We need to change the way we think about these words, because words teach us how to think. We need to follow the lead of Sweden, who have changed their legislation to reflect a better understanding of what prostitution is (and isn’t):

“In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem… gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them.”

Christians need to be at the forefront of this change, for it is Kingdom work to advocate for justice. We need to speak out and speak up for the defenseless. We need to shine light into the dark places. And one of the ways we need to make a change is to change the way we talk about prostitution. It doesn’t mean what we think it does. It means something much, much worse.

*******

This post is part of a 5-day series called #ACourageousOne, seeking to raise awareness, money and hope about the issue of trafficking. We need to talk about this, and we need to use the right words. Sex trafficking is not the same as prostitution. It is a violent skin trade happening right around us (in white, middle-class, well-educated America, as well as around the world). We need to pray about this. We need to find these girls – the Courageous Ones – and do something. They need your help.

And you CAN help. Support #ACourageousOne this week by:

  1. Giving ONE Dollar to end sex trafficking. Click here to send your $1 to CourageWorldwide, or to International Justice Mission, who work directly to rescue women and children in sex slavery locally and internationally. (There are many more incredible organizations that work to end trafficking, but these are two I know enough about to personally endorse them wholeheartedly).
  2. Praying for ONE minute for this issue. Pray for perpetrators to repent, for victims to be found, for God to rescue and heal. Tomorrow I’ll post a Psalm you can use as a guide.
  3. Share ONE article on social media. Share this post, or Liz’s story.  Share Courage Worldwide or IJM’s website, or the In Plain Sight film trailer. Share about celebrity efforts to end trafficking (like the incredible pro athletes who founded Not For Sale) ) But whatever you do, spread the word. The sex industry relies on secrecy and shame to keep going, and we have the power to change that: if we’re talking about it, it’s no longer a secret.

Of course, you are welcome to give more than $1, pray for longer than 1 minute, or share more than once – but would do you at least one? Support #ACourageousOne, so that we can support the many Courageous Ones out there.

 

 

 

 

Liz’s Story (#ACourageousOne)

Allow me to introduce you to Liz Williamson. Liz is a survivor of child sex trafficking but more importantly, she knows she is madly loved.  Liz is the adopted daughter of Jenny Williamson, founder of Courage Worldwide. Hers is an incredible story with an incredible ending…

lizcourageous

Liz’s Words:

Did you know?  Did you know how old I was, maybe not how old I was presented to be?  Did you care?  Did you think about my heart or my mind or only about your desires?

Writing this, I want you to know my heart.

I longed for a family.  I longed for a home.  I longed for a room that was a safe, for a room that
was mine, for a room that opened from the inside.  I longed for sleep.  I longed for safety.

I once tried to sleep with sneakers on in case I was able to run away.  But, I promise you, I was defeated.

Trying to fight was maddening because I lost every time.  So, I learned not to fight with my body.  I learned to fight in my mind.  I learned to blankly smile and nod and participate but to keep my heart far from it all.  I learned how to not cringe on the outside.  I learned how to be numb.  Maybe worst of all, I learned how to lie to myself.  All of the anger that should have been directed to those that hurt me, to those that designed the plans, to those that should have done something, I turned on myself.

I was still a child desperately trying to make sense of my world.

I believed the only people that cared about me were those that paid money to be with me.  They were the ones who helped me with my Math homework or explained the silent “a” sound in the word was when I got embarrassed in school for saying it wrong. Being hurt was my only constant truth.

As a child, I believed when someone took pictures of my body, they also took my heart.  No one could explain to me anything different.  I knew they were stealing everything and I owned nothing.

The anger I felt was overwhelming.  I want to tell you this not to hurt you but because I believe now if you knew the truth, you would see life differently.  Every Tuesday night for a few years of my life, I went to the local Holiday Inn to spend the night with one particular man.  I would grab every green Starlite mint off the receptionist counter before walking into the elevator. That was my routine. He would eat at the buffet and I would sit in the hotel room eating every mint pretending to be anywhere but there.  I would open the wrapper and focus on crunching on that mint so I didn’t hear how loudly my heart was beating or how scared I felt.

I seethed in anger, but eventually, it felt pointless.

There was no man or woman on my side.  What didn’t they see? What couldn’t they see?  The bruises and scars were obvious.  My absences from school were notable.  Eventually all of the anger settled into one lie, I am invisible, and I deserve this.

Birthdays and years confirmed this.  I believed this for too long.  Running away in the dark at 23, I remember every time my feet pounded the pavement and pain shot through my whole body.

Not one car stopped to help.

Years later, I can see these same memories, this same pain, and the anger I feel fuels a different fight.

Yes, I know what it feels like to be locked in a room and have no control.  But, I want to break down that door for another child, for another human, for someone who also believes they are invisible.

I am on the side of the invisible, of the forgotten, of the ignored.

*******

Liz’s Story: A Song of Redemption

In 2008, when Jenny Williamson was in the early days of working with girls who had been trafficked, she met Stephanie Midthun. Jenny had recently met three women that identified themselves as prostitutes who had all told her the same thing: “Please, build this home and help these girls – they just need someone to believe in them so they don’t turn out like me.”

Telling Stephanie this, Jenny was brainstorming on how they could get the message out: they needed a song to tell the story of the girls, she said, a song to say ‘Believe in Me’. Jenny had no idea that Stephanie was, in fact, a song writer. Stephanie wrote the song a few days later and had a 15-year old with a powerful voice record it. A film maker did a video and it was launched on Facebook in 2009.

(Disclaimer: this music video is tastefully done but does contain themes of violence and sex. While not explicit, is not recommended  for children under the age of 13 without parental supervision)

Half way across the country, Liz saw the music video through Facebook, and emailed Jenny saying she didn’t know anyone else knew about girls like her. The song haunted Liz and eventually propelled her to run away in the middle of the night with no shoes. She fled to a homeless shelter. Soon after that, Jenny invited her to come to Courage House and be her daughter…

And the rest is history….

******

Liz is one of the Courageous Ones. And there are thousands more like her, who don’t know that we are there to help. The #ACourageousOne project is one, tangible you can make a difference RIGHT NOW AS YOU ARE READING THIS. We can help more Courageous Ones like Liz by giving our own courageous one:

  • Donate ONE DOLLAR towards rescuing trafficked women and girls. There are many great organizations working on this, but I have personal relationships with Courage Worldwide and International Justice Mission. Would you send #ACourageousOne DOLLAR and raise money?
  • Pray for ONE MINUTE for the rescue and restoration of trafficking victims? Just one minute. Pray for girls like Liz to hear the message of hope. Pray that they would find safe places to go. Would you spend #ACourageousOne MINUTE in prayer and raise hope?
  • Share ONE POST about sex trafficking on social media. Share yesterday’s post about the A Courageous One project. Share Liz’s story to inspire others. Share Believe in Me, or either of the video clips from yesterday. You never know what other Courageous Ones might be listening. Would you share #ACourageousOne POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA and raise awareness?

Thanks for reading and sharing, friends.

A Courageous One

Support #ACourageousOne. They need our help. #sextrafficking #endit

This week, I’m doing something a little different on my blog, and I need your help.

In particular, this week is about women and children who are being enslaved and sold for sex. I know, I know. You want to stop reading already because the topic is too hard, too unfathomable, too desperate. But will you stay with me? Because there are kids right under our noses who are desperate for someone to find them and bring them to safety. They are scared and hurting and so very courageous.

This week, will you support A Courageous One with me?

Here’s why we need to be involved:

There are more slaves in the world today than at any time in history, and they are kept there by violence (Remember The Locust Effect?) Some slaves are forced into cruel labor conditions, many others are exploited and sold for sex.

It happens in India, in Thailand, and in Kenya. It happens in the Netherlands, South Africa, and Australia.

And it is happening in the USA too. Conservative estimates are that there are 500 000 women and children who are being trafficked and sold for sex at the moment in the United States. The number is staggering, and it calls for us to ask some more questions.

Where is this happening?

Right under our noses. In our backyards. Sacramento, which is a few minutes’ drive away from where we live, has the 2nd highest numbers for sex trafficking in California. Incredibly, the chief of police in Sacramento claims that those numbers are a good thing: because it shows that there is actually an involved police force investigating it. There are many places that don’t appear on any list of “cities with a trafficking problem” – but that’s not because it isn’t happening. It is happening, but no one is counting the victims or catching the perpetrators yet.

When film maker David Trotter and award winning musician Natalie Grant started looking into this, they were amazed at the depth of the trafficking underworld right under our noses. No areas in the US are exempt. Their movie, In Plain Sight documents rescue efforts being made in Sacramento, Houston, Little Rock, Nashville and Baltimore.

Here’s the punch line: just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. If anything, the ones trafficking children are relying on us not seeing it, so that it can keep on happening. We need to be talking about it and asking questions: because if you knew where to ask, you’d be amazed how close to your home you could buy sex with a child.

Reading this is shocking, I know. The proximity makes it hard to breathe. It is hard to know that evil is so close at hand. But do you know what, friends? The proximity also means that our HELP can be close at hand. This is not a “faraway problem” we can do nothing about. This is a nearby problem that we absolutely can do something about.

Who is involved?

One person who felt spurred to action is Jenny Williamson: a mom who learned about sex trafficking in her city and felt moved to act.

Jenny has just been honored as one of this year’s Women of Worth by Loreal Paris for her work (and you can support her nomination for a $25k prize here). I had the privilege of meeting Jenny last week and hearing more of her story.

Of all the incredible things Jenny told me, this stood out: In her early days of learning about sex trafficking, she asked an FBI investigator who it was that was buying sex from minors and beat-up women. The investigator didn’t skip a beat with her answer: “your husband.” She didn’t mean Jenny’s husband in particular, but rather was pointing out the shocking fact that the primary demographic of those seeking out illicit sex are exactly the same group that we tend to think is most respectable: white, well-educated, white-collar, married men. Many of them go to church.

I gagged a little when Jenny told me that. I live in a town full of white, well-educated, white-collar, married men. “Exactly,” she said. And, she said, the girls she works with who were rescued tell her that their busiest times of the day were between 7 and 9am, and 5:30 and 7:30pm: men on their way to and from work. Men who have sex with a child and then continue to their job where they teach our classes, fix our teeth, finance our loans, and stamp our documents. Men who have pay for sex on their way back from work, and arrive home “a little late” to have dinner with their wives and kids.

Friends, I know. It is beyond horrifying, and my purpose is not to make us suspicious of everyone we know. My purpose is this: it is to say that if we start a conversation, bring this issue to light, share about it on social media – then we are going to, at some point, be talking to someone who is directly involved in it. We just won’t know who it is.

This issue is closer than we think – and that’s terrifying.

But, this issue is closer than we think – which means we really can do something.

So let’s talk. Let’s raise awareness. This stuff will only go on as long as we turn a blind eye. It thrives on secrecy. But if we’re talking about it: it won’t be a secret anymore.

Let’s give generously. Let’s pray. God knows where these scared and hurting children are and He longs for them to be safe. Will you partner with me this week to help us support these courageous ones and bring them to safety? We can do it. Tomorrow I will post Liz’s story: an incredible story of hope and healing. How wonderful would it be for us to partner to find more Liz’s, so that they will have their own courageous story to tell?

The good news is that we don’t have to be superstars or wizards to help. We can help in a really practical, tangible way. This week, can I ask you to work with me to support one of these courageous ones by supporting the #ACourageousOne project, and:

  • Donating ONE DOLLAR towards rescuing trafficked women and girls. There are many great organizations working on this, but I have personal relationships with Courage Worldwide and International Justice Mission. I trust their organizations. Would you send #ACourageousOne DOLLAR and raise money?
  • Praying for ONE MINUTE for the rescue and restoration of trafficking victims? Just one minute. Pray for the organizations working to help. Pray for the men who do these things to come to their senses. Would you spend #ACourageousOne MINUTE in prayer and raise hope?
  • Sharing ONE POST about sex trafficking on social media. This week I will post one girls’ story, some information on what prostitution is (and isn’t), a Psalm for the 27 million, and an open letter to men. Share any of these, or one of the videos in this post, or share this excellent article on 10 things you didn’t know about sex trafficking (and what you can do about it). Share about SF Giants’ Jeremy Affeldt’s campaign about human trafficking (Go Giants!) Again: the communities we know on social media are the communities involved. Would you share #ACourageousOne POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA and raise awareness?

Imagine the possibilities. This blog has about about 2000 followers. Imagine if we could turn that into $2000. Or 2000 prayers. Or spreading the word by sharing 2000 articles (and just how many dollars or prayers THAT would generate!)

Be A Courageous One with me. Let’s refuse to do nothing. We can make a difference.

 

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley’s “One Day” (Flickr Creative Commons). Edited by Bronwyn Lea.