That Time I Interviewed a Celebrity

That Time I Interviewed Natalie Grant

It’s kind of a funny story, really.

I have an article up at RELEVANT magazine today, and so many things went WRONG in the writing of this piece that the backstory became a story of its own.

So, let me back up. In November I did a blog series to raise awareness, money and hope about sex trafficking: the #ACourageousOne project. One of the things I highlighted was a film that I had just seen the premiere to, In Plain Sight: a hopeful and illuminating documentary on the issue. Many, many people read and shared the posts that week, but I was still wondering how else I could spread the word about trafficking more widely.

So, I pitched an article idea to the biggest magazine I could think of – RELEVANT. The editor wrote back and said that while the angle I had suggested wouldn’t quite work for them, if I could arrange an interview with super-famous and multiple-award-winner Natalie Grant, who co-produced the film, they’d run it. I got in touch with the executive producer, David Trotter, who put me in touch with NG’s “people”…

Christmas was upon us, and it took a while to get an interview set up. We finally found an amenable day, and I excitedly emailed the RELEVANT editor to say I’d have the article to her within 3 days of the interview. But then, things got complicated.

First, the day of the interview came and went and the phone didn’t ring. We had to reschedule.

Then, the next day, I got pneumonia and my sewer line at home backed up. Also, my husband was about to leave for a 6 day out-of-state business trip. Meanwhile, I called in emergency plumbing services. The news was bad: we would need a new main sewer line. Think dollars. Lots and lots and lots of dollars.

Picture this, then: the following morning, I had settled my boys in front of the TV while I put on my rainboots and stood in my front yard, literally ankle-deep in crap, while I watched the plumber snake a fancy poop-cam down the line to show me the rotten innards of our pipes. And of course, at that exact moment, my phone rang. 

It was Natalie’s manager. And she had Natalie in her office, available for just 15 minutes for an interview. Wheezing (pneumonia, remember?), I gave the plumber an apologetic nod and said words I never thought I’d say to a super-famous person on first-meeting: “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to call you back…”

Seriously.

Five minutes later I called back and tried not to cough too much while I chatted to the talented, smart, kind and passionate Natalie Grant. She has kids and poop pipes at home too, and could not have been more understanding. And moreover, she too is devoting her time and energy to fighting trafficking. Far from being an “unreachable celebrity”, we were instantly on the same page.

The weekend flew by. I was solo parenting for the weekend and had a ton of work to do for the Pastor Search Team. Still sick, I had  love ninja after love ninja rally around with support and care. Sunday night came, and I emailed the editor: “Sorry,” I wrote, “my interview was delayed by 2 days and I have pneumonia. But I’ll have it to you by Wednesday. Promise.”

She wrote back: “Perfect. I was planning to run it Friday.”

On Tuesday night, I tucked the kids into bed and settled down at my computer. I transcribed the interviews, reviewed my notes and wrote the best interview I could. I finished just before midnight, saved the file and closed the application, before clicking over to my email to send it to the editor. I composed my message and then tried to attach the file: VANISHED.

Not in the trash. Not in the “spotlight” section. Not under recent documents. Not in keyword searches. Not in autosave or auto recover.

I started to cry. My computer had mysteriously lost files before, but my super-husband had managed to scout them out of the recesses of its inner matrix. Now, he was cross-country, and I had promised the article in a few hours. I got to bed at 2am, defeated.

Wednesday was spent moping and trying to find help. In between final sessions at his conference and layovers in airports, my sweet hubby tried to text his tech support. But to no avail. I posted a pitiful message on Facebook: “I think I am going to have to give up writing altogether on account of being too stupid to deal with computers.”

Wednesday came and went. My husband’s plane was delayed, but he finally walked in the door at 1:34am. Punching his magic abracadabra into my computer, he forced it to yield its treasure: there, under the file name I had chosen, he retrieved my folder. “I could kiss you!” I cried, and then I did (Don’t let anyone tell you super geeky can’t be super sexy.)

At 1:36am I wrote an email to the editor and attached the file. Exhausted and relieved, I collapsed into bed.

Thursday came and went, but by late afternoon I was surprised I hadn’t heard from the editor. I checked my email again… only to realize that the email I had written was still sitting in the drafts folder! It had never sent!

Let me just say that I’m not one who is quick to cry spiritual warfare.. but honestly – you would think that someone out there really didn’t want this piece published, wouldn’t you?

It was already after close of business day when I FINALLY sent the piece successfully to the patient and kind editor on Thursday afternoon. And, whiz that she is, she still got it up on the Friday as she had planned. Here it is, in case you were wondering: How to Turn the Tide in the War on Human Trafficking.

Perseverance, friends. We can make a difference.

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!

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 Beginner’s Guide to The Locust Effect

I’ve been waiting for this day for WEEKS, and finally I can tell all! I am honored to be part of a group of writers who get to introduce you this week to The Locust Effect. “What?” you say. Sound interesting? Here’s a beginner’s guide… so you can be completely in the loop.

What is The Locust Effect?

1546096_194950527380441_509728716_n The Locust Effect is Gary Haugen (president of International Justice Mission) and Victor Boutros’ new book.

It is being released this week, and is available from sellers including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (I wrote a review on Amazon: you can read it here).

The book aims to raise awareness and start a conversation of critical importance in our efforts to address world poverty and advance human rights in the 21st century.

What is the book about?

The Locust Effect, through story telling, field work and compelling research, is about the hard truth that every-day violence against the world’s poor is a critical issue which we have yet to address in our humanitarian efforts, and the single biggest factor which could affect our efforts in the future.

Why is it called The Locust Effect?

A plague of locusts can lay waste to anything and everything in its wake. The Locust Effect makes the compelling case that violence (common, everyday person-on-person violence) is laying waste to anything and everything for the poor in the developing world.

locusts

Seeking refuge from a plague of locusts

Our efforts to feed the poor, educate the illiterate, uplift and empower girls and women, combat cultural prejudices, stimulate bruised economies, provide shelter for the homeless cannot and will not succeed unless we change the conversation and start to consider how deeply violence affects the very people we hope to help.

All that violence sounds awful. What can possibly be done?

The one thing that can (and will) make a big difference for the billions of people who live in daily fear of being abducted, raped, enslaved, trafficked, beaten, robbed or tortured… is having functioning public criminal justice systems.

If rapists fear getting caught and imprisoned, they are less likely to rape. If a thug knows the police will follow up on a complaint that he has stolen a widow’s property and left her homeless, he will more likely leave her alone. If it became less profitable or dangerous for slave-owners to steal people, or for traffickers to kidnap girls and force them into prostitution – those crimes would reduce.

The poor cannot buy protection. They cannot flee a “bad neighborhood”. They cannot pay for legal representation if they are illegally detained. What the poor desperately need is public system which protects them and doesn’t allow evil doers to prey on them with impunity.

I know we can pay for a girls’ school fees or buy seeds for a starving community to plant. But can anything be done about systemic injustice on the other side of the world? It seems too hard and too hopeless.

It is hard. And the problems are complex. But by constructively collaborating with like-minded people in the developing world, change CAN happen. In 2013 alone, 3,400+ children, women & men were relieved from oppression through the work of IJM + IJM-trained field partners.

More than that, history tells us that VERY broken, very corrupt criminal justice systems in the past have been radically turned around: London, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Paris were all documented cess-pits of criminal activity a century ago. People lived in constant fear. But motivated people started talking and planning – and today they are some of the safest cities in the known world.

It can be done, and it MUST be done.

That sounds like noble and important work, but what can I possibly do? What do you want from me?

I want you to be AWARE, and I want you to SHARE this information.

I want you to know that when the World Bank surveyed thousands of the worlds most impoverished people and asked them what they most needed and wanted, more than education, more than opportunity, more than food or shelter, their overwhelming reply was that they wanted to live in safety.

If we care about education for girls – we need to know that the #1 reason girls in the developing world don’t continue with education is a fear that they will be raped or abused at school. We can’t talk about education unless we also talk about the impact violence has.

If we care about economic development – we need to know that the World Bank studies have identified violence and corruption as the single biggest factor that, if even slightly reduced, could hugely increase the GDP of developing nations. We can’t talk about economic development unless we also talk about the impact violence has on it.

If we care about trafficking and slavery – we need to know that it is not enough to provide rescue and rehabilitation for women and girls who are sex slaves: such things will continue until the traffickers themselves are brought to justice and can’t get away with it. We can’t talk about the end of slavery unless we talk about developing working criminal justice systems.

If we care about the vulnerable, we need to talk about the violence.
If we care about justice, we need to talk about public justice systems.

So: here are three things you can do right now:

1. Learn more – buy the book. (A generous donor has also offered to donate $20 to IJM for every copy of the book sold between February 3-8, so not only will your purchase donate all author royalties to fighting injustice, but a whopping $20 will be added!)

2. Share this post. Spread the word.

3. Go to the Locust Effect website, and share it with just one person that you think needs to know about it.

I will be hosting a BOOK GIVEAWAY of the Locust Effect this week.

Check out tomorrow’s post for details on how to WIN A FREE COPY!

Photo credit: AP Photo/Mori Chen