Whatever It Takes – A Look at Human Sex Trafficking

I know we have all seen the red X’s affixed to profiles in social media. The cry to “end it now”‘is echoed throughout the world. Those who are aware of human trafficking are appalled, overwhelmed, and desperate. We want to do something, but what?

The first thing we have to do is see the reality of it.

One story told by Geoff Moore during a concert recently shook me up. He spoke of a recent trip to Haiti. Almost as soon as he got off the plane a woman ran up to him and started pleading with him. She showed him her young daughter, obviously dressed to impress wearing a most likely very costly beautiful red dress, hair fixed and smile plastered. He smiled at the girl and spoke with her, and the woman became desperate! She wept and pleaded and raised her voice. Feeling a little freaked out, Geoff asked his interpreter what she was saying. The interpreter replied, “I don’t want to tell you.” The woman continued on, the interpreter responded to her, and she left. Geoff later discovered that she was begging him to take her daughter. She didn’t know him, but her desperation to see her daughter live drove her to beg a complete stranger to take her because in her mind he was a rich American and could give her a better life. I couldn’t help but think as I heard the story, “What if he weren’t Geoff Moore, Christian artist and song writer?” And then I wondered, “Did another man get the same plea? And is that young girl in the red dress still smiling?”

Whatever it takes.

It’s sometimes those desperate moments and places that take them there – the desire to see more for them that strips them of their freedom and eventually life.

I heard a story of a homeless woman. She had found shelter and help through The Friendship House in New Orleans. She had taken her young daughter, around 3 years old, out to the park which was just across the street. A man was there and was watching her and her daughter. Then, after commenting on her beauty and no doubt learning a few things about her, casually at first so as not to raise suspicion, he asked, “Could I buy her from you?” The woman was appalled. She grabbed up her baby and ran the distance back to The Friendship House and told the missionary there what had happened. But, what if The Friendship House wasn’t there? What if the mom, instead of finding help through a local ministry was desperate? Where would her daughter be now?

Whatever it takes.

That’s what the predators think, too. They aren’t all randomly walking the streets for desperate souls and pretty faces, many of them start with friendship.

The 18 year old that befriended her on Facebook seemed to legitimately care about her. The more he talked to her the more she could see that her parents really didn’t have time for her or want her around. He promised her hope and love and companionship, something her 16 year old heart desired. He told her he was passing through town and would love to meet. Why wouldn’t she? She was already sharing her heart and emotions, and he could be trusted. Even after he met her and took her phone and got her a tattoo and changed her looks, she still trusted that he was going to take care of her… As long as she gave him what he needed. Luckily, he was wrong. Her parents did care, and they were vigilant, and with the help of law enforcement, they got their daughter back, but she was forever changed.

The second thing we have to do is understand how it happens.

Whatever it takes.

Force.
Fraud.
Coercion.

And there are enough desperate hurting souls out there that get lured in.

Did you know that the homeless are the most at risk? Within 48 hours of being on the streets, they are propositioned for sexual favors and opportunity.

Did you know that the majority of trafficked humans in American are American, and they are also the most trafficked citizens in Mexico, too?

In ten minutes an unobserved and unassuming young boy or girl can be abducted and coerced away from home never to be seen of again.

10 minutes…

Did you know that jons pose as youth group members? Unheard of! Nope. One girl was trafficked for 3 years every Wednesday night all because she trusted a guy in her youth group that was willing to do whatever it took to make money. And she allowed it because she was willing to do whatever it took to protect her family.

It happens. It’s happening. And it’s not just the little Asian or European girls that didn’t know better… It’s our kids. It could be your kid if we don’t wake up.

We are creating a culture that makes it easier and easier. Our jobs keep us from being involved with our teens, from asking them the hard questions, from observing their friends or their classmates. We allow social media to babysit them, and there are many that are counting on you to be unaware and unconcerned.

Until we say “Whatever it takes” it will continue to be an issue, lives will continue to be at risk, and evil will prevail.

Are you aware that this world’s obsession with pornography feeds this sexual atrocity? And yet, even in the church we want to hide it under the rug and use excuses like “every man does it.” Well, it’s not just men obviously… And this sexual human trade relies on you to stay uninvolved or apathetic to its perils. In fact, whenever you pull out your credit card to purchase a movie or look at pictures, your red X statement becomes devoid of meaning because you yourself have helped fund their evil. In fact, most sites are set up to run ads, ads that pay them whether they are clicked on or not, so even if you “look but don’t buy” you have provided money for their crimes. Men? Women? Do you hear this?!

The third thing is we have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get involved and take a stand!

Are you willing? Taking a stand can look very different for many of us, but it is necessary. I’ve involved myself because I have seen the urgency! And, you can join me and many others by doing one or more of the following things: You can support homeless ministries or ministries that aid the broken and desperate in order to save them from slavery. Sponsoring children all over the world for $35 dollars a month, keeps food in their bellies and gives them advantages to keep them from being a desperate commodity to sell or trade. You can fund missionaries who are specifically called to go in and rescue and redeem these lost and misused children of God and show them the pure love of Jesus. You can raise funds to contribute to organizations that work to buy back these squandered souls. You can pray for those who daily find themselves in danger because they are doing what they can to put an end to this billion dollar industry. You can pray for those voices that cry out in anguish because they see no hope. You can become educated so that you can in turn educate others to the pitfalls and warning signs that surround this criminal activity. You can rethink how you view prostitutes and the stereotypical judgments of those in the sex industry. A majority of them are there out of necessity, addiction, or coercion, and I haven’t met one yet that is there and doing the unspeakable because they enjoy it. These are just some suggestions… But they can make a difference. What’s God calling you to do?

“Whatever it takes”
…this is the mentality that has trapped them, and this MUST be our passion to see them freed and to end it now!

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Buried Treasure

From my journal:

“I’m emotional. It’s only our first full day at the home and I’ve cried almost all day. I cried through my testimony with my team and every time I behold the girls in their beauty and innocence. I’m so grateful for Prince of Peace – for those who saw the need and fulfilled the vision.”

That first day we worked. We painted two rooms start to finish, and my friend Donna and I were assigned edge work, cutting in around corners, and carefully framing the ceiling. I don’t have to tell you that is HARD work, but I couldn’t have been happier. The girls would peak in and out and smile at us…that was a reward worth more than any check! To know that you are helping, to feel that as little as the task you are doing seems, it is one more thing to make their surroundings inviting and feel more like a home, even at the school! There is no menial task, no small service in the kingdom of God. Every contribution counts. But it’s more than a pat on the back that you did a good thing, it’s more than feeling good about yourself because you did good for others, it’s the understanding that all that you are doing isn’t in your name or the name of America or the name of your mission, it is all for the glory of God. With every brushstroke I felt His hand replace mine.

We were rewarded for our labor with an invitation to eat with the girls, in their homes. You’d have thought that we were invited to attend a banquet with the King, only it was a feast with His princesses. There were two houses to choose from, the two houses that house the younger girls. (The older girls are in independent living houses down the hill – This is where Lucy lived and about 20 other precious teens.) We chose the house that Ann and Yolanda were going to (two interns with the Go 2 Nations Mission – amazing girls that you will hear more about), selfishly because I knew that they would translate and I could watch them interact.

Of course, the minute we sat down to dinner, I cried. It was so much. The girls were chattering and talking and giggling and teasing, it felt like a family meal. It was. The Tia (or aunt and supervisor over the house) sat next to me. She smiled and watched their interactions, careful to rein them in if needed. But, it was loving, inviting and beautiful there. I smiled at her a lot and said “Gracias” and looked around us. I’m sure she knew that I wasn’t just grateful for the meal. She was a treasure. I wanted her to know that she was appreciated. Ann had told us that it is hard for them to keep good Tias. It requires them to leave their families and raise a house full of girls. It must be seen as a ministry or the ladies won’t be able to handle it and leave. This one woman had left for a while but felt so strongly that this was her calling that she came back. She saw them as her family.

One thing became more and more certain as we watched, joined, and understood their surroundings, they were loved and cared and provided for, perhaps the best that they had ever experienced in their lives, and they knew it. One little girl took me by the hand and with a grand gesture said, “Welcome our home!” And welcomed we were. Sarai entertained us by singing Justin Beiber and doing a break dance for the video that one of our team members, Christine, was making. We were trying not to laugh. She was intensely serious about her performance. 😉

I listened as Yolanda read “Aladdin” to the girls and then Donna and I sang “A whole new world” to them, mostly just to feel included. They were so polite listening as we sang, and they told Yolanda “They have pretty voices.” I felt like I had performed for the President and received a standing ovation! Their smiles were like roses thrown onto the stage. Bringing them delight was a blessing. We didn’t want the evening to end. We could have stayed and laughed and played with them all night, but they had school the next day and whether we liked it or not, our bodies were growing tired from the day’s work.

At some point during the visit, we were gifted. Christine was given a yellow rose – ironic since she is from Texas and one of the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. Then Velveth, a very quiet and sweet spirit came and placed something in my hand. It was a coin purse, a simple pink coin purse made of plastic, with a pirate face on the front. But, it was the words that caught the emotions in my throat and pushed them into my heart, “Buried Treasure.”

I was pierced. I felt God was sending me a message, “My love, these girls are MY buried treasures. Cast aside by everyone that SHOULD have cherished them, misused and abused by those that should have been the FIRST to show them love, discarded as a piece of plastic in a trash heap, but I have rescued them. I have brought them here to protect them and to treasure them for they are worth more than gold!”

The stars above winked at me in the night sky, and I felt the Father smile. The Lover of my soul, my First Love, had given me a most beautiful gift. Me, the girl that had chosen to stay away and let the girls be- not wanting to cause them any undue pain, He had arranged a date for us, and, Valentine’s Day was still a day away!

Is this thing on?

I could totally be the “bullhorn guy.” Sometimes I am so filled with love and amazement and passion, not just for my Creator but for His creation, that I want to grab a megaphone, pull up a box (or a stand in a truck bed), and yell at the top of my lungs, “He loves you! He loves you! He loves you!” I’m tempted. Often.

The minute I stepped onto Guatemalan soil that is exactly what I felt. Love. Palpable. And the invitation that Father God placed in my heart echoed with each face I saw. I asked, “Is this Your child? Are these Your children?” And His answer resounded, “All of this is Mine!” Psalm 24:1 spoke into my spirit: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Everyone, everywhere, without exception.

The streets were at once strange and familiar. Growing up overseas, the scene that met us outside the airport wasn’t too different from the bus stations in Korea which I had frequented. There were vendors and beggars and the man without legs scooting himself along on a cart. (This man is in every third world country!) I loved him at once, and the woman with the baby strapped on her chest, the woman trying to get me to buy her handmade necklaces, as well as the indigenous people in their colorful garb and the westernized people in skinny jeans carrying cellphones. I loved them, and I wanted to smile at them and hoped in some supernatural way that God’s love would transfer in that smile to heal their hurt, and calm their fears, and meet their deepest needs!

I don’t know what my face was doing, but my heart was smiling so big I thought it might crack. The fatigue from all day travel and the dull throb in my ever-aching back disappeared with the expectation of what God was going to do! I was believing Him for some big things, and I was hopeful that I would be used to do His work in a mighty life-changing way. My expectations…of what I wanted Him to do…so selfish in retrospect.

As we made the drive to the Prince of Peace girls’ home, I watched the world around me- the busy streets, people walking, traffic crawling, at eleven o’clock at night. The team asked questions about our surroundings some fearful of the violence and the crime, but all the while I had a feeling that this was familiar to me, almost welcomed. I had no idea where we were going or what awaited us at the Girls’ Home…I just knew that God was calling me to an adventure, a journey, and I was selfishly thinking it might be about me. I wanted to see His works displayed! I wanted the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the dead to rise! I wanted to see His love pour forth and ignite us all and for lives to be forever changed! Again I prayed, “Daddy, use me! Show me your might and your glory, come out of the box that I’ve put you in! I want to experience you in your fullness!”

And, pulling up to the gates of the home I heard His unmistakable voice, “I AM not the one in the box.”

God’s lessons were beginning, and the megaphone was positioned straight at my heart.

The Journey begins…

I’ve been home a full 3 days from my trip to Guatemala, and I’m still struggling with what to say, what to share, what to reveal about my journey. Tonight I have decided that I have to start somewhere, begin to share the story, open up my heart to what I am only beginning to make sense of…so bear with me.

The moment that I saw the lights of Guatemala City appear out the airplane window, my soul thrilled. There was this feeling pulling on my heart like an excited child dragging my attention to something important. I couldn’t process the feeling immediately, and then I heard it, the voice of God echoing in my spirit with that same emotion of excitement, “I can’t wait for you to meet my children!” I almost cried as the lights grew closer and closer and I began to make out the mountains and the terrain. I closed my eyes and prayed this prayer, “God, show yourself to me. Show me your might and your wonder. Show me how wild and free you are! Break out of this box that I’ve placed you in, and be the wild and powerful God I know you to be!”

There is this misperception that ministry teams come to bring God to the lost…the truth is that God’s people are all over the globe. We don’t know them so we aren’t sure they exist, but they do, everywhere, whether we know them or not. God’s presence isn’t ushered in by one source, nor is it limited by anything. Governments can’t stop Him. Laws can’t rule Him out. He doesn’t require us to represent Him. He is, and we are invited into the journey for what He can teach us and do through us, not for what we can do for Him. I knew the moment I heard His Voice my trip wasn’t about me bringing Him to a lost nation, but Him showing me more of Who He is and what He has done and what He longs to do. This set the tone for the whole trip, the journey where He had invited me. It was about so much more than the abandoned, misused, and rejected girls in a home in Guatemala- it was about His Kingdom, His desires, and my expectations.

I’m going to take the next several days to attempt to communicate what I heard from Father God while I was away, and my prayer is that as you read this, you will understand more of Who He is that allows us to call Him Daddy and, as Paul also prayed “that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” That is where Life becomes more than existing and is filled to the greatest measure of Love and Grace and POWER that can transform a starved and dying world.