Monday, March 18, 2013

Pushing back the 3 a.m. darkness

It’s 3 a.m. and sleep escapes me again.  
Images clutter my mind: young girls tucked in brothels instead of snug beds, a six year old African boy losing his underwater fight with a tangled tuna net, a sweet little girl, wielding a machete, who will never taste the chocolate she is forced to harvest. Thoughts of frightened middle school girls climbing into the cabs of parked 18-wheelers interrupt any hope of pleasant dreams. A glance at the clock reminds me that only a few hours remain before I meet the morning’s demands; yet I know that violated teens working to satisfy their pimp’s quota of truckers, desperately hope for daybreak to end their horror, if only for a brief while.
Human trafficking interrupts!
It destroys the dreams of people longing to escape poverty. It robs innocence from young children. And it messes with my life.
I looked forward to my early retirement. I had great plans to enjoy my grandchildren, tackle some neglected hobbies, and to take life a bit easier. All of that changed the afternoon I stumbled onto a documentary investigating young women being forced to work in Asian brothels. I sat in horror, watching emaciated girls, younger than the students I teach every Sunday, waiting in squalor for their next depraved customer while their toddlers played under filthy cots. And I knew those precious babies were being groomed for the same life of bondage.
Why had I been clueless to this tragedy? How could I have allowed my tidy Christian life to become so insulated that I had no idea that 27 million people were trapped in slavery?
Months of research left me staring at a Goliath and a looming question:  “God, why don’t you end this tragedy?” He whispered, “Have you and the rest of my children asked me to move?”  So I invited a small group of women to pray with me once a month alongside Interstate 1O, a major human trafficking route in our nation, and our church’s anti-slavery prayer group was birthed. Local ministries, politicians, law enforcement requested prayer for safety, wisdom and rescued girls. Our list of petitions grew and so did our burden for victims in our city. God began opening opportunities to educate our congregation and to support a local ministry serving teens at-risk of being trafficked. We gathered toiletries and clothing for a new safe house for under-aged survivors and assembled bags to thank local police officers involved in recent sting operations.  It seemed like each week God was handing us another stone to throw at this giant. One act of obedience had led us to form a new women’s ministry, one ready to raise our sling shots.
Two years later, this tragedy continues to mess with my life. I can no longer sip on coffee or snack on chocolate without asking if the beans have been harvested by a slave-child. I research a company’s supply chain before I buy a new cotton shirt, making sure there is no hint of a sweat shop. I keep a cautious eye on customers patronizing questionable nail salons as well as young girls hanging out at the local mall. My husband and I have become very intentional in helping impoverished families begin cottage industries, in hopes they won’t become desperate enough to sell their young daughters to trafficking rings. Our Christmas shopping is no longer completed at the mall, but from village women providing for their families. My retirement is now filled with petitions, public awareness events, and great purpose.
But mostly, I continue to pray. Staring at this evil, I realize only God can end the constant demand for sexually exploited women, cheap labor, child soldiers.  So, like the persistent widow begging for justice, I fight this monster on my knees. Not only do I plead for a way of escape for vulnerable victims, but for the Church to fully participate in his plan to set captives free. I’m grateful for the many groups working to end human trafficking, but I know that only the children of God can offer real freedom, liberty that only comes from relationship with Jesus. Other warriors are called to enter brothels and border check points; I am called to enter His Presence by a busy freeway, in a crowded mall, and in the 3a.m. darkness.

My recent article published in February 2013 Texas Baptist News Feed

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