‘Twas the night before school started….

SH-Zoo-Pack-Owl-Frog-Zebra-1024x682I know many of you have a few days, or WEEKS, of school under your belt already, but tomorrow is my sweet boy’s first day of second grade!  SECOND GRADE!!!  

{insert weeping and sniffles!}

Right now his lunch is packed, his outfit is laid out, and he’s snuggled in bed.

I was thinking through my week and what is on the calendar, and I remembered that this Saturday, September 6 is the Exploit No More Fall Advocacy Summit.

What in the world does this have to do with the night before the first day of school???

It hit me like a ton of bricks….there are so many precious girls (and boys!) tonight who are NOT getting ready for school tomorrow!

These precious children are trapped in sex trafficking.  Instead of laying out their outfits and filling their backpacks, they are enduring beatings, rape, being drugged, and bought and sold for their bodies.  

They don’t get the opportunity to worry about who they will sit next to at lunch tomorrow, or if their hair will lay right, or who will be in their English class.

They are being passed around, forced to do unspeakable things, and worrying, instead, about making enough money to please their pimp so maybe, just maybe, tonight she won’t get beaten.  

My heart breaks as I write this.  I imagine the fear, hopelessness, despair and pain those precious girls are feeling tonight as I watch my little ones sleep.  I can’t even fathom the life they are living.  I really can’t.

I’m writing this tonight NOT to guilt you into action.  But, most certainly, to encourage you, nudge you, maybe help push you into action that has been pulling on your heart too.

I have been volunteering with Exploit No More for some time now.  ENM is working to end sex trafficking in Milwaukee, and also to establish an aftercare home for girls (age 18 and under) after leaving the sex trade.  These girls need so much support, healthcare, education, life training, etc. and this home will provide that.  

But that takes A LOT of people and A LOT of money!  

If you are in the Milwaukee area, please try to spend this Saturday morning, September 6, 2014 8:00-12:!5 at the Fall Advocacy Summit.  The people you will hear from are reputable, knowledgeable, influential, and have been working in the trenches of this issue for quite some time.  

I know it’s hard to give up a Saturday morning, but really, what is 4 hours in the scope of your week considering what and WHO we are working for!

Register here.  If you can’t come, please consider sending someone from your church or organization.  As I said, it takes A LOT of people and A LOT of awareness to end this atrocity in our city.

If you’re reading this, and it’s pulling at your heart, but you don’t live in the Milwaukee area, please consider praying for ENM.  Please consider donating to ENM.  Donations are tax deductible.  The money you donate gets us closer and closer to providing a safe place to girls who don’t even know the definition of the word “safe” anymore.

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My Journey of Discovery

I can be somewhat naive.

Up until around maybe 4-5 years ago I believe slavery was actually abolished.  I mean, really, in our current, modern world, how could ANY human being buy or sell another human being?!  That was long in our past, right?!

I remember being in school learning about slavery in America.  I remember how it broke my heart.  How I just couldn’t wrap my head around how one person could look at another person and see them as PROPERTY!  They looked just the same, except for skin color, they had 2 eyes, a nose, a mouth, they walked on 2 legs, hugged with 2 arms, showed teeth when they smiled….HOW could slavery POSSIBLY be true???

But it was.  It’s a disgusting, devastating, unfathomable part of our country’s history.

But it ended.  Right?

Then I learned about the caste system in India.  The hopelessness of those who are born into their caste, never to move “up” in their world.  To be used and abused.  To be seen as NOT HUMAN.  HOW???

Heartbreaking!  Unbelievable!  But it’s in India…..far from me.  What could I possibly do to change it?  It hurts my heart, it SHOULDN’T be happening, but it is.  And there’s nothing I can do.

Then I learned about human trafficking through International Justice Mission.  I learned about more atrocities being committed from one HUMAN to another HUMAN.  The slavery that exists through forcing people to work for little or no money, hours and hours and hours on end.  Forcing children to work in dangerous jobs, taking them from their families to pay debts, robbing them of ANY form of childhood.

Then came the discovery of child sex trafficking.  That children…6, 8, 10, 12 years old….are being kidnapped, bought, sold, raped and tortured.  Brothels are full of children being forced to have sex with 12 or more men per day.  Men are allowed to do whatever they desire to these young girls AND boys as long as they have the money to pay for them.

But this happened FAR AWAY.  This was happening in other countries, far from me.  There wasn’t much I could do.  I donated to IJM…because I DID want to do SOMETHING to help these precious children.  To show them THIS is not the life they are to lead.

But I could keep it at arms length.  I could donate some money, sign an online petition, but try to not let it into my heart too much because it just hurt too bad.

But then came another discovery.  CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING IS HAPPENING RIGHT IN OUR OWN COUNTRY.  RIGHT IN MY OWN STATE!  IN MY OWN CITY!!

I learned about Exploit No More.  I attended informational sessions about why ENM existed and just what is going on in our Milwaukee area.  The girls who are getting kidnapped, lured, lied to, tortured, raped every hour of the day, drugged, and moved around so that no one can find them.  The girls who don’t believe there is any way out of this lifestyle because they’ve been beaten down physically, but also emotionally and mentally.  They forget about a life outside of their current lifestyle.

I could try to give you statistics about how many girls in our country, in my state, in my city are being trafficked, but those statistics are no where near accurate.  They can’t count the number because no one will talk.  These girls can’t tell anyone they’re doing this against their will.  The pimps aren’t going to tell anyone how many girls he has.

But, really, should the statistics matter?  

What if it were 1 million girls in Milwaukee?  What if it were 100,000?  What if it were 10?  What if it was just 1?

What number is “worth it”?

In my opinion, if JUST ONE girl is being forced to have sex, is being tortured, is being robbed of her childhood, being told she is nothing but a piece of property and having her humanity stripped away, that that is enough!  That is ONE TOO MANY!

But, sadly, the statistics are much higher than 1.  There are so many CHILDREN who can’t speak for themselves.  Who can’t call out for help.

Their mouths may not be able to yell for help.  But their hearts are.  And God hears their cries.

I want to ask you to TAKE ACTION.

PLEASE, for the sake of those children who’s innocence has been destroyed, will you please do something?

  • Check out Exploit No More.  Learn more about what is happening right in our own city.  Educate yourself.  It’s hard to learn the truth.  It hurts.  But think about how much more painful it is to be IN those situations.
  • Donate.  You may not think your $5 or $20 can make a difference, but it can.  Even better, if you can make a monthly donation that will help with budgeting.  We are working hard to raise funds to purchase a home to rehab into an aftercare facility.  To show these children that there IS hope, to help them out of their “slavery” lifestyle, to teach them life skills, to help them heal and have a life after being trafficked.
  • Spread the word.  Are you a part of a church, business, organization who has not yet partnered with Exploit No More?  Please do so.  Contact ENM.  Learn more and partner.  We can form an army of angels to give these girls HOPE.
  • Join the fight!  You don’t have to be part of a partnering church, or even live in Wisconsin!  You can donate, you can educate, you can pray.  But, please, do SOMETHING.

***This whole post is written only by me.  Exploit No More did not ask me to write this or edit or approve this post.  This is just my opinion.

Protect and Serve

Today I was fortunate to attend a “Stop Child Sex Trafficking Advocacy and Awareness Workshop” put on by Exploit No More.  Exploit No More exists to reflect Christ’s love by working to eradicate child sex trafficking in the Greater Milwaukee area. Our primary purpose is to empower—to empower children rising out of sex trafficking through aftercare, to empower everyday citizens to turn their passion for this issue into action, and to empower the voices of communities and victims to advocate for sound anti-trafficking laws and policies. (taken from their website)

The issue of human trafficking is such a ginormous issue – both worldwide AND in our own backyard.  We are focusing here on the Milwaukee area, but wherever you’re reading this, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for you to find that this atrocity is happening with alarming frequency right where you live as well.

There are so many things I’m processing from today’s workshop, so I figured I would just START here!

Girls get tricked into human trafficking and sex trafficking in a variety of ways and in a variety of places.  They are “recruited” outside their middle and high schools, in malls (yes, in our own Bayshore, Mayfair and Southridge Malls!), outside group homes, on their own front doorsteps.

Men look for young girls who can be manipulated and groomed for this “industry”.  Oftentimes these girls come from homes where they don’t have love, security, someone watching out for them.  Their mom may work many hours, dad has never been in the picture.  Mom may numb her pain with drugs or alcohol.  These girls may not get 3 meals every day.  They don’t get GOOD attention at home.  They’re probably already been molested in their life.  So a man comes along telling her how special and beautiful she is.  He offers to take her out for a meal.  He showers her with attention.  He makes her feel some security.  She feels “taken care of”.

His manipulation is in full swing.  She wants to do whatever he asks because he’s taking care of her.  She becomes fiercely loyal to him.  No one at home notices her.  No one notices how long she’s gone or who she’s with.

He can now take her away easily.  He can get her hooked on drugs and/or alcohol because she trusts him when he says it will be fun.  It will make her feel good.  If she loves him she will do this with him.  It’s something they can do TOGETHER.

He has her hooked.  On him AND substances.  He can now use force, beatings, torture because she NEEDS him.  She needs him for her next fix.

He requires her to work for her fix.  He sells her and while she is out getting beat, raped, traded on the street as a piece of property, he is sitting back getting high and searching out his next girl.

Meanwhile her soul is getting crushed, obliterated.  Her self worth is being ripped away from her.  Her mind is getting warped beyond recognition.  Her body is full of bruises, cuts, sores, filled with disease and pain.  He keeps her drugged up so her conscience doesn’t come to the surface.  She has to be numbed out so she doesn’t fully grasp what is happening to her.

But where did all this start?  Did a little 3, 5, 7 year old girl look forward to the day when she could be traded on the street?

Of course not!

It started with an innocent child not getting what she needed at home to fill her up.  To remind her of her precious worth.  She didn’t feel secure, loved, valued.

So, what can we do about that?

We get paralyzed by the enormity of the problem and think, “I’m only one person.  What can I do?  I live in the ‘burbs, I don’t know anyone like that.”

But maybe you do.  Maybe YOU could help KEEP a girl from going there?

I got to thinking……

I can watch the children in my kids’ classes.  I can see the friends in Adara’s class (when she goes to school).  If one of those girls comes from a home where she is alone a lot, where she doesn’t get the attention she needs, I can provide some of that for her.  Is she lonely a lot?  I can invite her over for dinner.  I can take her home from school and help her with her homework.  When I take Adara out to a movie, I can bring her along.  I can use words that specifically tell her the value I see in her.  I can build her up.  I can help her feel a self worth.  I can show her where all that comes from – a God that is desperately in love with her and SEES her.  I can never replace her mom, but I can help her mom.

I can also give Adara this vision.  I can teach her to SEE her fellow class mates.  I will always PROTECT Adara, but I shouldn’t SHELTER her.  Sure, this friend is likely to use language we don’t use in our house.  She will likely wear clothes I won’t allow Adara to wear.  She will probably see movies and listen to music that won’t be approved of in this house.  I have the choice to shelter Adara from “kids like that”….OR I can engage Adara in conversations about those precious PEOPLE and she can have God’s heart for them.  We, as a family, can serve them and share God and ourselves with them.

As I write this I have a knot in my stomach.  Adara is only 20 months old right now.  What happens when God calls me on this?  What happens when Adara IS in school and I’m required to make good on this “idea” right now?  And Caleb – he’s in first grade.  This could happen right now.

I pray that what God showed me today will be burned in my heart and I will gladly open my heart to these precious children and “make good” on what He has showed me today.  That I will SEE them and pour His love and worth into them so they DON’T end up being easily manipulated by someone who only wants to use and abuse them.

Pimps need prayer too

So, if you haven’t heard, this week the FBI made a HUGE bust and rescued over 100 girls from child sex trafficking!!!  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT????   You can read a short article about it here if you haven’t heard this amazing news yet.  In Wisconsin alone 10 girls were rescued – the second highest city in the bust!  Read a short update about that here.

These girls were freed from slavery!  Where do they go from here?  That’s why Exploit No More exists!  We want to provide a home full of support, love, encouragement and healing where these girls can go and let God restore them and make them new so they don’t return to that lifestyle.  Here’s a short video about Exploit No More.  I hope you get involved through prayer, volunteering (if you’re in the area) and donating – it costs a lot of money to get this started!

As much as I would LOVE to go on and on about those precious girls and Exploit No More, that’s not the point of this post.

As I was celebrating the huge bust the FBI did this weekend and praying for the girls who were rescued, God challenged me with something.

How much do we want those pimps to pay for what they did to those girls??  The torture they inflicted physically, mentally, emotionally.  The fact they they sold these girls to men as an object to be used and abused in any way they desired.  The fact that these pimps kidnapped some of the girls, held them against their will, controlled them with fear and torture.  They inflicted mental, emotional and physical scars that will stay with them their whole lives.

How much does our humanness want them to PAY DEARLY for what they’ve done??  We want them to rot in jail!  To never experience freedom again!  To be abused the way they abused!

But God asked me to pray for them.  He reminded me these pimps are His children too.  He died for them just the same as he died for me or the precious girls who were rescued.  He loves them and wants better for them.  He wants a relationship with them.  He wants to heal them of their wounds, their pain, He wants to make them whole too.  And He wants to make them new so that they never choose that path again.

As much as we hate what they’ve done and the fact that they may not have any remorse for what they’ve chosen to do to another human being, we need to pray that they would let God get a hold of their heart, that they would learn of Him, His love and His desire to heal them.

Praying for the pimps does NOT negate or diminish our prayers, love and care for the girls who were rescued.  It just expands our hearts to try to see people more the way God sees them.

Are you willing to be BRAVE?

I heard this song, Brave by Sara Barielles, and I instantly thought, “I have to make a video for Exploit No More!”

You may have seen some posts here about human trafficking and the inhumane, horrible issue that it is.  Exploit No More is an organization in Milwaukee working to not only stand up to sex trafficking, but also provide a house for aftercare for girls who want to get out of sexual slavery.

I hope you will take a couple minutes to view this video and seriously think about supporting ENM in some way.  Even if you’re not in the Milwaukee area, you can still support this amazing organization.  Check out their website and see how you can volunteer and/or donate.