A phone call telling us a friend had taken his own life. A message from another friend that his father had passed away, when he had just spoken to him that morning. A friend buried a parent after she had just lost her husband.  A family member with a back injury, and it looks like surgery is on the horizon. A car accident–luckily it didn’t result in any harm to either party. All of this just in the past month or two.

And again last night, a dear friend who awoke to find her daughter with blue lips and a lack of gaze in her eyes. Thankfully she has recovered, and already has that twinkle back in her eyes. Thank you, Jesus.

But that feeling. That empty feeling. My friend said it best… she couldn’t get the “what if” out of her mind.

This. All of THIS.

It reminds me that we only have one life. Every single moment of it is precious and important. We have to make the most of all of the moments that we get, whether we feel like they are spectacular or not.

We have to make a choice to enjoy and pursue and live in the moment…

and listen

and notice

and make a difference

and not sit this one out

and give of our gifts

and pray and serve

and make others understand that they are WORTH IT.

Worth our time, our attention, worth a place on our schedule. Worth space in our hearts. Worth our heartbeats themselves.

I am the first to admit, my calendar sometimes looks like a cage. All those black lines, squaring up and rounding out the minutes of my life… scribbled in and squeezed into and running and running together. Sometimes I look at my days and think “what have I done?” and not in the way of wanting to know what I have accomplished or checked off the to-do list.. but what have I done with my time that matters?? Actually matters? To me? To others? To eternity?

today is the best day

I don’t want to waste a second. I love so many people and I want them to know it. I care about many things and I want them to be evident. I have so little time and I want to use it. I want God to use me in this little span of time that I am borrowing. I want to live.

live now

this is how we do it

TEN Years. A whole decade. That really feels like something.

Seemed like a good time for reflection. We sat together and thought and talked, my man and I. What’s been our best? What are we looking forward to in our next ten?

It was super hard to narrow down one specific moment or event that we thought was our very best. We both agreed that our best thing wasn’t a thing at all. The favorite part for both of us has been that feeling we have that we’ve just always been. There’s kind of an air of timelessness to our thing, a bit hard to describe. Like we just got together and we’ve always been together all at once. Crazy and cool.

Do we have the perfect marriage? I would definitely say so.

As long as you define “perfect marriage” like this:

perfect marriage

We recounted the unfolding of the last ten years of not giving up on each other. Not when an emotional affair was confessed. Not when our personal sin junk was trying to take us down. Not when we were both working overtime to pay off over $100K.  Not when our families gave us zero support in any of our endeavors. Not when the whole pretty picture of a marriage and family started melting into something completely foreign. Not when our son was lying in ICU from a drug overdose. Never. Not ever. Not that we might not have thought about it, because sometimes it just seems a whole heck of a lot easier to give up. But we both decided to stick it out. Fighting back to back. In it together.

Sometimes people ask us how we do it. I guess just they’re asking how we do all this life together and still seem to enjoy each other so much.

I’d like to say it just kind of happens, but that’s just not true, friends.  It takes work. A lot of it. It’s a constant contest to out-love each other. To out-nice each other. To serve one another in love, when we feel like it and when we just plain don’t.

We talk a lot. About silly things, wondering things, deep things. We ask each other questions. We silently study each other, figuring out what the other loves and keeping that information tucked away to use in an onslaught of awesomeness at a later time. We try to fight fair when it happens. We spend lots of time together but also purposely spend time apart. We keep things hot. We have great friends who love us and whom we love greatly. We serve others together. Most of all, we love God together, however imperfectly.

This is how we do it. And this is the stuff we will keep doing for ten more years, then another ten, and hopefully ten more after that. Whatever we do, we will do it together, wrapped up in a cord made of three strands, not just two.

We will keep trying to out-love each other, and mess up a lot while we attempt it, of course. Here’s to our first ten years, and to every moment afterward.

rings

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.” -Song of Solomon 8:7

 

Sex trafficking and the Super Bowl?

Today, thousands of people will plant themselves on couches and barstools across the nation to watch two football teams compete for the most valuable prize in the NFL. I don’t know much about football and I don’t really have an interest in it, but tons of Americans love it and have a great time rooting for their teams, eating nachos, and commenting on brilliant advertising campaigns on this day every year. Regardless of how you feel about football or the hype surrounding the Super Bowl, you can’t help but hear about the game results, the commercials, and the intense preparation that surrounds whatever city hosts this phenomenon each year.

And nowadays, you probably can’t help but also hear something about sex trafficking when you hear stuff about the Super Bowl. Am I right? I would bet there’s almost no one who hasn’t heard at least something about a link between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking. Especially if you are on Facebook, you’ve likely seen articles posted and shared, and maybe you’ve even read a few yourself. If you have, you were likely flabbergasted by some of the stats presented, or maybe a little confused by some info that kind of seems to contradict other things you’ve heard about this problem.

It makes sense that people would be confused. I’ve seen articles just in the past week that have said the Super Bowl is the largest sex-trafficking event in the nation, while others say there’s absolutely no link whatsoever to an increase in sex trafficking because of the Super Bowl. There are lots of people arguing on both sides, both presenting evidence on both sides, and both sounding pretty convincing, especially if you are new to hearing about all of this.

I learned about sex trafficking about three years ago, which by federal law is: “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age,” (22 USC § 7102; 8 CFR § 214.11(a)). The most appalling thing to me was that it simply existed at all, but also that it happens here in the US in every single state, not just in some rare case in a remote country “over there” that I’ll never visit.

Now, let me come to my point about sex trafficking and the Super Bowl. There are a bunch of people out there right now, disputing the claims that big events such as the Super Bowl increase the demand for sex trafficking. Some articles are quoting that there have been no reported increases in the number of arrests during Super Bowl weekend in the various towns where the event was held. Some who are saying that there’s no proof, no hard statistics about how many people are really trafficked so we can’t say anything about it whatsoever. Some people are even saying that sex trafficking doesn’t really exist at all, but is just an idea made up by women who hate men and hate sex and want to make the rest of the world into a bunch of prudes.

Let me break down some very basic thoughts about sex trafficking and large events such as the Super Bowl.

1. Sex trafficking is most definitely real and happens every single day in every single state in our country, which is deemed the most free, powerful, and prosperous nation in the world. So right here in our backyards, young girls and boys, women and men, are being controlled by others through threats, drugs, violence, and a serious lack of safe options. These controllers are using their victims’ bodies as “merchandise” to sell over and over to people who are willing to pay for illicit sex. To a trafficker, this is nothing but a business. Their greed for money drives them to provide the “product” that is under demand… sex for sale.

2. The supply-demand scenario is the only thing that fuels any business, legal or illegal, anywhere in the world. There’s not really a big demand for parachute pants now that the 80′s have passed and MC Hammer’s songs are not topping the charts. I don’t see a lot of advertisements for parachute pants anymore. Get what I’m sayin?? Every business thrives on supply-demand logic. I saw news reports of pizza shops working feverishly to fold hundreds of extra boxes and quadrupling their batches of dough because they know that the demand for pizza will go up tremendously on Super Bowl Sunday. These are smart businesspeople. These folks know what they are doing. In the NY/NJ area where the Super Bowl is being held, I have no doubt that pizza shops, grocery and retail stores, and sports bars are doing the same thing… increasing their supply of merchandise to meet the inevitable demand that happens when thousands of out-of-towners descend upon their city on a specific weekend. I am pretty sure that people in NY/NJ already eat pizza and chips, and drink beer and soda. But on Super Bowl weekend, when everybody’s coming to YOUR town for the game, you’re going to stock up on the same things that people always purchase, because there will be more people purchasing them that weekend. I don’t have specific statistics to tell me this, it’s just logic and we’ve seen businesses do this over and over throughout the years. Sex traffickers do the same thing. They have a demand on every other day throughout the year, so when there’s a big event coming, they ship more “product” to where the demand will be, and that includes a city where the Super Bowl is being held. I don’t have a big list of proven statistics for that either. But I do know of several survivors of sex trafficking, many of whom personally attest to being taken to various cities around the country where big events were being held (everything from sporting events to doctors’ conventions to God-knows-what-because-half-the-time-they-never-knew-where-they-were-and-that’s-a-big-fat-red-flag-that-someone-is-being-trafficked)

3. Increased demand increases advertising. Ever notice that seasonal items enjoy a blitz of advertising at certain times of the year? Well of course. When we know that Christmas is coming up, we up the advertisements for stocking stuffers. When Halloween is coming down the pike, companies who produce costumes pay for advertising because they know the demand will be there. Business people aren’t stupid… they invest time and money in advertising when they know it will pay off the most. Did you know that advertisements for sex-for-sale (or whatever euphemism they might be disguised under) on web sites such as Backpage.com increase dramatically during the weeks leading up to big events, like the Arnold Classic and the Super Bowl? It’s already happened this week. I have seen it myself, looking online at ads in the NY/NJ area. Traffickers advertise on these sites all the time, but they take lots of extra time and effort to increase advertising tenfold during the weeks leading up to events like this. The supply and demand logic wins out for these people… they know their increased efforts are likely to pay off.

4. There’s a huge lack of “proven statistics” that show the real numbers of sex trafficking victims. You’re damn right there is. This sick business of sex trafficking is an underground endeavor. Our best estimates are probably sorely lacking. Big numbers get thrown around and sometimes that makes us paralyzed to the problem. But I will tell you this… The many stories I have heard from actual survivors who have been through this hell and lived to tell about it indicate that this is a bigger issue than we think it is. With all the awareness and police stings and campaigns that exist now, there are still many, many people trapped in sex trafficking that we have no idea about. Why? Because this is an organized crime. Do we have stats on every person who uses heroin or meth? No, because they do it in secret. The amount of arrests for illegal drug sales don’t in any way indicate how big (or small) the problem really is because those numbers only speak to the ones who were caught in the illegal activity. Duh. Same with sex trafficking. Our best guesses are only estimates based on what we know about this purposely underground crime. A lack of “proven statistics” shouldn’t make us dismiss this as not being a real problem, but should make us realize all the more that what we do know about sex trafficking only scratches the surface, and we need to do more to unearth this evil.

I have looked in the eyes of some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met who told of their experiences. Their true stories sound like horror films to us who have never known that kind of suffering. They tell of places they’ve been where it was not just them who were sold, but houses full of girls. They tell of men who frequent those houses asking for the youngest ones. They tell of being abused in the most horrific ways that we can’t even imagine. They tell of being purchased by well-known and “upstanding” members of communities. They tell of beatings they endured when they didn’t do what they were told. They tell of being left for dead on the side of the road or in a roadside ditch after a “john” had abused them. And they tell of being shuffled from city to city where big events were happening, because their traffickers knew there would be a demand. Their stories are all I need to be convinced that there is, in fact, a link between big events and an increase in sex trafficking. But the real problem doesn’t center around that. It centers around the fact that sex trafficking even exists at all, and that while there are people out there arguing over whether the stats are accurate, there are men, women, and children being abused and sold every single day right here in our city and in every state across the nation. I don’t need proven statistics to stay in this fight.

If there is even ONE person who this is happening to on Super Bowl weekend or any other weekend, I will fight for them, because no one should ever have to endure it.

moments, present and accounted for.

Two years ago today I was waking up in India. Probably at all the wrong time of day, as I was still getting used to that other-side-of-the-world time change. Even while rubbing my eyes, I could still see that moment. That face. That gratitude that seemed to make no sense to me. A frail little man, brown skin all wrinkled, bowing his head to me in thanks, clutching that little fuzzy blanket against his face even though it had teddy bears printed all over it.

ImageA small fleece blanket, purchased in bulk. Various colors, prints, patterns, handed to beautiful human beings who were made in the image of God. Men, women, and children, most whose bodies were in various stages of leprosy. And it was my turn, and it was a flurry of activity. I tried to soak it in, see every face, look in every pair of eyes, whether they were blind or not. But time and nerves and culture don’t always allow everyone’s eyes to meet, and I was feeling as if I’d never really grasp the depth of this moment. Like I was a bit outside of it, not totally present.

Awake the next day, I tried to get my mind back into that moment. I was trying to recall all the faces and colors, the exact moment of that exchange.That moment the man pressed that blanket to his face in pure, complete gratitude. The whole experience floods my mind, even today. Apparently I was there after all.

But I wondered what that moment meant to that man, exactly. Was his demeanor a typical expression of gratitude, or was he, like me, trying desperately to cut through languages and culture and awkward interactions to show just how life-changing that moment was as well? Was he awake somewhere, trying to stay in that moment like I was?

I don’t know and I guess I never will. What I thought I knew for sure was that there’s no way that moment could ever be topped. That was the pinnacle of all New Year’s Eves, from now until eternity. And no other New Year’s Eve moment–or perhaps any moment–would ever be that good.

But now, I’m not so sure I was right about that.

I’m realizing that it’s not the best or biggest moment that really counts. It’s ALL of the moments. We have to make all of our moments count, because every one of them contains heartbeats and breaths and smiles and memories that we will never be able to replicate exactly. Never ever. So we have to make them count, not by trying to balloon all of them into enormous moments, but by being present in every one of them big or small. By noticing things that help us savor them.

Fast forwarding to last night, New Year’s Eve again. This time, I was in my own small-town kitchen. I made pepper jack pasta from scratch and broccoli from the freezer. I laughed with my husband, son, and daughter-in-law. We watched several episodes of Breaking Bad. We said “Happy New Year!” at 12:00 and headed off to bed about an hour later. Hardly momentous or earth-shattering. Hardly that memorable moment in India two years ago, right?

But last night, in my un-exciting New Year’s Eve, I felt really present in all the moments of the evening. I noticed a lot. My husband is such a polite eater. He folds his napkin meticulously after each use. The sauce was incredibly smooth and spicy, just the way we all like it. My daughter-in-law swings her hair to the side a lot like I did when mine was as long as hers. Her nose wrinkles up a little when she laughs at something, which I love. My son gives a heavy sigh when something is bothering him and he wants to talk about it but wants you to ask him what’s wrong. And he’s becoming more polite every day, with lots of thank-yous and pleases, and carefully handing the butter around the table, a lot like his amazing father. I noticed, noticed, noticed, until my senses were full and so was that tank that holds all my joy, wherever that lives.

No fireworks, no watching the ball drop. No noisemakers or parties. No incredible travels or culture shock or big things. Nothing that would make anyone say that an incredible experience had occurred. But I was there for every single moment, and they counted.

And this year, I’ll be noticing and counting.

Why Doma International?

Last week, doma International finished up a 10-day fundraising campaign. In light of that, I thought I would take a moment to talk about why I choose to support doma specifically. There are a ton of great organizations that fight to end human trafficking in all its hideous forms, even quite a few based here in my hometown like doma is. So why is it that I focus my efforts on giving my time, money, and talent toward the work they are doing?

To me, doma International is the total package in the nonprofit world when it comes to fighting human trafficking, because they understand that the problem begins long before a woman ends up in a courtroom with a soliciting charge slapped onto her record. Its about much more than that.

It’s about a journey.

Their primary connection in the US is to support the ladies who are part of the CATCH program, a special docket court here in Columbus that helps formerly prostituted women regain their lives through a 2-year rehabilitation and training program. Instead of simply incarcerating women who have been prostituted (and thereby ignoring the systemic problems that brought them there in the first place) CATCH focuses on teaching skills for restoring their life and ways to overcome the awful circumstances they’ve endured, so they can become the women they were meant to be.

Doma has come alongside these women from the first moment they enter the CATCH program. Their staff and volunteers step with them through this journey from those first nights when they are waiting in jail, just daring to hope that their lives could change, all the way through to independence when these women find a job, get their own apartment, and regain custody of their children. Doma helps take them from victim to survivor; from being the lost and brushed-off people on the fringe of our society to becoming the beautiful, strong women…daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends…they were created to be.

The staff and volunteers at doma understand that it’s not just about rescuing one woman from a terrible life, although that in itself is a good thing. But its more about the layers and layers of change that are necessary to revamp the systems that keep children from becoming vulnerable to traffickers, then growing up and repeating cycles of trauma. Doma is about changing a family tree, a city, and the entire world— Which can all start by helping one woman understand her true worth and her strength.

If all that is a bit too fluffy-sounding for you, let me share this: For the past couple of weeks, I’ve visited CATCH court. I’ve sat there listening, with pen in hand, recording things that the ladies have said about themselves and about the program. Here are some snapshots:

I don’t know where I’d be without the people in this courtroom.

It changed the way I carried myself and how I think about myself.

I’ve learned to love myself again.

I’m able to be there for my family, and I wasn’t able to before.

I feel like I am somebody, not just some woman on the street. I feel like a real mother.

I wasn’t judged.

I like myself again.

I am feeling blessed….grateful….determined…hopeful….like I have peace….proud….comfortable in my own skin.

I thank God for this program.

The people in this room have moved mountains for me.

I’m stickin’ and stayin’.

I have serenity.

I’m taking my GED test today.

I got to spend my son’s birthday with him this year. These are moments I never thought I’d get to have.

Grace is all over us.

It feels good actually doing something and being respected.

Nothing I’ve ever done in my life is like being here.

I may not have seen God himself, but I’ve seen his work. It’s all around us, in all of us.

I want to do something different. I need help. I can’t do it on my own.

I am capable. I’m going to do this.

I’ve come so far.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

These beautiful statements are concrete evidence of new life. They wouldn’t be possible without doma supporting the CATCH program, and they couldn’t do their work without generous people supporting them with time and resources. They rely mostly on donations and the occasional grant. They really make a little go a long way.

My family chooses to support doma because they take the full journey with these women. I recall one survivor saying that when she first met the staff at doma, they told her they were going to come along side her and love her until she could love herself. And that’s exactly what they did. Just a few years later, that same survivor is now a thriving, confident woman who mentors other ladies and speaks publicly about her journey in order to inspire others to action.

Isn’t that a journey you’d be proud to be a part of?

Doma’s recent fundraising campaign just ended. But the love doesn’t have to. Could we give up that Starbucks coffee, one round at the golf course, or our Friday night pizza in order to donate to restoring lives right here in our back yard? It is more than worth it!

Donate anytime to doma International! Show the love. Fund some freedom!

(Oh, and I didn’t even mention that doma operates a food cart and catering business to give these lovely survivors hands-on job training, or the incredible work they do overseas in Ethiopia and Russia! Take some time to browse their site and learn more about ALL of the amazing things they do to empower women and embrace children here and around the world!)

What can be done about Human Trafficking?

I am the first to admit that learning about human trafficking can feel very overwhelming–even depressing– at first. You see the statistics and the news stories and it just seems like such horrific stuff, how can we even do anything about it?

You may be surprised, but there’s quite a bit that can be done. There’s a lot already being done to fight human trafficking every day, both here and abroad. I already mentioned in a previous post that memorizing the national Human Trafficking Hotline can help save a life. 1-888-3737-888 is the number to call, or text information or questions to BEFREE on your cell phone. Just memorize it, and tell others about it so they will know there is a resource.

First Step: Educate Yourself. I’ve compiled a page of documentaries, books, and web sites from organizations that are great starting points to familiarize yourself with the reality of this problem. There are books, web sites, and documentaries that shed light on all types of human trafficking. I will continue to update this page as I learn of more resources that will help you educate yourselves.

Anti-Human Trafficking Resource Page

My hope is that you will go a step further after you learn about the women, children, and men who are trafficked into situations from which they have no escape. That you will imagine what it would be like if your very own daughter, son, sister, or brother were in that same situation. And that you would be moved by compassion into action.

After educating yourself, find a way to get involved. There are many ways! You can write letters to legislators, volunteer with survivors, make meals for drop-in centers, join or develop an outreach to educate others, devote a talent to raising awareness, collect donations for crisis centers, pray, become a speaker on this subject, or a million other things! I make jewelry that I sell to raise awareness and funds. Who knew making jewelry was a way to fight slavery!? Just about anything you do to raise awareness or move into action can help secure freedom for the many women, children, and men who are trafficked every day.

When asked which was the greatest commandment of the law, Jesus replied:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40, The Message

Loving others as we love ourselves means wanting the same for them that we want for ourselves. Do you want to be beaten and forced to have sex with a dozen or more strangers every night? Do you want to work in a carpet factory for 18 hours a day for no pay? Do you want to be forced to kill people in a war that you know nothing about and never signed up for? Do you want to be enslaved as a domestic servant for all of your life?

I didn’t think so. Neither do I.

Then how can we stand by while these things are happening to others? We can’t. So let’s get a move on, shall we?

What exactly is human trafficking?

The topic of human trafficking has been on my personal radar for a little over 2 years now. It’s gone from being a heartbreaking issue that I used to hear about on the news to an evil that is personal to me, that I now can’t help but fight against. A lot has changed since I was first appalled by watching the movie Taken. A whole lot. I’ve learned that human trafficking isn’t just some vile notion in a movie plot. In fact, it’s hardly at all like the movies. It isn’t something that just happens internationally or in mafia rings (although it can be part of that.)  I’ve come to know that it’s not only real, but it happens right here in my country, my state, my hometown, every single day. I’ve learned that often, it’s much less about a person being kidnapped and much more about a person being coerced and manipulated. I’ve learned that a person doesn’t have to be taken over a border –or anywhere else–in order to be trafficked… it can happen right in their very own home by people who are supposed to be their protectors and defenders. I’ve learned that this modern-day slavery is often more about layers and layers of psychological bondage and rather than the metal shackles we picture when thinking about slavery as we’ve known it in our history books.

So what is human trafficking, really? You may not know this, but our nation’s law gives us a real working definition, that includes the fact that human trafficking is modern-day slavery. In the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act of 2000* (TVPA), it states:

b) FINDINGS.—Congress finds that: (1) As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world. Trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of slavery today.

Trafficking in persons is another phrase for human trafficking. Its legal definition is:

   The term ‘‘severe forms of trafficking in persons’’ means—

(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage,  debt bondage, or slavery.

Notice the terms force, fraud, or coercion. These three words are key to the definition of human trafficking.

Force. That one is easy to understand. Someone holds a gun to your head. Someone beats you. Someone locks you up. They’ve used physical force against you to get what they want.

Fraud. You’ve been tricked. You signed up for a day labor job or to be trained as a nanny. But when you arrive you realized there never was such a job. You are now made to work 16 hours a day without pay, or to prostitute yourself or strip in a nightclub. You’re the victim of fraud, because the situation is not what you were told it was.

Coercion. This one may be the hardest for us to really understand. The actual definition** of the word coerce is:

Coerce

1. to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition

2. to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion; exact

3. to dominate or control, especially by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.

So, you’ve been told that you’ll be beaten severely or killed if you try to leave, or if you tell anyone. Your family will be killed, and they know where your family lives. They videotaped you, and if you tell anyone, they’ll show the video to everyone you know. They remind you that you’ve got no place to go, and how if you left you’d be back out on the street with no food, no shelter, nothing and no one. They’re the best chance you’ve got. And you start to believe it. You’ve been coerced and manipulated.

All three of these things: force, fraud, and coercion, are means by which men, women, and children are trafficked. Most of the time all of these things are present, resulting in layers upon layers of physical, emotional, and psychological trauma that breaks down their defenses until they feel hopeless. Then the trafficker has them exactly where they want them.

So what next? What is the experience like for people who are trafficked? I myself cannot explain it thoroughly. I can only relate the stories I have heard, have been told, and have read second-hand. But the stories are real, and the experiences are truly terrifying. They are beyond what people living in safe, resource-rich lives can even imagine. But we can listen to their stories. We can hear—really hear—their voices crying out for hope and prevention and restoration. We can use these stories to fan the flame of righteous anger on their behalf, and decide that we will no longer allow this to happen right under our noses. We can allow that righteous anger to compel us to act, to speak out for the ones who haven’t yet found their voice.

How exactly do we do that? Believe it or not, there are really countless ways! In my next post, I will give a list of resources to educate yourself and to get involved on local and national levels. For now, you can start by memorizing the national hotline number (1-888-3737-888) and visiting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s page to learn more. With this hotline number, you can call (and now even text “BEFREE”) to give tips when you see signs that make you suspect trafficking is happening. Don’t be shy about calling. You may save a life today.

More to come….

*Also known as the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, retrieved from:  http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/10492.pdf

** Definition of coerce, retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/coerce

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