photo from pixgood.com
For the final day of January, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I am posting the full unabridged version of what OnFaith posted yesterday as “10 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking.” I also want to direct you to Heidi Carlson’s excellent (shocking) guest post, “The Trafficker Next Door,” and her story of her experience helping with an adventure camp for rescued women with Freedom Firm in India last November, “Thank You and the Art of Henna.”
“How You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking” (Unabridged)
I did not hear the phrase “human trafficking” until well into my 20s. (And I am only mid-30s now.) The first few times I brushed it off because honestly I could not bear to carry in my mind the reality of such atrocities. But God has been kind and patient with me, and he has taught me – is teaching me – the importance of awareness as a first step to engagement. This is the step where many of us get stuck. As a counselor, I first want to say that there can be very good reasons to be stuck in the place of not-able-to-hear. Hearing about this type of sexual abuse and trauma may dislodge your own memories of abuse with overwhelming emotional effects. Please hear me say that you need to get help for yourself first before engaging in further awareness. Reach out to a trusted friend and/or seek out a local counselor to work through your own trauma and abuse. It’s the “put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others” principle.
If this isn’t your experience, then ask the question of why is this hard for me to hear? Maybe you can identify with one of these:
- It’s viscerally uncomfortable to read about these atrocities.
- It challenges my trust in humanity to choose what’s good more often than not.
- Its existence seems to fly in the face of a good God who is over all things.
- I feel scared – for my own safety and that of all those I love, especially my daughters.
- I feel powerless to help.
I vacillate between all of the above, and it has kept me thus far from deeper engagement despite being years past the time when I first heard about human trafficking. What have I personally done? Basically nothing. But the beauty of realizing our passivity is that it can change in this moment. The fact that you have continued to read this post says something. You want to know more. You want to be engaged more than you have been.
Take a deep breath, and be willing to feel repulsed as you read and educate yourself for the sake of prayer, awareness, and engagement. The words of Dr. Diane Langberg, a Christian psychologist, counseling professor, and member of Biblical Theological Seminary’s Global Trauma Recovery Institute, are instructive here:
“The things we cannot bear to hear about are the atrocities that he/she has had to live through.”
When this sinks in, there is no choice but to repent of our passivity and beg God for strength to engage in what is close to his heart.
Consider these verses about who God is from Psalm 146 –
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Have you ever wondered how the Lord can do such things? How does the Lord set prisoners free, open blind eyes, lift up those who are bowed down, watch over the weak? It is true that there are abundant accounts of God’s direct intervention both in the Bible and presently. The story of freeing Paul and Silas from prison comes to mind. In a miracle, their chains literally broke and the doors were opened (Acts 16).
Yet much more often, God invites his people into his mission. The theological term is “human agency.” What comes to mind is the too-oft-told joke of the man waiting for God to rescue him and when he gets to heaven, God says – “I sent you a helicopter and a boat!” – but the man refused these sources of rescue because he was awaiting God himself.
Consider a few examples throughout the Bible:
- God provided for Jacob and his sons during famine by putting Joseph in a high place in Egypt where he managed storehouses of grain
- God raised up Moses and Aaron to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt
- God preserved the Jews from Haman’s evil plot through Esther’s courageous intervention as queen
- God warned his people of coming exile because of their persistent spiritual adultery through the words and actions of prophets (Hosea, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc.)
And then the greatest mystery of all: God took on human flesh itself, became a baby, and Emmanuel was born – God with us. Through a physical human body, the Divine healed diseases, had feasts with outcasts, challenged self-righteous leaders, and then did the otherwise-impossible: perfection became imperfection, Jesus carried our sin to the cross and triumphed over death, sin, and Satan through the resurrection. He now intercedes for his people at the Father’s right hand.
And he empowers us to be part of his justice mission of reconciliation and redemption through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
It doesn’t mean that all of us will be on what I term the “front lines” of human trafficking. But it does mean that to be united to Christ by faith implicates us to be engaged in his mission.
Dr. Langberg calls us to action in her book In Our Lives First (2014):
“ ‘The issue of trafficking desperately cries out for a firm, committed leadership; it has to be made a global concern.’ [Victor Malarek, author of The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade] and others state that it is the human rights issue of the 21st century. … However, when you look at the record, you see darkness and corruption everywhere – money, power, and politics speak louder than the crushed lives of thousands of women. Governments have not answered the call. And though there are many organizations working tirelessly in this area, Malarek is correct when he says it must be made a global concern. The scope of the problem is so vast that a worldwide response is necessary.
What about the Church? She is global and she has a long history of confronting plagues and freeing captives. It is clear … that God has called her to serve as a humanitarian force in this world for those who are without help and resources. If Wilberforce and other Christians could stop the African slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, why can’t we follow their example today? What if, in one of the darkest hours on the planet, the global Church rose up united and became known for her charity to those who are being sold like chattel? …
What do you suppose would happen if the Church in every part of the world fell down on her face and pleaded with God on behalf of these women and girls? What if she began to seek out what He would have her do for these females? What if she became the global, committed, ethical, and moral leadership that is needed to fight this battle?”
Where do you start in the light of such a call to action?
Start where you are:
- Seek to be educated and aware, so that you can be engaged through prayer. For an overview, read 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Slavery, Human Trafficking at the Huffington Post. As a Christian, there’s no better place to start than the International Justice Mission. I also found this site which gives an overview of organizations and how to pray: Freedom Summit .
- Be willing to give what you have – whether that’s time to pray, financial resources, skills to offer victims who are being rescued, administrative support to organizations overwhelmed by the vast need, a voice raising awareness through your words, blog posts, Facebook statuses, Tweets, conversations with friends and family, and places of influence in your business, community and church.
- When you’re buying gifts or goods, purchase them from one of the many micro-enterprises who are giving rescued victims an alternative from the sex trade. Sari-Bari offers many beautiful items, and it’s one of many similar organizations. Others are listed at “buy for good” at “half the sky movement” here.
- Stop feeding the demand through viewing pornography (see the post from my friend Heidi here).
The worst thing you can do is nothing. To assume (as I have for years to my shame) that other people have this covered; that it’s too big for me to deal with anyway; that it’s really pretty extreme and does not occur in my city. By God’s grace, that changes in 2015. Not for my glory as “The All-Great Rescuer” but for God’s glory as the One who rescued me …. and through me, offers rescue to others from sin and all manner of atrocities resulting from sin’s evil corruption of human hearts.