The Corner.

The Liquor Loft, the G-Spot, and two creepy houses… and no this is not about some creepy Halloween porno.

Obviously, anyone can quickly figure out that the Liquor Loft has something to do with…you guessed it…alcohol. It is on one end of a corner that has, over the year, gained my attention quite a bit. It is a typical liquor store. Nothing too special about it. Next to it sits two rather sketchy houses that are unmarked yet used for some business… The other end of the corner sits the G-Spot. Unless you know this as the abbreviated name for a particular area of the female body, you may not guess what The G-Spot is. So let me enlighten you for a second. The G-Spot is simply a strip club. The only one in the area.

What does this corner have to do with me, a credentialed minister who works as youth pastor? Yeah I am hoping your first guess is not that I moonlight as a stripper or hang out in the Liquor Loft. For the past 11 years I have had a burden on my heart, something that has grown to be a part of me…something that I can’t get rid of. The sex industry, pornography, human trafficking… all of it. It bothers me. No it angers me. It makes me infuriated beyond what you would want to see. More than that, it breaks my heart. I know you might be wondering why something like that bothers me so much as I am not a part of the industry. But the fact of the matter is that I am so angry and saddened for the [mostly] women who are coerced, forced, and manipulated into the sex industry- prostitution, strip clubs, escort services, pornos, and more. That is not how it should be. If you think those areas don’t affect the women in them, or the men for that matter, soon get your hands on the book Naked and Bare…my book that is in the works of publication.

Every time I drive past that specific corner, my heart melts. It symbolizes more than just a strip club where horny men go to get pleasure. It is more than liquor and the fact that alcohol can and often destroys people. It symbolizes more than a bunch of people getting their fix, whatever that fix may be. It is about brokenness and being lost. Being confused. A few years ago that corner had a bust for human trafficking. Its had a bust for drugs. That corner shows that this world has a lot of problems and one of the biggest ones is that we, all humans, are self-driven. We want what we want. We want pleasure, we want this or that, so we go for it. We are all flawed. And that is why that corner saddens me yet angers me.

If we choose to pursue things that are only self-pleasing, we are no more than our own lord with our own kingdom. If we choose to take part in things that are damaging to the self, whether physical or emotionally…we risk losing ourselves in the process. The sex industry is on my heart, and has been for 11 years, human trafficking being a huge part, because it is the world’s greatest lie. All of it. Sexuality is good. It was created by God yet perverted by Man. Even alcohol can be good but is often used to numb, alter, or change a state of mind or behavior. Why?

Something is wrong with this world. Every time I drive by that corner, I see it representing brokenness, lies, and lack. Lack of Jesus. Lack of hope. Lack of trust. Lack of conviction. Self-seeking, self-pleasing, broken people having no idea what they have really gotten themselves into. That is why, for 11 years, I have been praying about this concept of the sex industry and people and how it relates to God. It is why I have to, by God’s grace and provision, pursue this with all I have to help show people a love that outweighs everything else. A love that restores.

I want to show women of the sex industry, regardless if it was by choice or forced, that God thinks of them as worthy, valuable, and beautiful. I want to show the men of the sex industry, whether by choice or forced or just a customer, that there is so more much than sex and that God wants to create them to be warrior poets [thank you Braveheart]. I want people to see that every relationship you have in your life, can and will be affected by the choices to be involved, in any form of the sex industry. I want people to see that alcohol, though it may be fun or relaxing, can be so damaging. Drink but be cautious. It can and will affect the rest of your life. And ultimately, I want all people to see that every choice we make, everything we do affects our lives for eternity.

Gracie.

Tonight my heart weighed heavy as I was working on writing up some stuff about human trafficking, doing some more research and trying to figure out ways to abolish it. During my research and writing, something it me very heavy. I realize a lot of people- actually most- still believe, whether they say it or not, that human trafficking does not affect them. Yes its sad and horrible. But then that is it. I have had the burdening pleasure of being brokenhearted over human trafficking since I was in the 9th grade… 10 years ago. I have actually encountered victims during missions work overseas. But it hasn’t been until recently, the past few years, that I will literally break down and cry at random moments just thinking about the victims, nameless faceless people to me. But they’re still people. They’re still someone’s daughter, son, child, wife, sister, cousin, brother.

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My little cousins Joey, Gracie, and Anthony

That’s what hit me tonight. For some reason I thought of my cousin Gracie, she is 9 years old. Beautiful, lovely, funny, sometimes crazy, and completely special.

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I love her to death. She is now at the average age of when many victims around the world are forcefully entered into the sex trade. She is only a child. A CHILD. And that’s the point. Where do we draw the line at not being affected? Just because my child [that I don’t actually have] isn’t a sex slave… It isn’t my kid therefore it isn’t my problem? My brother. My sister. My cousin… but it still should matter. I have to draw the line that all trafficking, all sex trade, all of the sex industry, all of child tourism, all of pornography is bad. ALL OF IT. Because every person is someone’s daughter, son, sister, wife… every single one of them- child, teen or adult is someone’s family member and we should care. Its a humanity issue.

I picture what the scenario would be if that were my cousin Gracie and I want to throw up. I just feel so sick even thinking of the possibility of some man looking at her badly. But then I get angry. Angry that such an injustice actually happens. This is a reality that I cannot forget or pretend doesn’t matter. Neither can you.

Check out these great websites and articles for more information:

http://www.marieclaire.com/world-reports/girls-4-sale?src=soc_fcbks

htt://a21campaign.com

http//notforsalecampaign.com

{Unmasked}

Once again I find myself at Starbucks with many books and journals and magazines open taking over an entire table, or in this case, the bar. That’s what they get for letting me come in while writing my thesis. I basically treat it as my (second) office. Today I read through a 300 page book called Unmasked: Exposing the Cultural Sexual Assault and I have to say that I have much to think about. My focus for my thesis right now is about human trafficking and thus, my heart is heavy once more. A common occurrence as of late. If you haven’t noticed, just read my recent blog posts. I wanted to share an excerpt of the book as it hit me really hard.

The roots of sex slavery can be found in our junior high hallways. We see those roots by observing the effects of the negative message of our culture on the identity of our daughters [referring to females]. The roots of sex slavery are also seen in popular entertainment that enshrines those same values. We have allowed our daughters to be sexualized, depersonalized, and objectified, creating an atmosphere in which sexual predators thrive. This objectification and sexualization of our daughters leads to the creation of a pornography industry, which, in turn, feeds a sex-slavery industry. When we permit the message that the primary value of a women is her sexuality to pervade our entire culture, how can we shocked when people act out on that indirect invitation to partake of what is being offered to them? The appetite of the western nations for sex slavery is a direct result  of this alteration of identity, this identity theft on a generation of young women. [Unmasked by Jim Anderson p. 29]

I actually had to reread the whole section multiple times. In today’s world, we wonder why things are so bad. We wonder and then justify sexual behavior in teenagers. The same goes for involvement in pornography and the sex industry. Yet, when it comes to sex slavery, we act as if it is only foreign or has nothing to do with us. When we allow a world of sexual misconduct, promiscuity, extremities in dress, or justification of other sexual behaviors, like Anderson referenced, we actually allow for and  endorse sex slavery…without really knowing it. I have many more thoughts on this and will probably write more later, but this was a definitely impacting book. Get a copy of it and read it! 

{Break Every Chain}

My thoughts are not quite focused right now. I am all over the place. I am burdened. I am filled with discontent. Not for myself. For children and young girls that are trafficked into slavery. All over this world. Brokenness. Rape. Disease.

My heart aches tonight for these victims. There is a nameless, faceless generation of kids growing up to be adults way too fast, to lose their childhood and innocence brutally, and die before they hit their mid 20s. Girls are sold by their families. They might be kidnapped. Businessmen coerce them for their pleasures. Their homes are not homes at all, but brothels of hate, rape, and bondage.

Do not be deceived in thinking this does not affect you. Do not be naive or ignorant. If you view porn more than a few times, you are encouraging sex-slavery because many of the pornographic images and videos are that of sex slaves, young girls [and boys] whose innocence was taken from them brutally. That is but one example of this world  disguising the filth and perversion with something that justified as harmless. IT IS NOT HARMLESS! These kids, these girls, these women are people. They are someone’s child. They are human not a commodity!

To you Christians who read this, it is our duty and responsibility. We cannot sit idly by pretending as though sex-slavery is only foreign, and not that big of a deal. It is one of the largest industries in the world. It is growing. I am fully convinced that if the sex trade did not exist, our world would not be in any form of economic crisis. Our nations are driven by lust, greed, and selfishness and it is taken out on little girls. Instead of celebrating their sweet sixteen they are trying to cope with AIDS or HIV while having to service 10 men in a row. Something needs to be done.

 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.'”
Isaiah 58:6-9 [The Message]

I honestly believe that Jesus restores. His life and death stood for restoration, hope, and freedom. LIBERTY! So many studies done around the world by secular and Christian organizations show that there is almost no long-term change in a rescued girls’ life if they do not counsel the victims through spiritual and emotional healing. JESUS IS THAT HEALING! I believe His name is the name that brings healing. These victims can be restored to life. They can be free from bondage, physically and spiritually. It is our job, as believers in Christ, to stand firm in what he stood for- lived and died for- that His name is the hope victims like these need.

{Check out this book about the sex trade in India}

What about Kony?

This world is shattered and broken. Any idiot could tell you that. Anyone can tell you that there are hurting people all over this world hoping for something better to come along. However, for many people, they lost hope a long time ago. My heart is heavy tonight. Really heavy. Bear with me as I try to properly explain the pain in my heart tonight.

I feel like I have not done enough. In my 23 years on this earth, what have I to show for it? Meanwhile, in Uganda, Congo, Sudan… Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnaps children to become soldiers. Robbed of a childhood. Sold into sex slavery.  Their moms and sisters raped. Fathers murdered. Babies drowned. They have no choice but to join Kony and his army to overthrow really anyone he wants by using fear and terror to control. Thousands are displaced. Thousands are murdered. Pain. As Christians, our hearts should break for these people because of their uncertainty of life. As humans, our hearts should break for their physical brokenness.

What about other genocide happening in this world? What about terrorism? In our cities, our countries? In all of this evil that happens around our world, Christians especially, pray for the status of the victim. It is important to pray for restoration and freedom. For God to work in the hearts of every victim of these horrible crimes. But what my heart breaks for tonight goes beyond the victim. What of Kony? Who cares about him? Who prays for him? We pray for the children and those affected by this horror…but who prays for him? What about Osama Bin Laden? What about the Hitlers of our world today? I am not saying they do not deserve justice… they most certainly do.

Is their life of any less value than yours or mine? If we believe one life has value, then so do all, including the oppressor. Though they might act as an animal they are a human, like you. Like me. My heart is heavy for them tonight. If we can pray for them. Stop them. Then the hate stops. The pain stops. And the victims are free. Maybe my idea is hopeless…but at least I have hope. I am not giving up. I am not without love. If I believe Jesus Christ died for my sin, for your sin, for the brokenness of this world, then I must believe that God can touch the lives of those that oppress this world. No one is too far gone. Not the victim. Not the oppressor.

No one.

Nameless. Faceless.

Ripped from the normal, from home. Sold for meager wages. By mom. By dad. Or snatched off the street. Beaten. Forced to take deathly amounts of drugs. Poisoned. She is 15. He is 9. She is 11. He is 14. She is young. So is he.

Raped. Over and over again. Many times up to 40 men get serviced by her, even him…in one day. HIV runs through their veins. Infections. Disease. But again, every day the cycle of rape is repeated. Just a child. No longer innocent. They will never get to just be a child. They are coerced into tourism by men visiting their land. Video taped. Recorded. And the internet exposes them even more. Their nakedness. Their privacy is not their own. Nothing but an object of pleasure. A slave.

Work. Work more. No payment. Just more bruises.  No longer just sweat shops. They make clothes. They clean. They do hard labor. They are in your local dry cleaners. Ice cream shops. Pizza parlors. Construction workers. Landscapers. They are waiters. Waitresses. You’ve seen them. Somewhere, you’ve passed them. Maybe you’ve spoken to them.

Don’t be naive enough to think that this does not affect you. Don’t be selfish and not care. These children, the average age is 11 years old. The oldest are barely old enough to be of college age. The youngest… puberty is years away. Yet somehow, by some series of circumstances they were either sold or kidnapped into a slave trade where they are nothing. They have no name anymore. They have no face. They are just a slave with an eternal debt to their trafficker. It is a debt that will not be paid. Between the cost of buying them, clothing them, feeding them, and providing condoms…their debts continue to be raised daily. Many die of sickness. Or abuse. Or overdose. Most victims will not be rescued.

They are not nameless. They are not faceless. They are innocent victims. They are slaves. The cost of their slavery makes more money than all professional sports. They are imported and exported like fruit all over the world…America is one of the largest ports. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you…