Monday, September 22, 2014

Local Event: Refuge for Women Launch Night October 24th

 
Save the Date!
 
 
 
When a woman wishes to leave the sex industry she needs a safe place to heal. 
Unfortunately, there is a shortage of available beds for these women across the United States. 
Refuge For Women is a 12 month after care program for women where they live and work
together as a family towards healing. Refuge For Women currently has homes in Kentucky and are planning to open a home in the Chicago area in 2015.
Visit and "like" them on Facebook Here

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

This has to be one of my all time favorite books.  The first time I read it was many years ago before I ever became interested in human trafficking. 

The second time I was able to read it from a different perspective and to see how it parallels modern day slavery.  I loved it then and I love it now. 

One woman in our discussion group said she reads this book once a year.  That's how good this book is!

Michael gives us a powerful picture of the unconditional, unfailing, pursuing love that our heavenly father has for us.  Angel gives us a beautiful picture of the transformative power of His redemptive grace.  
Book Description:  California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.  
Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.   
Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.    
But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go. 
A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.


Redeeming Love is set in 1850, but the story that happens to Angel could easily be placed in modern times and still be true to what happens today.

From the beginning, Angels father was absent in her life.  She longed for him to see her, to be loved by him and was deeply hurt when he paid her no attention. 

Angel was sold as a child into prostitution by a family member, her Uncle Rab.  Although, in this story, it appears her Uncle Rab did not know what he was selling her into. 

Angel was able to escape, but found herself wandering the streets with no place to go. She was cold and hungry and feeling like freedom was only a dream.

When she was offered the best clothing, food and lodging available she accepted because she had no other options.  She would work for the Duchess and turn over 80% of her earnings in exchange for the protection of bodily harm. 

She would later learn that her portion of the earnings would be kept under lock and key and doled out only as the Duchess saw fit.  She would be beaten and threatened when unable to work.

By them time Michael enters her life she has become hardened, bitter, empty and unfeeling.  He offers her a way out, but she doesn't believe one exists.  She refuses his offer over and over.
She feels she is unworthy so she continually rejects him.  She feels there is only one thing she is good at, but it's not what Michael wants from her.

(p50) "What did it matter?  She had nothing left.  She didn't care.  At eighteen, she was tired of living and resigned to the fact that nothing would ever change.  She wondered why she had even been born. For this, she supposed.  And the only way to leave it was to kill herself."

(p65) "What I do is what I am"

But Michael relentlessly pursues her. Even when she breaks his heart and returns to her old life he does not give up on her.  He continues to pursue her with unconditional love.  He is always there waiting for her with open arms, expecting nothing in return. 

"You're a bird who's been in a cage all your life, and suddenly all the walls are gone, and you're in the wide open.  You're so afraid you're looking for any way back into the cage again."
 
We slowly begin to see Michael break down the walls that Angel has built over the years.  Brick by painful brick, his love begins to soften her heart and we begin to see her transformation. 
 
And through this transformation Angel falls in love with Michael, but God is not done with her transformation yet.  She softened and fell in love with Michael, but he became her God.  She finally had the love she had been longing for since she was a little girl, but she still needed to know the love of her Heavenly Father.  

So Angel leaves Michael one more time.  It will be three years for God to complete his good work in her and bring her back to Michael.  During this time we see Angel begin to live with passion and purpose and place her trust in God.  When she and Michael reunite, Angel's heart has been healed and restored by God's Redeeming Love. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review of "The White Umbrella"

This week we had a book discussion of The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking by Mary Frances Bowley.  The White Umbrella tells stories of survivors as well as those who came alongside to help them to recovery. It describes the pain and the strength of these young women and those who held the "white umbrella" of protection and purity over them on the road to restoration.  Rather than discussion questions we read quotes from the book and had great discussion around them.  These are the quotes we used which I feel really captured the essence of the pain these precious women feel and how we can best "stand close under our umbrella" and walk alongside them.  This book is a must read for anyone working with survivors.


 
Beginning Statement:

As long as we are convinced that “somebody like me” can’t really do anything to turn the tide, we can continue to exist in our self-made bubbles of comfort and ignore God’s beating heart.
~ Louie Giglio (from the foreword)
 

  1. Some of these kids are runaways and some are abandoned. Many others come from good homes. They are the victims of cruel and clever predators who know just what to offer – the appearances of friendship, a listening ear, the promise of love or money or a new life. (p 15)
  1. An umbrella is a common item, usually left forgotten in the back of a closet until needed. But when nature delivers a downpour or hailstorm, an umbrella makes a difference – a buffer that protects us from the harsh elements falling from the sky. An umbrellas often does something else as well – it brings those who suffer together. When y0u share one with someone, you have to stand close, side by side.” (p 17)
  1. Outside of my home, I lived a normal life. I made good grades, played sports, and had a few close friends. But on the inside, I felt dirty and worthless. I felt like I needed to hide. Sometimes I wanted to die. If anyone had paid attention, they might have noticed how the light in my face had been extinguished.” ~ Survivor (p22)
  1. When God’s people come together to fight this good fight against the exploitation of innocence, the weight of oppression is exchanged for the weight of glory. The time has come to let our children be little girls once again. The time for freedom is now.” (p37)
  1. Providing a picture of God… “When these girls realize that you've weathered storms of your own and that God made something beautiful through it, a light clicks on in their heads.  When you can accept them for who they are despite what they’ve done, just like God accepts you in spite of what you’ve done, it gives them a picture of who God is, and a picture of what their life could look like through His transformative grace.” (p 47)
  1. They were expected to earn $1,000 per night for their pimps, meaning they would be violated eight to ten times each evening. The average age of the girls lured into the Atlanta sex trade is twelve.”
  1. The common thread among the girls we hoped to serve was childhood sexual abuse. One out of every four girls is sexually abused before the age of eighteen. And these are only the reported cases. The numbers, staggering as they are, are probably higher than we think. This means one out of every four women at the grocery store, at the bank, at the mall, in the pew at church, and everywhere in “normal” life have had this traumatic experience.  Emotionally, girls are arrested in their development and make choices based on the age at the time of the abuse.” (p 51 & 61)
  1. On the outside, she lived a normal life, but on the inside, her self-worth had slowly decayed into a hollow cavity. For years, she blended in at school and even in church, as her pain passed undetected and unnoticed. For years, not a single friend, mentor or confidante was able to read the signs nor realize that the abuse that began at such a young age had warped Alisha’s understanding of what is normal. “ (p 63)
  1. Remember, abuse is not always a choice. Girls who are survivors of sex trafficking are branded on the streets as prostitutes, sometimes quite literally as their pimp burns his mark on their neck or ankles. But they did not choose this work, and it is doubly tragic when these young women are branded once again by stigma and shame when they walk into the wider community, and even the church.” (p 69)
  1. Jesus Christ came to set the captives free, and Christians have the amazing and humbling opportunity to be His hands and feet in this redemptive rescue. Much like the four men in the Bible who dug through the roof to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, we must do whatever it takes to help victims of abuse through the journey of healing. (p 71-72)
  1. No matter how awful her situation, she operates in the “security” of what she knows. It’s difficult for her to give that up for the unknown. She needs a motivating reason to help her let go of the familiar and take those first steps toward healing. She may revert to “crawling” because she doesn’t yet have the confidence in her ability to walk. Whether she is crawling, walking or falling after taking a few steps, our role is to keep standing by her and supporting her at whatever stage she is in.” (p 74-75)
  1. It’s difficult for many of our girls to pray for themselves in the midst of restoration from horrific circumstances. What each one needs most is a warrior to pray for her, someone to carry her to the throne when she is too weak to carry herself.”
  1. They had been pimped out every night and often beaten. Our girls didn’t play sports after school; they worked the streets after school. Our girls didn’t attend football games on Friday nights; they went to the nearest hotel with their pimp to endure unwanted sex with men.”
  1. Change, even good change, is difficult. Each girl responds differently to the opportunity. Ultimately, it is God who brings permanent change. Our task is to seek His will even as we hold out our arms to these young women learning to walk again, encouraging them to take one more wobbly step forward. (p 79)
  1. We have observed that the most volatile time for a young woman who has been sexually exploited is often just after she leaves that life. When she finally exits this life of manipulative abuse and gains perspective through distance, she often comes face-to-face with a conclusion that is too horrific to digest. Often our well-intentioned but inappropriate message is received as, “That was a horrible life. Now we can start over…from scratch.” What we intend as a positive message may have the reverse effect and overwhelm her. (p 82-83)
  1. When people rally together to support a good cause, it shouts a second message to the community at large, that people can work unselfishly together if our eyes are on God and on those in need, rather than on our own advancement. I believe this is the way God meant for us to work. When we allow God to lead, what a refreshing message is communicated.” (p 154)
  1. I feel hopeless. I am the one left broken and defeated. I don’t have the emotional energy to tackle the obstacles. I know I want something different for my life, but everything seems so out of my reach.” ~ Survivor (p 176)
  1. When others tell one of these precious women that she’s a failure and she begins to believe it herself, this is the critical moment when we need to step in. We must proclaim that we believe in her and in our God, who is able to do beyond what we can imagine. And we believe in God’s strength enough to support her with our words, time, and resources, asking nothing of her in return. If we as a community of faith will not demonstrate true belief in the power of God to restore her, who will? We must believe for her…and in her” (p 180)
 Ending Statement:

Together, we can be and will be a force for good, a sea of freedom fighters blanketing the world with the blinding light of His great love. Mary Frances has paved the way for us to raise our voice for freedom and liberty for all. There is a place for you in this fight”
~ Louie Giglio (from the foreword)


Friday, August 8, 2014

Human Trafficking Freedom Coalition of Northern Illinois

I've been a little quiet on the blog lately because there have been so many exciting things happening.  I am so excited to share one of them with you today.

There is a newly formed coalition in the Chicago area to combat human trafficking! 



The Human Trafficking Freedom Coalition of Northern Illinois is a victim centered, non-denominational, nonsectarian organization with a national perspective and local focus. 
 
Their mission is to combat all forms of human trafficking (Labor and Sex trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children-CSEC) by advancing the following four provisions:
 
Awareness/Training 
Prevention
Intervention.
Victim Services
 
Please "like" them on Facebook
 
Their meetings are open to the public so if you are interested in getting involved and making a difference please mark your calendars for their next meeting:
August 27th at 3:00pm. 
The offices of Administer Justice
1750 Grandstand Place
Elgin, IL
 
Groups like this are so important in the fight against human trafficking.  We need communities to link arms and stand together.  People from different backgrounds, denominations and political groups united in a common goal - the eradication of modern day slavery.
 
 
Other groups active in the Chicago area that you might be interested in:
 
 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Use What You Have

This video has been circling the web for a few weeks now and it is truly inspiring. You usually see it with the title:
 
"What Would You Do If Someone Offered To Sell You A Baby For Fifty Bucks?
This Guy Took Pictures."
 
 


The guy is Tanner Wendell Stewert, a photographer from Seattle. 
In 2012, while in Bulgaria volunteering for the The A21 Campaign he began taking pictures of a baby that had captured his attention.  A conversation ensued and the man holding that baby offered to let Tanner buy his baby for a mere $50. 

That conversation is what led Tanner to start the Shoot The Skies project.  The goal was a 2013 daily photo project that would be turned into a book with every bit of money donated to or raised by this project to be given in its entirety to A21, and to fighting the war on trafficking.

A while back I attended a conference on human trafficking.  The goal was to bring together people from all types of organizations and stand united in the fight against trafficking.

They shared with us a verse that you probably wouldn't normally relate to this subject.
It was Judges 3:31 which reads:

After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines
with an oxgoad. He too delivered Israel.

An oxgoad was an instrument used for driving the oxen.  It would have been eight feet long and pointed with a strong sharp iron head at one end.  It was the only thing he had.  So with no other weapon, Shamgar was able to stand strong and defeat 6oo enemy men in battle.  Shamgar used what he had and relied upon the Lord to sustain him.

In the same way, Tanner used what he had.  A talent.  A talent given by God and now being used to give back to God. 

So often we think we have to do something big for it to matter.  We become paralyzed by the thought that this is such a huge problem.  Instead, we should plan to:
  1. Use what you have.  Time, Talent or Treasure
  2. Start where you are.  Be bold and take that first step.  You will gain momentum from there.
  3. Do what you can.  You can't do it all.  But when we link arms and stand together we create change.
  4. Ask yourself "What is one thing I could do as an individual?"

To purchase Tanner's book please visit Shoot The Skies

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Would You Risk?

Here is another post inspired by our weekend service at church.  We heard different stories from the gospel of people who took a risk and the huge impact it had on those around them. 

Many times when you hear people speak on the subject of human trafficking you hear the warning not to get caught up in the numbers.  Tell the story not the stats they will say.

That is because these statistics are more than just numbers.  They represent real people.  Each and every one of them has a face and a name.  They have a story.  Each and every one of them matters to God.  Their story matters to God.

We can hear the statistics and become frozen with hopelessness.  We are unable to act because we can't possibly see how we could make a difference.

But let's focus on the numbers for just a minute.

The current estimates are that there are 30 million people in the world living in slavery.  The number is staggering.  It's hard to comprehend.  To give you an idea of just how many people we are talking about...

The largest NFL stadium is the FedExField. Home of the Washington Redskins.  Official seating capacity of 85,000. 

This stadium would have to sell out every night for 352 nights to reach 30,000,000 in attendance.  That's each and every night for almost an entire year. 

For me, that really puts the issue into perspective.

30 Million. 

The number is overwhelming. 






 BUT...

There are 2.2 Billion Christians in the world who can do something to save them.   The job is risky, but there are lives at stake.  People who are living in darkness.  Who have no hope. 

30 Million. The harvest is plentiful, but the risk takers are few.  People who need to know the meaning of freedom.  People who need to know the love and hope of Jesus Christ. 

Would you risk that God might use you?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Action Alert: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act

Please Ask Senator Leahy to Consider the  
Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act!
  
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) (S. 1738) provides funding and protections for victims of human trafficking here in the United States. It is the ONLY comprehensive legislation that provides funding for critical services victims need to heal and training for law enforcement so that they can better respond to victims and identify and prosecute traffickers.
 
We Need Your Help
On Friday May 30, please join national advocacy groups in calling Senator Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) office to let him know that you want him to put JVTA on the calendar for the Judiciary Committee. The House has already passed JVTA, so now we need Senator Leahy, as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, to take up the legislation in the Senate if we want it to actually become law!  
 
Call (202) 224-4242 and ask to speak with Emily Livingston.
 
Use the talking points below to guide your discussion:
  • I am an advocate calling to ask Senator Leahy to put the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S.1738) on the calendar so that it can be considered by the Judiciary Committee.
  • JVTA is the ONLY comprehensive human trafficking legislation that provides funding and resources so that child victims of trafficking can receive critical services they need to heal.
  • JVTA promotes interagency collaboration, which allows for law enforcement, child advocacy centers, social service agencies, healthcare providers, legal services programs, courts, and housing agencies to provide safety for child victims.
  • JVTA clarifies existing laws, making it clear that those that abuse and buy children for sex must be held accountable for the harm they cause by law enforcement and prosecutors.
  • Just last week, the House passed the JVTA unanimously on a 409-0 vote. We hope that the Senate can show similar support for our domestic victims of trafficking.
Background on Justice for Victims Trafficking Act
JVTA was originally introduced November 19, 2013 by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), the bill now has 20 bipartisan co-sponsors (13 R - 7D)!  The House passed an amended version of the bill by unanimous consent on May 20, 2014, but it has to be taken up in the Senate if we want this important legislation to become law.
 
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) addresses domestic sex trafficking in four critical ways:
  1. Creates a fund for domestic victims of trafficking using fines for certain enumerated crimes.
  2. Corrects administrative barrier within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) denying U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) access to services and support available to foreign victims of trafficking.
  3. Encourages cross-system collaboration between law enforcement, child welfare systems, juvenile justice officials, courts, and victim service organizations (and where applicable tribal authorities).
  4. Reduces demand for sex trafficking by calling on law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute buyers, not just pimps/exploiters.