Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking // Part Six

FinalBanner2

 ::: OBEDIENCE :::

Being human is such a trip, isn’t it? It’s interesting how we are a constant project for ourselves. As a dear friend of mine examines, learning to love God, other people, and ourselves as fully as we can is quite the creative process.

Honestly, it’s been painstaking for me to write this series. I pray God is touching others and using it for His purposes - even if I don’t see it - but whatever God chooses to do, I know that I personally have been so blessed by it’s course. Writing all the jumbled thoughts allows me to process the disarray. This series was intended as a manifesto of sorts, my “application” to join in the club visits with the friends and ladies of Vintage Pearls, and I sincerely thank you for your presence over these weeks.

Over these years, the Holy Spirit has been illuminating my eyes, my heart, and moving my feet to the concept of justice, especially in regards to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, and I pray you will come alongside, gentle reader. I will be speaking in some candid, explicit terms, so if you’re a young adult, please ask permission before reading. Better yet, read it alongside an adult. Before going further, would you mind praying with me? Please pray that the Spirit will soften your heart and align it to His? That He will not be quenched, that He’ll remain in your presence, and that you will ask Him what your unique role in this crises can be?

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Last year, on this very day, you would have found me preparing to host a rummage sale. Scheduled to take place six days later, it was to occur in the mid-autumn of Wisconsin; I really had no idea what I was doing. For every question and doubt that scrambled through brain matter, there was a gentle assurance, that intoxicating and rather unruly peace that somehow trumps all understanding. But after-all, isn't it love, not necessarily understanding, which God most desires from us?

The rummage sale was to benefit an organization called Hagar International, supporting two of their many programs in Cambodia: their “catch-up” school for children from backgrounds of abuse and trafficking as well as their foster family program, which provides long-term family based care to children who have no safe biological family to return to. In some moments, it felt like a crazy whim, but like a gift that you’ve been anticipating giving to someone that you know they will just love, bingo, that was how I felt, and I was jumping out of my skin in eagerness.

RummageHagar Rummage Sale ::: October 2012

I don’t know the point or the how or the why at which I knew trafficking or sexual exploitation existed, but somehow I knew it did, especially on the international scope. There were experiences that, in retrospect, trace back toward His leading.

India and Thailand, two countries I was fanatical about when I was young, gripped me in part because of the case of slavery and freedom. I recall reading about child slaves, the slave trade in general, those black and white photos and illustrations you see in history books, the somber slave standing, naked and ashamed, before the jolly, top-hatted, well-dressed bidders. In my readings, perhaps due in part to my budding puberty, I innately recognized the lecherous motives, what prostitution and rape implied, even though I didn’t truly comprehend what it all encompassed.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I would play “slaves” as a kid. What it must feel like to be sold like some THING you would buy at a marketplace? The grief and the fury, the curiosity and the horror and the total drama of it all. I was fascinated and sickened and overwhelmed. Some of my favorite characters in theatre and film growing up? Nancy in Oliver!, Satine in Moulin Rouge!. Both of these women descent into prostitution, despairing, searching, all the while manifesting our unified craving for love: “What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” – Proverbs 19:22.

Experiencing devastations with family members and friends during the course of life, was (and is) excruciating and confusing, longing to offer some relief and comfort, but realizing that I, in my pride, cannot be the One to ultimately provide restoration.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:22-25

My gut was punched hard, real hard, after learning of my (then future) mother-in-law’s sexual abuse as a child. Watching her wade through the forgiveness process was heart-wrenching, and I am in awe of her strength. I got to become a wife, and soon after becoming a mother, my heart ripped apart like carnage after reading Richard Stearn’s The Hole in Our Gospel. Personal and shared life happenings and hurt all primed for what I call a personal “justice tour” as God spoke so clearly and fervently, taking me on wild expeditions through his Words.

Christmas 2011 was approaching, the year coming to a close, our baby boy was soon to arrive, and we were desperately enduring a red-hot financial drought, lots of emotions, lots of waiting, lots of chaos, confusion, and heaps of pain and heaps of joy. By the grace and faithfulness of God we were able to purchase a few Christmas gifts, and the book I had bought a family member ministered so to me, especially in this one, solitary line:

“But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.” – Francis Chan

Soon after, I received an unexpected and early paycheck for some work, thrilled and grateful to the core. Sustainment.

But God, what will you use it for?, we prayed.

And then that night, I had a dream of a little child, sitting in a dilapidated house in the fog and bitter rain. I awoke sobbing, knowing exactly what organization to give that check to and exactly how much.

All of it.

I was terrified to tell my husband, even though I knew he would join me. It felt so reckless, and it felt so freeing! Exhilarated and frightened, we went on the computer the next night, perplexed as to what specific area to support.

Teach me what I cannot see.

We decided to split it in half, one portion going to a well for clean water, and the other to girls recovering from sexual exploitation.

It is much beyond me to comprehend the full purposes and sovereignty of God, and I believe they are more astonishing than I will ever be able to appreciate, but it was as if this giving burst the water balloon. He revealed things to me, to my husband too, that this time of adversity was designed to illuminate. It’s been a manic stream since, learning greater obedience and dependence in the face of much difficulty and uncertainty.

BeadedHeartHand-crafted necklace received from World Vision by girls recovering from exploitation. Such a reminder.

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

2011 had flipped into 2012, and we got to become parents all over again. As our two-week old son cuddled soundly against my chest, balled in his sling, my fingers pruned in soap bubbles and dirty dishes. I was tremendously grateful to be cleaning up a dinner; God had once more dazzled in His Faithfulness and had put food on our table. I was listening to a podcast, and was wrecked all over again. Why hadn’t I done something sooner!?

After the apartment was quiet in the late of night, I buried my face in my hands, weeping for hours, God absorbing my selfishness, my pride, my guilt and my grief for and with these women, my immense gratitude for such a Father's sacrifice. As Mother Tersea had said, “intense love does not measure; it just gives. And because He gave, I wanted so desperately to continue giving, and I begged to be a part of God’s restorative process in relational, tangible, personal ways, whatever that meant, however He would like to use myself, the talents, the gifts, the possessions and the passions that He owned and had bestowed.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1

The Spirit guided the study of His words in ways that continue to baffle me, sometimes feeling like a wild goose chase. He made my husband (who often wanted to go all Liam Neeson) and I sensitive to a host of resources, placing them directly in our wake (many of which, including some key Scriptures, that I hope to share with you in the next post). Life was busting at the seams, but God planted the idea of hosting a rummage sale, but who to support? I stayed up absurdly too late researching the gazillions of organizations committed to opposing trafficking and exploitation, rescue and restoration, how they each did something slightly different, their intricacies and their focuses. I would hear, and sometimes believe, the lies in my head that I wasn’t doing anything productive, anything worthwhile, attempting to upend these efforts. But God reassured that the prayers and the research and the learning was all preparation. It was being used, all of it. Moses spent 40 years in the desert before God raised Him up as deliverer, didn’t he? Preparing almost always necessitates a waiting, and boy, is it purposeful.

Settling on Hagar for the rummage is a story for another day, but almost exactly a month after the rummage sale, in November of 2012, we were uprooted after five years and moved in with my husband’s parents. In the new year, I met Katie Linn, and was able to join Exploit No More’s advertising/design team, as well as connect with two of the ladies from Vintage Pearls. Exactly a week after meeting these women, we all found out unexpectedly that we would experience another move. The Lord found us a new home, and in record time. We were without words from His anticipated, yet awesome provision and faithfulness, and strived to embrace the interruptions and challenges as gifts and training for whatever was next.

LettersLetters for trafficked women recovering in Greece, written by members of ACTS (Active Christian Teens).

Fast forward to the present. Lord-willing, coming full-circle from our first move in almost exactly a year’s time, I will be joining the ladies of Vintage Pearls for their November club visit. I am terrified, and eager. My heart needs so much tending, constantly, and I am petrified of it, where it will ring my mind and fashion judgments. I pray to learn how to be meek and humble of heart, to have eyes to see and ears to hear, to learn from the people caught up in this fire, the men participating at the strip club, to continually explore the raw truths of our complicated, flawed condition – communally. Learning often involves being challenged, and I desire relationships with people like me and not like me, I need these people both, and anticipate how I’m going to encounter our own dangerous God in this unsafe, uncomfortable place. Craving a deeper dependence on the Savior of the world, I so desperately want to magnify Him to these fractured and beautiful women, an imperfect human being just like me, made in the image of Almighty God, because we’re all fighting something bigger than ourselves, whether it’s acknowledged or not.

I have a lot of spiraling fears, a host of reoccurring questions, inadequecies, insecurities, and ohmygoodness, a lot of self-flesh to continually peel off. Perhaps I’ll never get the hang of it, but maybe, just maybe, that positions me and positions you in a posture of reliance on our Father, not ourselves and not our own strengths and smarts. How gracious is our God! He doesn’t jar His hand into ours, but it’s offered, and we GET to hold it. Whatta ride!

If you’d like to read Holy Hen House’s five previous posts on the difficult, but crucial matter of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, they can be found here via these links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five. Thank you for taking the time to read and to pray.

KristieSignature