A New Endeavor

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Life slowed down for half a second after the wedding. As I am slowly getting into a routine, life has slowly started to pick up the pace. Those closest to me would have expected nothing less, I am always busy. And in fact, while to some people my schedule would sound like a nightmare, it is what I love.  I have not picked back up to pre-wedding pace and I do not intend to ever get that busy!   I love being able to go home after work, cook dinner, and spend the evening with my husband. Thus, to maintain some semblance of balance, I am working hard at streamlining my schedule, finishing up current obligations, and only committing to future endeavors which involve the passions of my heart.

 

Enter BE.

 

A dear friend of mine came to me with the idea of using her ability to create and my love for blogging to collaborate on a project we are calling “Be 15 Percent.”  The idea came from wanting to be the difference and 15% of all the profits will go to support Project Restore- Uncharted International‘s restoration home for girls rescued from human trafficking.  I loved the idea, her heart, and the items she has made are simply incredible.  (I got a picnic set as a wedding gift, it was beautiful!)

To my dear readers, I am not abandoning this blog. I love to write and am finally starting to get a few followers-now I just get to blog in two spots!!  Catch me on BE to learn more about human trafficking and stay tuned here for more about life, faith, and justice.

Make $32,000 a Week

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Intrigued?  

Anxious to earn some extra cash?  

According to a recent study released by the Urban Institute entitled “The Hustle: Economics of the Underground Sex Industry” all you need to do is move to Atlanta and start selling women for sex.   Because $32,000 a week was the average income of a pimp in Atlanta from 2005-2011.  Consider this, “Atlanta’s underground commercial sex economy in 2007 was nearly 2.5 times bigger than the 2013 payroll of the Atlanta Falcons.” Here is the rest of the infographic-

hustleGraphics-47

The study was based on interviews with convicted pimps and the most comprehensive study done on this black market industry.  The study looked at the economics behind the commercial underground sex industry and the risks involved.

Runaways are prime targets for pimps who recruit at transportation hubs, strip clubs, malls, college campuses, and neighborhoods known for prostitution. This recruitment is the most important part of a pimp’s job because without girls, the pimp isn’t making any money. Majority of the pimps were employing at least one minor at the time they were caught because ” younger women are easier to manipulate, work harder to earn money, and are more marketable.”

Once a pimp entices a potential girl, they use deprivation to create dependency and motivate their employees by either compensating them with material goods or denying them these rewards. In terms of revenue, about 18 percent said they impose a dollar figure quota that employees would have to earn each day. These figures range from $400 to $1,000, depending on the day of the week.

Given the prices charged per hour or act, earning $400-$1000 can mean a lot of “work” for a girl.

hustleGraphics-06

Pimps often network with other pimps. These typically informal partnerships help pimps recruit employees, get intel on new business destinations, monitor law enforcement activity, advertise services, and even get financial help when times get tough.

Pimps also covet relationships with legal businesses.

Some hotel employees and managers turn a blind eye to prostitution occurring within their establishment, help market services, give discounts, and even tip off pimps to law enforcement inquiries. In return, they might receive money or free sexual services.

Before we point too many fingers though, nearly one-third of the pimps said they entered the underground commercial sex economy because they grew up around it. Exposure to sex work as children made the trade seem like a normal, achievable means to earn a living.

The underground commercial sex industry is a dark market living right below our eyes.  It is happening where you live right now. This is not something only occurring overseas and most often, the victim is an US citizen raised by a system which has failed them.  It is time we wake up and start talking about this, learning the signs, talking to our law enforcement and political leaders, and become a voice for those who do not have one.

The Polaris Project is an excellent resource and their hotline number is 1-888-373-7888 or you can text befree (233733).

Source for Pictures and information from the Urban Institute.

Heartbreak, Hope, and an Opportunity

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In the last month, some really exciting things have started to fall into place.  A good friend and I are working really hard at trying to put together a human trafficking task force and it looks like it might actually happen. Divine appointments have been made, people are getting on board and I am on cloud nine.  This is what I want to do with my life.  This is my Holy Discontent.

 

However, it is also devastatingly heartbreaking.  The more I read, the more I research, the more I talk about it, the more my heart breaks. All I want to do is stop every person I see and tell them about what is going on in this world and almost certainly in their own backyard.  To think it does not happen here is foolish.  To close our eyes and think we play no role is perpetuating the cycle.  Because you may not be buying a  girl for sex, but you may be buying a t-shirt made by a worker paid less than $.10 an hour, forced to work long hours, and probably physically, mentally, and sexually abused.  Even companies who try to do the right thing, such as Knights Apparel struggle to turn a profit because for many of us, price is king.  We want the most stuff at the lowest cost with no regard for human dignity.

 

As I reflect on the disgusting nature of women beaten and abused, and workers starved and threatened, I rest in the fact God’s heart is breaking too. He sees the enslaved and the broken and hears their cries for rescue.  And He has created you and I to be part of the answer. To be the hope of rescue and redemption.  Because for a victim, someone speaking up may be their only hope for rescue and redemption through the Christ is the only way to heal the wounds of slavery.

 

As we continue to talk and dream and plan, I believe with everything in me, God has placed us in this location at this time to do something. To start a conversation, raise awareness, and continue to fight against trafficking.  If you are interested in joining us, feel free to use the Contact tab and send me an email.  Our small group would love to come talk to your organization about human trafficking or get you involved in our grassroots effort!

 

 

Remember This Number

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Today is Valentine’s Day. And whether you celebrate it or loathe it, it is hard to get away from the pictures of love, the chocolate, and red hearts decorating stores and TV ads.   So today, whether you love Valentine’s Day or realize the commercialism of the holiday and protest it, remember one number.

 

27 million. 

 

Research estimates there are 27 million slaves around the world today, a vast number of these being women and children exploited for a perverse form of “love.”    As we celebrate love with cards and candy hearts, many others are being brutally abused, raped, and used.  And while it may not be what you want to think about today, it is simply the broken world we live in and it beyond time for action.

 

Take a minute today to stop and pray for the 27 million and their exploiters. Take some time to read a little more about the topic. Two great resources are the Polaris Project and the Not for Sale Campaign.  Educate yourself and those around you. Because for everyday we live free, many more live enslaved.  And while it may be too late for this year, next year commit yourself to buying only fair trade chocolate and gifts. Take action with your dollars and refuse to buy goods made by slaves. Celebrate this day by helping to fight a heinous crime and an awful injustice against moms, daughters, sons, and fathers.

 

Freedom Reigns

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Freedom reigns in this place, showers of Mercy and Grace. Falling on every face, there is freedom. -Jesus Culture

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.2 Corinthians 3:17

This song has been running through my mind all week. We sang it Sunday in church and as I have been preparing for Myanmar this week, I cannot stop thinking about the first line in the chorus freedom reigns in this place.  

 

We live in a world where freedom does not reign in many places. In Myanmar, thousands are stuck in literal bondage, enslaved to a master who demands all sorts of evil. It makes my blood boil. To think right now a young girl is at the mercy of men who can buy her for a few hours for a few dollars.  It is not fair. It is not right. And it is not just. It is dark and evil.  But we serve a God who stands for freedom and justice and calls us to do the same. 

 

My prayer for this trip and for this year is that freedom would reign in Myanmar. That the church would rise up and would fight the injustice and the slavery. That a year from now, Myanmar would stand out as an unexplainable country in which unexplainable progress has been made towards once again eradicating slavery. It’s an audacious prayer. But it comes from a heart broken for the voiceless, the enslaved, and the girl who longs for freedom. Will you join my voice in prayer for freedom to reign in Myanmar*?

Luke 4:18-19
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

 

 

*follow our trip on the team blog here

The Start of a Dream

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I have a dream.  A really big dream. One of those dreams most people would laugh off as “impossible.” Sometimes when I think about it I feel like a kid again-you know, back when you thought anything was possible. I forget sometimes I am an adult and am supposed to have practical, pay-the-bills type of dreams.  I wonder if the dream is even possible or if I will ever find people willing to invest in the vision.  I wonder often why God choose this issue to break my heart. Why this burden to bear?

 

Lately though, I have decided to throw caution to the wind and start pursuing my dream. I have not quit my job yet mostly because I do still have bills to pay, but in every moment I can between work, grad school, and the million other things I do, I have been plotting, prodding, researching, and planning. I have been talking, emailing, reading, and making lists.   No one ever accomplished a dream by waking up one day and waving a magic wand and so instead of waiting for some magical moment in the future when all the stars align, I am taking steps now. Baby steps. Small steps.

 

And I have hit roadblocks already. Emails that never get a response.  Information that I cannot seem to find.  Friends that have better things to do than listen to me ramble.  But the thing is, for the first time in a long time, I am refusing to let those things discourage me.  Precious lives are at stake.  Day in and day out, while we go on with our daily lives, an evil lurks that is darker and sicker than any of us care to imagine. I refuse to sit by any longer and not do something.  Even if that something is laying plans, praying hard, and asking until I get an answer. 

 

Curious yet?

 

I hope so because in the days and weeks that follow I plan on slowly sharing the journey with you. Right now, the dream is still tucked inside the place in my heart few people get to see.  Partly because I am not sure now is the right time and partly because rejection is still one of my biggest fears.  But there is post after post composed with details and dreams. I have a name.  I have the passion. And I am fully aware that it will take lots of hard work, long days, longer nights, disappointments, and discouragement. But then again, who ever said changing the world was easy? And I honestly think with a whole lot of prayer and a whole lot of relying on God, the impossible may become possible. 

 

Stay tuned..life could get very exciting!

Recap: The Justice Conference

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Mind-blown.  Humbled. Energized. Motivated. Broken.

 

Those are just a few of the words that scratch the surface of the incredible two days I spent at the Justice Conference. Next year, I will be dragging my friends to it, even if I have to fund their way because I believe this conference is too important and too powerful to miss. After sitting for two days, listening to speaker after speaker share their heart for justice and the broken condition of our world, I cannot sit still. Granted, I have never really sat still, but this was the kick in the pants I needed to take the final plunge into the world of fighting for hope and justice.

 

I took pages and pages of notes and am filled to the brimm with information.  I am going to condense it down and will probably use it for the next several posts! As overwhelming as it can be, don’t worry because in a few weeks I will be giving you all a chance to get involved on a very practical level. Because the statistics are disheartening, but we must all believe that one person can truly change the world. Oh, and even if you don’t want to get involved, if you live within driving distance, I will still be coming after you!:)

 

Enjoy a small sampling of the rich teaching and the passionate hearts of those on the front line of the justice movement.

 

 

If one family out of every three churches in the United States adopted a child, foster care roles would be cleared. -Michael Wear, U.S Department of Faith Based Partnerships

 

The church is God’s answer to injustice. Justice is not a fad and it never should be. It is long and tedious and tiring, not sexy. -Mike Hogan, IJM

 

Figure out what your loaves and fishes are and offer them to God. -Mike Hogan

 

Men created the problem. Better men have to solve it. -Tomas Perez, founder of Epik Project

 

Justice is a theological necessity. -Ken Wystma, founder of The Justice Conference

 

If you take love of enemy out of Christian faith, you have unchristianized the Christian faith. -Miroslav Volf, Yale

 

Followers of Jesus are a huge threat to status quo when acting out justice. -Walter Brueggemann, OT Scholar

 

Jesus was executed by those in power because they could not handle His transformative actions that invited the vulnerable back into the political economy. -Walter Brueggemann

 

Give yourself away for the neighborhood and you get yourself back enhanced. -Walter Brueggemann

 

The attitude in me that makes a property claim on a saved seat is the same attitude of someone who trafficks and makes a property claim on another human. -Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei

 

The One who lives in me moved into the neighborhood. -Rick McKinley

 

To have a gospel apart from justice is to have no gospel at all. -John M Perkins, author

 

Grace is the most all-inclusive, redeptive word in the Bible. -John M. Perkins

 

In India, you can rape a child for the cost of a latte. -Mike Hogan, IJM

 

9 out of 10 women in the Congo have been raped. -Stephan Bauman, president of World Relief

 

What will you do in three years when the spotlight on human trafficking has moved on? -Rachel Lloyd, Founder of GEMS

 

Sometimes you just have to go it alone. -Rachel Lloyd, Founder of GEMS

 

We have created poverty because we have forgotten how to share. -Shane Claiborne

 

The more stuff we accumulate, the more clubs we have to have to protect it. -Shane Claiborne

 

Injustice wears skin. Its personal. -Stephan Bauman, president World Relief

 

The demands of justice and extravegence of love meet on a cross. -Stephan Bauman

 

If the church is not the hope, there is no hope. -Stephan Bauman

 

I was quiet for a while. I am done being quiet. -Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love

 

If you believe James 1:27, does your life make sense?– Francis Chan

 

As we grow in the Lord, shouldn’t we be doing crazier and crazier things?– Francis Chan

 

If we love our neighbors as ourselves, why don’t we spend on them what we spend on ourselves?-Francis Chan

 

For the most part the Bible is pretty clear. Read it and do what it says. -Francis Chan

 

Feed My Starving Children

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You know you have found a soul sister when your idea of something fun to do on a Friday night is dump food into bags for two hours. But that is exactly what my friend Leah and I did for two hours last Friday night. Amid laughter, music, and lots of chatting, I realized that this was exactly what my soul needed. A break from the media and life to focus on a project way bigger than myself and with an organization I have a very personal connection to.

 

Rewind a few months.  Leah asked me if I wanted to go to a packing party for this organization called Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). I immediately said yes, perhaps way more enthusiastically than was to be expected. You see, back in 2009, I spent two months in a tiny country in Africa called Swaziland.  While I was there, we had the opportunity to distribute some of the food that was packed and shipped from… Feed My Starving Children. I am not really sure how we got connected, but I remember the look on the faces when we arrived

with the food. We actually tasted it and its pretty good compared to some of the other food the kids go to eat. Not that starving kids are picky, but the food is packed full of nutrients and they have made a very conscious effort to create something that is culturally acceptable no matter where they ship it. And if you can do all that and still make it taste decent, it’s an added bonus. Ever since that summer, I have just held a special place in my heart for FMSC. Thus, I was ecstatic to be on this end as well.

 

Friday night we headed out to a local church to be involved in what FMSC calls “Packing Parties.” They have them all over the country and they are usually two-day events broken down into two-hour shifts in which volunteers go and pack the food into boxes to be shipped. Our goal was to pack boxes that would be sent to organizations in Haiti. The food helps alleviate some of the costs of running orphanages and care points for kids around the world. It’s a pretty elaborate process, but so much fun.  After a short film and instructions on wearing hair nets, we went down to the gym and were given even more instructions on the actual process. Leah and I decided to jump on filling the bags with the food. They are made up of four ingredients -chicken, veggies, soy, and rice.  We laughed so hard, jammed out to some music, and had a blast despite ending the night with sore hands and backs.

 

It left me incredibly thankful for the experiences I have had. Yes, anyone can be involved in packing the food, but to have an actual connection made the night more than just a fun thing to do. It was a reminder of my time spent in Africa and a reminder of how thankful I am for the blessings and opportunities I have been given. It also reminded me of how thankful I am for Leah and her friendship-it takes a special friend to find filling plastic bags with food for two hours an enjoyable experience. Her laughter, acceptance, and understanding of me is something I cherish. She is one of those rare friends that can finish a sentence, complete a thought, and read a mind. And after all that, she still likes me!  Beyond that, it was so amazing to be part of this side of the organization.  Overall, we(the group of people there)  packed enough boxes of food to feed 121 kids for an entire year.  In two hours.  That’s 121 less kids that will be hungry. I think I can give up two hours for that.

 

What about you? It’s that time of year..any special service projects you are part of? Any organizations that you have a connection to?

Spend and Satisfy

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And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:10

Darkness cannot overtake light. Only light can overtake darkness. Think about it. When you walk into a dark room, you turn on a light and the light rids the room of darkness. The only way for the darkness to return is to remove the light-it cannot automatically return. We are living in a dark world. Poverty. Injustice. Death. Trafficking. The numbers are overwhelming. The statistics numbing. The stories heartbreaking. And in the midst of that darkness, we are called to be the light. Did you hear that?? We are called. WE. US. You and Me.

God is continually breaking my heart for the things that break His heart. The things that used to be so important are fading in the light of what God views as important. And last night, as I sat in a concert focused on fighting for the freedom of the captives, I realized once again how broken my heart truly is. And how quickly life gets busy and we get caught up in this or that and forget the passions inside. I have been so wrapped up in transitioning home and now moving again, I pushed aside the things that I am so passionate about. Partly because I didn’t know what I could do. I know God has a specific purpose for giving me the heart that He has given me. It is not a burden many can bear. It is not a heaviness that many share. And yet, I cannot imagine being wrapped up in anything less then the heart of God and His passion for the world. It is a broken place. It is dark. And in that, I am called to be the light.  For now, that calling is not exactly playing out how I thought it would. I want to be on the front lines, fighting the oppressor and loving the opppressed. But right now, God has me in the background. And it is here that I am growing. That I am learning how to love. I am learning how to be loved. I am learning that freedom is given to me and that I need it just as desperately as the truly captive. And I am being ever reminded that God uses normal, everyday people to accomplish His plan. I do not have to be anything but willing. And willing am I ever. Isaiah 58 is my chapter. It is the chapter in the Bible that I have clung to the past two years of my life. Everytime I am discouraged or frustrated, I remind myself that this is my calling. To spend myself on behalf of the hungry. To satisfy the needs of the oppressed. To break the chains. To tear down walls. To love. And I don’t have to travel to Africa or Asia to do that. I can do that today, right now, with the people I normally see. I will never be the same. I have seen and I have been changed. But because of that, I feel God is calling me. And I don’t know how He will use it, but I am praying daily that He will use me. That I be counted worthy to carry His cross and message to a dying and broken world.

I truly believe that everyone should be free to live. Free to walk in the light. Free to eat and free to run and free to dance. I cannot and will not ever be content in a world where so many are robbed of life. In that, I have found that sometimes the only way I can contribute is to pray and give. While my heart is longing to go, I feel God calling me to patience.  However in that waiting, I am not sitting still. And whether you are called to go or not, do something. Anything. Donate your money or your time. Shop more consciously. Love louder. Live bolder. Be the light that so many are seeking. Pray for your kingdom assignment. Pray for those in slavery. Pray for your heart. Pray for the church. Give hugs. Hang out with the homeless.

Lord, may we open our eyes to the things that break your heart. Give us boldness in our walk. May we spend our lives on behalf of the hungry. May we satisfy the needs of the oppressed. It is for freedom we were set free. Help us to live and walk in that freedom. Help us to extend grace and forgiveness to those around us. Help us to be freedom to those who need it. Help us to the light to a broken world. A world that desperately needs light. May darkness never have the final say. May children be able to laugh, run, and be kids. May we be aware. Change us. Change our hearts. May we be spent on behalf of the hungry, oppressed, trafficked, and poverty-stricken.