Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

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In my last post I used the words “comfort zone.” Comfort zones are the places we go where the whole world falls away. Mine is a very messy room that houses my gaming pc rig and my just giant piles of books and bookcases. You know how many people I reach from this room? None. I started this blog out because I thought it would give me the chance to reach people in my free time and help make a difference for something I cared about. So putting aside that I don’t like writing or an audience.. I began writing it. Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, Thailand, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Names of countries where my blog has been read. 8 countries where a voice has been heard.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you

God’s plans/desires to change the world will bring you out of your comfort zone. Moving forward, taking a cause, to follow a purpose all of these things require risk. Risk of failure, risk of doubts, even danger in some cases. Your comfort zone isn’t changing the world. When you step out and you take a risk you have the chance. Odds are you will fail, odds are you will struggle, you might end up in the most dangerous areas of the city you live in or a brothel district in a foreign country where you feel alone and scared. Take courage with you because you never walk the road alone. Pastor Bil Cornelius of Church Unlimited in his sermon last Sunday said “if you are busy doubting yourself then you will never use what God gave you.” More on, in his book Today is the Day the very first chapter is about realizing and following dreams God gave you. His second clue for knowing God’s dream for you? That it solves problems for others, clue three? It includes a burden for those people. Solving problems for others. Why is this important? Because Christ left us to take care of the world and we are doing just a miserable job.

I follow around 30 human trafficking groups on Facebook. That is 30 organizations trying their best to free PEOPLE. PEOPLE from slavery. This is the world we’re supposed to be taking care of. I talk about human trafficking and I see peoples brains tune out. It comes across on their faces they don’t want to hear it. Most of you reading this blog probably know exactly what I am talking about. When God tells you to find to go forward and move ahead it will be in-between a rock and a hard place. My heart is burdened for those people trapped in the hell of a world that trafficking creates enduring misery and pain on unimaginable levels. My dream is to help them get out of that life. Christ left US. You. Me. The congregation of the faithful, to take care of the world till he could return. We can do better.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you

Pastor Cornelius mentioned another thing that really has me thinking. He said remember to take with you the people who believe in you and what you’re doing. That’s an interesting phrase. He was talking about how you “take courage with you” in situations where you’re afraid. For Christians our courage is our Bible and our Faith but for all humans our courage is also our friends, our knowledge of our purpose. So on the journey you have had surround yourself with people who are going the same way or at the very least understand and support you for going where you are going. Trafficking is an appalling moral outrage. Some people will not understand why it matters to me or to you. Surround yourself with the people that care so that you have that courage and reinforcement when you need it.

On a side note regarding Pastor Cornelius.. Well he is this guy on cnn and also the guy who had this billboard on the side of the highway:

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When I drove into Corpus Christi as a transfer college student I knew nobody in the town, I didn’t have a plan for a church, and honestly was in a really rough place in my head. So I see this giant billboard with a guy pointing at me. A week or so later I get a flyer in the mail and its that same picture and it says “I dare you” and has his church location and times on the back. If you know me, you know I had to go, he dared me! That was over four years ago. I still consider that my home church regardless of the fact I haven’t lived there in three years. Church unlimited (previously known as bay area fellowship) is an amazing church. They have satellite campuses scattered around Texas, post all the sermons to youtube, host live showings of all their sermons via the website or app(yes! An app! You can get the entire Church Unlimited experience from the Church Unlimited app!). Church unlimited is now opening actual churches inside prisons (GodBehindBars) and to truly hit home, a church after my own heart, Church Unlimited started and runs a trafficking rescue house. I had the privilege of sitting in a sermon on the main campus last week for the first time in years and Pastor Cornelius announced they’re opening a satellite location in San Antonio! I cannot wait to see the church take root in my home town and to be part of it. I would seriously recommend looking at some of the sermons, the David & Goliath series is a personal favorite.

The wrong guy for the job

I wake up in a little less than six hours.  I would like to be attempting to sleep by now.  You ever hear that voice in your own head, telling God “he’s got the wrong guy”? I have been hearing that voice..for years.  I’m imperfect and I am constantly plagued by doubts and always changing directions.  It is a weird idea to be thinking Hey..God you’ve got the wrong guy.  I am not this guy.  When you think about it, it is one of the silliest things in the world.  You’re talking to God -acknowledging that He is God- telling Him that he doesn’t know what he is doing.

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I have thought about going to seminary every year for years. I’ve signed up for classes twice! And withdrew twice because I felt like I wasn’t the right guy or I convinced myself I wouldn’t learn anything anyway(we’re going to have to talk about pride one day). This human trafficking thing? It isn’t in my comfort zone. It eats away at me. I tell God daily I am not the right person for this. I feel sort of like I’m being asked to go to Nineveh. We know how that story ends right? Jonah gets thrown into a whale –the last place on earth Jonah wanted to be, it was worse than Nineveh- and still ended up in Nineveh anyway. My point is, you can delay but eventually you’re going to Nineveh.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

God has our plans set and even if we can’t see how this will work out. It will. The power behind us will always be more than enough. My Nineveh is speaking out. I don’t like drawing attention to myself and I dread speaking in public. So where has God led me? To be an ambassador for hope speaking out publicly for trafficking victims. I am terrified of doing that first presentation (I’m still waiting on the badge/shirt/presentation material from shared hope. I am planning to try and tackle a school first, the younger generation needs the awareness more than anyone). When I get up on that stage or whatever the setting will be though, I will not be alone just like Jonah wasn’t alone in Nineveh.

Anyways, I am working on a few new projects for my anti-trafficking efforts. I’ve had this one idea for a while but I am having some problems getting the web-hosting company I paid to host the website. My idea for the website is to create a forum where people can connect in the trafficking world. A place where news stories can be sorted by the state/country etc. Where trafficking papers/books can be linked commented and reviewed. That way people can learn more about the problems locally and it gives college students/interested parties/new activists a place to come easily do research on the subject, share ideas, and get help if they’re stuck on something. As far as I have been able to find nothing like that exists and more importantly I have found it really hard to just find a list documenting the various NGO’s and charity organizations involved in the field. I feel like a comprehensive place for information could work wonders for people that are trying to learn what it is all about.

Project two is sort of a grass roots effort. I’m designing a flyer that I am going to try and get put up anywhere I can find and I also did a set of business cards that are really more like crash courses in trafficking. My plan behind those is to get them into those jars where you can drop business cards, stash them in geocashes (I haven’t personally done any geocashing but I’ve decided it would be really fun and I’m planning to start). I feel like project two is really more important that project one even though it should naturally be the other way. The biggest issue in trafficking is too many people are unaware of how far its spread. Movements start in the grassroots arena.

Dr.Seuss quote You're off to great places Seuss font 22x12-700x700

because He would dine with the Saint and the Sinner

Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.

Saint Augustine

 

You’re probably going to be getting a lot of quotes from Saint Augustine.  A missions group I follow on FB called the World Race had a quote from him earlier and when I looked him up, he had amazing things to say in his time and I predict his books will be appearing on my shelves shortly.  This particular quote sits on heavily on my heart as I still feel like I should be doing something more.  I’m really considering the World Race next year.  The World Race is a yearlong mission trip that completely pulls you out of your comfort zone and takes you through 11 countries (which countries vary by date and route selected).  I’ve been thinking about the race for the past 5 or 6 months.  The route that seems to be calling me is July 2015, route 3. Through these countries:
India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica
I have never in my life left the United States and I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever even really wanted to leave.  I discovered the World Race after reading the book Radical by David Platt (I really recommend reading this book).  The book is amazing and ever since I read it I’ve known I had to do more.  This route takes you through countries that suffer heavily in the trafficking area which is why it seems to me to be an ideal place to start. 

 

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
Saint Augustine

I still find it so easy to forget the troubles of this world.  As Christians we should be actively seeking the chance to help the world.  Christ’s final act on earth was to tell us to go into the world.  Throughout the Bible it is made clear over and over the attitude of love Christians should have.

Ezekiel 16:49 “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

1 John 3:17-18 if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Our hearts should be breaking for the world.  There is that popular praise and worship song… “Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your kingdom’s cause.”  These are shockingly powerful words.  Break my heart for what breaks Yours? Can you imagine having the heartbreak of the world poured out upon you?  Every bit of suffering God sees and feels.  Every victim, every tear.  We should be outraged and we should be doing more we should be taking action to help the poor, the needs, the victims.

 

Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.
Saint Augustine

 

As a side note David Platt: the sermon is long but really amazing. It is on the danger of worldly desires and is the best/most important sermon I have ever heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1GCrLNCk9s

Do What is Just and Right

I’m tired and a little stressed out.  I hadn’t planned on writing anything today but I did get on to read the blogs I follow and read the stories with trafficking tags.  I came across a great video put together by MTV EXIT.  I honestly haven’t paid much attention to the Exit campaign in the past but this video is really very good.  Take the time to watch  it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkMG86Rsumg

 

Also, I reached out to the Polaris Project earlier this week wondering if they knew of any good job/volunteer opportunists here in Texas.  The referred me to this great site http://www.idealist.org  If your interested in getting involved with any form of charity try checking it out.  It seems like a pretty good database so far.

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lastly, shared hope is having an event sept 10th:

Online classifieds like Backpage.com, MyRedbook.com and Eros.com are now a primary venue for traffickers to sell sex with minors and for buyers to purchase sex with child victims of trafficking.  Classified websites that promote commercial sex acts provide anonymity and accessibility to individuals looking to exploit vulnerable youth. The Feinstein-Kirk Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (SAVE Act, S. 2536) combats Internet sex trafficking makes it unlawful for a person or business entity to use the Internet to sell, commercially promote, or maintain an adult advertisement(s) with reckless disregard of the fact the adult advertisement(s) facilitates or causes a person under 18 years to engage in a commercial sex act under federal or state law.

 

Please call in September 10, 2014 at 3 pm EDT / 12 pm PDT

for a National Briefing hosted by Shared Hope International featuring Greg Tosi, Legislative Counsel for U.S. Senator Mark Kirk

to learn more about the SAVE Act and how you can TAKE ACTION.

 

Click here for a fact sheet on The Feinstein Kirk Save Act from Senator Kirk’s Office. You can read the full bill text here

 

Please RSVP to Eliza Reock, eliza@sharedhope.org, by Friday, September 5 for dial-in instructions.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that verse. In Christ we are all the same. Equals where race, gender, social status, and wealth fall away. Every victim is our brother and sister. -Religion aside- they’re humans. Our not so distant ancestors fought wars to set men free that we could all be equals. Do we forget their sacrifices so easily? The American civil war, which started out because of the issue of slavery is still the deadliest war in American History. We still talk about heroes of the Underground Railroad who helped to smuggle slaves out of the confederate south. One of the men who escaped slavery in the south, Fredrick Douglas, once said:

“I expose slavery in this country, because to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death.”

Just by letting light in on the modern slave trade, we can fight the trade. Awareness can help break the cycle. I was in a class recently, and at the end of the class the teacher gave each student a note with a quote on it. My quote was, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” -Woody Allen. People getting involved and standing up against the trade will be 80% of the fight. Awareness can reduce victims and recognize victims. If the traffickers feared society’s response to their activities the crime would not be so easily gotten away with. It would certainly not be as easily to forget.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed

Luke 4:18

Awareness. I’ve mentioned it a lot. Most places do. So what are we supposed to be looking for? The following list is from the Polaris Project:

If you see any of these red flags, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text to BeFree (233733) for specialized victim services referrals or to report the situation. Click here to learn more about reporting potential human trafficking situations. This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative.

Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

Other

  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

 

For those of you who are students, workers, or travelers please look into posting fliers at the sites you can. The Polaris Project has numerous Flyers available including ones written in about a dozen languages.

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We can do more.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

As vile of a crime as it is..Trafficking will continue to grow.  We need do more for these people.  Awareness can go a long way. Community involvement can have a massive impact. Many trafficking victims are rescued because someone recognized the signs of trafficking.  We have to do more for them.  This world is not such a big place and they are not so different than us.  This is our family being bought and sold by the predators in this world.  On any level society has a moral responsibility to do what it can.  If your a Christian remember Christ’s words in Mathew 25

“the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels..Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

We are called to give all the we have to spare for our brothers and sisters on this world.  Christ died for all of us and we are called to His example.  Our lives are supposed to be laid down for the good of this world.

I’m an avid reader –probably suffering a near addiction- reader of CNN. Today as I look at CNN I am met with the title “Report: ISIS selling Yazidi women in Syria.” This course of action is not really surprising given the atrocities ISIS has already committed prior to this. The Yazidi people do not believe in Islam, so the article goes on to notate that the ISIS leaders have said this women and children “converted” so they can be married to ISIS fighters. There is no conversion when you’re captured and taken into slavery by force, threatened with death, then sold for just a thousand dollars. That is the going rate for the Yazidi just one thousand dollars. These are innocent people stolen from their homes, who watched ISIS fighters execute their husbands and fathers. Beautiful people stolen away from their lives and sent fleeing into mountains, or captured as slaves.

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.

Aristotle

 

In Hawaii, there is a farm known as FAT LAW FARM. Fat Law, exports fresh basil to the mainland United States. Twice, Fat Law has gotten in trouble with the feds. The first time immigrant workers were spraying pesticides given to them by farm owners but were unaware the combination they were using was toxic to humans. They were forced by the FDA to burn all 29 acres when they discovered the basil was essentially poisonous. The farm makes up around 80% of the basil exported each year valued at millions of dollars. The second time the farm got in trouble, it was discovered that they were paying some of their workers below minimum wage and not giving them overtime pay even though they worked 70 hours+ a week. When confronted Fat Law said that because they supplied housing, laundry facilities, and food they didn’t violate federal law. Here is a photo of one of the “bedrooms.”

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The following are excerpts from a paper I wrote on trafficking. They give a quick crash course on the stats of trafficking as a whole and in the United States Itself, included the sources at the end.

Trafficking is essentially the forced labor of human beings. It is often assumed that trafficking is the actual movement of humans but humans do not have to be moved anywhere to be “trafficked” just forced into labor. There are approximately 27 million people living in forced slavery across the globe. Every year an additionally ~50,000 humans are brought into the United States with an estimated 2-300,000 living in forced labor total in the United States. Roughly 80% of trafficked humans are female while 50% are also children. 1.8 million Children are forced into the sex trade every year. The target age for traffickers is currently between 12 and 13 years old. It is estimated that within ten years human trafficking will overtake drugs as the leading monetary supply to international criminal organizations (Lalich 2013). Human trafficking is currently a 42 billion dollar a year enterprise (Wheaton, Schauer, and Galli, 2009).

In the United States the Department of Justice estimates the number of children slaves in the United States to be near 100,000. Trafficking is reported in all fifty states and all U.S. territories. California currently has 3/10 of the top child sex trafficking areas in the country and is overall one of the top destinations for traffickers. The cities with large ports are major points of entry including New York, Las Angeles, and Houston (Lalich 2013). The price for victims in the US can range as high as 100,000 dollars with sales in the US turning 13 billion in profit out of the 32 billion made worldwide each year (Wheaton, Schauer, and Galli, 2009).

  1. Lalich, Janja. 2013. Human Trafficking: Making Humans Invisible and Disposable.

California State University. Retrieved at: http://rce.csuchico.edu/sites/default/files/professional-development/connect-learn-engage/MediasiteMaterials/Making%20Humans%20Invisible%20and%20Disposable.pdf (11/24/2013)

  1. Wheaton, Elizabeth; Schauer, Edward; and Galli Thomas. 2009. Economics of Human

Trafficking. International Migration, Georgetown University. (11/24/2013)

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.”

“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

-Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan said those words he was talking about fighting poverty in the United States.  They are words that have stuck with me since I first read the speech in High School.  They even started or ended many of the criminal justice and sociology papers I wrote for my degree.  I think the key part comes in at the end, that we justified our moment here and that we did all that could be done.  I guess it goes along with that idea that is better to die for something than live for nothing.  Our world currently is experiencing true problems all over.  There are a thousand causes one could rally behind.  There are a thousand ways a person could work to make this world a much better place.  The only thing in my head though, is the 30 million people who cannot choose what their life should and will mean.  I can’t really imagine what it would be like to live the lives they lead.  I sometimes try and I want to believe that in that situation I would find a way to break out of it or at the very last keep my hope and survive it.

In reality, I know that would likely not be the case.  Traffickers are the worst of the worst.  They excel at preying on psychological weaknesses not only to recruit victims but to keep victims absolutely terrified, broken, and hopeless. In this video linked just below, Shared Hope International kind of gives you a crash course in human trafficking.  At right around the 2:50 mark a sex trafficker named “Joel” gives an interview.  He pops up again later in the video.  I have not been able to get his voice, his smile, or his words out of my head for over a week.  Even if I could I am not sure I would because “Joel” will drive my passion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhtrNsd6PDs

I watched that video as part of my training for shared hope.  “Joel” will now be a constant reminder of the soulless husk traffickers are.  In the United States it is estimated there are 2-300,000 trafficked minors.   That is a lot of zeros.  When you expose yourself to this field at a constant rate you begin burning out.  You begin seeing the numbers as just a statistic.  When I first began researching trafficking I ended up burning out and distancing myself from it because it was too much to dwell on.  Every single one of those numbers, matter.  Where there are humans capable of great evil there are a dozen more capable of great good, compassion, and love.

Trafficking is a complex crime.  It is hard to detect, hard to prosecute, and near impossible to prevent.  That does not let us off the hook though, we must do all that can be done.  Where trafficking had its great boom in the 1990s, the anti-trafficking movement and the laws that follow in its wake are two decades behind.  There are still states in the US and countries in the western world that have no laws for trafficking.  Luckily in the US there are federal laws to prosecute them under and slowly but surely groups like shared hope and the Polaris project are getting the state laws updated.  Internationally, the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime is pressuring countries to establish trafficking laws and helping them to define what trafficking is (which sounds weird but there is a huge debate internationally as to what should constitute a trafficked human).  I am pleased that for all our short comings that the United States makes a truly international effort to curb trafficking.  The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report (known as Tips) ranks every country on a scale of 1-3.  The countries who do near nothing to stop trafficking or do not do enough end up receiving no non humanitarian aid from the United States and also will have the United States vote no on any loans from the world bank.  The system has proven to be effective in a few countries.  Sadly, allegations of corruption and bias plague the report every year. Still.. It is something.

So what can the average person do?  Get involved and get educated.  The best way to curb trafficking is awareness.  Most people don’t even really know what trafficking is (this sort of goes with that argument I mentioned above).  Most people have the impression that trafficked victims must be moved from place to place.  Although that is often the case, trafficking does not require moving the victim.  Trafficking is really best defined as slavery, which has become a new push for the Anti-trafficking movement where many charities and NGOs are adopting the word slave or modern slavery to replace trafficking.  I encourage you to remember every time you hear the drastically large number concerning victims in the US or abroad that each one of those numbers matter.  Each one is a child, a mother, a father, a brother, or sister to someone.  Remember people like “Joel” are the ones taking these children and delivering them to even worse humans.  Remember the struggle these people must have and lives completely void of hope.  We are their hope.  We are their last best hope.

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