A bit of editing

I woke up this morning, made my husband’s lunch, kissed him on the front doorstep and sent him off to work. I did a few small things around the house and made a to-do list for the day. I wasn’t feeling much of anything special until I read an article. An article about a Christian radio personality who has apparently been charged with sex crimes. While I was disgusted by the entire thing overall, and disappointed that yet another person who claims to align himself with the attitudes and actions of a follower of Jesus Christ has a secret life that in no way matches that, I was particularly irked at the way the article was written and by some of the comments that I deem to be quite ignorant.

First of all, the actual text of the article in question can be found here. The summary sounds a little something like this:

There’s a dude in northern Michigan by the name of Balyo. He happens to work as a radio personality for a Christian radio program. The article says he’s been charged because he “allegedly paid another person, who is a defendant in another child exploitation case, to arrange for sexual encounters with minor victims.”  

Keep in mind that the federal definition of human trafficking is this:

Under U.S. federal law, “severe forms of trafficking in persons” includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking:

  1. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age, (22 USC § 7102; 8 CFR § 214.11(a)).
  2. Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, (22 USC § 7102).

The article goes on to say that Balyo has been arrested “on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.”

Next, an “expert” weighs in on the matter. The article states:

As Cooley Law professor and human trafficking expert Chris Johnson explains it, Balyo is accused of being a customer. “I think the terminology would be a ‘john’ — that in itself is not going to be human trafficking,” Johnson said. “The person he went to in order to secure the child would be the one who would be guilty of human trafficking.”

And that’s one of the things that’s got me all salty this morning. This dude Balyo allegedly (I understand innocent until proven guilty) sought out another person, by the name of Moser, who was already being investigated under a state and federal sting operation. This guy Moser, according to this article, was a real piece of work. It states that “He ran a website offering paying customers sex with underage boys.” (by the way, there was no “allegedly” to that statement. It had already been established that he ran such a web site.)

So here’s the first guy, Balyo, paying the second guy, whom he knows to run a web site that offers sex with minors, yet this expert says that Balyo is just a “john” and that he wouldn’t be considered a human trafficker. Hmmm. The federal definition says that Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act,…in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Did this many Balyo not recruit an underage boy for sex? Does it matter that he used a mediator to make provision for him to obtain an underage boy for sex? If he had cut out the middle man and grabbed a kid off the street, we would call him a trafficker, but since he went about it the sophisticated way and paid a “professional” trafficker, we’re just gonna call him a “john” instead, right? What the heck!?

Is this man not the REASON there is sex trafficking? Balyo allegedly supplied the one thing this world needs to ensure that children are sexually exploited: the demand.

Which brings me to another point that has me all fired up this morning. This article continues to use language that is harmful in the fight against human trafficking.

The “expert” makes another statement: He apparently says “pimps with prostitutes who are underage are not uncommon.”

There is no such thing as a “prostitute who is underage”. There are only trafficking victims who are minors. According to the same federal definition above, a person who intends to sell a person under 18 is a trafficker, and that underage person is a victim of trafficking. Simple as that. There’s no such thing as an “underage prostitute”. Hear me?

The expert goes on to say that “Many times when you do have a brothel that’s raided, you do end up finding child victims, unfortunately, that are involved in the commercial sex trade…according to the Department of Justice, the average age a person enters prostitution in the United States is between the age of 11 and 13 years old, so there is quite a prevalence of people who have sexual appetites with children.”

“…there is quite a prevalence of people who have sexual appetites with children.”

This statement bothers me to no end. To me, simply saying that there are lots of people who apparently have this “sexual appetite” for children almost makes it sound as if that’s a normal thing. It sounds almost as nonchalant as saying there is quite a prevalence of people who have a craving for vanilla ice cream over chocolate. Totally normal, viable preference, right? No.

To me, semantics matter. BIG TIME. In a world where so many of us are trying to fight against human trafficking, the exploitation and sexualization of our youth, and the criminals who make all that happen, I think it’s high time we start paying more attention to the words we use when discussing the whole thing.

Stop allowing “experts” to use words and phrases such as child prostitute. It has been well established by now that we legally can’t define anyone in that way, and the fact that this person did so, no matter how credentialed he may be, disqualifies him as an “expert” on the matter in my eyes.

And let’s call things what they really are. Instead of saying stuff like “…there is quite a prevalence of people who have sexual appetites with children”  how about we think about our words and say what is really meant by that statement, like “there is quite a prevalence of people who regularly seek out opportunities to exploit children sexually.” That’s what we’re really saying there, isn’t it?  We have got to be more careful with the words we allow when speaking of this evil.

Whether or not this Balyo person will be found guilty remains to be seen. What evidence has been collected to that end, I do not know. But I do know that sadly, this is one of many people who have been accused of exploiting our children directly for their own sick purposes. In my opinion, anyone who participates in that process should be charged with human trafficking. Because the truth is, without the demand, there is no need for the supply. So a person who seeks out some other person person to assist him in exploiting a child is as guilty of trafficking as the person who sells the child for that purpose. Perhaps even more so, because the problem begins with the demand for such a thing. The problem begins with the demand. And as much as we fight against the problem of human trafficking, it will continue as long as the demand continues. It will continue as long as people are able to minimize the thing by talking in terms such as “appetites” and “child prostitutes.” It will continue as long as we don’t think our words really matter all that much.


Sex trafficking and the Super Bowl?

Today, thousands of people will plant themselves on couches and barstools across the nation to watch two football teams compete for the most valuable prize in the NFL. I don’t know much about football and I don’t really have an interest in it, but tons of Americans love it and have a great time rooting for their teams, eating nachos, and commenting on brilliant advertising campaigns on this day every year. Regardless of how you feel about football or the hype surrounding the Super Bowl, you can’t help but hear about the game results, the commercials, and the intense preparation that surrounds whatever city hosts this phenomenon each year.

And nowadays, you probably can’t help but also hear something about sex trafficking when you hear stuff about the Super Bowl. Am I right? I would bet there’s almost no one who hasn’t heard at least something about a link between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking. Especially if you are on Facebook, you’ve likely seen articles posted and shared, and maybe you’ve even read a few yourself. If you have, you were likely flabbergasted by some of the stats presented, or maybe a little confused by some info that kind of seems to contradict other things you’ve heard about this problem.

It makes sense that people would be confused. I’ve seen articles just in the past week that have said the Super Bowl is the largest sex-trafficking event in the nation, while others say there’s absolutely no link whatsoever to an increase in sex trafficking because of the Super Bowl. There are lots of people arguing on both sides, both presenting evidence on both sides, and both sounding pretty convincing, especially if you are new to hearing about all of this.

I learned about sex trafficking about three years ago, which by federal law is: “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age,” (22 USC § 7102; 8 CFR § 214.11(a)). The most appalling thing to me was that it simply existed at all, but also that it happens here in the US in every single state, not just in some rare case in a remote country “over there” that I’ll never visit.

Now, let me come to my point about sex trafficking and the Super Bowl. There are a bunch of people out there right now, disputing the claims that big events such as the Super Bowl increase the demand for sex trafficking. Some articles are quoting that there have been no reported increases in the number of arrests during Super Bowl weekend in the various towns where the event was held. Some who are saying that there’s no proof, no hard statistics about how many people are really trafficked so we can’t say anything about it whatsoever. Some people are even saying that sex trafficking doesn’t really exist at all, but is just an idea made up by women who hate men and hate sex and want to make the rest of the world into a bunch of prudes.

Let me break down some very basic thoughts about sex trafficking and large events such as the Super Bowl.

1. Sex trafficking is most definitely real and happens every single day in every single state in our country, which is deemed the most free, powerful, and prosperous nation in the world. So right here in our backyards, young girls and boys, women and men, are being controlled by others through threats, drugs, violence, and a serious lack of safe options. These controllers are using their victims’ bodies as “merchandise” to sell over and over to people who are willing to pay for illicit sex. To a trafficker, this is nothing but a business. Their greed for money drives them to provide the “product” that is under demand… sex for sale.

2. The supply-demand scenario is the only thing that fuels any business, legal or illegal, anywhere in the world. There’s not really a big demand for parachute pants now that the 80’s have passed and MC Hammer’s songs are not topping the charts. I don’t see a lot of advertisements for parachute pants anymore. Get what I’m sayin?? Every business thrives on supply-demand logic. I saw news reports of pizza shops working feverishly to fold hundreds of extra boxes and quadrupling their batches of dough because they know that the demand for pizza will go up tremendously on Super Bowl Sunday. These are smart businesspeople. These folks know what they are doing. In the NY/NJ area where the Super Bowl is being held, I have no doubt that pizza shops, grocery and retail stores, and sports bars are doing the same thing… increasing their supply of merchandise to meet the inevitable demand that happens when thousands of out-of-towners descend upon their city on a specific weekend. I am pretty sure that people in NY/NJ already eat pizza and chips, and drink beer and soda. But on Super Bowl weekend, when everybody’s coming to YOUR town for the game, you’re going to stock up on the same things that people always purchase, because there will be more people purchasing them that weekend. I don’t have specific statistics to tell me this, it’s just logic and we’ve seen businesses do this over and over throughout the years. Sex traffickers do the same thing. They have a demand on every other day throughout the year, so when there’s a big event coming, they ship more “product” to where the demand will be, and that includes a city where the Super Bowl is being held. I don’t have a big list of proven statistics for that either. But I do know of several survivors of sex trafficking, many of whom personally attest to being taken to various cities around the country where big events were being held (everything from sporting events to doctors’ conventions to God-knows-what-because-half-the-time-they-never-knew-where-they-were-and-that’s-a-big-fat-red-flag-that-someone-is-being-trafficked)

3. Increased demand increases advertising. Ever notice that seasonal items enjoy a blitz of advertising at certain times of the year? Well of course. When we know that Christmas is coming up, we up the advertisements for stocking stuffers. When Halloween is coming down the pike, companies who produce costumes pay for advertising because they know the demand will be there. Business people aren’t stupid… they invest time and money in advertising when they know it will pay off the most. Did you know that advertisements for sex-for-sale (or whatever euphemism they might be disguised under) on web sites such as Backpage.com increase dramatically during the weeks leading up to big events, like the Arnold Classic and the Super Bowl? It’s already happened this week. I have seen it myself, looking online at ads in the NY/NJ area. Traffickers advertise on these sites all the time, but they take lots of extra time and effort to increase advertising tenfold during the weeks leading up to events like this. The supply and demand logic wins out for these people… they know their increased efforts are likely to pay off.

4. There’s a huge lack of “proven statistics” that show the real numbers of sex trafficking victims. You’re damn right there is. This sick business of sex trafficking is an underground endeavor. Our best estimates are probably sorely lacking. Big numbers get thrown around and sometimes that makes us paralyzed to the problem. But I will tell you this… The many stories I have heard from actual survivors who have been through this hell and lived to tell about it indicate that this is a bigger issue than we think it is. With all the awareness and police stings and campaigns that exist now, there are still many, many people trapped in sex trafficking that we have no idea about. Why? Because this is an organized crime. Do we have stats on every person who uses heroin or meth? No, because they do it in secret. The amount of arrests for illegal drug sales don’t in any way indicate how big (or small) the problem really is because those numbers only speak to the ones who were caught in the illegal activity. Duh. Same with sex trafficking. Our best guesses are only estimates based on what we know about this purposely underground crime. A lack of “proven statistics” shouldn’t make us dismiss this as not being a real problem, but should make us realize all the more that what we do know about sex trafficking only scratches the surface, and we need to do more to unearth this evil.

I have looked in the eyes of some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met who told of their experiences. Their true stories sound like horror films to us who have never known that kind of suffering. They tell of places they’ve been where it was not just them who were sold, but houses full of girls. They tell of men who frequent those houses asking for the youngest ones. They tell of being abused in the most horrific ways that we can’t even imagine. They tell of being purchased by well-known and “upstanding” members of communities. They tell of beatings they endured when they didn’t do what they were told. They tell of being left for dead on the side of the road or in a roadside ditch after a “john” had abused them. And they tell of being shuffled from city to city where big events were happening, because their traffickers knew there would be a demand. Their stories are all I need to be convinced that there is, in fact, a link between big events and an increase in sex trafficking. But the real problem doesn’t center around that. It centers around the fact that sex trafficking even exists at all, and that while there are people out there arguing over whether the stats are accurate, there are men, women, and children being abused and sold every single day right here in our city and in every state across the nation. I don’t need proven statistics to stay in this fight.

If there is even ONE person who this is happening to on Super Bowl weekend or any other weekend, I will fight for them, because no one should ever have to endure it.

Why Doma International?

Last week, doma International finished up a 10-day fundraising campaign. In light of that, I thought I would take a moment to talk about why I choose to support doma specifically. There are a ton of great organizations that fight to end human trafficking in all its hideous forms, even quite a few based here in my hometown like doma is. So why is it that I focus my efforts on giving my time, money, and talent toward the work they are doing?

To me, doma International is the total package in the nonprofit world when it comes to fighting human trafficking, because they understand that the problem begins long before a woman ends up in a courtroom with a soliciting charge slapped onto her record. Its about much more than that.

It’s about a journey.

Their primary connection in the US is to support the ladies who are part of the CATCH program, a special docket court here in Columbus that helps formerly prostituted women regain their lives through a 2-year rehabilitation and training program. Instead of simply incarcerating women who have been prostituted (and thereby ignoring the systemic problems that brought them there in the first place) CATCH focuses on teaching skills for restoring their life and ways to overcome the awful circumstances they’ve endured, so they can become the women they were meant to be.

Doma has come alongside these women from the first moment they enter the CATCH program. Their staff and volunteers step with them through this journey from those first nights when they are waiting in jail, just daring to hope that their lives could change, all the way through to independence when these women find a job, get their own apartment, and regain custody of their children. Doma helps take them from victim to survivor; from being the lost and brushed-off people on the fringe of our society to becoming the beautiful, strong women…daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends…they were created to be.

The staff and volunteers at doma understand that it’s not just about rescuing one woman from a terrible life, although that in itself is a good thing. But its more about the layers and layers of change that are necessary to revamp the systems that keep children from becoming vulnerable to traffickers, then growing up and repeating cycles of trauma. Doma is about changing a family tree, a city, and the entire world— Which can all start by helping one woman understand her true worth and her strength.

If all that is a bit too fluffy-sounding for you, let me share this: For the past couple of weeks, I’ve visited CATCH court. I’ve sat there listening, with pen in hand, recording things that the ladies have said about themselves and about the program. Here are some snapshots:

I don’t know where I’d be without the people in this courtroom.

It changed the way I carried myself and how I think about myself.

I’ve learned to love myself again.

I’m able to be there for my family, and I wasn’t able to before.

I feel like I am somebody, not just some woman on the street. I feel like a real mother.

I wasn’t judged.

I like myself again.

I am feeling blessed….grateful….determined…hopeful….like I have peace….proud….comfortable in my own skin.

I thank God for this program.

The people in this room have moved mountains for me.

I’m stickin’ and stayin’.

I have serenity.

I’m taking my GED test today.

I got to spend my son’s birthday with him this year. These are moments I never thought I’d get to have.

Grace is all over us.

It feels good actually doing something and being respected.

Nothing I’ve ever done in my life is like being here.

I may not have seen God himself, but I’ve seen his work. It’s all around us, in all of us.

I want to do something different. I need help. I can’t do it on my own.

I am capable. I’m going to do this.

I’ve come so far.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

These beautiful statements are concrete evidence of new life. They wouldn’t be possible without doma supporting the CATCH program, and they couldn’t do their work without generous people supporting them with time and resources. They rely mostly on donations and the occasional grant. They really make a little go a long way.

My family chooses to support doma because they take the full journey with these women. I recall one survivor saying that when she first met the staff at doma, they told her they were going to come along side her and love her until she could love herself. And that’s exactly what they did. Just a few years later, that same survivor is now a thriving, confident woman who mentors other ladies and speaks publicly about her journey in order to inspire others to action.

Isn’t that a journey you’d be proud to be a part of?

Doma’s recent fundraising campaign just ended. But the love doesn’t have to. Could we give up that Starbucks coffee, one round at the golf course, or our Friday night pizza in order to donate to restoring lives right here in our back yard? It is more than worth it!

Donate anytime to doma International! Show the love. Fund some freedom!

(Oh, and I didn’t even mention that doma operates a food cart and catering business to give these lovely survivors hands-on job training, or the incredible work they do overseas in Ethiopia and Russia! Take some time to browse their site and learn more about ALL of the amazing things they do to empower women and embrace children here and around the world!)

What can be done about Human Trafficking?

I am the first to admit that learning about human trafficking can feel very overwhelming–even depressing– at first. You see the statistics and the news stories and it just seems like such horrific stuff, how can we even do anything about it?

You may be surprised, but there’s quite a bit that can be done. There’s a lot already being done to fight human trafficking every day, both here and abroad. I already mentioned in a previous post that memorizing the national Human Trafficking Hotline can help save a life. 1-888-3737-888 is the number to call, or text information or questions to BEFREE on your cell phone. Just memorize it, and tell others about it so they will know there is a resource.

First Step: Educate Yourself. I’ve compiled a page of documentaries, books, and web sites from organizations that are great starting points to familiarize yourself with the reality of this problem. There are books, web sites, and documentaries that shed light on all types of human trafficking. I will continue to update this page as I learn of more resources that will help you educate yourselves.

Anti-Human Trafficking Resource Page

My hope is that you will go a step further after you learn about the women, children, and men who are trafficked into situations from which they have no escape. That you will imagine what it would be like if your very own daughter, son, sister, or brother were in that same situation. And that you would be moved by compassion into action.

After educating yourself, find a way to get involved. There are many ways! You can write letters to legislators, volunteer with survivors, make meals for drop-in centers, join or develop an outreach to educate others, devote a talent to raising awareness, collect donations for crisis centers, pray, become a speaker on this subject, or a million other things! I make jewelry that I sell to raise awareness and funds. Who knew making jewelry was a way to fight slavery!? Just about anything you do to raise awareness or move into action can help secure freedom for the many women, children, and men who are trafficked every day.

When asked which was the greatest commandment of the law, Jesus replied:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40, The Message

Loving others as we love ourselves means wanting the same for them that we want for ourselves. Do you want to be beaten and forced to have sex with a dozen or more strangers every night? Do you want to work in a carpet factory for 18 hours a day for no pay? Do you want to be forced to kill people in a war that you know nothing about and never signed up for? Do you want to be enslaved as a domestic servant for all of your life?

I didn’t think so. Neither do I.

Then how can we stand by while these things are happening to others? We can’t. So let’s get a move on, shall we?

What exactly is human trafficking?

The topic of human trafficking has been on my personal radar for a little over 2 years now. It’s gone from being a heartbreaking issue that I used to hear about on the news to an evil that is personal to me, that I now can’t help but fight against. A lot has changed since I was first appalled by watching the movie Taken. A whole lot. I’ve learned that human trafficking isn’t just some vile notion in a movie plot. In fact, it’s hardly at all like the movies. It isn’t something that just happens internationally or in mafia rings (although it can be part of that.)  I’ve come to know that it’s not only real, but it happens right here in my country, my state, my hometown, every single day. I’ve learned that often, it’s much less about a person being kidnapped and much more about a person being coerced and manipulated. I’ve learned that a person doesn’t have to be taken over a border –or anywhere else–in order to be trafficked… it can happen right in their very own home by people who are supposed to be their protectors and defenders. I’ve learned that this modern-day slavery is often more about layers and layers of psychological bondage and rather than the metal shackles we picture when thinking about slavery as we’ve known it in our history books.

So what is human trafficking, really? You may not know this, but our nation’s law gives us a real working definition, that includes the fact that human trafficking is modern-day slavery. In the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act of 2000* (TVPA), it states:

b) FINDINGS.—Congress finds that: (1) As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world. Trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of slavery today.

Trafficking in persons is another phrase for human trafficking. Its legal definition is:

   The term ‘‘severe forms of trafficking in persons’’ means—

(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage,  debt bondage, or slavery.

Notice the terms force, fraud, or coercion. These three words are key to the definition of human trafficking.

Force. That one is easy to understand. Someone holds a gun to your head. Someone beats you. Someone locks you up. They’ve used physical force against you to get what they want.

Fraud. You’ve been tricked. You signed up for a day labor job or to be trained as a nanny. But when you arrive you realized there never was such a job. You are now made to work 16 hours a day without pay, or to prostitute yourself or strip in a nightclub. You’re the victim of fraud, because the situation is not what you were told it was.

Coercion. This one may be the hardest for us to really understand. The actual definition** of the word coerce is:


1. to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition

2. to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion; exact

3. to dominate or control, especially by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.

So, you’ve been told that you’ll be beaten severely or killed if you try to leave, or if you tell anyone. Your family will be killed, and they know where your family lives. They videotaped you, and if you tell anyone, they’ll show the video to everyone you know. They remind you that you’ve got no place to go, and how if you left you’d be back out on the street with no food, no shelter, nothing and no one. They’re the best chance you’ve got. And you start to believe it. You’ve been coerced and manipulated.

All three of these things: force, fraud, and coercion, are means by which men, women, and children are trafficked. Most of the time all of these things are present, resulting in layers upon layers of physical, emotional, and psychological trauma that breaks down their defenses until they feel hopeless. Then the trafficker has them exactly where they want them.

So what next? What is the experience like for people who are trafficked? I myself cannot explain it thoroughly. I can only relate the stories I have heard, have been told, and have read second-hand. But the stories are real, and the experiences are truly terrifying. They are beyond what people living in safe, resource-rich lives can even imagine. But we can listen to their stories. We can hear—really hear—their voices crying out for hope and prevention and restoration. We can use these stories to fan the flame of righteous anger on their behalf, and decide that we will no longer allow this to happen right under our noses. We can allow that righteous anger to compel us to act, to speak out for the ones who haven’t yet found their voice.

How exactly do we do that? Believe it or not, there are really countless ways! In my next post, I will give a list of resources to educate yourself and to get involved on local and national levels. For now, you can start by memorizing the national hotline number (1-888-3737-888) and visiting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s page to learn more. With this hotline number, you can call (and now even text “BEFREE”) to give tips when you see signs that make you suspect trafficking is happening. Don’t be shy about calling. You may save a life today.

More to come….

*Also known as the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, retrieved from:  http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/10492.pdf

** Definition of coerce, retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/coerce

opposites unite

Opposites attract. Everyone knows that old adage, and many times it rings true in our lives. I think it’s especially true when it comes to couples. I find it completely awesome how many couples could not be more opposite in personality, preferences, gifts, and talents, yet they enjoy a lovely balance in their relationships. It’s definitely the case in my marriage. I am a flighty extrovert, while my man is a sober-minded introvert. I process verbally. He processes silently. I’m all city-girl, he could live on the side of a mountain forever. It’s a beautiful paradox, but in certain areas, it makes things a bit complicated.

For example, serving others is a central part of our life as followers of Christ. But since we’re wired so differently, one of the things that my husband and I have always found difficult is exactly where and how to serve others together.  He prefers practical, behind-the-scenes ways of helping folks. He wants a task to accomplish on behalf of someone to meet a need they have. I prefer to get all up in the mix with the people… seeing their faces, hearing their stories, feeling their emotions, making a connection so they know they’re important. That’s what thrills my heart.

Scripture reminds us of the fact that we’re all wired so beautifully different on purpose.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. -1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. -1 Corinthians 12:12

Over the years Todd and I have served others together in various ways, but they have undoubtedly been more slanted toward one of our worlds than the other. We’ve just made the decision to bend toward each others’ direction in order to be able to serve together. And while all of those things have been good, we hadn’t quite found that thing, that one cause that we both would passionately jump behind and could feel like we’re both in the right place with. Something that serves the poor, the downtrodden, the desperate heart. Something that allows both of us to use our very different gifts to show God’s love to people in practical and personal ways. Something that we’d both be excited about and be able to dig into with fervor, working in sync to accomplish one goal.

We’ve been glad to step into each other’s world from time to time just to be able to serve together, and many times we’ve simply served folks apart from one another in our own ways in different directions, and those things have been good too. And we will probably always have that to some extent. But we’ve had many conversations over the years about what our “one thing” might be and we kept dreaming that someday we just might find it.

Then the other night, it happened. We were having a conversation about human trafficking, as he had just returned from a men’s event centered on the subject. He was giving me the run-down of the evening, then he said it. It was unexpected, and it made my heart skip a beat.

“I think this is our one thing.”

Whoa. Say again??? I was all “really!?” and “seriously!?”  like a kid reacting to her parents telling her they were going on a trip to Disney World.

We went on to have this amazing talk about how fighting human trafficking is all about serving the underdog… people who have been used and abused to the worst extent, shunned and misunderstood by society instead of getting the true help they’ve needed. Both of our hearts go out to them in every way. Both of our hearts twist up in anger at the injustice of one human being viewing another as property and a commodity to be sold. We talked about our skill sets and gifts and how they could mesh to drum up awareness and resources to combat the problem, and how it would be awesome to go on outreach together to let people know that they are loved and there’s a way out. There are many ways to help that require lots of the things we’re each good at doing. There are tasks to be accomplished and people to encourage. It’s a perfect fit for both of us.

It was music to my ears hearing him say that the thing that I’ve become so passionate about and that he has supported so selflessly over the past few years, is now becoming our thing.

I am so, so thankful for the ways that God has worked in both of us in the last decade. He never ceases to amaze me by doing the impossible, like placing his love into the hearts of a selfish woman and a cynical man so they can work together to help bring freedom to more of the people He loves. I can’t ask for anything more lovely.

Super Duper September!

So excited to be a part of Super Duper September over at my friend Marla’s blog. She’s featuring a different friend each day this month and showcasing their heart for a specific cause. And I am blessed to be part of it! Check out FancyFREE jewelry there today and learn how you can get some great handmade-by-me jewelry and support the anti-human trafficking efforts of doma International!!

She’s a super fun lady with a big, BIG heart for the poor and oppressed. She’s a brilliant writer, an awesome mom & wife, and loves Jesus to pieces. Basically she’s just who I’d want to be of I ever grew up : )

So what are you waiting for? Get on over there and read about FancyFREE jewelry today, then sign up to follow her blog and get inspiration for the rest of September (and pretty much the rest of your life!)

Everyone’s a Lifeline

This past week I had the opportunity to volunteer as an operator for the Central Ohio Trafficking Hotline (285-HELP). I must say, it was by far one of the most emotionally and mentally demanding things I have ever done. I had to be available to answer calls 24 hours a day for the entire week. That means I answered calls that rang in the middle of taking a shower, in the middle of attempting to eat dinner out at restaurants, and even while grocery shopping. With cell phones everywhere nowadays, you wouldn’t think that would be such a big deal. But answering a call on the Trafficking Hotline is much different than answering a call from your sister or your golfing buddy in the middle of grocery shopping. You have to listen intently to the caller’s situation, write down details of what they relay to you, ask lots of pertinent questions to accurately assess their situation, and determine very quickly what resources can be called upon to help them in this scenario. Sometimes I just looked up some phone numbers for them to get the most direct connection to the assistance they needed. Sometimes I was calling my resources for immediate help to get the caller to safety. Every time I got off the phone I thought about something else I could have said or asked that might have helped the caller, or might have helped someone else help them better. In some instances, because my heart was heavy, my eyes even stayed open at night while I wondered how the person was doing and if I did everything I could to help them.

With all that said, I can also say without a doubt that this experience has been one of the most completely rewarding of my life. I never knew how a bunch of calls interrupting my shower would affect me. I never knew that I would remember the voices of my callers and how they sometimes trembled just a little bit when explaining their need for help. I never knew that a person dialing a phone could be such an act of bravery. And I never realized that making myself available to answer a phone would turn out to be such an important decision in my life.

Even though I was little more than the middle man between the help my callers need and the actual people who can help them, I realized that being available to answer that phone was truly a life-giving action. In some cases, the fact that a person in need of help even had that phone number to call in the first place was actually a life-saving thing. In some cases, it just made their lives more comfortable for a time. Either way, I realized it was a lifeline for them in some way, and I got the privilege of being part of it.

I thought about how in many different ways, we really all have the opportunity every day to be a lifeline for someone. Maybe not on a hotline that is published all over the place, but maybe just in our kitchen when we get a call from a friend having a bad day. Maybe it’s when a customer calls about an important shipment that is late. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with a phone, but comes in the form of a person at church asking you to pray for them. It might even be less obvious than that, like when someone you pass by looks lonely and you give them a smile or exchange some small talk. Maybe that’s their only lifeline for that day. I think a lifeline can be anything that keeps one person connected to another for a moment, and communicates a message to them that says “You’re important. You’re not alone.” In that same way, when we connect with each other, we’re connecting to something bigger and beyond ourselves. Something good. Something full of life.

We don’t always know when the opportunity to be a lifeline will come up, but we can choose to make room in our lives for when they do. We can pray for eyes to see and ears to hear things that are not always on the outside, and we can actively seek out opportunities to be a lifeline to others around us. What is it that stirs your heart in a way that you just can’t seem to not think about it? What heavies your heart to the point where you just have to take action, even if that means stretching beyond your comfort zone?

For me, its men and women and children who are treated like property, in a modern time when we look back on what we’ve always known of slavery and we shake our heads in disgust. It’s people not even knowing that an equally disgusting injustice is happening today, right in our back yards, but in numbers that dwarf everything our history books ever taught us about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

For you, it might be orphans or clean water or the environment or access to medical care or racial reconciliation or homelessness or gang violence or education or poverty in general. I don’t know. All of these things are worthy of attention, but only your specific few will stir you individually into action. If you don’t know where you’re meant to be a lifeline, get your feet wet in something and start figuring it out. Because I’m telling you…time’s a-wastin’. And if you’re not making yourself available to be that lifeline to someone, then they’re missing out on something they need, and so are you. Find your lifeline so you can be one.


If human trafficking is what stirs you into action, check out the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition , doma International, or Gracehaven House for ways you can help in the central Ohio area. Outside of that area, visit Love146, Not For Sale, Free the Slaves, or International Justice Mission, or As Our Own to learn more about human trafficking in the US and around the world.



FancyFREE jewelry sale

FancyFREE is a unique line of jewelry I designed specifically to raise funds to fight human trafficking. When I sell any item from this line, all the profits are donated to Doma International, a Columbus-based organization that fights modern-day slavery right here in our city, and works to empower women and end the orphan cycle around the world. Every day, these folks do the incredible work of transforming lives one by one, and I am proud to help in any way I can with their efforts.

Below are some of the items I currently have available. The item # is in the upper right-hand corner of each picture. Unless specifically noted otherwise, only one of each item is available. If you are interested in purchasing an item, please leave a comment below or email me with the item #s you’d like, and we’ll arrange the details. Thanks for being a modern-day abolitionist!

Necklaces & bracelets are $15 each. Earrings are $10. Keychains are $5.