Prayer for Superbowl Weekend

No, I’m not asking you to pray for a certain team to win this weekend… I dont even know who is playing in the Superbowl (except maybe the team from Indianapolis, I assume, since that’s where the thing is being held?? Really… no flippin’ clue)

But I am asking you to take a minute to pray this weekend, because although zillions of people will be enjoying the game, food, and the festivities surrounding the game, the Superbowl is also one of the largest events of the year for human traffickers. I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, but this is something that has become very important to me as I’ve learned more about it, and each year, traffickers “ship their product” (young women, girls, and boys) to where the demand is high. The Super Bowl attracts many men to the event’s area each year, and they are more apt to take part in things they might not normally do in their own hometowns, therefore the demand for sex-for-sale goes way up this weekend in that city. The traffickers are crude businesspeople (huge understatement, I know) who are happy to respond to the whole supply-demand deal with “freshly imported merchandise.” I can’t even begin to imagine what these young victims will have to endure this weekend.

I dont know if your relaxing weekend includes watching the game or not, but would you please take a moment to pray for these women and children who are being trafficked? Think of them as your own wife or sister, as your own daughter or son…then pray like that.

If you attend GCV and want to join me in praying for these people together, Meet me at the back of the auditorium at 10:30am tomorrow and we’ll pray in between services.

To learn more about fighting human trafficking in the US, check out:
On Facebook search for Price of Life and She Has a Name.

Thanks in advance. Love to you all.

fancyFREE jewelry @ Hope at the Hop!

Hello everyone! I’ve been fairly absent from the blog lately because I’ve been busy cranking out some jewelry that will be sold next weekend at a special event to benefit the work of Doma.  The event will raise awareness of human trafficking, and will educate you on the hope that exists for those enslaved in that unfortunate reality right here in Columbus.

I’m calling this line of jewelry fancyFREE.  There are some industrial-style items as well as some “fancier” items, so you’re bound to find something for all types of jewelry-lovers on your Christmas shopping list. Come visit me next weekend from 6-10pm at Hope at the Hop, and enjoy free hot chocolate, learn about the modern-day abolitionist movement to defeat human trafficking, and purchase some one-of-a-kind gifts that will help fight the good fight! Check out the slideshow of photos below. More to come!

Click here to find out all the details about Hope at the Hop, including directions to the event!

See you there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Moments, Day 9: Fighting Slavery, Anyone??

Yesterday I finished my post about visiting the Freedom Center in Cincinnati (amazing, by the way!) and I hit you pretty hard by giving you some tough facts. I laid out some sobering information about the nasty reality of the whole thing. Maybe I got you all riled up about wanting to be an abolitionist yourself. (I sure hope so!!) But I realized that what I didn’t give you was some fantastic suggestions on how to do something about it. Well, for that, please forgive me. I’m attempting to make that right in today’s post. Check this stuff out and if you’re interested in knowing more, contact me. We can figure this craziness out together, okay?

First Steps:

  • Memorize the National Human Trafficking hotline: 1-888-3737-888. That way you can call to report any suspicions you have of a potential victim
  • Not sure what signs to look for?? Click here for a good list to get you started. It’s not always what you’d think.

Some web sites to visit to find out about  human trafficking and a few of the organizations that fight it:

Some books to read on the topic:

  • The Slave Next Door  by Kevin Bales
  • A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery by E. Benjamin Skinner
  • Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone
  • The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick

So what are you waiting for?? Go kick some butt.

Moments, Day 8: [UN]Freedom

Yesterday was my first session of the long-awaited Abolition U class offered by Doma regarding human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  As an utterly brilliant introduction to the class, we took a field trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. What does the Underground-Railroad-era-of-slavery have to do with the sex-trafficking-and-forced-lobor-slavery you’ve been hearing so much recent buzz about in the movies and on CNN? Well, I was wondering the same thing. But after spending the day at the Freedom Center yesterday, I’m no longer asking that question.

To begin our tour, we went out on the balcony and looked over at the Ohio River. Our tour guide explained that this river was not just any old landform…but that because it was the border between the slave state of Kentucky and the free state of Ohio, the river became a symbol of freedom for many slaves who dared an escape attempt from the south into the north.  We learned how Ohio was historically such an important crossroads for many runaway slaves, and a hotbed of controversy because its existence as a centerpiece of the Underground Railroad. There were many more amazing details I wish I could share, but you really need to go visit for yourself. The experience certainly made me understand that Ohio has long had deep roots as a symbol of freedom for many.

Fast-forward to modern-day–to my own very brief history as a fledgling abolitionist. In the past couple of years, the phrase human trafficking has come up more than once around my dinner table. It might seem to be a strange topic for table-talk, but you know that feeling when something pops up on your radar and your heart aches over it and you’re not altogether even sure why? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. We all have that thing. I started wondering if this issue of human trafficking was my thing. So I’ve watched movies. I’ve read books. I’ve reviewed countless articles and blogs and done research about organizations that try to rid the world of this sick enterprise. My heart has been stretched and seared and torn to pieces ever since the first time I really put together the statistics and stories, and understood that human trafficking (in all its hideous forms) is in fact modern-day slavery. The thing is, Ohio still plays a big role in slavery today. Unfortunately, our coin has flipped to the other side, and I’m sad to say that we can no longer really be called a free state. Why? We hold some interesting records here when it comes to modern-day slavery. Ohio has been mentioned as “a destination place for foreign-born trafficking victims” and I’ve discovered over and over how central the city of Toledo has become in the recruitment and transport of sex trafficking victims.

I really expected the Invisible exhibit, which focuses specifically on modern-day slavery, to just be a little more in-depth information about what I already knew about human trafficking. But there were so many things I heard for the very first time…things that have my head spinning about how I could potentially even be contributing to modern-day slavery. For example, I found out that a large network of slave labor in India has to do with children being forced to work in carpet mills.  I’ve been looking at every inch of carpet I step on differently. I learned how certain countries in the world are known for multiple and consistent constant reports of verified slave labor associated with common products like cotton. I checked the tags in some of my shirts. Wouldn’t you know it?? My cotton came from the #1 offender. What do you think is the likelihood that I just happened to purchase a slave-free tee shirt? Hmmmm…

I’m looking at the world differently, and there’s no doubt that this is just the beginning of adjusting my lenses around this topic.  My question to you is…whose right is it to be free? I don’t think there are many folks out there who wouldn’t agree that it is the right of every human being to be free. But if we are aware of so many out there whose freedom is taken from them in a multitude of ways every day and we do nothing about it, haven’t we, in effect, become slave owners, as we’ve silently kept someone’s freedom from them?

Abolition U

A few weeks ago I wrote this post about human trafficking. It’s hard to believe it is even real, but it is. And it’s closer than any of us want to think. What can any of us do to fight such a huge, ugly monster?

One of the ways is to become informed. There are many great organizations and people who are already devoting their entire lives or even just a few hours a month to fighting this sick modern-day slavery. Sign up for this class, Abolition U, with me. It’s offered by a locally-founded organization called Doma International, and these good people are kicking some serious butt against the enemy of human trafficking. They are life-changers. 

 I’m just getting my feet wet with all this, I’m certainly no expert. But every time I see or hear anything about people who’ve been forced into working for no pay, or selling their body for the gain of another, I get angry. No, I get furious. I get furious on their behalf and I want to do something to make it stop. But I don’t know how. But I do know that there is hope for them, and there’s a good chance that God’s people are part of that hope. So I plan to pray about how I might be involved, and I plan to learn whatever I can about it. 

Check it out. Pray about it. Sign up if you’d like to be involved. Below is the email about the class that was sent to me by one of the hard-working folks at Doma. It includes an overview of the course. Hope to see you there!

Hello, Wonderful Potential Abolitionists!

Get ready to change your life–Abolition U will teach you exactly what’s going on with human trafficking around the world and here in Columbus, but even more importantly, it will help you to learn how you can fight slavery with your own resources and talents. For many people who fight slavery, it takes a long time to figure out exactly who’s missions we believe in and how we can help–Abolition U can slim that down to a powerful three day journey.

Here’s a mini-syllabus. All classes will meet at the Vineyard Church, 6000 Cooper Rd. in Westerville, Saturdays, 9-6. People of any and all beliefs, backgrounds and ages are welcome.

October 8
Field trip! We start with a trek to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. On the bus we will introduce ourselves, pass out the real syllabi, and learn how we all would like to fight human trafficking and have fought it so far. At the Freedom Center, we will eat a great lunch (bring a little cash), and tour the facility, really understanding the role slavery has played in history and how its evil head has reared back up. It’s a truly enlightening experience.

On the way back, we’ll discuss the trip and hand out books to be read for discussion at the November 5 class.

October 29 and November 5
We will meet with representatives from the strongest arms of abolition in central Ohio–top folk from Gracehaven House, CATCH Court, the FBI/CPD, doma and CORRC, who unites us all. We will learn about HT from every angle possible, and how we can best fight it.

It costs $15 to register, please do so by pasting this into an address line:

Your entrance fee to the Freedom Center and books are paid for.

Julie Clark, founder of doma International, and I, an abolitionist for the past three years, teach this class. Please contact me at this email or via phone, 614.684.8060, with any questions at all.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your interest in this issue. Slavery has been knocked out before, and we all need to work together to do it again.

Remember: She has a name. And 24 other things you can do…

One link I forgot to post earlier was to the She Has a Name site. It is a simple portal to let you know what this little group of revolutionaries is all about… 

You can go online to She Has a Name and buy a t-shirt that will no doubt spark a conversation when someone looks at you funny and asks “what does your shirt mean?” Then you can inform them of the fact that slavery is still very real and it still exists here in America and around the world. Who knows, you may do that one little thing and that may inspire them to do one little thing and before you know it, big things are happening to end human trafficking!! Isn’t that how all great things are done? One little baby-step at a time?

And while I’m at it here, I thought I’d post some other ways you can fight human trafficking. I started you off with one above…buy a t-shirt and start a conversation. Well, maybe that’s 2 things.

Anyway, the folks at Gracehaven have compiled 24 things you can do to fight human trafficking right now. Check out the list and if there’s not at least one thing on the list you can do….well….that won’t be the case so we don’t have to worry about that if.

One more thing…Doma will soon be offering it’s second Abolition U class, which was previously a 10 week evening class to learn everything you need to know to fight HT right now. This second version will be a condensed class, and it will consist of 2 Saturdays in October and a Sunday in November. I’m already on the list to sign up for the class (and sign-ups haven’t even started yet!) so if you’re interested in becoming an Abolitionist, keep this in mind and I’ll post more info as soon as I have it.  From information about previous Abolution U graduates, I’ve heard that during the class you participate in street outreach, raise awareness, visit The Freedom Center in Cincy, and  join with local abolitionist efforts who are rescuing and restoring survivors. Make plans to join with me and learn all you can!

Become an Abolitionist

When I saw the trailer for the movie Taken with Liam Neeson, I have to admit, I was more interested in the bad-ass, action-packed individual justice that the main character was layin’ down on the creepy perpetrators than I was learning about the horrors of human trafficking. (I’ve self-diagnosed that I have some special gland that contains a big ol’ reserve of testosterone that immediately begins to secrete the very second I start picking out a movie to watch. Couldn’t care less about sappy romance on the big screen but give me some painful fight scenes and some stuff blowing up and I’m SO there. But I digress…) The point is, I wasn’t so much thinking about the story that the movie was really telling. A story of young people (in this case teenage girls and young women) being literally hunted, stalked, kidnapped, and drugged for the sole purpose of introducing them into the world of forced prostitution. For the sole purpose of someone else making money off of them because yet another someone else wanted to use them for their own sick purposes.
In the movie, these girls were basically drugged up to the point of barely knowing what was going on, then served up to eagerly awaiting men to do whatever their payment gave them access to do. In one scene, I recall a long line of men waiting to walk into a construction trailer. Once they paid and walked in, you could see that the trailer was sectioned off into what appeared to be about 4-foot wide areas, divided by makeshift curtains. Behind each curtain, these men went in to do the business they paid for with a woman or girl who had been drugged into a complete stupor. Dozens of these  “rooms” were in the construction trailer, each with a man taking what he paid for from a girl who was there against her will. I was sickened beyond belief at the thought that someone could even think up such a sick think to put into a screenplay, let alone thinking that this *might* actually ever really happen anywhere.
Little did I know…
The rest of that movie presented me with much more to ponder [big fat understatement]. Truthfully, I was severely disturbed by it. Afterward I could barely sleep. I hopped online and tried to read what I could about trafficking. The simple fact that there was so much to read turned my already queasy stomach. I learned that human trafficking is a lucrative business [big fat understatement] in many countries around the world, including the US. I learned that it was the second largest organized crime focus in the world, with only drug trafficking topping the charts in the world of all things terrible. I was overwhelmed by facts and figures with numbers too big for me to fathom. I closed my laptop thinking that, although it was a real problem, it was just too big for someone like me to actually do anything about. Besides, even if I could, where would I begin?
Enter Doma. The founder of Doma International, Julie Clark, came to our church a while back and gave a presentation as kind of an “HT 101.” There I learned that this whole human trafficking thing isn’t something that happens just in poor Asian countries or near the Mexican borders. She shared with us the unfortunately true story of a middle-class teenage girl from West Jefferson who thought she had found a boyfriend to party with. Instead, she found a young man who introduced her to large amounts of crack over a long weekend. He suggested that she come downtown to Columbus where they could get easier access to their drugs. As they hung out together, he freely gave her highly addictive amounts, and she assumed she just was having a great time with her new friends. After several days of this, he and his friends proceeded to ask her how she planned to pay for the drugs they had given her. She was confused, never understanding that she was supposed to pay them back for their “generosity.” When she told them she didn’t have any money to pay them back, they were quick to offer an alternative means of payment. Having run away from her home with a virtual stranger and now already addicted to the high that crack gave her, she submitted to the fact that she was trapped. The “friends” took her upstairs to a large selection of clothing, and proceeded to dress her up and teach her how to pay back her debt and earn her highs from now on…which, by the way, were now much smaller than the doses the man had freely given to her before she realized she was entrapped.
My head was spinning. That happened here? In MY beloved city, where I grew up? The answer was yes. And many other things, very similar to this, happen on a regular basis in this city and in similar cities all over the state and country. In fact, I learned that one of the worst cities for minors entering into the sex trafficking world is Toledo. Children are being stolen and drugged and forced into a life they never even knew existed, to spend the rest of their short years doing things they should never have even heard of….And this is all happening right here  in our own back yards. Every night. And it could be your child.
Unless people stop putting their hands over their ears and changing the channel and drowning out the sound of the cries of these women and children. If we start educating ourselves, learning simple signs to watch out for, memorizing a phone number that any of us can call to report a possible trafficking victim, praying for these perpetrators to not be able to accomplish their sick purposes any longer….unless we start doing those things, it won’t get better. It will get worse. Unless we start pooling our time, talents, and resources to help these people…they won’t get help. Period. Unless we become new abolitionists for this new type of slavery, nothing will change, will it?
That’s what Sunday night was about. Sunday night, my husband and I attended Night of Hope, which was an event hosted at Veritas Church by a group pf people  who have launched a campaign called She Has a Name. The event was to create awareness of the problem of human trafficking both locally and abroad, and to highlight a few awesome organizations that are already fighting the fight against this modern-day slavery every day. Maybe you would be interested in finding out more about them and partnering with them in some way to help get women off the streets and back into a safe place where they can know their self-worth. Maybe you could become part of the fight to keep little children in their own warm, safe beds in their homes at night instead of being forced into a cold room with a dingy strange bed, with many men each night who are stranger still. 
Here is a list of the organizations present at the Night of Hope, a quick blurb about what their main focus is, and a way to contact them for more information. At the very least, please visit the web sites for each of these organizations to educate yourself. Know that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery: people being bought, traded, and sold into situations where they become enslaved for the gain of others. And know that there has GOT to be a solution to this disgusting problem. And know that YOU can choose to be part of the solution.
  • Doma International Doma focuses on meeting needs of vulnerable women and children. Here in Columbus, they partner with an amazing program called CATCH Court, presided over by Franklin County Judge Paul Herbert, which provides an intensive recovery program for women convicted of prostitution (which many times is or began as human trafficking)
  • Gracehaven  http://www.gracehavenhouse​.org/ An organization that focuses on caring for minors who are involved in Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. (That means here in the US, folks) They are building a home where young people can exit that life and begin a new one through rehabilitation and support.
  • As Our Own In India, girls are particularly vulnerable to poverty and exploitation on a daily basis. This organization literally rescues young girls from brothels in India’s red light districts, and provides them with care until they are adults who can care for themselves. These girls are rescued from the most terrifying life imaginable, and placed into a family where they will be cared for — forever. Very unique situation and very inspiring.

if you’ve stuck with me this long, chances are you’ll check out some of these sites. And when you do, you’ll likely feel a break in your heart for these women and children. And you’ll likely want to do something about it. Thankfully, due to the hard work of these folks, you have plenty of places (even ones in addition to these!) to step into and help the least of these.

You can be an abolitionist. You can help end the newest form of sick slavery. You can make a difference in someone’s life. What if it was your child out there right now? What would you want others reading this to do to help?

Think of that. Then go do it.

Much love to you all…..

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40