The Expanse of Human Trafficking

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It was a regular Tuesday morning. I was glancing through my Facebook news feed, and thinking about my goals for the day, when a friend's post took me completely off guard:

"While walking through a foreclosed property, I saw [a] picture which was drawn by an 8 year old girl that used to live here. I was told the girl attempted suicide three times, and according to the neighbor was being sold for sex. Although CPS (Child Protective Services) was involved, she was never removed from the home. Maybe they missed all the porn found in her bedroom. Child abuse, rape, neglect, and prostitution is alive and well in our back yard Grand Rapids! God help us." *

I was speechless.

There's a little girl out there, probably only miles from where I live, who is in trafficking. Her parents didn't protect her from abuse, CPS apparently couldn't do much about it, and obviously the people harming her weren't about to stop.

In 2015, there were 220 human trafficking cases worked by the FBI here in Michigan alone [1]. Of course, there's also the other statistic too: in 2016 there was a total of 7,572 trafficking cases throughout the US, according to Human Trafficking Hotline [2].

Often I personally have thought about how severe some situations of trafficking are in other, poorer countries. Like Cambodia, India, the Philippines, or even places like China, Russia, and France, but I only recently realized that this tragic problem is so close to home.

One day, I was driving home with a friend of mine when she suddenly mentioned, with great sadness, that her niece's best friend was in trafficking. Kylen was 12 years old and living in an unstable home; her mom didn't take very good care of her and her sister was a wild partier. Many people would describe Kylen as a bubbly and sweet, make-everyone's-day kind of girl. She loved people.

But on the inside, Kylen was lonely, and often found solace in using social media to communicate with the people around her, and keep her head above the water. As the school year went on, Kylen got involved with the wrong crowd at school, and her mom became very concerned. Would she follow in her sister's footsteps? Her mom couldn't bear the thought. So it was decided that the next fall Kylen would be homeschooled by her best friend Lacie's mom, since she had offered. As the year progressed, things were looking up. Kylen was making better choices, and her grades were improving.

Until one morning. The air was crisp; the fall trees all around were turning to beautiful shades of red, orange, and brown. Kylen's mother had a busy day ahead of her; she mentally reviewed her plans for the day: put in 13 hours at work, stop at Walmart to pick up the few groceries they could afford, and clean out the kitchen closet. As she walked through the busy diner carrying a platter full of steaming food, she realized that she hadn't put her phone away like she usually did during work - and it was ringing. 

She quickly asked another waitress to deliver the meals and stepped outside. "Hello Mrs. Davis, this is Doctor Jameston from Sparrow Emergency Room; I am calling to let you know that your daughter was found by police in a man's home. We believe she has been raped. Would you please come immediately? Your daughter is in need of your support."

In utter shock, Mrs. Davis dropped her phone to the ground. Mouth wide open, tears streaming down her cheeks; how could her daughter have been raped?! Angrily, she got into her car and drove to the hospital. There sat little Kylen on a hospital bed, still shaking.

"How could you do this to our family?!" her mother demanded. The nurse explained that it was not Kylen's fault that she had been harmed, but to no avail. Her mother was furious. Soon the full story came out: Kylen had been contacted by a man on Instagram. He asked her to meet up with him. She wasn't completely sure what to think, but being the lonesome twelve-year-old she was, it seemed like a solution to her feelings of emptiness. When she got to his house she was raped and threatened not to leave, but somehow the police found out within only hours of her arriving at his house, and she was rescued.

A policeman came into Kylen's room and explained that she was safe now, but needed to be very cautious. He mentioned how blessed she was to have been rescued so quickly; many young girls just like Kylen spend years or even a lifetime in trafficking. The officer explained to her mother that she would have to set special safeguards to ensure that Kylen wouldn't go back to the man; but Kylen's mom was rather passive about the situation. When they got home, her mother told her "You got yourself into this, now get yourself out. You need to be responsible!"

Not surprisingly, Kylen returned to the man's home. Although it was horrible on so many fronts, she comforted herself with the fact that she now had a place to belong. Now there were people who would look for her when she was missing and ask her how she was doing.

For her protection, I have changed several details, but this is not just an illustration, this is a true story of a girl who currently lives in trafficking. Her heart is broken daily, but she tells herself that it's better than being alone or back home where her mom would be mad at her.

Kylen is only one story of the many, many, many who are in bondage in trafficking in the US. Between 2013-2015 there were 49 prostitution related arrests by the Lansing Police Department [3]. Did you know that in the first 3 months of 2016 there were 62 trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center?

There are many great Christ-centered organizations committed to rescuing children & adults from vulnerable situations, but there are so few people willing to be involved. With one child being trafficked every 30 seconds, we have no time to lose. According to one organization - Tiny Hands International - when these people are trafficked they are "Sold like an animal, but treated much worse." [4]

Human trafficking is flourishing right in front of us. William Wilberforce, who lived in the late 1700s when slavery was practiced by nearly every upper class person, had this to say after informing others of the awful state of the slaves, “You may choose to look away, but you can never say again that you did not know.” [5]

Human trafficking has many different avenues - forced labor, sex trafficking, and debt bondage being the most common [6] - and we can stand up on behalf of these lives! We can be a voice for these vulnerable men, women, and children who are so often helpless and pushed into repeated cycles of abuse.

I found out by taking an online quiz that there are 42 individuals in the world whose slavery is continued in part by the things I buy. Who would have thought that buying certain types of foreign imported shrimp (the normal kind you get at Meijer!) could actually be funding the oppression of vulnerable people? I challenge you to find out:

- For slave owners to come to Christ and set their captives free 
-That those in human trafficking would come to know Jesus Christ as their personal savior, if they do not already, and that they would be delivered from oppression
-For consumers to be educated on how purchasing unethically sourced items, food, clothing, etc. promotes and funds trafficking
-That God would give you His heart for the vulnerable

“I mean not to accuse anyone, but to take the shame upon myself, in common, indeed, with the whole parliament of Great Britain, for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried on under their authority. We are all guilty—we ought all to plead guilty, and not to exculpate ourselves by throwing the blame on others; and I therefore deprecate every kind of reflection against the various descriptions of people who are more immediately involved in this wretched business… Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me.” [7]
--William Wilberforce

I would love to hear from you! Did you know trafficking is so rampant in Michigan? How do you stand in the gap for slaves?

Photo Credit:

Is Jesus My First Love?

Monday, March 6, 2017

It was a regular Rockford evening. With washcloth in hand, I glanced at the snow out the window. As I scrubbed away the grease from a pan, I listened to closely to the sermon on my phone. “What do people know you for?” was the pastor’s question. What came next was an important, soul-searching moment.

A thought popped into my head: in the past years I had been given the privilege of writing on a vast array of topics, including: abortion, Christ-esteem over self-esteem, human trafficking, true beauty, victory over fear, emotional self-control, modesty, missionary interviews, feminism versus Biblical womanhood, honoring brothers in Christ, among others.

Is Jesus Christ the defining point of your existence? the pastor passionately asked.

If my funeral was today, what would be said of my life? What would be the central obsession of my writing? Would it be said:

“You know, Cassidy had a lot of opinions, and those were the most important to her.”

“Cassidy was the most talkative person I ever met!”

“If there was a competition for the most energetic person alive, I think she’d win it!”

“Cassidy’s greatest ambition was for there to be an end to abortion!”

“You know, the one mark she specifically made on my life was her passion for missions; that was really the defining aspect of her life.”

If any of those things were said to be the one defining fact of my life, how they would fall massively short of the calling I have received, as a follower of Jesus Christ. How it would truly expose my failure.

In the book of Revelation, we find this verse:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:1-4).

The Ephesian believers were doing some things right: they were toiling, persevering, not tolerating evil, testing false teachers to the Truth; they endured for His name’s sake and had not grown weary, and yet in all this, they had missed the central point: Jesus.

Forsaken for a secondary cause
It’s so easy for me and other Christians to attempt to justify the times we put something above Him. Many things I have been reading and hearing lately seem to have these themes in common:

“I agree that time with the Lord is important, but I don’t want to get discouraged if I accidentally miss one day. Life is so busy with senior year, you know!”

“Happiness is an innate need for the human being; Jesus wants you to be happy! Stop doing things that leave you feeling less than wonderful!”

“No, I haven’t really been in the Word in my free time lately, but I have been keeping up with my Bible class at school, so I’m doing fine.”

“I see why that’s important, but who actually has time to pursue Him so seriously?”

“Haha, the other day I was trying to spend some time in prayer, but totally got distracted by my Facebook notifications, and spent a whole hour talking with a friend instead. I think it was probably fine; God wants us to reach out to others, right?”

“Every single day when my alarm clock goes off so I can have time with Jesus, I just hit snooze. God made my body with a need to sleep, so don’t try to guilt me out of taking a few extra minutes for myself. Brain surgeons are saying that people can die if they don’t sleep, you know.”

A strange dissatisfaction comes over my soul when such statements are made. These are justifications for taking eyes off of the Prize. We reluctantly accept that all of us have busy lives and tell ourselves that if God really wanted us to be in His Word, in prayer, and ultimately know Him better, then He would just take away all of the day-to-day tasks.

As Oswald Chambers has so eloquently said: “Am I allowing my spiritual life to waste away, or am I focused, bringing everything to One central point… Is Jesus Christ more and more dominating every interest of my life? If the central point, [and] the most powerful influence of my life is… the Lord, then every aspect of my life will bear fruit for Him.”

Is Jesus Christ the cry and obsession of my heart? If not, then I am not giving my all in my relationship with Him. Leslie Ludy has said, “Until He is our all and all, we are not truly living the Gospel life.”

Am I so in love with Jesus that I am willing to change my schedule to have more time with Him? What would happen if I started passionately pursuing Him first thing in the morning, instead of hitting snooze? Can I be found praying throughout the day, continuing to consciously dwell with Him even at work and school?  When others glance into my life, are their eyes lifted to Him? Do I desperately long to know Him better?    

Just take a look at what His Word has to say on this:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a).

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

“It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light… But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:11b-12, 14).

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).

“‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’... declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a).

It’s true: many of us do have busy lives, and lots of commitments and deadlines. But the things that are important to us do get done.

My friend Holly told me that she has no time to spend with the Lord, “My schedule is just insane!” she expressed. A few minutes later, she was talking with the friend across the table from her about how excited she was so excited for her weekend plans: watching Netflix for six hours.

Setting time aside to be with Him may cost you something; perhaps it will be less sleep, an adjustment to your work schedule, a class dropped, leaving a sports team, the TV turned off. Whatever it may be, I want you to know that He is worthy of your time. 1,000 years from now, will you be thinking about how glad you are that you spent seven hours browsing through the mall? Will you wish you had seen that one movie everyone thinks is all the rage?

Let’s prayerfully study our schedules and see if we are truly building each part around Jesus. He is so worthy. May our lives be marked by an obsession for Jesus that so far exceeds the love for any other person in the entire world. Don’t compromise the important ground of spiritual discipline in your life; cling to Jesus, and seek Him with every fiber of your being.

“Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is” (Amy Carmichael).