What are we doing?

While at our church where my wife and two young men practiced the music for the following day, I suddenly found myself troubled, then practically in tears, which then moved to anger. I have never moved through this path as quickly as I did then.  I became indignant at my church, and others in our area and across the world.  And I was indignant toward Christians whom I have become acquainted with over many different venues. I was angry at them.  For what you might ask?  Well, that is a long story, which I will try to make as succinct as possible. Please stick with me on this.  I have no idea where this is going. But I want to share with you what God has been dealing with me over the past month, and especially the last couple of days.

About a month ago, while sitting at a quiet place at my work, the Lord spoke to me regarding a cause I had been thinking about for a while, but never stepped out and got involved.  As I was meditating about this, some thoughts flashed through my mind which caused me to tear up. There are people in this world that have lost their freedoms and their very lives to an evil that is pervading society like a plague. Human trafficking. According to the NotForSale Campaign, a group who’s purpose is to equip activists to abolish slavery in our back yards and worldwide, there are over 30 million people trapped in slavery.  It is estimated that 75% of the 30 million are women and children, and 70% of the females, as well as many young boys, are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. It is estimated that 1 million children are exploited by the commercial sex industry each year.  There is a large market for children in this industry.  And, of course, the primary customer is men from all over the world.  The others not forced into the sex industry are sold into forced labor, mainly into the farming, sweat shops and domestic help. Human trafficking has been found in around 161 countries, with the major hub being in Europe.  800,000 humans are trafficked across national borders each year.  This is a very common practice because if they do not know the language of the people where they are sold, it is harder for them to get help. It is not my purpose here to bore you with statistics.  I simply wanted to make you aware this is not a small problem.  This is huge.  As I was doing research this past week, I ran across many articles that broke my heart as I read them.  Here is a general outline of what happens to children caught in the sex slave industry based on stories told from those rescued as well as the rescuing parties. (Taken from the website of NotForSale Campaign)

  •  Once traffickers extract victims from their home community, they typically sell the children to slaveholders who deal in commercial sex–for example, pimps or the owners of strip clubs, sex bars, brothels, karaoke clubs, or massage parlors. Most traffickers have a steady relationship in place with the slaveholder; hence, they know who the buyer will be before they recruit the child. Although it is more rare, some traffickers act as both recruiter and operator of their own “retail” sex shop.
  • The slaveholder acts swiftly to take complete control of the child’s life. Passports, birth certificates, national identity cards, and any other documents of citizenship are stripped from the child’s possession. The child is kept closely guarded and locked in a room when not accompanied. Even if escape were possible, the child has no money, probably does not speak the local language, and does not know to whom he or she could turn for help. Given their past experience, slave children would not instinctively trust public officials or the police.
  • The slaveholder also generally manipulates a relationship of financial dependence with the child. Basic life necessities like food, clothing, and shelter are charged to the child’s “account.” Until that money is repaid, the child is obligated to continue in the slaveholder’s service.
  • Slaveholders will buttress these social controls with the constant threat of violence. Almost all trafficked children will testify that they were victims of an extreme act of violence within the first forty-eight hours of their abduction. Whether through rape or brutal beatings, slaveholders use violence to imprint their dominance. In the logic of the trafficking world, a terrified child is a compliant child. The slaveholder therefore will never let the child slip out of a state of terror.
  • Ranchers refer to “breaking the spirit of a wild horse”; in a macabre sense, that is how slaveholders approach child sex slaves. The sex slaves will have to learn to comply happily with whatever sexual act a client requests. The liberal application of violence early on will crack the resistance they will inevitably mount. If a client ever complains that the sex slave was less than accommodating, swift and brutal punishment will be meted out.
  • The threat of violence becomes a ubiquitous force in the life of a sex slave. The child knows that a failed escape attempt would result in a severe beating. Moreover, the slaveholder may threaten to harm the child’s family even if the child does manage to get away. To remind the child of that fact, the slaveholder may occasionally drop some piece of current news about family members, whether real or fabricated, as if to say, “Yes, I am watching them, so don’t do anything stupid”.

Most of the stories I read follow this basic pattern.   It is said that the average child will be abused more than 30 times a day.  If they become pregnant, than they work the whole time, then when either the baby is aborted or sold shortly after birth, they are then put back out to work.

Following is an example from forced servitude slavery in Immokalee, Florida. (Found on the web site, FoodFirst.org)

“Modern day” slavery practices holding Florida’s tomato industry in place are grim: long hours of backbreaking labor, debt-bondage, extortion, abysmal housing conditions, meager and rotting food, chained confinement, beatings, knifings, pistol-whippings and worse. These egregious violations of human rights are accompanied by usurious rental rates for the decrepit trailers and U-haul trucks where workers sleep eight to a room (or truck). Those workers without running water can be charged $5 for use of a garden hose with which to bathe. 

How can one human being treat another this way. Does man’s inhumanity to man have any bounds?

Here is a statement by a lady named Flor Molina, factory worker, as found on the website of the Polaris project.

“I was an easy target for my trafficker. I was a desperate mother looking for a way to provide for my three children. I was told that I would have a good job with good pay and a place where to live. When I got here I was locked in the factory and forced to work 17 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Here is another statement from a lady named Katya, hostess at strip club, from the Ukraine as found on the website of the Polaris Project.

“They told me I was going to have to work at a strip club. They forced me to work six days a week for twelve hours a day. I could not refuse to go to work or I would be beaten. I had to hand over all of my money to [them]. I was often yelled at for not making enough money or had a gun put to my face. Every week I handed over around $3,000 to $4,000 to [them]. I was their slave.”

There are many more stories of people being held against their will, working long hours for practically no money, under inhumane living condition.  The crime of human trafficking is extremely prolific and needs to be stopped.

As I was sitting in the back pew of the church, I began to remember the horror stories I read and some of the terrible scenes I saw on videos.  I became troubled by what I was seeing in my mind.  Then I saw young children being forced into rooms with horrible men who cared nothing for them, except for the pleasure they could derive. I thought of the fear and pain these children were experiencing with no hope of ever getting away. Nobody, let alone a child should ever have to suffer this way.  Suddenly, I felt tears welling up and I just started praying for them, asking God to deliver these helpless children from the wickedness being perpetrated on them.

I looked around and thought of what was going on at this and other churches and I became very angry. The church I am attending now has lost most of it’s members and essentially is dead.  We are averaging 10-12 people a week, including the Pastor.  We have been asked to help bring this little church back to life. But this church’s concern is on whether we have too contemporary a service, whether the hymns are sung correctly, or if we are going past noon.  And the thought that came to my mind was “WHAT ARE WE DOING?” There is so much pain and suffering in this world, as evidenced by the slave trade. There are so many lost in our community.  Many people have lost their jobs, some are homeless, others hungry and barely making ends meet.  There are families breaking apart and children rebelling or running away.  Other children are being physically and sexually abused by their fathers or other male relatives or friends.  And what is the church concerned with?  That the people will be happy with the songs we choose. That we make it out by twelve so that we can be home at a decent time. Other churches are concerned that the sound is just right, the videos are of good quality, and that they put on a good show.  Pathetic.  I am sick of the status quo.  Who cares about these trivial matters when littles girls are in terror all the time and face beatings and rape many times a day. When people are forced to work 15 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for little pay, and then are fed rotting food and forced to sleep in overcrowded conditions. What difference does it make if the song we sing is not the most perfect for the communion?  What matters is that God is worshiped, honored and loved.  Jesus said we are to look at others more highly than we look at ourselves.  We do not do that, or we would give up some of our creature comforts to help those who do not know comfort.  We would be more concerned with getting on our knees and crying out to God against the evil that hurts and kills so many, rather than sitting on our pews and wondering if we will get out on time.  We are just playing church, while the head of the Church, Christ our Lord, weeps for the tears cried by the oppressed.  I doubt He is concerned much about song selection.

We as leaders in the church need to stop being concerned with what our congregation thinks, how our programs will be accepted and other trivial matters and focus on what God finds important.  No one can tell me that song selection is more important than that ten year old girl being raped multiple times a day.  No one can tell me that God would rather have us get out of church on time instead of crying out for the oppressed all over the world.  I do not believe that our egos are of more concern to God than the plight of people trapped in the cruel and inhumane practice of slavery.   We have got to get our priorities straight and focus on what is truly important rather than on silly things that have no consequence for eternity.  Grow up people.  God will hold us accountable for the choices we make.  I do not want to stand before Jesus and have Him ask me why I did not help His children trapped in a hellish life.  Because I believe that no answer I could give would be acceptable.

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