Sunday, September 18, 2016

Happy Anniversary Top Ten: The Heartbreak of Human Trafficking


I was rambling around on my blog yesterday and realized that Friday, September 23, is the third anniversary of Lines from Leanna. In three short years, my life has radically changed. I became a "real" writer. God extended my reach, literally, around the world, using only a digital touch. I've learned about topics I hadn't considered studying before. This is one of those topics, and one of the ten all-time-most-viewed blog posts of the past three years. 

I'm sharing it today because it's an important topic and because I've recently been in contact with a ministry to workers in "adult clubs". God has raised up people to minister in this area. I may not be able to join them on the front lines (because I can barely get all I'm doing done) but I'm happy to put you in contact with those who serve. The need is great. The workers are few. 

As you read, be sure to ask God, "Is this a place you want me to serve?" I'm pretty sure the answer will be yes. If we can't go, we can give to those who do. If we can't give, we can pray. 

For sure pray. For those who are trying to rescue the ones who are trafficked and for all who are trapped and can't find their way out. 
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Last Saturday night at the Salad Supper, one of the ladies talked about the problem of sexual abuse and how often she saw it's wounds in the women to whom she ministers in the jail ministry. Our conversation wandered on a bit from there to the problem of human trafficking.

Some of the things I heard frightened me and broke my heart. I wanted to do something to help, but the doing required more knowledge. I've read more than I wanted to know about human trafficking this week.

Here's some of what I've learned:
- Human trafficking is the fastest growing activity of organized crime world-wide. 

- Human trafficking is a $32-150 billion industry. (estimates vary widely)

- The average victim of trafficking is 12 years old. 

- 100,000-300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked each year.

- The average cost of human trafficking is ~ $90,000/person.

The Polaris website estimates that 68% of trafficking involves forced labor. 26% of victims are children and 55% are women and girls.

- Trafficking involves more than prostitution. It includes forced marriages, labor trafficking, trafficking for organ trade, forced sex acts and performances, and child sex tourism

- Worldwide, according to Wikipedia, 2 million children are trapped in trafficking of child sex tourism. (I was stunned to hear that people schedule vacations in order to have sex with children. Fishing trips to the Amazon in Brazil. Trips to Thailand. You can include any brand of perversion if you wish.)

- Sex trafficking victim numbers vary widely, but there are at least 4.5 million victims worldwide.

Interpol rescued 2,700 victims of sex trafficking in July 2016 alone.

In Israel, six people were recently arrested for running a trafficking ring in which their victims were speech and hearing-impaired people kidnapped from the Ukraine and forced to beg.

According to the FBI, 750,000 predators are online at any given time, trolling in 40,000 public chat rooms. During a 10 week investigation, offers to pay for webcam sex performances were made to undercover officers from 20,000 different internet users.

- According to Wikipedia, 10,000 prostitutes (many of whom were victims of sexual trafficking) were brought from out-of-state to Miami for Superbowl 2010. The weekend of the Superbowl is one of the most profitable of the year for sexual traffickers. 

I did a Google search for "prostitution in Tupelo MS" and found a few news reports of arrests for prostitution over the last few years. It certainly didn't look like the problem you might imagine in a big city, but it wasn't non-existent in this area, either. Whether there is an organized structure to it or not, prostitution exists at some level in our area. 

If you're like me, you want to help. The first step in making a difference is to be informed. There are imbedded links above, as well as specific links below. The first link below will help you learn to identify a victim of human trafficking. 

It's also important to understand who is at risk of becoming a victim of trafficking. According to safesupportivelearning.ed.gov (accessed 8/26/16) 

"Possible risk factors associated with child trafficking include the following:
  • lack of personal safety
  • isolation
  • emotional distress
  • homelessness
  • poverty
  • family dysfunction
  • substance abuse
  • mental illness
  • learning disabilities
  • developmental delay
  • childhood sexual abuse
  • promotion of sexual exploitation by family members or peers
  • lack of social support" 
The risks for human trafficking are similar, no matter your age or gender. Those who are weak and unable to defend themselves are always at risk of falling prey to those who are stronger. (Here's the link to an article that discusses the risk factors in more detail.

It's easy to look at the facts and decide it's a problem for law enforcement officers, and it is. The reality, though, is that it will take all of us to make a difference. 

Internet pornography is highly addictive, and is one of the reasons the trafficking industry has expanded to such an incredible degree. People who use pornography find that, like a drug addict, they need more to achieve the same result. Deeper levels, worsened forms. 

If you dabble in pornography, confess your sin, repent, seek help if needed, and stop. (I was shocked to learn that a small but significant percentage of pornography users are women.) 

Get an internet filter.

If you know someone who uses pornography, urge them to get the help they need in order to stop.

Learn what to look for in trafficking victims and those who are at risk.(The link is below) There is a 1-800 number for victims of trafficking to call for help. I do not recommend trying to get between a victim and the trafficker. That's a job for law enforcement.) You can call the 1-800 number to report a suspected trafficking situation, as well as call 911. 

Volunteer. You can make a bigger difference than you realize by volunteering to help with the jail ministry. You might be the one who helps a person trapped in a terrible lifestyle to break free by the power of God.

Consider volunteering with organizations that serve at-risk youth. Prevention is always better than trying to extract someone after the fact.

Most important, don't underestimate the power in prayer, both individually and corporately. We serve a God who hears and responds when we pray. He cares about the women and children who are victims. He will not turn a deaf ear to our pleas. He will not fail to move.

Now that we're informed, we can begin by praying with insight. Today, let's start by making a commitment to do exactly that.

1) Pray for traffickers to be exposed and stopped.

2) Pray for those who are victims to be recognized, freed, and receive the help they desperately need.

3) Pray for at-risk women and children to receive help in advance that keeps them out of the hands of traffickers.

4) Ask God if you should volunteer with your church or other organization to help those victims who are incarcerated. (Expect a yes on that.)

5) Pray for law enforcement officers to recognize victims and get them the help and protection they need.

6) Many of the victims are held in bondage because of drug addiction, so pray for them to have a desire to be sober and clean. 

7) Pray that victims will find the freedom and healing only Christ can give.

8) Join me in praying that those who have taken, or are taking, a child-sex-trafficking vacation will be caught and arrested before they can traumatize a child, and that the children involved will be rescued.

9) When SuperBowl weekend rolls around, pray that those who are being victimized can be rescued. Pray for the law enforcement officers who are investigating human trafficking to be wise and recognize every instance. I'm praying that the next SuperBowl weekend will be the least profitable weekend for traffickers ever.

10) Pray about volunteering with at-risk youth and welcoming them into your home. (You can expect a yes on that prayer, too.) The organizations working with troubled and at-risk children and adults appreciate your donations, but they need your time equally as much. Volunteers are always in short supply. 

Be the one who loves those in need, just as they are, and demonstrates the love of Jesus to them. 

There is a worldwide problem, but boys and girls, men and women in our area are at risk of falling victim to traffickers, too. Sometimes, they are victimized. 

We can make a difference, if we will. 

When I wonder what Jesus would do about this problem, the answer is clear. 

He'd roll up His sleeves and wade into the fray. 

He'd stand up for those who need Him most.

He'd love with abandon, and invite them to follow Him. 

That's how Jesus loved me, and He revolutionized my life. The people in at-risk situations need the love of Jesus every bit as much as I did. If we are willing to lead them to Christ and help disciple them, He can revolutionize their lives as much as He did mine. 

In fact, that's exactly what He wants to do... and He's depending upon us. Let's be the ones who love like Jesus, give like Jesus, and rescue like Jesus.

Frank Pollard once quoted a poem by C. T. Studd. One line has stuck in my mind for decades.

"Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell.
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."

When I heard those words, I thought Dr. Pollard said, "rescue ship". I wanted to be a rescue ship, too. There are plenty of people living within a yard of hell. Let's run the rescue ship (or rescue shop) that brings them to the safety of Jesus.

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 
2 Peter 3:9 nasb

Here's a link to help you learn to identify a victim of trafficking.
Here's a link to the MS Attorney General's brochure on Human Trafficking.
Here's a link to the MS Attorney General's list of resources
Here's a link to the MS Human Trafficking Act of 2013. It provides for a relief fund for victims and forfeiture of assets for those convicted of trafficking.
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photo above courtesy of freeimages.com

Here's a link to yesterday's post: Salad Supper Sweetness
Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD
#humantrafficking