THE EVER-DEEPENING PASSION OF MY HEART

I've struggled to find the words to write about my experience this time around because none of them seem sufficient. I had been praying for an opportunity to learn and see more in the slum communities of India. I knew that I needed to better understand the complexities that lead to human trafficking, but I wasn't prepared for what I would see, and most importantly, feel. There's a time in our lives when head knowledge has to become heart knowledge and that happened to me as I absorbed the pain and poverty surrounding me. 

Every time I've been to India I've seen the severe poverty from the car. But to be up close and personal, peeking into people's homes, hearing their stories, and seeing the magnitude of the need with my own eyes was a completely different experience. The children were hard to for me to take in. So many of them were dirty, hungry, and expressionless. However, those that were joyful and smiling provided such a contrast to their surroundings that it comforted my weary heart. To see people living so exposed and vulnerable without protection was unreal. And to think about the lack of safety and security, in all areas of life, broke my heart. We take so much for granted. 

There was one thing that caught my attention on the very first day;  it felt like I was being slammed by a Mack truck every time I saw it. That thing was child marriage.

It's recognized as a form of human trafficking so I've studied it over the years. And when I saw a very young girl picking up her little one from preschool, I knew. The passion within my heart automatically deepened. Sharp pains swept across my chest that afternoon as I watched girl after girl pick up her young child, some pregnant with a second. Needless to say, I went back to the hotel and had a good cry. 

It's something I heard about. It's something I knew the facts about. But to come face to face with it broke the deepest, most impassioned part of my heart. Here's why: they're in this for life. In a place like India, the likelihood of a marriage ending is slim. Divorce is shameful and death, while inevitable, is more than likely a long time away. When a girl is married off at 13, 14, 15 years old, she's been stripped of her right to choose. Her life has been planned out for her, whether she wants it or not.

At the root of so many of these marriages is poverty which means that under different financial circumstances, this probably wouldn't be her reality. 

Throughout the week, I met several young girls living in extreme poverty along with their husbands. One was married at 13, pregnant at 14, and had a 9 month old on her hip at 15. There was a beautiful 15 year old who was married to an 18 year old a few weeks ago. Their future is grim as he doesn't have a job and they plan to move into a shack across the busy road from their parents. 

I think the thing that bothered me the most is WHY? What's the point? Sure, it alleviates some of the financial pressure from the parents. And maybe religious reasons contribute to it, but what's the point in stripping away a child's future and setting her up for a life of poverty and suffering?

These children start having children of their own, they struggle to feed and educate their babies, and the cycle continues on. 

It seems hopeless but there is always hope. The contributing factors can be addressed holistically and future generations can be set free from the struggles my eyes have seen. More than that, healing can happen. Lies can be undone, pain can be reconciled, and lives can be restored. It's this hope and endless possibility that keeps me running this race that Jesus has called me to.

Friends, I'm in a new season. It's the start of a new chapter and I cannot wait to reveal what's being birthed from this deeply burdened and passionate heart of mine. I am determined to be part of the solution and together, we WILL be!

Stay tuned for more. 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS MONTH

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It's heartbreaking that such a month has to exist. But, when human trafficking is occurring in almost every country on the planet and every single one of our lives is affected by it, whether we realize it or not, this month has a reason to exist. The current estimates show 35.8 million people1 live in some form of slavery today. Whether it's bonded labor, forced labor, sexual exploitation, child marriages, child soldiers, organ trafficking, or some other form, people all over the globe are being exploited for profit. 

For me, what started out as a passion to end an injustice has resulted in a passion to fight for the dignity, purpose, and life of each individual behind the injustice. So often, we see a number like 35.8 million and think of it as just a number. In reality, it's 35.8 million individuals with a name, face, story, and unique purpose. We must make it less about the injustice itself and more about the people affected. This means living selflessly, loving excellently, and fighting relentlessly. 

I've shared this before, but here are the ABC's of fighting human trafficking. These are easy, doable, tangible steps we all can take to end this atrocity. 

1) ADVOCATE

Use your voice and influence to create change. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, live in the USA or don't, we can all educate ourselves and those around us. I'm sure we all know 2 people who know little to nothing about human trafficking. Start by educating and equipping those two then expand your efforts as time goes on. Or host a prayer gathering to educate your friends and stand on the front lines of this fight. Just use your voice!

Resources: 

A21 CampaignPrayer Guide
End It Movement
Global Slavery Index

2) BUY

Once you're educated about the basics of trafficking, start learning about the goods and industries that are most affected. For instance, "68% of raw materials, such as cotton, cocoa and coffee, contain forced or child labor (U.S. DOL). U.S. brands including Forever 21, Gap Inc., PepsiCo, Nestle, Hershey’s, Nintendo, and Disney source some raw materials from factories and farms that employ slave labor."2 What we purchase, matters. Shop ethically as much as possible. And I realize you might not be able to afford certain things, but you CAN tell corporations you don't agree with exploitative labor practices and slavery. Buying products made locally, by survivors, or that are Fair Trade certified is a great place to start! Visit the Lifestyle page for more information.

Resources: 

Slavery Footprint
Made in a Free World
Free2Work

3) COMBAT

Whether you're using your talents and abilities to directly benefit an organization or you donate to one you believe in, it's important to support those who are combatting this issue everyday. Also, take out your phone and put in the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888). Use this to report a suspicious situation, share it with your friends, or give it to someone who you believe is at-risk or currently being trafficked. 

Organizations to consider supporting: 

Not For Sale
Nomi Network
As Our Own
Restore NYC
International Justice Mission
Polaris Project

_______________________________

(1) via Global Slavery Index
(2) Info provided by Nomi Network

 

ROMANIA: A PERFECT DAY

I remember sitting in our apartment in India about this time last year, crying and sharing the desires of my heart with Ricky. We were in the midst of making the gut-wrenching decision to return to the USA so we were sorting through our deepest thoughts, longings, passions, etc. During this discussion, he asked me this question: “what would a perfect day look like to you?” As I thought about it, I said, “I want to sit with women from hard places and make their value known. I want them to know and understand their identity and worth. I want to hold them in my arms and let them know it’s all going to be alright.”

But that never happened while we were there.

Photo by Lida Mathews

Photo by Lida Mathews

Before I left for Romania, people kept asking me what I was most excited about and I never had an answer. I’d just say, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect.” And I’m so glad that was my position because it allowed me to keep an open heart and mind.  What God did in my heart through this trip far surpassed any hopes or expectations I could have dreamed up.

He used the people around me to confirm my calling, inspire me, and force me to dream bigger. He used the kids to show me the need of the Gospel and His love in the life of every person. He allowed my interactions with them to be nothing less than Holy. He built my confidence to lead, to inspire, to help.

But most of all, the words I spoke a year ago came true on this trip.

Photo by Julie Latcham

Photo by Julie Latcham

It wasn’t a woman from a brothel in India; instead, it was teenage girls living in orphanages in Romania. I held them in my arms, I spoke words of truth and life over them, I was a shoulder for them to rest their head - and it has brought more joy to my heart than any other experience ever has.

These kids long to have their parents or a family of some kind and face an array of difficulties growing up as orphans. They don’t have stability, guidance, or experience love. They are often shunned and not given equal opportunities. They have few people cheering them on to succeed. They have been abandoned for a multitude of reasons. Their parents have died, have moved to other countries for work, are in prison, or simply walked away. I don’t know all the reasons nor understand them, but I do know this: these children are worth loving. And, they’re longing to be loved, to be seen, to be heard.

Photo by Lida Mathews

Photo by Lida Mathews

I’m learning firsthand the power of speaking truth over others. These children need to be told how amazing they are, the potential they possess, and know that someone believes in them. We can’t adopt them, but we can support them – and that’s orphan care too. 

This is something we all can do. We can all love the orphan, the widow, and the oppressed that live among us and around the world. With our support, they can overcome the odds so let’s reach out, encourage, and love deeply!

Photo by Lida Mathews

Photo by Lida Mathews

To support the work of The Archibald Project, please visit their website.

 

KNOW YOUR ABCs

People often ask me, "how can I get involved in the fight against human trafficking?" While some of us want to dedicate our lives to this fight, it's not necessary for everyone. In fact, if we ALL would simply embrace a lifestyle of freedom, we would have a greater impact on this injustice than we currently do. 

A great place to start is to know your ABCs.

1) ADVOCATE

Use your voice and influence to create change. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, live in the USA or don't, we can all educate ourselves and those around us. I'm sure we all know 2 people who know little to nothing about human trafficking. Start by educating and equipping those two then expand your efforts as time goes on. Or host a prayer gathering to educate your friends and stand on the front lines of this fight. Just use your voice!

Resources: 

A21 Campaign, Prayer Guide
End It Movement
Global Slavery Index

2) BUY

Once you're educated about the basics of trafficking, start learning about the goods and industries that are most affected. For instance, "68% of raw materials, such as cotton, cocoa and coffee, contain forced or child labor (U.S. DOL). U.S. brands including Forever 21, Gap Inc., PepsiCo, Nestle, Hershey’s, Nintendo, and Disney source some raw materials from factories and farms that employ slave labor."1 What we purchase, matters. Shop ethically as much as possible. And I realize you might not be able to afford certain things, but you CAN tell corporations you don't agree with injustice. Buying products made by survivors is a great place to start! Visit the Holistic Consumerism page for more information.

Resources: 

Slavery Footprint
Made in a Free World
Free2Work

3) COMBAT

Whether you're using your talents and abilities to directly benefit an organization or you donate to one you believe in, it's important to support those who are combatting this issue everyday. Also, take out your phone and put in the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888). Use this to report a suspicious situation, share it with your friends, or give it to someone who you believe is at-risk or currently being trafficked. 

Organizations to consider supporting: 

Not For Sale
Nomi Network
As Our Own
Restore NYC
International Justice Mission
Polaris Project

_______________________________

(1) Info provided by Nomi Network