Focus – India

  • India has 25.7 million orphans, more than any other country in the world.
  • Girls as young as 7 are being forced into prostitution.
  • 30,000 girls are trafficked annually in India (that’s 82 girls per day!).
  • Child laborers in India who work in the silk industry get one day off per year.

Those statistics tear at my heart.  I have often said that every child in the word desperately needs to know that there is at least one person who is crazy about them.  To know that so many children in one country are alone saddens me in a way that I cannot adequately describe.

That’s why I’m so grateful to the men and women who work with As Our Own.  Their mission is to rescue children from certain enslavement and exploitation and provide aftercare in a family environment.  But they realize that merely dealing with the brokenness is not enough.  They are working with local churches and community leaders to educate and equip them to provide hope, counsel and encouragement to protect children from ever being in danger.

What can you do?  First of all, go their website and educate yourself.  Then take action!  Financial donations are always welcome, of course.  You can even choose which project will benefit from your gift!  You can become a part of the prayer team, dedicate proceeds from a garage sale and more.

It is not my purpose to overwhelm anyone with my recent intense focus on the issue of human trafficking.  But I know too much to simply shake my head at how tragic it all is.  I have three daughters.  In a different time or place, with a different set of circumstances, they could be trafficking victims.  I praise God that they have been spared!!  But there are other daughters/sisters/cousins/nieces who are living in what must feel like Hell itself.  For their mothers/sisters/aunts/cousins I must do what I can.

As I read and research, there are times it feels overwhelming and hopeless.  There are times I wonder if the little I can do is enough.  But I can’t stop trying if for no other reason than these words from Matthew 25:34-40

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “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.’

Our Abba sees what these women are suffering and this principle from his word leaves no doubt in my mind as to whether or not I can throw up my hands and say, “I’m only one.  There’s nothing I can do.”

I can pray.  I have and will continue to do so.

I can write a note to a woman who has been rescued.  I have one waiting to go out in the mail.  (Check out this link for suggestions and an address – The A21 Campaign.

I can help educate those around me and encourage them to act with me.  I’m working on an idea right now and I’ll let you know how it plays out!

This is not a women’s issue.  Every one who claims the name of Christ is called to reach out to “the least of these.”  I’m ready.  How about you?

Repost – No More Turning a Blind Eye

This is actually a “repeat” post.  But it fit so well with my recent focus on human trafficking, I thought I’d share it again.  In the time since I wrote the original post, NightLight International has opened a third U.S. location.  Sad.

Imagine a culture where sons are expected to spend time in a monastery after each family death so that he can “make merit” and earn a life cycle in heaven for the deceased.  Those same sons are not expected to be loyal fathers or husbands and the law does not protect the wives and children that they frequently, with little or no excuse, walk out on.

What about the daughters?  They are expected to be the responsible ones, to provide for their parents as mom and dad age.  They can either bring the family prestige by fulfilling their familial duty, or they can bring the family shame by failing to provide.  No pressure!

Imagine this – a man decides he’s bored with marriage and walks out, leaving a wife and children behind. If she’s lucky, the jilted wife has a 12th grade education.  It’s more likely that her education is 9th grade or lower and she has absolutely no marketable skills so a job is going to be difficult to find.  In desperation, she and her children return to the village of her youth and move in with her parents.  Not only is she not providing for them, they are now having to take care of her and her offspring.  This is the ultimate in shame.

Now let’s imagine in that same village that there is a family who has a home with cement walls instead of wood and a tin roof instead of thatch, all of it provided by their daughter who is away in the big city.  This responsible young woman sends money and gifts home on a regular basis – even things like household appliances! – and has even come to visit once bringing with her a handsome, wealthy foreign man who was seen in the bar buying rounds for everyone.  This is a family that takes great pride in how well their daughter is providing for them.  She is a good daughter and brings honor to her parents.

The abandoned young woman is desperate to provide for her family so lavishly and turn their shame to pride.  So she does what the other dutiful daughter did and heads to the big city to get a job in the bar.  Her work responsibilities are simple and she knows exactly what she is getting into.  She needs to convince the men at the bar to buy her drinks (she has a monthly quota to fill) and she must convince a few of them to pay a $20 fee to the bar so that they can enjoy her company after hours (another monthly quota).  During her shift, she dances on a stage in a string bikini.  This is a woman from a culture that values modesty and she’s probably never even worn shorts in public before this and now she is displaying her body in a string bikini.  At an appointed time each night, she is ordered to remove her top.  The customers are supposed to tip her $40 after she has rendered the expected services.  If she makes her quotas and her customers tip her appropriately, a woman can make as much as $3,000 a month, most of which she sends home to her family who can then hold their heads up high because they have a “good” daughter.

I wish this was fiction, believe me. I wish that I wasn’t telling you about the actual cultural situation in Thailand.  This weekend, while attending a women’s conference, I had the honor of hearing Annie Dieselberg speak.  She and her husband Jeff and their kids are missionaries with the  American Baptist Churches to Bangkok, Thailand.  Their focus is getting the women out of these deplorable working situations.  But merely getting these women out of prostitution isn’t enough.  After all, they need to provide for their parents, remember?

NightLight ministries provides jobs, benefits, free child care, job training classes, leadership classes, Bible classes and a chance to make more than minimum wage and provide for their families.  No, it isn’t the $3,000 a month they would make prostituting themselves.  But it provides far more dignity and self-respect!

Lest you think this is a problem in another part of the world,  NightLight has three  branches here in the states – Los Angeles, California, Atlanta, Georgia, and Branson, Missouri (which just opened Fall 2012).  The fact that they are here in the states screams a truth that breaks my heart because their mission is the nearly the same as the NightLight “branch” in Thailand – rescuing women from sexual slavery.  True, the women here in the U.S. don’t usually walk into the situation with their eyes wide open like their counterparts in Bangkok.  But the degradation and hopelessness is every bit as real.

Yes, human beings are being trafficked right here in the U.S.  And I can’t simply sit back and feign ignorance.  I can’t “unlearn” what I learned this weekend and I have to get involved somehow.  Relocating to one of the cities where NightLight is currently working is simply not realistic.  But I have to find a way to get involved.  In my heart, it would be absolutely unacceptable to know what I know and do nothing.