Monday, September 28, 2009

One Little Girl

There’s a new girl at Rapha House. She’s little pixie. She’s probably the age of a kindergartener, if that. With wispy brown hair, a toothless grin, and big Cambodian eyes, she has a certain spark about her.

My translator and I were sitting on the six-person rocking swing talking to some of the older girls while this little girl snuggled up next to the translator. She wasn’t interested in conversation. She just wanted to cuddle. But when it came time to snap a photo of one of the older girls and me, this little girl insisted on doing it. Quite frankly, it’s a pretty good photo.

I walked away to visit with our director before readying to leave. And as we were heading towards the gates, this little girl comes barreling across the parking lot towards me. I scooped her up in my arms and tossed her in the air. She let out a squeal and began laughing.

These are what moments in childhood are supposed to be about—cuddling on rocking swings and the exhilaration of being playfully tossed in the air by a grownup.

However, up to now, the grownups in this little girl’s life have been anything but safe or playful. According to our director, this little girl comes to us as a serious rape case. I think of her tiny body and injured spirit, and my heart breaks a little more once again.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One Red Light District in Phnom Penh

Just down the street from the hotel where I'm staying is a major red light district in Phnom Penh. They call it "The Building." It gets is name from a dilapidated three- or four-story landmark building with a triangular plaza adjacent to it. Every night, girls are paraded around the plaza by their handlers, so the johns can take their pick.

My translator tells me that it's easy to find 15-year-olds, 14-year-olds, and younger girls working at "The Building." Behind it is an alley filled with ratty stalls, where these girls pass long nights servicing a steady stream of customers.

Just four days ago, I came home from the campgrounds where we held a camp out for families from our church. Some friends invited me into their RV to enjoy some homemade tacos. There on the couch was a young girl from our church who was waiting to go outside to hang out with her friends and make s'mores around the campfire. She's 14-years-old.

The juxtaposition of these two scenes is stark. Not every teenager in the world should have the chance to go camping. But every child should be able to spend a carefree night somewhere other than in a defiling haunt like "The Building."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Real Heroes

When it comes to combating human trafficking, who are the real heroes in this fight? I’ve given a lot of thought to this. So far, I’ve come up with three.

To answer the hero question, you must first ask another question: What’s the real goal here? Is it simply to bring justice to victims? I’m all for justice. But that’s not the real goal in this fight.

To make this fight only about or even chiefly about justice misses an important point. Justice does a lot for victims, but it doesn’t teach them how to live free. Justice may help victims realize that they’re worth fighting for, but it does not sufficiently heal their deepest psychological wounds.

So who are the real heroes in this fight? Again, we have to ask: What is the real goal in this battle? Justice for victims and lasting freedom for survivors is the only real goal worth seeking.

Does this mean, then, that the caregivers who provide shelter or the counselors who promote healing or the vocational trainers who inspire hope are the real heroes? Yes, as much as law enforcement, prosecutors, the courts, and jailers. But, as I’ve said, there are only three real heroes in this fight.…Well, actually four.

People who pray for this cause are heroes. People who serve this cause are heroes. And people who give to this cause are heroes. Those are the only three heroes that I’ve come up with. And yes, every survivor is a hero but particularly those who tell their stories in order to shine more light on this ugly darkness.

Act heroically. Do good.

Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it. (1 John 3:18, Contemporary English Version)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Rambo Solution & Human Trafficking 101

OK, I have to admit it. There's something terribly appealing about the Rambo solution to human trafficking. Kick in some doors. Rough up some pimps. Send those disgusting johns scurrying off like roaches fleeing the light. Scoop up all the innocent kids. Roll credits. Play some high-energy music followed with a mellow set. Fade to black. Bam! Now, that's the way it's done, folks. Go home and eat some ice cream.

Whew, thank goodness for Rambo. The world is now a safer place.

Is it? Rambo solutions make for good theater but poor solutions to human trafficking, especially if you care about the kids.

What happens to them after the credits roll? Where will they go? Back to the parents who sold them? Who's going to pay for the medical bills for the damage done to their small bodies? And who's going to counsel their damaged souls?

Who's going to rock them to sleep after the night terrors? Who's going to enroll them in school and help them overcome illiteracy? Who's going to prepare them for life in the real world? And who's going to be there when they take their first steps into lasting freedom?

Not Rambo. We are.

Here's the first lesson of Human Trafficking 101. It's not about kicking in doors. It's about helping kids find lasting freedom. You have to begin with that end in mind.

Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The king will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." (Matthew 25:37-40 CEV)