Did You Get What You Wanted for Christmas?

Present

Present (Photo credit: ejorpin)

All I wanted for Christmas this year was to stop doing nothing about the condition of the world, to be more like Jesus in the exact way he calls his followers to be – light.

After calling himself the light of the world, Jesus passed the mantle. WE are now the light of the world and WE are meant to shine like a city on a hill. It’s so simple, but I have sipped countless lattes with my smart, beautiful friends discussing hunger and poverty and slavery and AIDS, fixing our hopes on some opaque redemptive body and wringing our hands.

But Jesus Christ did not ruminate over why the Jewish mental health system failed the demon-possessed man. He just stopped what he was doing and healed him.

So a month ago, I began raising money for The Exodus Road, a coalition of covert investigators rescuing child sex slaves out of SE Asian brothels.

By Christmas day, 18 people, from my parents, to friends, to complete strangers had contributed $1000 of our $1400 goal. That means all of us are engaging the problem of sexual slavery, not just talking about it. We are advancing an army of light, which the darkness cannot suffer. We have done as Proverbs 31:8 says:

Open your mouth for the dumb, for the cause of all who are left desolate.

And yet many people still gaze at all the sticky, black tar fouling the earth and say, “It’s too big, too dark. God can’t possibly be here.”

But He is and here’s how I know:

Careful readers will note we fell short of our $1400 goal. I did the best I could by my deadline and handed the rest over to God.

Yesterday, a couple I don’t know in Minnesota donated the last $400 – our biggest single donation.

candles

candles (Photo credit: rogerglenn)

They gave on behalf of Urban Servant, a blog written by my childhood friend Dorothy, who has adopted nine of her eleven children, many of whom were damaged in utero by booze. If there were no Dorothy, there would be nine more needy, little people dropping through the system like metal balls in a game of mousetrap.

But there is a Dorothy and she is a beacon. This woman has 13 mouths to feed thrice daily, yet she made time to blog about us in such a compelling way, people I don’t know made a sizable gift in her name.

This is how God works. After we agree to serve Him, He uses us like melodies in other people’s songs.

When we get less selfish with our time, our money and our hands, when we accept that we don’t know what we’re doing and may mess things up, when we engage one another in sometimes slow and inefficient ways, that’s when the light shines through us and people can see it. Then the world is a little less dark.

I’m grateful for all of you. Happy New Year.

Fight Sex Trafficking – Out the Johns

Soi Cowboy, a red-light district in Bangkok

Soi Cowboy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago, I was walking through a bustling red light district in Thailand. Crowded bars and the occasional elephant lined the fluorescent pink streets, and young girls stood in doorways promising sex shows involving a surprising array of implements.

Just then, a florid, middle-aged white guy wearing a teenage Asian girl on his arm walked by, parading down the street like landed gentry strolling in a rose garden.

“What a dick,” I thought. “He would never get away with that in Germany, but in Thailand he thinks he’s hot, like nobody knows he paid for it.”

Then I promptly did nothing. Because what can you do?

Though prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, it is a robust industry that, studies say, produces $4.3 billion per year. Not surprisingly, The UN considers Thailand, with its porous borders, a hotbed of human trafficking.

Prostitution and human trafficking are not necessarily the same thing, but they are definitely kissing cousins. Thank God counter-trafficking groups rescue people and pursue legislation in economically unstable regions where women lack even cursory legal status, but I wonder:

Who is prosecuting the dick with the underage girl on his arm?

Isn’t our “what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas” attitude equally liable for what is now the world’s third largest organized crime?

In 1999 the Swedish government passed a law acknowledging that a country cannot resolve its human trafficking problem without first addressing the demand for prostitution – not supply, demand.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Ten years later, the Swedes studied the law’s impact and found street prostitution had dropped by half with no evidence it had just moved indoors or online. In addition, fewer men said they purchased sexual services. Even the police agreed, the law worked and in 2010 Sweden was the only country in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking had not increased.

The success of Swedish law, now called the Nordic Model, lies not so much in penalizing men, but in outing them – removing the invisibility of the behavior. Countries where the customer fears the loss of his anonymity are unappealing to pimps and traffickers.

US law enforcement is exposing Johns too. In January, New York City police arrested 195 people, including johns, and seized 55 vehicles, as part of Operation Losing Proposition.  In May, Manhattan’s D.A. charged 14 men with soliciting prostitution after a crackdown on a sex trafficking ring, where pimps tattooed bar codes on womens’ necks. During the bust one of the men was overheard asking an investigator, “Does my wife have to find out about this?”

People love to call prostitution a victimless crime – a commodity transaction between adults. However, in our culture which flirts regularly with shamelessness, getting caught soliciting sex is still deeply shameful  (think Hugh Grant and George Michael).  It’s easy to rationalize selfish impulses until organizations like WomensLaw.org show up with data like this:

Prostitutes are 40 times more likely to die than non-prostitutes.

Sixty-eight percent of prostituted women meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the same range as combat veterans and victims of torture.

Studies show that 75 to 95% of all prostitutes were sexually abused as children.

 Kevin Ryan CEO of Covenant House, the largest privately funded agency serving runaway, homeless and trafficked youth in the Americas, says, “We need a 21st century abolitionist movement to end the trafficking of women and children, and it must include a robust front in the war against demand.”

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Team Kirk is the #3 Exodus Road Fundraiser!

Did you know we are the #3 Exodus Road fundraising team now? Fifteen of you have joined me in raising nearly $700. Thank you!

We have one week to raise the other half. I blogged here about my commitment to help this non-profit raise $1400 to raid a brothel selling imprisoned children for sex. The Exodus Road is taking two of its top fundraising bloggers back to SE Asia to see the operation firsthand. That could be me!

Here’s why this work matters:

1. There are more human slaves now than at any other time in human history.

2. An estimated 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked over international borders, including into the US, each year. Seventy percent are female and half are children.

3. Human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after guns and drugs.

Ugh, thanks Erin, I really needed more bad news.

Don’t despair! It is easy to help and you don’t have to solve the whole problem, you just have to refuse to do nothing. Your contribution matters to rescued sex slaves like Sarah.

So here is not one, but two options for fighting sexual slavery.

Donate to The Exodus Road coalition and support the people performing covert surveillance and organizing raids on SE Asian brothels.

dream_centerDonate to The LA Dream Center, which operates the United States’ largest transitional care and recovery center for victims of human trafficking. Even though I was at the Dream Center in November, I know little about this program, because security for it is super high. In LA that is expensive.

As Chris Caine, founder of the A21 Campaign says, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

Tomorrow, I’m bringing the noise from Sweden – a nation which sex traffickers consider “inhospitable for business.” Solutions abound y’all. Be a part!