Monday, March 24, 2014

Created Masterpieces, not Human Property! {"Not For Sale" Recap & Giveaway}


God loves us not as human property but as created masterpieces! That means that men, women, and children are...

NOT FOR SALE 

This weekend I had the privilege of attending an event called "Not For Sale," educating women on the issue of human trafficking. It was an eye-opening and sobering experience as story after heart-breaking story was told. But it's high time that these stories are being told!

I felt my heart clench and tears fill my eyes as I heard of a 2 year old girl sold into slavery, abused, and then used for prostitution by 5 year old. Thinking of such atrocities being done to my own little girl made me feel sick to my stomach.

The stories, oh the heart-wrenching, true but hard-to-believe stories... A woman sells her child for $7.60 in order to feed the rest of her family... A 9 year old prostitute gets pregnant, is forced to have an abortion and then go back to "work"... Girls used to make pornography and forced into prostitution by "boyfriends" who manipulate and abuse them...  Men with HIV paying top dollar to sleep with virgins because of their belief that the act will cure them...

Did you know...

  • Human trafficking is a 9.5 billion dollar industry in the US alone! 
  • Most victims are trafficked by people they know, not a random predator. 36% of traffickers are immediate family, 27% are boyfriends.
  • In the US, the average age of entry into pornography and prostitution is 11 years old. Did you hear me... ELEVEN years old!!
  • Risk factors include walking to and from school or the store alone, have access to computer, sometimes feels insecure, is attracted to consumer goods.. and the list goes on. (Sounds like almost every teen I know!)
  • 1 in 7 kids are solicited online (do you know who your kids talk to online? what sites they're on? who their friends are?) 
When talking about human trafficking there are two main categories - Labor (sweat shops, begging, child soldiering, etc) and Sexual (prostitution, pornography, mail order brides, etc). The "Not For Sale" event concentrated on sexual exploitation and the women and children affected by it. 
  
The event was held at a banquet hall, and tickets were sold out as hundreds of women from area churches and the community gathered. I attended with three good friends.
  
When I reserved my ticket I was thinking to myself "A brunch with friends, how fun!" But then the gravity of the issue started to set in. It was confirmed when I got to my seat and saw the favor at each place setting was a pack of Kleenex (and I realized I had worn mascara!).
 
This issue is real and prevalent, and yet little known. Trafficked victims have no voice. In effort to help spread awareness of human trafficking and encourage action to make a difference, I decided to write this post.

When you think of slavery, what do you think of? Do you think of an issue that was resolved at the end of the Civil War? Well what if I told you that there are currently an estimated 27 million men, women, and children enslaved today. It's happening all around the globe. It's not just an issue on the other side of the world... it's also happening right here. In our country. In our cities. In our towns. In fact, the United States is one of the top destination countries for human trafficking, and a huge consumer of products made with slave labor.  Go to slaveryfootprint.org to take a survey to calculate how many slaves you use. What?! I do what? No I don't... you mean I do?
 Many of the stories told and pictures shown were from the House of Hope in Nicaragua, a ministry to women and children leaving the prison of prostitution and human trafficking. They go into the brothels and bring girls out that want to leave, feed and house them, teach them skills for caring for themselves and their families, and share with them the hope and healing that can only be found in Jesus.

Any hope that these survivors have (and truly that any of us has!) is in God - the Creator, the One who cares, the One who saves.   
       "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5

I also had the privilege of hearing the stories of women coming to know true peace and healing through Jesus Christ. Women who learn to take care of their families, earn honorable income, and break the destructive cycles that have ravaged generations. Many of these women then go on to help serve and rescue others who are still in bondage. 

So, what can I do now? 

That's the question I began asking while still in my chair. We were blessed be given tangible ways to help this ministry immediately. One way of protecting young girls is by giving $26 to buy a school uniform. Pimps tend to leave girls in uniform alone because it means someone cares about them. Can you imagine what happens to the poor girls who have no one? We also had the opportunity to purchase jewelry made by survivors, a way of making an honorable income.
Each piece is a beautiful, handcrafted symbol of hope. All of the proceeds go directly back to the girls who made them, offering an alternative to the live of bondage they came from.
I loved the paper bracelets made from rolled paper beads. I'm wearing mine now, and every time I look at my wrist I'm reminded to pray.
  
I have 3 more bracelets that I want to give away. Enter below! When you see your bracelet, pray for the girls who made them.
a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Three winners will randomly be selected and announced on Thursday 3/27. 
Visit House of Hope's online store to check out more of the options available, including necklaces, earrings, greeting cards, and hand-sewn items. Remember this next time you're looking for gift, favors, etc!

What else can I do? 

Learn more.
Talk about it.
Pray. Pray for the victims, the traffickers, for bystanders. Pray to know how you can be involved. Pray specifically as you learn of needs. 
Prevent. Love the kids around you. If you're a parent, actively seek to protect your kids and their computers and other devices. Talk with them about the risks and create openness where they can come to you as they have questions! (Check out this article on The Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Child Online) Get involved in a school program and love kids who don't get it at home. Everyone needs to know that they are loved and valued!   
Fight demand to stop it at its source! Learn more here>>
Serve. Find local resources. Exploit No More is a Milwaukee area organization that is working to end child sex trafficking. An after-care facility for survivors is coming in 2014 to help provide long term housing and care. Find out what is (or isn't!) being done in your area, and then find out how you can engage! (You can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888 or visit www.polarisproject.org to learn more and to find groups in your area where people can turn!)

I'll be honest... 

It's easier not to think about it. It's easier to settle back into my comfortable home and forget what I just learned. Easier to buy the products I like than to question where they came from or at what cost. Easier to laugh at jokes about the kids making our products than to admit it's a reality. Easier to hear stories on the news about children that have disappeared and give a little sigh and go on with my day thinking "Thank God it wasn't my child" than to stop and pray for them and find other ways to help.

I'm wrestling with where to go from here because I don't want to settle for easier.

6 comments:

  1. Great post. We need to be reminded of this stuff as we sip our coffee and worry about what we should wear today. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. It makes me very sad to see how many people are exploited to make the goods we consume. Rosanne rosans4@comcast.net

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  3. What an emotional weekend. Thanks for letting your heart be impacted and feel deep compassion. You are right, that's way harder than just passing it off......thanks for sharing Biz.

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  4. This is so thoughtfully written. Thank you for taking the time to attend the event and to put this together so I can be personally impacted, at least in a small way, by the realities others live. I want to respond, commenting on what I've just read, but I find I have no words.

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  5. It makes me very upset to even think we had slavery or that we still have it. I love you are bringing to light the darkness that goes on in our society

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  6. It really surprised me and made me sad as well. I hate thinking that the products I consume add to this tragedy as well as feeling embarrassed. Thank you so much for your article as we all need to re-think our lives and how it can impact so many people.
    Laurie Emerson
    lauraemerson17 at yahoo dot com

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