When I was living in Nashville this past year, I briefly participated in a ministry called Bruised Reed. (Isaiah 42:3.) Two to three of us girls from Ethos Church would go out into the local strip clubs and offer free dinner and free encouragement to the dancers. I remember sitting in a booth by the bar in Brass Stables Jockey Club, (my first and only strip club experience.) The girl I was with was a consistent volunteer and knew each of the girls working that night. We all broke bread, (literally,) shared the Italian dinner we brought them, and dove into "girl talk."
These women were strong, hard, and extremely resilient. One of the younger girls was telling me about her daughter, "Yeah - I tried bartending... It just wasn't enough money..." She was trying to put herself through college. What was interesting to me about the whole experience was the way each of the girls could laugh at, and also pity - the men that came in to see them. "Some of them just want company," one of the women said. "He paid for half an hour with me, and all he wanted to do was buy me a drink and talk." I walked out of there feeling so sorry. For the men.
Sammy: I- I'm not happy. I'm miserable.
Robbie: Wh- what?
Sammy: See, I grew up idolizing guys like Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino 'cause they got a lot of chicks. You know what happened to Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino?
Robbie: Yeah, I read that Fonzie wants to be a director and Barbarino... I think the mechanical bull movie? I didn't see it yet.
Sammy: Their shows got canceled. 'Cause no one wants to see a fifty-year-old guy hittin' on chicks.
Robbie: What are you saying?
Sammy: What I'm saying is: all I really want is someone to hold me and tell me that everything is gonna be all right.
Old man: Everything is gonna be all right.
THE WEDDING SINGER.
I think it's easy to villain-ize certain groups of people. I always looked with disgust upon any man that would walk into a strip club and pay for a lap dance. "Ewe." But that experience with Bruised Reed opened my eyes to the reality that each of us deals with a very deep rooted emptiness that we are either filling with: love, or... more emptiness disguised as love.
I recently volunteered at a Saving Innocence event in Beverley Hills. While we were setting up, I got into a conversation with one of the workers in the hotel about trafficking. He had a few questions about the issue, and after I debriefed him on a few statistics, (like, "most of the girls being trafficked are from 12 - 14,") he was rightfully disturbed. He said to me, "I think anyone who participates in trafficking deserves to be shot." I sort of gave a surrendering shrug.
I consider Paul, the Apostle. He was on his way to massacre even more Christians than he already had when God intercepted him, changing his path forever. This man went on to write most of the New Testament letters we read today. When people saw what had become of him, they were in shock. "Isn't this the man that was killing Christians not that long ago?" (Acts 9: 20-22.)
One thing is clear: trafficking MUST be stopped. We must be proactive in raising awareness and resources or it will only continue to grow. And while a change MUST be made on behalf of these innocent people, I know that it is not my place to pray, "Dear God, SHOOT them." Instead, my prayer is:
"Dear God, save them."
Rescue the innocent. Rescue the oppressors. Have mercy on us ALL.
One week of Dressember is now past and it has been beautiful seeing so many women stand together for the dignity of trafficking victims. And in the midst of this, I want to be intentional about including MEN into the movement as well. I am blessed to have so many strong examples of what a God-fearing, compassionate man looks like: in my family, church community, and close circle of friends. And while it's true that men and boys do most of the "purchasing" when it comes to human trafficking and prostitution, I see so many in my community standing up against it.
Here is a great article, addressed to men that wish to end trafficking: 10 Things Men and Boys Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking. There are many misconceptions and ignorant ways of thinking that perpetuate the horrors we fight to end. This article touches on a few, directly relating to men and young boys. Also, if any of you are around Pasadena on December 18th, there is a "Men Stand Against Trafficking" freedom walk happening close to old town. I encourage you to participate in this peaceful protest.
Remember that you can DONATE HERE to support the Dressember campaign and the two anti-trafficking organizations they partner with, (International Justice Mission, & A21.) To learn more about Dressember and what it means to me, read my blog HERE.
To my readers that don't know a whole lot about the epidemic of human trafficking, I urge you to educate yourself on the issue and be proactive in the solution. And to those of you already fighting the good fight, you're effort is not in vain! Keep going.