Please Say "NO" to Human Trafficking at the Happiest Place on Earth

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm a Disney fan to nth degree. When people say that Disneyland/World is the "happiest place on Earth," I exuberantly agree. For me each visit to Disney World is an opportunity to escape into a endless fantasy land where I get to play, relax, giggle and just savor every magical moment. The wonder and excellence of it all inspires me, while the vision and dream of one man to unleash this empire makes me gasp in awe. Even my littlest punkin' gives Walt two-thumbs up.

Only here's the thing, every time we go I get all excited to jump on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride with my family-- after all, it's a CLASSIC! It's filled with treasure and loot and cannons and misty-caverns, but without fail we round a bend and get to this:


In the middle of a boat filled with families ingesting the swash-buckling tale, I get gut-punched with the image of women being tied up and sold. The last time I consulted with my conscience, women being auctioned off to the highest bidder is not an occasion suitable for our entertainment any more than animatronic African Americans set in a plantation would prove amusement material. The thought makes my stomach lurch. It's almost too painful to even put in black-and-white letters.

I'm as guilty as the rest of the world. I stifle the uneasy feeling that I get when we pass as I try to logic  that I'm being overly sensitive. Only am I? I don't think so. Which is why I'm writing this now.

Every image that depicts human slavery in jest allows us to further abdicate our responsibility to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. These scenes falsely represent slavery as a thing of storybook tales. Only more people are enslaved throughout the world today than in any other period of history. I shudder. 

So why then do we delight in this fallacious fairy tale? Because asking for change means speaking up and quite possibly, standing out. It means bucking convention and being the real-life hero of the day.

I wonder if the irony is lost on pimps and traffickers who take their girls on trips to Disney's amusement parks? {And YES, this does happen!} And the girls? Why wouldn't it look as if sex trafficking is the thing of only our wildest stories? Isn't that what we show them every day? That their reality is all a facade? That they can't possibly be slaves or have a price on their bodies?

Even when it's right there before us-- in the "happiest place on Earth"-- we choose to turn our heads and close our hearts. To be certain, there is a difference between ignorance and willful propaganda. I hope that as the modern day plight of slavery surfaces that Disney will thoughtfully reconsider the message that it sends out to the thousands upon thousands of people that it influences each day. After all, they have our attention. So let's not waste the opportunity to do what is right.

the one where i simply write

Sunday, February 9, 2014

here i type. for emphasis and to adequately note the fact that i'm feeling particularly lazy tonight, i'm not capitalizing. {but it's killin' realz yo. although maybe it shouldn't since i don't seem to have a problem saying "fo realz yo" --> rolls eyes}

this blogging, writing, creative, human trafficking, always thinking sort of brain is driving me to the brink of bonkers town. i can't seem to let go of anything that my heart pushes me toward, but i'm a realist and the fact remains that there is nowhere near enough of myself to do everything and do it well. not withstanding the fact that i'm usually "stick-a-fork-in-me" done by 9pm every night, i just don't know how to do it all. in fact, i'm afraid of deciding exactly what i want to do and running after it, for fear that i'll change my mind. 

once upon a time i was told to ask myself the question, "what's the one thing that you HAVE to do before you die?" ehh...i don't know. only i do know. but it's all just too much and it's not a one-girl type of dream. 

i do know that i have to love people. i have to take time for coffee and lunch and listening and caring. i know that i need to sit down with a stack of adorable fabric {or fonts or color or style} every now and then and just let my mind wander-- but i hate being a slave to the entirety of the creative process. i can't stop throwing my thoughts around or drudging up a million different articles that strike a nerve and make me hungry for more information. i have to listen and learn and grow and think. the only thing that i never mind being enslaved to {all family, faith and friends aside} is my computer, despite the truth that i don't miss it for a moment when i'm away from it. it's an oddly respectful camaraderie.

what am i afraid of? i can rattle it off without hesitation: exhaustion. 

plain and simple. i'm afraid to commit myself to any one endeavor that leaves me feeling empty rather than full. i lie awake at night worrying that if i make the wrong choice that i will burn out and that it will affect my family that i've sacrificed so much to invest myself into. yet, i know that there is more waiting for me. it's just beyond the horizon. i touch it and dance with it without ever exactly making a date. it frees me, only i find myself wanting more of what it has to offer. more rendezvous with purpose. less busy. more full. 

i hoped that typing it out might help. but i think that it really leaves me sitting here with a concrete feeling that i know what i know; i feel what i feel; and i fear what i fear-- albeit not irrationally. 

can someone just point me on my course and bid me adieu? sigh. 

here's to a new week. i feel like a great explorer off on a grand adventure. here's to the journey. maybe this will be the one. 

Why Invest in the Human Trafficking Fight?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Today is the day that Purdue University {right in our own back yard} is hosting the "Sex Slavery & Human Trafficking" symposium. While I am thankful for the recognition that it will bring to subject of human trafficking and slavery, I have spent a good portion of my day with a heavy heart praying that it brings reality rather than sensationalism to the surface. That it will educate rather than simply incite. Because in the midst of the hype that events like the Superbowl bring toward awareness about trafficking, I feel the very everyday ordinariness of it all-- and that is what breaks my heart and causes me to invest my voice to somehow bring about change.

Selling humans isn't something we look at once a year in the context of a big event, it's something that happens every moment of everyday in every town. Only if you don't look, you won't see it. It's painful to see.

I had someone ask me recently about how I got involved in the fight against trafficking. It's a long story that I will share one day, but for now suffice it to say that it's personal to me. No, it didn't happen to me, but it has happened to people that I love dearly. I've walked hard roads with them. Shared deep conversations. Learned about what helps-- and what hurts-- survivors in their journey toward healing. Love helps. So I'm continually learning to love more and to love better. I don't have answers, I have ears to listen and a heart to encourage.

But the moment that I knew that I would always be invested? It was the moment that I walked into Shared Hope's conference this past fall. The only way to explain it was that it felt like I was home.

I understood myself in that context. I saw Jesus more clearly than I've ever seen him in that setting. I felt more alive. My heart broke and healed simultaneously as I felt revulsion for abuse and beauty in redemption.

I was home. 

So this is why I keep sharing and and talking and going on and on about this issue. The chance is pretty high that you have a friend who has been there too-- and you have no idea. How could you?

When we take a moment to understand the things that we maybe cannot comprehend your compassion, grace, kindness and love have the opportunity to grow. If not us, then who?

You don't have to speak or write. You just have to do what you CAN do.

Do you have a son? Teach him how to love his wife and one day when the time comes in his life for these discussions,  don't let sex be a shameful mystery that he has to discover in the pages of a hidden magazine or a dark site on the Internet. Talk. Allow him to ask hard questions in a safe space.

Do you have a daughter? Love her and cherish her. Guard her and keep her safe to the best of your ability. Give her the gift of confidence and bravery.

Are you a teacher? Youth pastor? Social worker? Nurse? Understand that the "punk-kid" who manipulates every situation in front of him or her probably learned the skill of manipulation for a reason. Manipulation = survival skill. Listen to them. Believe in them. Choose to actually BELIEVE them too. They may lie and overstep boundaries and make horrible choices-- but you may be the one person who is there to love them unconditionally when they do. It makes a difference.

There is so much more to say, but I have a full couple of days ahead and I need to stop typing and stay on task.

I posted this on Facebook, but if you are in the area I strongly encourage you to come and hear Melissa speak tonight. If you can't make it, you can click here to listen to it live.

Compassion begins when we become educated about something that we couldn't possibly otherwise comprehend. Let compassion be the first step that moves you to action.  

Melissa Woodward is a child sex-trafficking survivor, fighter, overcomer and all-around BEAUTIFUL person. This weekend she is speaking at the "Human Dignity, Slavery and Sex-Trafficking" Symposium at Purdue University and her talk is titled "I Once Was a Sex Slave BUT Now I am FREE".

In addition to that talk, she will be sharing her heart and her story at Elston Family Church THIS Sunday morning at 8:15 and 10 am. I'm so grateful that our paths crossed and that she is able to share with us.

I would LOVE for you to come and listen with your heart. I am so deeply invested in this fight because I see the beauty of redemption in the lives of every brave and strong person who has walked down this road. The very least I can do is to offer up my time, influence and voice to this cause as well.

{Please feel free to repost and let your friends know~*~ I will also be reposting a few times between now and Sunday ~*~ Note: We will have a secure place for all children so that they are not in the room for this conversation. Feel free to send a private message me with any questions.}

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