It’s a Wednesday morning. The girls are settled into a viewing of Maleficent (ahhhh, the blessing and the curse of easy rentals from Amazon Prime). I’m sitting next to them, bundled up in blankets. Their feet tap against my legs and they lean their heads into my arms and neck. I belong to them, I take care of them, I live for them. And every unconscious lean into, hold onto and snuggle against from them is a manifestation of their understanding of whoI am and what I will do for them. It’s easy to take those touches for granted. Easy to think what they’ve given me, what I’ve given them, is merely a matter of course.
Of course, it’s not.
Last night, I attended an early screening of the movie The Abolitionists. A documentary following the efforts of Operation Underground Railroad to rescue children from the iron grip of human trafficking and sex slavery. I’ve worked directly with O.U.R. In August, I went on an undercover sting with them in the Dominican Republic. While there, my skin was touched by human traffickers as we shook hands and I pretended to want they were selling. My heart was branded with the faces of the children as they marched past me at the end of the operation, out the door and onto a different, better life. My life was changed. I know firsthand the, at times, miraculous works of O.U.R. And yet, the movie last night pushed me back into my seat and pulled my eyes wide open.
These children, with no mother to lean against, are bought, sold, raped, beaten, drugged and then bought and sold again. They are babies and adolescents and nearly women that never had a nearly childhood. The problem is growing. Millions of big spirits in little bodies are enslaved. The purveyors of the purchased and stolen children are often family members and fellow countrymen. Those that buy nights with the children? Mainly Western men. Americans, Europeans and Canadians. $300 will get you seven hours with a little girl or boy. Hours filled with abuse, violation and hurt. It’s a worldwide problem, spreading with the intensity of a wildfire and most law enforcement agencies are not equipped to deal with a slow burn, let alone the ravages they are encountering everyday.
Last night an audience of a thousand people watched the inner workings of an organization that thinks outwardly and upwardly. OUR goes into other countries and works hand in hand with the local governments to stem the tide of slavery. Yes in the movie, bad guys were caught and evil was disrupted. But the beauty of OUR is that they understand that while catching the criminals is necessary and invaluable, their focus remains on the children. We saw babies rescued from the filth and despair of an orphanage run as a front for child trafficking. We heard the stories of girls that had been rescued from a daily life of darkness infused with violation. Girls that hurt and never expected to stop being hurt. Girls that “never knew there were people out there that worried about girls like me.” Girls that even amidst the lingering pain and trauma are finally learning to dream again. To see the value in life and, oh my blessed heaven, to see the value in themselves. And we saw men and women willing to sacrifice hard-earned resources, time with their families, and physical safety to save even one life.
We did not leave the theater asking, How are the members of OUR able to do that hard and inglorious work? We left the theater asking the unsettling and ultimately uplifting question, How can we not be involved? There is no way out of this obligation to save. And I thank the Ever Living Lord for that.
Because, here’s the thing. These children? They belong to all of us and we belong to them. We must take care of each other. We must live for each other. It’s the only way. We must give them someone to lean against, finally, until they are able - for the first time truly - to stand up on their own. We must manifest through our actions and our heart hurt care, that we can see who they are and that we know, WE KNOW, that they are worth even more than our best efforts and grandest sacrifices. We must strive to give them the opportunity for the expansive kind of love that I take for granted on an average Wednesday morning.
And we must do it now.
The Abolitionists will debut in Utah in the coming weeks. Across the nation, as circumstance and distribution allows. Until then, you can help by raising awareness and raising money. We can raise awareness by talking about this on social media, at lunch amongst friends and in our homes. Write down the reason you are an Abolitionist and then ask your friends to do the same by sharing it on IG, Twitter and Instagram. On average, it costs a mere $1,500 to rescue a child from a life of slavery. It doesn’t take many of us to raise that kind of money. Become an Abolitionist by committing to donate $5 a month. For the cost of a couple of diet cokes, you will be literally saving a child. Start a campaign of your own. This isn’t just a call to action, this is a call to save, to heal, to make whole. And I know, I KNOW, you will answer it.
Because you are worthy of this task just as surely as those children are worthy of rescue.
Watch the trailer for the The Abolitionists