Monday, May 23, 2011

this is real.

"seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow." --Isaiah 1:17.

This is the second time I'm sitting down to write this post. I wrote it yesterday for the first time.  Then, as I was uploading some photos, the entire thing disappeared.  Poof.  Gone.  Let me say that never, in almost four years of blogging, has that happened.  I don't think it is a coincidence.  Something tells me that something doesn't want the content of this post to be exposed to the light.  It is so disturbing that it's hard to write about, read about, and think about.


A little girl sits in a cold, dark, bare room. Every day, about ten to fifteen men come into her room.  They rape and abuse her. When they are done, they leave her alone in the room until another man comes in.  She has been locked up in this room for three years. Her parents sold her as a sex slave when she was nine years old.

This is just one of many gut-wrenching stories Chris and I heard this past Sunday morning as we sat in church. A man named Don Brewster, an American pastor in Cambodia who founded Agape International Missions, shared about the reality of child sex-trafficking in Cambodia.  

Sex trafficking is a massive problem all throughout the world today. It happens overseas, and it happens locally in the United States, but the situation in Cambodia is unique.

Don shared that everyday, hundreds of pedophiles from all over the world, particularly the United States, fly into Phnom Penh to visit the brothels in Svay Pak--a small Cambodian village that is globally known by these predators as a trafficking hot spot.  What these men do to these girls is inhuman.  They find the youngest girls they can, sometimes as young as three years old.

One of the girls who had experienced such abuse stood on the stage at church on Sunday.  She came to the states back in 2008 to testify against a U.S. Marine officer who had done unspeakable things to her.  That day in court, for five grueling hours, she sat on a witness stand and recalled and verbalized the horrifying things that were done to her by this man.  She stood up and spoke so that this man could never do these things to another girl again.  This man is now in prison for life.  This precious young lady now lives with a foster family here in California--they stood by her side as she took the stage on Sunday.  

As Chris and I sat in church and listened to these horrifying, true stories, we felt sick to our stomachs.  You probably know where my mind went.  To Tess, to one of them being that little girl in that cold, dark room, bearing an unspeakable amount of violence day after day.  

It is hard to imagine that evil on this scale is real and running rampant.  

But it is.  

Every day, every hour, every minute.  

How can I absorb these stories and then go home and assume my normal American suburban life?  I came home from church on Sunday with my stomach up in my throat.  These stories and images run through my mind every night as I lie in bed.  When I hear stories like this, it makes me want to drop everything and go to Cambodia to help.  But that's just not possible for our family, at least, not right now.  So what can I do in the midst of where God has me?  What can any of us do?

It might not be a lot, but I want to try and raise awareness about this.  I know I don't have masses of blog followers, but at least it's a start.  I hope my voice can help raise prayer and financial support for those who are boldly fighting against this grotesque evil on the front lines, both in the US and in Cambodia.  So, here's some vital info and practical ways you and I can help behind the scenes...

I know that sex-trafficking has gotten a lot more publicity over the past couple of years.  It is a massive issue globally, as well as right here in our own country, our own hometowns. According to a fact sheet published by Agape International, human trafficking produces $32,000,000,000 in annual trade for traffickers.  Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade.

In Cambodia, many parents sell their children for sex so they can eat. Sometimes it's so they can buy a TV.  Poverty seems to be the precursor to so many evils that occur in our world today--AIDS, orphaned children, sex and drug trafficking...and the list goes on. Where poverty is present, evil has a foothold.  According to UNICEF, 55,000 women and girls are trapped in the sex trade industry in Cambodia.  35% of these are under the age of 16.  The police in Cambodia know what's going on, but many turn their heads because they benefit from it.  

If the police and the government won't intervene, and if the children's' own parents--the ones who are supposed to protect them--are selling them into this, then how can this ever change?  Who will help?

The only hope for change is THE CHURCH.

Agape International Missions (AIM) is making a dent in this heinous industry by rescuing its victims and providing them with a place to recover.  The Agape Restoration Center--one of the ministry centers of AIM--provides long-term aftercare, counseling, and education for many of these girls.  It is here that many of them learn about Christ's love for them and the hope they have in Him.  

AIM also started Rahab's House Church, pictured above.  This building is a former brothel, but then AIM came along and leased it, and now it is a place where people in the community can hear about Christ's love and receive food, medical care, education, and childcare.

Please watch the ABC NEWS video below that features Agape International.  It is only about four minutes long and gives an accurate view of the situation in Sway Pak.  Don Brewster, director of AIM, is also on this clip:

If you want to support AIM in Cambodia, you can visit their website and read more about their operation.  So far, they have rescued over two hundred girls from the sex trade.  You can support them by praying and become part of their prayer team.  

You can also support by making a financial donation--keeping their programs up and running requires a lot of expenses. Don and his wife, Bridget, are back in California now to raise more support before they return to Cambodia.


As for the United States...our own turf...things get a little more complicated, a little less cut and dry. 

I don't know a lot yet. I've done some reading, and so far, this is what I understand about the situation.

Firstly, I want to say that I can see why people turn their heads to this stuff. I've read many news articles over the past few days and the content is the stuff of nightmares. I have a hard time reading it. But not reading it won't make it go away. And as a mother of two girls, I need to know what is going on...I need to be in touch with reality, with the world that my girls will grow up in.

The Washington Times put out an article in the past month entitled 
"Sex Trafficking in the U.S. called 'epidemic'." It is estimated that about 70% of the girls in the US sex trade are runaways from broken homes. They are in foster care or have run away from foster care. They come from horrible home situations, where one or both parents abuse drugs. Many have been physically and sexually abused from a young age. They are seduced and manipulated by a man who promises them a better life--a life which turns out to be another nightmare. Many of these girls believe they have no other options.

But what about the other 30%? I think we want to believe that if our young girls come from good, middle-upperclass, educated homes, then they are safe. What I'm coming to believe as I dig deeper is that no one is safe. I read one troubling article about a girl who was taken out of her own driveway while her parents were at home. She was found forty days later in an apartment complex in Phoenix, Arizona, in a storage drawer underneath a bed. She had been drugged and raped repeatedly.  

The statistics make my head spin. This crime is not limited to age, race, gender, or background.  It knows no limits.  

As Don Brewster mentions on his blog, our federal government spends $15 billion to fight drug trafficking, while the federal budget only allots $110 million for human trafficking. $110 million is a lot of money...but compared to $15 billion it's mere pocket change. The numbers say that addressing this isn't a very high priority to our government representatives.  

So what can we do here in the US?

Write your senator an e-mail and voice your concern. If you are a pessimist like me, you may think that this won't do anything.  Maybe it won't. But if you don't do anything, then it definitely won't do anything.  

Also, the more research I do about adoption and sex-trafficking, the more troubled I am about our country's foster care system.  This system is JACKED UP. So many children are re-abused in this system. When Chris and I were praying about this adoption, we were grieved by the realities of our nation's foster care system, and we also knew that with girls as young as we have, it would not be safe at this stage in the game to become foster parents. This system needs to be infiltrated by foster families who are equipped to help these children. There are many options to help children in the foster care system beyond becoming a foster parent.  

If you have a heart to get involved and volunteer your time to some struggling kids in your own city--many of whom are vulnerable to sex-trafficking--I highly recommend reading this post by Kristen Howerton over at Rage Against the Minivan: YOU DON'T NEED TO ADOPT TO CARE FOR ORPHANS.

Is there a need for more funding and stronger legislation in the fight against sex-trafficking?  Sure.  

But this is also beyond what money and laws can do. This is an evil so deep that only God Himself can conquer. But I do believe that as His followers, we are expected to fight this evil in some way and He wants to use us--His Church--to do it.  

If you are still reading this, I want to thank you for hanging in there.  This is a difficult topic. I will close with a quote from Don Brewster's blog:

"From a biblical perspective it is easily seen that evil is only overcome by sacrifice. However, this biblical truth has also been confirmed in the historical fight against slavery.  The victories achieved have only come through sacrifice, the sacrifice of many. 

So what is sacrifice?  Webster defines sacrifice as “the surrender of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered having a higher or more pressing claim.”  But I believe that definition falls short of the sacrifice necessary to defeat child sex slavery.  From Webster's definition we might think of giving up something we want as sacrifice.  But true sacrifice, the sacrifice that frees slaves, results from sacrificing from what we have or need.  This true sacrifice is painful. Still, if we are willing to endure that pain, the pain of giving up what we need or have (time, talent, and treasure) children will be set free from an unimaginable horror.  Personally, I cannot think of a thing I have that is more prized or desirable than that.  Now I pray for the strength to live out that belief."


  1. This is a powerful post Lib. The opportunities to be involved are easily accessible for anyone who want to make a minimal effort.

    The conversations of my week have included the necessity of joining the rescue and recovery effort for those ravaged by sex-trafficking in even more intentional ways.

    I love that your church devoted a sunday service to this, I love that you wrote this post.

  2. I felt nauseous, convicted and broken hearted after reading this. Thank you for posting this. I want to help, and I am passing the word on.

  3. Wow Libby thanks for posting this, I shared it with Drew. So sad and discusting! We need to get involved and help!!!

  4. so funny. We watched Hotel Rawanda the other night and I went to bed with the same horrible, about to vomit feeling. The horrors of life on this earth are unbearable. Darrell reminded me that this earth is not our home and eternity awaits us. I have been thinking over and over what to do, how to help. So funny you have been spending the past few days asking yourself the same question. My conclusion was also to try and post something, raise awareness. I have been very naive about sex trafficking though, mostly on purpose. Thank you for shedding light on it for me.

  5. Thanks for this post. I read it via Becky's (above) facebook. Over the last year or so I've been made aware and how found some venues in which to try and help. I've realized that as minimal as it can feel sometimes, awareness is CRUCIAL. We never know who will discover this horrendous industry and become a vital means to stopping it. Your sentences on sacrifice are so true... thanks for reminding me to continue praying for the strength to live that out and to fight, not just be concerned.