Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard

Yesterday, I was rocked by this highly informative article in Texas Monthly about the thousands of women who have been trafficked into the U.S. and forced to work in prostitution.  Although the piece is primarily focused on Houston, it cites other major cities as home to many of these covert operations that are often disguised as massage studios and spas. Los Angeles is one of the cities mentioned.

In our community, we talk about this issue frequently and what I’ve found is that most people find it hard to imagine that it may actually be happening here in our own backyard.  Now, I love a good massage and have been to many of the reputable establishments locally, so have no fear… there are still some legitimate and reputable establishments you can enjoy.  But its hard to read this article and wonder about the many places I see in Torrance, San Pedro and Redondo Beach.

The thought of these women being misled in their desperation to provide for their families and lured into a world of prostitution in “the land of the free,” is sickening.  Their stories of being moved from city to city every few weeks so they are isolated and kept from attaching to their co-workers or customers is heart wrenching. Once their debts are paid and they are “free” to go, a new struggle for survival begins.

There is a big picture story happening here in our world.  In the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few women who have come out of the adult entertainment industry.  I’ve sat and listened to the stories of several women who have been the victims of horrific sexual abuses and crimes.  I’ve walked alongside women whose lives have been crushed by the betrayals of their husbands who have been lured into the world of pornography.  I’ve wept with mothers who have discovered their young boys have gotten caught up in the traps so purposely laid out for them on the internet.

One thing leads to another.

When I drive down Lomita Blvd. and Channel Street and see the advertising for the upcoming Adult Entertainment convention, I’m grieved at the concept of one thing leading to another.  The images, ideas and opportunities that captivate the hearts of men, and even women, tear our hearts away from everything Good and will eventually lead down a path of destruction.  One look can ultimately result in a wake of lives and families destroyed.  If the demand diminishes, the supply will respond.

One thing leads to another.

According to the article in Texas Monthly, escaping from captivity may be the easiest part of the road to recovery for these women.  What do you think we can do as a community to help these victims and put a stop to sex trafficking?

There are people doing some great work on putting an end to human trafficking.  Two of these organizations are Just 4 One and the International Justice Mission.

Check them out and raise your awareness.

And Liberty and Justice for All

My friend Kim has an uncle that was an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when it was overtaken by President Ahmadinjad and his fellow students and militants on November 4, 1979. He was one of 52 people who were held for 444 days with the new Iranian government behind the scenes.

I’ll never forget the day I met him. When he entered the room, I was filled with an indescribable type of shame and I blurted out to him that I was so sorry. He gracefully smiled and said “oh dear child, that was so many years ago and you had nothing to do with it.”

Shortly after the hostage crisis began, my own great-uncle was an author and journalist was imprisoned for exercising the human right of free speech and standing for what is right. My uncle was released after several months in jail where he was tortured physically and forced to watch people killed in front of him. He was accidentally paroled and by the time the officials realized their mistake, he had gone into hiding and eventually escaped to Paris. My uncle continued to use his voice by writing and speaking of the beauty that was once Iran was and the hope of what could still be realized until he took his last breath.

Micah 6:8 states, “He has told you, O Man what is good and what the LORD requires of you… to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

My uncle acted justly using the gift of writing that God had given him. He loved mercy because although he was put to shame, punishment and driven to fear, he did not turn his back on the nation that turned its back on the people. Instead, he fought for her through his words and relationships with other voices of leadership, community and the nations.

Those of us who say we are making every attempt to walk humbly with our God say we walk, but along the way are we taking steps of justice on behalf of others? Are we showing mercy to those who need it? Mercy is defined as an act of kindness, compassion or favor…particularly when it is undeserved.

While the US government is choosing to limit the use of its voice, the Church is free to speak up in a way that respectfully transcends the decisions of our government. As my friend stated today, “the Saints have a voice of authority before the throne of Grace…what greater power of protest is there?”

So today, as reports of acid being dropped from helicopters flooded twitter, images of people being beaten and killed covered the internet and cable news channels, the fight for freedom, opinion, election has indeed escalated.

We celebrate Father’s Day today. Let’s not lose sight of the Father whose heart breaks for those whom He sent His Son to die for. Many need encouragement that comes with knowing the fullness to the Oneness of the God they are crying out to… there is love, grace and mercy found in Jesus and there is faith, power and courage in the Spirit. We have seen this displayed in the history we share with Persians through Esther, Mordecai, Nehemiah and the Wise Men who came bearing gifts when the most beautiful revolution of all began.

Church – let us sing and not be silent, let us intervene, intercede, speak out and pray for justice for the oppressed, mercy for those who are crying out, courage to continue to rise up and give way to true freedom and righteous leadership. Let’s ask for wisdom and direction to move in the direction that is only according the will of God. Let us not shrink back from giving a hand through media support, words of encouragement and our fervent prayers.

If you have a voice, use it.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

Blessed are the Peacemakers

1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11″Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

As a child of the 1979 revolution, all the scenes and images of what has been reported from Iran are eerily familiar. I am now a Iranian-American and completely immersed in my new culture here. But one never forgets where they came from.

My perspective over the last 30 years is that most of the people born after the revolution have been raised or have become products of their environment and have generally been politically apathetic. Forgive me if I’m wrong here. But it seems that the general lack of morale, discouragement from their leadership, fear of getting in trouble have left people wanting to keep a generally low profile, living their lives to the best of their ability and staying out of the ways of trouble.

President Obama is receiving a fair share of criticism for his hesitation to get involved in the situation. While the U.S. is known for coming to the rescue or meddling as some people put it, there may come a time for overt action. However, I think there is something to be said about waiting and allowing the Iranian people continue to rise up and find their voices that have been supressed for so many years. Two-thirds of the nation are under the age of 35. I am 35 and just begining to feel like I’m getting some gumption to do what God is calling me to do… I wonder for them, how long these feelings of oppression and captivity have been festering in the Iranian people and finally reaching a point of explosion.

It’s good to let them find their voice, THEY need to experience their own courage and recognize that what they want is GOOD.

I also love how the U.S. is getting involved in less overt ways. That computer techs are helping Iranians get access to internet to let us know the cries of their hearts. I love even up until this year, when you heard the name Iran, it was associated with “axis of evil,” “nuclear threat,” etc. But today, the world is rallying around the people of Iran which is truly Iran. There is solidarity, compassion, support and love for people. We are seeing that the very things that we often take for granted like liberty, freedom, justice, our voices, our dreams and the realization of our visions are things worthy of fighting for.

Pray for Iranians to continue to find their voices and let their voices be heard, pray for courage, boldness, protection for the innocent, justice for the oppressors. Pray for salt and light to show themselves in that part of earth so Light will shine. Pray for our President Obama, for him to have wisdom, courage, boldness, mercy when its required and heart that breaks for the things that break the heart of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.