The story of a person easily translates into the lines in their hands. The wrinkles tell of a lifetime of labor and effort. Each line represents a moment or an action that maintains a special significance only their owner can understand. As the days progress, the moments pass and lines of life attained, we learn and grow. The acquisition of age is a cherished event but there is something to say about the hands of a child. Their smoothness calmly whispers youth, inspiration and hope. The way a child grasps your hand, with total security and total faith is undeniably beautiful. In a way, we all maintain qualities of a child (though we may not choose to admit it). As children we live with our hands open. Open to the world, open to ideals, creativity, faith, trust. It is when we start to accept the world for what it is, instead of what we want it to be, that our hands begin to close. Slowly our palms tighten, getting harder and harder. We may begin to live with fists in place of where our open hands once were. So I ask myself, I ask you, when you look down what do you see?
Are your hands closed? Are they open? What do they say about you? Are your hands helping, are they reaching out to another? Regardless of their condition, it's your choice whether they are open or closed.
You can make a difference; you can be the one to reach out to another. Touch someone's life, restore that hope and love that slowly slips out of grasp. God gives us our own talents because He knows we can touch and change lives. The power of an open hand cannot be explained in mere words. Whatever your talents may be: speaking, writing, building community, photography, poetry, math, or listening, I urge you to explore the potential that each can offer.
Let us restore our view to the time of our childhood. Let's see the world for the way we want it to be instead of accepting it for what it is. Open your hand and your heart is sure to follow.Note: Channing is a Belmont student currently using her photography skills to create materials to prevent trafficking among young people. Come join her, and hundreds of others, in using your talents to end slavery. Join a volunteer group in Nashville, Hendersonville, Franklin or (soon to be) Murfreesboro.
As my family and I enjoy the lovely traditions and celebrations of the Christmas season, my mind turns to people I know, or who are known by people I know:
- The young woman in Europe who escaped her trafficker this week and is now sitting in a temporary shelter, nursing wounds from her last brutal beating, penniless and contemplating her next steps.
- A young woman in her twenties – a US citizen- trafficked since kindergarten, for whom Christmas was just another day of degradation and fear, and who had never received a Christmas gift until last year.
- Trafficked and brutalized women in the Middle East anxiously waiting for their name to rise to the top of a waiting list for a safe place to stay.
- The children who sit in Mumbai brothels waiting for the next stranger to exploit them, on Christmas, as on every other day.
Do you feel any outrage at the injustices these people face? I do. They haunt my dreams. But nothing close to the outrage felt by the God who lovingly formed each one and who enters into their pain, 24/7.
We don’t have to guess what the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas would like for His birthday; He tells us what He wants: Lay off the religious stuff, and let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! *
And as befits God’s nature, when we give to Him, we get gifts in return:
“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous …“*
Thankfully, I know people all over the world who experience that joy and continually give God the gifts He really wants.
- The team members who love and serve that escaped victim in Europe as she walks through this frightening transition.
- The End Slavery in Tennessee supporters who gave that US survivor her very first Christmas gifts ever.
- The volunteers who sell jewelry made by those Middle Eastern women to raise funds so more beds can be made available.
- A brave Indian national who risks his life daily to rescue those children in Mumbai brothels.
Want some Christmas joy? Want to give the perfect Christmas gift this year? Be part of getting justice done. Volunteer, give, speak up, sacrifice, get your hands dirty, and don’t hide your head in the sand. Come join our band of ordinary people audacious enough to take God at His word and to do our part in letting justice roll!
I hope to see you in 2011.
*Amos 5:24, Proverbs 21:15
When people think of anti-human trafficking work, they typically think of rescue and shelters. Rescues are exciting and shelters are needed and everyone easily understands why they are essential. But neither really does anything about ending slavery. If a victim is rescued, a trafficker brings in two more. And shelters are for after the fact. They are needed, like emergency medical workers are needed in an epidemic. But at some point, we need to cure the illness itself as well as identify those who have it; or leaving our analogy behind, to address the systemic causes that allow slavery to flourish, as well as identify victims so they CAN be rescued and restored. And that’s just what we at End Slavery do. Here’s an overview of our current and "in the works" initiatives:
- IDENTIFY THE VICTIMS: Distribution of posters, bookmarks, bumper stickers and other materials that help people identify victims/ web page with victim ID red flags
Community Watch type programs to enable neighbors to spot trafficking in their own neighborhood. Speaking to community groups. Fielding calls, e-mail, and Facebook messages and advising community members who suspect trafficking and are unsure what to do about it.
- PROTECT OUR YOUTH: Presentation and materials for schools, inner city and immigrant service providers and other youth venues, warning youth, and those who care for them, of the tactics of traffickers.
Teen oriented web site warning of trafficking tactics with ways to share info easily with friends and to report, anonymously if desired, what is happening within peer group.
- OPEN PROFESSIONAL’S EYES: Training for professions likely to make first contact with victims (teachers, pastors, medical workers, social workers, legislators, apt. managers, maintenance workers etc.)
- SUPPORT THE SURVIVORS: We work with the FBI to provide help as needed for rescued victims and we hold events and home parties to increase venues for sale of goods made by rescued victims.
- SLOW THE DEMAND: We teach at each session of the local John school (a school for men arrested for soliciting prostitutes), educating the attendees on how their choices feed human trafficking and slavery. Other initiatives are currently under consideration such as billboards, ads, flyers and/or other media targeted to the people buying the slave’s services or goods
- LOOK TO THE FUTURE: We teach in numerous college classes each semester so the next generation, the leaders of tomorrow, will not be ignorant of human trafficking and modern slavery.
We hold regular events on college campuses, spreading awareness and encouraging/equipping student involvement in ending slavery while they are still in school.
We have interns each semester who learn deeply about the issue and ways to work to end it. In every case thus far, students continue to work with us after their internship is over and make career choices focused on ending slavery/aiding victims.
- EDUCATE: Through a monthly newsletter, blog, twitter, Facebook cause, and regular speaking engagements. This not only leads to victim identification, it is our belief that we can create a groundswell of outrage that will affect change makers in the media, legislators etc.
- REPLICATE: We were instrumental in connecting people who started a coalition in Knoxville and an anti-slavery group in Memphis and look to spreading anti-slavery work throughout Tennessee. We also train churches, and other groups, in Tennessee and other parts of the country, how to engage in ending slavery in their own communities.
This is a grassroots movement using ordinary people in all walks of life. We have two monthly volunteer groups, one in Nashville and one in Franklin. These groups further educate themselves on the issue and break into action groups focusing on various initiatives.
In March 2010, an organization working among oppressed people in over 60 countries, asked End Slavery in Tennessee’s Director, Derri Smith, to help them establish teams around the world focused specifically on slavery and human trafficking. While taking on that non-paid director’s position with International Teams (ITeams), she remains committed to the work in Tennessee, as well. In fact, she is working on establishing ITeams’ first full-time domestic anti-slavery team in Nashville, which will serve as a training base for other teams in the US and around the world.
- Derri is also currently engaged in starting/ expanding/considering anti-slavery teams in Uganda, Brazil, Thailand, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Australia, Cambodia, India and Russia.
- Host a prayer vigil. Sept. 24-26 is the 5th Annual International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for victims of sex slavery. Find resources here.
- Have a fair trade chocolate and coffee tasting party.
- Show “Faces of Slavery” to your church, home group, professional org or family and friends in your home. Write for free DVD.
- Write letters of encouragement to rescued victims in shelters. Write for info.
- Donate books and media on human trafficking to libraries—school, public, church etc. Write for recommendations and to let us know where you gave.
- Show a movie about human trafficking and discuss modern slavery with your friends. Suggestions: Cargo , Human Trafficking, or commercial films like Taken or Slumdog Millionaire. Invite us to lead the discussion if you don’t feel ready.
- Retweet our tweets.
- Hold an awareness/benefit event, a Chinese auction, battle of the bands, or an outdoor movie night. We have lots of ideas. You probably do too!
- Distribute media that helps identify victims and how to help them. (Write for bookmarks, postcards, posters, bumper stickers. )
- Love to read? Have a readathon to raise funds. Get friends to sponsor you per book read. Or recommend a book on human trafficking to your book club.
- Devote your Facebook status to human trafficking information once a week. Our newsletter is a good source of information. Sign up here.
- BEST way to engage for most people: Join one of our monthly Volunteer Action Groups: Nashville or Franklin
Pass this list on to your friends!
It’s a whole lot better to actually prevent someone from being trafficked than it is to rescue them after the fact, and it’s one of the most effective ways we can work in our communities.
Let’s think about the ways people get trafficked and what types of preventative measures might be useful.
In the case of sex slavery, sometimes girls* are recruited by a cute boy who acts like he has a romantic interest in them, a man who serves as a father figure, a girl who acts like a girlfriend or a woman who seems safe. Did you see the movie Taken? Remember the boy at the airport who shared a taxi cab with the two girls when they arrived from America for a European holiday? That boy was a recruiter.
There are cases in which a “girlfriend” invited the victim to her home for a sleepover, then the man who was allegedly her father (but really wasn’t) popped a drug into her drink. She wakes to find herself being raped by a succession of men.
Often kids from abusive homes are befriended by a charmer who poses as a boyfriend. He “loves” this girl and makes her feel special. Over time, he says that if she loves him, she will sell herself for sex to make the money they need to buy a house and live happily ever after. He becomes increasingly violent. He follows tried and true methods for breaking a girl into sex slavery. (There’s actually a manual to tell him how. For real.)
What if these young people—and their parents and teachers—had seen a presentation in school about the tactics and dangers of traffickers? If we simply opened some naïve eyes, how much heartache might be avoided?
My dream is to create a presentation to do just that, and bring it to schools, youth clubs, inner city and immigrant service providers and the like. It would take so little, to do so much good.
This project is very do-able, very affordable, and can be very effective. Like the idea of a slave-free community? Me too. Let’s make it happen!
Here‘s what you can do:
- Act in a short drama portraying the tactics of traffickers
- Direct this drama or write the script.
- Use your musical skills to write and/or perform a song that will stay in kids’ minds after the presentation, causing them to think twice if they encounter red flags.
- Once polished, video the presentation so we can distribute it more broadly.
- Take leadership. Organize and oversee this project.
- Donate toward the cause, to "work of Derri Smith for prevention."
Contact us here
* Boys and men are trafficked too. Because 80% of victims are female, I choose to use the feminine nouns and pronouns for victims.
“I had no idea! What can be done? Get those slaves out of there!” No doubt about it—the horror of slavery stirs within us the urgency to rescue a victim. That is exactly what International Justice Mission and others do so well. Exciting moments indeed, BUT hardly the entire story. Ending slavery and aiding victims is so much more complex than that. Focusing only on the rescue is like focusing only on the wedding ceremony when we think of marriage, without regard to all the relationship building that led to that moment or the lifetime partnership that follows.
Rescuing victims – snatching them away from the trafficker or slave master --is an important step in the process of freedom, and someone does need to do that. But, frankly, this is not an effective strategy to end slavery. When one victim is rescued, traffickers bring in 2 more. Rescue is vital in the same way that emergency medical workers are vital in an epidemic. And I’d say that the #2 and fastest growing crime on the planet is indeed an epidemic, wouldn’t you?
To truly make a long term, effective difference, we must step back and think past the exciting media sound bite moment. Slavery is a complex issue requiring multi-faceted action. We must hack at the roots of poverty and empower those without social clout; those most vulnerable to enslavement. We can prevent slavery by warning of trafficker’s tactics and finding ways to dry up the demand that makes this business, like any business, thrive. We need to train those likely to encounter victims, so they recognize the suspicious signs for what they are AND know how to help. We need to make good people everywhere aware of the atrocities in such a powerful way that they cannot go on with life as usual and, consequently, develop such a groundswell of outrage that, by sheer numbers, they influence politicians, media, companies that use slave labor and other change makers. And more.
So let’s keep cheering and supporting the rescues, just as we celebrate a wedding ceremony, all the while rolling up our sleeves and doing or supporting the long term hard work it takes for the marriage of justice and mercy in our world.
The adventure continued on the way home. We made our way through the tangles of multinational, multilingual lines at the airport: customs, passport control, and airline ticketing, arriving at our gate, where we chatted a bit with the German nationals awaiting the flight back to Munich. Without aid of a microphone, a Lufthansa Airlines crew member relayed news to people within earshot. As word trickled out through the crowd, we first learned that our flight was delayed two hours, and finally that it was cancelled due to the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.
Then ensued hours of confusion and lines to retrieve luggage, re-navigate outbound passport controls that were not really set up for entry back into the country, obtain rebooking for the next flight and, finally, transport to a nice hotel for the night. By the next day, we were Turkish airport experts, as we maneuvered through the circuit to the departure gate, alongside our new German friends. It was like déjà vu, up to and including news of another flight delay. But we were eventually airborne across the Aegean Sea and on to Europe, albeit by a somewhat circuitous route to avoid the dust cloud.
In Munich, we stumbled into the hotel and grabbed a few hours sleep before the next leg of the journey. Then, fortified by a lovely German style breakfast, we made our way back to the airport, through multiple stringent security screenings (including added precautions for U.S. bound travelers). I received eight body searches on this trip, thanks to my insulin pump. Good thing I’m not too ticklish, as screeners are not generally in the mood for laughter. Finally, secured and restricted into the Munich airport gate area, we had plenty of opportunity to ponder the blessings of the week through a four-hour departure delay–again the work of the that unpronounceable volcano in Iceland.
The next day’s flight from Munich to Washington took an unusual route north of Iceland to avoid the ash cloud stretching southward along the eastern Atlantic. Bone tired, jet lagged and very ready to be home, God provided refreshment late in the flight through connection with one of His people–an American living in Turkey who pastors Turkish Christians. This man has a heart for helping the victims of human trafficking, which he says is a HUGE problem in Turkey.
A final twist in the journey…my luggage was checked through from Turkey to the U.S., so for days I'd been wearing the same thin T-shirt dress and sandals, and was decidedly "ripe." I looked forward to grabbing fresh clothes and my walking shoes at a chilly and rainy Dulles airport before the final flight to Nashville. It was not to be. My suitcase, last seen in the airport in Turkey and containing gifts and my best clothing, did not arrive for inbound customs check. In fact, it did not even show up in the airline computers. Bill theorizes that the suitcase and contents are now on offer somewhere at a Turkish bazaar.
We left for home mid-day on a Sunday, arrived back home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and fell asleep so quickly I don't even recall my head hitting the pillow.
But the adventure isn't over. It is just beginning! We now have invitations to visit workers all over the globe and an opening to develop and support the work to end slavery. International Teams is perfectly positioned–as now are we–to engage the battle in long-lasting, effective ways through people who give their lives for the purposes expressed in the book of Isaiah, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
“If we aren’t supposed to go, then block our way,” was our final prayer as Bill and I set out toward the airport under torrential rainfall. We found three routes blocked by floods. And the fourth road closed behind us, just as we reached the airport. No going back. Many flights were cancelled. Ours got out.
The past ten days that took us to Turkey and back have been an adventure, from start to finish!
Turkey (Türkiye) was a fascinating place. Amidst the countryside, very modest houses are clustered around impressive mosques and under the watchful eye of minarets from which go out the calls for prayer. The scene repeated every mile or so across farm covered valleys and hills.
I saw women covered from head to toe, despite the warm weather, marketplace merchants hustling wares with inflated descriptions and prices, inviting negotiation. Everywhere I went, I clearly stood out as one who did not belong. This was another world, and I was the alien.
Yet people are people everywhere, and using the two Turkish words I learned from a man on the plane, "Hello" and "Thank-you," won smiles and an appreciation that I was trying to connect to that world. Even so, basic German language skill (along with English) enabled me to engage in conversation with local people. Culture and language barriers between the woman in head scarf and long, shape-concealing overcoat and I (with uncovered head, a T-shirt dress and sandals) quickly dissolved when the topic turned to motherhood and cooking.
To be continued