Archive for August, 2011

21 August 2011

Summer of Love

What I shared this morning at Numa. Unfortunately & fortunately not word for word, since the phone I was reading off of died after the first few sentences.

 

Today, I’m going to talk to you about love.

I think that there are lots of different kinds of love. I’m sticking to the English language for today, so I’ll be using different typefaces to illustrate the various kinds of love that emerged in my life this summer.

For starters, there’s Love146. Love146, the home of my internship for the summer, is an organization that works to abolish child sex slavery and exploitation. Although I was a communications intern, mainly working on graphic design, I frequently came face to face with the painful and unfortunate reality of the modern day slave trade.

As I found myself delving deeper and deeper into this heartbreaking issue, I was especially struck by the stories of trafficking here in our own backyard—the United States. The “pimp and ho” culture that is so often glamorized in our music and movies is actually a thin and sickening guise for the trafficking and exploitation of children, and I do mean children under 18, for sex.

The stories behind these exploited girls are unfortunately, very predictable. They run away from broken homes of sexual, physical, substance and emotional abuse, and are approached by a smooth, handsome and seemingly loving man who tells them that they would like to be their “boyfriend” and “daddy.” I’ll save the rest of the story for personal conversations…

Whenever I hear this story, I hear this— a child, coming from a home with only distorted shadows of love, is charmed by the offer of a more full, tangible definition of love.

In other words, the problem of sex trafficking isn’t about “good and evil.” It’s about love & it’s potential for it to be twisted and distorted into something that is actually quite painful. The only solution? Love. And who is Love, but God?

There are several characteristics of God’s Love that is unique to Him. I’m constantly experiencing more and more dimensions of this love, but this summer, I’ve specifically learned about three— His love is: nonsensical, never-ending, and action-inspiring.

His love is nonsensical: Jesus loved even when it was awkward, inappropriate, and just plain bizarre. He talked to the woman at the well, even if He wasn’t “supposed to.” Jesus’ nonsensical love is the only solution that would ever consider offering Love to both the traffickers and the victims of sex-trafficking as the solution.

His love is never-ending: Jesus never ever stopped loving, even when He faced direct opposition. Our capacity to love is limited. His isn’t.

His love is action-inspiring. When we come face to face with God’s love, we don’t sit around with hearts in our eyes, we go out and act! We tell the good news, we share our own stories, we heal, we sing, we play, we abolish slavery for the second time.

I’ll end with this last note about love—

In my life, I can identify three main “loves”: my love for art, my love for social justice, and my love for God. This summer, I have finally seen a glimpse of what it means for all three of these paths to cross. When all three loves collide— my nonsensical love for art, my action-inspiring love for social justice, and my never-ending love for God— I begin the journey of understanding the immensely complex reality of Jesus’ Love.

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11 August 2011

The Life

The meaning of love is fascinating in its infinite flexibility and ability to be modified and re-defined. At Love146, “Love is the foundation of our motivation.” I think that the same sentence could be used to describe a lot of things—all people are motivated by love, just different versions of it.

When I read the words of commercially exploited girls, I’m struck by the overt and powerful presence of love in the situation. In most cases, the girls come from situations in which love was seldom present, and when it was, was present in the form of fleeting visitations with foster parents, physical and emotional abuse, or in the concerned yet judgmental eyes of a neighbor. I think that we all have a deep craving for love—family, friends, romance. When a pimp approaches them with smooth and flattering words, luxurious gifts, and most importantly, unprecedented attention, the girls are understandably drawn towards him. This single man or woman, their trafficker, becomes the person that fills all the holes in the girls’ hearts—they become the single source of a love that should come from multiple people and relationships. They are simultaneously their boyfriend and their “daddy.”

There is a temptation to be appalled and frustrated when survivors say that they loved, or even still love, their trafficker. Upon a more careful observation however, it makes sense. Of course they love them— that relationship is what defined ‘love’ for them. In perspective, it was the most perhaps the most beautiful and tangible version or love that they had come across in their lives.

Both the survivors and the traffickers often refer to the commercial sex trade as “The Life.” The more I learn about this issue, the more appropriate this name seems to be. The girls and the pimps share “The Life,” or in other words, a functional and unique society nearly independent of the society it’s embedded in. Those involved in The Life have their own versions of the things that are unique to every other culture: economic systems, family structure, language, view of outsiders (those outside of The Life are often referred to as “squares”), and definitions of concepts like power, protection, and love.

Like all other groups of people, those in The Life, both the girls and the pimps, share an understanding of what ‘love’ is. This became apparent to me when I read the research done by Jody Raphael and Brenda Myers-Powell titled “From Victims to Victimizers: Interviews with 25 Ex-Pimps in Chicago” (September 2010). While I was reading the report, I found myself constantly forgetting that the interviews were with ex-pimps, not ex-prostituted girls. At first, I was mildly horrified—how could I confuse two completely different kinds of people? As I began to process the information, however, I realized that that wasn’t true: they weren’t two completely different kinds of people. Statistically, both the girls and pimps involved in The Life share similar household characteristics: domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, family members and neighbors involved in prostitution, and childhood physical and sexual abuse (Family Law Center Report, 2010). Even beyond the statistics, the ex-pimps are strikingly similar to the girls in their craving for respect, sense of importance, family, and love.

“First, it gave me power. Then it gave me respect, because everyone couldn’t do it and it gave you a sense of love.”

“I was attracted to the girls. I liked them and they liked me. We all had one main thing in common. We were hustling hard and wanted nice things. We came from sh—y places. It’s like we needed each other.”

“I created my own family, not the bas—ds I came from.”

This isn’t to excuse the actions of the traffickers— their actions are incredibly hurtful, inexcusable and leave a long lasting and painful scar in the lives of the girls. The realizations of their similarities helps open my eyes to the truth of what is needed in order to move towards the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation.

Love146 defines love as something that defends, protects, restores and empowers. Its mission is not to achieve abolition through punishment, but to serve justice through a stunning version of Love. I think that the most effective way to achieve abolition is to plug in this version of Love into the lives of those who do not receive it from another source. To give everyone the kind of Love that they deserve because a love that defends, protects, restores and empowers is powerfully transformative.

8 August 2011

Nonsensical Love

In my ongoing journey of learning more and more about the truths of sex slavery and exploitation, I feel like I’ve been hit with a barrage of information. Each documentary I watch or book I read, I’m faced with perspectives and potential solutions that are presented to be thoughtful, well-ground, logical. Of course, some of them are more well thought-out than others. The strange thing is, there aren’t any plans for solutions that I’ve come across that seem complete. There’s always one approach or another– not one clear solution but opinions, laws, programs, and organizational missions that clash and contradict one another. I’m left pining for my initial black-or-white view of the situation for the sake of having solid hope in a solution, relative ease in deciding which programs to support, and personal peace of mind.

What I’ve received is pretty much the opposite. I find my heart aching more and more for the traffickers and the pimps. The first “Tell Your Friends” session that Nicole led on the first day of my internship, the sentencing of Jarell Sanderson and Hassana Delia, the concentrated reading of Girls Like Us, the watching of Very Young Girls, the Task Force meetings with Jo and the other interns. They have all left me with the powerful, and quite frankly, sometimes unwanted conviction to offer love to the “bad guys” in the situation.

I’m constantly blown away at how Jesus loved, loves, and will love in the most inappropriate of times. He loves when it really, seriously, just doesn’t make sense. He also loves through actions that seem outrageous and bizarre.

How am I going to turn this conviction into action? I don’t know. I’m finding my place in the abolition movement and the kingdom of God, and I’m not sure that I’ll get to the end of that journey anytime soon. His unhindered creativity is immensely complicated, and I can only imagine what joys, passions, interests, challenges, and hungers He tucked away in my nooks and crannies of my soul when He created me.

There are so many offered maps on how to arrive at the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation. Love, more specifically the way Jesus defined and demonstrated Love, is the only one that rises beyond the locally logical solutions of the many separate groups of people who are working towards the same cause. It seems nonsensical, to offer Love to all, but His Love is the only solution untouched by the nonsense of our human hearts.