I don’t normally read much non-fiction, but the topic of human trafficking spoke to my heart. It’s one of those things that’s so heartbreaking and horrifying that many of us bury our heads in the sand and try not to acknowledge it. We prefer to think that this is something that happens in far-off lands and not in our own backyards, and if we do feel led to do something about it, we often don’t know what to do. We need to wake up to the sad reality that human trafficking, and specifically sex trafficking of children, is all around us; it’s happening every day all over the world. But there are many different ways that we can make a difference. I will share a few ideas with you after my book review.
From the Back Cover:
There is HOPE, even on the darkest of days
Katariina Rosenblatt was a lonely and abused young girl, yearning to be loved, wanting attention. That made her the perfect target. On an ordinary day, she met a confident young woman—someone Kat wished she could be like—who pretended to be a friend while slowly luring her into a child trafficking ring. A cycle of false friendships, threats, drugs, and violence kept her trapped.
As Kat shares her harrowing experiences, her ultimate escape, and her passionate efforts to now free other victims, you’ll see that not only is sex trafficking happening frighteningly close to home—it’s also something that can be stopped. Stolen is a warning, a celebration of survival, and a beacon of hope that will inspire you.
Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD, is living proof of the promise she heard long ago at a Billy Graham crusade that God would never forsake her. Katariina has a PhD in conflict analysis and resolution and an LLM graduate law degree in intercultural rights, and she works closely with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security to eliminate human slavery. She has also founded Stolen Ones—There Is H.O.P.E. for Me, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing other victims of human trafficking. [She has been featured on CNN and in Today’s Christian Woman and lives in Florida.]
Cecil Murphey has written or coauthored more than 130 books, including the bestselling 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper and the autobiography of Franklin Graham, Rebel with a Cause. He was a collaborator on the bestseller Gifted Hands with Dr. Ben Carson, Cecil resides in Georgia.
In Stolen, Katariina shares her own personal story about how she became a victim of sex trafficking, as well as how she later became a survivor.
She explains how her early life experiences set her up to be victimized. She learned helplessness and powerlessness as a young child from the relationship she witnessed between her father and mother. She admits that a strong, determined part of her personality came from watching her father. But she absorbed a victim mentality by watching her mother’s submission to her dad’s cruel and demanding ways.
In desperate need of friendship and acceptance, Katariina was easily lured in by a woman pretending to be her friend who seemed to show an interest in her life. This was the first person who tried to take advantage of her vulnerability. She was also later lured in by kind daddy-like figures who, at first, seemed to be offering her a safe place, but once she became comfortable, they began to ease her into unsafe situations. She did what they asked of her because she didn’t want to lose what she thought she’d found … what she thought was love and a sense of belonging.
Luckily, her mother had told her about Jesus being God’s Son and God being her heavenly Father when she was about three years old. She later went to a Billy Graham crusade, where she heard him say, “God has a plan for you” and “God will never leave you or forsake you.” She never forgot those words. In fact, those words came back to her time and time again, often serving as the catalyst that reminded her to turn to God for help.
At one point, she had a moment of clarity where she knew some men were using her and they weren’t planning on letting her go home again. She called out, “God, I’ve been so wrong. Help me. … I’m lost and I want to go home. … I don’t want to do these things. This isn’t love. Lord, I want to go home.”
While in the deepest darkness, she said, “God reached down and rescued me.” She was able to go home but not before being threatened by the men who said they loved her. At this time, Kateriina and her friends didn’t even realize that they had become prostitutes. No one talked about trafficking back then.
Although she says, “God, in his faithfulness, saved me for a second time,” still in Katariina’s mind, the lifestyle she was leading had become normal, and so she kept finding herself in situations where the abuse and violence were repeated. Even after she would get out of a dangerous situation and get back home, she couldn’t really get free of the vicious cycle of drugs, sex, and violence.
“Despite God’s help, nothing had changed inside me. So it happened again …”
Kateriina goes through a lot of challenging times throughout Stolen. Sometimes you want to cry for her; sometimes you want to just shake her. But you definitely get a better understanding of the tragic circle and cycle that affects the situations children like Kateriina get stuck in.
The book does have a positive ending with Kateriina discovering that God has brought her to a place and a position where she can minister to those in the prostitution and human trafficking circles because she’s been there and she can relate to them firsthand. Her nonprofit organization—There Is H.O.P.E. for Me—strives to stop trafficking through the voices of survivors helping other survivors.
“We do our ministry on a biblical basis. We want to give hope to those who are enslaved. Alone, I may only be one survivor, but united we are stronger than all of the traffickers. Together we can stop human trafficking!”
If you have children, think about this: what you say, what you don’t say, how you act or react to situations, and the way you let others treat you—your children will begin to see these behaviors and patterns as acceptable and normal. If you have healthy relationships, this is a good thing; if you don’t, you are setting them up to experience a similar lifestyle. If you don’t have children, perhaps you can serve a role as a friend and an encourager to the children who cross your path. All children need to know and feel that they have value and worth.
For the trafficking problem in impoverished countries, there are missionaries going into those areas to teach the families what to watch for to avoid sending their children into these unsafe situations. You can go on a mission trip (as our friends Julie and Jason Daniel and their daughters did through e3 Partners) or you can support the missions through prayer and/or financially.
Meanwhile, I encourage you to check out various organizations who seek to shut down the destructive industry of human trafficking and the people who profit from it. Maybe there is one that speaks to your heart. Below is a little information from a couple groups and people who are doing just that.
Trafficking is just one of the critical social issues tackled by e3 Partners (a ministry formed to Equip Christians to Evangelize in other cultures and Establish churches in various regions). In some poverty-stricken cultures, families will send their children off with people posing as religious leaders, successful businessmen, or sympathetic paternal figures in order to give them a chance at a better life. Unbeknownst to them, they are often sending their children right into the arms of slavery. Many are smuggled into neighboring countries and sold into sexual slavery while others are forced into harsh labor environments —often for less than $100.
e3 Partners says:
“Let’s end modern-day slavery by cutting it off from the source. Venture into remote villages where human trafficking rings are convincing poverty-stricken families to sell their own children. Reveal what’s really happening and save the next generation by sharing the simple truth that every life is priceless.”
“Ever since I came across a 13-year-old girl being sold for sex on Backpage, I’ve wondered why we tolerate it. Some 100,000 kids a year are trafficked in the US, and a simple way to help them would be to stop Backpage from profiting on them. Now some brave girls are standing up to Backpage. You go, girls!” —Nicholas Kristof, Half the Sky
Sex trafficking in America is one of the issues tackled by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in the TV show “A Path Appears.” Follow A Path Appears on Facebook to learn more about the individuals and organizations working to end trafficking and other human rights violations.
There are many efforts being made to educate families and communities about what to watch for as well as organizations like the one Katariina Rosenblatt founded to reach out to current victims. If you know of other people or groups that are working to end this worldwide epidemic or have personal experience with one, please feel free to post your information in the comments section so that others might learn about them and their efforts. Thank you for your caring heart.
Disclosure: I received this book free of charge from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.
Even if they don’t know what it means, everyone needs spiritual whitespace. If only we all clearly recognized this need in ourselves or in our loved ones, especially those who struggle with depression or some form of PTSD. Maybe we would be able to save them … save ourselves … from reaching that anguished breaking point where the only source of peace and solace available seems to be death.
On August 12th, Bonnie Gray, author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest wrote a tribute to Robin Williams and shared a letter she had written to her younger self. This is some of what she shared:
I wish I had a chance to talk with Robin in that dark moment he decided to take his life. I wish I could say something to bring him some hope, some comfort — the same way he brought a measure of it into my life through his art.
I’m telling you. I shed some tears. For my yesterday. For Robin.
For we are all soul-starved and hungry.
Soul-loneliness is our sad modern epidemic.
I wish I could tell you, Robin.
There is rest apart from death. There is hope in your hurt.
You can find home. God can meet you in your sorrow.
From her letter to her younger self, these are the words I believe we can all benefit from:
Be broken. Don’t run from it. Feel your need and dare to follow your dreams.
And when you feel you’ve been too broken and cannot stand the pain of being alone one breath longer — break your silence.
Tell someone. Anyone. Everyone. …
When you give yourself permission to need — to touch the place of empty, the place of wanting – that ache of unrequited desire will lead you to fulfill God-sized dreams imprinted in you before you were even named. …
Your need entwines you to Christ.
Brokenness is beauty to Him.
You are not forgotten.
In today’s post, Bonnie shares how the journey of telling her story prompted her recent invitation to lead a Spiritual Whitespace Retreat for Wounded Warriors from Fort Campbell, Kentucky in Nashville this weekend. Bonnie asks for prayer for herself and those who attend the event:
Pray for me, as I’ll be sharing my personal journey through non-combat PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks to active duty military leaders along with their spouses.
This will be a three-day retreat to guide soldiers on a journey of Spiritual Whitespace and experience spiritual refreshment through storytelling, journaling, prayer and meditation.
Pray that the brave men and women who serve our country will experience unexpected soul rest — and get a taste of what feeds their soul. That they will be known and rejuvenated from the experience.
Speaking of events for those who have served our country, we are having a local event here in Shelbyville, KY to honor our veterans and remind them that we appreciate them and are here for them.
One of the young ladies who used to work (maybe still does part-time) at Shelburne Pet Center (where Bella goes for doggy day care and boarding) came up with the concept for this First Annual Veteran’s Supper and she has been spearheading/organizing the entire event. “This event will honor veterans of the Shelby County, Kentucky area with an afternoon of delicious potluck food, fun local music entertainment, community business basket raffles, and commemoration to the sacrifices they have made for our community.”
I pray that this rejuvenates the spirits of our veterans and their families. Thank you to Molly Carter for not only caring about your hometown, but for being an integral part of making it a better place to live for all of us. I wish you much success, and I’ll see you up there on Saturday. 🙂
In closing, here are just a few of my favorite veterans and VFW members, which I recently shared on my Facebook page:
I have other family members and many friends who have also served or are still serving – thank you all for what you have done and what you continue to do. I hope you never feel alone or forgotten. If you do, call me!
“God has said,
‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’
So we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?'”
Today I am proud to post a sermon from my father-in-law, H.B. Fuller (retired pastor but forever a preacher) that ties in wonderfully with my post from yesterday. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Do you ever feel like giving up? We all go through those periods when we want to throw in the towel. This is the pattern a lot of us go through. Listen and see if this is not similar to your experience. You feel people are saying things about you that just are not true. Work is a drudgery. Even things you used to do for pleasure become a task. You are tired, irritated with those who love you the most. Life loses its joy. Depression, frustration and a tinge of paranoia become your bedfellows.
About at this point, God raises up some friends who prove to be [true] friends. These Christian friends support, pray for, and love us. They have taken seriously Hebrews 10:25:
“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
How desperately we all need encouragement. It is wonderful to have a friend who does not hesitate to point out flaws in our Christian faith and conduct. This finest of encouragement is possible only between two friends who trust each other, and know each other well enough to laugh together at each other’s expense.
The creation of this living fellowship is surely one of the most urgent tasks of the church. Anyone who sets their mind to it can be an encourager. It requires no degree or ordination. All one needs is the willingness to give oneself to another person.
Interestingly, the word in the Bible reading in the 11th verse [1 Thessalonians 5] that the NIV translated “encourage” has its root in the word parakalos, usually translated “comfort.” When you make a noun out if it, the word becomes “comforter,” which we define as “one called alongside of.” The supreme Comforter is the Holy Spirit. When we become encouragers or comforters, we are doing work akin to that of the Holy Spirit. How awesome!!! What a privilege and responsibility to be permitted to work alongside of the Holy Spirit to encourage a struggling brother or sister. And yet there is the exhortation “encourage one another” (v. 11).
- ENCOURAGEMENT IS A PERSON
During one of the major offensives of World War II, Dwight Eisenhower was walking near the Rhine River and came upon a GI who seemed depressed. “How are you feeling?” the General asked. “Sir,” the young man replied, “I’m awful nervous.” “Well,” Eisenhower said, “You and I are a good pair then, because I’m nervous, too. Maybe if we just walk along together we’ll be good for each other.”
No speech, words of wisdom, or special advice necessary, just one person giving of himself to another.
Encouragement means “coming alongside to impart courage.” In a sense, encouragement is one person giving strength and support to another by osmosis, just being there radiating light, spiritual nourishment, strength. When we encourage, we snuggle up to an individual and show we care.
One of the great callings of the New Testament church, one of the great responsibilities of individual Christians is encouragement. Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” came alongside Paul to give him needed support for entrance in the early church. Let’s read the record in the Bible—maybe God will teach you a lesson I do not see. It is found in Acts 9:26–28:
“And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem.”
Paul not only benefited from Barnabas’ encouragement, but he learned the lesson well. Later, he became an encourager himself, especially for his young friend Timothy.
Encouragement is a person—you and I—an encourager giving self to another in distress—the distressed experiencing the benefit of his friend’s presence and taking up the ministry himself.
- ENCOURAGEMENT IS A WORD
Consider the following sound advice from Proverbs 25:11:
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
The Japanese have a saying, “one kind word can warm up three winter months.”
We all need encouragement whose “pleasant words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers’ football coach was a feared disciplinarian. But he never leveled a man without also seeking to launch him. One day he chewed out a player who had missed several blocking assignments. After practice, Lombardi stalked into the locker room. The player was sitting at his locker head down, dejected.
Lombardi mussed his hair, patted him on the shoulder, and said, “One of these days you are going to be the best guard in the NFL.” That guard was Jerry Kramer and he said he carried that positive image of himself the rest of his career.
“Lombard’s encouragement had a tremendous impact on my whole life,” he said. Kramer went on to become a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and a part of the NFL’s ALL 50-YEAR TEAM.
Do you offer encouraging words? Paul Tillich [one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century] said, “Almost every person you meet is fighting a great battle within.” People everywhere are in need of an encouraging word, an uplifting compliment, or a note of encouragement. Many Christians are discouraged and faltering in the faith. You can spur them on with your inspiring words.
What words to say? Sometimes one approach, sometimes another. BE THERE, GO and SAY something (make sure what you say is from the heart)—“I love you in the Lord.” “We care about you.” “I am praying for you.” “I am asking God to meet your need.” Be sure you ask God to give you the appropriate things to do and say.
Go to the hurting person when possible. If this is not possible, send a letter of affirmation, a note of congratulations, a pep talk, or a kind word from you. If you send a greeting card, write a personal note, even if it is no more than one line. You would be surprised at how many people read only what you wrote.
Your personal word, from the heart, inspired by God, can and often does make an eternal difference in someone’s life. It has in my life.
- ENCOURAGEMENT IS A CHURCH
The Bible makes it clear that the church is distinctive from the world in the area of encouragement. Our society [often] seeks to depress and defeat; the body of Christ desires to inspire and uplift. “We are called out ones,” the set aside ones. One of the distinctive callings of the Christian is to be an encourager. Listen again to the text from I Thessalonians 5:11:
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,
just as you are doing.”
It can’t be any plainer. The church is [to be] a safe place of encouragement.
The early church was acquainted with persecution. Martyrdom was a daily occurrence. These people had reason to be depressed. Consequently, the author of Hebrews wrote a letter of hope and perseverance.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hear closely Hebrews 10:25:
“not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
The body of Christ gathers for worship and fellowship with other believers. The church offers the warmth of a bonfire. But when we remove ourselves, the fire diminishes. Three times a week [let alone once a week] is little enough for the body of Christ to assemble itself together to be warmed by each other’s spiritual heat. Together hope is fortified, and life is renewed.
Christians thrive as a group, bunched up together. We are not designed to be loners. We draw strength from each other. When God’s people bunch up to pray, praise, preach—the power of God is magnified and individuals are encouraged.
Many Christians take seriously the ministry of encouragement. A church in Oregon provides encouragement cards in the pew rack. Members take time before the worship service to write notes of encouragement to each other and others. These cards are collected and mailed.
Encouragement is the overall theme at a Texas church. The sanctuary is called “The Encouragement Center.” The pastor’s message on the weekly bulletin is labeled “The Encouraging Word.” The church newsletter is titled “The Encourager.” But more importantly, the membership takes seriously the need to encourage one another. No wonder people are attracted to this growing church.
Find someone who needs encouragement. Give of yourself, say a word, or introduce him or her to the church—the safe encouraging place—or to Jesus—the encouraging Savior.
Sunday school classes must emphasize the ministry of encouragement. Teachers, please work on this. Give priority to it. If for one reason or another you cannot, encourage some of your members who appear to have this ability.
Of course, our best friend is Jesus. He is the premier encourager. If you do not know Him as Savior, now is the time.