So what can you do next? From one white person to another

The last week has been a heavy one. It’s one thing to hear of a murder — it’s another thing to actually watch it. And it’s yet another thing to get smacked back to the reality of the fear black people in this country must live through each day.

There is a place for protest, and there is a place for social media posts, and there is a place for outward displays of solidarity. We need that, now more than ever.

Yet many of you like me have often been left wondering, “What next can I do?” I want to make several suggestions of some thoughtful and practical next steps.

Who is this for

While I’m sure anyone could read this post, mainly I’m writing from my own perspective as a 30-something, white, middle-class, Christian, college-educated, working mother. I’m writing to my friends, those I went to high school and college with, those who look like me and we generally have similar values. We grew up ignorant about the Black American struggle (an entirely different post to write about), yet we’ve come face to face with it in the past 10 years and had to grapple with it’s reality, the duplicity of our faith, and the pain our silence has caused. We know more than we’ve ever known, but we’re unsure where the next step should be.

If that sounds like you, then this post may be one you should read.

Step 1: Look around

Pre-COVID-19 we all often were in groups, in conferences, at events, at church, getting together at gatherings. Think about those gatherings, and observe even now the groups you virtually meet in.

Ask yourself: is there a black person present here?

Why or why not? If your church meets in a neighborhood that is 50% white, 50% black, why are there only white people present?

If you’re at work, observe how many people of color are there. At a favorite music concert or special conference, as you scan the audience, do you see other colors?

Then give yourself some space to think through why the racial makeup is what it is. Talk about it with someone else in your group.

Think about where you live, where you eat, all the activities you do. Who are your friends? Are any of them black?

I made a presumption about those that read this that you are able to not be afraid or offended by these questions. There’s nothing to be afraid of. The worst thing that can could come as a conclusion is that a group you’re emotionally invested and connected to is explicitly prejudiced. And there are solutions to that.

But before you come to any conclusions, just look around and observe the realities of your life.

Step 2: Ask questions at the leadership table

Many of us are now sitting in places of leadership, or at least have a seat at the table. We spent our 20’s being told to not speak or think and just do what we were told. Now we have work and life experience, and we are either managers or creating some businesses, programs or systems. The leaders are starting to listen to our ideas and giving us departments to manage.

So now that you are at the Leadership Table, look around. Are there any black people? Usually we give a sigh of relief that we are emphatically not racist or prejudice because we have people of color in our workforce, or at our church, or apart of the ministry, or in our friend group, or in the student body.

However, the only real test of an organization or system is whether or not they give black people a seat at the leadership table, hands untied.

You get the opportunity now to bring up that question in your next leadership meeting. “Why are there no black people on leadership here?” And see what kind of response you get. I’ve asked this question often. I don’t do it to bring shame or judge. I try very hard to simply be curious, knowing that the response I get will reveal truth.

But don’t stop with that first curious question. If they say, “Well, no black person has ever approached us about being on the leadership team.” Follow up with, “Well, why is that?” “Um, maybe because we don’t know any black people.” “Oh, well, why is that?” “I think they just don’t want to be here.” “Why is that?”

You just opened up some real conversations now. It will be uncomfortable, and the conversation may go differently than above, but just keep asking, “Why?” until you get some real answers, and hopefully some way forward. Because until black people have places of leadership in civil, community, and business organizations, there simply cannot be realistic change.

If we want less of George Floyd stories, we have to let black people have positions of leadership. And that won’t happen until we start pressing the current leadership for change since we already have a spot at the table.

Step 3: Listen quietly

We love to have something to say in any conversation. If someone shares a story, we want to share a similar one. If someone has a struggle, we want to show we too have struggled in some way. I think it’s just the human condition. We want to be accepted and to find common group with whoever we are talking to. I think it’s also just a social expectation.

But there are many situations where it’s not necessary to talk. I learned this during a one-month service trip in Spain and England right after grad school. I was serving and working alongside recovering drug addicts who worked in the businesses the organization had set up for them to recover and build skillsets. I’ll never forget the stern lecture the director gave us when we arrived. “You are here to learn and your mindset should be ‘I am a person of no importance,’ and so you can ask questions and serve the people here. That’s it.”

Little did I know how that “training” would prepare me for understanding and listening to my black friends and community in Chicago. Generally, it’s something I’ve had to practice when talking to anyone who has experienced trauma and distressing experiences. You ask questions, and then you listen, and then you say, “I’m so sorry.” Repeat, repeat, repeat. You don’t explain your past, you don’t share a similar experience you’ve had, you don’t try to make them feel better. You sit there and share in solidarity.

Depending on your relationship and how long you’ve had these talks and discussions, you may feel the place to ask what they think you could do better in your place in life with the connections you have.

Another place to listen is in a group of black people. Have you ever been in a group where you were the only white person, or at least in the minority? Oh, and let me add, *in America* (cause I know lots of you have gone on missions trips overseas). If you haven’t, try to find a situation where you are. Church is a great place, because you already know you have a common faith and it’s a natural place to show up as a visitor. Be present, listen, and listen more. Observe how it feels to be the minority. Remind yourself how comfortable you feel when you are the majority, yet there are always those in the minority.

Just keep listening. And learning. Quietly.

Step 4: Start with you

We each have a range of impact in our own life. We also have the privilege to make decisions for our lives and our families. We’re not victims to the busyness our life leads us. You can make changes.

Take inventory of all the things you do. Work, church, home, community, recreation, fitness, friends.

In which area can you start making long-term adjustments to have more color? Perhaps there’s a black woman at work you have become friends with but don’t know her family. Maybe you can invite them over and begin regular family hang-out times with them at each other’s houses? Maybe you have a YMCA membership and you always go to the one in town that has predominately white people — but you could start going to the one on the other side of town that has predominately a black clientele?

Another way to start with you — do you currently or have you ever had someone in authority over you that was black? Anybody? Go find yourself a black business or spiritual mentor. Join a church with a black pastor. Take a job under a black executive team. It matters, it all really does.

Now go ahead

That’s all I’ve got for now. I think it’s a good starting place for all of us. I’ve worked on these for years and I have quite a ways to go. We all have quite a ways to go. But to move forward, it starts with us. It starts with you. You do have a voice, and you need to start using it.

If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

How to make it when all goes wrong: a Thanksgiving reflection.

Everyone has their own journey, their own winding path. Some difficulties are wide open for all to see, and then some are quiet and secret, hidden away from the obvious conversations of life.

The journey of me and my husband this year has definitely been the former — the journey that was filled with so many clear, out-in-the-open struggles that it was impossible to keep it out of conversations.

As a recap…

Last year on December 15, 2018 we got married on a wondrous, whirlwind, adventurous day.

And the adventure was only about to get more adventurous.

Because… at the end of January we found out we were pregnant.

Our already-begun future plans about potential visas to visit the US, job opportunities near or far, and ideas of where to plant our lives now included carrying a pregnancy, giving birth, and all the intricate details that come along with that.

For those that were closest to us during that time, you’ll know how difficult things quickly got. 2 more tourist visa applications got denied, we struggled with figuring out timing of eventually seeing each other (which we hoped would happen during the pregnancy), navigating jobs and finances and maternity leave, and me ending my lease and having to move and store all my belongings without knowledge if they should stay there short or long term. Then struggling with deciding if I needed to plan to save and prepare to travel back to Tanzania if his spousal visa took as long as it could possibly take (1-2 years), figuring out how I’d get a passport for our son if that happened, and what I’d have to do for a job if I did have to go back. Then the other option if I stayed and waited for Peter, what I’d do if I had to single parent for an undetermined amount of time, and how I could juggle work and a newborn. Then the hardest scenario, working through if Peter didn’t make it for the birth, how I would handle that alone, what would I do if something went wrong, how sad it would be to experience that alone, how afraid I was to do all of it alone…

People, the list could go on and on with the continual stresses and potential stresses that we dealt with every day while separated. The daily unknown was hard, and then slowly watching hopes die of being together at all during the pregnancy. I don’t have really have space to explain the emotional toll that took on both of us.

So how did we get through it?

How did we bear every single disappointment, one after another, including Peter not being there in time and being present for my labor signs, admittance to the hospital, natural induction methods, unmedicated labor, baby stress signs, emergent C-section as I neared pushing, our baby Jackson being immediately admitted to NICU due to meconium aspiration, the uncertainty of waiting several days to see if there was an damage due to potential lack of oxygen, 24 longs days in the NICU while I lived on the hospital site in their Ronald McDonald House before finally going home– how did we bear it all?

How could we possible not be angry and bitter, disconnected in bearing our own sadness and emotions, and spiring out due to the continual anxiety?

How could our marriage thrive, our individual selfs feeling more close and known to the other, our bitterness wane away, and our trust in God grow?

One word.


We talked and Skyped anywhere between 2-3 times a day, and I cannot remember a single day, especially in the 2-3 months prior to birth, where at some point in the conversation we didn’t express something we were thankful for in our situation.

There was a lot to be angry and bitter and frustrated and sad about. There really was. And we talked about those things too.

But oh there was so much to be thankful for.

Thankful for my parents who took me back in to live with them.

Thankful that I didn’t have to stress about paying rent or other general living expenses.

Thankful that our family’s church in Indiana was so kind and supportive and giving, always praying all the time for us.

Thankful for all the friends who continually reached out and prayed for us and really cared about everything.

Thankful for the several work opportunities and clients I was able to get that allowed me to work from home and do only virtual work.

Thankful for my above and beyond health during my pregnancy, to the point where I actually even liked it at times.

Thankful for our baby’s health during the whole pregnancy.

Thankful for the great healthcare insurance I had.

Thankful for the total of 3 baby showers we were thrown and how we hardly had to spend any money on buying baby supplies.

Thankful for the midwife group who really cared about us and took such good care of me.

Thankful for the doulas who so fully loved us and looked out for me during my whole pregnancy and birth.

Thankful for Peter’s job that allowed him the flexibility to travel to Dar Es Salaam (very far away from his city) several times in order to take care of business at the embassy there.

Thankful for friends who graciously gave us their car shortly before our baby arrived.

Thankful that although it felt like an eternity for Peter to get his approvals for the spousal visa and Green Card, in total from beginning to end it was 5 1/2 months, and most cases are taking easily 1.5 – 2 years.

Thankful that we got pregnancy so fast because that ended up being the linchpin to Peter getting his visa so quickly and giving additional proof to the validity of our marriage.

Thankful for Kathie, and immigration specialist at a Congressional office in our town, who personally advocated for our case, getting us expedited several times along the way. Near the end she was calling the office every day to help Peter get his final interview scheduled in hopes he’d be home before the baby arrived.

Thankful that by time Peter did get all his approvals, we had enough money to cover all the crazy amounts of immigration fees and travel costs to move to the US.

Thankful that God gave me so much grace during my labor and delivery, that I didn’t really experience any anxiety and fear, which really was a complete miracle given everything that happened.

Thankful that our marriage was built on friendship, love and commitment, and that we were able to thrive on those non-superficial things even though separated for 7 1/2 months.

Thankful that we practiced self control and willingness to not give into our physical and sexual desires during our dating and engagement, which gave us so much trust in each other during our separation.

Thankful we both loved God and were mature in our faith so that this trial didn’t tear apart something weak, but rather bonded a strength even stronger.

Thankful for our journey and the stories it would bring to our children and their children one day.

Thankful we could be thankful, and that we had the gift of life.

Just… thankful.

People always said to me during that time, “Wow, you are so strong,” and I know that is what it came across as on the outside. And at first it bothered me because, you know, don’t you know how much I have suffered?!

But now I realize something.

Being thankful does make you strong. And it is possible to be strong and suffering at the same time. In fact, maybe that’s how it should be. It’s our time of both weakness and strong, because at that point God can work in us and through us, and we become most like Him and who he created us to be in the first place. Our full humanity is on display, and our full Image of God.

So be thankful today. It’s not pretending. You aren’t lying when you are going through a tough time and people ask, “How are you,” and you say, “You know, I’m really thankful for…” It broadens your perspective and thickens your emotional muscle.

You are most real when you are most honest with your weaknesses, and at the same time can speak over them about what you have to be thankful for.

It’s a bitter life to only be thankful when everything is going your perfect way. Because that will never ever happen.

So be thankful and let your real strength be strengthened, and your real Godlikeness to shine brightest.


Marriage Without Benefits

It’s common to hear the phrase jokingly tossed around, “Friends with benefits.” You know, someone that gets to have the pluses of a relationship (normally some sort of physical contact or sex), but can still hang in the friendzone and not worry about taking things too seriously, to the next level.

There’s probably a part of many of us that pretty much looks down on that approach to dating and relationship. We disdainfully think we’d never actually stoop to such a level, to use someone else only for our pleasure so as to selfishly protect our own lives by not ever committing to them as a person.

“Friends with benefits” is shorthand for “I use you as long as I get what I want, and as long as I never have to give up anything in return.”

And we think, “Thank God I’m not like that kind of person.”

But I’m starting to wonder now that if the test of true love isn’t the decision to not live out “Friends with benefits,” but perhaps is the willingness to embrace on the opposite spectrum, “Marriage without benefits.”

What is marriage all about anyway?

Recently I’ve had to really think through what marriage is really made up of. Between the point of signing a paper together and the big house, 3 kids and a white picket fence …. where does the reality lie?

Me and my husband Peter haven’t even been married 8 months, yet we’ve had quite the wild, difficult, beautiful, crazy adventure so far. From the beginning of our relationship (a whopping 15 months ago) it was always about trying to be together. Trying to keep moving forward with the lives we currently had but doing what we could to merge them together into one.

That, my friends, proved to be pretty much impossible. We learned quickly we couldn’t hold on to our personal lives and each other.

A little background about us…

Ironically, from the very get-go of our relationship I made it very clear that I felt God was clearly leading me into school in the US for the next several years, and the only way we could date is if he followed me on this path.

Believe me, I said this with much apprehension and insecurity. I had really wrestled with the internal struggle, that I’m sure many single women deal with, that if I commit to one defined path, especially if it places me in a theoretically “higher position,” that my options for marriage would be that much more limited. That most men expect the woman to change her path and calling, and maybe even her own self, to fit him and his calling. That I’d have to have the conversation that I’m not willing to give up my calling because I believe so strongly that God has called me into it. And that I’d have to have enough self-respect and belief to actually say those words, that I’m worth sacrificing for too.

And it came to that point with Peter, because initially he wasn’t interested in moving to America at all. Actually, it was a pretty hard, “No.” He thought that because of my many recent trips to Africa and my love for the culture that I would be interested in moving there. But at that time I wasn’t– at least not right away. I literally already had a speech prepared for this exact kind of scenario — I choose this calling over marriage, if it comes down to it.

Then things took a surprising turn after a few weeks of talking. As we learned more about each other and saw the mutual connection and respect, he told me that if I was the girl God had for him, then he would go wherever I was. If that meant moving to the US, then he would do that. That if something was already in motion for me in my life, he would sacrifice his current position in life and join mine.

It really shocked me and blew my mind. He would be willing to do that? Deep down I was glad though, because I found myself drawn and connected to him in ways I’ve never encountered with another guy. It was amazing. And all that was needed next was for him to come check out my life back in the States and prepare for next steps.

And then enters the scene the road less traveled (literally, it’s that way because of immigration). I’ve traveled the world without a hitch. I’ve literally gone into semi-hostile countries and simply had to fill forms and pay fees. I have now come to realize that the US passport is often a free, easy ticket to Anywhere, World.

Not so for Peter, a Tanzanian. He was denied a tourist visa without really any explanation. That was hard to hear because that visit was supposed to happen so that he could meet my family and we could get engaged with plans of getting married in the US after I finished my one-year master’s degree at the University of Chicago.

And then it quickly got worse — a month later he tried to reapply and was denied because he reapplied too soon, and we were faced with the harsh reality he may not get to come as a visitor anytime soon. We knew this train was going towards marriage, yet at that point we were advised against the fiancé visa route, which is actually a really long process (1-2 years) and complicated and we weren’t even promised it would work given our relationship was so new and recent.

At this point we concluded that the only way to really be together and to give us the best options for the future would be to get married sooner than later. And that could only happen in Tanzania, not the US.

So rewind back before immigration stunted many options — here he was in May of last year soon after we decided to seriously date, willing to let go of his life in order to love me.

And then 3 months later, after facing the harsh realities of immigration and separation, here I was, the tables turned, realizing that I had to let go of my life in order to love him.

That meant losing some dear things to me. Not getting to have a wedding surrounded by all my friends and family. Not getting the chance for everyone dear to me to meet my fiancé. Not getting to pursue a master’s/pre-doctorate program in social enterprising that year and instead putting it off for the future. Letting go of things I didn’t realize were so tied to my expectation for meaning and happiness.

Yes, I came to realize that I knew, deep down, that when it came to marriage and lifelong partner commitment, Peter would always be my first choice.

And realizing it’s not because of how amazing he is. But because that’s who I choose to be.

And so we moved forward into engagement, and then marriage 3 months later. It was a beautiful, sweet experience getting married in Tanzania, having a wedding that was quite the unique blend of Tanzanian and American culture. And I think it would be safe to say it was something way beyond my wildest imaginations or expectations!

And so we thought that the difficult part was behind us, that once married it would make doors open easier for us with plans of the future.

But that, my friends, was a misplaced expectation.

Pregnancy and immigration don’t mix

I had not always been one to dream about starting a family and having kids. But once I met Peter, I knew I was ready to have children with him. It was as if the desired fully blossomed overnight.

We hoped, if possible, to have a child in the first year. And, well, we’ve been married and pregnant for 8 months, so I’d say that worked out pretty well! Ironically, it may be quite the only thing that has worked out for us.

We knew we were pregnant during those first married months in Tanzania, but what we didn’t know for certain is where we would, and could, live. We spent many hours working through plans A, B, and C even before we got the positive pregnancy test. Immigration and work visas are complicated no matter where you try to live in the world (yes, even in Tanzania).

Once we knew we were pregnant, we agreed that I would give birth in the US. We also at this point made the wrong assumption that being married would make it relatively easy for Peter to come visit for several months so he could be present for the birth. His organization, an international non-profit with headquarters in the US, had already offered to bring him over for a business tourist visa to do training and work-related activities.

And so on March 12th this year we said goodbye at the airport in Mwanza, fully expecting for Peter to come join me in no more than 2 months. It wasn’t as difficult as it had been when we were engaged and having to say goodbye for a while. I had such grounded hope and faith that God had such a great plan for our lives together.

But again, the wall of dashed hopes and crushed expectations.

And to this date it’s been over 5 months since I’ve seen him in person. I’ve gone through the 2nd trimester and am well into the 3rd. So many moments have happened that I wanted, and probably needed, him here to be with me.

We hit massive levels of disappointment and crisis. They seemed to all happen at the same time in the span of a month earlier this summer. He was denied his tourist visa again. I had the heartbreaking conversation with a government immigration specialist that he would most likely never get a tourist visa because we’re married, and the only way he could come would be a spousal visa. And those normally take 1-2 years to process. And then the process of trying to apply for an expedite but having documentation returned and having to resubmit. And then trying to both visit Canada to see each other and that getting denied as well. And then moving out of my apartment and not have a place of my own to live. And then me not having regular income, on top of the stress of knowing I would not be able to work soon with the baby coming and no paid maternal leave.

It really nearly broke hope in both of us. There was a specific day where all the bad dreams came true, the fears came to life, and we didn’t have any tangible hope to cling on to. It seemed that all my worst fears would come to pass. I didn’t just want Peter to be with me; I needed him.

This was the “all is lost” moment. I didn’t know if I would see Peter again in another 5 months or 1 year. I didn’t know where I would be living after I had the baby. I didn’t know not just how I would pay my current bills, but how I as self-employed would provide for myself and a baby once I had to go on maternity leave. He wouldn’t be at my ultrasounds. We couldn’t share the gender reveal party with my family. I couldn’t decorate our own baby room. There may be no couple pregnancy photos. There may be no husband present during the birth of our child. What if something went wrong? What if I had to always be alone?

That day, that very bad, horrible day, I had to face the fears and the real future possibilities, without any “Well, maybe this positive thing will happen and everything will be okay.”

No, I had to realize I was in a marriage without benefits.

We think of and see marriage in all it’s really good, glorious terms. Going out to dinner, having friends over for the evening, being physically near to each other, having intimacy and sex, cooking together, experiencing pregnancy together, sharing financial resources, showing up at events as a couple, sharing a laugh in the moment you have it together, and even just the simple comfort of not being home alone at night.

But that day, I just had to see what “was,” and the reality of what we were living without, not pretending it’s all alright to live without these things. I had to accept that, sure, maybe one day (maybe) things will be different, but right now, this is our situation and these are the very real things we have to accept to live without.

At the end of that weeping day, and I didn’t know what to even say to Peter when we Skyped, something gave up in me. I gave up on holding out that I would get all these “benefits,” especially in regards to the pregnancy. You could also probably call them “expectations.”  I sat down, exhausted from all the crying and sleeplessness, stared at my Whatsapp screen for a moment, breathed out, and wrote,

“Sorry it’s hard for me to process right now — and every time I start working through it I can’t stop crying, so that makes everything uncomfortable. I feel like nothing is working for us, like everything is a disappointment. I don’t understand what’s going on, and it’s hard to find positive things to think about for the future. But I’ll always choose you Peter. For better and worse.”

I’m not sure why exactly, but everything changed for me in that moment. Like, everything. Yes, I’ve had my bad days on and off. But they aren’t the kind where the bottom completely drops out like they did previously. I get sad, but I don’t get terrified. I’m able to grieve the moment in the moment, but not lose sight of the deeper reality.

I’ve realized now that the real benefit of marriage is so much greater than the tangible. We don’t get to have an Instagramable life. We don’t get to have many of the benefits everyone tells you you’d better make sure you get before you commit to marriage.

This is our Instagramable marriage

But what we do have is something you can’t put in pictures or contrive on a date night.

Faithfulness. Vulnerability. Generosity. Purity. Encouragement. Selflessness.

It’s this freedom that I’m choosing to love him when there’s no particular material benefit. And also, on the other hand, to accept being loved for no other reason than me being myself, not for anything I bring to the table.

Perhaps when you come to the place where you know you choose your marriage and your person even though it’s of no material benefit to you, that perhaps you’ve entered into a pure place.

This is why marriage is so symbolic of our Faith

I also immediately felt God drawing me to another plain, to the cross, and look at the kind of love that Jesus displayed for us, for me. He of all people chose us when there was zero benefit for him to do so. He could have left the cross, but he stayed.

I am no marriage expert, but maybe before we check out of relationships and marriage, we should discern why we’re doing it. Is it because that person has ceased to offer you any additional benefits to being single?

Do we get married so that we might increase?

Or do we get married so that we give ourselves away so that the other might increase?

It’s a beautiful thing when both have that same intention. It’s unbelievably difficult when only one does, or neither.

Jesus gives us hope on both ends. We were always the ones to abandon, to betray, to dishonor, to be selfish. But he stayed. He stayed and wooed us close in covenantal love until we drew close to him. And he continues to love those who aren’t and won’t ever choose him.

So here we are, living apart but so completely together. It’s grown my faith to be so much more tangible, so much more understanding of my relationship with God. And it’s only his grace that has given me the ability to choose Peter and not get bitter because my needs aren’t met and I don’t get to have what I think would be best for me — and strength when I don’t get things that I probably do really need.

Humility to accept being loved

Can I also say that it not only takes great faith to choose marriage without benefits, but it takes great courage to accept being loved when you have nothing to offer? There are very real tangible ways I know Peter needs me, but I can’t be there for him. And there are ways I need Peter, and he isn’t able to meet those needs for me. It takes a whole lot of humility and solid identity to be able to accept love when all the things you were proud of for yourself that you felt were strengths you brought to your marriage are actually of no value at the moment.

You must wrestle with, and accept, “I am enough.”

I can’t tell you how much I admire Peter. I’ve watched him watch me struggle, knowing he wants so bad to be able to be here and take care of me and walk with me. And though that is so hard for him, it’s become clear that his faith and identity isn’t rooted in his works. He knows who he is, and that what he does does not define this worth. It’s been amazing how much stability that has brought to our relationship. Him knowing his worth has been worth more than any other material benefit.

For us, this experience (and the journey is still continuing) has taught us that pros and cons lists are not super helpful ways to step into marriage. Yes, there are some really practical tips and signs to look for. Wisdom is a pretty big deal when it comes to choosing marriage.

But ultimately, we drastically need a mental shift.

Love is not freedom to get what you really want in the deepest part of your heart. Love is giving away from the deepest part of your heart.

It’s not self-hate or self-spite — it’s actually the most powerful form of love for another and one’s own self. We were made to do this. We were made to love and to be ultimately tested by having all gain taken away from us.

Because then we know deep down that it’s a love of purity and not ultimately for personal benefit.


What does it mean to give up privilege?


It can be a pretty hot topic word nowadays.

“Our mission is to serve the underprivileged.”

“They’re just a bunch of spoiled, privileged rich kids.”

“What’s all the talk about ‘white privilege’? I don’t act privileged.”

As much as we’d like to attach behavior to privilege, that isn’t actually the definition of it.

You see, having a privilege is something you swim in. Like a fish, you can’t tell that you are wet. You just are.

And like a fish, often you didn’t choose or control the world of privileges that you were given. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing either.

It just is what it is.

The only time a fish can realize that it functions best being wet is only when it’s taken out of the water. Then, scarily enough, it realizes the thing that caused it’s world to function best was the water it swam in.

Where privilege gets confused.

What we have in our world is not a problem of fish living happily and functionally in good water. That’s a perfectly good thing.

It when those fish don’t realize that it’s the water that gave them an advantage and they assume that it was all their hard work and good morals that caused their success.

It’s when they hold their same high expectations to the other less fortunate fish that were washed up on shore due to a storm and haven’t been able to get back into the water.

The difference between the 2 fish isn’t hard work and intelligence.

The difference is one lives in the water, and one doesn’t.

Where privilege goes wrong.

Sometimes the fish that are doing well swimming in the ocean get really bitter when the fish on the shore are given help to get into the water (especially if it’s a government program).

The fish complain, “But I did all this hard work to build my life in this ocean, and that lazy fish over there is in that situation due to it’s own choices. Don’t you dare use our water to assist. That fish needs to create it’s own ocean.”

Often these fish don’t even realize they are wet and swimming in a high-functioning ocean, that the systems around them benefitted them to a place of success.

When you don’t know you have privilege, you can only be judgmental.

When you know you have privilege but don’t want to share it, you can only be selfish.

What do we do with privilege?

Now, some of us recognize the certain privileges that got us to where we are (ranging from education, literacy, gender, race, family, wealth, place of birth, country of origin), and some of us have more of them than others.

But we’re somewhat unsure of what to do with those privileges.

We can’t deny them. They exist. I live in it. I’m the fish that’s sopping wet with those privileges.

So, we can simply embrace them and accept the realities of the benefits we individually have.

“I acknowledge that coming from a family of high morals and ethics have me a privilege of soundness of mind, of childhood development knowing I am loved and worthwhile, and of family support for my life decisions.”

“I acknowledge that being white grants me safety, respect, and perception of power and wealth in many places in the world, including my home country.”

“I acknowledge that being a male immediately grants me better work opportunities and higher pay, while also bestowing a presence of power in most settings.”

So I get the part where we accept what is and become aware of it.

But I really struggle with what to do with my privilege.

Normally, we start getting all action-oriented and start making plans.

“Ok, so I have all these benefits that others don’t. I have decent income and a wealth of business knowledge, so thus I’m going to use my privileges to help all these other people that don’t have them.”

We make of list of all the people that don’t have what we have, who don’t have lives that we have, who we view as definitely under-privileged, and we take our plans to them to tell them exactly what they should do in order for them to be equal like us.

Because we want equality, right? Justice and equity for all?

But I soon came to realize that they only reason I could make these decisions to help is because I have the power to. That even my decision to step out and “help” came from a direct privilege.

So what does it mean then to serve others not from a place of power, when typically even the choice to serve comes from the powerful ability to make that decision?

As a Christian, I look at the life of Jesus to find direction here. He obviously was the standard for giving up privilege and power to serve people. And boy did he sure help and change people’s lives!

This verse in Philippians 2 has particularly been captivating my mind for months now:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality of God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on the cross.

What does it mean to give up our privileges?

If helping others means that we have to hold on to our privileges and power in order to help, then what does it actually mean to give up our privileges for the sake of others?

A privilege revelation while on Care and Compassion


We drove the bumpy, dusty roads of Nylenda, an area in Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu is a pretty developed city in Kenya, the third largest in the country, but several parts are impoverished and stuck in cycles of poverty.

Those slums — those are the targets for this team. We rode with a group of 3 Kenyans who have dedicated their lives to caring for the most sick and and AIDS-infected in Kisumu. In fact, they call their team “Care and Compassion.” Armed with medical knowledge and humongous hearts, they find the most needy and most sick, and support them into a hopefully stable condition. Stable physically, emotionally, spiritually.

We went from home to home, seeing several people in various stages of health. But more often than not, they were barely skin and bones, struggling with HIV and AIDS and often with other sicknesses like tuberculosis.

As difficult as it was to see, I was grateful to be with such a great team who was caring for these people in such loving, wholesome ways.


But then — I’ll never forget the last home. We walked to the door way of a home, and sitting right inside of the doorway was a lady perhaps not older than 40. She was sitting slumped over on a mat, unable to even lift her head to greet us. As we walked by we tried to shake her frail, limp hand.

As we came to understand the situation, everything about it seemed hopeless. No one would help her. Due to the stigma of AIDS, her neighbors wouldn’t take her to the hospital, and even her son who lived there wouldn’t help out. We brought food with us, but there would be no way for her to make the food or take her medications properly.

Even though this team was there to support her in getting back to good health, they worked in partnership with families so that dependency wasn’t created. They also didn’t have resources to handle all aspects of transportation, cooking, administering medications, etc. This situation was pretty desperate, though, they recognized. So they knew that very soon they would have to intervene.

As we drove back home, this idea of giving up privilege to serve came back to me, and I mulled over those verses in Philippians 2 and thought how maybe I was laying aside privileges like Jesus did to do this work.

And then the revelation came, with the not-so-comfortable truth.

Angela, to give up privilege is to literally switch places.

What? Switch places with this woman? No, I think I would do better to help her out, use my voice and resources and intellect to make a difference.

But would you switch places with her?

Switch places?? Eh, well, I guess I could. And I’m sure I could figure things out. I know I’d have my family that would help me by taking me to the hospital, and I know I’d have access to healthcare options to get my medication, and I have a lot of friends and networks who would intervene, and I already know how to start businesses so I could get myself back on track financially . . .

No no, you’d have to lose those things too. You can’t take any of them with you when you switch places.

But . . . without those things I’d be . . .


What does it take to lose privileges?

Well, in short, it requires everything.

And that’s a pretty steep cost. Pretty much too radical.

In order to be willing to lose privileges for the sake of others, only one thing would ever motivate someone to make that move.

And that one thing?


That’s it.

No one would ever do that much sacrifice for any other reason. It’s simply too much to lose ourselves without any promise of return.

Which then made me realize why Jesus’ love is so astounding. 

In just a little way, I was able to imagine for a moment the audacity of Jesus’ birth and coming to earth.

In a crude micro-comparison, it would be like me losing everything, my position and education and money and friendships and family and history and color and power, and taking the body of an AIDS-infected friend-less woman and sitting helplessly on the floor with no ability to care for herself.

What humility that would take.

And yet that’s the humility He exemplified by leaving behind his privileges as the very Son of God, and taking on the confined body of a human, and being like us, in all it’s limitations and brokenness.

And the only reason Jesus would do something like that?

For love.

He did that so that you and me could be in his family. So that we could have relationship with him. So that we could advantage of his God-privileges.

He switched places. 

He took our AIDS and gave us whole life.

He took our broken relationships and gave us loving families.

He took our self-destruction and gave us Image-bearing love.

He took our shame and gave us everlasting hope.

And this is the best example of humility we can have.

This is what it means to give up privilege.

It looks like love.

It looks like humility.

It looks like losing ourselves so that someone else can advance.

And it’s a whole more extreme, and life-changing, then we could ever imagine.

So then the question isn’t how much can you do with the privileges you’ve been given.

It’s how much can you humble yourself and sit in the place of another and love them unconditionally and lose yourself so that they might advance.

When is it valid to call some place a “Sh–hole?”

“These people get to live here.”

I was biking in rural Uganda, somewhere between Kampala and the Kenyan border. This was the first day of cycling on the Ride for Hope excursion, and we were working our way south through 600 miles of East Africa to our destination in Tanzania. For the most part we stayed away from major highways and instead chose the dirt back roads in favor of less traffic.

I’ve traveled all over America in addition to several other countries in Europe and Asia. But I had never seen anything quite like this.

It was mountainous, for sure. We would bike up a massive hill and then fly right down. I was amateur at best, surrounded by some pretty experienced African and Dutch cyclists. It was a bit nerve-racking at first going speeds I had never done before while riding a hand-crafted, state-of-the-art bamboo bicycle that seemed like a magic carpet more than anything else.

It was exhilarating. 

Sometimes, I’ll admit, I screamed a little in raw delight at what I was getting to experience. During one particular moment while speeding down a hill I kept looking all around me at the lush, vast scenery of southern Uganda, simply gaping. I knew I needed to ride, but I also wanted to stare. It was so wonderfully distracting.

There were several people out in the fields harvesting, and I passed a women walking up the hill carrying a basket on her head.

That’s when I exclaimed aloud to myself,

“These people get to live here.”

There was nothing modern about our ride that first day. Most of the villages we passed through were primitive in make-up, a lot of huts and mud buildings.

But primitive in possessions does not automatically translate to primitive in character and humanity.

I got to experience this character and humanity first-hand in a rather unexpected and slightly embarrassing way.

So here’s the story: for the first time in all my travels, I got travelers diarrhea during our first day of riding.

Yep, I just went there.

You see, there are some things in life you can power through and just tough it out.

Diarrhea is not one of them.

Before my pills kicked in, I had to get some assistance twice from the local residents. I know I’d really like to sound sophisticated about this, but in reality it was pure desperation, a plea for help.

Both times me and my Ugandan teammate approached women cooking in front of their homes and explained that this mzungu, this white girl, desperately needed some sort of bathroom facility.

Both times the women simply looked at me and motioned for me to follow. I was then ushered to an outhouse.

I have NEVER been so grateful in my entire life. And I am not exaggerating. In the moment, it felt like a life or death necessity. Just… trust me.

I remember reflecting on that later, recounting the humanity of it all.

I was obviously an outsider. I couldn’t communicate coherently with those that owned the land. I also had nothing to offer to deserve some sort of help or assistance.

I was at their disposal. I was dependent on their help. I was needy.

But more than that, I was also dependent and reliant on their character and philosophy about humanity. I really hoped that they believed that when one person is in a desperate situation and they had a solution to that need, that they would stand in the gap to meet that need.

What I learned was that at the end of the day, we are all the same. If someone needs a bathroom due to a basic bodily function but can’t access one, and I have access to a bathroom that you don’t, then of course you can use my bathroom. Because I use my bathroom too when I need to access it.

Why would those ladies allow me to use their own possessions?

I think it’s because they intrinsically believed I was human as much as they were. 

But I think even more-so it attests to what they chose not to believe: they didn’t believe they were superior to me. If they did believe they were superior to me, then logically they couldn’t have let me use their bathroom.

That’s simply what people do who believe they are more superior than other people — those “other” people can’t come into their space or in any sort of way be affiliated with them.

Should we defend people or countries that are degraded as “Sh–holes?”

Should I?

I have a plethora of African friends who I love. And Haitians. And Mexicans. And Indians. I’ve also visited several of these areas and got to know people on a very local level.

So my first response is to defend against the audacious claim, to use all the examples I can to prove that these people and these countries are emphatically not despicable places. Let me tell you about this person, and that experience, and that beautiful view, and that community.

But I soon found myself out of breath and angry for quite frankly no reason.

I realized, Africa doesn’t need to be defended.

What should be challenged are beliefs of superiority. 

Do I have a right to call people or places derogatory names?

Now let’s be completely honest here. I’ve had some experiences and seen some places where the reality of it made me want to feverishly swear off everybody involved. When I dived off the deep end and starting learning about the reality of human trafficking, and especially sex trafficking, I was exposed to some deep, dark things.

The amount of violence and dehumanization is vile. It’s the most gross aspects of humanity on display.

I’ve been in the brothel in India and passed men in the stairway as they went in search of their next woman or girl to buy. I’ve been in the strip club to give support to the women and watched the men and owners and bouncers exploit and reduce the females to what their bodies had to offer. I’ve been in China and observed a woman, acting as a pimp, entreat a man in our group to get a “massage” from a young, beautiful girl nearby. I’ve been in the poor communities of Mombasa, Kenya and observed wealthy European men buying poor women and girls for sex and girlfriend experiences during their vacations.

I could totally justify calling those users and perpetrators of violence a wealth of derogatory names, and I have felt it on the tip of my tongue as I often had to helplessly observe, knowing my intervention at that moment was impossible.

But I’ve come to learn that they only way I could look at those people in the eye and say, “You f–ing bastard,” is to believe inherently that I am better than they are. That I would never act in a manner that they would. That I am a completely different species of a human than they could ever be.

In that place, in a mindset of better-than, different-from, if I was given the power, I could actually justify anything.

Slurs. Violence. Destructive power. Nothing would be too much, because they are not real humans anymore.

That’s the hard part about grace. About mercy. That while I seek for justice, I must also cloak myself in mercy and humility, knowing that I am capable of just as much evil as the next person had my life circumstances or choices been different.

Does that mean practitioners of evil should get away with their acts of violence?

No. Absolutely not.

The point is that deep-set beliefs about superiority, no matter how justified, give unfettered license for malevolence.

If you want to lead, you can’t speak slurs about others.

Shouldn’t those who enact and disperse justice from a place of power be held to a standard of equitable humanity?

Sure, people will always exist that hate and use demeaning language to describe their beliefs about others. But those people should be confined and restrained from having access to any sort of power. They shouldn’t be voted into office.

And if you justify voting those kind of people into leadership because they have tax or healthcare or financial political views that align with yours, then are you not inherently saying that money has greater value to you then treatment of human beings? Or, worse yet, perhaps you really are alright with human beings being degraded because they are “other” than you?

Sounds like superiority to me.

If our leaders who have exclusive access to the use of coercive power in our neighborhoods, cities, states, and nations are not checked to a moral standard that believes we are all equal, then none of us are safe.

Yes, even you are not safe. Even if you assume that right now you are not in the category of sh–hole.

Because one day that belief of superiority might turn against you as well.

But, better yet, more than pursuing leadership in your life that will ultimately keep you safe, why not pursue leadership that strives to ultimately keep everybody safe?

And if you struggle with accepting that statement, perhaps ask yourself the question, “Why do I think that I deserve safety over someone else?”

And to circle back, if you needed illustrations that Africa is actually a really nice place and has really kind people because all your life you have only heard that it’s a scary place that has lots of wars and seems violent, then maybe you need to accept the reality that you may not know the full story and that there’s so much about the world that you don’t understand?


You still have a chance. You can still spend time with people and do more research and traveling to expand your horizons that is also coupled with humility that maybe your world is not better than everyone else’s.

Maybe we need more humility that sits down with someone of a different color or country or ethnicity and asks them, “Tell me what I don’t know that you wish I did know.”

Then we may come to the conclusion that we are the same kind of different.

You better watch out for those women who are single, virgin, pregnant, single moms, and teenage girls.

God has revealed a new, sweet word this morning.

It concerns Mary.

She’s pretty important to the Christmas story. But I’ve realized that she was more than just a good example of a Christian girl. There’s more to the story.

You see, Mary was the first preacher when Jesus came to earth.

Yes, you heard that right, preacher.

She was chosen to carry the literal Word, and to speak the Word from a place of being filled with God. In every literal and spiritual sense.

This was no accident.

She was chosen to bring the word. To preach it from her womb and from her mouth. And it was a weighty word for not just her day, but for the rest of the days of the followers of Jesus.

Whew, you can be sure that it defied the religious and social construct of that day. Woman couldn’t even sit in the same sections in the churches and religious establishments. There were no Sunday Schools they could teach, no small groups for single women, no legal rights for protection, and no recognition of their voices.

Women were best to be silent and not heard from.

But God — well, he had other plans. And it’s not like it was a new plan. This was his intention from the beginning. There is no male and female before God. We are one and equal in his sight.

But nevertheless, at the time of Mary, her bringing a word and singing the sermon of Magnificat was a defiance to what was proper and acceptable. If it were up to the common order of the day, it should not have made its way into historical canonization and literature.

And it defies our expectations as well.

Because God works from his own order and purpose and he will dethrone the pride of man to bring Himself into the world.

He didn’t come into the world entrusted on the word of a popular, well-traveled, financially supported, experienced Christian male leader who had several books to his name and was featured on many podcasts.

No, no, no. She is not one of those people that we expect to hear a speaker introduction about at a large conference.

“And now I’d like to introduce Mary of Nazareth. She has quite the list of qualifications. She’s never been to school. She doesn’t know how to read or write. She’s single and a virgin, but recently has become pregnant before her marriage. And lastly, she’s at the prime age of 16. Get ready to hear a great word from the Lord!”

Yeah, not likely.

She fell into so many categories that we expect not to hear from:




Single mother.

Teenage girl.

Funny how we view those groups of women as ones to be helped. We create social programs for them. We help them out of our views that they are weak and powerless. And to some extent, that may be true. These groups can be marginalized and vulnerable due to the abuse of the powerful.

But I’m beginning to understand that those are the people God targets for bringing life-changing truths.

Wouldn’t it take quite the humility of you and me and our church leadership to let the word be brought to us by a single, virgin, pregnant, teenage girl? God literally entrusted THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE to be brought into this world by this woman. Our faith rests upon her faithfulness to do the work she was called to do.

What were the results of her obedience to carry the Word? To name a few:

Jesus being born and saving the world.

The New Testament scriptures.

The starting point of the world calendar.

The Apostles and authors of the New Testament believed her and lifted her up and didn’t leave her out of the story of Jesus. And this was during a time in the world where a woman’s word could not be used as witness in a legal court. She had no legal rights. But these men believed otherwise, for good reason.

Here we go.

To those who are single, or a virgin, or pregnant, or a single mom, or a teenage girl, if God gives you a word to carry and to preach, do it. And do it with authority because you are favored of God. You are not defined by a social, religious construct. Your only expectation is from God.

I get it— it may make sense to even you that God would speak this word through the main pastor or a well-spoken male in your life who has had more experience in leadership. But God obviously doesn’t always work through logical expectations, does he?

To those who are close to a woman who is single, a virgin, pregnant, single mother, or teenage girl, be ready and expectant to hear a word of exhortation. Be willing to be led by her. She may be carrying a word that could literally change your world.

And lastly, to our male Christian leaders, pastors, and teachers, please listen to women who may be single, virgins, pregnant, single moms, or teenagers. If they have a word from the Lord, give them a platform and space to share that. It may feel unusual to have a pregnant woman teaching, or a single woman preaching, or single mom in leadership. But if it didn’t bother God to let Mary bring the word, why does it bother you?

This Christmas, I’m thankful for Mary.

My heart is so glad right now because if God used her to bring a message into the world of hope and freedom and truth at a time when it was heretical to believe a woman and advocacy for gender equality was unheard of, then he certainly can use me.

And you.

And all the women around us who are single, virgins, pregnant, single moms, and teenage girls.

I spend my time watching sexual violence. And other thoughts about #MeToo, Game of Thrones, and Harvey Weinstein.

My doorbell rang.

This was a bit odd, seeing that it was Thanksgiving evening, and I had an expected night alone in my town house. I wasn’t able to travel to see family that year.

I walked to the door, cautiously opening it, only to find my friend Latonya standing there. “Hey! Latonya, nice to see you!”

See looked slightly uncomfortable. “Hey Angela,” she said, forced cheerfully. “Can I come in?”

“Oh, for sure, absolutely, come on in.” I walked her to the living room, feeling like something was a bit off.

But I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, so I tried to be welcoming. You see, I hadn’t see her in months, probably 7-8. We met on a Salvation Army outreach team to the homeless in downtown Greenville. She was strong, a powerful woman, and always ready to laugh. So I had missed seeing her and missed our friendship that had bonded.

We sat on the couch and she tried to chat, asking me about my Thanksgiving Day. We made casual talk.

In the bright light of the living room, that’s when I noticed the wounds.

Knife marks, specifically.

Pretty quickly she broke down and told me everything that was happening, where she had disappeared to the last several months.

She told me of the boyfriend, the good guy, the community Christian leader.

Then the isolation, the verbal abuse, the lying, the control.

And then the beatings with whatever object was most convenient: hangers, belts, fists.

The story kept coming, as if someone had released a bottled-up dam.

Controlling her to get whatever he wanted, abusing her at the slightest mistake, especially invisible rules that he made. Punishing including burning her skin with cigarettes, pouring scalding hot water on her, and endless punching.

Then she told me of the sexual abuse, the violence, the rape. And her doing whatever she could to appease him or “consent” so that he wouldn’t additionally hurt her.

She only knew her name as “bitch.” And it was hell living with him, though the control and manipulation made it seemingly impossible to leave.

But this time — this was the first time he had used the knife on her.

And she finally escaped. And only because she truly thought she would be killed. She was able to make a phone call to a friend who was able to pick her up and bring her to my house, as I was the only person she could think of to go to.

I sat in shock, the weight of the story depressing my entire being, as I gazed at wounds and bruising on a human being that I have never seen before in person.

Finally, after a long while of listening, watching, processing, I looked at her and said,

“Wow, that was such a great storyline.”

I was 25 that Thanksgiving. Since then I walked into, and perhaps even stumbled upon, the anti-sex trafficking movement. 5 years ago there wasn’t as much national buzz around human trafficking. In fact, I didn’t even know what that term meant. All I knew was that I wanted to support women in marginalized, risky situations.

Latonya (not her real name) was the first of 4 women that I have hosted in my home who have been able to escape terrible situations.

And the common factor? Sexual exploitation.

All of them in some shape or form had experienced sexual assault, discrimination, abuse, or violence. I wasn’t a social worker, so it wasn’t my job to talk about that in depth. But they often told me stories about their experiences, or I heard them due to proximity. I’ve been there in the hospital when the police came to write a report for the violence committed against them and had to hear all the nuanced details.

And it was heavy. It was confusing. It was painful.

As you try to process something like that with someone near you, it literally breaks your mind. And often what happens is what happened pretty quickly once Latonya came to live with me.

Her trauma became my trauma. Her symptoms became my symptoms.

And this is what we call vicarious trauma.

I was pretty alone during this period of my life and didn’t have much community, so the isolation made it that much worse. Plus, I didn’t know how to process it, or that I needed to process it. Good grief, I didn’t even know what the term trauma meant.

Since that time, I’ve attended many, many workshops and conferences on the subject of trafficking and sexual exploitation of adults and children. And at every single one the topic comes up loud and clear for all to glean:

You must take care of yourself and protect your mind and soul if you are in close proximity to disturbing or violent acts. 

Because if your mind, soul and body are not cared for, what’s to protect you from imploding?

Or worse yet, numbness?

Watching sexual violence in my free time

I spend a good amount of my free time watching sexual violence and human trafficking documentaries. Reading about it. Studying it. Being educated on it.

I know, I know, not exactly what your average young adult does in her free Friday evenings.

I do it because it makes me better informed to care for and understand someone who’s had to live in that world.

But sometimes it re-triggers something unhealthy in my mind or from my past — it could be a tone of voice, or an action, or an intention. Once that happens, the good of what my “education” is supposed to accomplish is outweighed by the bad effects. Because now my mind is overcome by the second-hand experience and it controls me, not I controlling it.

I’m super sensitive, and I’ll readily admit that now. In fact, I’m glad I’m sensitive and have grown less “strong”. I know what my body is telling me, and I’m aware of something being “too much” or pushing me to the point of vicarious trauma. The non-profit I volunteer with now requires Care Coaches for their volunteers due to the type of outreach we do. I often text my own mentor and friend when something triggers me into an unhealthy place.

So with this lifestyle, I’ve had to work hard to be aware of myself, my environment, and what’s happening in and around me. When is it crossing the line? Am I looking at something to learn or help, or is it in order to obtain? Is it love or is it lust? Is it fear or is it freedom?

So this is my life. Not for everyone, I’m sure! But I hope I also have a relatively normal life, one where Netflix binges happen at times and pop culture isn’t totally out in left field.

But what I haven’t been able to resolve is this conflicting tension I get when I watch TV shows and movies with violence, especially sexual violence.

Why does it make me feel torn? Why do I feel that my authenticity is in question?

I never really had a good answer.

Until last week. That’s when I realized I had to draw a line in the sand.

As I’m sure you can guess by now, after my friend shared her traumatic story of severe violence as I described above, I did not respond, “Wow, that was such a great storyline.”

Because that’s not what you do when you witness violence.

What’s the big deal about shows with sexual violence?

I was at a friend’s house last week, and somehow the topic came around to shows like This Is Us and The Handmaid’s Tale. I made a comment that I had only seen a few episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, and I was uneasy about my conclusion about it. That’s when my friend asked for my opinion, as someone who works with survivors of sexual exploitation, and what I thought about shows like Handmaid’s Tale and Law and Order: SVU.

I hesitated, because I didn’t quite have words to phrase it.

“I mean, I know what they’re trying to say, and trying to make a point about. It’s just that it’s….it’s….”

Then it dawned on me.

“It’s entertainment.”

Entertainment vs. Education

When I watch a documentary showing the story of a 12 year old Nepalese girl who was trafficked and sold for sex in a brothel across the border in India, I was not entertained. That was not the purpose of the film makers.

When I watched YouTube documentaries about the sex trade of minors and vulnerable women in Mombasa, I was not hoping to be entertained. That was not the purpose of my research.

After watching these shows or documentaries, I often need some sort of release or break. It’s just so heavy, heartbreaking, and wretched.

Here’s the problem: those scenes I watched in those YouTube videos, I recognized that those were the same in many of these other TV shows or movies. But something was different, something was off.

That’s when I realized that film makers and producers use sexual violence, often against women, as a form of entertainment.

Which is just another form of exploitation.

It’s the job of a film maker to tell the truth of the story. And most mainstream popular TV shows and movies are not telling you the truth of the story when it comes to sexual violence.

It shows enough to make you concede, “Well, that wasn’t right of that character to do that,” but it leaves out the weight of grossness of the act. In fact, it often makes you more interested, more desiring, and more aroused.

“But the show is showing what really did happen back in those days!”

Most arguments I’ve read in support of Game of Thrones is that this kind of violence and sexual violence really did happen and that was the norm of that time period.

That could be completely true.

But . . . actually, it’s not.

The film makers are telling a false story, one that you cannot see, one that is hidden and disguised. If they really did represent the heinousness of sexual violence, they would have problems finding viewers. It’s reality is overtly disturbing, and those of us that see it in the real world and online get therapy and healing care for ourselves. And we’re just the observers. We haven’t even discussed the injury done to the ones perpetrated against in this practice.

In the few scenes I’ve seen from Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale that depict actual sexually violent acts, they are not true narratives, they misrepresent the victim, and they are intended to cause arousal.

“But it’s such a good storyline!”

As illustrated in the opening story, it doesn’t matter how riveting a story is. If there is violence and crime against humanity that we watch with our own eyes, our reactions are typically, “Wow, that’s terrible,” and we instinctively move away, uncomfortably.

But film makers conveniently glide over the terribleness. They make violence more palatable, more reasonable, or desirable.

Which leads us to believe that we really aren’t all that bothered by this violence, which leads me to the next point…

“But this stuff doesn’t bother me. I can watch it and be totally fine.”

This argument concerns me the most. Because it’s basically admitting,

“I’m numb to this.”

You know who else we all now know is numb to sexual violence?

Harvey Weinstein.

Now, of course, I’m not saying that you’re Harvey. But perpetrators like him weren’t born; they were made. If you read his language and how he spoke to the women he used, it was clear this didn’t bother him. And not bothering gave him plenty of license.

For us, not being bothered does not equate to Super Man or Woman status, that only the strongest of us can handle the really bad stuff.

No, it actually means that you’ve been exposed for so long that the abnormality has become normality, and your brain is not reacting as it should due to this type of conditioning.

And I think this one scares me the most because I believe we all fall into this category in one stage or another. It’s normal in our culture. Which is why you are finding so many “Me too” friends coming out on social media.

Let me ask you: if one of those friends sat down and told you her story of harassment or assault, would you be totally fine with it? Would it not bother you at all?

Shows that depict sexual violence with intention to cause arousal are exploitative.

And when we watch, we participate in the exploitation.

This is where we draw a line in the sand:

If a scene of sexual violence is meant to cause arousal in the viewer, then it is abusive.

Both to all women in our culture, and to yourself.

What these shows teach us is that, yes, sexual violence is kinda bad . . . but more than that it sure is interesting, and we’d like to watch more.

Think about that. Really think about that.

If we’re so used to watching both physical and sexual violence in a place of pleasure and half-truths, then what will we do when we are confronted with it in real life? Will we think it’s “interesting?” Will we want to see more? Will we find it arousing?

Will we say to the victim sharing their experience, “Wow, that was such a great storyline“?

No. We don’t say those things in response to stories that include gross acts of dehumanization.

I put responsibility of lie-telling on the film makers, and the responsibility of participation on us.

Consider this: if a scene of sexual violence causes you to be aroused, then you need help.

It’s not because you’re bad. It’s because you’re broken.

And join the crowd.

I recently read the New Yorker article detailing the stories of the women who have come forward sharing their sexual abusive encounters with Harvey Weinstein over the past decades.

It was a long article. The stories had jarring details. It’s a trigger warning for any female who has experience some form of sexual assault, which I’m pretty sure after seeing the many “Me too” posts that it includes all of us women.

When I finished I felt my head was heavy and slightly spinning. It was almost exhausting. Part of me wanted to just lay there and process what I just heard. But because I’m more in tune to my mental and physical state now, I knew I needed a release. I had just spent a weekend in trauma-informed training, so the teaching was fresh in my memory.

So what did I do? I watched one of the stupidest episodes of Parks and Recreation I’ve ever seen and ate 2 dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

After that brief release I felt normal, the heaviness was gone and I was able to think more clearly. Yet even still, I’ll probably talk about it with my mentor at some point, just so that I don’t soak it up into my mental state.

Because, again, reading or watching violent, abusive acts should mess up your soul.

And it takes intentionality to care for it so that those effects do not damage you or those around you.

We were not made to observe evil casually. We were not made to take pleasure in other people’s pain.

And Just Like That, She Bloomed

Earlier this summer I bought a hanging plant.

There were no blooms on it yet. Just a bunch of dirt it seemed, but the price was right and I thought for sure it held some promise.

So I hung it on my balcony in a prominent place.

And waited.

And watered.

And waited.

And watered.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

But for a long time, perhaps several weeks, nothing happened. I couldn’t figure it out — was I destroying it up with too much water, or was it a dud plant, or did it get too much sun exposure?

It seemed odd. And slightly disappointing.

Maybe . . . there wasn’t even a plant there after all.

But I kept up the process, nevertheless.

Because for some stubborn notion giving up is never an option. Especially when I dropped a whole two dollars for it.

And so continued the daily drudgery of watering, waiting, watching.

Eventually, I’m a little sad to say, I stopped expecting anything. I was sure then that if it ever did bloom, it would most likely be sad, pathetic flowers that made even itself cry.

From the externals, there was no hint of anything good coming out of this plant. Even when I poured water on the plant, it seemed to go straight through and drop out of the bottom. Did it even retain anything?

But then, a day before I left for Africa, I walked out the back door, as always each morning, and about fell over myself.

It was a massive, gorgeous, stunning display of the richest purple flowers. Covering the plant, overflowing the sides. And with purple, my favorite color.

It took my breath away, because I had been inwardly longing for so long, and it happened so suddenly. And the first thought that came to my mind was,

And just like *that*, it bloomed.

What immediately followed next was a prophetic message that went deeper and struck my soul as God whispered to me,

And just like *that*, she bloomed.

And I knew at that point my life would be completely different.

The seasons were changing. The past was behind. Breakthrough had arrived.

It was as if my life flashed before my eyes and I knew one hand was releasing the past, and the other was grabbing ahold of the future. I had been dry for so long. Now is was time to bloom.

And I thought on it all, on the a story behind this — this long, suffering, blooming process.

You see, for oh-so-many years I thought there was promise, I had so much hope

That this plant of mine would come alive,

Soaking and waiting, and watering and hoping.

Living on hope until the last drop gave out.

And it seemed as if water poured endlessly into the drought.

So disappointed in how it only seemed to die

Time and time and time again.

Dripping through, no soaking up,

Bleeding out, no living out.

Depression and fear my nearest friends,

A future blurred out by a pain that never ends.

But I failed to see the journey in full

Must pass through death on its way to life,

That the driest spell is a burial ground

For the bitter wounds of shame and lies.

Dripping through – pain, betrayal, unforgiveness

Bleeding out – lust, self-loathing, pride

Day after day, dry after dry, pouring after pouring

Not giving up, not giving in — just giving, strong and weak.

The process – oh so long

The change and promise – oh so slow.

Sometimes staring too long at a thing

Develops a loss of perspective,

A resentment towards the loss of time and investment.

But then it came — like a night time firework,

A bursting fall tree, a surprise party.

And I could hardly believe it,

I — the most shocked of all.

You see, just like *that*

She bloomed

The most radiant of colors, the brilliance of form

Just — absolutely radiating, a wedding day bride

She was hiding no longer, entering into public eye

So proud, so self-respectful, so free

Not a whisper, but shouting with blossoms

All may see, all may talk, all may wonder

But to her nothing matters

Because the shackles of drought are gone

The time of truth has come

And truth has never been so lovely, so becoming

I can never go back

Blooming has changed me forever.

I’m glad that nature tells us a story that reflects the hope of life and future. Even when life dies and we want the world around us to reflect the death we feel inside, somehow Spring always comes around. Nature keeps following it’s created course.

Death, seed, water, growth, bloom.

Around and around the circle it goes.

And similarly, we get the same path in life.

Seasons. Change. Motion.

And life wouldn’t really be all that wonderful if it were always Spring, right?

Those flowers that bloomed — they really meant something to me because I poured so much time and expectation into them. The waiting can be a painful experience, but it can also be more like the waiting and anticipation of watching the fuse burn towards an exploding firework. Perhaps we have a choice in how we wait.

Dryness and death and cold and bare only make Spring that much more brilliant and wonderful.

So hold on to your dry, bedraggled plant. Water it with your tears. Sleep with it by your side.

Because you never know when the blooming day is coming.

And it’s coming. Oh yes it is!

“Weren’t you afraid to travel to Africa?”

“It turns out that the more you watch TV, the more you believe that the world is dangerous. It turns out TV watchers believe that an astonishing 5% (!) of the population works in law enforcement. And it turns out that the more you watch TV the less optimistic you become. Cultivation theory helps us understand the enormous power that TV immersion has.” – Seth Godin

I took a trip to East Africa this summer

It wasn’t all that surprising, I guess, for those that know me. Last year I went to India and China, and you can often find me exploring big cities in America’s sea to shining sea, and taste-testing every ethnic restaurant that catches my fancy. My friend group in Chicago includes a wide range of color, culture, and country of origin.

And I love it.

I love it because there’s no structure or paternalism. There isn’t one side of giving, and one side of receiving. It’s mutual. It’s authentic.

It is always easy? Not really. Sometimes I’m embarrassed I forget basic things — like how to pronounce the name of my friend from Iran who I met for the 2nd or 3rd time, or have to ask my friend why African Americans never learned to swim, or ask the girl with Indian heritage if she was a vegetarian (yes, oh yes, that did happen).

It’s hard because you want to be a part of the group, to be included, but the lack of knowledge exposes the breach of integration and your often complete ignorance.

I’m used to it now, used to the tension and the vulnerability of outsider-ness.

I even lean into it all. You see, it was really through that bumpy path that I found a lot of meaningful relationships, understanding of how people relate to each other, and what’s actually most important in this world.

Which leads me to the topic at hand:

Why were Americans concerned for me when I traveled to Africa?

I mean, did you forget that I live in Chicago? The city ravaged by gun violence like that of a war-torn country?

But let’s talk about that as it illustrates a similar vein: people across the country are scared of Chicago . . . until they really get to know me. They see how interesting my life is, all the fun places I visit and bike by on a daily basis, the generous and smart friends I have, the ground-breaking anti-trafficking work the city is nationally known for, and the beautiful gems in parks all around the city.

And, wouldn’t you know it, by the end of our conversation it seems like the narrative in their mind has changed a bit. “Hm, maybe Chicago isn’t that bad . . . I think I want to visit someday.”

Amazing how getting to know someone is so completely transformative.

So how do people get scared of places like Chicago? like Africa?

At some point information was passed on. And it was communicated in a way that best benefited the sender of the information.

Because those in power get to tell the stories they way they want to.

If money and ratings are the top motivator, then the human instinct to tap into is obvious:


It pays. And it pays well.

Biologically, our minds and bodies respond much more strongly to fear because fear helps motivate us to protect ourselves in dangerous situations. We are conditioned to react intensely, fight or flight. We literally stop thinking with any sense or logic. The current situation triggers the mind to do one thing at the expense of all others in order to keep ourselves alive.

Are you afraid of the Boogie Monster?

We feed ourselves a constant flow of fear, which rarely depicts the reality of the world. We power up the computer and switch on the television, and then sit back for our daily dose of a hot cup of fear.

Television and internet articles bait us into fear, paralyzing fear. And we eat it up — it tastes so good, and so bad. All senses are heightened and triggered. Over time it becomes an addiction. Like a battered woman tied to her abusive husband, the trauma bonds entangle her in ways so deep it seems impossible to escape.

It’s hard to get used to normal when you’re always high on afraid.

I find it fascinating that so many people are afraid of something or someone they’ve never even seen or experienced. 

Like the Boogie Monster hiding under the bed. Your 6-year old self has never seen it or experienced it, but your older brother has fed you terrifying stories for months and now you live in it’s reality.

The invisible Boogie Monster now controls you. And it’s not even real.

Do you think Africa is the Boogie Monster?

When you talk about Africa as an American, are your illustrations and references all about war and killings and terrorism and violence?

And maybe that really is all you know about Africa. Not all of us get the opportunity to live next door to foreigners or travel internationally in a culturally engaging way. But at least preface your perspective by saying, “But you know, the only source I’ve gotten my information from is television, popular media, and American missionaries– I’ve never actually visited or talked to Africans about this. And I could be wrong, but this is my perspective from where I stand.”

Television and articles gives us the illusion that we experienced something firsthand . . . when in reality we really haven’t. Yes, I know research is good and important and it’s often combined with “eye witnesses.”

But seriously take the time to read sources that are African-led and narrated, and then make some personal relationships that are mutual.

If you can’t do any of those things, I understand. We’re all busy. But don’t control and direct the conversation. You are more than welcome to listen and observe.

Let’s be friends

I’ve been on my own journey through this fear mindset. At one point I really did believe what everyone was telling me on television and articles and platforms.

And then I traveled. And was positioned in a place of non-authority where all I could do was listen, observe, and serve.

And I was shocked by how still and quiet it was.

There was no lizard-brain, fear-controlled actions. It was peaceful, and enjoyable, and full of connection.

That’s when I realized that media outlets and popular speakers and religion can heartily take advantage of your ignorance to keep you tied up and coming back for more. More television, more clickbait, more crazy headlines, more one-sided stories.

That’s when I decided to learn this for myself, to see the real story as much as I could.

Are there dangerous, evil things happening around the world and in Africa?

Absolutely. I just wrote about the tragic and rampant problem of child sex trafficking in Mombasa, Kenya; I visited the brothel districts in India that are trapping girls and women for generations and it’s backed by both culture and police; I see Chicago’s gun death tolls continue to rise at record lengths.

Yes, we acknowledge the danger. Yet refuse to be controlled by it. Once we welcome fear, then we have no option but to obey it.

And once we obey fear, we can never impact our environments. Because it’s already impacting us.

So the greatest lesson here? It’s not just that we shouldn’t be afraid of places like Africa due to emotionally-triggered news. It’s also not simply just that we should expose ourselves to more people and relationships outside our own culture.

It’s that fear has got to go so that we can impact our cities, and countries, and the world.

Because I bet you never read a world-changer’s autobiography that concluded with, “And then I cozied up in my overstuffed chair, turned on the television, and posted articles about the unbelievably terrible things happening in the world.”


New friends I met during tea time in downtown Nairobi

Staff from Christ Hope International making chapati for lunch in Kampala, Uganda

Mothers of the some of the children at Christ’s Hope International sharing their stories in Mwanza, Tanzania

My new friend Lucy showing me around her family’s tea farm and property in Kenya

The vast, beautiful tea farms in Limuru, Kenya

Talking with women from the brothel districts in India

Hanging out with children at a daycare in Nairobi

Exploring the streets of Hong Kong

The Lost Girls of Mombasa

All of my senses became alert, suddenly.

I sat upright, peered in wonder, the type of wonder that makes you feel sick to your stomach. A sharp intake of breath, like you’ve been punched in the gut.

It was all too familiar. But not in the way one is familiar with something from experience. But more so from research, from documentaries, from second-hand experiences.

All the signs were there.

Older white male. Younger African female.

Abnormal outward affection.

Flirting minus the depth of relationship.

Male dressed average, female dressed lavishly and provocatively.

The location being international-based versus local-based.

Forgetting what client project I was currently working on, I stared at this couple across the cafe, watching his advances, her reactions. Like a train wreck, you want to look away, but you just can’t.

Then I noticed. . .

A second couple.

Then a third.

Then a fourth.

That’s when the shock hit me, making my heart freeze.

I had found myself sitting in a hub of sex buyers and prostitutes.

And I didn’t even know it. I had literally “stumbled upon” this standard European-type cafe in search of good wifi to do some work. But this international-comfortable spot seemed to also attract all tourists– including those who came to specifically take part of sex tourism in Mombasa.

You see, there’s a thing in sex tourism called the “Girlfriend Experience.” Buyers from around the world, especially from wealthy Western countries, come to tourist spots that have a supply of women and girls who are inexpensive for purchase.

Inexpensive, in that the girls and their families have been living in the cycle of poverty around that tourist city and have few options for income.

Inexpensive, in that she lives on $1 a day, so to charge even just $20 a night to cater to his sexual desires is highly profitable.

Purchase, in that he uses money to bribe consent, which, non-surprisingly, is not actually consent given that she wouldn’t ever have sex with him if he didn’t offer the money and if she didn’t desperately need it.

Purchase, in that she is no longer a living, breathing human, but is instead a usable, itemized object with a fluctuating valuation.

What I had researched before was just data and statistics. Now it was faces.

“Come to Mombasa! Not only can to enjoy the beauty of the beaches and the coast, but you can also buy yourself a girlfriend for the duration of your stay. Any age desired!”

Any age desired?

I saw adults that night in the cafe, but do they also buy girls?

You mean, little girls? Elementary age girls?


It was last year, sometime in May 2016.

I had attended a Compassion Experience event in Chicago near the west side. I had been sponsoring a 4 year old girl through Compassion for about 6 months at this time, and it seemed that this “Experience” event would allow me to see her world and understand the stories that these children have.

In the Experience you enter a series of rooms while listening to a tour on an iPod. It’s kind of a micro version of a walking tour in a museum. A child is telling you their story about life in poverty, a life marred by dependency, scarcity, and incapacity, where material and relational needs are at a loss.  Then you discover how they got into the Compassion program and how their lives have changed and developed as a result of that program.

It was fascinating and I definitely felt more connected to the work of Compassion and my own child.

Afterwards I talked with one of staff who was standing in front of wall of photographs — all children that needed to be sponsored. I knew my budget and that I probably couldn’t afford to sponsor another one at that time. But I looked a wall of girls from Kenya, and I noticed several “older” girls — girls over 12 years old. On certain cards there were notes that their home areas were at high risk of HIV and trafficking.

I knew that fact all too well. In Chicago itself the entry age of prostitution is 12 years old. Entry age. That means if you see an adult street prostitute outside, you can safely bet that she was exploited, trafficked, around the age of puberty. So I could only imagine how much worse the statistics were in developing countries.

As I left that day, those photos stuck in my mind. While biking downtown to a meeting a few days later, God brought it back to mind very clearly, and I started praying for those girls, the vulnerable ones.

Immediately after my meeting I received an email that was titled, “Sponsor an older child today,” and it had a picture of a girl from Kenya named Jane. I immediately knew she was special. In a moment of complete instinct and vulnerability, I replied to sponsor her.

I had no idea at the time, but, as you’ll find out, I’m so glad I did.

What’s going on in Mombasa?

She lives just north of Mombasa in a town called Mtwapa. I did some brief research on the area so I had some context in which to add to our letters. But I didn’t give it too much thought after that.

Except for 6 months later.

I follow a human trafficking forum where articles and research are posted from communities all over the world. I noticed that one in particular talked about Mombasa. Of course my interest was piqued, so I started reading.

And the shocking truths emerged.

“Almost a third of girls age 12 and younger in the Mombasa region were involved in prostitution.”

“Trace Kenya, a local nonprofit group that works with the United Nations to battle child trafficking, estimates there could be as many as 100,000 child sex workers in Mombasa.”

“Many come to the city in search of girls aged between 12 and 18. The industry has made Kenya one of the world’s hubs for child sex tourism.”

“Emily, a 16-year-old orphan, said she was forced into the business due to poverty and peer pressure. Her aunt encouraged her to engage in sex with white men to help pay family expenses. Emily is now infected with HIV.”

This deeply troubled me. And then I took note of Trace Kenya, and found that they were headquartered in a town north of Mombasa that they considered the main hot spot for child sex trafficking.

That town? Mtwapa. The same town Jane lived in.

My heart went to my throat. Though I research often, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. And she could easily be one of these statistics.

But it couldn’t be — that couldn’t happen to her, right? I mean, I know her name, her face, her hobbies, her favorite school subjects — she’s just a little girl, not a target for prostitution.

Yet I knew, when poverty and sex tourism collide, the most vulnerable of our communities will always lose.

Who are those?

Our children, our girls.

While visiting East Africa last month, I was able to find some time to visit Mombasa for a few days. I spent an entire day with Jane and her friends at the Compassion center in Mtwapa. Since I wanted to be centrally located, I got a hotel in Mtwapa as well. Obviously, I already knew the research before going, so I wanted to observe as much as I could, but I figured it would be from a safe distance as this wasn’t a dedicated “human trafficking research trip”.

View of Mtwapa from my hotel room

My time with Jane and her friends was about as fun and joyous as I could’ve imagined. Though they were all coming from families of poverty, they didn’t have a poverty spirit. Instead, there was a spirit of abundance and fullness and honor.

That’s how you know a poverty-alleviating organization is succeeding. When those they serve are relationally restored to understanding their identity and gifting as an individual, as a creation of God.

I visiting her home and spent time with her mother and siblings. I loved interacting with them, being welcomed into their home, meeting the community.

But, almost unwanted, the thoughts stirred in the back of my mind: “Are any of these the girls of Mtwapa part of that statistic? One of the 100,000? At nights do pimps come to recruit them to sell to nearby tourists? Are there seriously no other options?”

Too many questions, and none that I wanted to deal with as I held hands with the children as they led me singing through the dirt streets between the homes.

The “Hot Spot” Cafe

It was that very evening that I was in the cafe doing work for my clients when I noticed my disturbing surroundings. This was a nice mall in the Mtwapa/Mombasa area, and apparently one that attracted foreigners. I went there the following night as well, and the same exact scenario repeated itself. I sighed. This is “normal.”

It was quite a helpless feeling to sit on the sidelines and observe the objectification of these women, knowing very well the trauma they live through each day they are in this industry. Seriously — imagine experiencing sexual harassment in a vile form at work (which most of us women have experienced). It causes trauma and many women have to go through therapy after just one experience. It’s such a big deal that our government created laws against it to protect us.

Now imagine that’s your job. Your job is to experience sexual harassment and assault and abuse every single day. And pretend that you want to be there. Because if you didn’t you wouldn’t have any means of survival, you wouldn’t be able to feed your family, you wouldn’t be able to pay for a roof over your head.

Since I was typically in the cafe for several hours, I saw couples come and go, and would often try to catch the eyes of the women as they walked past me. I felt like the only thing I could offer was a smile, a gesture of kindness, a show of non-judgment, a look of solidarity.

But I was never able to. I recall one woman in specific, in her high heels and fancy clothes, a time that most women may feel like shining and standing out, yet for her was a walk of shame. She never looked up, only stared at the ground as she passed by. It was such an absence of joy.

Prostitution, trafficking, selling of bodies — it all steals the soul, sucks the life out, and leaves behind the shell of a person.

This is not what the Image of God was made for.

Each of us was uniquely crafted before birth with a specific purpose, gifting, calling, and destiny. And above all, we were made to love and be loved.

Anything less then that is not meant to be. Using another person, especially in an explicitly sexual way, distorts and destroys the Image of God on that person.

We were made for so much more.

And not just for the American girls like myself who got to attend private school her entire life, graduate from college, and find consistent employment. The same respect and honor is due in parallel form to girls like Jane, who may not externally have the same earthly privileges and wealth. But the Image of God is just as strong in her.

Both Image of God bearers, both deserving of honor and opportunity

There is no place to choose which women we get to use, and which ones we don’t.

We’re all equal. We’re all valuable.

Is there an answer?

Is there? That’s the question. I sat there that night really unsure of what I’m supposed to do with this new, personal experience and information.

As I’ve been mulling it over, there are a few practical suggestions I can make.

Sponsor a child in poverty

I’ve met some amazing organizations like Compassion and Christ’s Hope International. I’ve seen first hand how these models work. And you just never know how much impact that $36 a month will have, that you may literally be saving a little girl from sexual exploitation. Is there a promise that every child sponsored won’t end up falling into the snare of exploitation? No, which is why prayer and encouragement are so vital. Those consistent positive voices of advocates in their lives are often lifelines of hope to keep them on the paths of hope and purpose.

Support your local anti-trafficking organization

The awareness of this problem is much stronger now than it used to be, and most cities in America have some sort of chapter or organization that deal with human trafficking in one form or another. Just Google it and be open to serving (and learning!) however necessary. If you need any recommendations of where to start, let me know in the comments and I’ll share any contacts or connections I may have.

Learn and share and pray

As you can see, those 100,000 girls in Mtwapa may not be as high in demand if it weren’t for the sex tourism from the wealthy Westerners that visit. Guess where those men came from? Probably your country, probably America. We need to admit that we are part of the problem of little girls being exploited in Mombasa because we endorse and celebrate the sexualization of women here in America. That creates the “demand,” the need for women to fulfill sexual desires on-demand.

We have to deal with the issue of “demand,” that until our culture mindset changes and our men stop viewing certain kinds of women and girls as objects for sexual gratification (prostitution, strip clubs, pornography, rape), then the problem will never go away. It’s both a local and international issue. But although we are all apart of the problem (yes, us all), we can also be apart of the solution. That solution will not come without humility, brokenness, and weighty amounts of prayer.

Keep praying, keep learning, keep sharing, keep repenting, keep forgiving, keep honoring . . . repeat, repeat, repeat.