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.

He Was Naked, Too

One of the amazing bonuses of hanging out in the social justice and anti-trafficking crowds is all the incredible people I meet and all the inspiring stories I hear, often first-hand. At a recent IJM Music and Arts Festival, I met Mary Anne at our booth. Our New Name booth was indicative of our work: simple and sincere. There were a few business cards, some small purple plants, and then a stack of copies stapled together. They were copies of a sex trafficking survivor’s story. Mary Anne’s story. As soon as I saw Mary Anne I thought to myself, “Now she’s a writer.” Obviously thoughtful. Unassuming. Kind and approachable. Really sweet too. And that’s when I felt a knot in my stomach that I just powered through and ignored. “No, she couldn’t really have been treated like that. Abused like that. No…,” as if my control in thought recreates reality. I took a copy that night but I wouldn’t read it for some time. I ignored what I didn’t want to accept. But finally I sat down and read. And entered her story. And wept. So hard I couldn’t see. And what I found was in not wanting to accept her story was really a refusal to accept mine. That perhaps the reasoning, “If you do the right things, you won’t be treated the wrong way,” may be flawed. Struggling with the belief that what happened to me must have been my fault because I must have done something wrong. Performance equals love. But what I found in Mary Anne’s story was another step of the healing journey God is taking me on. The step of seeing Jesus with me — the entire time. Never leaving. Never forsaking. Always faithful. And though some of us won’t understand the realities of being trafficked, if you live long enough you will be forsaken and misused. But it’s inside of that pain that we see — up close and in vibrant color — love, freedom, hope and aliveness in Jesus that we never would’ve experienced from afar. It’s a oneness with Christ you can’t find any other way.


“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…” Hebrews 12:2, NIV


“No! I can’t tell anyone that memory!”

“Really? Why not?”

Why not? Is she serious? Of course she is. My “unthinkables” always seem like “perfect reasonables” to my therapist, JoAnn.

“Because the details are disgusting, and it’s not something you talk about with people. It’s way too extreme.”

“Mary Anne, sex trafficking is in the news these days. Many ministries are working to stop it and to help victims recover. I’m sure this won’t be the first time your friends will have heard about the issue.”

“Well, I’m sure it will be their first time hearing about it in relation to someone they know.”

Sex trafficking. Just hearing JoAnn say those words hurts almost as much as the images that continually flash through my mind no matter how hard I try to blink them away. Everything in me rebels against accepting the reality that those words and images could have anything to do with me.

JoAnn continues voicing her reassurance. “I’ve had other clients during my years as a therapist who had been trafficked in some way. You aren’t the only person I know who has been violated in this way.”

I tuck myself in close and tight on the couch, burying my face. A few tears squeeze out. “But I’m the only one I know.”

“Are you afraid your friends won’t believe you?”

I shake my head no. “It’s not that. I’m afraid….” I swallow and make myself look up at her. Drawing courage from the compassion and strength her tender expression is holding out to me, I name my fear. “What if they never look me in the eye again?”

JoAnn leans in closer, holding my gaze in hers. “Mary Anne, your fear of being judged by people if you tell them your story is coming from shame. You still believe you were the one who did something wrong.”

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong.” I look down again and focus on the pattern of the couch. “But what if they weren’t doing anything wrong? If I’m just dirt anyway, then they were just treating me the way I deserved.”

“Honey, this is where you need to hear from Jesus. Can you express your fear to him and let him speak to you about it?”

Nodding, I take a deep breath, then close my eyes and give in to the images, emotions, and other sensations associated with this sketchy but intense memory.

“It’s a summer afternoon. It feels like I am about ten or twelve years old. I don’t know where I am or who has taken me there. All I can see are the corrugated metal walls of a large storage shed.” Whenever I open up a memory, I always see the walls first. That’s where I kept my attention focused while I was being abused, so I could block my experience of what was happening to me, so I didn’t have to remember.

Trembling, but determined, I turn my gaze away from the metal sheeting of the shed to the naked young girl held captive inside. “I hate seeing myself like that! I feel totally embarrassed and exposed. I want desperately to pull my arms and legs in to cover my nakedness and protect myself from what is coming next, but I can’t. I can feel the ties holding me fast at my wrists and ankles, chafing my skin as I struggle. I wanted to get away, JoAnn. I really did! I just wasn’t strong enough. And the men were so big and scary; I knew they would hurt me if I didn’t do everything they said.”

I look up, my eyes pleading through the tears, needing her to know I had done my very best to make it stop.

“I know you tried, Mary Anne. I know,” she murmurs soothingly. “I believe you.”

Crying, I keep pushing through the memory. “I hate that line of men waiting, gawking and jeering until they have their turn with me!” Before they ever laid a hand on me, they had already violated me. I could see in their faces they were creating in their minds images of exactly how they were going to get their money’s worth as they waited to add their money to a growing pile on the small, rickety table at the front of the line.

“And I hate that pile of money! Is that all I was worth, a stack of bills?” Actually, I wasn’t even worth that much. I wasn’t the one they were paying. “How could anyone think he had the right to use me to make money like that? I feel like a piece of worthless, disgusting filth.”

I still don’t have clear visual memories of everything that happened to me, but my body remembers enough to know what those men were paying for. I also have some memory of their voices—no distinct words, rather their mocking tone of laughter telling me exactly what they thought of me. I heard lust, but that isn’t what has echoed through my soul throughout the years, framing how I think about myself. It isn’t their lust that has done the most damage, but their contempt.

“I hate their voices, and I hate these feelings in my body!” One by one the men kept coming to me, stealing pleasures from a body too young to know how to give them.

“JoAnn, there’s something I’ve never understood. What did they get out of it? I was just a scrawny girl, years away from even starting to develop curves. What did I have that grown men would desire?”

“They wanted your innocence, Mary Anne.”

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“I wanted to die. It felt like it would never end. When it gets too much, everything just goes black, but it feels like it never ends. It will never really be over. It’s too much.”

“I know this is hard, Mary Anne. You are doing great. I’m proud of you, Honey. You are being so brave. Don’t forget to breathe. Okay, this time, instead of letting everything go black, can you try to stay present in the memory and let Jesus help you in it? Can you see him?”

“Yes, he’s standing on the other side of the wall.”

“Can you invite Jesus to come inside and be with you there, or even take you away from it all?”

“No! I don’t want him to see me there—not like that. Please, I don’t want Jesus to see me like that.”

“That’s all right. Can you just tell Jesus what you’re feeling, what you’re afraid of?”

I nod and turn back to Jesus. I silently communicate with him. “Jesus, I am too ashamed to have you come near me. I’m terrified at the thought of seeing shock or disgust on your face if you look at me. I’m scared, Jesus, I don’t think I can do this.”

Immediately, the scene in my mind shifts, but I am so stunned by what I see that it takes me a minute to start describing it.

“Jesus is here in the shed with me, JoAnn. He is right next to me.” I stop, take a breath and then haltingly go on. “He’s on the cross. My view of him is from the back, but I can tell… he’s naked, too. And because of the nails, he can’t pull in his arms or legs to cover himself, either. He’s spread out for everyone to gawk at his nakedness—just like me—and those men are taunting him now, instead of me.” Jesus’ hand takes hold of mine and somehow his suffering becomes a refuge from all that is happening to me in that room. Each sharp pain in my body is swallowed up by the pounding of a nail into Jesus’ flesh. He matches my gasps for breath. I see the crown of thorns piercing all around his head and the blood pouring down his face and arms and feet, mingling with his sweat. Jesus is more of a sticky mess than I am. All of the shame I feel flows out from me and into him. I don’t feel it anymore. It’s completely gone. I guess it makes sense… I mean, how can I feel ashamed when Jesus is right there taking it all with me? It’s incomprehensible to me, but I just feel totally clean. And then suddenly, I’m standing free, clothed in a pretty yellow dress. I look up at Jesus, and it hurts to see him taking all of this for me. I ask him, ‘Is it okay for me to let you do this for me?’”

“It’s more than okay, Mary Anne. It’s my joy to do this for you. You are my joy.”


That’s when the grief hits, and I start crying really hard. JoAnn urges me, “Just let it go. Let it all out.” And, finally, I can. Before, I didn’t think I deserved to cry. Why grieve over garbage being treated like garbage? But as I cry, I can feel all the pain being released from my heart and pouring into his heart. As his heart breaks, mine is healed.

After a while, as my tears slow and I start to calm down, I notice something else in the picture. “JoAnn, next to the stack of bills, I see a pile of silver coins—the ones he was sold for.”

“Ask Jesus if he thinks that pile of coins represents his worth.”

“He says, ‘No, it doesn’t. But I felt the sting of it, just as you did.’”

“I feel this incredible with-ness with Jesus. I don’t feel alone. Jesus is with me, and he understands everything I experienced. And what’s really amazing, Jesus tells me that not many people truly understand what he experienced, but that I share some of it with him in a special way. He wasn’t just being with me, but somehow, he was able to experience me being with him. It’s so amazing! It’s hard for me to believe that he would feel something like that toward me…JoAnn, if Jesus and I can understand each other so well, could Jesus help my friends understand about me, too?”

JoAnn wraps her arms around me, and I relax into her embrace. “Mary Anne, think of the other times when you shared your stories of abuse with your friends. Don’t you think you can trust them with this one, too?”

I nod into her shoulder.

“I’m confident that most people you share this story with will understand, but there will be some who won’t.” She pulls back a little and lifts my chin up so I can see her face. “What you need to remember is that if Jesus isn’t ashamed to be your friend, then no one else has any reason, either.”


This is still a hard story to tell, whether to my closest friends or a crowd of people who are mostly strangers to me. Yet, each time I do, my story is received with honor, and I am embraced with compassion. Each time I heal a little more, and I feel a little bolder. I feel clean. I don’t have to be ashamed of my story, because Jesus was not ashamed to enter into it. As incredible as it is to me, part of the joy set before Jesus, that called him unflinchingly to suffering and death on the cross, was setting me free. Long after those men bound my body, shame continued to hold me captive, but Jesus has freed my heart, my spirit, and my voice. The joy set before me in facing my fear of telling my story is seeing many more people like me become free, too.

Dear Fellow Survivor of Sexual Abuse and Trafficking,

“Mommy! Mommy!…I wanna go home!…“No! Please, No!” These were the cries of a little girl that no one neither heard nor cared to hear. I was that little girl.

What about you? Were your screams loud enough to shake the walls, yet mocked as you were physically overpowered? Were you too paralyzed by fear to cry out or even to make a sound? Was the seduction of your young heart so subtle and your need for love and affection so desperate that the idea of saying no never even occurred to you?

Our bodies, our minds, our hearts – whatever sacred parts of ourselves were pinned down by our abusers, it makes no difference. Whether we were imprisoned in brothels, our own bedrooms, or simply our paralyzed wills, whether they secured their pleasures and our silences with money, attention, or threats, the same predatory evil was at work. However they “paid”, they were thieves, ruthlessly stealing our innocence, our trust, our joy, and our voices. I imagine that we all hold a silent scream within us. Silent, but not unheard.

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,…

He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

Isaiah 53:4, 7 (NIV)

We were powerless to defend ourselves, but Jesus, the one who holds all the power in the universe, chose to become powerless in order to enter into our world of silent screams. Jesus took them into himself in his death on the cross so that he could resurrect not only our lives, but our voices as well.

The good news of the gospel is that there is not a single cry that Jesus hasn’t heard and taken to heart. There is not a single cry that will remain silent forever. While Jesus came to the earth the first time as a silent lamb, he will return as a roaring lion.

Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice,

to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.

He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven

and sends it to the ends of the earth.

After that comes the sound of his roar;

he thunders with his majestic voice.

When his voice resounds,

he holds nothing back.

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;

he does great things beyond our understanding.

Job 37:2-5 (NIV)

If you listen, you can already hear the growing rumble in his throat. It is heaven’s outrage at every act of violence and violation of one of God’s precious children.

It is also Jesus’ invitation to join him in that rumble – one voice, one story at a time. When we break our silence and begin telling our stories, we begin to find our voices, and the world begins to hear. As victims of sexual abuse and trafficking, we needed someone to hear our cries. We needed to be rescued and to be healed.

Now as survivors, we have a story the world needs us to tell. God is calling us to add our stories to his story. Not just our stories of abuse and trafficking, but more so our stories of how God has met us in those experiences and given us his power to triumph over them. We have a unique opportunity to give God glory and magnify his name.

A day of judgment is coming when we will look in Jesus’ face and see in his perfect goodness and perfect anger the vindication we so desperately desire. On that day, Jesus will call forth all of our cries and transform them into a magnificent, holy roar. Heaven and earth will shake with our collective outrage and then joy, as we shake off every last vestige of fear, abandonment, betrayal, and violation still clinging to our souls.

We have been silent long enough. It’s time for us to roar.


Written by Mary Anne Q. Do not reproduce without permission. Contact Mary Anne for any questions pertaining to her writing: maryanneq2@gmail.com

Eyes wide open and totally blind: what do we do when we wear human slavery?

“I couldn’t find my son.”

The father, crouched down and half-sitting in what looked like an incredibly uncomfortable position, spoke in a long-burning anguish.

3 years earlier he had lost his little boy.

The son had been playing outside the last time his mother saw him. Next thing she knew, he disappeared. No trace, no sign. His father, away at work, came home immediately to begin searching frantically.

The area, the woods, the neighbors, the nearby villages — none of them had seen his son.

Days turned into months that stretched into years.

“I felt like I was going mad. My wife seemed to be going mad as well. We couldn’t find him anywhere.”

The camera began panning the area, their home village in western India, showing the depth of poverty and the obvious the lack of food and clothing.

Yet even so, their dignity is loud and clear, despite being so poor. They understand that not everything that costs money brings happiness.

They know what’s valuable — the value of their sons and daughters.

The one thing they hold near and dear costs no money and is really their most prized possession — their children. Birthed in love, living testimonies of their own lives. That is the real treasure they carry.

Yet how cruel that these possessions that are the center of their worlds are live targets. Targets by those who live for greed and exploitation for their own gains.

No, it’s not the money, not the beans, not the farm animals they want.

That son. That’s who the slave traders want.

Humans, unlike drugs or other material possessions, can be bought, sold and used many times over the course of a lifetime.

If you want to have a financially successful career, human slavery is the most ludicrous industry yet.

This boy, one of the 27 million, lost his life and freedom and became one of those numbers. Stolen away and transported on a two-day journey south of their village in India, he was enslaved in the Indian carpet belt where 16 millions pounds of carpets go to the UK alone every year.

And he was only 6 years old.

To some, that age means he is vulnerable and meant to be cared for and protected.

To others, that age means he is an opportunity for many more years of gain and wealth.

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What is slavery?

In this documentary, Slavery: A Global Investigation, they described slavery as being “locked away, held against their will, and enforced by violence.”

And in this specific region where this boy was kidnapped, there are over 4000-5000 children missing.

5000 stories.

5000 parents on the verge of madness out of grief.

5000 innocent eyes.

5000 little creative hands.

Slavery targets the poor.

Why? Because nobody cares.

Typically, only the poor care for each other. And yet they can’t afford to act on all the care they carry and find resources to ensure justice for their lives.

Nobody in the city or world scene would notice if they’re gone.

It should not be surprising when silent voices are silenced.

Exploitation is simply silencing voices until they are no more.

Silence though is perspective. The poor already have voices — and real, valuable ones. Perhaps we say, “I never heard them!” And Jesus says, “Don’t be surprised — the poor you will always have with you. Listen to them.”

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What slavery looks like

I watched in awe at the awful revelations. Children tied to carpet looms. Forced to work for 14 hours a day. Beaten for slowing down or speaking up. Never allowed to leave the building. They had to urinate from the rooftop.

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And they are beautiful rugs, for sure. Perhaps like this one:

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Of course slave markets don’t make shoddy products. If they did there wouldn’t be any demand for them. No, slave-made products camouflage very well into the world market.

Beautiful but silent.

And that rug — I was planning on buying one like it. A few months ago I was in the middle of fixing up my house, finally buying real furniture. And I could consider myself a thoughtful consumer! I do research, I compare prices, I’m not (that much) compulsive. When I found a rug I really really wanted, I was in the “let me think for a long time before making any impulsive decisions” state.

And it was attractive to me because, well, rugs are expensive and this was one relatively affordable. Geez, for anything decent it seems like you had to pay an arm and a leg.

Until I realized that some do pay an arm and leg.

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A few days later I walked away from the film, enlightened but trying oh-so-hard to resist. But I really need this rug! I can’t afford a “socially responsible” rug.

I looked up the specs. My rug was made in India. Then I would see this boy’s face, the dirty floor in the loom room where he worked, the 3 years of life he lost in order to make my floor for the next several years attractive.

I had to find out.

Maybe my rug was good to go. But I wanted to at least try to find out. So I contacted people. I contacted Wayfair, a company I have purchased from before and who had claims to my desired rug. I had no idea how and if they would respond, but this is what I wrote:

Good morning, I have recently made several purchases from Wayfair, of which I’ve been very satisfied. I have been planning on purchasing a rug here and I noticed that it is made in India. I am involved with anti-trafficking efforts in Chicago and will soon be going to Nepal/India to work with women and children who have been trafficked, and I’ve become aware of the pervasiveness of child slavery in the carpet looms of India. I looked on your site to try to find if there was evidence that these rugs are made with social responsibility, but I could not find it anywhere. Before I purchase I want to know where the rugs were bought  and that there has been research conducted to ensure that fair wage and labor have gone into the making of your rugs.

And here was their reply:

Hi Angela, This rug is shipped directly from the manufacturer, NuLoom. Regrettably they were not able to provide me with any credentials regarding social responsibility nor was I able to discover anything about them, one way or the other, online. We do not require the manufacturers we work with to be socially responsible, although we obviously would prefer it if they were. Given the lack of information on NuLoom, perhaps you would prefer to purchase a rug that is manufactured by Jaipur Rugs? They are socially responsible as indicated here, and SKU JCJ1645 is similar to the NuLoom rug you are looking at.


Notice I used the words child slavery, and they used the words socially responsible.

Notice that they don’t require their manufacturers to be socially responsible.

And that’s when I realized having a product made that was socially responsible, a product made without slavery, is a nice option at best.

I read this email and was drawn back in thought. I looked out the window, distracted by the view of the Sears Tower from my cozy chair (that I ironically bought from Wayfair). The linen curtains I recently purchased gently blew in the wind and I was reminded how much I love their color and simplicity.

My eye caught the tag. I reached down and held it closer: “Made in India.”

Ah! Curtains too??

Again, the same email but this time to CB2 (Create and Barrel). And this has repeated several times as I’ve started to purchase an item yet realized it was made in an area where an over-abundance of slavery exists. I’m like, “Do I freaking have to go through my whole house?!?”

Once you see something, you can’t unsee it.

We could take this down all sorts of paths. For instance, why do I insist on buying the cheapest product? So that I can have a higher margin to live on. If I have $20 I could spend all of it on an IMAX movie showing…. or I can go to the cheap David’s theater nearby with the broken seats, but I can see a movie AND go out afterwards for late night dinner.

I am no economics expert, but I learned that economics is simply decision making. And here’s the decision now before me, a life habit-changing question:

I can buy an inexpensive product that is cheapened due to free forced labor and have more to spend on other part of my life.

Or I can buy a slightly more expensive product that paid the person making the product and thus have less to spend on my life.

That is the million dollar question: which one do you value more?

Money. Or people.

Is there anything I can do about human slavery?

I understand — it’s overwhelming. It feels shameful.

But remember this — we will do anything to hide from shame, our own and others. And I think just being aware of that fact will help us to not run but to sit. Sit with the difficulty. And that brings me to my first suggestion:

1. Lament.

Feel deeply and express sorrow over these realities. We’re so quick to jump to solutions that sometimes we forget that grieving is important. That it is proper. That it is honorable.

Lament for what is done and what you can’t fix. Feel empathy without conclusions. It’s one of the most humane, dignified actions you can take.

2. Write emails to the companies you buy most often from.

Since most of what we buy is made overseas, you can assume that there is a possibility that something you own was made as a result of slave labor.

Here are some common industries fueled by slaves, specifically child slaves: chocolate, carpets, bricks, clothing, shrimp, diamonds, cotton, rubber, coal, rice and pornography. 

Will this change slavery in a day? Nope.

Yet would you assume then that means you have no responsibility?

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that if we consume or use something pretty regularly, then we should at least express some basic intelligence in discovering the origins.

That why I think sending emails is an easy ask and first step. Every company, from corporate to local business, has some sort of customer service email listed on their website. So then you can…

Step 1. Copy and paste that into a new email message.

Step 2. Write a subject line, like, “Question.”

Step 3. Write a few sentences explaining why you’re emailing: “I’ve been learning more about human slavery in your industry, specifically child slavery. I wanted to know if you know the origins of this product I bought from you [or am thinking to buy from you]. Are your vendors required to conduct social responsibility?”

Step 4. Press send.

And that’s it for now. They may be like Wayfair and say, “We don’t require social responsibility.” Or they may send you detailed reports and regulations of how they enforce fair trade within their organization.

And either way, that may be all you do.

But you might start a conversation in that organization. You might get one other person thinking about what their company does across the ocean.

At the end of the day, we want our corporations to thrive along with the ones that make their products for them.

3. Buy from fair trade companies.

I met the founders of Matano via Instagram where we traded (fairly) thoughts about one of my recent blog posts. I came to learn more about their new start-up and passion for sports apparel that is ethically made. Since this whole fair-trade world was becoming something of a newer discovery for myself, I was encouraged to see other people who didn’t see social responsibility as an option.

It was just a way they desired to live life. And so they decided to bring other people along.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 8.08.55 PM

That’s really all we do. We have values, they turn into passions, and, as the opportunity comes up, it partners with something tangible.

So it’s not just sports clothing.

It’s about free people.

And sports clothing is simply the vehicle.

Back them on Kickstarter, buy one of their items, and or just follow their business. I think we all need active initiators around us who practice and risk for a belief that is way bigger than themselves.

It’s just one company, a few items, and not that much dent in the universe of human slavery.

But this is just one tipping point. And with the combination of many others, perhaps we can make goodness fashionable again.

Additional resources:


Report: List of products used by child labor or forced labor

The Prostituted Asian Massage Parlors: Don’t look, don’t listen, don’t tell.

She’s just a girl.

Not too different from you and I.

Or your daughter, or your mother, or your sister, or your niece, or your granddaughter.

Well, there are slight differences, but nothing so significant that separates her humanness from that of our own women.

For starters, she’s from China. And some places in China, and many people in China, do not have the same access to opportunity that we have in America. The same money, jobs, loans, protection, freedom. It’s just not the same, and we have to start there because we often judge this girl as if she made her decisions having had our own lives and opportunities. She didn’t. She had a different life.

It’s not that one life is better than another. It’s simply different.

She has a family, perhaps a job, often education, dreams, talents, aspirations, and, above all, dignity.

There may come a point of crisis, or need, or dream, to provide more for her family, or for herself — to earn more income, to have more opportunities and achievements. Not every economy has a “career path.” She goes only to work in a clothing factory from sunrise to sunset and walks away every month with maybe $200. Not enough to live on. And definitely not enough to live up to her aspirations — perhaps as a doctor, or accountant, or fashion designer.

When you live on the edge of survival you can’t afford the luxury of dreaming.

But she hears about a job, and it looks like a pretty good job. Doing hospitality work for an upscale restaurant or 5 star hotel. And the pay would start at $2000. $2000 a month! That’s 10 times what she makes how! Imagine if she did that for just 2 years — she could save up so much to pursue a real education and career path in the land of opportunity. Which, of course, is America.

The land of the free, the home of the brave.

So she makes the incredibly difficult and courageous decision to leave what’s familiar in hopes for a better future. She finishes the job search online, as we all do these days, deciding between job postings, applying to some, having phone interviews, video interviews, job offers, and then even learning that the future employer may offer to cover travel costs and even costs of a visa to get to America.

She leaves.

She arrives.

And what she thought was a decision to move into the free pursuit of happiness turns into a living nightmare.

She has just walked into the sophisticated network of international human trafficking.

When she arrives, her papers are taken, she is moved to certain spots and areas, often not knowing where she is. Her entry level job, which may have been high end domestic work, a restaurant manager, or hotel housekeeper, is actually now one of hundreds of Asian spas in Chicago.


And it’s no typical massage job. This one she finds she must perform sexual services as her job requirement.

What she ended up in was a front for prostitution.

But — but she’s only 19. She came here to grow and give and learn and excel.

This though — this is not what she came for. But now she’s lost and vulnerable — someone else is controlling her: her money, her security, her housing, her information, her everything. This may include physical beatings and rape as a way to “breaking her in” so that she knows who’s boss. Not enough customers coming in? Using her to create online porn is a solution. Gotta make money somehow off her. Resisting isn’t really an option, because her owner controls her money, food, and security.

Nobody would come looking for her if she went missing.

Of course she wants to escape — there’s no way America could really endorse this behavior. But there’s cameras everywhere in the spa, she can’t communicate herself or learn her rights because she is not given the chance to learn the language, she knows the police won’t help because illegal immigrants are not offered the same kind of protections and representation as citizens, and, quite frankly, no one knows and no one really cares about the immigrant prostitutes.

It’s the most overlooked square footage in our city. They’re poor, they’re foreign and they’re women.

She hopes that she can get out quickly, maybe just bide some time before getting enough money to move back to China. Her owner says she needs to work to, “pay of the debt you owe me from me bringing you here.”

But 1 day turns into a week, and 1 week into a month, and 1 month into a year.

And now it’s 14 years later. She’s 33.

“What do you want to do with your life? What’s your dreams?” I ask her this past Sunday while on outreach at her spa in my neighborhood.

She looked back at us with an empty stare.

“No dreams. There’s nothing I want anymore.”

We were all quiet as we let that admission settle into the air.

That was it. No hiding, no putting up a front to keep herself protected, protected from wanting something too much and not ever receiving it.

Her brokenness was real and we all felt the weight of it.

It all feels a little hopeless. An emotion a little too familiar, a little too acceptable.

I mean, she can’t speak English very well despite living here for 14 years, she hasn’t had a day off in a long while, and it looks like her desire is dried up.

But dried up flowers are pretty too.

They’re a little more fragile than full bloom flowers, but they’re not gone, and they’re definitely not useless.

I sit here wondering now if perhaps at some point Sonya* prayed to God, a God she doesn’t yet fully know, and asked for help. I wonder if one of her many desperate prayers was that he’d send some sort of relief and and freedom, giving her a chance to rekindle the fire of lost dreams.

I wonder if we just walked into an answered prayer.

I wonder if we just participated in a miracle, a 14 year-long dried, weary prayer.

I think 2 thoughts: first, that what an honor to be the carriers of light and hope, to be an answer by participating in others’ miracles.

And second, does not God also hear the prayers of his own children, of us, of me, and already has an action plan all set up for our help and deliverance and good? Do we not have our own miracles to walk into?

Though this story I piece-worked together isn’t solely Sonya’s, it’s a mix of a myriad of stories, articles and research told about immigrant trafficking and the Asian massage parlor facades. It’s such a complex, wholly difficult world to understand, mostly because there’s so much silence around it, from both those within and those of us without.

Though that conversation with her on Sunday may have been a difficult thing to hear, we were actually celebrating. Most conversations are superficial as it takes a long time to build trust and hear more of their story. Sonya in particular had been very distant and even at times hostile. But this time was different – she was open, kind, conversational, and allowed a deeper conversation than we’ve had with her previously.

We don’t always pray in person with the women, but this time we felt led and she welcomed us to pray with her in a circle, arms around each other. It was very simple, but so powerful. Her countenance was so different this time and she couldn’t stop thanking us and expressing gratitude. We were seriously ecstatic with praise for this breakthrough!

And her story is just one of thousands of those quiet and hidden Asian immigrants among us.

Be aware that these massage parlors exist not just in the Chicago city proper, or in any major city in America. Actually, of all the teams in Chicagoland, Napperville, a somewhat wealthy west suburb, has some of the most notorious parlors. Our teams are met by managers and bouncers at the doors who won’t even let them speak to the women. There are cameras outside the building as well as inside. Often the women work and live inside that building, never allowed to leave, and may not even know what state they’re in. To make sure they aren’t tracked, owners will move girls from parlor to parlor which are a part of a larger network of international trafficking and crime. They are very dark places.

However, that doesn’t deter New Name. We are a group of loved ones telling these women that they are loved, seen and heard. We don’t know their stories, how they got to that spa, and all the obstacles they have faced. But we know that if we are loved and forgiven, we have every right and place in the world to offer that to them.

New name home page

We have teams all over the Chicagoland, from Wheaton to North Shore to all the way in the city, and we go into the spas bearing gifts and offering friendship.

We also live and breathe prayer. If there isn’t prayer, nothing happens. There is no hope, protection, or relief without God’s intervention.

Yes, not all massage parlors and Asian spas are fronts of prostitution. But we target our spas based off of online research where Johns (those who purchase sex) will review their experience with the businesses and the women. The reviews are explicit and include checklists of their masseuse’s body and how they would rate their performance. Johns use these reviews to decide the best places to go with the kind of woman they want for the right price.

But we believe there is hope and freedom in this industry, for the survivors, the Johns, and the traffickers. All are offered a place to the table of Jesus.

Here’s what we don’t do: We are not rescuers. We believe that each person has an infinite amount of dignity, worth, and value. They are intelligent, capable, smart, and have had to learn how to survive in ways that many of us will never have to. It’s incredible. We have much to learn from them.

We have no agenda but to love.

New Name also reaches out to all women in the adult industry which includes women at strip clubs and prostitutes posting services online. We do call centers and follow-up in order to help each individual take the next step in life.

Often, when a women decides that she wants out, there is an immediate need for a safe place before moving her into a longterm aftercare facility. Often these are trafficked victims. Since safety is the first priority, we have created an initiative called the Safer Place.

Our Safer Place Initiative quickly transitions a woman out of the adult industry to a safe place until we are able to get her to a long-term care or healing facility. We started the Safer Place because we were meeting with women who were interested in getting out but were discouraged by their boyfriend, pimp or even family members from going into a restorative program. We’ve found that when we take a woman a significant distance away from where she’s been working, she is able to have the separation she needs from her environment and can take some deep breaths, relax and process her decisions.

So get this: It’s my birthday today and I unashamedly admit my exceeding jubilance for birthday food (hot fudge brownie sundae, anyone?), as well as celebrating with good friends with some serious swing dancing tonight. And I may have a Stitch Fix box waiting for me downstairs — gah, happy birthday to ME!

But what would be the most incredible gift is to see our new Safer Place be completely prepared for the welcome of our first woman. One of our team leaders has renovated her and her family’s home to offer our first Safer Place.

Check out the Amazon wish list where there’s a list of items that are still needed to furnish the home. Could you participate in another woman’s answer to prayer, participating in her miracle?

It’s beyond totally worth it.

*Sonya is her pseudonym 

10 ways you may not realize how your life is affecting sex trafficking

Exactly 5 years ago I began down a path of connecting with people who I thought were vastly different from me. This began with those who were in drug addiction, then those who were homeless, then those in prostitution, then those in domestic violence, and eventually those in human trafficking.

You know what happened as I met them?

It stopped being “them.”

And it became “us.”

First, I found that many of my own hurts and wounds were very emotionally similar to those in the “broken” culture. Hey guess what? I’m just as broken! And I think we’re all there– we just have various ways of coping or covering shame.

Second, the economics of my life choices became increasingly obvious. You see, I realized, as in Economics class, that making one choice is a choice for something and a choice against something else. All of our choices and actions and voices and thoughts affect those around us. We affect our culture by the choices we make and don’t make.

And I’ve come to find some very clear ways we contribute to sex trafficking around us, though normally unknowingly. However, ignorance is not bliss. So here are some ways you may not realize that you are contributing to sex trafficking around you.


1. Calling prostitutes “sluts” and “whores.”

This unfortunate name-calling is perpetuated not just in our culture’s movies and music, but also in passing comments from average people and saintly church-goers. It’s a way of removing someone else’s lifestyle from our own connection so that we aren’t also soiled.

This practice also gives us permission to look at a woman who has on provocative clothing as someone we have permission to denigrate and look down on. “She dresses like a slut,” or “What a whore” are phrases that stiff-arm women far away from ourselves and “normal” people, and then categorizes them as simply sex objects who want to express their physical power.

Which, my friend, is far from the truth.

And it totally overlooks the reality that in the sex industry there is often very little choice involved, which brings us to the next point.

2. Believing that those in the sex industry are there by choice.

Prostitution is simply the exploitation of vulnerability. Statistics show that up to 95% of those in the sex industry have experienced sexual abuse in their past. Why do you think the correlation? Think about it— growing up, these children never understood the right they had to their own body. Then, when they grew up, all of a sudden someone offers money for what others have taken freely. It was a natural progression, but only because exploitation has been their normal expectation.

Another aspect of this lack of choice is the reality that most women chose this work because they didn’t have any other options for income and were in extreme circumstances. Funny how that works– they chose sex work because they didn’t have a choice.

This is a hard one to explain, because many of us do not understand what it means to be totally and wholly lost and without hope, to deal with not just having no way of taking care of yourself, but also dealing with emotional trauma and deep soul wounds. It must take a lot of courage to decide to perform sex acts with someone you don’t know in order to pay the bills and put food on the table.

I’ve talked to strippers, high-end escorts, street prostitutes, and massage parlor escorts, and every one of them said they were there for the money because they didn’t have another way to bring in a real income. And once they were in long enough, it was an endless cycle and nearly impossible to get out.

3. Having a limited, “slavery” view of human trafficking.

Yes, trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. But it’s slavery with a different face.

Slavery simple means forced against their own will. And many in prostitution are forced and exploited outside of their will.

But they are not in physically chains. Yet you can be certain to know that the emotional bondage is very real and controlling.

I had a friend who came to live with me for a while who was escaping her boyfriend who had literally beaten her with hangers, burned cigarette butts into her skin, stabbed her multiple times, and she still defended him and blamed it all on herself. You see, the chains we need to be aware of are the chains of mind control, brainwashing and manipulation.

And those kind of chains are the most frightening and most damaging.

4. Not being aware of children.

It’s hard to hear, but children are being used as sex objects. In America. In our cities. In our neighborhoods. On our watch.

It’s easy to overlook kids as just tiny humans and not take their non-verbal and verbal cues seriously.

But here’s the reality: the U.S.Department of Justice states that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old.

And that’s trafficking. And it’s happening to at-risk children as well as not-at-risk children everywhere. Be sensitive to the children around you, especially ones that may be “acting out.” It may be for a reason.

5. Watching “free” porn.

It’s a sad fallacy that just because you don’t pay for porn, then of course you’re not actually supporting the industry.

The reality?

Somebody pays, and it’s typically the girl behind the camera.

You see, the fact that trafficking exists means that there is more demand than there is supply. The more clicks, the more proof to the leaders and marketers of the sex industry that the demand is still there. And they will do whatever it takes to supply that demand.

6. Thinking, “Well, she likes it.”

We may think that a prostitute or porn actress really loves her job.

Think logically about this for a moment: Why would she say she doesn’t like it (to you or anyone else)? If she doesn’t feel safe around you, if she doesn’t trust you, if she knows she’ll get beaten if she doesn’t perform or bring in enough customers, then of course she’s going to tell you whatever you want to hear. Of course she’s going to act like this is the best life ever. Because she knows to be honest would mean losing her income, or losing her health, or coming to grips with her hurt and trauma beneath the surface.

Which brings me to the next point…

7. Being brutally insensitive to trauma.

Here’s the thing about trauma— when you try to explain your feelings and hurt and then someone blames you for it or gives a pat, sympathetic answer, it’s a slap in the face and a trigger to run and not trust anyone ever again with those feelings.

Those that have experienced varying versions of trauma (whether verbal, physical, sexual, emotional, etc…) are in desperate need for help and sometimes that plea for help may come out in odd ways or with unexpected reactions.

But often what they need most is for someone to empathize and just be with them in the moment.

We continue to perpetrate survivors of trauma by not listening and by walking away in their deepest hour of need.

8. Expecting survivors of trafficking to be OK with simply attending a community group and reading their Bible every day.

Survivors need therapy. Though many won’t say that or admit to it (who wants to admit they have serious issues? Yeah, me too), they’ve been through mental warfare and need emotional intensive care. This is not church small group stuff. This means professionals and years of work and tender care.

9. Taking people at face value and assuming you know their story.

You may be surprised to realize how many prostitutes, strip club dancers, and abuse survivors there is living inside your inner circle. We all have hidden lives, do we not? And often by not being vulnerable ourselves, we place this plastic film over our lives that looks like strength but smells like shame. It keeps us protected, but also keeps others at bay.

If we’re not vulnerable about our pain, then why would anyone else share with you about their hurts? or their struggle with sex? or their shame of prostituting?

10. Trying to rescue those who are being trafficked.

This is the one I’m the most guilty of (though believe me, I have been guilty of all of the above at one point or another). It’s easy to see this huge problem and decide to go on saving campaigns and rescue the victims from destruction.

The reality? This is just another power play.

It’s yet another way that these women are experiencing control from yet another person or group.

It’s deciding, “Hey, what’s happening to you is bad, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a decision for you that is obviously the best choice for your life. I know this is best. We’re going to do this.”

That friend I mentioned earlier? I was incredibly overwhelmed with feeling the responsibility to save her from this terrible man and terrible mental state. And it was seriously stuff.

But all I did was push her farther away, because then she was the victim and not the friend.

I’ve had a change of mindset. As Bob Goff says, “I used to want to save people. Now I just want to be with them.”

I used to want to fix people

So how can you make a difference today?

First of all, think through your thoughts. How do you think about those in the sex industry?

Secondly, think about your choices. How are some of your seemingly small decisions contributing to human trafficking?

Lastly, support one of these anti-trafficking organizations today. It’s Giving Tuesday and after days of shopping, make a real effort to give directly to help survivors of human trafficking.

Here are some organizations that I have personally worked with and/or volunteered with in Chicago. They are all doing amazing work in our city.


What I love about CAASE is their focus on Ending Demand. They have an educator who goes into local high schools and middle schools to talk with boys about the realities of the sex industry and the fallacies they are seeing and hearing around them.

They also take the lead with legal advocacy in Chicago and Illinois. At the end of the day, if the laws don’t change, then longterm change is not possible.

New Name

Through New Name I have been able to do outreach in massage parlors in my neighborhood and come to a better understanding of international sex and labor trafficking. Massage parlors are very difficult as there is a huge language and cultural barrier. But New Name has a fantastic approach and view of these women and we are there to love and support and help however needed.

If you want to donate to New Name, please mail a check to PO Box 632, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137.

The Dream Center 

Last year I spent a lot of time with the Dream Center and was able to get involved with a street prostitution outreach. This was my first time “on the streets” and I was very humbled by my lack of understanding and lack of sensitivity. I found so much of this life is about survival and control. The women and men who work in the Dream Center are truly some of the most courageous people I know.

They have housing and after-care for girls who have been trafficked and women who have been in the sex industry and/or drug addiction. This is a place absolutely over-flowing with love and care.

So if this article has been helpful in your understanding at all about human trafficking, please share. Also, please feel free to email me or comment with questions or additional insights. This isn’t about pushing my opinions; I want this to be all about starting conversations.

So let’s have conversations that love and help people.


How To Be A Mom Of Justice: Fighting Human Trafficking While Juggling Tiny Humans

Growing up in a family with 5 other siblings, justice was all about me getting the same amount of cookies as my brothers.


Some of my favorite tiny humans

Lord help us all if one child got more pieces of candy than the others. For my parents, I’m sure managing “justice” was a full-time job. We were extremely vocal is there was even a hint of unfairness in the distribution of sweet goods.

So for parents to think about stepping in the world of social justice can seem daunting. Managing the demands and schedules of tiny humans who at times believe the world revolves completely around them and their Fisher Price toys is a very demanding task.


It is possible.

It is possible to do justice,

to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God.

It is possible to raise a generation that is aware of children, women and men that are enslaved in sexual exploitation.

It is possible to create a force of world changers who don’t just care, but also act.


Example of an awesome mom juggling tiny humans! Shout-out to my sister-in-law Kristin

And this doesn’t happen on accident.

This is a word for moms. The mom that can’t imagine adding one more thing to her plate. The mom who can hardly get her child to share her Barbies with the neighbors. The mom who is overwhelmed with getting from one meal and one nap to the next.

Your life and your role is unspeakably important.

And I’d like to introduce a grain of thought that you can live for justice actively with your kids.

But it may look different from the way I live. In fact, it will look different from mine. I’m in a totally different season of life. Your ways will look different, but your impact will also be different, and perhaps greater. In having children, your impact opportunity is exponential. Think of that! It’s not all about how much you accomplish; it’s about multiplying your compassion many times over in your children’s lives.

That’s the kind of math we need in this world.

Moms (and Dads, of course), here’s some things to think about as you approach living an active life seeking justice in your community.

You are not separate from your family.

Whatever you choose to do, do it with your family, with your children. Teach your children about these realities. Don’t hide the realities of human trafficking from them.

Research child trafficking. Read. Watch. Become aware.

Become aware of the realities of child trafficking and prostitution in America and in your very city.

Missing child or runaway report? That child will most likely end up in child prostitution or some form of sexual exploitation.

Foster care and social services? Most of them have gone through some sort of trauma, many of them from sexual and/or physical abuse and are at risk to traffickers and pimps.

As a mother, as a parent, you will have an understanding and anger inside of you that is more direct and empathizing than those without children.

But don’t pursue this out of guilt or revenge; pursue it because you know love and justice are two sides of the same coin.

Allow your heart to melt. Your actions will naturally follow as an overflow of your heart.

And then share with your children. Appropriately, of course, but you can be a good judge of how much they can process at what age.

But whatever you do, don’t hide them from it. Because otherwise we will one day have a generation of sincerely ignorant and insensitive adults who turn their gaze away from really uncomfortable realities that they could actually have an impact in.

Ask your kids what they think you as a family should do to help.

You may be surprised at the amount of creativity and generosity that your kids have. Why not ask and see what they come up with?

This is also about empowerment. If someone feels like they are contributing to a solution, then they will begin to own it for themselves.

Release control of your “perfect house.” Bring broken people in to mess up your perfection.

I’ve noticed an interesting culture of the “perfect-organic-range-free-germ-free home.” The kids can only eat perfectly wholesome food, this is where everything “goes,” schedules cannot be tampered with, and life in general revolves around the total interests of the kids.

And believe me, I know kids thrive and grow under healthy, consistent structure. And, please, someone give them regular naps!

But still, I think there needs to be a safe place where imperfect people can walk in as imperfect and feel accepted.

What if someone “dirty” comes into your home? Will your kids (or you) reject them because they don’t fit into the system?

What if you had a schedule that showed your kids that helping others is more important than playing video games?

What if it was all about “This is simply how we live as a family” instead of “Geez, this is another thing we have to add on top of our already crazy schedule?

For instance…

Our whole family participates in yearly 5k’s to raise awareness about human trafficking.

We go to a local orphanage every Tuesday at 4:00pm and give them cookies we made.

We bring a few kids over from local social services once a week for family game night in our living room.

Every time we give our children allowance, we require that they give 10% of it to raise money to the local safe house for formerly-trafficked girls.

A few more ideas come to mind…

Choose a country that is under the blight of poverty, violence and trafficking. Pray once a week as a family for that country and do research so you can talk about it with knowledge and understanding.

Find an organization that is doing sustainable work in that country, build a relationship, get real names to pray for, and send handmade notes and cards to the ones in the recovery shelters.

Save up and take a vacation as a family to that place as a missions trip.

Overall, it’s about being intentional, being purposeful with your life.

Don’t let life control your life. Teach by example that we can make decisions about what our life practically looks like. We’re not victims of our circumstances or appointments.

If it’s simply a part of your life and values, then you don’t have to worry about “not doing enough” or having to carve out extra time.

But remember, at the end of the day, you are raising a generation of world changers…

So don’t discount the impact you are making to the world by simply being a faithful mom.

We become what we look at. So if your children are spending 18 years of their lives watching your virtues of faithfulness, love, justice, kindness, and generosity, will they not become that themselves?

Start with who you are. Take care of you. Take inventory of your soul.

And then live out loud.

I can’t think of a better way to be a mom of justice than that.


Want to learn about human trafficking and exploitation in America and the world? These are my personal resources.

Here are some the most helpful organizations that I follow on Facebook and use for learning:

Not For Sale

Exodus Cry

International Justice Mission

A21 Campaign

The Abolitionist Movement

Here are organizations that sell really beautiful products that are either made by survivors of trafficking or support them:

WAR Chest Boutique– International free-trade products made by women survivors of trafficking

Bought Beautifully– International free-trade products that support survivors of exploitation

Starfish Project– fair-trade jewelry that employs previously trafficked women in Asia

Colette Sol USA– handmade women’s shoes to fight human trafficking

Cozzee– fair-trade coffee supporting survivors of trafficking

Conferences you seriously need to check out or see if you can stream:

The Justice Conference– Chicago, IL

Abolition Summit– Kansas City, MO

Global Prayer Gathering– Washington, D.C.

Books that have impacted my life and moved me to action:

God in a Brothel– by Daniel Walker. Stories of an undercover investigator’s experiences in saving women and children from sex trafficking around the world.

Possible by Stephan Bauman. A call to reconsider what it means to sustainably impact our neighborhoods, villages, and cities.

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas. The story of the remarkable life of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce.

Films that nailed it in showing the realities of trafficking:

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls– award winning documentary on the global sex trade

Demand– documentary that is produced by Shared Hope International and focuses on demand factors for sex trafficking

Dispatches from the Front: Islands on the Edge– documentary highlighting the realities of human trafficking in Southeast Asia

Thank God I’m Not Like Josh Duggar

Dear God, thank you that I am not like Josh Duggar.

You and I both know that their strict, conservatism was a huge front to the realities of his and his family’s life.

He is now exposed for what he really is: a sinner.

A sinner living like he’s something righteous.

Well, God thank you that I am not like this hypocritical, self-righteous sinner. Not only would I never commit an act like that, but I would never be so religious and fake. I am the most un-fake person I know and can make pure judgments of others’ sincerity.

I hope that by me standing up for what’s right and shaming him and this fake Christian culture that you would be proud of me, that I am encouraging all people everywhere to be real and transparent. Since the Gospel cuts through truth and lies, I am so thankful that I can minister the Gospel by heaping shame on him and his family, because shame is what leads anyone to change.

It’s what he deserves. I hate people like that, judgmental people that act like they’re better than everyone else. At least I don’t act like I’m perfect. And because I don’t pretend like I’m perfect, then I have a right to announce all the hypocrisy of those who do pretend, even if I don’t know them. I can tell; I know these situations. I’m a really good judge of intent and character.

So God, I thank you I am not like this sinner, Josh Duggar. Thank you for all of your grace to me. It makes my life so much better. I’m glad I can receive it, unlike other sinners. In your name, Amen.


It’s such an easy trap to fall into, the trap of merciless shame-dumping: The Judgement Zone.

I know this Judgment Zone because it’s my gut reaction to situations like this one, when really bad things happen to the vulnerable ones by people who claim to be “good.” I hear these very words in my head and start boiling with anger.

But here’s what I’ve realized about this Judgment Zone: when we live in the Judgment Zone and rally around sin to expose it, no matter how big or how little, here’s what we’re really preaching:

“No one is ever allowed to mess up. If you want to be included or wanted, you have to be perfect. Or at least my definition of perfect.”

And we put more and more distance between ourselves and our relationships and our community.

We hold up the banner of Josh Duggar’s mess and shout, “He must be punished! And he must be extra shamed because he was faking! And it’s our duty to exploit it, to make sure that everything is clear and ends up being perfectly fair.”

Because he is the only one that’s ever messed up or pretended that he was something he wasn’t.

Because he is too far gone to be shown mercy and grace.

Because he’s tearing down the name of goodness and God in our culture.

Actually what’s tearing down the fame of God in our culture is a total lack of love. We should be known for what we are for, not for what we are against. We should be known for our encouraging lives, not for our exploiting voices.

I am just as appalled at evil and injustice as you are. I’ve seen it up front and personal. When my friend was beaten and abused by her boyfriend for months and she escaped to my house. When my friend was raped and the courts wouldn’t believe her and the perpetrator goes free. When I lost all my work when my previous company took unjust legal action against me.

JusticeIt’s not cool. It shouldn’t go undone.

I absolutely want justice.

But justice without love, without hope, and without purpose is no justice at all. 

We all applaud turn-around stories of people who were living destructive lives and then have a major “come-to-Jesus” encounter where they do a 180 and totally change for good.

We feel good when we hear stories like that.

But who will stand in the gap for them? 

Who will be the first to say, “I forgive you. I want the best for your life. I offer you a safe place to be imperfect and go through your change”?

Jesus is such a good example of this. He’s the one who sought out the dirtiest, most rotten ones of society and said, “Follow me. Let me serve you. I make all things new.”

So now we can also can look at the ones with the most exposed, dirtiest deeds and say, “Come be with me. Let me serve you. We’re going to go with Christ and he makes all things new.”

This is for the broken ones. Rich or poor. Popular or outcast. Perpetrator or exploited.

When we live less than this, when we become judgmental of the judgmental, we raise walls of separation.

And those observing from the sidelines who need help are cowered into silence because if anyone knew what was really going on in their lives, they know they would be shamed and bullied into the dust just like this guy was.

So they live in quiet conflict, their secret lives sealed shut beneath the surface.

But we can only go so long before the reality of our issues come out. And I believe that a culture of authenticity and grace-covering imperfection can help all of us heal of stewing internal struggles.

I want 14 year old boys who struggle with pornography, sex addiction and an unhealthy view of women to know that there is a place and a people where they can go and open up about their imperfections and find loving help.

I want 40 year old crack-addicted prostitutes to know that there are people who love them and see them as the valuable, cherished women that they are and are willing to walk with them into healing.

I want the cheating husband with 3 kids to know that he doesn’t have to live a fake life anymore, that there is a place where he can come in his brokenness to find forgiveness and restoration.

This is called radical grace. 

Because sometimes some things seem completely unforgivable. It would just be too radical.

But to the broken ones, to the ones that see their helpless state, this radical grace is freely offered.

And we are the agents and communicators of that grace in our relationships and communities.

And if that abuser, that pimp, that cheater isn’t broken yet? Well, it’s not our place to shame and break them.

We make boundaries in our lives, we pursue proper justice through our legal system, but we don’t light shame fires.

Shame never induces change.

But mercy does.

How do I know this?

Because I am the one who has received this kind of radical grace and unbelievable mercy.

And if I can’t give back what I have received, did I ever truly receive it in the first place?

What I Learned From An Ex-Pimp’s Story And How It Relates To The Riots

There’s a soul behind the face.

There’s a heart behind the actions.

There’s a story behind the violence.

I had a major realization a few weeks ago while watching a documentary about sex trafficking in Chicago. The statistics were mind-blowing. I have learned a lot about trafficking, prostitution, and the sex trade in the past few years, but I had no idea how pervasive it was amongst the youth, specifically in Chicago.

childThat the average entry age for prostitution (i.e., trafficking) is 12.

That the average age for boys to start buying sex is 14.

That mothers sell their daughters to drug dealers to pay off debts.

It starts making you really angry at the money-handlers, the dealers.

The pimps.

Behind the face of every child and women trafficked is a pimp that is controlling and dictating every move and action.

The pimps are typically men that are extremely manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, abusive, and greedy. His women are his property, his means of support.

What’s equally mind-blowing is when a pimp leaves that life and is truly a changed person. It’s radical and can be sometimes hard to process. Such an evil person now changed? It’s only possible through life-changing redemption.

Very few pimps leave that life, but I came to hear the story of one.

In a documentary called “Dreamcatchers,” I heard the story of Brenda. She is from South side Chicago and lived in prostitution and trafficking for 25 years. After escaping from that world, she dedicated her life to helping youth and women ensnared in the same world she had been.

In the middle of the film entered a new character, Homer.

Homer, now an ex-pimp, had been the best friend of Brenda’s former pimp. Homer controlled, abused, and sold women just like the rest.

Years later, he changed. Radically. He left behind everything and became an advocate against the street life he used to live, now championing women and the cause of anti-trafficking.

But it wasn’t the incredible life change that grabbed my attention the most.

It was his story, his past.

Homer grew up with a terrible family life. He watched his mother be physically abused by his dad. He knew growing up that this probably wasn’t right, but because his mother never left, he began to believe that this was the way to love. So it was at home that his world-view of people and women evolved.

His dad was always a very angry, resentful man. His dad, now elderly, was actually in the documentary. He was talking with Homer in their home, and his dull, seething anger was incredibly obvious. You could see the dysfunctional home life in real time, though years later.

As Homer talked in an interview later, he described how his father’s anger and home life directly influenced his own life. Homer succumbed to anger and hatred as he himself was physically and sexually abused as a child by people in his life.

With this skewed world-view and mental disorientation, he ran headlong into drugs, alcohol, and sex. It moved naturally into violence, theft, and using prostitutes. As he observed the “benefits” of pimp life, he went full throttle. Women ceased to be people. They were now objects, his property.

Did he ever think that he would be a pimp? “No,” he said. But it was a path, a road that the culture around him gave as an opportunity to find his identity.

But the most telling point of all of this was when the interviewer asked him why he thought his father was so angry and abusive. “Well,” Homer replied, “My father’s father treated him the exact same way.

“I knew my grandfather briefly. He grew up in Alabama and later moved to Chicago. And he was seriously full of anger and wrath. He took it out on his family and was abusive.

“In fact, I believe that if my grandfather had the same opportunity as I did with violence, drugs and pimping, he would have done the same things. He would have been a pimp. He would have been violent in community. I know he would have.”

When I heard this, my mind just froze.

Something clicked. Something I didn’t even wanted to think about or consider.

Perhaps you can’t separate history from hurt.

Perhaps the sins of your fathers could be your sins.


Perhaps there’s a historical root cause behind all the displays of anger, hatred, abuse, and violence.

Maybe the best way to help Chicago’s violence and trafficking issue dissolve is to help individual people be set free from their anger, which stemmed from pain, which stemmed from a deep wound…

…which may have been injustice.

I believe this ties in directly to all the talk and conversations around race and riots and protests that is getting media attention right now.

And I feel like something needs to be said.

White friends, here’s a word for us: we vastly misunderstand the struggle.

We think, though may not say, that the most violent parts of our cities are where the population is heavily black or minority, so they are the cause of it. It’s just their nature.

And if it’s just their nature, then the solution doesn’t involve our empathy. So we don’t have to feel sorrowful– simply offer pat solutions that gives us the sense we’re involved without actually struggling through the emotional issues with them.

And we act on it.

Sure, maybe not outrightly. That would be hypocritical to our loving, accepting, and religious culture.

But our lives speak louder than words.

Our friends aren’t black (Don’t agree? Scroll through your Facebook friend list right now)

Our churches aren’t diverse (Should not my church reflect the racial percentage of my city or community? Or at least talk about pursuing that?)

Our businesses don’t want to sell to blacks (What I learned from conversations at one of my jobs)

We (might) invite black friends to come into our world instead of us going into theirs.

We make light jokes about, “The war is over. Slavery has been illegal for a long time. That was resolved years ago. You should be over it by now.”

And by say that we’re basically saying, “I don’t care what you feel. You should not feel that. Since I think you should be over it by now, then I don’t have to care about your struggle with it.”

Wait a second, Angela,” you may interject. “You’re saying that the black culture is still hurting from the slavery that was ended after the Civil War way back in 1865?? C’mon…”

I’m saying that I realized that Homer’s great-great-grandfather could have been alive around the time of the Civil War. And the way he could have been unjustly mistreated may have been the seed of anger that grew into abuse. And abuse is proven to pass from generation to generation. Just like it has in Homer’s family.

Yes, I am drawing conclusions and making some assumptions and trying my hardest to understand people’s actions based off their past. And it seems logical, that part of the issue of trafficking I see in Chicago is stemmed from a dysfunctional family life.

Does that give excuses to those that come from dysfunctional families? NEVER! I would never look at the women that Homer prostituted and say, “Well, he was simply a result of his family’s anger which was incited by injustice several generations ago. He shouldn’t be held liable.”

Obviously not. I think you and I both get that.

But I think we need to think a little more before we post and blog and discuss. I think we need to work hard to be intentional about how we diversify our minds, and then our speech, and then our actions.

Guys, it’s really uncomfortable. But get over it. Living this way is meaningful and may not just change you; it could change your community and our entire national culture.

I don’t have any to-do lists for you or how I plan to solve these problems, both of the white misunderstandings or the black realities. I’ve probably offended someone on both sides by making some generalizations.

Yet I believe that dysfunctional can become functional and it can happen in a kind process. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone walk with you through your struggle and say, “I hear for you, I want the best for you, and I empathize with your pain, even if I don’t totally understand it.”

And don’t think I’m really good at this. Do I struggle with discrimination? Have I discriminated before? You bet.

But I’m becoming more aware. More aware of myself, more aware of the struggle, more aware of the past. And being aware makes me fight against my tendencies to only be around people who are just like me and make me feel really comfortable and good about myself.

I think we all need to hear this and ask ourselves the question,

“Am I the one that needs to change?”