I caught the final five minutes of the movie “Taken” earlier this week. In short, the movie tells the fictional story of a young woman kidnapped by sex traffickers and her father’s heroic efforts to find and rescue her. In those sweet moments after her father has dispatched the last bad guy and evil has been quelled—at least for the moment—the terrified, exhausted, traumatized girl utters these words, “Daddy, you came for me,” as she collapses into the safe, strong circle of her father’s arms.
I’ve been praying this week for a family I know. The father has just changed jobs a few months ago, but will be taking his one day of accrued vacation time to drive over 500 miles to meet with university officials to help his daughter (who is a senior with a 3.8 GPA) iron out some misunderstandings that have already delayed her graduation one semester. Daddy, you came for me.
I will be attending my daughter’s final State Speech and Drama meet this weekend. I love it. I’ve attended every year she has qualified, plus driven thousands of miles across Montana to cheer her on at her regular season meets. This year, joining me for the tension-packed final day of the meet, will be her father. Honestly, he doesn’t enjoy the variety of events, but he loves his daughter. Daddy, you came for me.
A million years ago, or maybe just thirty-seven, a nervous nine-year-old peaked out from behind the painted cardboard back drop at Skyline Elementary in Great Falls, Montana to discover that the “handsome” dad (as described by her classmate) was her very own dad, Bill Barber. That afternoon, he was neatly dressed in slacks and a sports coat, sitting in the third row center of the little theater awaiting his daughter’s theatrical debut as none other than “Edith Eagle,” a bird who would not become extinct—thanks in part to the efforts of Mrs. Strunk’s fourth graders. That day I was the one exulting: Daddy, you came for me.
St. John Bosco known for his dedication to educating poor street children, said, “It is not enough to love the children, it is necessary that they are aware that they are loved.” It is wonderful to be told that I am loved. Words of affirmation are one of my primary love languages, but when you show up for me, then I truly believe it. If the best moments of life could be likened to glowing pearls on a pearl necklace, I would have ropes and ropes of pearls…because in my life, folks came for me. I was, and still am, loved well. I treasure those pearl moments of sacrifice made on my behalf by family and friends who truly love me enough to show up. But honestly, I almost feel guilty when I consider the extravagant amount of love that has been poured out on me over my lifetime.
Do you know where this is going? I knew the moment I heard that girl utter those words to her father on the TV screen.
There are millions of girls whose dads aren’t coming for them. For many of them, it was their dads that sold them into slavery. Who will love them—truly love them? How will they know that they are loved by God?
Why can’t those enslaved women and children experience the joy of a “Daddy,-you-came-for-me” moment?
Pray. Give. Volunteer. Share.
You know what’s going on. It can’t be ignored…She can’t be ignored.
Please, do your part to make someone’s daughter, somewhere, aware that she really is loved.
So, what’s your resolution? Lose weight? Eat healthier? Exercise daily? Exercise weekly? Take the garbage out without wheezing? Maybe your goals are more spiritual: read the Bible every morning, pray more or be nicer to that “special” person in your life. Most years I don’t even bother to make a resolution; My reasoning is simple: if I don’t make’em, I can’t break’em.
Honestly, that was my thought process for years. Why set myself up to fail? Maybe, just maybe, I was wrong.
Admit it, nobody loves to fail. Some of us are bothered by it even more than others. I found this out about myself in elementary school. I would race to see who could finish their worksheet first. I would race to see who could read the story fastest. I would race to see who could climb the ropes in the gym during P.E. However, I would not race to the end of the playground asphalt. Why? Because I knew I’d get beat. I was smart, strong, flexible—but not fast. So, I didn’t run races. Kinda silly of me. I probably never would have beat all the kids in my class. There were boys like Brian Loucks, Chris Young and Doug Sexe who were very fast, but I bet I would have improved.
Have you ever noticed how some of the people you knew who weren’t all-star athletes in school are now running 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and even marathons? Crazy! Yet even crazier still, is how a lot of the kids that were all-stars way back when are in rough shape today.
So, what’s my point? I think I actually have a couple. First of all, life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. People that become runners as adults overwhelmingly become distance runners, not sprinters. I think they recognize that the same mindset needed to succeed in life will work for distance running: show up, keep going, and never give up. Being the best, fastest, smartest, smoothest didn’t make my list, because I value faithfulness. Most runners who train faithfully will improve their times.
Second point: Sex trafficking isn’t going to be eradicated with one big push from you or me. It’s not a sprint, it, too, is a marathon: as ugly and grueling a task as was ever set before us. It would be easy to say, like I did in fourth grade, that you don’t take on losing battles. But I would say to you, that this isn’t a losing battle—it’s a war. Gruesome, devastating and disgusting in the depravity that it involves, but worth every effort when one woman is freed, surrounded by love, and returned to a new life with skills, confidence and a faith in the God who used everyday people like you and me to bring about her rescue.
It’s pretty easy to drop $20, $50 or even $100 in the offering plate when Will and Cathy come and speak at an event in your town, it helps, it really does. But what if, instead of sprinting alongside them for 50 or 100 yards, you began training for a marathon with them, financially?
You could start by becoming part of the 7community. You could give seven dollars a month. Have it taken out of your checking account or charged to your favorite points-earning credit card. You don’t have to write a check, address an envelope or find a stamp. It’s all set up. It’s easy. Just put one foot in front of the other. Maybe you’ll discover after a few months that you can run further or faster with them, and you decide to increase what you’re giving. That would be great! But for now, would you just lace up your shoes and start walking alongside them for seven bucks a month? I spend more than that on mocha Frappuccino’s.
Come on. Here’s a New Year’s Resolution you won’t end up breaking: Give $7 a month to Slave Free Earth, just click on the 7Community tab at the top of this blog! Won’t it be great to tell people you actually kept a New Year’s Resolution?
Up here in the North, winter doesn’t just mean cold; it means days cut short by sluggishly late sunrises and early-out sunsets. Much of our daily living is carried out in darkness, and the sun’s extended presence is sorely missed.
The light, the warmth—there’s nothing like it. Humans need light. We crave it! Without it, we are lost in a cold, dark, confusing world.
It was into a cold, dark, confusing world that God sent His Son, as a tiny, helpless baby. This baby grew into the man who willingly paid the price to rescue me, and anyone else who would choose to believe in Him, from sin.
They call His followers Christians, which means “little Christ.” We who follow Him are to imitate Him. So, if He came to earth to rescue those lost and hurting, I guess I should be doing the same thing: rescuing the lost and hurting.
So, as you celebrate the arrival of the Christ child whose arrival was heralded by the light of a special star and a host of angels filling the night sky with glorious, light, remember to do your part to bring light to the millions of women and children struggling to survive the atrocities of sex trafficking.
Here are a few action options:
• Spend a few quiet moments in a room lit only by the lights of a Christmas tree and pray earnestly for the rescue of those held against their will and forced into prostitution.
• Look around at all the gifts you gave or received. Maybe you stayed in budget, or maybe your January will be a little tight financially. Take a step of faith and commit to giving seven dollars a month to Slave Free Earth.
• Become a conduit. Carry information about modern-day slavery to your friends, family and co-workers. Awareness is a critical, first step.
• Raise some funds. Be creative or keep it simple. Return your unneeded gifts and donate the money. Maybe all this sounds crazy, but if we all do what we can, we can make a difference. Be blessed and be a blessing this Christmas season!
Today is a great day! Our house is officially decorated for Christmas—including the outdoor lights! Maybe this isn’t a big deal to you, but it’s big for our family. My dear hubby is in charge of outdoor lights, and to put it mildly, he doesn’t love putting them up very much. In his defense, the hanging of the Christmas lights is never as simple and straight-forward as it should be. The clips break, the fuses blow, the bulbs break, the wind blows, the extension cords are too short: you name it, he deals with it on “hanging up Christmas lights” day. But this year, we won! The lights are up and shining. Nothing too fancy, but just seeing our house lit up for Christmas really blesses my heart. Maybe it’s silly, but I figure if anyone should get excited about lighting things up and pushing back the darkness it should be people who have had the light of God push back to darkness in their own hearts and lives.
In stark contrast to the gentle Christmas lights of our small town are the lights of the “Strip” in Las Vegas. I flew in one Saturday evening in late October to meet up with my daughter and family who had driven in from California to meet my plane. It was just before midnight by the time my son-in-law picked me up. The route from the airport to our hotel took us right down the famous strip.
At first, I gazed out the car window in amazement at all the lights, but after a few minutes, I felt my heart tug my eyes down from the lights to look at the people. At first glance, I suppose one would describe the crowds of people on the sidewalk as happy, but as we sat at traffic lights, a different picture began to emerge. Yes, some people were definitely smiling and laughing, but many of those people were having trouble walking and staying upright. There were some women who were just standing in small groups of twos or threes. They were beautiful. Many were exotic looking, maybe of Asian descent. Their outfits were stylish and eye-catching, but it was their eyes that I remember. In the middle of all the revelry and action, in the middle of all that neon light, their eyes didn’t sparkle, shine or even twinkle the least little bit. Their eyes were devoid of any expression that even hinted of joy or happiness.
And then I spotted a middle-aged, paunchy man carrying an over-sized martini or margarita glass (I honestly don’t know the difference) in his left hand and holding the hand of his school-aged daughter with his right hand. Suddenly my stomach twisted: What father drags his twelve or thirteen-year-old daughter down the Strip in Vegas at midnight carrying a huge glass of alcohol?
Maybe, just maybe, that wasn’t a father and daughter, because as hard as Vegas tries to light up the night, the darkness of what happens when women and children are stripped of their humanity and used to satisfy the sexual appetites of whoever has the money to pay to use and abuse them, that darkness can never be eradicated by neon lights. The only kind of light that will penetrate that kind of darkness is the light of love. Not touchy, feely, sympathy love, but the love of God. The love that fuels within God’s children a holy unrest that refuses to sit idly by and watch as soul after soul is sucked into the black hole of suffering that is human trafficking.
So, this Christmas Season, as you enjoy the beautiful light displays celebrating the birth of God’s Son, would you also remember the women and children suffering in the darkness and degradation of sexual slavery? Please, don’t just think of them fleetingly, pause and pray for them. And then, instead buying last-minute gifts for friends and family who really don’t need anymore stuff, donate to Slave Free Earth in their honor.
This Christmas, let’s let the true Light shine!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting a delightful just-turned-five-years-old little girl. We spent several hours together, with her mother and little brother, driving several hundred miles across central Montana.
Just as we were pulling into the city of our destination, the young lady asked me if I wanted to hear her recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and upon my assent, she promptly began reciting: “I pledge allegiance to the Silent States of America….”
I giggled to myself at her mistake, and applauded her recitation.
Silent States of America. As cute as her mistake was, I was haunted by it the moment I heard it.
Making no sound.
Is silence in the face of injustice actually being an accomplice?
It would be easy to slip into a rant about where America’s morals have gone, to criticize our government, to point fingers here, there, everywhere, but criticism like that, in this case, is lazy and cowardly.
As a citizen of the United States I have the right to speak out on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves. I also have the right to freely practice my religion, and that means I’m going to pray for the people who are trafficked in America and around the world. Maybe my country as a whole has been silent on some issues, but that certainly doesn’t mean I have to be. I have freedoms, and I intend to use them, not for the betterment of my life, liberty or pursuit of happiness, but for those whose cries are heard only by their uncaring captors…and God.
It was God who heard the cries of the enslaved children of Israel and sent Moses and Aaron to set them free. What about you? Are you willing to be a Moses? An Aaron? Are you willing to speak up, even when you’re scared or uncomfortable?
Let’s not be silent anymore.