Amy

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This is our last day with Lauren (day one and two are here if you missed them). I feel happy/sad. It is one of the biggest pleasure in my life to bring different parts of my world together and let them get to know each other. After this, when I say, “my friend Lauren,” you’ll nod in recognition and I love that. Today Lauren is sharing on a topic that may be one of the most important of our day (and saddest!): human trafficking. There’s no easy transition in, so let’s dive in.

Lauren, what’s your dissertation/research topic? 
I’m still nailing down the exact research question for my dissertation, but I’m focusing on exploring the prevention aspect of human trafficking in my current country assignment (in SE Asia).

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Lauren and friends
What drew you to it?

The long story would involve the fact that I’ve been researching human trafficking on my own for years…going to conferences, reading books, networking my booty off. But the short story is that I want to keep researching this topic because the stories of survivors have become real to me. I currently work with a human trafficking rescue, and the girls there have become my heartbeat for this country. Most are 12-15, and as I witness the pain they carry mixed with their desire to just be little girls, my righteous anger burns against the injustices served to them in the past.

Several weeks ago, I sat outside the bedroom door of a girl who had a knife and was threatening to hurt herself. For three hours, we talked to her and prayed over her room and begged her to let us in to just sit with her. She finally threw the knife at the door, and I was able to reach under the crack to pull it out. As I sat with her on her bed, I stroked her hair and thought, “This is all so unnecessary.” Pain and evil and suffering should never get to the point that a beautiful young woman is considering taking her own life.

This affirmed my desire to spend my future in human trafficking prevention, as important as aftercare truly is.

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wallWhat are you learning?

Hollywood portrays human trafficking through glamorized plots of Liam Neeson-type fathers rescuing their daughters from the hands of violent trafficking rings. Are some girls kidnapped and sold into the sex trade? Yes. Are traffickers often violent? Absolutely. But the real story of what is happening in the world of human trafficking–especially in SE Asia–is so different from what we see in movies or in dramatized photos.

POVERTY is the greatest trafficker of human beings. Whether it be for sex, labor, or child brides, so often parents are the ones sending their children into horrifying situations because they are so desperate for money. Maybe they are farmers with land debt and interest rapidly accruing. Maybe they are drug addicts needing to fund their habit. Maybe they are caring not only for their children, but for those of relatives and neighbors as well.

Mouths that need feeding and debts that need paying will drive people to do things they never thought they would…as will manipulation and coercion. So when a stranger comes and offers honest-sounding work, promising plenty of money to send home, there isn’t a lot of thinking that has to take place. And before we know it, young girls, boys, and even adults are whisked away to do work they never expected to do.

It happens easily. It happens quickly. And it looks a lot more like “normal life” than what you read about in a news article. It’s supply and demand…and what I’m learning is that humans are really awful to other humans. But I have hope in the humans that are really loving to other humans. And those people are rising up to make a difference in their communities.

How do you hope your research helps or makes a difference?

I hope that going deeper into the root cause of modern-day slavery will lead people to think more about the choices they are making. I hope our Western consumerism will slow down once we realize how many slaves are working to supply our demands for massive wardrobes and food delicacies. I hope to inspire a young generation of justice seekers to be LEARNERS just as much as they are DOERS. We simply can’t act until we understand. And when working cross-culturally, we really have to go slow to go fast.

I hope we all keep asking questions! My heart is sold out for this country I’m in, but we need people to be sold out for every country in the world. And we need them to be sold out for the glory of God, not for the glory of themselves. Fighting human trafficking is a sexy role to play these days, but having a cool job title isn’t a sustainable motivator for staying in the work. It’s hard and exhausting and overwhelmingly impossible.

I dream of a generation that sees the most monotonous tasks of servanthood as the greatest honor in work for the Lord. It’s going to take people who are willing to show up, slow down, and stay around to change this world. Those are the people I hope to inspire.

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Show up, slow down, and stay around. That will preach, Lauren. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that wherever we are, we can show up, slow down and stay around.

Speaking of staying around, you have been exceedingly generous with your time this week. Thank you for bouncing emails back and forth in preparation for this week. Your passion for life and Jesus shine through!

If you’d like more information, Lauren has added a page of resources on her blog for human trafficking. What does Lauren’s words have you thinking about?