In this world today, I often experience a sense of helplessness. Problems are so large that it seems laughable to think a person like me could solve them . Even though I am naturally a problem solver, I am also occasionally self-aware. I know that most problems that are broadcast on the news are so big that even big government and huge budgets are unable to make a dent in the major problems that face our world.
This was my mindset when I began to learn about human trafficking. The problem seems so big that I had difficulty understanding where one would start to clean up this scourge that is rampant in our world.
Even the statistics are overwhelming. According to the International Labor Organization, 4.5 million people are trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. They also estimate that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide. Also according to Polaris, the number of people asking for help is increasing: a 24 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 alone. Although there are no official estimates of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S., Polaris estimates that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands. In 2015, and estimated 1 out of 5 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims.
Even when I look at regional statistics they seem overwhelming. In 2014, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy is $290 million per year in Atlanta alone. They also estimate the gross cash income per pimp is $32,833 per week. (The discussion of the difference between a pimp and a trafficker is for another day.)
It is easy to be overwhelmed by these statistics and to feel helpless.The natural response then is to try and not think about it. Yet this denial or avoidance still leaves us with an unresolved conscience. William Wilberforce (famous English abolitionist) characterized this discomfort saying “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know."
Even as I share this information with you I am aware that the picture of reality today is uncomfortable to consider. In the busy, entertained, comfort of our lives, topics like this disrupt our worldview. It disrupts our agendas. I know that it has disrupted mine.
What if God desires that disruption? What if He wants us startled? What if He is OK with disrupting the busy entertained comfort in which we live? What if He does this not to drive us to despair, but to drive us to love. The love that He has shown us. The love He desires for us to show others. The love that drives us not only to learn, but also to live Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (NIV).”
As we take steps to build a specifically designed long-term recovery center for trafficked and sexually women and their children, we believe that the space between discomfort and love is the space we are to occupy. We trust that we will experience joy in pain.
We hope that William Wilberforce was correct in saying: “Accustom yourself to look first to the dreadful consequences of failure: then fix your eye on the glorious prize which is before you; and when your strength begins to fail, and you spirits are well-nigh exhausted, let the animating view rekindle your resolution, and call forth in renewed vigor the fainting energies of your soul.”