photography by Justine Williams
Today is a National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
In the global conversation of human trafficking awareness, the number 27 million is dropped loudly and often, in the same way my neighbor drops beats for the small club I assume he is running out of his apartment on Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons.
It’s a large number that there’s no way around. It’s completely true. There are, in fact, roughly 27,000,000 mothers fathers daughters sons husbands wives sisters brothers grandfathers grandmothers uncles aunts cousins children teenagers neighbors friends people currently enslaved today–whether through labor trafficking, sex trafficking, or otherwise.
That’s 27,000,000 stories. 27,000,000 childhoods. 27,000,000 minds. 27,000,000 hearts.
I know this number can be daunting. I get that. I can’t personally understand 27 million grains of rice, much less 27 million human beings. So with that being said, I know that maybe sometimes you get overwhelmed by the fact it’s 27 million slaves and one you.
I don’t remember that much from algebra, but I do know that if the odds are 27,000,000:1 and it’s not in your favor… Those are pretty terrible odds.
I think somewhere along time line we got this idea in our heads that if there’s a problem and we can’t solve it quickly or at least have some tangible results of the solution by dinner, than perhaps it is just a great travesty that we will have to accept. If only our science was advanced enough so we could create an army of Liam Neesons to solve this…
The first error in our line of thinking is that the odds are actually 27,000,000:1. We are called to fight this fight together. There are more people than you think who are passionate about seeing human trafficking end in our generation. In this century. Seek these people out! You are not alone in this.
The second error is that if we don’t make a big impact then we’re not making any impact at all. We often buy into the lie that if we’re not bringing the storm then we’re not making waves. But there are a lot of ways to make waves. Not everyone is called to the platforms to speak or the brothels to bust… Those are all incredible and encouraging things, but they cannot happen without the faithfulness of others to give financially, spread awareness, shop consciously, and support those called to fight on the front lines of this battle. Either side is not easy, and both are just as important.
The third error–and perhaps the most dangerous to our thinking–is forgetting how close this is to God’s heart. It was never, has never been, and will never be the will of God for people to trafficked, oppressed, abused, neglected, enslaved, raped, and forgotten. The very heart of God is complete justice and complete mercy and while both seem to be at opposing ends of the spectrum, in His infinite goodness He weaves them together to tell stories of which we could never imagine.
We cannot forget that He is bringing restoration. Yes, the situation is grim, but there are so many stories of hope even in the midst of that. Simply because we do not see them or have not heard them does not in anyway mean they do not exist. Let’s not be ridiculous. I can’t see air but proof will show it is very real and very important. Maybe we don’t know these stories of hope yet but proof will show they are the same, very real and very important.
I won’t pretend to know more than I do. I won’t pretend to understand it all or that I’m never overwhelmed or numbed by that number, by this dark reality. But it’s personal for me now. It’s not just numbers anymore. It’s not just theoretical heartbreak. There are names and stories and voices and children and music and perfume scents that color all of last summer, and I can’t forget. Twenty-seven million is very real, but do you know what I see in my head? Five bar girls in southern Thailand that are my friends. Their names. Their hearts. Their stories. The way one looked at me coyly before kicking my butt in a game of Jenga. How another’s laugh bounces off the walls. The way one was hesitant but hungry for friendship. The way another listened intently about life in America. The unforgettable smile of the last. They’re real. Just like people we know. And whether it is 27,000,000 or 5… Isn’t one life just enough? What if it were yours? Rescue changes everything.
So today, and every day until the demand for human trafficking ceases for good, I ask you to come alongside me and every other advocate in this fight. We are in this together. We are in this until it’s over. We are in it to end it.
Want more? Here are some resources to help get you started.
Advocacy: End It Movement
National Hotline: Polaris Project
“If you can’t do it for a hundred, do it for just one.” -Mother Theresa