What do hot tubs, porn, and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges have in common? Not much. But all three have contributed to why I am attending the 2016 Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Summit in Houston, TX this week. I arrived in Houston on Wednesday evening with my travel partner and new friend, Ciru. Ciru is from Nairobi, Kenya and she is visiting the U.S. to take some time off from working with children who are being trafficked in the slums of Nairobi.
I met Ciru for coffee on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we were on a Southwest flight together and sharing a hotel room for three nights. That’s a pretty good way to induce friendship, right?
Since we have been at the conference, the question of “Why are you here?” comes up often. Sitting in a large room with about 500 other men and women who chose to come to a four day event solely focused on sexual exploitation, you have to wonder what brought everyone here. I have met a woman from Canada who was made aware of sex trafficking in her own town when she met a woman who had to prostitute herself to buy diapers for her children. I met a man from Texas who confessed that his pornography addiction ended his first marriage, so he sought counseling and recovery and now he heads up a local ministry to help others find recovery. I met a very dynamic speaker from Australia who travels the world talking to teenagers about the dangerous effects of porn. And I met a man from Mexico who created a Virtual Reality system to show people what life is like as a trafficked boy or girl.
In meeting other people, they inevitably ask why I am here and what got me involved in anti-human trafficking work. I realized that I didn’t have a straight forward answer. So, as I keep retelling my story, I am starting to learn about my own passions and why I am here, at this conference, at this time.
The best analogy I have heard is that of Terry’s Chocolate Orange. My new friend Arlene, the Canadian woman with whom I sat in the hotel hot tub for a while last night, introduced me to this chocolate delicacy of which I had never heard. Apparently, Terry’s Chocolate Orange is a round ball of chocolate, wrapped in foil, and when you smack it on a hard surface, it breaks into perfectly even wedges that resemble orange slices. The chocolate is orange flavored, and each wedge is equal in size and shape. The wedges are connected at the center by a thin piece of chocolate.
Arlene puts it this way, “We are all here, from all over the world, as part of the same orange. We want freedom and hope and healing for those who are being exploited and trafficked. Some of us are prayer warriors. Some of us work on the front lines. Some of us finance these efforts. Some of us educate and advocate. But we are all connected to the same center, and we are all the wedges that make up the whole fruit.”
I told Arlene I would be stealing this idea from her, and she approved. So this got me thinking…which wedge am I? Over the past two years since I have become aware of just how bad the sex trafficking problem is in the U.S., I have tried to be ALL of the wedges, and I have burned out. I have tried to do many things poorly, and not one or two things well. So why am I here? And what is my wedge in this big piece of fruit?
To be continued…