This past weekend, I visited a brothel in Nepal and another in Mexico City. You may wonder “Hm, I thought she was in Houston. How did that work out?” When I was at the CESE Summit (see previous post), I visited the booth of a company called 27Million that has created a Virtual Reality project to awaken people to the realities of human trafficking. The 27Million team sets up booths in cities across the world to expose people to the concept of human trafficking and give them a virtual reality experience that will help put them in the shoes of the trafficked man or woman.
When I put on the VR headset, I felt like I had dropped into a dark alley in a big city. I could turn 360 degrees and see and hear the voices of strangers around me. I looked up, and in four windows I could see the shadows of women and the name of four cities. When I looked at the “Nepal” window, I was taken to a brothel in Nepal where a young woman sat on a dirty mattress and told me her story. I could see her tears as she spoke, and I could turn around and look at her room. It was small and dirty, with no furniture and no windows. It more resembled a dog kennel. As she told her story, a man entered the room. He had paid to have her for 10 minutes, to do whatever he wanted with her or to her. I watched him sit on her mattress, grab her arm, and start to unbutton his pants. Before he could go any further, the scene cut to another room on another side of town.
Even though I knew I was standing in safe conference room in the middle of a hotel in Houston, Texas, I felt like I was in a brothel and actually tried to reach my arms out to rescue this young woman, not to mention stop the man who was violating her. I was very emotional for the rest of the day. I felt like I had walked into a world that had no light, no hope, and no good in it.
I had the luxury of removing the headset and walking outside for air. But that is not the reality of the men and women who are being trafficked in our very own neighborhoods. This isn’t an “over there” problem. You have probably watched someone being exploited and didn’t even know it was happening. Human exploitation happens in all forms in all cities. It is a rural issue, a suburban issue, and urban issue, and an issue that affects ALL OF US.
So here is the good news…YOU CAN HELP END IT! I am serious! And you don’t have to move out of your house or sell all of your goods or spend thousands of dollars to travel overseas. You can meet people in your own area of town through churches and organizations who need to be reminded that they are human, that they have dignity, and that they are loved. You can spread hope by volunteering, donating gently used clothing, or sharing your own story of recovery. Do you need help finding places to do these things? Visit this site. It is full of ideas and resources. Still stuck? Ask your church if they are involved in anti-trafficking ministries.
Whether you are wealthy, financially struggling, single, married, divorced, have kids, have no kids, work full time, or are retired, you can make a big difference in the lives of people who don’t know that they can live a different life – one that doesn’t involve being used and abused on a daily basis.
Giving hope produces change in our world!