In 2004, I was sitting comfortably in my suburban house, drinking tea and half-watching an episode of Law And Order. As I was chilling out, or really more zoning out, infront of my television, something on the screen caught my attention. a little girl was being sold as a sex slave to some man in a suit in New York City. New York? What? Okay, so I know it’s just a tv show, but I thought law and order was always loosely based on some sort of reality. and some guy was buying a kid out of a van. I’ve bought designer knock-off hand bags out of a van in NYC, but a child? Come-on, this was in no way real, right? Or was it? I couldn’t shake what I was seeing. They were depicting human trafficking, which at that point I had never heard of before. I Googled. When in doubt, that’s what I do, I Google. what I discovered through that one search rocked me to the core and would change my life forever.
Slavery still exists today. The sale of human beings is the fastest growing trade in the world. Yep, you read that correctly. some of the victims are as young as 5 years of age. and it’s happening everywhere. In total, the United Nations estimates that there are 12.5 million trafficked children, women and men worldwide. But many say there are millions more that we don’t know about, and estimate the figure may be closer to 25 million victims worldwide. After I saw Law And Order and did a significant amount of research, I traveled to India. With my own eyes I saw little girls for sale on the street. I will never forget looking up in a second story window and seeing a little girl, probably not more than 7 years of age, looking at me through the bars of a cage. I was horrified. I was sickened. I was motivated. I had to do something. what, I did not know. but I knew i must do something.
After I returned home to Nashville, the police broke up a brothel 1 mile from my front door. There were underage girls in the brothel, as young as 12. This is not just an international problem. Each year, an estimated 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States. some may be right next door.
I founded The Home Foundation in 2005. You can visit the website and read stories of real-life victims. We have completed an orphanage in Mumbai and also in Bangladesh. We have supported heroic organizations such as World Vision, shared Hope International, International Justice Mission and the Salvation Army. We have raised awareness as I have shared about human trafficking to the over 2 million people I have sung to in the last couple of years. I am most excited about our brand new College Internship Program. This summer, we sent our first 3 college students to India for a 10-week internship. we hope to send atleast 12 students in 2009. I have seen students respond to this issue all over the country. It has been inspiring to watch groups of young adults become creative in the ways they can raise awareness and raise money to fight human trafficking.
So what now? Well, the Gospel Music Channel has agreed to give us air time for a public service campaign, so we are working on that. But we must continue to educate the public about this issue. We all have a responsibility to be an abolitionist. You can make a difference. Educate yourself on this issue and discover the ways that you can be involved. YOU can make a difference. We must bring this evil which hides in the dark into the light. We must be the voice for those who have none. We must let them know that they have not been forgotten. So, as if you haven’t been disgusted enough by this issue, remember this: The average age of a young girl who is forced into prostitution is 10. She is raped repeatedly, the average is around 20-30 times a night. If she does not meet her quota, she will be beat by her “pimp”. Many of these young girls are sold by their own parents. The parents don’t know what they are doing, but are told that the child will be given a good job with fair money and an opportunity to go to school. Parents fall for the lie, feeling
they have no other choices or options for their children.
Listen, I’m not a hero, I’m just human. And if we have a heart beating on the inside of us, how could we possibly turn away from the most innocent among us being ravaged and raped? I wasted so many years worrying about things that don’t matter and striving for things that are just not that important. I admit that I have been way too self-involved and self-absorbed most days to even take notice of the rest of the world. But thank God he woke me from my selfish slumber and stirred me to action. I only have one life. I want to make it matter. Whatever issue it is that stirs you to action, I pray you will respond. When God calls, all he asks us to do is answer. We seek justice for the oppressed and i pray you will join the fight.