Why I Stopped Caring About Human Trafficking

human_barcode_mark-of-the-beastHuman Trafficking.  It’s something you may have heard a lot about recently.  Maybe God has opened your eyes to this global injustice and your heart is stirred to do something about it.  Maybe even your church or ministry has taken up the cause.  That’s great.  I commend you if that’s the case.  But personally, I’ve decided I don’t care about human trafficking anymore.

Just hear me out.  You see, it’s not that I don’t care about the issue or the people affected by it.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  If you know me, you know that I care very much about this issue.  It’s just that I don’t care about the term anymore.  Don’t get me wrong; I understand the need for the term.  It’s nice to have a term to be able to talk about the issue.  And I’m beyond grateful to have the term because of what it means for changes in legislation, prevention, and aftercare.  So, I’m not ready to cast it aside.  Not at all.  You will most surely hear me use it again.  I just want to make sure that it doesn’t become the litmus of which I judge situations and people.  I want the heart of God to be my one and only litmus.  And I know you do, too, dear reader.  So I want to break this down for us.

Because lately, I’ve noticed how much this term can complicate things (especially in circles of ministry).

people-in-boxes-500-499Labels and boxes just tend to complicate things.  Always have; always will.  They become receptacles in which to place people or not place them.  Labels and boxes have a sneaky way of dehumanizing people because they leave no room for variation and unique circumstances.  And everyone is unique and has a unique story.  Labels and boxes keep us from seeing the trees for the forest.  Labels and boxes reduce individuals to statistics.  People become demographics.  And faces become numbers.  Stories are replaced with pie charts.  And hearts are represented by graphs.

And woe to those who don’t quite fit the label.  What happens to those who don’t fit the exact terms of the definition?  Well, I’m afraid they are most often deemed unworthy of our compassion.  But these are real people with real hearts whom God loves that we’re talking about.  Should their opportunities really be determined by whether or not their circumstances fit a term that has most certainly become a buzz word?

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You see, God began asking me these questions and really challenging my heart on this issue.  And as a result, I’m not sure I know what the term “human trafficking” even means anymore and I’m not sure I care.

I used to think that I knew.  My heart has been wrecked over the issue for the last eight years and I’ve spent a lot of time researching it and praying about it and seeking God’s heart concerning it.  And for the longest time, I thought I knew what it looked like.  It looked like a brothel in Southeast Asia where girls and woman have been sold into slavery by their own parents or husbands.  It looked like the little girl walking home from school, when a white, windowless van pulls up beside her and a pedophile jumps out and forces her into the van, drives her away, and locks her up.  It looked like a woman from Eastern Europe who came to America under the false pretense of a legitimate job, only to have her passport taken once she arrived and now she is forced by her captors to work the streets because of a debt she can never repay.

And all that’s true.  It does look like that.

domestic-violenceBut what I didn’t know is that it also looks like the woman whose boyfriend spent months grooming her with subtle manipulation until he was finally able to convince her to sleep with his friend for money.  It looks like the woman who was abused by every man in her life since childhood and sees her body as “up for grabs” so she began prostituting herself to survive on the streets and eventually came under the authority of a pimp for “protection.”  It looks like a woman who is so affected by our pornified culture and so oppressed by the spirit of this age, that she concedes to let her abusive husband post her picture on Craigslist or Backpage for the highest bidder, because she’s convinced herself that it’s a way of loving him.

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You see, the definition of trafficking is “any exploitation of a human by force, fraud, or COERCION.”  We understand force: that’s the little girl swept away in the creeper van.  We even get fraud: that’s the woman whose papers were stolen.  But coercion?  That’s hard to understand and even harder to detect.   But it’s real.  And it’s just as sinister as force or fraud.

I’ve seen it in the strip clubs where I serve and do outreaches.  I’ve heard it in stories from my friends who’ve been radically saved by Jesus and as a result have broken free from the sex industry.  But to be honest, the more I see and the more I hear, the less I care whether or not the woman sitting across from me telling me her story fits the definition of a trafficking victim.  I just care about her, as a person, as an individual, because God cares about her.  I really just care about her finding freedom from whatever kind of bondage she has in her life.

You see, if we worry too much about people fitting the definition, we’ll overlook so many precious lost sons and daughters whom God loves!

isa-61You know that chapter in Isaiah which foretells how Jesus will be “anointed to set the captives free and proclaim release to the prisoners” (Isaiah 61)?  I’ve always thought of it as the Abolitionist’s Anthem.  I thought anyone interested in abolishing slavery should know it by heart and pray it daily!  I still think that; I just have a different understanding of what the scripture means.

I used to think captives and prisoners were the same.  They’re not.  A captive is someone who has been taken against their will.  They can’t help what is being done to them.  They are the definitive trafficking victim.  But a prisoner is different than a captive.  A prisoner is someone whose actions have landed them behind bars.  They’re suffering the consequences of their own poor choices.  Most people would say they deserve what they’ve gotten.  So many people fall under the category of prisoner.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that every one of us has played this role at some point in our lives and probably with again.

barcode-of-freedom-300x245The good news is the scripture says that Jesus came to set both the captive AND the prisoner free.  He doesn’t care how the person got into this mess; He just wants to get them out.  He doesn’t discriminate between someone who is held prisoner by another human and someone who is held prisoner by their own sin.  He’s the God of freedom!  He’s all about it, in every form, because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.  He wants to set people free from exploitation, ALL forms of exploitation, whether they are being exploited by humans or exploited by the demonic.

Jesus didn’t just die on the cross to abolish human trafficking; He died on the cross to destroy the spirit of lust and perversion.  God wants to set free anyone bound by that spirit and any other spirit for that matter.  That’s good news for you and for me; it’s good news for the girl in your school with the not-so-great reputation; it’s good news for women working in strip clubs; and it’s good news for trafficking victims.  And whether you want to believe it or not, it’s good news for traffickers, pimps, and johns too!

So, if you truly have a heart for abolition, I encourage you to press past the definition.  God’s heart is deeper.  His grace is more profound.  His mercy is even more endless.  Sink further into God’s love for the world.  Move beyond the definition of trafficking and begin by caring about anyone who is bound by anything.  Serve them.  Become broken bread for them.  Become poured out wine for them.  Lay down your life for them.  That’s what Jesus did for you.  And you want to be like Him right?

Ultimately, I don’t think God really cares about the term, human trafficking, either.  God really just cares about people.  That’s what He wants us to care about too.

Why the Sex Industry?

121016071812-generic-prostitution-story-topI could go on about trafficking stats and the realities of the industry, but I won’t do that in this post.  Instead, I’d rather focus on the main reason.

I’m always amused at people’s reactions when I tell them that I participate in a ministry which serves people affected by the sex industry.  I get a mixed bag of responses especially from other Christians.

For the most part, people are curious.  And I LOVE that!  Curiosity and questions are my favorite reactions because it’s an opportunity for us to break bread together, learn about each other, learn more about God’s heart, and hopefully grow.  If you’ve been wondering about BeLoved and how it all works and why, please ask me!!!  Answering questions about it is my favorite thing in the world!

Another reaction I often get is that of pure excitement that such an outreach exists.  Many people want to know right away how they can be involved because they recognize the need to love people right where they’re at.  I love that reaction too!  It’s my great privilege to participate in a ministry in which I can open doors for people to love other people.  And there are so many ways for you to get involved.  So, if you’re interested in being a bearer of God’s love to some precious people, just ask me about that too!

But, I also am met with a lot of misunderstanding and religious attitudes from some people.  They have attitudes such as “Well, why don’t they just get another job.”  “I mean, they are choosing their lifestyle.”  And deep down in their heart, what they really believe is that they are better than people affected by this industry.  Deep down, they believe that people in the industry don’t deserve love because they are somehow less than.

And that breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart for the Christians with that attitude because it’s a symptom of not having the fullness of grace and redemption operating in their own lives.  You can’t give grace to people in the sex industry if you don’t have grace.  You can’t give mercy to people in the sex industry if you don’t have mercy.  You can’t show love to people in the sex industry if you haven’t received love.

forgiven-muchJesus said that the sinful woman loved much because she had been forgiven much.  We should all desire and seek after the ability to love much.  This means we have to be forgiven much.  Now, I’m not saying go out and intentionally sin so that you can receive more forgiveness.  On the contrary.  I’m saying, recognize your great need for His grace and mercy each and every day.  Recognize that no matter how much deliverance you experience, there is always more to experience.  Live a lifestyle of repentance and dependency on God’s forgiveness.  The more you do that, the more you will love people.  Crucify haughtiness.  Crucify self-righteousness.  Crucify judgment.  Recognize that without His grace, mercy, and love we are each and every one of us, wretched!  Our own righteousness is filthy to Him.  His righteousness, the righteousness He has so freely shared with us, even though we don’t deserve it and never will, is supposed to make us more like Him: better and better at loving people, even people we may have deemed as unlovable.

The truth is that people in the sex industry are anything but unlovable.  They are so incredibly precious to my Father.  He loves them unconditionally.  They are each beautiful unique expressions of His image.  And they are His lost sons and daughters.  He aches for them to know Him as a Father.  He groans to be reconciled to them.  He desperately longs for them to walk in their true identities in the Kingdom.  He yearns to wipe away their tears.  He desires to shower them with affection.   His heart burns with passion for them to know His love!

So, why the sex industry?

Simply put: Because God loves people in the sex industry.

Isn’t that enough?

How The Prodigal Son Should Have Ended

I’ve always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.

prodigal-sonFor most of my Christian walk, I’ve completely identified with the younger brother.  Drawn to what the world had to offer, in defiance of the Father’s will, defeated by the world, humbled and fearful of the Father’s wrath, hanging my head as I vied for a servant’s position in the household, then overcome by His unexpected grace and mercy, and ultimately fully aware of and troubled by the older brother’s lack of compassion and understanding.

But over the past few years, God has led me through some intense healing and deliverance.  The theme of this recent season has been learning what it means to be a true son of God.  I’ve learned a lot about my identity in the Kingdom and that has changed everything.  It’s changed how I relate to God.  For the first time ever, I began experiencing Him as a father.  And I found out that He is a really really good father!  It’s changed how I view the Kingdom of Heaven.  For the first time ever, I don’t see it as some far off land that I may get to be a part of one day.  Instead, I realize that it is at hand.  I am already a part of it and I am an Ambassador of Heaven living in a foreign land.  I represent the culture of Heaven here on earth and it’s my privilege to spread that culture.  It’s changed how I feel about myself.  For the first time ever, I feel like ALL of the promises in the Word are for me.  All that He has really is mine!

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And for the first time ever, I realize that in this season of my life, I actually now more closely resemble the older brother in the parable.  I know my place in the family now and I’m busy serving my God as a true son.  And, I have very little desire for the things of the world when compared with the things of God. 

So now, I have a decision to make.  Will I behave just like the older brother in the parable, or will I rewrite this story?

Option One: The Original Story

I’m serving my Father in His house, tending to my own inheritance all the while there are prodigal sons and daughters living out beyond the reach of the family.  My Father watches at the window waiting for them to return, desperate to get to them before anyone else in the household does.  Who knows what they might do to them?  The disgrace they’ve brought the family is reason enough to rough them up and send them packing. 

But, that’s not my Father’s heart.  He weeps for them.  He watches for them.  He longs for them.  He’s come to me and to others several times entreating us to go look for them and bring them home.

But who has time for that?

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The Prodigal Son Driven Out

Give it up Father!  Just forget about them if they don’t want to be a part of this family.  Look around at how well things are going here!  Everyone’s happy.  Everyone’s needs are met.  We’re working together to build and expand your household.  We’re getting stronger.  We’re getting fatter.  We’re getting richer.  Our enemies come to try to rob us and we easily send them packing.  We’ve got it made in the shade.  Who needs all those dirty, stinky, needy prodigals coming in here and screwing up what we’ve worked so hard to build?     

One of them came back the other day.  And Father actually threw him a party.  He gave him fine clothes and gifts!  Can you imagine?  Father is acting just like these prodigals: hasty, irrational, extravagant, and indulgent.  It was so wasteful.  All that I’ve worked so hard for was just given to this scoundrel.  I had to say something.  Father made a big point of telling me that this prodigal wasn’t just His son, but that he was my brother.  Well, Father can go on thinking that if He wants, but that wretch is no brother of mine.  Let him prove himself first.  Maybe then I’ll accept him.painting1

Uggh!  Now that I’m the older brother, I just hate this part of the story.  I want to rewrite it.  I believe the whole reason Jesus told this story is so that we would rewrite it!

Option Two: An Alternate Ending (How it Should Have Ended…And Still Can)

So many of my brothers and sisters have left and are living out lives they were never designed to live.  My Father’s heart breaks for them.  He paces before the window every day, watching and praying for their safe return.  I can’t bear seeing my Father like this.  I can’t bear the thought of what my brothers and sisters might be going through.  They are living without the protection and provision I enjoy as a son of this household.  They are living without the Father’s love and blessing and guidance. 

There’s so much to do here, but I can’t get them off my mind.  My Father loves them as much as He loves me.  And I love my Father.  So when my Father’s heart breaks, so does mine.

So, I went to my Father one day and I said, “Father, send me out to find these lost sons and daughters of yours.  Give me authority to tell them how you really feel about them.  Give me provision to journey to the ends of the earth to find them!  Give me authority to bring them home to you.” 

tumblr_li7zmaRFW71qhmhdfo1_500With joy, He gave me everything I asked for and sent me out to find them.  In ways, it was tough to leave the safety of the household and venture out to where I might be mocked or abused or even killed.  But I knew that I had the support of my entire family behind me.  So I mustered up all the courage I had and decided to care more about my lost brothers and sisters than I did for myself and my own needs and safety. 

And when I found one of my brothers face-down in the muck of a pig pen, it made it all worth it.  He was dirty and stinky and half starved to death.  I ran to him and got right down in the pig poop with him.  I got filthy dirty, but I didn’t care.  I took no thought of what people might think when they saw me covered in muck.  All I was thinking about was rescuing my brother. 

My brother was beyond surprised to see me.  He couldn’t believe that I had actually left home for the sole purpose of finding him.  He thought the family had written him off.  He thought Father hated him.  He thought he was too dirty to be accepted. 

mudkids-1I brushed the mud off of his face.  “There you are,” I said.  I told him he was my brother and I loved him no matter what he had done.  I told him all about how the Father wept for him and longed for him.  I told him, “This isn’t who you are.  This pig pen doesn’t define you.  You’re a member of a wealthy and royal family.  Come home, brother.  Father and I love you!” 

I helped him to his feet and together we headed home.  All the while, he hung his head and kept rehearsing his apology.  He kept asking me if I was sure he would be welcome.  I reassured him over and over again that no one would turn him away. 

 When we drew near to the house, he grew increasingly nervous and considered turning back several times.  “Don’t,” I pleaded.  “Just wait until you see!  Everyone will be overjoyed to see you!  I guarantee you Father will be head over heels for you!” 

Finally, we reached the edge of the property and here came Father, running out of the house and down the hill toward him!  Father’s arms were wide open.  There was a huge smile on His face and tears in His eyes.  My brother just dropped to his knees and hung his head. murillo

But just then, something miraculous happened.  Every member of the family who had heard what was happening immediately left their work in the fields and joined the Father in running down the hill to greet our brother who had returned.  It was amazing to see my family with one heart and one purpose following in the footsteps of our great Father. 

The party started right then and there as the Father and everyone after Him hugged and fawned over my brother.  We all helped him into his new clothes and we reminded him over and over again the he was a true son of this family.  We fed him and helped him heal.  We held his hand and loved him.  We never treated him any differently. 


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And he grew strong and confident.  And now, whenever he and I hear of another lost son or daughter, we go out together after him or her.  And we as a family celebrate over and over again, every time our brothers and sisters come home.  We’re constantly throwing parties.  And I love it!  I wouldn’t want to be a part of any other family.

Which is more powerful: Courage or Compassion?

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I’d like to propose the idea that these two qualities are actually two sides of the same coin and are not fully operational separate from one another. Compassion without courage is completely ineffectual and courage without compassion is equally pointless and can sometimes even be cruel.

Allow me to explain.

What is True Compassion?

985b9e5017f743dfac13c55a2a9fd034Compassion literally means, “co-suffering.”  It’s way more involved than simply sympathizing with someone.  It’s even more involved than empathizing with them.  Compassion gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another person’s suffering.  It is love-in-action.  It’s a mother, who can’t swim and is deathly afraid of water, jumping into a deep pool to rescue her drowning baby.  This is the perfect love that scripture talks about.  It’s the love that casts out fear.  It doesn’t work without courage.  Without courage, compassion is nothing more than apathetic sympathy.  Without courage, compassion is just a weak fleeting emotion.  Without courage, the child drowns.  But with courage, compassion saves!

What is True Courage?

Courage without compassion is a bit tougher to explain. Courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens you.  It’s the strength to act in the face of pain, fear, or grief.  Here are three scary scenarios to consider:

–          Skydiving. (Facing Fear)

–          Stealing a car. (Facing Fear minus Compassion)

–          Jumping into water to save a child even though you can’t swim. (Facing Fear plus Compassion)

All of these require acting in the face of fear; acting when there is the threat of pain or grief as a result.  But do all three of them qualify as true courage?

How-Scary-is-Skydiving1–          Facing Fear: There’s nothing wrong with skydiving.  If you’re into it, knock yourself out.  I don’t get it, personally, but I do recognize there are some inherent benefits from taking such a risk.  For instance, many people experience a deeper sense of self-realization which makes them braver in other areas of their life.  If I can survive jumping out of a plane, I can survive this board meeting.  But other than that, it doesn’t accomplish much.  Thus, I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it “true courage.”  I’m much more comfortable qualifying it as “nerve” or “grit” or “boldness.”

car-thief_0–          Facing Fear Minus Compassion:  Stealing a car also requires nerve.  However, I can’t get over the fact that an act like this more closely fits another definition.  “Cowardice” is defined as a trait wherein fear or excess self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good, and of help to others or oneself in a time of need.  Stealing a car may be scary, but it’s not right, it’s not good, and it doesn’t help others.  Acting in the face of fear can sometimes be attributed to an excessive self-concern.  When this is the case, it’s not courage.  In fact, it’s the total opposite of courage.  It’s full-on cowardice!

praying2–          Facing Fear Plus Compassion:  We’ve already established the power of these two working in tandem.  It’s the compassionate love the mother has for her child which would cause her to perform such a courageous act.  When jumping into the pool, she’s not thinking about the risk involved if she acts.  Rather, she’s thinking about the risk involved if she doesn’t act.  This is true courage.  True courage acts in the face of fear whenever there is something worthwhile at stake.  This is the type of courage that Jesus had when He faced the cross.  Another phrase for it is “sacrificial love,” the kind of love that lays down its life for the life of another.

Are you living a truly courageous life?  Is your cause worthwhile?  Is your cause worth dying for?  

Courage + Compassion = Salvation   

Courage plus compassion always compels us to do what is right even in the face of danger.  And it often leads to salvation!

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For example, I cannot get over the long series of compassionate courageous acts found in Exodus chapters 1 and 2.

Pharaoh ordered the killing of the boy children of the Israelites because he feared they would grow up to be warriors who would oppose him.  He feared their courage minus compassion. But it turns out that it was courageous feminine compassion which posed the real threat to him not masculine might.  In those first two chapters, we see compassionate act after compassionate act performed by women which ultimately lead to the rise of the deliverer and the abolition of the Hebrew slaves.  Their acts ultimately led to salvation.

Read it for yourself.  Here are just some highlights.

Acts of Courageous Feminine Compassion in Exodus 1 and 2:

1.  The midwives refuse to kill the boy children, a direct defiance of Pharaoh’s orders. They basically were willing to die so that these babies could live.

2.  To cover for why they didn’t kill the babies, the midwives boldly tell the Pharaoh that Hebrew women are just tougher than Egyptian women and they have the babies before a midwife can get there. (Can you imagine telling a king that the women of his race just aren’t as tough as the women he held as slaves? And God blessed the midwives for it by giving them families.)

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3.  Moses’s mother puts her baby in a basket. This may at first glance seem heartless, but, upon closer examination, is actually very compassionate. How hard it must’ve been to part with your baby in the hopes that he may have a slim chance to live.  This was a self-sacrifice.

4.  Moses’s sister bravely follows Moses’s basket, wanting no harm to come to her little brother.

5.  Pharaoh’s daughter keeps baby Moses even though she knows she is directly disobeying her father’s orders. Because, that’s just what we women do. We see a stray, we bring it home. We see a baby in a basket, we bring it home. Compassion. We’d rather ask our father or our husband for forgiveness than ask them for permission when someone or something helpless is involved.c000501a7c43f8aa04b950d6985454927788ef8b8daaee3609f995be73b73d7f

6.  Moses’s sister boldly talks to Pharaoh’s daughter about finding a Hebrew nursemaid for the baby. This would’ve taken considerable bravery since, she would’ve had to reveal that she was hiding in the reeds watching this whole thing take place (Pharaoh’s daughter had been BATHING in the river when she found Moses…can you say “creeper”?).  Furthermore, she was a slave who had no right to address the Pharaoh’s daughter.

7.  Moses’s mother agrees to nurse Moses (and now gets paid to do so-paid to nurse her own child) knowing that she can’t tell him the truth and she will have to hand him over to another woman to be his mother. At that point, I think I would have taken my baby and my money and gotten out of dodge. But Moses’s mother knows he will have a much better life in Pharaoh’s courts than he will in the slave pits. So, she sacrifices a relationship with him so that he can have a better life.

Of course, we know the end of the story.  Moses grows up and, after facing many of his own fears, he acts with courageous compassion to liberate the people of God.

Compassion-Share-ItI don’t know about you, but that just stirs me up!  If you’re like me and you have a heart for evangelism, a heart to see the lost and broken be ransomed and redeemed, I urge you to work hard to develop courageous compassion.  Jesus exemplified it, and so can you!  His courageous compassion is what brought salvation to the world.  Your courageous compassion is what will bring people to Jesus so that they can experience that same salvation.  It’s time to rise and shine His perfect love.

What are you waiting for?  Go love like crazy!

10 Things Men Can Do to End Human Trafficking

all-that-is-necessary-triumph-of-evil-edmund-burke-quotes-sayings-picturesThis is going to take courage, men.  Good thing you were created for courageous acts!

1. Absolutely refuse to be complacent.  The end of complacency begins with rejecting the false assumption that trafficking is a “women’s issue” and realizing that it is a human issue.  Women are only one half of the equation.  The fact of the matter is that men and women are both victims and perpetrators in this global pandemic (Click here to learn more about male trafficking victims).  However, women are disproportionately the victims while men are disproportionately the perpetrators, according to the 2012 United Nations Global Trafficking in Persons Report.   Thus, if the majority of perpetrators are men, then good men have a responsibility to stand up against this injustice.  We need you to lead the fight by standing up for true masculinity; a masculinity that respects and empowers women and does not buy or sell them as if they are commodities.

Furthermore, we must reject the false assumption that trafficking happens only in large cities, or on rare occasions, or only in foreign countries. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.  If you don’t think this issue has or could possibly reach your small town, this is where I break from the statistics and ask you to simply think about how much illegal drug activity happens in your town or even your very own neighborhood.  How many people do you know who have been affected directly or indirectly by illegal drug use?  Is there anyone in your family who has used illegal drugs?  We probably all know at least a dozen people who have been on illegal drugs or have been affected in some way by this industry.  And there is not a town in America that does not have some part of this industry taking place.  Now think about this:  a drug dealer can sell a drug one time, but a trafficker can sell a person over and over again up to 40 times a day.  If it’s not in your small town yet, it soon will be, especially if good men like you refuse to do anything about it.  It’s impossible for illegal entrepreneurs to ignore the possible profit margins.  And since the demand to purchase sex is on the rise in our overly pornified culture, traffickers are rising up to meet the increased demand with an increased supply.

Which brings me to my next point two points: refuse to be a part of the demand!

supply-and-demand-image12. Refuse to purchase sex or patronize anywhere sex is sold.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people believe that prostitution is a victimless crime.  If sex for sale is in demand, then supply has to go up to meet that demand; this means that the number of trafficking victims goes up.  Wherever sex is for sale (whether legal or illegal), there will be trafficking!  According to the 2013 U.S. TIP Report,  “If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today… Too often, trafficking victims are wrongly discounted as ‘consenting’ adults. The use of violence to enslave trafficking victims is pervasive, but there are other—more subtle—forms of fraud and coercion that also prevent a person from escaping compelled servitude.”

END THIS DEMAND!  Trafficking is a business and it operates on business principles, i.e. supply and demand.  In a market where women as seen as disposable, if the demand decreases, eventually so will the supply.  Men, this means not even patronizing legal businesses where sex or sexuality is for sale (e.g. strip clubs, bikini bars, sex toy shops, massage parlors, etc.)  All of this feeds the beast.  Any purchase of sex whether legal or illegal feeds the demand and results in more and more women being forced or coerced into the industry.

punch-computer-33.  Refuse to buy or even look at pornography.  This includes soft porn (music videos, movies, TV, etc.)  I chose to put pornography in its own category because so many believe that pornography is separate from the sex industry and is therefore okay to look at and that it doesn’t hurt anyone.  However, watching pornography is just as much a part of the demand for commercial sex as is patronizing prostitution.  In fact, I would go so far as to say pornography is the root of the commercial sex industry.  The pervasive normalization of pornography in our culture is the heart and soul of what is fueling the demand.  It is what is raising up men who want to purchase sex and think its okay to purchase sex.

Dear brothers, the porn industry is high-jacking your sexuality and selling it back to you.  In this case, you are the victim.  Porn is destroying not only your image of women as human beings, but also your image of men as human beings.  It is dehumanizing you by selling you on a lie: that women are hyper-sexualized nymphomaniacs who are always available for sex and exist to satiate men’s sexual appetites and that men are nothing more than mindless, unfeeling, amoral beings entitled to degrade and dominate women.  Porn is eroding your character, desensitizing you to the issue of human trafficking, and destroying your ability to experience healthy intimacy.

It’s time to take back your masculinity.  Reclaim your humanity!  You are not amoral and unfeeling; you were created to uphold justice and to have compassion.  You were created to protect and uplift women and girls not to degrade and dominate them.  Just say no to an industry that is fueling slavery while simultaneously forming you into someone you are not!

black-father-son-shaving4.  Disciple younger men and boys.  The words you speak and the choices you make now are setting the standard of masculinity for the next generation.  You can rest assured that your sons and younger men within your sphere of influence are watching you and they are picking up on your values.  They’re watching to see how you treat women and what you say about them.  The rest of culture is grooming them to become consumers of sex and women.  Will you challenge culture by standing for the truth?  Your influence is more powerful than the influence of the culture, but you have to exercise it thoughtfully and on purpose.  The two best things you can do are to take a stand for purity and to love and respect your wife.  Don’t degrade her, don’t make comments about women’s appearances, and don’t glorify sexual conquests.  Correct boys and men who reflect a desensitization to degrading women.  

We live in a culture in which the words “pimp” and “player” have a positive connotation.  Men, you can change this by teaching younger men that “pimp” is not synonymous with “cool” because pimps are traffickers.  Teach boys that women are to be respected and protected not dominated and disposed of.  Teach them by example!  Because, trust me, they’re much more likely to do as you do rather than do as you say.

5.  Raise awareness.  Everyone has their own circle of influence.  Take it upon yourself to learn everything you can about the issue of human trafficking and then start telling people abut it.  Start with your family and your children, then branch out and tell your friends and coworkers.  If you have a small group at church, bring it up there.  Talk to your men’s group about it.  If you’re not a speaker invite someone who knows about this issue to share with your group (I’d be happy to oblige), or show the film, Nefarious (trust me, it will get your group talking).  It’s available for instant streaming online now.  There is a plethora of resources out there.  The more people who are aware, the less indifference there will be.  The less indifference there will be, the more change can happen.

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6.  Join a group to end the demand.  There are several groups dedicated to raising awareness, ending the demand, and caring for victims.  Join one of these groups and let your voice be heard.  We’re stronger when joined together than when we are apart.  Groups such as these will keep you stirred up to attack this issue head on and will keep you informed about the latest developments in legislation, prevention and aftercare.  If you’re in Illinois, check out End Demand Illinois  a campaign which is dedicated to shifting law enforcement’s attention to sex traffickers and people who buy sex, while proposing a network of support for survivors of the sex trade.  Another such group is The ARMED Campaign (Association of Real Men Ending the Demand), an extension of Eve’s Angels founded by Anny Donewald.  which is a movement to get MEN educated and advocating to end the demand of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children.  Men who join this campaign, take the following pledge:

THE PLEDGE:

I’m taking the pledge to protect women and children from the dangers of Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. I also pledge to never sell, purchase, contribute and/or aid in any way, the criminal act of trafficking and/or purchasing sex from any woman or child.

 
7.  Support legislation and legislators who are attacking the demand.  For so long, the victims of trafficking have been criminalized, while the traffickers and those exploiting the victims were met with few if any repercussions.  Within such a system, trafficking is fostered.  Thankfully, attitudes are begin to shift in the U.S. and law makers and law enforcers are beginning to recognize a need to revamp the system.  However, they need the support and pressure of constituents to expedite the process.  Support politicians who are pushing to criminalize pimping and purchasing sex and who recognize prostitutes as potential victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.  This is known as the Swedish Model of prostitution laws (and hint: it works.) Write your congressman and to tell him/her how important the issue is to you and that you are in favor of adopting the Swedish Model in your state.  

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8.  Financially support ministries, organizations, and NGOs who are working on the front line and in aftercare.  These are the people doing the hands-on work with trafficking victims.  We can pass law after law but without people actually going after the victims and offering aftercare, no one will be rescued from this injustice.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the sad fact is that there are currently less than 100 beds in aftercare facilities available for underage victims of trafficking in the U.S.  Law enforcement officials are beginning to recognize that many women and girls taken off the streets are victims rather than criminals.  But, if they have no aftercare facility to which to send them, they have no choice but to send them through the judicial system in which they are criminalized.  

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Pat Bradley, Crisis Aid International

These aftercare facilities generally rely on donations to operate.  That’s why it’s so important to give to reputable organizations.  One of my favorites is Crisis Aid International which is based in St. Louis, Missouri.  Since opening in 2012, Crisis Aid has provided service for more than 25 American victims of sex trafficking ages 14-24 years old.  Theirs is a holistic approach.  According to their website,  the girls “are provided a safe loving home with their own bedroom.  They receive a variety of services and opportunities including basic care, professional counseling, medical and mental healthcare, more than 60 life skills programs, educational opportunities, recreational activities, and more.”  When I met met with Crisis Aid’s founder, Pat Bradley, in early 2012, he told me of their plans to build a second wing to their facility which will house up to 11 minors.  But they need donations to make this happen.
 
9.  Change how you view women.  Especially promiscuous women and women in the sex industry.  Please realize that no little girl wants to grow up to sell herself.  Every woman seemingly in the industry by choice has a story.  
 
download (1)Sex work is traumatizing.  In fact, many studies show that people in the sex industry commonly experience as much or more Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome than men who have been in war.  So, before you think, Well, if she respected herself, she’d just get a different job,  you have to ask yourself, What has happened in this woman’s life that has brought her to a place where she is “willingly” being sexually traumatized for eight or more hours a day and convincing herself that this is what she’s worth, that it’s worth the money, and/or that she likes it.
 
It’s also important to realize the way in which our current culture is grooming girls to see themselves and their sexuality as a commodity and a way of being seen.  There is tremendous pressure put on girls and women in our popular culture to conform to this standard.  So, before you judge that girl in your Twitter feed who posted that inappropriate pic of herself, realize that she is simply conforming in order to survive in an overly pornified culture.  The appropriate response is compassion, not judgement or pity.  Check your heart, brothers.  If there is judgement, pity, derision, or shaming in there, then you’re heart is no different from the hearts of those who would degrade and abuse her.
 
10.  Empower women.  Operate in the opposite spirit.  If you want to combat the degradation of women, then do the opposite:  empower them!  Honestly, it’s ridiculous that this even has to be said.  But it does.  Seriously, only insecure men are afraid of empowered women.  And I know you’re not insecure.  You’re a real man!  And true men treat women as equals, in the home, in the marketplace, and within the church, and have no fear that their own positions and/or masculinity is somehow challenged by gender equality.  Rather, true men see the value in partnering with women as equals.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9rosie
 
And let me just propose that if you, your business, or the ministry you are involved in does not allow women to be in positions of leadership or to teach men, you are part of the problem.  You’re saying, “Yes, I’m against trafficking.  But no, I don’t believe women share equal humanity with men.  Men are superior to women and have every right to be in sole authority over them.”  Yeah, that’s a contradiction in terms.
 
But please don’t take my word for it.  Before you spout any Pauline theology at me, check out these resources by people who have studied the issue and are far more articulate than I.  After you’ve read all three of these articles AND the books they reference, then you can argue this point with me.
 
 
So what do you say, men?  Are you courageous enough to take up the cause?  I believe that you are!  Stand up and fight for justice!  It’s what you were born for!
 

The Parable of the Slave

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This is my story.

This is the story of the Bride of Christ.

This is your story.

There once was a certain girl who grew up in the land.  She had been a slave for as long as she could remember. Everyone she knew was a slave.  And the life of a slave was all she knew.

There arose in the land a great king who was righteous.  His heart broke for the people who were enslaved in the land and His anger was kindled against their taskmasters. He took note of the slave girl and He loved her from the moment He saw her.  In fact, He loved her so much that He immediately went to her and rescued her from slavery.  He brought her into His castle and ordered His servants to exchange her dirty, tattered garments for the finest garments of the kingdom, put shoes on her feet, and rings on her fingers.  A party was thrown that very night in the castle in her honor.  There was more delicious food than the girl had ever seen in her entire life. She was overwhelmed by the generosity of the King toward her.  As the party rolled on into the night, and the she had eaten more food than she could hold and laughed and smiled more than her cheeks could bear, the King stood up and announced His plan to adopt her as His very own daughter.  And so He did.

And all was well for a time.  The girl loved her new life. And the King loved her with a father’s love.  He took great delight in seeing her thrive in the kingdom and feel secure and full of joy.   But eventually, the girl ran into one of the taskmasters who had formerly ruled over her. “Who do you think you are?” he scoffed at her.  “You were born a slave.  You’ll always be a slave.  Those fancy clothes don’t fool me.  I know who you really are.  You don’t belong in the King’s kingdom.”

And the girl remembered her former life and fell into despair, thinking, “He’s right.  Who am I to be favored by this king?  Surely I am not truly loved by him.  Who am I to walk around as if I am His true daughter when I am not even worthy to be His servant.  There has been a mistake.”  It was at this time that she withdrew from the presence of the King.  She took off the beautiful clothes He had given her and put back on her filthy rags.  She kept to herself and her shame drove her deeper into despair.

The King took note of her absence and sought her out.  When He found her alone, He asked, “Why have you withdrawn from me?  Where are your fine garments?  You are my beloved daughter.  It is my desire for you to grow up before my eyes because I delight in you.  I delight in beholding you.  I delight in knowing you.  I delight in blessing you.”

The girl wept at the King’s words, but could not bring herself to believe them.  “Your words cannot be true,” she retorted. “How could a king love a slave as His own daughter?  Those clothes don’t belong to me.  They don’t change who I am.  All they have done is cover up the filth from my years as a slave.  I don’t belong here.  I don’t belong to you.  I should go back to the slave pits.”

And the King wept to hear her heart.  “But all I have, I have given to you.  Anything and everything in my kingdom is yours.”  But the girl would not accept any of it.  She felt too unworthy.

About that time, the slavemaster came to the gates of the castle to demand her life be turned over to him.  And he brought with him a great host of oppressors.  “Return the slave girl to me, for she is mine!” He yelled up at the castle. “She was born a slave and she will die a slave.  She has no business in your kingdom, let alone your family.  I will fight for her tooth and nail!  Surrender her now!”

At this, the King’s passion was kindled.  He called to himself His only begotten Son, the heir of the kingdom, and the captain of His army.  “Son, the time has come to fight for the life of my daughter.  The slavemaster has demanded she be given up, but I will not stand for it.  She is my own and even if I must give up my whole kingdom for her, so be it.  Even if you, my only flesh and blood son, must die for her, so be it.  All the power and authority of my kingdom I give to you to leave this castle, descend to the slave pits, and defeat the slavemaster and his host.”

The Son of the King took no convincing for He had already fallen head over heels in love with the girl.  The passion in His heart toward her matched the passion in His father’s heart for her.  “Father, I am more than willing to fight for your daughter, my beloved.  I will conquer this foe even if it means my own death so that she might stay here in this kingdom and remain with us forever, knowing how much we love her.”

And so, the King’s Son led His army into war.  Two mighty hosts crashed into one another in the slave pits all on behalf of the life of one slave girl.  And for a time, it seemed as though the army of oppressors had the upper hand.  The Son of the King and the slavemaster went head to head in combat.  The Son of the King fought gallantly, but the slavemaster eventually dealt a mighty blow to the Son of the King, knocking Him off His horse into the dust.  He lay there on the ground for what seemed like three day.  But then, just when it seemed that the slavemaster had won, the Son of the King rose up off the ground, drew back His mighty sword and slew the slavemaster.

Now, the King had taken the girl up to the highest tower of the castle so that she could watch the battle that was being fought on her behalf.  “Do you see my Son down in the slave pit fighting for you?” He asked.  “He has fallen in love with you.  He is willing to lay down His life so that you might live.  This is the greatest love of all.”  And the slave girl wept to see this mighty prince in battle all because He loved her.  “Daughter,” the King said.  “I have always loved you.  You did not choose me.  I chose you to be mine.  Now it is my desire and privilege to see your joy be full.  Do you love my son who loves you and would give His life for you?”

At this, the girl looked fully into the King’s eyes and said with all sincerity, “Yes.  I love Him.  I love Him with all that is within me.”

The King beamed with joy to hear her choose His son.  “Then it is settled.  Upon my son’s return, I will give you in marriage to Him.  His name shall be your name.  His inheritance shall be your inheritance.  And you will KNOW that you are my true daughter, once and for all.  And none shall be able to deny it.”

And so it was that when the Son returned, He sat down at the right hand of His father.  The former slave girl exchanged her tattered garments once again, this time for a beautiful wedding gown, and the King’s Son received her as a bride unto himself.  And the Son loved her.  And the Father loved her.  And she loved the Son and she loved the Father.  And she came to know her place in the kingdom, her place in the family.  She walked in the authority of the King, not ruling over others, but serving and loving others as the Son had loved and served her.  She made a way for others to be exalted just as the Son had made a way for her.  She spent time before the eyes of her Father, the King, serving in His courts, sitting at the foot of His throne, listening to His wise words, and reclining her head in His lap.  And she knew once and for all, that she was His true daughter.  And the Father and the Son took great delight in her.

And it came to pass, that one day the King took her up to the top of the highest tower again.  “Look down into the slave pit, Daughter, and tell me what you see.”

“I see slaves at work, trying so hard to please their taskmasters so that they might find one small moment of relief, joy, anything.  Father, my heart is moved with compassion for them.  I used to be just like that.  But because of your love for me and the love of your son, I am free.  Father, your love is so great.  Would you not take them in and adopt them as you have done for me?”

The King beamed with fatherly pride to see that His daughter had developed a heart just like His own.  “That is exactly what I desire.  Long have they been oppressed and long have I waited for you to feel what I feel and think like I think.  You finally know your true identity, your place in this family.”

“It is only because of your unconditional love that you showed me, Father.  It’s only because you and your son were the only ones to love me with no agenda, no strings attached, while I was yet a slave, unworthy of such love.”

“Daughter, it is the thrill of my heart for you to know my love, but the people down in that pit, they don’t know it.  But I love them the same way that I love you.  I want to adopt them in to this family.”

“Don’t they know that your son has defeated the slavemaster?”

“No, Daughter, they don’t know.  And they won’t know unless they are told.”

“Then send me, Father.  Let me go to them and tell them.  Who better to go than the one who knows what it was like to be a slave and now is truly free because of your love?  Let me bear the love you have for them.”

This was exactly the will of the King.  So He sent her out as an ambassador for His Kingdom. She was to represent her family, her bridegroom, her father, her King.  She declared the King’s unconditional love everywhere she went and expressed it through her actions.  Many accepted this message of freedom through His love.

And thousands of slaves became true sons and daughters of the Most High King all because one slave girl dared to believe what the King said about her.

Benjamin Nolot, A Forerunner for Purity in a Pornified World

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Benjamin Nolot

“Women are intellectual, emotional, spiritual…creative, athletic, familial, political, caring, compassionate, relational, strong; they may desire autonomy and independence, or family and children; they long for commitment and fidelity; they are searching for deeper meaning and purpose; they long to have an impact in the world.  Simply put, women are not a sexual buffet for the gratuitous appetites of men; they are image bearers of God and the crown of His creation.” 

photoThese words were spoken by Benjamin Nolot (founder of Exodus Cry and award-winning director of Nefarious, a film exploring the nature and manifestation of human trafficking in the world today), at the One Thing conference in Kansas City, which wrapped up on the last day of 2013.  Blake and I drove the six hours to KC this past weekend mainly to hear him speak, but also enjoyed hanging with some friends, a teaching by Mike Bickle, worship with Matt Redman, Laura Hackett, and Jon Thurlow, lunch at Cosentino’s (a downtown market with a plethora of different fresh food), and an early birthday treat for Blake which started with our favorite KC BBQ at Jack Stack’s and wrapped up with some coffee, cookies, and chai at a local coffee house called Crossroads (Blake even wore his Crossroads hoody that day.  How did he know?).

Early Birthday Goodness

Early Birthday Goodness

The One Thing Conference is an annual gathering of around 30,000 people, hosted by the International House of Prayer (IHOP), which focuses on drawing people into a deep encounter with Jesus so that they might make Him and His call the One Thing in their life which takes all preeminence.  It takes place after Christmas each year and wraps up with an extended worship set to ring in the New Year.  Unfortunately, Blake and I couldn’t stay the whole time (we missed the beginning and the end and were only there for about a day and a half), but I was adamant that we hear Benjamin Nolot speak, as he is one of my living heroes.  

One Thing 2013

One Thing 2013

At this time, I feel I must explain what I mean by “living hero” because it is a term I use quite often and you will most likely read it again in future posts.  A living hero is NOT someone I idolize. They are simply someone I greatly respect and who inspires me. They are NOT someone I try to emulate, but rather, are someone I submit to learn from.  They are someone whose life I follow and am interested in observing.   I say all this because I feel it’s important that there be only one I exalt and emulate: Christ Jesus. But there are many people who are forerunners worthy of my notice and Benji Nolot is amongst those at the top of that list. 

His message at the conference was profound and was birthed out of the research and filming of the sequel to Nefarious.  While the first film revealed the problem of human trafficking, it did not explore many of the causes.  With over 30 million people enslaved today (more than ever in human history), the majority of whom are enslaved for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the enormity of the problem begs the question: why?  In other words, how has humanity reached such a deep level of global depravity that this many people are being commodified?  As Nolot puts it, “What type of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?”  Nefarious-HTML1

The second film promises answer this central dramatic question by exposing the pornified nature of multiple aspects of our culture which work collectively to do two things: to groom women and girls to conform to the idealized hyper-sexualized image of femininity while simultaneously grooming men and boys to consume women’s sexuality.  This duality working in tandem is so inherently problematic for both sexes, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy sexuality, resulting in what Nolot refers to as a “toxic sexuality.” The end result of such toxic sexuality is the dehumanization of both women and men.  Women’s sexuality become their only value and they are reduced to “nymphomaniacs with no sexual discretion or preference.”  Furthermore, they must always be available for sex in order to achieve visibility.  Men are also dehumanized as they are reduced to “unfeeling, amoral, life-support systems for [feminine arousal]” and find value through the domination and degradation of women.  

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This is just the tip of the iceberg concerning how our culture is affecting our view of gender roles, our sexuality, and ourselves as individuals.  His message was so dynamic and so multi-faceted that I couldn’t possibly address all of the points in this post. But it was so powerful that I wouldn’t want you to miss out! So check out the teachings below:

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 1 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 2 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

There is, however, one topic, the idea of the “female double bind,” which I would like to highlight here because I believe it is an aspect of the problem which has infiltrated the Church and is therefore keeping us from fully engaging with God’s heart toward this issue.  This is yet another case of the Church trying to NOT be “in the world” and in effect becoming “of the world” (with our own Christian brand of course).  Hint: it’s supposed to be the other way around.  We’re supposed to be in the world but not of it!

The Female Double Bind

The female double bind is an “impossible dilemma that women and girls face in [our] sexist culture.”  It’s based on the premise of culture-grooming mentioned earlier. The double standard is that men who are groomed to be consumers of sex are celebrated when they reach this ideal, while women who are groomed to objectify their own sexuality are shamed when they reach the ideal.  It’s the irony of a mentality which calls a promiscuous male a stud, pimp, or player (a celebratory term) and calls a promiscuous female a slut or whore (a term of derision).  

Human-Trafficking-1024x688Basically, the female double bind means that a woman can’t win.  Only men are the winners (if it can even be called winning) in this type of culture and they win by wielding the invincible double bind to completely degrade and oppress women.

This is perfectly exemplified by a quote Nolot shared from a woman he interviewed who had formerly been prostituted.  She said, “We are very close to death.  All women are.  And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating.  And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.”  

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Isaiah 61

Now, I don’t know about you, but when she says, “there is no escape for us,” it completely breaks my heart.  Why?  Because I know the man who was anointed to set the captives free and proclaim release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61/Luke 4).  And His word says that the same Spirit is upon me and upon every believer.  My heart breaks because I know that it’s the will of God that the Bride of Christ, His church, have the same broken heart for humanity that Jesus has, a heart moved to action with compassion by the sufferings of humanity who are under the burden of the exploitative nature of sin. 

So why then, if the Church has the authority to set captives free, would this woman feel she had no escape? 

strippersnIt’s the same reason that a woman I met who was working in a strip club took one look at our Bibles which say, “Jesus Loves Strippers” and boldly and sincerely asked our team, “Does He really?  Am I less than to Him because of what I do?”  Because, up until that point, she had only been met with condemnation from Christians who had chosen to degrade her character right along side the men in the clubs who exploited her.  She didn’t yet know about the Savior who sets us free.  The Savior who convicts but never condemns.  The Savior who loves her so immensely.  She didn’t yet know the Father who created her and saw her as lovely.  The Father who longs to be in relationship with her.  The Father who longs to bless her.  The Father who gave up and sacrificed His own son so that He could have her as His own daughter.  She didn’t know because no one had ever told her or shown her.  She didn’t know because all the Christians she had encountered had joined right along with the World in participating in what Nolot refers to as “slut shaming.”  She was expecting God to do the same. 

Church, we must guard against throwing the baby out with the bathwater!  In rejecting sexual immorality, we have a tendency to also rejected people who are enslaved by the spirit of lust and perversion, especially women!  Women who are simply trying to survive in a pornified culture.  Women who don’t know the freedom found in Christ because we’ve not offered it to them.  Women who look at the Church and see the same double bind found in the strip club.  They feel degraded and vilified for conforming to culture no matter where they turn.  It’s completely understandable that they would choose, therefore, to stay within the context of culture rather than seek refuge in the Church.  Popular culture is familiar and the Church doesn’t feel at all like a refuge.  

isaiah61We have to have a better answer than that!  And I believe we do!  To quote Sarah Bessey, author of the book, Jesus Feminist, “The world is failing women, and we, the people of God, know the solution: our beloved Jesus and His Kingdom ways are good news, in every sense of the words!”  And I must tell you that I am beginning to see a huge shift in the way the Body of Christ is responding to women and I’m so encouraged by it!  Ministries such as Exodus Cry, BeLoved, Strip Church, and several others are breaking the female double bind both in the sex industry and within the Church.  Christ is stirring His Bride to go after the lost daughters and shower them with His love and honor.  And from what I’ve seen, it works.  Lo and behold, His Word stands true:  His goodness really does lead us to repentance.  And His light really does shine in the darkness.  And His mercies really are endless.  He really does set captives free, heal the broken-hearted, and bring dead things to life.  He really is the one who so loved the World!  

To bring this to a close, I want to invite and urge each of us as individuals to take a sincere inventory of his or her own heart.  How do I really feel about the so-called “soiled” woman?  Do I have God’s attitude toward her?  Or have I bought into the culture’s double bind?  

These are questions you must answer, because she’s asking you another question.  She’s asking you, “Does He really love me?”  

Here’s a hint:  God loves her as much as He loves you.  Why not go show and tell her?  Don’t know where to start?  Why not take your cue from Benjamin Nolot?  Begin by telling her: She is the “crown of God’s creation.”

Because, she is.