Prayer: fighting the powers of darkness

I am in the middle of reading Half the Sky, a highly regarded book on the worldwide issue of violence against women and girls.

Some nights I get through a full chapter. More often, though, it is a couple pages, a few paragraphs. The stories of neglect, rape, beating, and horrific disfigurement and execution wear me down, and I close the cover and set it aside.

Yesterday a friend from the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition (WCATC) sent out an email to all members of the WCATC leadership team. In the body of the email, she wrote, “This article (attached to the email) is simply horrible. It makes me sick just reading it. … However, it is important for all of us to be aware of this side of the situation and be on our knees in prayer.”

The title of the article is “The Rape of Men: the Darkest Secret of War.”

I can’t read it in full yet.

After I hear such stories, I often close my eyes and see a scene from A Wrinkle in Time, one of my all-time favorite books. I want to share it with you. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are on a journey to another galaxy to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, a scientist for the U.S. government who has unexpectedly traveled through space with disastrous results. The three wise guides who are escorting the children take them en route to visit the Medium in Orion’s Belt. They ask her to show the children Earth in her crystal ball. She is reluctant and first zooms in on a sparkling clear planet in the same solar system.

“’No, no, Medium dear, that’s Mars,’ one guide told her.

‘Do I have to?’ the Medium asked. …

The bright planet moved out of their vision. For a moment there was the darkness of space; then another planet. The outlines of this planet were not clean and clear. It seemed to be covered with a smoky haze.”

Meg then asks if the haze is the atmosphere, but she knows it is not. She knows it is the same Dark Thing that terrified them earlier on their journey.

“’Did it just come?’ Meg asked in agony, unable to take her eyes from the sickness of the shadow which darkened the beauty of the earth. …

‘No, Meg. It hasn’t just come. It has been there for a great many years. That is why your planet is such a troubled one.’ …

‘I hate it!’ Charles Wallace cried passionately. ‘I hate the Dark Thing!’ …

‘But what is it?’ Calvin demanded. ‘We know that it’s evil, but what is it?’”

The oldest and wisest of their guides then shouts, in her quavery voice, “’Yyouu hhave ssaidd itt! … Itt iss Eevill. Itt iss thee Ppowers of Ddarrkknesss!’”

I forget sometimes that all the pain and evil inflicted by humans upon humans has the powers of darkness behind it. I also forget that for a supernatural problem, we must seek a supernatural answer. “What can I do about it?” I think, after hearing of another atrocity.

Then, failing to come up with an immediate, concrete solution, I say, “Well, I could at least pray.”

There is no “at least” about prayer. If the power behind acts of rape, ‘honor’ killings, mutilation… is the power of darkness, then engaging in earnest prayer is like bombing enemy headquarters, like being dropped into the heart of the battle and targeting the commanders who are giving the orders.

I’m not saying we should not also DO. Absolutely we should. But we must stop thinking of prayer as an “at the least” action. I recently read that Mary Queen of Scots said that she feared the prayers of reformer John Knox more than the combined armies of France and Spain (from A Spiritual History of the Royal Mile by Paul James-Griffiths).

I don’t know exactly what prayer does, but I know it does MUCH. It may aid angels who are fighting the powers of darkness. It may provide supernatural encouragement to the victims of violence. It may open the hearts of perpetrators to God. It may thwart evil. I have heard story upon story of believers feeling suddenly called to pray for a specific need or person far, far away and discovering later there was a correlation between their prayer and a miraculous change.

I DO know this about prayer: when I engage in it, it impacts my heart. It opens my soul to needs; it enables me to see opportunities for action and readies me to embark upon them; it fills my heart with compassion for victims and perpetrators alike.

I often feel helpless about sex trafficking; therefore, it drives me most easily to gut-wrenching, sleep-interfering prayer. That may not be the same for you. The persecuted church, abortion, pornography, child abuse, orphans, the mistreatment of those with special needs, the destruction of marriages and families, dying churches, starvation, the plight of refugees, racial tension… The enemy is waging war on many, many fronts.

Let’s fight back with prayer.

There will be no “at the least” about it.

 

Ephesians 6:10-20    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mysteryof the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

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An Invitation for Local Readers

Click on the link below to see the formal invite to this Thursday’s Anti-Trafficking Coalition Mixer. If you feel a tug on your heart about this, please plan to attend and RSVP. I’d love to see you there!

May 1 Event Invite

Live in Chicago’s western suburbs? Want to get involved in the local battle against sex trafficking?

In a little less than a month, the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition will hold an event in downtown Wheaton. If you live in this area and have been wanting to get more involved in the local battle against sex trafficking, plan to attend. Area ministries will have booths set up and reps will be available to visit and talk. There will also be a panel discussion with key local leaders.

So come!

When? May 1, 7 p.m.

Where? TEAM’s The Mission Place, 370 West Front Street, Wheaton, IL

Want more information or to stay updated? Visit the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition’s Facebook page. If you want to be included on the prayer team, scroll down to an entry posted March 3 and respond to it.

There is also a training seminar on May 10 presented by Salvation Army’s Promise program (excellent training–I’ve gone to a shortened version of this seminar). Follow the link above for more information.

One last thing: New Name is a local outreach to trafficked and prostituted women. Each time the ministry makes contact with a woman, it gives them a small gift and a handmade card. Each card has a verse of encouragement and hope on it. The women LOVE these cards and sometimes even hang them up at work. If you live in the West Chicago/Wheaton area, enjoy doing crafts, and would like to make cards for New Name, leave me a comment and I can follow up with you and give you more information.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

 

 

 

The Real Battle: followup post

Dear Readers,

I have gotten so much response and information related to the last post that I’m writing a followup post mostly comprised of all the links/books/info I’ve been given through Facebook/blog comments.

First off, some continued reading:

I found an article, “The Super Bowl Could Never Not Be Breeding Grounds for Sexual Exploitation,” written by the Chief of Policy and Planning for NYS’ Unified Court System, Judy Kluger. She is also the Executive Director at Sanctuary for Families, the leading nonprofit in New York State dedicated exclusively to serving domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims, and their children. She wrote in response to several articles which said the hype about the Super Bowl being a “trafficking magnet” was not only overblown but was also potentially harmful to trafficking victims.

Then a friend suggested reading Half the Sky (the link is to its Amazon page) Without having read it yet (though it is now in my shopping cart at Amazon.com–my friend offered to let me borrow her copy, but I’m thinking I will probably want to mark it all up!), I can tell you that Amazon.com calls it “a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world” AND, only moments after my one friend posted the suggestion on Facebook, another friend called the book a “must read.” This friend should know, as she, with several of her friends, started the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition to inform and activate people about the issue right here in our area. While I’m on this topic, here is a link to the Coalition’s Facebook page and another to an article written about it.

And, on that note, more about this issue in my local area, the western suburbs of Chicago:

Over the weekend my husband forwarded to me a prayer email from New Name, a ministry of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, (that’s my area) that “partners with local churches to reach out to and help walk along side the women who are caught up in these industries.” I prayed my way through the message (heartbreaking stories) and then emailed its sender, asking to be added to the list of people who regularly receive it. I mentioned New Name to my Anti-Trafficking Coalition friend, and she wrote back: “New Name is awesome!” She’s used its videos when she has spoken about trafficking in the West Chicagoland area. If you go to the “New Name” link above, you’ll find more information about it as well as a contact email.

Another friend mentioned A21, which is an official coalition partner with End It, an organization I mentioned in the last post. Both these sites have great information.

I’m also sharing the blog site One Small Voice–which I found through New Name’s prayer email. The blogger says this about the site: “My goal is to post information about global human trafficking issues as well what’s happening right here in the Chicagoland area including strides that are being made by the government regarding this issue.” Right at the top of the site is information about a forum being held this Saturday on this topic.

Lastly, I just want to remind all of us why we should care.

Many years ago, when I was a very young middle-school teacher with no children of my own, I sat in a meeting that involved a student, her father, and our team of teachers. The father was overbearing and belittling to his daughter, and we left the meeting feeling discouraged. One of our team members, the lone male on the team, father to a young daughter himself, was more than discouraged. He was angry. “Any man can be a sperm donor,” he said, “but it takes a real man to be a father, and that girl doesn’t have one.”

Most of the girls involved in trafficking have never had a true father, one who protected them, cherished them, and honored them. God longs to be their Father. He’s angry and sad they’ve never experienced true love, and He’s called us to have His heart for them. He says He “will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them” (Psalm 10:18), and He’s called us to enact that justice in the here and now.

Let’s pray for some genuine religion, friends.

And then let’s do it.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

The REAL battle this weekend

NOTE: The topic and the links I’m sharing are not comfortable.

A year and a half ago I wrote an article (it’s on page four of the link) about two American women who provide dignified employment for at-risk women in Bangladesh, a country known for its sex slave industry. At the same time my husband, Dave, was teaching a new class at Wheaton Academy titled Culture and Theology. One of the units in the class was modern-day slavery, so we were both researching the issue and how it impacts every single country, including the U.S., where we live. I read a book titled The White Umbrella about the sex slave trade in the U.S. and about one specific ministry in the Atlanta, Georgia-area that reaches out to girls rescued from it. Dave discovered ministries like End It Movement and Love 146, which fight against human trafficking. At some point in our research, Dave discovered that the Super Bowl creates a huge market for trafficking.

That’s the reason for this particular post at this particular time.

“In 2010, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children reported that 10,000 women were sold for sex at the Miami Super Bowl.” That quote is from an article published today that calls the Super Bowl a “sex-trafficking magnet.” Here’s a link to the several articles The Huffington Post has recently published on this topic.

Please pray.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

Difficult–but please read

A few weeks ago I posted that I had gotten the book The White Umbrella delivered to my Kindle and that I would write about it after I read it. Here goes.

The book is about sex trafficking in the United States: facts/statistics about it, stories about girls/women rescued from it, and testimonies of those who have worked to restore them.

It’s not as dark a book as I expected. The facts are grim; the book doesn’t pretend otherwise and shares the situation through facts, stories, and links to news articles on the subject, but I was surprised by the hope in the book. The author started a ministry, Wellspring Living, that works with rescued sex slaves. These girls have been through trauma that I cannot imagine. I read their stories and thought, “I would be crushed, for the rest of my life!”

So should they, but the girls themselves and those who work with them share story upon story of growth and new life. It may be backwards/forwards and take tons of time and patience, but as these girls encounter the God who wants to make them new, many of them grow.

After I read the book I wrote an email to its publisher, Moody. I shared much of what I wrote above, but I also had a complaint: The book is a call to action, and I WANTED to act after I read it. But since I don’t live in the Atlanta, Georgia, area—where Wellspring Living is located—I can’t really be involved in that ministry, other than by donating. What if I want to get involved right here? Do you have any suggestions?

I received a response from a woman in Moody’s book publicity department. She invited me to a luncheon hosted by Moody Church the following Monday that was about sex trafficking in the Chicago area. The speaker, Frank, is the director of Chicago’s Salvation Army’s PROMISE program (Partnership to Rescue Our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) and has worked with sex trafficking victims for more than 25 years. With the Salvation Army, he recently opened Anne’s Home, which provides long-term residential care for girls rescued from trafficking in Chicago.

So I went. I thought it would be a gathering of a couple hundred people; like they just tacked my name onto a long list: What’s one more?

No.

Under fifty people, and the group included Mary Frances Bowley (the author of The White Umbrella), Mary Welchel (Director of Women’s Ministries at Moody Church and founder of The Christian Working Woman), and an FBI agent who works with sex trafficking.

Everyone else seemed to have a reason to be there. People kept asking me: “So what organization are you with?”

“Um, none.” (Okay, I sounded a little more polished than that!—but probably not much more.)

“Oh, so why are you here?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

I was certainly there to learn—and learn I did, far more than I really wanted to.

I already knew that the FBI’s low estimate is that more than 100,000 children, usually girls, are being forced to do someone else’s sexual bidding. The age range is nine to nineteen; the average age is 11; and the average life expectancy of a girl in forced prostitution is only 7 years.

That doesn’t make you want to read any more, does it?

But I also learned this is no longer just an inner-city problem. Law enforcement agencies in Illinois are reporting an increase in cases involving middle-class suburban children because the kids have access to a computer at home and can be targeted more easily.

I don’t want to bombard you with too much info in this post, so I’ll end here, but in a follow up post, I’ll put tips for identifying children who are being sexually molested and/or trafficked and hotlines you can call if you suspect it. It’s happening far more than we want to think it does, and it’s happening closer than we can imagine. I’ll categorize this post and all follow up posts “Sex Trafficking.”

If you want to do more research, below are two addresses to check out: one is Wellspring Living’s home page, and the other is the PROMISE website.

wellspringliving.org

sapromise.org

Thanks for reading.
Jen