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Recognize the Signs of Human Trafficking—Theresa’s Story

Theresa’s Story

Theresa’s story begins when she was a 15 year-old, blond-haired, blue eye girl living in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit. There was not a lot of crime in her neighborhood, a safe haven to grow up in, or so she thought. She had a mom and a dad, family, and friends. Everything seemed normal—until predators targeted her.

When Theresa was in high school she was target by a group of men, some of whom she attended high school with. They would pay her compliments and show her positive affection, all in an effort to build her trust in them. After six months of this behavior, one of the guys asked Theresa if she wanted a ride home. “I jumped at the chance because by then I had a crush on him, and I thought everything would be fine. But he didn’t take me home.” Instead he took Theresa to his house and invited her in. “No, no, no I’m good” Theresa told him nervously. But he insisted, “But come on I like you.” The young man tried to smooth things over to make Theresa comfortable so he offered her a soda. Little did she know that the soda was laced with some-sort of drug. Within a short period of time she was incapacitated from the drug—and he raped her. Pictures were taken of the sex act.

He brought her back home and threatened that if she told anyone, her family would be killed. I can only imagine the terror and fright of this helpless teenage girl. Not only was she sexually violated, but pictures were taken, and now she is responsible for her family’s survival. She kept all this a secret—from her family, from everyone. For the next two years, under threat of harm to her family, Theresa was their sex slave. They allowed her to live at home but then would take her out at night to have her sleep with other men. Her traffickers were profiting off the pictures they were taking of her as well as prostitution she was forced into.

Theresa would be taken to very elite homes as well as rundown motels around midnight, where she would wait for men to come in to rape her. This would happen for hours—and then around three in the morning they would take her home. She would get a few hours of sleep, wake up around six or seven and then go to school. Remember, some of these older guys, went to her high school!

One night, after two years of this constant trafficking abuse, the group took Theresa to an inner city Detroit motel, where they had about twenty guys waiting to rape her. She was 16 or 17 around this time. “I think they had full intention of coming back to get me—but never returning me home ever again.” After everyone had left, and before the traffickers came back, she fled the dingy motel and just started walking. Luckily, a server at a small diner saw her and asked if she needed help. The police were called. Theresa was free and her and her family have safely moved away from the upper-middle class area they once considered safe.

Theresa started an organization called S.O.A.P, which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. “I realized on my worst nights when I had been taken to that motel and left for dead that I really could have used someone to talk to. And these girls don’t know they are human trafficking victims. They don’t know there is a hotline number out there. And so I decided that I was going to get them this phone number so they can talk to somebody in their worst moments, which is generally in the motels where they are being sold over and over again.”[1] Theresa puts a hotline phone number on soap bars in motels and hotels, and also talks with the managers about the reality of human trafficking. Women have seen the bars of soap with the phone number wrapped around the bar and have called, asking for help.

After two years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, Theresa escaped. She has been through counseling, still is healing, but now speaks out against the horrific monstrosity and has written a book about her experience, The Slave Across the Street. Thersea, a daughter in a well-off family, in a well-off neighborhood experienced more pain in two years then anyone should ever have to experience in their lifetime. She experienced the reality that sex sells. Her traffickers made money off of the media they were selling of her as well as the multiple men who would pay to rape her.

The Fastest Growing Global Crime

Human trafficking is one of the world’s fastest growing global crimes with 5.5 million children being trafficked worldwide every year.[2] This is not only an issue in underdeveloped countries—but is actually a growing issue right here in our backyard—literally happening in our neighborhoods, even in nice neighborhoods like Theresa’s.

 

Recognize the Signs of Human Trafficking

The following are some of the warning signs of human trafficking:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)[4]
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[1] “Human Trafficking: A Survivor’s Story,” Natasha Curry interviews Theresa Flores on HLN, accessed on May 31, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oogp8fiJXBU.
[2] “Infographic: A Global Look at Human Trafficking,” UNICEF, accessed on May 31, 2016, https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/infographic-global-human-trafficking-statistics.
[3] “Human Trafficking FAQ: What is Human Trafficking?” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, accessed on May 31, 2016, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/faqs.html#What_is_human_trafficking.
[4] “Recognize the Signs,” Polaris Project, accessed on May 31, 2016, http://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs.
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Everyone loves Sex: So Why Wait?–Here are Ten Reasons Why

Everyone loves Sex: So Why Wait? Here is a list of ten reasons why one should wait for sex for marriage. The list is not in any particular order. All of these reasons are discussed in my book that you can pre-order below.

  1. Sex creates an emotional, physical, and spiritual bond–a bond that can only be held together through marriage.
  2. When one waits, it communicates to his/her future partner that they can be trusted in other areas as well.
  3. Waiting sets you up for a life of freedom–not bondage.
  4. You are setting the example that waiting is better as compared to the hookup world we are surrounded by.
  5. When you wait, you do not have to be worried about being compared to past partners.
  6. You do not have to have that awkward conversation of how many people you have “been with.”
  7. When you wait, you develop more self-respect.
  8. Waiting communicates you so value and respect your future spouse that you were willing to share this gift with only them.
  9. When you wait, you know you can say you accomplished something many have not–and this is not in a prideful way–but it is something to be proud of.
  10. Because the easy decision is to have sex.

If you did not wait, there’s always redemption and hope. Don’t beat yourself up; rather, make the decision now to be sexually faithful.  Comment below.

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What Makes You Happy?

“What makes you happy” is a question that will elicit a number of responses. Some of the common responses include sex, money, fame, love, friendship, and peace. However, these things do not bring lasting happiness in and of themselves.

In working on my book, I have interviewed student after student about their stories. One person I interviewed, Drew, had sex with over 300 women–and he never found lasting happiness in those encounters. When he looks back on his actions he realizes he was trying to fill an emptiness.

It’s the same with money. It is not that money is inherently bad–it is how we use it. The apostle Paul quotes a saying of Jesus not recorded in the Gospels, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). However, how many stories have we heard about millionaires and billionaires who had a desire to be on top of the financial world–and yet they are still not happy? Why is that?

Let me suggest that lasting fulfillment comes only in a fulfilling relationship with our Creator. He created us to be in relationship with Him and others. And when we are in a healthy relationship we see others as created in the image of God, having inherent value. We also want to put others first by serving them (Mark 10:42-35).

In the TEDx Cambridge video below, social scientist, Michael Norton, demonstrates that money can buy happiness. His twist, however, is how we spend our money. In his research, he demonstrates that when we serve and give to others (sound familiar?), we are actually happier. At the beginning of his talk, Norton, gives a jab at the religious saying, “Money cannot buy happiness” by saying, “It’s wrong.” However, he has a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about money. The Bible communicates, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 4:10).

Though I do not believe he is a Christian, Norton’s research does support the theme of fulfillment and giving we find in the Bible. As we approach this Christmas season, let’s remember to give to others.

 [Pre-order the book]

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Celebrate in the Little Victories

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As I reflect on my blog posts and even the last four months of my life I see that it’s pretty inconsistent. I have been saying one thing and doing another. I say to myself that I’m going to write but then I don’t have the energy nor want to put in the effort to actually accomplish it. I say I’m going to read my bible everyday but then I overlook it by sleeping in when I don’t have work and/or make other plans. To be honest, I’ve been in a dry season. I’ve cried about it numerous times and vented to my home team how I wish it could change. But for some reason for a while until today I’ve felt stuck.

My closest friends and family know that I’m a person that is very hard on myself, especially when it comes to my walk and relationship with God…

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Putting my Foot Down

A powerful post about standing up for yourself–because you’re worth it!

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Ok. It’s time I step into the confessional.

My personal life has been…a struggle recently. I’ve been feeling out of control.

And I’m going to be honest…it’s because I have just been mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted.

I’ve been getting home after back to back to back 12-hour days just in such a piss-poor mood, that sitting down and writing something deep and meaningful seems a) incredibly disingenuous, and b) downright unfathomable.

And it’s befuddling. Because I love pouring myself into projects and working hard and hustling.

I thrive on hard work and dedication. It’s part of my make up.


But this time, it’s different.

My body is telling me – imploring me –screaming at me – that everything is not alright.

And I’m not just talking about the permanent stress-twitch I have developed in my right eye.

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Acting is a difficult profession because you’re the lowest man…

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Meeting Sex Trafficking Survivors

This past weekend I had the privilege of leading a group of students to Arizona to team up with StreetlightUSA, a ministry that houses twenty-four girls (ages 11-19) sex trafficking survivors. It was a short trip but impactful for our students. One of the highlights was seeing our students prep the activities for this trip and seeing them interact with the survivors. I was proud that our students stepped up and connected with the StreetlightUSA residents.
 
One of the survivors wrote a note to our group that said thank you for spending time with us and not judging us!
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Our students spent time painting nails, braiding hair, coloring, playing Uno, and joking around. Our host expressed that he had never seen the residents so well behaved and engaged with a group like that. I credit that to our students being open to God’s leading and having a willingness to serve without an agenda.
 
The debate between short-term and long-term missions has been going on for decades. The conversations with our students afterward confirmed the value of short-term missions. Our students left and began discussing what they could do to continue to make a long-term impact.
 
I’m excited to see where this conversation leads and what God does in the hearts of our students in the weeks and months to come.Below is a video with more information.

 

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Dear Lily-Rose,

Dear Lily-Rose,

A name is very important—and your mum and I spent much time deciding what we would call you. I thought I would let you know why we named you Lily-Rose.

Every culture, it seems, have made significance in the meaning of the lily or lotus flowers. It’s such a special, unique flower with robust meanings—with cultures from as early as the Greeks (2000 B.C.E.) and Egyptians (1500 B.C.E.) celebrating its significance.

Over the years, the lily has been used to celebrate a couple’s second and thirtieth wedding anniversary. The second anniversary uses the lily to symbolize the purity of the relationship. The lily for the thirtieth wedding anniversary has been used to symbolized pride, beauty, and devotion among the couple.

In later Jewish literature the lily is frequently referred to symbolically and a lotus or lily was commonly pictured on several Jewish coins.

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Lily decorations were used by David and Solomon in the temple: “The walls of the Sea were about three inches thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons of water.” 1 Kings 7:26

 

The lily, “shoshanah”, appears on the coins of Johanan Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus.

The main differences between the lily and the lotus are that the lily comes from the West and the lotus comes from the East.

In paintings and works of art, the lily has been depicted of Mary, the mother of Jesus, representing:

  • Holiness
  • Faith
  • Purity

Overtime as Christians started to associate the lily with holiness, faith, and purity, legends started to arise. One legend has it that the angel Gabriel is said to have been holding a lily, representing purity, when he appeared to Mary to announce she would be pregnant with Jesus.

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Another legend has it that the white lily (also known as the Easter lily) started growing where Jesus’ blood spilled while he was on the cross. It represents Jesus’ purity and divinity. The white lily can also represent Jesus’ resurrection because it arises out of single bulb, which represents Jesus rising from the tomb.

The second part of your name—Rose—like Lily—has had significant meanings throughout history. Like the lily, the rose has been associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Your mom and I have chosen this second part of your name because the rose is a symbol of love and is precious.

Lily-Rose—we are excited to see these characteristics in your life. You have the ability to be holy, faithful, pure, and show love in all you do. We are excited to see you grow and mature—and we will always love you! Regardless of what you do we will always love you!

 

Love,

Daddy and Mummy

 

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