Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder that we're on the right track. This morning, as I was busy going through the plethora of recycling - newspapers, flyers, brochures, and endless things that have needlessly been sent in the mail this holiday season- I was reminded that we can each do something to stop modern day slavery.
As a child sponsor for World Vision, I had been wondering, "Am I really making a difference in this young girl Margaret's life?" Some of the marketing tools World Vision uses seem juvenile to me and not necessarily meant for a 12-year old, but what do I know? Maybe she loves these things I send her...I can only hope she does. Chances are pretty slim that I will, sadly, ever meet this young girl who needs my help. For whatever reason, I decided to peruse the latest edition of their magazine, rather than toss it in the pile of junk mail. I "randomly" opened to page ten, an article about a young family who had been inspired to teach their young children about the importance of ending modern day slavery, a cause that's become a big part of my life these days.
As I read further, I realized this family was from Connecticut. Like me, they'd been inspired to travel to Washington DC and scheduled a meeting with their local Connecticut representative, Elizabteh Esty, asking her to considering sponsoring legislation that addresses modern day slavery, "Hey, I was in her office back in September doing the same exact thing!" That's really pretty cool, I thought, that this young mom and dad would take such great efforts to educate their five and seven year old children about modern day slavery in this hands-on way. I have to say, my experience on Capitol Hill was very enlightening for me. I walked away with a new appreciation for how hard the lawmakers work to pass legislation that brings about positive change in our country and beyond.
Truth be told, I'm not a political person. I don't align myself with any one particular party or dogma, and I find it difficult to follow the news for many reasons, but mainly because much of it is so gosh darn negative and depressing. That said, I learned all about the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, written by a very passionate senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker, all because I'd signed up to attend the IJM Advocacy Summit this fall. Eighten hours before embarking on my six hour journey to Washington that I'd learned I'd be lobbying on Capitol Hill. I jokingly said to the girl who's kindly booked the hotel room we'd be sharing, "I sure do hope they allow you to wear yoga pants on Capitiol Hill, because that's all I've got in my wardrobe." Hey, I'm a massage therapist and a mother to three busy kids; I don't have a need for zippers.
We spent day one of our summit getting introduced to the work of IJM. I was familiar with the fishing boys of Ghana, as I'd taken the film Not My Life on the road to several schools. I had become acquainted with their story of abuse. The boys of Ghana are recruited at very young ages by traffickers who prey on the vulnerability of their poverty-stricken parents. Often times, the boys are literally sold by their parents into this sad and pathetic life. Imagine your child working twelve to fourteen hours a day on a boat, under the hot African sun, with very little food, reciving little to no pay; I bet you can't. These young boys are forced to dive into the waters of Lake Volta, often getting tangled in the nets and either dying or becoming ill from the disease-infected waters. Their hands are hard and calloused from working with the ropes all day, and they are all malnourished, yet they have large muscles from benig overworked.
IJM has set up shop, so to speak, in Ghana, and is making it their business to hopefully bring an end to the exploitation that exists on Lake Volta for thousand of young boys. Founded by Gary Haugen, IJM is a well-resepcted organization that is dedicated to restoring peace and justice to the marginalized populations of the world. Their success in both Cambodia and Phillipines has led to a sizeable decrease in the numbers fo children being trafficked into the sex trade in these countries. By working with the local law enforcement in these countries, IJM has successfully helped turn the tides of justice. In the past, traffickers went larggely unpunished and the police often turned their heads from the darkness that they were witnessing on a daily basis. All of that has changed, as so many dedicated investigators, lawyers, and on-the-ground missionarieshave come to the rescue of these invisible children. Now, the local police are now going after the criminals and making sure they are properly punished.
That night, my new friends and I were slightly ovwewhelmed by the thought of lobbying for the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act that we'd learned about all afternoon. We were asked to give a brief overview of the legislation, which would essentially dedicate 1% of the overall foreign policy budgett, with 27 million dollars a year in increased funding to focus on reducing explouitationa dn human trafficking in the most marginalized part sof the world, Ghana included. I understood that other coutries and the private sector would also be matching funds to make this a viable program. We studied the facts aover and over again. We even took time to watch - no lie - I'm Just a Bill from School House Rock, so we would know what it was we were doing on Capitol Hill. I'd be joining two fellow Nutmeggers and heading to the offices of Senators Blumenthall and Murphy, Elizabeth Esty and Jim Himes. My head was spinning, but I was determined to do a good job. After all, I was here to be a voice for the invisible children of the world, wasn't I?
That Tuesday morning, we gathered in a church that was located in the Capitol Hill district.We were given a little pep talk from one of the fearless IJM leaders, Seth Wispelway. I loved his speech. This handsome, well-spoken young man wished us well in our work on Capitol Hill, letting us know we weren't the first to take on this larger than life mission of bringing an end to slavery. He referenced Moses, saying when God appeared to Moses with the burning bush, Moses didn't tell God, "I'll get on that next Friday." No, Moses went and did God's work, as difficult as it must have been for him.
"Who will ever believe me?
People will think I am nuts."
And God replied firmly,
I AM that I AM sent you."
And off Moses went -
with grace, ease, and dignity -
to deliver his people from exile.
I wrote about this sermon the very next day. The day after that, I stumbled upon an article with Pope Francis' message to the people of the United Sates in which he declared modern day slavery the most evil crime against humanity, one that must come to an end. He'd arrived in our nation's Capitol the same day, ironically, that we were sent off to do God's work on Capitol Hill. This cool new Pope is also a modern day abolitionist, having organized the world's religios leaders in January of 2015, with the intention of bringing an end to human trafficking by 2020, Pope Francis also compared the work of our lawmakers to that of Moses in his address to the American people.
And so, whether it's supporting the work of IJM or World Vision, I know I am on the right track. I will tell you it's not an easy road, for there is so much exploitation that exists in the supply chains of many, many products we buy. As an abolitionist. I do my best to seek out Fair Trade or ethically produced items, but I am quite sure I have played a role in bolstering the business of slavery. I ask you to take a moment and learn about the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act. Learn what you can do to become an abolitionist. Join me and millions of others in this movement to create a life where all people are free from slavery in the factories, on the farms, and in the brothels...like Senator Bob Corker, I believe that together, we can do this.