I was watching a documentary about a missing girl when all of the sudden it took a turn into the world of child trafficking. The episode ended and I made my way upstairs for bed with a knot in my throat. I laid down that night in the fetal position almost sure I was going to actually be sick. I laid there swinging back and forth between trying not to throw up and incessantly replaying the story over and over. I begged God to grant me sleep. I wish I had never heard what was in sausage.
Let me back up. Literally the day before I had heard an analogy from Francis Chan in a Bible study video. Chan told a story of how he was eating sausage and exclaimed to his friend how much he loved the stuff. His friend replied that he couldn’t eat a bite of it after working in a sausage factory for 15 years. The ex-sausage making friend started to explain what the wheelbarrows were full of that went into the sausage and Francis plugged his ears and stopped him. “No, stop. I don’t want to know,” he says. “Don’t tell me what’s in it. I don’t want to know the truth.”
I don’t live under a rock. I live in the suburbs, so in a bubble, maybe, but not under a rock. I’ve heard the word child trafficking. But honestly, I typically abort even reading a headline once I see any sort of trigger words that might make me feel some type of way.
We don’t want to know the truth. The truth can lead us to brokenness or laying in the fetal position trying to rock away the gross feeling in your gut. The truth is super inconvenient. If we’re honest, most days and most ways we don’t want to know the truth about anything. And we certainly don’t want to be changed by it.
I actually prayed to God to break my heart for something other than this. I wanted him to take away this feeling. I told him it was too hard and too heavy. “Lord, I have two young children. Two girls. Please don’t make me have to learn more about this. It would hurt too much.”
Meanwhile, actual kids are out there living the nightmare as I’m over here begging God to remove even the thought of their pain from my memory. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. 25% of those are kids. I did the math. That’s 10 million.
Rui’s story changed me. I hope you’ll keep reading and let it rightfully break you too.
Rui Pedro was last seen riding his bicycle in Lousada, Portugal on March 4, 1998. When Rui didn’t appear at a tutoring appointment later that day, a search began — but Rui never turned up. In September of that year, in an international child pornography bust, police recovered 750,000 images and videos depicting 1,263 different children from an illicit group known as The Wonderland Club.
His mother helped identify Rui as one of the boys in the photos. Go here with me. Her fear of the unknown became her worst nightmare. Rui was alive and out there somewhere being abused daily. But she had no idea where or how to get to him.
It’s suspected that Rui Pedro was murdered once he became too old. Stop. Feel it. This is someone’s reality.
And sure you can try to reason it away as being a world away, but it’s actually happening in our backyard, too. Roughly 1100 Ohio children are victims of human sex trafficking every year. According to a report from the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, “Toledo is the fourth largest recruitment site for human trafficking in the country.”
In the Bible, God tells Jonah to be broken for a people group he doesn’t want to be inconvenienced by. Jonah tries to run away and ends up in the belly of a big fish. Honestly, at first I wanted to jump head first in the fish’s belly to avoid feeling so much weight on my chest. But I decided to take action. A baby step for now, raising awareness and money… and maybe if I keep my hands and heart open long enough… a bigger step. And so on.
Thanks for reading. I would not have read this a week ago.
You can donate to our Over the Edge team here. Funds are being raised for Gracehaven, an organization serving victims of human trafficking here in Ohio.