I‘m pleased to introduce you to Every (1) Matters’ first ever guest poster, Melissa Sharman! It’s an honour to have her write this week’s post and I’m sure you’ll agree; she has an amazing gift with words. That combined with her heart for justice leaves us with a wonderful, thought provoking post. Pop over and visit Melissa’s blog, Dusty Highways!
I’d love to share a journey with you. It won’t be comfortable; truth rarely is. If you allow it, it will ruffle your nicely groomed feathers, and pull at the strings of your neatly packaged heart. But it is a journey in which you may find – and it is my prayer that you do – something extraordinary. That something is you. I may not know you, but I believe that we all have a unique and beautiful gift of eternal significance to give to this broken world. Though to see the light in ourselves, sometimes we need to first open our hearts to a little brokenness.
I recently experienced my own journey through brokenness on a Speaker Training Trip with Destiny Rescue. Destiny Rescue is an aid and development organisation that works to rescue girls from sexual slavery in South-east Asia and Africa.
In October 2010, I travelled to Thailand and Cambodia with about 35 people from across Australia to see first-hand the work of Destiny, and to be trained to speak on their behalf. Boy, did I encounter some uncomfortable truths!
On my first night in Bangkok, I found myself in a strip-club, posing as a client in search of young girls. I sat with working girls who were 14 and 16 years old, dressed only in red underwear, fishnet stockings, and braces. The very next night I found myself in Walking Street, Pattaya – sex tourism capital of the world and an environment more depraved than I could have imagined. There I spoke to a tiny, timid girl who looked like she should be at home giggling with her friends. Instead, she was 6 days into her new life and never to go home again. Her name is Rose, and her first customer would pay a good price. An older girl was helping translate, and when I asked her whether she had been to school she said, with a kind of sad determination, that she had started school and enjoyed it but must work for the money. Another girl, roughly my age, told me that she worked every night until 4am. I hugged her, told her she had value, wanted to be her friend, and later watched as she walked out on the arm of a customer.
Stories like this are not rare. UNICEF estimates that every year approximately 1.2 million children – that’s one child every 26 seconds – is sold into slavery. Though the slave trade has been abolished, there are more people in slavery today than at any other time in history. More people than the population of Australia. Of the 27 million people in slavery, the UN estimates that up to 98 percent of those are women and children in sexual slavery.
The girls that Destiny Rescue seek out have no choice in their occupation or employment conditions. They are usually from very poor, rural villages and are often sold by their families, who are tricked, coerced or forced to give up their daughters. Any choices made are done so in the context of extreme poverty, lack of education, social stigmas surrounding sexual abuse, and family obligations. Even more disturbing is the fact that girls in sexual slavery have no future. When they are no longer able to produce an income, their bodies wracked by disease, fatigue and abuse, they will be discarded with no education, no livelihood, and no-one to care. …Did I mention that the journey would be uncomfortable?
Yet, in the midst of all this darkness, there is remarkable hope. I saw girls in rescue homes who have been given an education, health care and counselling, a family, vocational training and skills for a self-sufficient future. In short, the chance to dream; a future and a hope. Destiny Rescue have 30 rescue homes around the world and 1600 children in care, including those rescued from brothels and those in prostitution prevention programs.
I am now home again on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, raising two precious children of my own and finishing a uni degree. But I pray that I would never forget the touch of the children I met in Thailand and Cambodia – very real children, of incredible value. I pray that my heart would always be broken for this cause that so reflects the heartbeat of a loving God. And I am committed now to doing what I can to support Destiny Rescue, whether that be organising events, speaking at jewellery parties, helping in the office, or just sharing with whoever stops to say hi in the grocery store. The resources that we have can seem insignificant in light of such an overwhelming problem. But imagine a world in which we all gave what we had in our hands to give – where we chose not to discount ourselves and live safely within our limitations, but to open our hearts, embrace some brokenness, and boldly share of our resources and talents.
Together, we could create a movement that ends slavery in our lifetime. We all have a sphere or influence – friends, neighbours, schools, daycares, churches, social groups. We all have a voice. Are you using yours?
Destiny Rescue’s 26 Second Challenge campaign is an easy and powerful way to start making a difference today. You can check it out at: http://www.destinyrescue.org/26seconds
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A little bit about Melissa, in her own words: I have two children, Emilia and Elijah, 2 and 3 years old. We live on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, and love it. I am in the last semester of a degree in Politics and International Relations, which has taken me over 8 years to complete, and which helps to put some theoretical structure around my passion for social justice. I love the power and beauty of the written word, and the comfort and clarification that the act of writing brings me. For this reason among many I began a blog last year: dustyhighways.wordpress.com. I also volunteer with Destiny Rescue, working to raise awareness on behalf of children in sexual slavery. God is my life, my strength and my centre, and I believe that He has given each of us a gift for our broken world, and the responsibility to use it. I therefore feel passionate about inspiring women, particularly, to be all that they can be.
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