This Week: In our first Episode we “grill” Keene for his personal information. We also talk Gloria’s vs. Chicano Boy, Fantasy Football Injuries, and Birthday Parties. Make Sure to subscribe for weekly meaningless talk!
In the heart of downtown Staunton, Virginia, there is a green space. Four massive magnolias sit on the upper part of the yard and a giant oak tree stands at the bottom. It used to be the yard of the man who established downtown, whose name is remembered by the street that cuts through the middle of the town, Beverly. Now this yard is the known as “The Lawn” to teachers and students of Grace Christian School. The school owns this building and takes pride in its beautiful green space. Many hours every week go into maintaining the beauty of the lawn. “The Lawn” served as a meeting place for classes and for students throughout the year.
On the upper part of the lawn there are picnic tables that sit under three of the magnolias. This is my special place. It is here where I spent a majority of my free time after being dismissed from school daily around 10:30. As an upper classman, I could leave when my classes were done for the day. Most students would want to go home; I didn’t. If I could, I avoided home. Home wasn’t a terrible place, don’t think that. I have a loving family that cares about me. I just wanted to be alone. I would sit at the picnic tables and either do homework or think of literally anything other than my homework to do. Sometimes I would walk the 2 blocks to the student parking lot, drive to get something to eat, and return with my lunch to the picnic tables to enjoy it. Obviously, I would not want to walk the two blocks again and I would park my car in the teacher lot by the school (This was always a point of contention with my principal. Almost daily I would have to move my car back to the student lot, but sometimes he wouldn’t notice and I would win). People would come and go from the school. Teachers would head downtown to pick up lunch from The By&By or Cranberry’s. Parents would hurriedly walk into the school dropping off homework, lunches, or sports equipment that their child had forgot at home. Sometimes a lady would walk her dog on the front lawn, and leave the dog’s poop their (We all hated her. We had all at one point stepped in the poop and cursed the women who left it there.) You now see how easy it was to get distracted from homework in a place like this. To be honest, I never really got homework done here.
Many of my favorite memories in this place is when others from my class would join me outside. We were never allowed to climb the trees, though, that doesn’t mean we didn’t. My friend, Jeremy, once climbed the tallest magnolia and was caught by our school secretary who immediately demanded he come down. He decided to leave after this, but could not find his keys. To his dismay and our joy, we could see his keys hanging off a branch at the very top of the tree. He quickly climbed up the tree and retrieved them while the rest of us stood guard to make sure the secretary did not catch him. One time the entire senior class brought their hammocks and we strung them between the trees. These hammocks were stacked three high at some points, some were just barely off the ground. This place was constantly full of laughter and joy anytime students were in it.
On a nice spring day in April, as my friends and I were talking around the picnic tables, a large group of students disembarked from their buses parked just in front of our school to go see a play at the Blackfriars Play House, right across the street. A lady from this group, obviously a teacher, began to walk up the steps to the yard and continued inside the building. When she reemerged, she called for her students to join her on the lower part of the lawn. This infuriated me. “How the heck are they actually coming onto our property and using it?” I asked myself. I then receive a phone call from my principal, instructing me to get a trashcan from inside and set it out or the students to use after they had finished their lunch. He then informed me that the teacher had asked permission to use the lower half of the lawn and had complimented on how well it was kept. At first he was going to have to say no, because we do not usually allow other groups to use it. Though, we he noticed me at the picnic tables, he knew how much it would annoy me to have someone else using our precious lawn, so he granted them access. He was right, it did annoy me. It took everything in me to go and get the trashcan and be hospitable to them.
Even my principal recognized my love for this place. It was here where I spent most of my time. Time with friends, making memories. Now that I am graduated, I don’t have the opportunity to go to this place as much. Though, whenever I do, I go and hang up my hammock and spend my time reading. Listening to the birds chirp and the business of downtown Staunton. This place is where I have peace. This is where I want to be.
Human trafficking is a silent industry giant. Across the world, millions of people are trafficked each year by complex systems of criminal organizations, relatives, abusive partners and corrupt migrant smugglers. Modern-day slavery may not look obvious. Some of the most vulnerable victims are lured into slavery through the promise of jobs and fair wages. Unfortunately, the criminals who pose as employers often seize the paperwork of the victims they capture, who are often far from home and their families, not allowing them to return.
Modern-day slavery affects women and children the most. Clearly, this epidemic isn’t going anywhere without people across the world taking action against allowing it to thrive in our local communities. Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day and here are 14 facts that you might not know about this issue as it exists in our world in 2017:
Kids today are growing up in a compulsively connected world. Information is incessant, smartphones are ubiquitous, and with a click or a tap young people have 24/7 access to a never-ending digital conversation.
Of course, such connectivity comes at a cost. Much of this information is pumped out by an agenda-driven media with a message of their own—a message that sounds good, nice even, but is inherently poisonous. It is becoming louder, stronger, and constant. And young people are drinking it in.
This is the message of expressive individualism—the belief, Tim Keller explains, that “identity comes through self-expression, through discovering one’s most authentic desires and being free to be one’s authentic self.”
This is the follow-your-heart, believe-in-yourself, chase-your-dreams, Disney-Hallmark-MTV gospel. It is the catechism of our culture. It is what our youth are learning. You are the creator of your identity. You are free—even obligated—to be whomever or whatever makes you feel good, no matter what anyone says.
When I first heard about Dressember I was skeptical…I even laughed. “How can wearing a dress stop human trafficking?” I asked. Quickly, however, I had a change of heart. The more I learned about human trafficking the more I realized I could not stand still, and Dressember provided a simple way to advocate for something much greater than a dress.
Dressember exists “to inspire and empower a global community” and “to face one of the greatest injustices of our time.”
How does it do this? Well, for each of the 31 days of Dressember, thousands of women across the globe wear a dress. By doing so they raise awareness, start the conversation about the reality of human trafficking, and raise money for the International Justice Mission and A21, which are two organizations that seek to fight modern day slavery.
Modern day slavery includes slave labor (such as brick kilns and mines) sex slavery (in brothels and on the internet). The conditions are often brutal and harsh, and many die in captivity. Their captors often beat them, abuse them, and prevent them from gaining an education. Ages of slaves range from children to the elderly, including 22% of those in the sex trade being minors.
I have now participated in Dressember twice. The first time I remember thinking that it would be easy, but in reality it was a burden. Sure, it was annoying to not wear pants, but what was the most burdensome thing about it was that it was a constant reminder of those who are in slavery. Every time I put on a dress I thought about the reality that 45 million people are held against their will. I thought about the girl that was being sold for sex at that very moment. I couldn’t get the image of brick laborers working 18 hours a day without pay out of my head. Wearing a dress was a daily reminder for me, and it made me aware of the injustice that millions of people live in.
Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil if for good men to do nothing.”
So where does that leave us? How can we contribute? I will finish with 3 things to consider.
- Educate yourself and start the conversation about human trafficking. The more I researched and learned about human trafficking, the more I realized how great of an issue it is. Find websites, like ijm.org, that contain information and facts. Read books about the issue of human trafficking. Learn about the victims and their stories. Educate yourself.
- Spend yourself. Give to worthy organizations like Dressember, IJM, and A21 that make a difference . Volunteer at local human trafficking safe homes and organizations that are around you. You will be surprised about how many opportunities there actually are! (P.S. if you feel led to give to my Dressember page, you can do so here)
- Pray for those involved and their salvation. The victims need freedom in every capacity of their lives. Pray that they will feel the love of God even amidst such evil. Pray for their restoration. Pray for healing. I also challenge you to pray for the captors, that they will see the evil that they are doing and turn from the darkness of slavery. Lastly, pray for those who see human trafficking yet choose to say nothing. Pray that they will not turn a blind eye because it is convenient, but that they will stand up for the oppressed.
Thank you for reading this and I hope this proves to be helpful. Remember that “The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit“. (Psalm 34:18)
It’s not about the lights or the coffee station.
Many young people are drawn to churches that are more like family rooms than theaters and that invite young people not just to share beliefs, but to share life. Rachel Held Evans said it well in Searching for Sunday—millennials “aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity … we’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity … No coffee shops or fog machines required.”
Or as one 20-something in our study reflected, it’s one thing to watch a worship performance—anyone can do that online. In contrast, “The internet can’t help you move to your new apartment. Only a close community will do that.”
But was it worth it? Did Tolkien waste much of his life loitering in his own elaborate Elfland? And did he enable hundreds of millions of others to waste theirs by joining him there? In the face of such real desperate needs of very real souls in the very real world, isn’t Middle-earth just an escape?