these real horrors (and the hope they bring)

I’ve wrestled with whether or not to write this post…I really have.

In the end, I decided to go ahead and do it.  The next few paragraphs are going to likely be hard for some of you to read. But in the sake of awareness and what I almost, in a way, feel is my responsibility, here goes.

Some of you may recall a post from last year (can’t find the link right now) where I briefly mentioned my wife taking a trip to Nicaragua.  It was a very defining moment in her life and some of the stories and memories that she brought back affected me in ways I’m still trying to understand.

That being said, when the opportunity arose again, I acted.  For those of you that believe in God and know when you’re being prompted, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  And for those of you that don’t…it’s basically identical to that “push” you get from your gut when you’re in a situation and know right away with the uttermost clarity that you’re supposed to do a certain thing.  (By the way, having once lived as a non-believer, I am slowly understanding that instinct and God are basically the same thing…but that’s for another post).

So in a couple of days, I’ll be leaving for Nicaragua.  Yes, it’s part of a church outreach/missions sort of thing.  No, we will not be going there to whack them over the heads with Bibles or assault them with life lessons or scripture.  Why go, you ask?  Well here’s the skinny.  (Note: I’m excluding the names of locations and people for the sake of respect; however if any of you are moved by any of this and want to know more, feel free to e-mail me).

This place I will be visiting for a week ministers to and provides aide to prostitutes in one of the most underprivileged areas in Nicaragua .  The intention of this home is  to not only give these women and young girls hope, but to also rescue them from futures of neglect and abuse.

There is no way to easily explain the pain and suffering currently being experienced by the women and children in Nicaragua. This home I am visiting provides women and their children with a way out of having to work the streets.  Yes…even children are involved. Many of the prostitutes are extremely young and these are the stories that have devastated me.

Imagine a 5 year old girl chained behind a shack and fed like a dog, only paid attention to when her owner sexually abused her. She was left outside in the rain and the heat. She slept on the ground. She did nothing; she did not play, she did not sing, she was not a child. She lived on a chain and was raped and abused. That was her life.

Imagine two sisters, 6 and 4, sold into the sex trade by an aunt that needed the money (a fetching sum of about $20 US for both girls).  After the girls were rescued by people at the home, that same aunt came to the home and took them back. She then promptly sold them to another brothel where they were separated from one another. (The home has no legal rights for the children; if a family member comes for them, there is nothing to be done to stop them).

These are true stories…true horrors that most of us can’t even comprehend.  However, due to the help of the home I will be traveling to, all three of those girls have been rescued and are no longer living in neglect and abuse. The scars, of course, remain.  Any girl sexually abused at such a young age will likely never be able to have children of her own.  And of course, there are countless trust issues to be considered.

As a father of a 5 year old daughter, when I hear stories of girls that are as young as 4 or 5 years old being sold into the sex trade and subjected to sexual abuse, there is no way to ignore it.  Similarly, the need to act—the need to help—is not easy to ignore, either. For the older women, they have regretfully accepted it. Prostitution is a way of life for them and it is how they make their living.  But the young girls are forced into it, often being sold into brothels as young as 4 years of age because their mothers can’t afford to take care of them and other family members simply don’t want them.

When these women and girls come to the home, they are given the opportunity to receive education and learn skills that will help to provide a sustainable source of income so that they can provide for their families without resorting back to a life of prostitution.  The goal is to teach the women another trade (sewing, card making, baking, etc.) and then, through money donated to the home through donations and offerings, provide these women with micro business grants.

As for the younger girls, the teachings and love provided to them through the home instills a sense of worth in them. It shows them that the world is more than abuse and anger.  While more than 60 women and children call this place their “home,” more than 300 attend the “workdays” where they are taught new skills while sharing stories about how the home and their faith have helped to heal them emotionally.

While there are no accurate numbers, it is estimated that around 70% of all women that have experienced the support and encouragement of the home have turned away from a life of prostitution, finding other financially sound ways to support their families and ensuring that future generations are not subjected to the sex trade, sexual slavery, and abuse. And when a woman turns away from that life, it means that her children will not have to endure it. (With prostitution, many girls decide to follow in their mothers’ footsteps as young as 13 years of age. This is for both the money and believing that prostitution equals acceptance or love by the men that “hire” them).

I suppose I decided to share this mainly because this trip is a huge event to me.  Not only that, but it never hurts to open the eyes of the public to the tragedy of sexual slavery that is often swept under the rug around most parts of the world.

Most importantly, this trip is not about trying to convert these women and children. Not at all.  Besides, most of them have become Christians since their rescue, relying on their faith and eager to tell stories of their rescue and how their lives have changed.  So this trip is more about lending a hand and, more importantly, playing with the children.  The women have sons and daughters that visit and live at the home that have been robbed of their childhood. To play games and to even just read to them gives them an experience that they never had, yet American children are spoiled on and take for granted.

I personally took it upon myself to collect as many Spanish children’s books as I could find.  They have no toys, very few clothes, and ZERO books.  Meanwhile, I have about 300 paperbacks, 150 digital books and access to libraries every day.  So this is me trying to do my part.

Again, I realize that many people may feel far removed from something like this because, at its core, my trip is about  a belief in God (or, at the every least, a very real hope that these women and children usually don’t know exists).  Being a former atheist, I get the detachment at the mention of church.  I get it, I understand it, and I don’t fault anyone for that.

But with a cause like this, it comes down to human decency and the need to react to these very real horrors.  As a guy that has spent the past 12 years writing about imagined horrors, the idea of what is going on in Nicaragua, the Ukraine, and all around the world in regards to sex trafficking saddens and disgusts me. And rather than whining and asking God how He could allow things like this to happen, I finally stopped placing blame and asked myself “What can I do about it?  What can I do to help?”

The answer was easy.  And that’s why I’m leaving in a few days for Nicaragua.

I told myself in December of 2011 that I would spend 2012 being a more honest writer.  Based on this post (which grew much longer than I intended), I’m staying true to that. So maybe I did finally stick with a resolution!

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14 comments

  1. This is a decent thing your Doing Barry. I commend you, and wish you luck.
    I’m also amazed that you can worship a God that could instantly remove the need for such action yet does nothing. I’d spit in his face. Its not that I don’t believe, its just that if I do, I have to admit that God is a bastard so its easier to be an atheist.

  2. Keith, believe me, I struggled with that for a LONG time. It was one of my reasons for not believing for most of my life. There’s no easy way to explain it so I’ll give you this: one of the women at the home was abused as a child and eventually became a believer through a pretty intense set of circumstances. She now shares her story with other women that are bringing their children up in prostitution. Her whole ideology is that if her past of abuse and suffering can lead to just one other young girl or family avoiding it, it was worth it. It’s those kinds of stories. And of course, you can chalk it up to the woman’s strong will or coincidence or whatever. But despite her past and struggled, she credits it to God.

    Also, I hope your comment of “Its’s easier to be an atheist” isn’t the only reason that’s the choice you made.

    You know me well enough…if you want to carry on the conversation, feel free to e-mail me. But I’d really rather not have this post become a back and forth on this sort of discussion as it dilutes the entire point of the post. Thanks.

  3. Barry, this is wonderful, and I’m so glad you shared it with us. Like you said, it never, ever hurts to draw attention to something like this happening. It’s hard to face these horrors, as you rightly call them, but that’s why it’s so important to do it.

    But as a former atheist, you also know it’s not just a love of God or belief in the church that can motivate a person to take action in their world. It’s rad that your faith is a big part of that for you, but regardless of faith or lack thereof, anyone can understand that on a very deep level.

  4. The reason I’m an Atheist is not about choice. That’s why its easy for me. Critical thinking and evidence, sort of gives me no other choice. But since I was brought up a catholic and subjected to the standard religious brainwashing techniques I often find my subconscious trying to fit god and all that stuff back into my life. So I should really call myself a skeptic. After all in an infinite multiverse (which seems to have been at least partially confirmed by the discovery of the evidence of higs particles) anything is possible.
    Its a good thing your doing Barry so good luck.

  5. Barry, I am so proud of you for both your change of heart and accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior. Through you and others from your church, God is working miracles for these women and children. I do pray that this testimony will change the hearts of young people here in Virginia and throughout all nations!

  6. Barry, I am extremely proud of you on so many different levels. I know how difficult that it must have been to write this post in the first place. But these problems, or rather “horrors”, are real and need to be brought to light. People need to be made uncomfortable because these things are happening, whether others want to ignore it or not.

    I have know you as an atheist and as a Christ-follower and man, oh man, it has been one heck of a ride witnessing the difference in the person that you were and in the person that you are becoming. I know the struggles that you had when I came back from Nicaragua last year and shared many of these same types of stories. I remember the anger that you had and the lack of understanding.

    As for God and where he is in these horrors, He is exactly where he has always been. He is right there with these girls, feeling their pain and comforting them. However, because He does not want to control mankind, He gives free will. Unfortunately, this also means free will to those who choose to hurt others. He COULD stop it, however there is a bigger purpose and a bigger plan that we are not able to comprehend.

    Again, I will say that I am so proud of you and I can’t wait to see how the effects of this trip will continue to shape and mold you. I love you and I am proud to be your wife (and babies’ mama).

  7. I agree with Janell’s comment that people need to be made to feel uncomfortable so that this issue gets the attention that it needs and these women get help. It would be great if the perpetrators get brought to justice as well, so the demand for this stops. Thank you for writing this post and best of luck to you.

  8. Dear Barry…i was sent your blog by a friend. I married a man from Nicaragua and in 2006 he took me there to show me his country. I had many emotions, as I walked the streets in my cute clothes and freshly painted nails. I had my best jewelry on and I was ….. an idiot. I was ashamed of myself. I went back to his parents home and took off all my gems and began taking notes on what needed to be done to help these incredibly poor people. I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but like you, I wanted to do SOMETHING to help. When I got home I collected clothes. I sent roughly 100 boxes back to the town where my inlaws are considered wealthy. Many of the children had no shoes, not even flip flops and the streets are mainly dirt and broken glass and rocks. I bought many pairs flip flops while I was there and the mothers were so appreciative. Again, I was embarrassed because of what I took for granted and they despirately needed. What you are doing is wonderful. I don’t know that I could deal with the raw emotions you will be exposed to. I beg you to be careful as what you are going to do will not be well received by the devils that hold these women and children. I will keep you in my prayers and hope you are able to permanently save as many of these victims as possible. God’s speed to you.

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