Last week, Traci and I had the opportunity to take in a Mariner’s game and visit some dear friends while we were on our West Coast tour. We drove up Wednesday (about 4 hours from my family in Salem) and enjoyed a beautiful night, even though the M’s lost, while catching up with Bob and Emily, the first couple to join our youth staff when we worked in Washington. It was a great night.
The next day, we caught up with friends Tal & Joan, and then thanks to a blown appointment (I really felt like April 8th should have been a Thursday...not a Wednesday! Sorry Ritters!) we ended up with a somewhat free afternoon. The sun was shining and it was the first alone time we had experienced in a couple of weeks, so Traci and I took to downtown Seattle on a gloriously sunny day. If you can catch Seattle on warm and sunny day, it truly is one of the great American cities to enjoy.
After hanging around Pike’s Place Market for a couple of hours, we headed back up toward the Space Needle where we would find a pizza shop to eat, and hit the road to catch up with another friend before leaving for Salem. While walking among the crowds who were enjoying the weather like us, we fell in step with a man talking on his cell phone.
I totally started listening to his conversation and saw that Traci was doing the same. After just a few moments, I realized what was happening, and I wanted to intervene. I’m not, nor have I ever been, any kind of fighter or brawler, but something was rising in me that wanted to hurt this man at some level. He was a pimp, and he was preparing one of his girls for her night of work. Here’s what we heard at the end of his call:
“Hey, where are you at?”
“How much money have you made?”
“It’s only $150? You’ve gotta do better than that.”
“So here’s what I want you to do. Go get your son and spend some time with him. I’ll get you a place to rest and I’m going to buy you a coffee...”
“That’s right, I’m going to buy you a cup of coffee, get you some food, and I want you to rest up before you take more calls for tonight. So just enjoy your son, and then we’ll take more calls tonight.”
Traci is preparing for a trip to Thailand to work with women who are trafficked for sex. As a result she’s been learning a lot about the problem of human trafficking and the reality of its ugly presence in countries like Thailand, and in places like Seattle. The use and abuse of women (and men) for sexual pleasure is vile.
This guy’s call was a textbook call to “his” girl. He was gentle and kind, although very firm ($150 was not enough profit so far) but he was providing her a chance to be with her son, have a place to rest, and even a cup of coffee. In his own sick way, he was taking care of her needs, while coercing her to use her body for his own financial gain and perverse pleasure. The whole thing is sick, yet the cycle is complex and the solutions aren’t simple.
Going to Thailand this summer, my wife will get to experience a rescue work happening in one of the major human trafficking places in the world. This issue is both heart-breaking and sickening, yet there is an army of people rising up to bring true hope and healing around the world, and here in the U.S. I’m sure we both will be sharing more about this topic in the weeks to come.
What ultimately “got me” about the call in Seattle, was the thought that the person on the other line was a woman -- not a thing, not a sex toy, not an item to posses. She isn’t any man’s property, but she is a beautiful person created in the image of God, created to know Him and be known intimately by Him. That she is a prostitute doesn’t change her value as a person (any more than this guy who is pimping her, is somehow less of person). Our actions don’t determine our value to God.
A couple years back I wrote a post about this topic, reminding readers that these women were born as daughters to moms and dads. They were precious little children, perfect in their parents’ eyes, and they entered this world adored. The tragic events and choices that led to their current condition, doesn’t change their true identity. And even if they weren’t loved by an earthly family, they were -- and are -- intimately loved by their Heavenly Father!
No matter where life takes you, or where those you love choose to dwell, the truth of Psalm 139 rings through all of our circumstances and tells us that God loves us deeply, and longs for us to know Him as He knows us:
“I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in! (139:5-6)
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day. (139:13-16)
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea. (139:17-18) The Message
As my pastor says at the conclusion of every message, “You are dearly loved.” Indeed, you are dearly loved, and I trust today you will know God and His love more, and share it with the world that so desperately needs to hear the message. The woman on the street, her son and even her pimp, need to hear the message of hope that God loves them, He has provided hope and salvation and He answers anyone who calls on His name.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!