Sometimes when your husband goes out to cabin restaurants* and dance clubs for a few nights in a row undercover with a team of international investigators, and you’re stuck at home reading a bunch of graphic anti-trafficking literature, the spirit and power and might of God pours out from the ceiling and drowns you. This is an excerpt from one of my feature articles that will publish in December about that experience.
*Cabin restaurants are brothels in disguise. And not even very good disguise- sometimes if you order food at the “restaurants” they have to go down the street buy it to bring it back ;)
There was one last person to meet in our interviews with Tiny Hands staff: Jeff B, the Vice President of Freedom Operations and basically the driving force behind Tiny Hands’ field research. This was the guy everyone kept telling us we had to meet. He was flying in that morning from Thailand.
I was a tiny bit intimidated. I couldn’t imagine what this guy would be like. Jet setter? James Bond? Leather jacket? Motorcycle?
One of those four was correct—he did drive a motorcycle. But he was completely unassuming, I suppose the way an undercover investigator should be, sat down and described his approach in ways I could understand.
As mentioned in my last post, if you wanted to shut down Wal-Mart, Jeff explained, you wouldn’t just clear the shelves. This would be simply rescuing individual girls. If you did that, Wal-Mart would just restock tomorrow morning. This could potentially draw more girls into the sex trade than there were today in order to restock the shelves. You would not even shut down the individual store. This would be busting a local brothel. Wal-Mart would just open another store next door tomorrow. A new brothel pops up down the street every time one is busted. Instead, you would follow the distribution chain to the ones in charge: the management and owners. To shut down the entire operation, you would attack the supply chain and dismantle the traffickers.
It made sense, I agreed. But how in the world would they do this? Undercover cameras? Spy gadgets? Double Agents? Would he talk to the girls directly? Get them to disclose the horror on camera? Would he have to pay for the time? And wouldn’t that be scary?
In short, yes, yep, yep, yah, yep, yes, and duh—my words, not his.
He collects evidence through undercover agents, technology and surveillance. This approach does not require a victim for intervention, though sometimes victims are intercepted, and builds evidence that supports conviction outside of victim testimony. A strong case built over time is less prone to corruption, targets higher-level criminals, and is collected within the laws and evidentiary requirements of that particular country.
In other words, they enter the dark places and document the darkness for the purpose of eradicating it entirely. Doing this, though, would require locating the distribution chain and getting into the cabin restaurants, talking to the owners and girls face-to-face, capturing it all on camera, and collecting any additional evidence that could be used in prosecution.
Fascinating. But here was the real question: Would we put our money where our mouth was and join Jeff B. and the local guys in the undercover places?
(By we, I mean my husband, Jeff.)
Lots of questions burst into the tiny section of my mind that keeps tracks of things like what my grandma would say about the morality of entering a brothel or cabin restaurant and paying for time with one of the girls for the purpose of gathering intelligence. It would involve money and time and drinks and face time with victims and criminals. They’d have to do it, and they’d have to pretend to like it.
So while my polite, Midwestern-raised husband set out for the dark places with the undercover team, I searched for answers on my own: in Gary Haugen’s book, in God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker, and in the movie The Day My God Died—all staff-endorsed literature used during their prayer and fasting period. And I searched in the Bible.
Ultimately I concluded the following things based on what I knew to be true:
The group had prayed before beginning the operations. In doing so, they drew upon the resources of a God who was already present in that place. God was in the cabin restaurant, brothel, or dance club before this group had ever arrived. He’d been suffering with the girls inside, and He would remain there long after this group left. The people and places they’d encounter were as much a part of God’s creation as any others, and God had not surrendered them to anyone, not even to the traffickers.
I knew that He who is in us—in Jeff H, the investigators—is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). If our faith was worth anything at all, then it had to be stronger than whatever darkness it might encounter along the way. We couldn’t remain afraid, indifferent or inactive in the face of human slavery. We were to go boldly in His name to such dark places to rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan and plead for the widow (God in a Brothel).
At this point, I was fist-pumping alone in my pajamas with a headlamp on and simultaneously checking my phone, refraining from texting Jeff things like: Where are you? What’s it like? Are you ok? Is everything cool? Did you see a girl yet? Don’t get hurt!
I knew that if one girl was to be freed due to the investigative work of these men, it was because the people with the power and influence she lacked would also be people of goodwill and courage (Terrify No More).
More fist pumping. Tiny Hands and my husband were people of goodwill and courage!
So, to recap: Gary Haugen, Daniel Walker, Jesus and I were all in agreement that night and the two that followed. God is there, we are not afraid, and it is our job as Christians to go into the darkness and lead everyone out!
I understood during those times of waiting for Jeff to return that this was never God’s fault. God cares about the women, and He has equipped the human race with everything we need— time, education, resources, cash, skills, manpower and brain capacity—to end this injustice. It is we who have not responded.
But Tiny Hands is responding. During the course of three operations involving five hidden cameras and microphones, Jeff and his team, with our Jeff in tow, collected intelligence from seven places in two cities. Take that, trafficking.
Jeff’s reflections? Next post.
**Thanks to Beth and mom for helping me reel this one in, edit-wise ;)