Fist pumping alone in my pajamas wearing a headlamp.

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 ;)

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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?

We would.

(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.

BRK_0280

**Thanks to Beth and mom for helping me reel this one in, edit-wise ;)

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Persecution in an Unlikely Place…

[Disclaimer: Real persecution has been happening since the beginning of time all over the place.  All sorts of people are discriminated against for all types of reasons, and I don’t like any of it. Christians can sometimes discriminate against others, too.  I wish we had a different name than those guys. Sometimes those guys make the rest of us look like we deserve it.  All this acknowledged, the following is info about the Christian minority in Nepal.]

We’ve been on the ground for about two weeks here in Nepal, and I was dumbfounded to discover covert discrimination against Christianity here.  I knew persecution against the church was happening overtly and violently in key places, and I assumed we’d find it somewhere in our travels, but here?! I mean, it’s dreamy Nepal! A democratic republic, major tourist destination, and therefore, I assumed, progressive and inclusive of just about anyone.

We quickly saw, though, the tricky and delicate operations of our host ministry and the risk they are currently facing in renewing their registration because they are a Christian organization. Right now, although it’s a secular state, the Maoists have political control, Hindu has the religious majority, and the Christian minority sits just below legal status in terms of recognition of churches as registered organizations and in legal access to burial land.

Jeff was last here in 1999 during the Hindu monarchy (the world’s last constitutionally declared Hindu state, btw)  and at that time, evangelizing was illegal. Jeff got arrested. JUST KIDDING!

In response to Christian protests for equal rights, the government signed an agreement in 2006 promising to include legal recognition of their churches and land to bury their dead. Seven years later, these things still have not been enforced, because officials want to protect the sacred Hindu land within the city that Christians would need to use for burials. Although Nepal is still functioning under a transitional constitution that bans evangelism, it does allow for citizens to express their faith through charity work. Draft legislation for the new Nepali constitution, however, proposes a law criminalizing evangelism, and, per certain clauses in the legislation, challenging social injustices like caste oppression and women’s inequality would be illegal if they threatened religious feelings. Yikes. That’s kind of what we do.

Here’s what all that means to us and the organization we are working with: when government staff recently walked through one of the organization’s children’s home during worship time, the organization’s NGO registration renewal was mysteriously frozen. If only the organization believed in bribes, they could clear all this up real fast! But they don’t. So instead they are waiting patiently and letting the homes and kids speak for themselves.

After spending time with the pastor-dad of one of the Children’s homes this morning and talking about the Christian environment of the homes, discrimination against Christian NGOs and religious intolerance, I found this in one of Tiny Hand’s newsletters:

Every child has the right to choose his/her religion. This is one point at which both true Christians and secular child-rights activists are in agreement. To simply assume that children are Christians because of the home they grew up in, or, still worse, to make in any way our love for them contingent on their becoming Christian is (a) a violation of children’s rights, and (b) a way to create religious hypocrites. Doing so can make the free choice required for true faith almost impossible. Each individual has the right and obligation to choose for himself.

 It is true that children growing up in Christian homes usually end up being Christians, and insofar as children are either explicitly or implicitly (by social pressure and conditional love) forced to become Christians, these criticisms are valid. But just as children have a right to choose their religion, parents have a right to teach them about the things they believe. To deny this is the height of religious intolerance. And though it is very important to us not to make our love conditional on their becoming Christians, it is still more important to do all we can to model, teach, and encourage the faith expressing itself through the love that we find in the New Testament.

On an individual level? Here is what it looks like for the indigenous Nepali discovering Christianity for the first time.

One friend (a staff member) told us he was rejected by his entire family for converting to Christianity in secondary school after a teacher shared her own faith. The principal called his parents and said he’d been brainwashed, and his dad tried to force him to reject his conversion. But our friend said he couldn’t, because it was inside of him already. The teacher was fired, the 15-year-old grew in his Christianity, rejected the caste system, married another Christian woman and was excommunicated for marrying outside his caste.

His Christianity cost his entire family.

Another friend, a pastor we spoke with at one of the Tiny Hands Border Monitoring Stations, was introduced to Christianity through an uncle who would gather all the kids and tell Bible stories and sing songs on his living room floor.  The kids loved this time, because the Uncle allowed all the caste levels to sit together on the floor equally. When the adults in the community found out about this, no one was allowed to visit this uncle anymore, and the uncle was arrested and jailed. About a decade later, a co-worker invited this pastor to church, and respecting the co-worker very much, the pastor went. He recalled his Uncle’s stories and songs and his rejection of the caste system in the name of Christianity. Over time, the pastor began to believe the truth in the Gospel. He eventually accepted Christ, got baptized, quit his job and went to Bible school. Ultimately, through the pastor’s own example, his entire family came to accept Christ.

His Christiany saved his entire family.

Despite all this, where do you suppose Christianity is growing the fastest in the world right now?
Nepal!

 

These days, Christians in Nepal have one urgent goal: With 97% of their own friends and family enslaved to the beliefs and practices of Hinduism, their main mission is to evangelize, despite the law.

These pastors and staff believe that the anti-trafficking work we came to learn about is absolutely a part of their Christian ministry, but their overall goal is to bring the people of Nepal to Christ. Each interception exposes a girl to the Gospel.

 

What can you do? 
Pray for the local church and other Christian organizations in Nepal.