While for most Americans The Superbowl is a fun tradition, it is also commonly known as one of the biggest days of the year for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). I had the incredible opportunity to join with some of the key leaders in the Atlanta area that are rescuing and rehabilitating victims of CSE and sex trafficking on a mission trip to New Orleans on Superbowl weekend. Our Atlanta group joined forces with organizations currently serving New Orleans for raising awareness and doing outreach. Even though the opportunity came to me at the last-minute I knew I was supposed to go. I think what initially drew me, aside from my growing passion for this issue, was just knowing that we were going to walk right straight into the darkest places and bring light. We were going to go into places saturated with perverted sex and instead we would saturate it with purest Love. We were going to enter places most religious people think you should stay away from. I love the quote from Mick Mooney, “A heart full of love reaches into places that a head full of doctrines never will.” That is what we did in New Orleans. We loved loved loved. It was really fun walking in the thick of it and releasing the Kingdom of Heaven!
The first amazing thing that happened was that through the amazing generosity of people in my life I was able to go on this trip last-minute and all my expenses were paid including childcare for my children so that I could be away. I am humbled and grateful for that opportunity. Thank you to those that supported me financially and through prayer on this trip!
With it’s bright colors, inspiring architecture and beckoning balconies the French Quarter of New Orleans has this Southern charm and historical appeal that draws you in. Music, often jazz, fills the air, artists paint and create on the streets, smells of chicory, jambalaya and beignets mingle together and I take it all in and I just love this place! There was a celebratory spirit and excitement in the air as so many fans were there just to celebrate their team making it to the big game. And then as you enter the areas where the bars and strip clubs gather, there right in the daylight or the nightlight, you find women and girls standing in doorways or windows wearing just strings of clothing leaving nothing to the imagination. Offered on display for examination they were just another product for consumption on Bourbon Street. These women were for sale. It’s disturbing to think about how in this very same city, many years ago, African slaves stood upon the docks for would-be-purchasers to examine the product. But this particular violation of human rights we see now does not discriminate by color. Perhaps not all these women have been trafficked, perhaps they are not all under the captivity of a pimp, but if sex is for sale and the objectification of the female body is rampant…you can be sure there is trafficking nearby.
“Sexual exploitation makes up 79% of identified forms of human trafficking, including prostitution, forced stripping, massage services, and pornography.” (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, 2009)
The moon rose and the night grew darker and the crowd grew suffocatingly thick and intoxicated. The tasty smells were overtaken by the stench of alcohol, urine and trash. I simultaneously felt joy in my heart for the love I was there to release and the groaning cries within my spirit of the Father’s heart break for these His children. My heart was gripped with love, with compassion and with a holy discontent with how easily our culture accepts this violation of humanity and settles for such a cheap imitation of pleasure and love.
So much of what we were there to do felt almost like “secret agent” work in a way…keeping our eyes and ears open for signs of trafficking and people who might need our help. Blending in with the crowd but with a secret mission . The secret agents whom we joined to fight this battle with were so phenomenal and restore my hope in so many ways. Each person on this team came from a different background and a variety of organizations but all there with one cause: To end sex trafficking and exploitation and to love people. It was an honor to be with them all and I was so moved by their huge and radical hearts. Together we faced some challenges and had to be flexible but everyone there was so amazing!
The first morning in worship before we went out I had a vision. I saw Jesus with his heart/chest ripped open
before me and I felt like he was inviting me into his heart and he was giving me his heart. Then he proceeded to cover and smear me with this gooey liquid stuff. The substance was like honey, thick and sticky. I felt like it represented His love and His heart for His people. Then I saw myself walking down the streets of New Orleans and everywhere I went I left some of this sticky substance, every person I touched I left a little bit of this sticky stuff on them. So from the beginning of the trip I felt as though my mission was to just let that sticky love of Jesus get everywhere. Love is my mission. I was reminded of Mother Teresa’s quote about how we can’t always do great things, but we can do small things with great love. This issue of sex trafficking feels so large and overwhelming and with all that was happening in New Orleans it seemed too large to take on. But we can do small things with great love and it will still have an impact. I had just finished reading Heidi Baker’s book Always Enough right before this trip and I was constantly reminded of her philosophy of “stop for the one” in front of you in that moment. So that was my mandate for the weekend: Wherever I found myself I would stop for the one in my path and release as much sticky love as possible! And that is exactly what I did! I know that each person I encountered also encountered the Father’s love.
The main activities of our trip included Awareness, Outreach, Strip Club Outreach and Call Center Outreach.
While there were various organizations there, for this event we all partnered with the End It Movement in our awareness efforts. During the day we walked around and handed out flyers and talked to as many people as we could to make them more aware of the issue of human sex trafficking. We shared cards with signs that someone is being trafficked and hotlines for people to call etc. A few neat things that happened regarding this was that we were able to meet Anna Faris, (a famous comedic actress) and we told her what we were doing she was so excited and interested and she took some of the End It materials we had. Someone from our group also had the chance to make an announcement at an outdoor show and we were able to hand out flyers there as well. Each time we went out and did awareness we were also doing prayer walks and I stopped and prayed for several people each day. As I think about it now I can see how much my boldness had grown over this last year, I had almost zero hesitation as I approached anyone I felt I should pray for or talk to. Each person was impacted by the prayers we prayed and they felt God’s love. One morning we did a specific prayer walk with multiple organizations in the city. I couldn’t help but smile as we walked and prayed, knowing how powerful our prayers were!
One neat story that happened one day was that Hollye and I were able to pray with a blind man to receive his sight. He was not completely healed but he said he did see more light, but that he saw more with the eyes of his heart now than he did before. He was so moved that we would stop and pray for him. He knew God and actually sat us down and preached to us some pretty amazing stuff! It was a really sweet encounter with this man as we just released love over him.
At night we would walk the intensely crowded streets of the French Quarter. As I mentioned we would “stop for the one” so there were several instances of praying with people. I had a few neat encounters with women where I was able to pray with them and prophecy to them good things over their life. One woman I met kept hugging me and crying and saying that her meeting me was not a coincidence…I of course agreed with her! I said, “Oh no it’s not a coincidence! God wanted to love on you tonight!” I was also able to talk with and pray for a dancer who was on her break outside a club and that was also another divine appointment. I know I probably won’t know the impact these moments had but I know that these women were deeply moved and felt loved and accepted.
I heard that another group during the weekend encountered a woman who was being trafficked and wanted to go back home. The group immediately got her a bus ticket home! I wasn’t involved with that so I don’t know all the details but I think that is pretty awesome!!!!
Strip Club Outreach
One of the people involved with our trip was Kacey a woman who is a former stripper and now runs a ministry called 4 Sara that seeks to help women get out of the lifestyle. Through her organization we went into several strip clubs and talked to some of the women there and just loved on them. We were able to give them gift bags of goodies and also hand out her cards to girls in case they ever want to reach out and get out of the lifestyle. One neat testimony from that is that one of the girls on our trip met a girl in the club that is actually from Atlanta and just goes to New Orleans on the weekends for work. So she was able to make a connection with her for the future and we are praying that friendship deepens.
Call Center Outreach
Our group did an outreach where we would call ads listing sex for sale and then just try to get an opportunity to talk with the girl and see if she has any interest in trying to get out of that lifestyle or if she is doing ok etc.. There were a wide variety of responses to this, some of course hung up etc.. However there were several who made solid connections and a few said that yes they wanted out and we were able to connect them with 4 Sara for the next step in that process!
Something very neat that we did one night was that we did a prayer drive through the 9th Ward. (The 9th Ward was hardest hit by Katrina and is one of the poorest areas, there is known to be some trafficking there as well, but it is just a very dark and oppressed area). We split up into a few different cars and drove around and just prayed for the area, we went down the same streets over and over just praying and interceeding over the neighborhood and the people in it declaring God’s goodness and love and that heaven would come to the 9th Ward. As we were driving around I was just so struck by the beauty of what was going on and the great pleasure that the Father had with what was happening. What was so beautiful about this to me was the fact that no one knew we were doing it, there was no way to measure what we were doing, no credit given, no way to know if our prayers were answered or how effective it was. It was a group of people just pouring themselves out for the un-seen Kingdom. I really was very moved to be a part of something so special.
Something I wanted to do on this trip was to get a chance to pay for some time with a girl and just take her out to eat and minister love to her. I did not get a chance to do that for a variety of reasons but it’s ok.
We walked and walked and walked day and late into the night and I know with each step we left a lot of sticky love, hope and light on people and on the streets of New Orleans. I could honestly write more on this trip nad on this topic and I know I will. Stay tuned.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” ― William Wilberforce
If you are moved to learn more or do more or pray more regarding the issue of sex trafficking, I encourage you to start by watching the film Nefarious: Merchant of Souls http://nefariousdocumentary.com/
“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” —William Wilberforce