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For the least of them

Child trafficking is here. Let that sink in. Child trafficking is right here, in your state, your community or perhaps even your home.

Let there be no illusion that child trafficking is a symptom of third-world failed states or the storyline for action movies. Just in the past couple of weeks, the Fultondale Police Department, in collaboration with the Alabama-based Covenant Rescue Group, arrested 11 perpetrators in a one-day sting operation. That’s 11 men who traveled from all over the region with the intent to pay someone for sex with a child.

There is no greater mission than working to save our precious kids from perpetrators who would seek to do them harm. Kids are our greatest asset entrusted to us by God himself and we have a duty to provide for, protect, and defend them.

Early in our marriage, I took a job working in an adolescent treatment center with kids who had all manner of problems. There were psychiatric disorders, drug addictions, behavioral problems and, very often, after-effects of abuse.

Every time I saw what I thought was the upper level of awful, a new kid would come in with a new tragedy, and I would have to raise the awful meter up another notch. To be sure, some of those kids were their own worst enemies, but too often I found that the bulk of the issues those kids faced stemmed from an adult who was partially, if not fully, to blame. Some of their stories are still burned into my mind.

I remember one kid who had done so much acid that he kept seeing things in his peripheral vision that weren’t there well after his detox. Part of his personal history was abuse at the hands of a parent who thought that a good punishment was to put him in the oven and turn it on to teach him a lesson.

I remember a young lady who shined until the day came that she was to leave and return to her parents ... the same parents who had used her in satanic rituals when she was small. On the day of her discharge, she put on dark clothes, dark makeup and left to go back to what she called “that dark world.”

By day, I worked with really messed up kids. In the evenings my wife and I were working with kids as volunteers with YoungLife ministries. At some point, I realized that within our YoungLife kids there were just as many problems as there were in the lives of my treatment center kids. The ones at the treatment center were the ones who were getting help for it.

We chose then to move to full-time ministry with YoungLife and to focus not on healing for kids from the outside in, but the inside out. For the next seven years, we followed that calling with wonderful and often hilarious times.

But even in the midst of all the smiles, there were moments that rattled our cage as kids would let us in on their traumas and troubles. My wife had a young lady tell her about her suicidal thoughts leaving no choice but to talk to her parents after which the girl wouldn’t talk to her again. But she was alive.

I once had kids let me know that they had been getting drunk at a friend’s house. It was the friend's mom who supplied the alcohol and partied with them. I confronted it after which some of those kids wouldn’t talk with me. But the drunken parties stopped.

We knew that we had to love them enough to be willing to make them mad at us. We had to love them enough to be willing to go into their situations with every intent to do what it took to get them out.

As significant as those experiences were, they don’t hold a candle to the level of depravity, and evil, that is perpetrated on kids every day. We are in an epidemic of evil.

There are certainly overt attempts to co-opt our kids. But the covert activity must also be addressed, and it has reached levels previously unheard of. Perpetrators have honed the of use social media, online chat rooms, and even video games, to gain access to our kids. It is not enough anymore to simply watch out for the creepy guy who hangs out by the park. Evil finds its way into the house, and in my experience sometimes the evil was already in the house.

The FBI estimates that at any given time an estimated 750,000 child predators are online trying to find a way to violate the innocence of our kids.

Operation Underground Railroad, an organization committed to rescuing kids from trafficking, cites a UN study that says that Human Trafficking is the second-largest illicit industry in the United States, second only to the drug trade.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that it received over 19,000 reports of child sex trafficking from all 50 states in the year 2022 alone.

Globally, over ten million innocent kids are forced into a desperate existence of pornography, prostitution or forced labor. Fultondale PD proved that the problem is not “out there” - it is here.

Evil does not stop. Evil does not take rest breaks or go on vacation. Evil is at work 24/7, and evil wants our kids. And it is here in our backyard.

Jesus told us in Matthew 25 that “whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me.” These are our kids. We have to love them enough to be willing to make them mad or to make ourselves uncomfortable. If we as a society sit idly by and allow perpetrators to operate unabated, then we will have failed as a society.

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Encourage everyone to see "Sound of Freedom" (2023). It's a gripping movie that I nearly walked out of, but a must-see. Very difficult to watch how evil people can be. Great article, Brother Phil!

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