Monday, June 17, 2013


Can you take a minute to watch this news report or read the article?

Last week in Tampa two 16-year old girls were prostituted in an America's Best Value Inn & Suites. The hotel owner had called the police about a disturbance, and when police arrived, they found the family of these girls trying to get them back. They had run away from home, and were being prostituted by a 33-year old man.

Last month in Polk county, there was a prostitution bust of 92 prostitutes, pimps, and johns. The Ledger listed all 92 suspects, including a 15-year old girl. Again, she was a runaway who had been pimped out.

These aren't rare cases. This is typical of human trafficking in the United States.
This is just what made the news right here in the last month.

Within the first 48 hours of being on the street, 1 in 3 children are lured into commercial sexual exploitation (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrown-away Children).

That's just the first 48 hours. If you read about the bust here in our county, you'll notice that many of the girls are around 20-years old. Some have been arrested for prostitution before. The average age that girls and boys enter into being trafficked ranges from 11-14 years old, according to Ernie Allen, the president of National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Many of these "older" girls very well may have been on the streets since they were kids.

There are tangible ways we can help.

Our Love146 task force is taking on the S.O.A.P. project this summer. S.O.A.P. stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. The project was started by Theresa Flores, who was trafficked herself as a teen. Now she works to prevent this from happening to others.

The S.O.A.P. project targets high risk hotels and provides a monthly supply of soap to each room labeled with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888). We approach hotel owners with photos of missing/runaway teens in our area and ask the staff to be on the look-out for these kids. We also provide training on what risk factors to look for to spot trafficking. Each month volunteers label these bars of soap and deliver them to the hotels. It's that simple.

Right now we only have enough money to cover one or two hotels in our city, but I would love to have every hotel under $50/night covered. It's such a simple, tangible way to seek the welfare of our city. 
If you are interested in being a part of this project, shoot me an email at 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Learning Process: The List Continues

I've been thinking more about the process of learning to add to my list.
Here's an important one, I think.

It pushes you places you don't want to go.
It's not learning unless there's challenge. Otherwise, it's just reinforcement. There's nothing wrong with reinforcing what you already know, but call it as it is. For me, the places I don't want to go have spreadsheets and formulas.

The places where concrete facts and logic reign.
But growth is usually uncomfortable. 


Black and white.


I'm making a conscious effort to listen with new ears, and you know what? Some of this actually makes sense. I sat with Matt this weekend and tried to understand the spreadsheet in front of me. I read a chapter in my Stats book for comprehension instead of just completion. I stopped fighting it and could actually see how all of this has benefit. Maybe my world has a little space for some black and white. Thinking outside the box for me may even involve a system and a spreadsheet.

I'm trying.
I'm freaking trying.
And while this is so not a big deal in the big scheme of things, I'm learning from it. I've thought about what it looks like in terms of faith and learning.

The places I don't want to go have evolved over the years. What's funny is how much I used to think in black and white. But then life happened. In my experience, my faith couldn't survive in black and white. It would have cracked and shattered into a thousand pieces.

In fact, it did. 

But God in his loving kindness put it back together in deeper, richer ways that'll take eternity to understand.

I tend to clash a bit with black and white thinkers. I'm most comfortable in process; they with their feet firmly planted. We're both connected deeply to the root system, but while I need the freedom of feeling the sway of the wind, they need the security of the trunk. Neither is right or wrong. Life is just wonderfully diverse. We both need the tension of the other.

To push.
To probe.

Some people have an intense desire to defend their faith.
Stand up for truth.
But those are the things that sent my running from Jesus, not to him.

Concrete facts aren't my signposts.
For some they are.

But, I'm willing to keep an open-mind. 
To approach black and white with grace, praying for wisdom.
Hoping the two can walk with each other instead of under or above. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Good Buzz (Word of the Day)

When I finished undergrad, the term life-long learner was the buzz word of the day. I swear I incorporated it into every paper I wrote my senior year. It's a great term, but I can't say I really used it with much conviction back then.

I want to be a lifelong learner, I want my children to be lifelong learners and I want life to be shared with others that are passionate about the lifelong pursuit of learning. Along the way, I've realized it's not nearly as simple as it sounds.

I'm working through the process of learning as an adult. Here's what I've come up with so far:

1. It's deeply personal.
Sometimes being challenged with new ideas is like breathing a big sigh of relief. It's almost as if the thought was there all along but you just couldn't grasp it yet. It meets you where you're at and moves you along. Other times it's scary. Not in a frightening way, but in a oh-crap-now-I-have-respond-to-this-but-I'm-not-sure-if-I-have-what-it-takes kind of way. Ok, so maybe that is downright frightening.

2. It's communal.
If there's one thing I've learned this year in an online Master's program, it's that learning is meant to be done with others. Online education doesn't allow for busy people to gain access to education, it makes for isolated learning that should be communal. It's meant to be worked through with a community of people so you can hash it out together. There have been so many times when I wish I could just sit with others in the same boat. I just needed an ounce of solidarity. Honestly, it's been one of the loneliest years of my life. Not only because of the time that it takes away from the people that are right in front of me but because of the mental exhaustion it's caused from trying to work through ideas alone. I didn't expect that. Solidarity gives the motivation to push through. Isolation convinces you that pushing through doesn't matter. This is something I've had to battle a lot lately.

3. It's meant to be shared.
I'm not sure how to word this one because it's similar to communal but not quite. I think it's a combination of my first two points. I wish there was a word to describe what I'm thinking but I've got nothing. There's probably some sweet Japanese word that says it perfectly. No matter. When you're seeing the world with new eyes, you want everyone you love to put on the same glasses so they can see what you see. You want them to understand it because in understanding it they can understand you. But sometimes they don't. It can feel like you're gifting a part of yourself to them but they won't take it.  It's painful but in a way that's hard to identify. It leads to walls if ignored.

4. It makes you gain weight.
Or maybe that's just me. Seriously, not sure I would have signed up for this if I knew about the extra 10 pounds I'd be packing. Who am I kidding? Almost 15. But it's true. Not only do I not have the time to work out like I used to, but the bigger problem is that I get the nervous munchies when I'm trying to work through stuff all by my lonesome. And yes, I realize what a loser this makes me sound like. So be it. The stress of 15 extra pounds on this girl is not pretty in many ways. Hate it. I think it would be helpful to find a better balance of working out my mind and body.