Tom Davis: Priceless: A Novel on the Edge of the World
Coming June 2010
Today marks the launch SheisPriceless.com a new Web site devoted to the release of Priceless and a resource center for prayer, learning, and action on behalf of the victims of sex trafficking around the world. We are calling this campaign "Help Wanted."
Many girls respond to a "Help Wanted" ad for what they think is a glamorous new job and lots of money.
Instead they find themselves trapped as forced prostitutes. Some are raped up to 40 times each day. Raped for profit. But there is another meaning to "Help Wanted."
"Help Wanted" is the cry of 2 million children who are powerless to rescue and free themselves from the sex trade.
They need our help--to help educate others and prevent sex trafficking, to support those brave men and women who carry out rescue operations to free children from slavery, and to heal and care for those victims of sex trafficking.
We've packed the site with resource for you to dig into, and two special gifts! Right now you can download the first chapter of Priceless and the FULL VERSION of Scared. Go to http://www.sheispriceless.com and enter your information to receive access to the private download page.
The free version of Scared will only be available until May 10...so don't wait.
Also, our new site has a free 5-day devotional for you and your family, Sunday School, Bible Study, class, or small group. I've posted day one below, but you can get the full download at SheisPriceless.com.
Day 1: Deceit
Marina, from Priceless, represents thousands of girls across the world. Girls who have had all hope stolen from them. Girls who have spent their whole life in an orphanage and as early as fourteen years old they get kicked to the streets to fend for themselves. Girls wondering where their next meal is going to come from. Girls spending cold nights dreaming of better life. These girls are approached by nice looking men, the first person who has looked at them kindly in months. The men tell the young girls everything they want to hear. They tell them that they will give them a promising job. The job will be an opportunity to nanny in a foreign country making more money than the young girl ever dreamed possible.
Imagine yourself (or your daughter):
Living on the streets.
Imagine the hopelessness of not having a job and living on the cold
streets. Imagine your dreams for a better life and what they would
include. Imagine having no one to turn to for comfort or advice. Now,
imagine yourself being approached with a job opportunity-one that sounds
too good to be true. What do you have to lose? Maybe, just maybe, your
life is going to turn around like you’ve always dreamed.
Unfortunately, this job is not a nanny or waitress job after all. What these girls do not know is that they are going to be trafficked and forced into a life of sexual slavery.
Priceless Chapters 6-11
Statistic to think on today:
Every 2 minutes, a child is being prepared for sexual exploitation
Scriptures to study:
Psalm 43:1 – Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.
Psalm 120:2 – Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.
Psalm 144:11 – Deliver me and rescue me from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful.
Pray that the Lord will
close the eyes of those seeking vulnerable girls to traffic
Pray that the girls’ eyes would be opened to truth and they would flee
So excited to see what Children's HopeChest is accomplishing across Africa. New Pictures up from this trip on my Facebook Account. Click here to see. This is Riaan Heynes and Barry Huggins. Riaan is the Missions pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. They just cancelled our flight here in Swaziland back to Johannesburg. No phone call, no warning! Hoping to get on the next one so we can catch our flight to Washington DC this evening. It's the middle of summer here and burning hot. I need to get back to my family and winter in Colorado!
You can too!
Community to community sponsorship is one of the most powerful tools available to redeem orphans. It's a program that allows anyone's community, (blog, family, church, small group, school, etc.), to sponsor a group of orphans on the other side of the world.
I'm happy to announce that Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, and Author, is sponsoring the Mabanteneni Orphan community in Swaziland through his blog, Jesus Creed. To read more about it, click here.
The good news is that your community can do the exact same thing! We want to make it easy for you to connect with orphans in need. Children's HopeChest can help you pick a community of orphans that's just the right size to fit the number of people in your group. We can also customize a webpage for your community, where you can invite friends and family to participate in the project with you. To see the Jesus Creed page click here. You can sponsor a community of orphans this Christmas that saves lives and provides the means for a future. Interested? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get you going.
This little girl absolutely melted my heart. Her orphanage, Kolmbocha, is far from the capital city in Ethiopia. I asked the director, "When was the last time you had any visitors?" His answer? Eight years. My hope this Christmas is that sweet little girls like Hiatt won't be forgotten by my friends and family here in the US. This orphanage is available for sponsorship by your community. There's 100 kids waiting. Email me if you're interested: email@example.com.
Also, you can give a gift of hope this Christmas at HopeChestPartners.org. Make a gift in honor of someone special this Christmas--a gift that brings hope to orphans like Hiatt.
We have a great team in Uganda right now, led by Greg McElheny and Vince Giordano. I just received an email from one of our team members, Ben Savage, from Cincinnati Ohio. I had to share it with you. Please join me in prayer for this team as they visit carepoints throughout the Teso Region over the next few days. I hope to update you with more stories as they come to me."Today I walked into a world unlike any other that I have experienced.
In this strange stew of images we pulled into Rapha ,
a community that is sponsored by a church in Florida through
Children’s HopeChest. We were greeted by 150 children in white shirts
and orange smocks. The children were not exactly what I expected.
True, their situation was more dire than any I’ve seen, but the
children shone like the sun. Their smiles were bright and filled with
pride and dignity. The children greeted us individually and thanked
us for coming. I only wish my children acted this respectfully.
After we toured the community, we were escorted to their schoolroom.
The room consisted of a small map of the world, a few old posters and
rough hewn benches.
The children sang a welcome to us. They danced and recited Gods words
to us. I was challenged and changed by all of this. And then there
was Sarah, who read Matthew 6 aloud. Sarah, who, from all earthly
perspectives should be disabled with despair for her future spoke of
faith. She is an orphan who has depended on God to deliver food,
shelter and all other earthly needs. She had suffered loss and pain
that people in my community would have spent countless dollars on
therapy to recover from, but today Sarah spoke to me of faith. She
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will
eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more
important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at
the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more
valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field
grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God
clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is
thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of
little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What
shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all
these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But
seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things
will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of
its own.” Matthew 6:25-34
To hear a lovely child of God with a gleaming face recite those words
to me was the high point and most devastating moment for me. The
thought that Sarah, who has good reason to worry about tomorrow would
unassumingly speak those challenging words to us fairly contented and
well fed Americans destroyed me. That we worry more about the news
from Hollywood than the desperation found around the world was nothing
short of life changing. While our culture is so consumed with anxiety
and fear, here was little Sarah exemplifying faith and courage. She
read the words but I could see that she felt them too and that she
felt them deeply.
I have always loved that passage and thought about it as a cute
phrasing of my simple faith. But today I heard it as a life mantra
that was spoken from the core of this small framed girl. It was the
throwing down of the gauntlet. And the question that confronts me now
as I sit in my Ugandan hotel and Sarah sleeps in her mud hut is “What
will I do to respond?” I have been blessed - not so much that I am
rich in my own community necessarily, but I am insanely rich in a
global context. I have also been exposed to enough of the
difficulties that these communities face that I can no longer hide
behind ignorance. Do I truly believe that these children are more
valuable than my cable television? I am the “I want my MTV”
generation. As Africa burns I live in comfort and ease while I CAN
make a difference in the lives of others but will I choose to? What
sacrifice have I been willing to make to help fulfill God’s promise of
care to others? I will live differently from this day forward.
Have mercy on me God, though I truly don’t deserve it. I have for too
long ignored your call to love those who are broken and abused. Help
me capture and hold onto the conviction, sorrow, and joy reflected in
Sarah’s eyes today. And thank you for showing me a picture of your
heart through these broken but not forgotten children in Rapha. I am
devastated and changed. Thank you, sweet Lord."
I'm loving these lively discussions!
Since the topic of 'solving the orphan crisis' is coming to the surface over and over in the comments, I think it's important to define a few terms. Russ made the comment that "orphan care is a band-aid...the only real solution is beating the sources that cause orphans like extreme poverty and preventable disease."
The predominant strategy for eliminating poverty and preventable disease has been foreign aid. The West has spent 2.3 trillion dollars over the last 5 decades of foreign aid, but we still have not managed to get 12 cent medicines to children to prevent malaria deaths, or get $4 bed nets to poor families, or $3 medicines to new mothers to prevent 5 million child deaths. Why? Something should tell us that's the wrong approach.
In my experience of hundreds of trips overseas, I have seen entire communities transformed because of orphan care. I have seen kids who had no hope for survival not just exist, but thrive. I have seen young girls living safe and going to university instead of becoming prostitutes.
Foreign aid is a top down approach which ignores the power of individuals (like Hanna from Addis Ababa and her network of foster care homes for orphans in Ethiopia) to provide bottom up solutions. My friend Lyston calls these people "creatures of invention." They are the women like Gugu from Swaziland who asked the 13-year-old prostitutes in her community what they needed to escape the sex trade. They answered simply, "A school." The next day, Gugu started a community school under a tree for these girls (Gugu's carepoint is not sponsored yet...call me if you're interested in getting involved here). They are pastors like Walter from Swaziland. God told Walter to "look in his own pocket" for the resources to help orphans in his community. So, he stopped paying for his own kids to go to school so that he could feed 500 orphans using the help of widowed grandmothers to cook and serve.
Walter, Gugu, and Hanna teach us about what true orphan care is. Orphan care is not a sponsorship program. It's not a feeding line, a mission trip, or a humanitarian project. It's holistic care that meets the needs of what a child would receive if they were in a family, ie, medical care, education, food, clothing, shelter, love, etc. That eliminates issues like extreme poverty and preventable disease.
I wouldn't call that a band-aid.
True orphan care gets people involved in communities, releases compassion in a way that makes a real difference, and helps to solve the bigger issues behind the orphan problem. I believe we can do this by helping communities (churches, companies, and organizations) take responsibility for communities in poor countries filled with orphans. Everybody, every church, every business, can "adopt" a Walter, or Gugu, or Hanna. The results transform children of the lowest state in their societies into men and women of great dignity and compassion. This happens when we roll up our sleeves, and get behind the work that is already being done to eliminate the orphan problem by these great men and women. The West does not bring the answers. We can bring the money and the compassion to keep this work growing and expanding. It's what Children's HopeChest does. Our goal? Engage 12,000 communities in the US and Europe to sponsor 12,000 communities, reaching 1,000,000 orphans. If you reach 1,000,000 orphans, you've just empowered an entire generation to reach itself. The 1,000,000 will reach the 150,000,000.
Whenever I read a story about the poor, they are typically abused over and over. Some of this is intentional, some of it not. But the very fact that the poor are poor, puts them in danger of being mistreated by the world's system on a regular basis.
This reminds me of one of the first little girls I met in Africa. Unfortunately, her story is more common than not. Her father had disappeared, leaving her mother to care for all 5 children alone. Naturally, the father was the breadwinner of the family, so the mother was left unskilled and unable to provide for the family. They were already poor, now they were poor and hungry.They were also treated as cursed people in the community - because their mother soon became sick.
The children watched as the HIV virus turn into to full-blown AIDS in their mother's body right before their eyes. It wasn't long until the children were now starving, and a few people would drop food by every now and then. But it wasn't enough. Then men started coming by, raping the children and leaving a loaf of bread as 'payment.' This little girl had been raped so severely, she had lost control of her bladder. That's injustice and the Bible screams for justice.
Can you see how evil is perpetuated on those who are poor again and again? The story is all too familiar. You can read another story similar to this one about a girl named Regina is Mozambique HERE.
This is why we must be engaged and why we have to help. It is the heart of Jesus and it is "pure religion." And it's what the Five for 50 Foundation is all about. More to come on that this week. Also, keep your eye peeled for some live video to go up on my blog as we prepare to go to Africa on March 2nd. We're taking you with us!