Thursday, February 27, 2014
Modern day slaves wear bikinis
Over a year ago, when we still lived in Southern California, I witnessed something really disturbing.
It took me months to make sense of it.
My family and I were at the beach, my favorite one in fact. It is public beach that runs in front of the most expensive and fancy resort in South Orange County. The beach is unbelievably beautiful there, and we saw dolphins, pelicans and all sorts of wildlife every time we visited. That's one reason it was my favorite.
But this particular day, it was off season, and it was freezing. Well, not Montana freezing, but California freezing. Grey skies, overcast and misty, I was still shivering in my sweatshirt. Everyone on the beach was wearing layers; it was a day to stroll and feel the sea air in your hair, but certainly not to get a tan or go in the frigid water.
Because it was notoriously beautiful there, often we'd see huddles of people posing for engagement photos or the annual Christmas card. Overcast days were great for photo shoots, so I wasn't too surprised to see a group of four stroll past us, two with large cameras.
They were an odd bunch, though. Two were young girls, perhaps around 16, and two were older, foreign men. The men were heavy set, scowling, and didn't speak a single word to the girls. Nothing about them said "professional photographer." The girls were painfully thin, pale, and expressionless. They too never spoke a single word. In fact, in retrospect, the four of them seemed dead in some way. Lifeless, but walking and moving their bodies here and there.
And then, the shocking part began. Despite the weather, the girls undressed down to skimpy bikinis and right in front of my family, were lethargically splaying their bodies all over the sand and rocks to be photographed.
I was baffled, really. Neither of the swim suits looked new or fashionable, as if for a catalog. Neither of the girls ever smiled. And neither of them were very pretty. Yet, I was naïve enough to believe that they were engaged in some sort of low budget modeling deal, cheapening themselves on the sand in front of me. One girl knelt in the ice cold water, unflinching, still expressionless, holding the side of her bikini bottom out and low with her thumb. My stomach turned, seeing how young she was and knowing how much more than that she was worth.
I tried to walk my children away from the scene quickly, and soon after, we decided we were too cold to stick around.
But the impression of those two girls had been burned into my mind.
I now realize they were very likely victims of human trafficking. There were so many signs.
But why didn't I realize it? Why didn't I rush to the beach attendants and have them call the police? Why did I simply go home, fussing about the kids' baths and what we were having for dinner?
Not because I didn't know what it was, or that it was happening.
It's because I didn't expect evidence of human trafficking there. In Laguna Beach. Amongst some of the glossiest people in the world. On my favorite beach, no less, where my kids often searched the tide pools and I always brought an iced tea.
That's why. Because I was foolish enough to believe, for one moment, that modern day slavery wasn't around me, wasn't in my world.
I'm still sick to think I missed an opportunity to help those girls. I'm not sure what I could've done. But it would have been more than nothing.
We can't do more than nothing unless we ALL understand that slavery is around us. There is no place sin will not go, and so there is no place free from the impact of human trafficking. Not our neighborhoods, not our kid's schools, and not our favorite beaches.
I am not an expert on the subject, by any means. But today, as part of the End It Movement, I needed to share my experience in the hopes that you won't miss the signs like I did. We can't help end anything unless we aren't opening our eyes to what's real.
Please pray with me today for the 27 million modern day slaves worldwide, some of them in bikinis.