Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reading Challenge of 2010: February

3:45 AM
Well through the month of February I was able to read books 6 - 10 of my great 50 books in 2010 challenge. It's been a lot of fun so far. My friend Becca has been joining me as well! I am finding that I have to force myself to read something other than fiction though. Towards the end of the month I was feeling under the weather and decided to delve into some easy fiction. But I have some good reads planned for March! Stay tuned and feel free to suggest some books!

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the movie trailer. I know most people get more excited about a movie than a book, but I just love immersing myself in a story, so rich and so engaging, that no movie will ever do it justice. And I'm so glad I immersed myself in the tale of Shutter Island. What began as a hunt for a missing patient in a hospital for a criminally insane on a lone island in the Boston Harbor, ended as something much bigger. I feel that I can't even talk about the story without giving away the plot. But I will definitely say it's a must read and probably a must see, with the caliber of Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Ruffalo bringing this mind-bending visual story to life. Dennis Lehane is a fantastic, witty writer who I will be sure to revisit in the coming months. So if you want a page-turning, can't put it down, kind of read...pick up Shutter Island. I did end up seeing this movie and was quite pleased with the interpretation. Scorsese truly captured the eerie feel of the island and it's inhabitants. Great casting, although I don't know if DiCaprio really pulled off Daniel's dark side very well. I still enjoyed the book better, with all it's details and character development. The Chuck character was so witty in the book, and I felt that it was left out of Ruffalo's character. Also, the ending of the movie was a bit more ambiguous than the ending of the book. Not sure if I liked or disliked that, but I did have to reread the last chapter of the book to make sure I didn't miss something! Overall, great flick and a better book!

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

This book was chosen for this month's book club and I really didn't know much about it when I picked it up. It's the story of Dolores Price, and her evolution from child, to teen, to woman. Dolores experiences hurt and pain, love and pleasure and isn't sure which is which sometimes. The first part of the book is her struggle with weight gain, lack of social acceptance, loss of innocence, and medication by TV. The second part of the book felt like a different story. She desperately tries to create a new life, which both works and backfires. Yet the end is satisfying. The story has hard to read at times, as you so did not want Dolores to feel the way she did. Or at times I wanted to shake her and point out a different life she could have. I loved/hated this character. Because Lamb wrote this in a first person narrative, it's easy to get immersed in the character. But Dolores is NOTHING like me, so it was hard to read someone whom I was so invested in and then disagree with every decision she makes. While I loved the book for how it was written, the detail, the character development, and whatnot, I did struggle with the story itself. I don't think I liked the actual story. It's very depressing, but thankfully has a “redeeming” ending which allows me to not hate the book entirely. It's the same mixed emotions you have when watching a movie that you cry the entire time but love in the end. After pondering this book for a day or so, I finally discovered why it didn't sit well with me. I really struggled reading a story so intimately of someone who faced such hardships without God. It made her story even harder to bear, knowing there was no anchor of peace or control in her life. Dolores had nothing to put her hope in, but herself, and it was no wonder she went off the deep end...literally. I would recommend this book to psychology or counseling majors, as it really delves in the world of mental health. The book's title comes from the 1960's band The Guess Who's song “Undun”, which lyrically fits the book well and sits well with the 1950's – 1980's setting of story.

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

I was very excited to read this book. It's the account of the author, A.J. Jacobs, who decided for a year he would follow all the laws in the Bible. As a Christian, I know this is no easy task. But Jacobs was agnostic. Born Jewish, he considers himself as Jewish as the Olive Garden is Italian, so not really. He set out to discover how religion changes people's lives. He wanted to see what he missed out on growing up without religion. He spent 9 months following the ancient Jewish rules...wear garments of white, stone adulterers, don't touch women, don't shave the beard, don't wear clothes of mixed fibers, and the Ten Commandments and more. He only spent 3 months following the New Testament laws. It seemed a little lopsided to me. I know the Old Testament is longer than the New Testament, and much of the Old Testament is laws, but I felt he should have given more time to the New Testament. He found freedom in the customs and rituals of God, but fear in the relationship with God. To his credit, he definitely did his research, and truly sought out experts on many different facets of faith. Jacobs spent time with the Amish, with the Orthodox Jews, with Jerry Falwell's church, with the Red Letter Christians, and with snake handlers in Tennessee. I appreciated his outsider looking in point of view on the Scripture. But as a believer, I can't help but feel he only paid lip service to my faith. By not having a conversion experience, he missed out on the glory of the Bible. Maybe he lives his life with more thanksgiving and lying less, but is that the point of God's Word? I'm glad I read the book, Jacobs is a very witty writer and I loved trying to visual him in his white shepherd's robe walking through Times Square and carrying his portable seat as not to accidentally sit where an “unclean” woman has sat. It made me think about the Bible's impact on my own life, and how much does it effect my day to day living. But I couldn't help feeling sad for Jacob's in the end. To be so close to truth and to grasp it, but not hold onto it and let it truly transform him...more than a beard ever could.

Rules of Prey by John Sandford

I have a book weakness, a genre that I will return to over and over again because it just entertains me. It's the procedural murder mystery. I'm a junkie for a good Michael Connelly or Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child book. Especially ones with reoccurring Connelly's Detective Bosch or Preston/Child's Agent Pendergast. So when I was itching for a new murder mystery to dig into, I used the Literature Map and discovered author John Sandford and his Lucas Davenport series, a Minneapolis cop who's bit of a wild card on the force, as well as an internet role-play games creator. Rules of Prey was the first in the series, and it proved to be an interesting and engaging enough read. It's the story of a serial killer who happens to be a lawyer, and with each kill he leaves the rules by which he kills by. I was drawn to it because of my love for Dexter [Showtime series star Miami cop/serial killer] I definitely liked it, but didn't love it. These types of stories are a dime a dozen, so when I choose a series/author to commit too, good writing plays a big part in my decision. And to me, Sandford didn't cut it. His writing is littered with excessive profanity and overly detailed sexual crimes. I understand that the grotesqueness is part of the storytelling of this genre, but there is a point of overdone. At least to me. Others may not have the same complaint as I do with Sandford, but I know I might just wait to pick up number 2 in the Lucas Davenport series, because I know that there is better reading out there.

Killing Floor by Lee Child

For the second time this month I delved back into the murder mystery genre. These easy quick reads are just the right remedy when I'm feeling under the weather. I didn't want to read another new author after having failed with Sandford previously. But several Borders customers had recommended Child while I was still working there. So I took a chance. And I'm glad I did. What Lee Child did with Killing Floor reminded me why I love the procedural murder mysteries so much! It was intriguing and complex. It was non-stop, page turning action. The hero, Jack Reacher, is ex-military who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time....smack dab in the middle of the biggest conspiracy this sleepy Georgia town had ever seen. It's a story of corruption through and through, with greed at its very core. The story is filled with twists and turns, and you're never really sure who to trust. It's Child's first Reacher novel, a character with 12 more compelling tales that follow. I will definitely be following Child & Reacher through more adventures and can't wait for the ride.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mum is the Word

2:25 PM

I am an avid seeker of new bands and new music. One of my favorite things is to find some little known band that is fantastic and has hardly any exposure. Thankfully, I have a good group of friends who are the same way. So when my friend
Ryan told me about Mumford & Sons, I was excited to check them out. And, man, am I glad I did! This phenomenal folky foursome comes from across the pond, West London to be exact. These four friends only started making music together back in 2007, but what a sweet sound it is. It’s folk & bluegrass, it’s moving & powerful. But aside from their musical talent, it’s their lyrics that really resonate with me. The opening and title track, “Sigh No More” says "Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you / It will set you free / Be more like the man you were made to be”. It’s followed by “The Cave” which beautifully states “So come out of your cave walking on your hands / And see the world hanging upside down / You can understand dependence / When you know the maker's hand”. My favorite track is “Roll Away Your Stone” because these lines stop me every time “You told me that I wouldn't find a hole / Beneath the fragile substance of my soul / And I have filled this void with things unreal / And all the while my character it steals”. So powerful, so eloquently spoken. The best boot-stomping song, as I call it, is “Little Lion Man”. It’s sure to stop you in your tracks. But don’t take my word…listen for yourself. Check out their MySpace or watch these videos here. And ENJOY!

Winter Winds

The Cave

Little Lion Man [contains profanity]


Monday, February 22, 2010

Six Months Later: Looking Back and Moving Forward

7:30 PM

Today I realized that six months has already gone by since I traveled to Cambodia. Six months!? At times it feels like the trip was just yesterday, but then mostly it feels like it was a lifetime ago. I so quickly got back into my routine of day to day, church, friends, reading, TV, sleeping, movies, music, moving, and concerts...that six months have passed me by. I have I still have seven months until I begin my travels again. I've hit a rut and a lull, and I don't like it.

I pulled out my photos and videos of the trip and was reminded of what I experienced there. All at once I saw faces that brought tears to my eyes, and remembered smells that I wish I could forget. But most of all it just filled with me with peace about my future. I'm excited about going back. And I'm looking forward to the process of getting there. And I know that God has some great things in store for these next seven months that will shape me into the missionary that He is calling me to be.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Losing my LENT Virginity

4:03 PM
I'll admit it. I'm a Lent virgin. I've never done it before. I grew up Protestant, and just assumed it was only a Catholic tradition. I didn't really understand too much about it, and never really gave it too much thought every year. But a few years ago, as my spiritual journey began to change and grow, I heard a pastor I truly respect do a series through Lent, and he was Protestant like me! So it got me thinking about Easter...and the season leading into Easter...and Jesus' fast & temptation in the desert before beginning his earthly ministry. And I started thinking this is something I want to do this year. To me, Easter is just as symbolic as Christmas to my faith. And I love that the weeks leading into Easter are spent fasting, reflecting, and in prayer, whereas the weeks leading into Christmas are spent shopping, decorating, and acquiring debt. There's just something so simplistic about the season of Lent and Easter.

My fast for Lent is unique. I tried to think about what it is that keeps me most from experiencing God daily. It didn't take long to come up with that list, sad to say. But the biggest thing is definitely my media consumption. I spend a lot of my day camped out in front of my Macbook watching the 11-13 TV shows I follow each week, and then an occasional movie when I have no TV to follow. So I've chosen to eliminate all the solitary media time. Time I could put into Bible study, prayer, being with my family, or just interacting with the 3-dimensional world. This will be a challenge, as so many of my shows are going into sweeps soon and I'll fall way behind. But in reality, I'm missing out on nothing, but losing hours to my Macbook. I'm hoping after this, I can curb my TV watching habits, and emerge with less shows I religiously watch, and have a more well-rounded media habit. Yes, I realize this particular fast sounds very nit-picking, as I'm not fasting media across the board. It leaves the door open to still watch TV with friends and family. And the reason I purposely did that was because I never watch TV with friends and family! That way I don't miss out on chances for community, and am being pro-active about not obsessively watching TV. I have 2 different books on fasting I'm trying to decide between to read during Lent. Maybe I'll just read both.

I also went to my first Catholic mass today. I picked an Ash Wednesday mass service to get the whole Lent experience and I'm so glad did. The Catholic church service is filled with tradition, and ritual, and a beauty about it all. I couldn't help but think of the history of it all. My church, while I love it, feels very modern and contemporary. At mass, I felt that I was worshipping the same way as believers had worshipped for hundreds of years. I received the ash on my forehead and it just felt symbolic. Like I was being marked as someone set apart for God's work. Everything from the readings to the songs to the prayers were Lent-focused. It was a great jumping off point for this Lent experience I'm having. So, halfway through my first day, I have yet to watch anything! So far, so good. 44 days to go...


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Perfectly Lonely

11:06 PM
Oh, Valentine's Day. Tis the season for chocolate & hearts, red & pink, first dates and fiftieth dates. I have an appropriately themed iTunes playlist...complete with Buble, Sinatra, Connick, Mayer, Swift, and GaGa. But, if you're like me, this day is less special when spending it alone. I've done the bitter “I Hate Valentine's Day” thing, and I've shared this day with someone special as well. This year I fall somewhere in between. I heard someone talk about the holiday and she suggested that if you aren't spending it with a significant other, instead of focusing on what you don't have, focus on what you do have. So that's my plan for this year. Focus on the love I already have in my life, not the love I'm “missing”.

I got to attend a ladies luncheon with my job at A Woman's Place. It was a chance to get a little fancy and celebrate God's love with a group of women. The keynote speaker was fantastic, her testimony was just so inspiring. It was real encouraging to be around of group of women who were all there to love life, and to work towards saving lives.

That night, I spent time with friends from church, helping our dear pastor's family move into a new home. I love my Watermark family so much, and this church has meant the world to me over the past 2 years. I love the chance to lend a hand when needed, and I got to build a dresser! Or more accurately, I read the instructions to the people actually building the dresser. But that kinda counts...right?

I was able to see one of my music loves, Harry Connick, Jr. live in concert with my best friend. It was a phenomenal show! He is so incredibly talented and witty and gorgeous. I was in awe of the performance. There were times it felt like he wasn't even playing for the crowd, it was just him and his boys jamming on stage. Then apparently he'd been sick and was on some medicine that made him “loopy”, but I just thought he was hilarious! The music he sings is timeless, and I loved that he doesn't need the shock & awe of a performer to be entertaining. Just his voice and a piano were exquisite. Good music always puts me in a good mood, and I left there feeling pretty happy. I know that was a rare experience we had that night!

I saw “Valentine's Day” the movie with my mom and sister. It was an all-star cast that made for an enjoyable popcorn flick, filled with the right ups and downs of a romantic comedy. I do love that I get to spend my last year living with my family before I move overseas. My sister is a senior high school this year and this might be one of the last times we're all under one roof. Although if my sister is anything like me, she'll still be living here when she's 27 as well. Let's hope not anyway! That afternoon/evening I was able to spend with my little valentine, Preson. He is the precious almost-one-year-old son of my pastor and his wife. Since they are in moving mode, I went over to hang with P so they could move and pack without the little guy under their feet. His smile melts my heart every time and I loved spending the day with him.

My mom has always made holidays special, and this year was no exception. I woke up to a bag full of candy and trail mix [that Target Archer Farms stuff is the bomb!] and Starbucks gift card. Church is the one place I always feel loved, and that was true again today as well. It was beautiful chilly morning with heart shaped cookies and I was able to tell my friends how happy I was to see them. I got the best Valentine from a great friend who knows me all too well....Twilight's Jasper candy hearts! That night I had a “galentine's” evening out, as Amy Poheler would say. What's more fun than sushi and movie with a bunch of single girls on Valentine's Day?? Well, I'm sure there's plenty of things, but I had a great time and it capped off the eventful, love filled weekend I had very well.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Bit of Good News...

4:55 PM
U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Southern District of Florida
99 N.E. 4 Street,
Miami, FL 33132
February 9, 2010
Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, announced that Fred Quinton Collins, of Hawaii, was charged in a criminal complaint with transporting and causing a minor to engage in commercial sex acts, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591(a). If convicted, Collins faces a minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment and a maximum sentence life imprisonment.
Collins made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley, and was detained pending a pre-trial detention hearing. The pre-trial detention hearing has been scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 11, 2010.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on February 7, 2010, state, local and federal law enforcement officers with the South Florida Minor Vice Task Force responded to information regarding suspected prostitution activity at a hotel located in Miami Beach, FL. At the hotel, law enforcement encountered defendant Collins and three females, including the minor victim. Subsequent investigation revealed that Collins brought the victim with him from Hawaii to Miami, for the victim to engage in prostitution in South Florida over Super Bowl weekend. Collins allegedly booked the victim’s travel under a false name, paid for the victim’s airfare and hotel lodging, and supervised and directed the victim’s prostitution activities.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit
Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of the South Florida Minor Vice Task Force, comprised of officers and agents from the City of Miami Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, City of Miami Beach Police Department, Broward Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean T. McLaughlin.
A complaint is only an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Miami Human Trafficking Outreach Day4

3:30 AM
We made it back to Tampa safely on Saturday. After extreme amounts of exhaustion, we decided to skip the last Saturday afternoon outreach and start our trek home. We were pretty beat, and the drive home was pretty quiet, which gave me some time to process this whole event. Here are my final musings, thoughts, ponderings, and ramblings from the weekend...

This was my first trip to Miami. I really didn't know what to expect. Obviously, South Beach is known for its party environment and the Vegas mindset of “What happens here, stays here”. But I don't think I was prepared for the poverty in Miami as well. As a transient/destination city it makes sense, but I didn't expect to see one side of the street lined with Jags & Bentleys and other with homeless. Or to see throngs of people sitting and enjoying 4-star cuisine and others sitting and starving. In my eyes it was completely obvious. Friday night, my outreach group and I were on South Beach for 12 hours, so we were eating dinner on Lincoln Ave. at a great little pizza place. We were stuffed by the amount of food that came with what we ordered and didn't know how we would finish it all. But then we look not 10 feet to our left, and there is an older woman sitting alone and buttering a small piece of french bread as she guards her possessions from foot traffic. We pile our leftover food [and it was a pile!] onto a plate and I take it to her. She eagerly accepted and nodded her thanks. As we talked, we continued to watch her eat the mound of food we gave her...until a nearby shop owner hassled her away from his window, and she and her plate were gone. We were just in awe throughout the weekend at the amount of money being spent for food, clothes, drinks, and hotels right in the midst of such poverty.

Another sad observation I made was the general attitude of law enforcement we encountered. Friday night as we were walking Lincoln Ave., we came across a group of 8 or 9 cops who were on South Beach patrol. We informed them of our outreach and more specifically of the track we discovered not too far from where we were. As soon as we mentioned “prostitution” their faces closed up and they wanted to stop talking to us. It just breaks my hear that the perception of most people [from police officers to the average citizen] is that the women are to blame for this illegal activity. But since the majority of the girls are organized and owned by a pimp, they are under his control and coercion, he is the one to place the blame on. The girls become a victim. And if the girl is under 18, she is automatically considered a victim of domestic minor sex trafficking. I guess I've been doing this for so long that my reaction to these girls is to get off them off the streets, give them somewhere to stay, get them help, not lock them up and charge them. I know this is such a complicated area to explain and make sense of. But until we can change the public's perception of these women and children who are being prostituted, our job will never get easier. These victims will never be rescued if they are always viewed as criminals. It's a sick cycle. Also, when we encountered the girl being verbally abused by her pimp, we made visible effort to wave down a police car from across the street, who just sped off the other way, without even stopping.

Through all of this my perception of the Super Bowl has changed dramatically. My eyes were first opened to the seedy underworld of this event last year during the Tampa outreach, but Miami was a whole new ballgame [no pun included]. The Super Bowl, which is promoted as less of a football game, but more of a party and celebration, practically rolls out the red carpet for these pimps and their women. Events sponsored by Maxim, Victoria's Secret, and Playboy only further encourage this super sexualized party environment which brings out even more activity. In fact, the Miami New Times ran an article entitled “Super Bowl guide to sex, drugs, gambling, and living large in South Florida”. This article decodes escort ads, allowing johns to learn the lingo used in personal ads. It also includes a how-to guide on recognizing if your prostitute is a cop. It even tells you how to “Score Coke Like a Local”...and I'm betting it's not Coca-Cola. I can't tell you how many people I met that don't believe that the Super Bowl drives this kind of activity. But you don't have to believe that article. Or log onto Craigslist where you can see the 250 personal ads placed over the past 3 days [over 75 posted Saturday alone] for women seeking men in Miami and 520 ads for men seeking women over the past 3 days [150 of those posted on Saturday as well!]. The pimps are not stupid. They follow the money from all over the country. When their idols like Snoop, Ludacris, Akon, and others head to South Beach for the big game, they are right there too, with their “ladies” in tow to score some extra cash from all those traveling sports fan who are blowing off some cheer for their team...without the family...with excessive amounts of alcohol available. Sounds like the recipe for disaster.

Which leads me to my final rambling...the demand. This awful crime of sex trafficking will never end until the demand for it does. Instead of letting johns off the hook and looking the other way when a buddy picks up a call girl, these men need to be exposed for what they really are. Rapists. Sex against someone's will is rape. If the girls are working underage or working for a pimp, someone is being forced to do something they do not want to be doing. As I witnessed so vividly last night on South Beach. I believe I will see the end of modern-day slavery in my lifetime, which is why I have dedicated myself to doing my part to eradicate it from our globe. I've been changed by this event, by the faces I saw, the people I worked with, and with the city of Miami. It has motivated me to work that much harder at this cause and to pray every day for God to rescue these women.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Miami Human Trafficking Outreach Media

9:06 PM
Our outreach this past week has received it's fair share of media coverage....

The Miami Herald ran this article:
Advocates hope to rescue underage Super Bowl sex slaves

Miami Ch. 4 CBS news showed this piece:
I-Team: Miami Activists Tackle Human Trafficking

CNN covered the outreach as well:
Volunteers try to dissuade young sex workers on Super Bowl weekend

Naples Daily News awarded us a Starfish award

And even NPR Miami had a radio story on our efforts: Sex Trafficking

But definitely the most exciting part of all this is the documentary that MSNBC is putting together on the Florida Coalition and its many outreaches. The same cameraman who followed us around Tampa last year, followed us all day Friday around Miami. Check it out!


Miami Human Trafficking Outreach Day3

9:22 AM
Is she selling sex, or giving it away for free? That was what I started to think after 12 hours of observing South Beach. Today began like most others and ended up with quite an adventure.

Our group of 20 multiplied to around 60 this morning when volunteers came from all the greater Miami area to help with outreach. Sandy from Kristi House and Brad from KlassKids did a training about domestic minor sex trafficking and what we would encounter during the outreach. We were assigned teams and locations and then hit the streets! My team was included Tiffany, Pam, and Macaulay and led by Anna Rodriguez, founder of the Florida Coalition, and we were assigned to South Beach. I was pretty stoked about our location and our team. I knew Anna's infinite wealth of expertise and experience would be an asset. Plus, we were going to be followed by the film crew of MSNBC, as they continue shooting for a documentary for their “Sex Slaves in America” series. So we started walking down the high-class shopping district of Lincoln Ave. Sporting our bright orange “Tackling the Traffickers” tshirts, we were armed with missing child flyers, sex trafficking of minor indicator cards, and hotline numbers. We approached several of the vendors who ran tents along the streets, as well as bar and restaurant workers. These people would see a lot of traffic during the weekend and could hopefully become our eyes and ears in their area. We got stopped several times because of our video entourage. I'm sure people thought we were some lame reality show or something. But it got their attention and we got to talk to them about what we were doing out there.

Soon we approached a hotel that had a girl who was definitely “in the life” out front, so myself and Pam went into the hotel and talked the front desk staff about the missing girls and the indicators, and asked if they could share the info with their staff and keeps their eyes open this weekend. They were very receptive, but we still had an uneasy feeling about the girl out front. Soon 2 other girls joined her, and we knew something was up. We walked further down the street and circled back, and when we did, the girls had gone inside and their pimp was out there in their place. So we knew we had struck a nerve. We saw some more activity further down, and approached another shady hotel and Tiffany and I did the same speech. We saw a pimp and his “stable” [the girls he owns] walk straight in and we knew this hotel was also being used for prostitution. We kept going even further, and saw another 2 girls walking the street and by now we realized that we had stumbled into a “track”. A “track” or a “drag” is where the pimps send out their girls to walk to find business. It's usually near hotels where the girls would have a room so they can bring the johns back. As we walked to the next block, we observed a pimp watching another hotel so as I was about to enter that hotel, we were stopped by another video crew that asked us what we were doing there. So we told them about the outreach and all the things we were looking for...right in front of the pimp! They definitely wanted to know what we were up to! So at 3pm in the afternoon, we had discovered a hot track just 2 blocks away from the Super Bowl parties of Ocean Drive, and we knew were in for a much longer day.

We called Brad with KlaasKids as he has even more experience getting these girls off the streets. Now the majority of girls we'd seen so far were over 18. And since our goal was the missing girls and the underage girls, we didn't approach the prostituted women. But we definitely kept an eye on those hotels and pimps, just because the over 18 year olds were walking the streets didn't mean that the under 18 ones weren't near by. After dinner and resting up for a bit to wait out some pesky rain, we went back out into South Beach for the night. We went back to the track we had found earlier, just keeping our eyes open for the girls and pimps we saw earlier. We also stopped at one corner that literally within 20 minutes we saw 2 different pimps with his stables, 2 underage girls and their pimp cross, and a pimp verbally abusing his crying girl, who was trying his hardest to refuse his demands.

We had now been on South Beach for 12 hours. We saw day life turn into night life. It was heartbreaking. This was about my breaking point. Every time I walked past a girl who was revealing her body to the world, I wanted to go buy her clothes. I wanted to put the really young ones in my car and get them away. I want to sit down and talk to the ones who “chose” this lifestyle and tell them how much value they have. It was an exhausting night but a fulfilling night. Another group who stayed out longer was even able to get an underage girl off the streets for the night and take her safety. And that's a big win in our book. So tomorrow's another day. And another battle to fight.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Miami Human Trafficking Outreach Day2

9:55 AM
As we turned around 3:30am after a late night on the streets and a short night's sleep on a gym, Thursday morning did not come easily! Thankfully, it was an “easy” day. Because our outreach would be mainly at night again, we decided to use the day to see some more of Miami!

So we started our day looking for a Panera for breakfast, but after a GPS fail, we found a cute local bakery & deli. So after a delicious breakfast, we set off to exploring the city. And that almost stopped before it began. We drove aimlessly looking for an outdoor shopping center. Never found that. As four girls, we decided to find a mall, and what sounds more exciting than the Mall of the Americas. Well, it probably should have been called the Mall of the Ghetto. So we didn't stay too long there. After more aimless driving, we were really stuck for something fun [and affordable] to do! A brief nap time rejuvenated us and we set off for South Beach again! It was much busier on Thursday, as it was now one day closer to the Super Bowl. We walked Ocean Drive, enjoyed coffee at the News Cafe, and shopped along Lincoln Ave. Celeb sighting of the day: Jack Nicholson! He was strolling along Ocean Drive and heading towards a popular local club. Ocean had been closed to traffic and the streets were packed with some crazy football fans!

Thursday night, we reassigned our groups and went back to the streets for more night surveillance. My group was assigned to some the roughest and poorest streets in Miami. Thankfully, my group also contained 2 guys to keep me safe! So as we drove around, looking for underage girls to approach with our hotline cards, we were surprised at the lack of activity on the road. Finally we reached a hotel known for its shady activities. As 2 members went into the hotel to talk to staff, myself and another guy waited in the car to keep watch for suspicious actions. The most fruitful part of the hotel stop was a long conversation with the hotel security guard. She had been working there for years, and had seen a lot in that time, working those overnights. She gave us a very specific description of a possible pimp that we called in for further follow-up. The rest of the night was spent driving by strip clubs and keeping watch for any indicators. While our group didn't see a lot of action, other groups did. One particular “hot” part of town had 10 – 12 girls approached and given our hotline cards.

So while it was an earlier night, we still didn't get until 2am. Another night on the gym floor and ready for Day 3 tomorrow: day street canvassing! So check out these pics from Thursday and stay tuned!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Miami Human Trafficking Outreach Day1

1:13 PM
They set off from gray and dreary Tampa and 5 hours later found themselves in bright and sunny Miami. Four new friends embarked on an adventure with one common goal, and it changed their lives forever.

OK, that's what the beginning of our road trip sounded like in my head, if narrated by James Earl Jones in our Oscar winning film. That really wasn't the case though. We took off from Tampa Wednesday morning, and after a Starbucks run, we were on our way to Miami. It was a unique group of us, myself, Macualay and Tiffany from my house church, and Pam who is a friend of a friend. So it had the potential to be awkward, but thanks to good music and car games, it was not! The drive down was easy and stress-free, and by the time we saw the Miami skyline, we were giddy.

We got in earlier than most of the people we were meeting, so after we found where were staying for the night, we went to the only place to go in Miami...South Beach! It was already packed with football-loving fans, and even by 4:30pm, people were in the partying mood. As we walked along the actual beach at South Beach, we stumbled upon stage set up for a concert...and Rihanna doing her sound check! So we listened to a bit of a free Rihanna concert, and then continued walking the streets. The South Beach architecture is really unique. In the Art Deco district, it all feels very retro. But each building is different in its design and each beautiful to look at.

Our training with Kristi's House began later that night, and we began to meet the other volunteers we'd be working with over the week. Six organizations came together to make this event happen [FCAHT, Kristi's House, Stand Up for Kids, F.R.E.E. International, Klass Kids, Global Child Outreach] which is real exciting to see the collaboration. We split up into teams, and received our canvassing locations, and then were off to the streets!

I was assigned to South Beach, which I thought would be really intriguing from 10pm – 2am! We were basically looking for girls who looked as if they were prostituting themselves and were under age. We'd approach them when they were not with a guy [pimp or john] and with other girls. We'd just let them know that we worked with an organization for girls “in the life” or “in the game” and if they ever need anything, here was a number they could call. It was a generic card so if the pimps found it, the card wouldn't look suspicious.

The first girl my group approached was very obviously under 18, even though she told us otherwise. She was really receptive to the card, the number, and possibly needing help. She said she was in town from Cincinnati for the Super Bowl. Other girls we approached weren't receptive, and really didn't have too much too say. But hopefully just one will call Kristi's House when they need help, and are able to leave this life on the streets.

Our night wrapped up about 2am, and we headed back to the church gymnasium floor we are sleeping on. Nothing says outreach like sleeping on a basketball court.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Super Week in Miami

3:12 AM
Today I leave for sunny Miami! Well, not so sunny this week. But's Miami! And perhaps you are thinking, “my what a convenient time to be headed to Miami, with the Super Bowl and all”, and that's EXACTLY why I'm going to Miami! But, not really for the Super Bowl...

I will be joining volunteers from across to the state raise awareness throughout all Miami on domestic minor sex trafficking that is happening in the area. Domestic minor sex trafficking, or underage girls and boys engaged in commercial sex acts [stripping, prostitution, escort services, etc...] is sadly a commonplace in our country. According to Shared Hope International, there are 300,000 child prostitutes in the U.S. today. With 2,300 children going missing everyday, 2/3 of them will be approached by a pimp within the first 48 hours. And events like the Super Bowl bring these pimps and their “slaves” out to make a ton of cash from the influx of tourists and party-goers.

One local paper reported, “Experts raise concerns over the risk of increase in sex trafficking and child prostitution during Super Bowl in 2010. This year, the all American celebrated national event will be held in Miami, Florida. According to F.R.E.E. International, an anti-human trafficking group based in New York, traffickers and pimps are planning on bringing additional number of women and children for prostitution during the Super Bowl in Miami. A big events like Super Bowl is almost always accompanied by the increase in sexual services and online advertisement for prostitution, according to the expert. In 2008, the experts at Polaris Project in Colorado also executed prevented efforts to countermeasure the risk of increased sex trafficking during the event. In particular, the Florida law enforcement authority's recent observation evidences that the risk of increase in human trafficking is particularly strong in Miami. While a big even like Super Bowl alone poses the risk of increase in sex trafficking in the area, the law enforcement recently recognized human trafficking as one of the three rising major crimes in Florida, which is driven by domestic servitude and prostitution. Free International, in a joint effort with Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and other organizations, are planning on executing a direct outreach program for international as well as domestic human trafficking victims.”

So during this week, we will be walking the city of Miami, educating people on the signs and signals of domestic minor sex trafficking and what to do if a potential victim [or perpetrator] is identified. We will also be doing surveillance on high-risk areas in hopes of alerting law enforcement officers to illegal activity. I was able to do a similar outreach last Super Bowl season when the game was in Tampa, and am excited to be returning. Especially since Miami is already a hot-spot for human trafficking. So keep up with my blog, as I will be posting from Miami all the adventures we abolitionists will encounter!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

50 in 2010

3:23 AM
So I've given myself a bit of a reading challenge for the year. I plan to read 50 books this year! I recently purchased a Kindle, so carrying around 50 books with me will be no sweat! I want to read a variety of genres, from fiction to young adult to non-fiction to Christian inspiration. To make it even more fun, I chose my books for each letter of the alphabet! Each month I'll post my readings, as well as my thoughts on each book. If there is a book you think I should check out, let me know! I love a good suggestion!

January Readings

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Imagine a world where people were no longer judged based on their appearance. Where there were no celebrities because all people had equal talent, equal ability, and equal beauty. Where the biggest care of your day was which party to attend that night. Well, this world exists in Scott Westerfield's Uglies. Set many years in the future, the author creates world powered no longer by gasoline, but solar power and moved not by cars, but hovercrafts. And at the age of 16, everyone undergoes a surgery to make them Pretty. For Tally, the main character in Uglies, she longed for 16th birthday where she would no longer be considered an Ugly, but a Pretty. Her best friend had already turned Pretty, and now she was counting down the days. Until Tally meets a new friend, one who didn't dream of becoming Pretty, but of something else entirely. She takes Tally on an adventure, bigger than the walls of Uglyville and New Pretty Town to place where the surgeon's knife can't touch. And Tally learns the truth about the procedure and is left with the being Pretty all it's cracked up to be? Westerfield creates a world in which the fantasy doesn't seem too far off, with sly references to how we today are destroying our own world. Though written at the young adult level, the social commentary is impossible to miss and it makes for an entertaining read for readers of all ages.

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

Murder. Opium Dens. Theft. Betrayal. These are the themes in Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens, a historical novel told against the backdrop of the death of Charles Dickens and his incomplete final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Pearl uses much historical accuracy, including the conspiracies surrounding Dicken's Drood. The story is told in six installments, mirroring the only six installments published of Drood. It crosses oceans and decades, and honestly, is a bit muddled. One storyline barely has any correlation to the rest of the plot, and it isn't until the the second half of the book that the story is even engaging. The main characters find themselves betrayed time and time again, until it seems they can trust no one in a way that seems unrealistic. Pearl did not offer his own ending of Drood, staying true to the mysterious nature of Dicken's work, and the story is better for it. While hoping for a good murder mystery, I was left wanting something different. A good read for Dicken's fans, I'm sure, but i'm neutral on the author myself, and so for me, The Last Dickens fell flat.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

The first rule about fight club is that you don't talk about fight club. A single sentence that coined a movement. The movie Fight Club is hailed by critics as a masterpiece in filmmaking and storytelling. It was the movie with the twist ending before twist endings were cool. It had men hitting themselves in bars and challenging others to fights across the country. I'd seen the movie, and wanted to delve further into this world with the Chuck Palahniuk novel, Fight Club. It was my first Palahniuk, a writer who has truly carved out a specific place in modern literature, and I still don't really know how I feel about him. Fight Club was a challenging read because of the shifts in narration. I had seen the movie, so I knew the reveal, which made that element of the book anti-climatic. But I found myself just lost in Durden's philosophy. I didn't find what he said profound. I didn't relate to any characters. And honestly, the most insightful part, was the afterward written by Palahniuk several years after the Fight Club fame. I think I liked it because it gave insight as to why and how he wrote it. Maybe if I had read that first, and from that perspective, I would have enjoyed it more. I didn't hate Fight Club, but I didn't love it, and it will be a long time before I pick up another Palahniuk.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

This book by Francis Chan was crazy a crazy painful way. Chan, a pastor in Southern California, wrote about some of the very issues I struggle with a believer. It was comforting to know I wasn't alone in my doubts, and challenging to hear Christ's words on the subject. He spoke specifically to Christians in America, those of us who assume being nice, not swearing, and going to church on Sundays is what keeps our relationship with God in tact. But in reality, that's not a relationship at all. Chan lays out Scripture after Scripture about what a true Christ-follower really looks like. While we in America gauge a church's success by the number of people in the door, Chan reminds us that Christ taught in parables, which were meant to confuse those not really listening. So much for seeker-sensitive! Chan also challenged my thinking about the here and now. He used a quote by C.S. Lewis “If you read history you will find that Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” How often am I thinking of what matters in eternity vs. my pleasure here on earth? Told you it was painful! Chan allows us to look at our lives, the decisions we are making, the paths we are walking and compare & contrast them how Jesus commands we live as His followers. I loved this quote by George Bernard Shaw “This is true joy in life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” Harsh words, but such truth! “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” - I John 3 [somewhere between 16-20]. This is the “Crazy Love” Chan set out to write about. The crazy, unashamed love that Christ gives us and expects back from us in return. To live our lives in way leaves world scratching their heads and wondering why we're just so different. “...God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He callus to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.” It is my hope and prayer that I find myself living this kind of life this year as I prepare for my missions experience. I long to pour out this kind of crazy love on the people around me. And I am so beyond thankful for this book that helped remind me of my first love.

Pretties by Scott Westerfield

Pretties is the follow up book to Uglies, by Scott Westerfield. This story picks up pretty much where Uglies ends, with Tally deciding to turn pretty. As is expected, her pretty life isn't as “bubbly” as she hoped for. Especially when former ugly & Smokie friend, Croy, comes to New Pretty Town with a message from her ugly self. Does Tally remember enough of the Smokie way of life to leave the allure of New Pretty Town? And what about Shay, former best friend and trickster, who is seen with strange cut marks up and down her arms? As Tally and new compadre, Zane, soon learn, the only way to be yourself in New Pretty Town is to leave New Pretty Town. They set off for the New Smoke with hopes of a permanent cure. While I still enjoyed this futuristic reality Westerfield creates, I didn't enjoy Pretties as much as I did Uglies. At times, I felt he was being too obvious with the criticism towards the “Rusties” [a.k.a. Us] and creating scenarios just so he could make a point about our culture today. I liked that aspect when it was implied, not so much when it was obvious. However, I'm sticking with the series...Specials is up next!


Monday, February 1, 2010

A Reflection

3:22 AM
So the past 30 days, I have been profiling different justice organizations throughout the country. They covered different topics and causes spanning across cities and continents. I hope that some of them were new to you, and you learned something in the process. I'm glad I did this little blogging project. I felt so inspired by the incredible work that is being done around the world. I love seeing how both Christian and non-Christian organizations work together for the same goal: justice. At times I felt a bit like the Sara Groves song, “When the Saints”, when she talks about all the great spiritual trailblazers who have gone before, and how she wants to be one of them. There are so many organizations that have been at this work for so long, and are doing such great things, that I am truly humbled to work alongside a few of them and be part of changing our world. So thanks for reading my 30 Days of Justice series. Stay tuned, as hopefully, there will be more great posts to come as I prepare for full-time missions life!