Her tiny feet dangle from the dirty plastic chair without touching the ground. She swings them nervously, gripping the seat with both hands as her eyes dart around the empty room of the ex-brothel in Svay Pak, Cambodia.
Svay Pak is infamously known as an international destination for foreign pedophiles. Since joining the team of Agape International Missions in 2007, I have seen children as young as four exploited in sexual slavery in the battered and broken community of Svay Pak.
This little girl is no different. She eyes me suspiciously, not knowing the war we had raged just to get her in that room.
The room is in Rahab’s House Community Center, a former child brothel. After setting up a successful aftercare program for rescued girls, our organization’s next step was to stop the exploitation before it started. Believing the only long-term solution to be complete community transformation, we rented the raided brothel, tore down the pens where children were once kept, and planted a Church community center to serve the village.
The community did not take kindly to our goal of destroying their main source of income. While we joyfully took sledgehammers to walls, reclaiming the ground and tearing down a temple of evil, our neighbors made angry threats, eyeing us distastefully. Eventually, we established trust as our health clinics, food relief efforts and education programs brought real hope to the community.
One morning, the community pastor and I were praying together as we prepared for a day of meeting with child victims, gang members, and brothel owners when an older woman rapped on the door and hobbled inside. She was leading a small girl into the church by the hand. The child had been found wandering the streets after escaping her torturous life in a brothel. Not knowing where to go, this kind grandmother brought the abused child to us, begging for help.
Now, she is sitting uncomfortably on the plastic chair in the sticky Cambodian heat, seemingly looking for an escape. The pastor and I do everything we can to make her feel at ease, offering her soda, a Cambodian rice treat, or a more comfortable chair. I would buy her a pony if I knew it would make her smile. I notice when I get close to her, she flinches violently. I suddenly realize, she isn’t uncomfortable in the room, she is uncomfortable with me.
She is terrified of men.
Her short life experience has taught her that men are unsafe. They have only manipulated her, taken from her, and abused her.
She has never known a righteous man. She has no other experience or example to make her think they exist. Her only understanding of men is that they are predators.
I reflect on my own blessed growing-up years: son of a pastor and praying mother, brother to a missionary, student of theologians, mentored by godly men, friend of believers. I understood God the Father in a personal and intimate way because of the example of righteous people in my life. My worth was assured and my heart free, largely due to the sacrificial lives of others. Working in Cambodia was a direct result of knowing my Heavenly Father’s love for me and His love for others.
Watching the girl’s tiny frame shudder, I feel my goal in Cambodia changing. It is no longer to just keep her safe. My goal is now for her to know Father God through me.
We are all called to care for the poor, the victimized, the abused, the orphaned. As Father’s Day approaches, here are three ways righteous men should reflect our Father God to victims of sex-trafficking.
1.) Reflect through LEADERSHIP. (Psalm 82:3)
As I travel the United States, training Christians how to prevent sex-trafficking and serve the abused victims, I speak to rooms that are mostly women. I thank God for these women who are passionately stirred to action and compassion. However, the rooms should be twice as full. Where are the men?
Where are the young men rejecting the false intimacy and adventure of porn and video games to live out the pure religion of caring for orphans and widows in distress?
Where are the fathers rejecting the temptation to build their own kingdom of accomplishments and leisure, instead laying down their lives to build God’s kingdom?
Where are the grandfathers and patriarchs, battle worn and tested, still daily taking up their cross and following hard after Christ and His purposes?
Righteous men should own this issue. It is about protection, not just compassion. We should be linking arms and leading the charge so our families, congregations and communities will follow.
2.) Reflect through ACTION. (Matthew 7:24; Galatians 6:9)
God the Father did not passively hope that you would be saved. He actively sent His son on a rescue mission for your soul.
There are wicked men dominated by their flesh, bent on gratification, even if that means the destruction of a young life. I see them brazenly roaming the streets. They are actively, unapologetically evil. Meanwhile, Christian men are on the sidelines being passively righteous.
There are three men in this battle: predators, spectators, and protectors. Don’t lose without fighting. We cannot take pride in the fact that we don’t contribute to the problem. There must be a counter army of active, godly men.
Many people who want to do something become frustrated because they want to do something great that doesn’t take long. But winning a war takes grunt work and time.
Ways to daily engage in the fight are prayer, advocacy for children, parenting a foster child, short-term missions, and giving your time, talents and treasures to the war effort.
You have to do some work. Think about the work God the Father put into you.
3.) Reflect through SACRIFICE. (Matthew 16:25)
Our Father God’s supreme sacrifice is what truly testifies to our hearts that He loves us. To rightfully reflect Him, our love must cost us something.
We at Agape International Missions are sounding the call for 2,000 righteous men to enlist in the war on child sex-trafficking by Father’s Day. You men will declare, whether you have children or not, that you will take responsibility to actively reflect God the Father’s heart to the abused, victimized and orphaned.
If all 2,000 men raised just $100 each, it would cover the cost of our rehabilitation center where rescued victims rebuild their future. We could say to the 58 girls that currently live at the rehabilitation home, “I know there have been many men that have taken from you, but everything you see around you has been paid for by 2,000 men who believe in you and have sacrificed so that you can have a future.”
Sex-trafficking is a problem that originates in wicked men and I believe will be stopped when godly men stand up.
If this little girl sitting in front of me doesn’t realize there are safe men, men willing to protect, sacrifice, fight, and lay their lives down for her future, she will never be fully healed. She will never be married. But, more tragically, she might reject the love of her true Father in Heaven.
Despite the emotional and physical hardships, I continue to fight the war on sex-trafficking. I have the great honor and privilege to reflect God’s father-heart by simply offering a cold drink and protection to a little frightened girl. She may not like me yet, but she needs me.
She needs you too.
Give to the Raise Her Ransom campaign TODAY!
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Enlist in the 2000 Man Army to fight trafficking HERE!
Clayton Butler is the US Director of Trafficking Prevention at Agape International Missions (AIM). He received his Bachelors of Business Ethics from William Jessup University and his Masters of Theological Studies from Liberty Theological Seminary. He recently spent three years working in Cambodia with AIM as the Director of Svay Pak Ministries.