Sunday, January 13, 2013

S.O.A.P. Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution

I needed to get angry today...very angry and so should you!

I was able to be a part of an important event on Saturday.  My sister, her friend Renee, my dear friends Mary and Brad Moore and I joined 150 other men and women as we participated in the Detroit Auto Show S.O.A.P Outreach.  It was a life changing day as we learned about sex trafficking here in our own backyard in Detroit, during the Detroit Auto Show and throughout the entire United States.

The following is directly from Theresa Flores website, S.O.A.P

"SOAP is an Outreach that aims to distribute thousands of bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number and key identifying questions FREE to local motels. Volunteers talk to motel owners and managers and provide them with a quick overview of what is happening to young girls in their hotels.
On her worse night, being auctioned off to nearly two dozen men in a dingy, dirty, inner city motel, Ms. Flores recalled the only item that would have reached out to her. A bar of soap to clean up.
With that in mind, she has created S.O.A.P.-Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution.
The project’s goal are:
  • To Educate Motel Owners and staff on human trafficking.
  • To offer a way for motel owners, clientele and victims to reach out for help.
  • To locate Missing Children.
  • To mobilize volunteers who are burdened with this issue and not knowing what to do to help.
  • To address the Demand side of trafficking through awareness.

1) One Time SOAP Outreach around an Event:
Organize a SOAP Outreach in your community. Theresa Flores will come and train your volunteers and help mobilize teams to approach potential high risk motels.
This works best around a certain, high demand sports event that brings in lots of people (mostly men) to an area. Such as: PGA tournaments, Kentucky Derby, Basketball playoffs, Final Four, Indy 500, Superbowl, World Series, Hall of Fame week, Bike Rally’s, etc.It also is ideal for any community with a high tourist population.
2) Ongoing Project:
Churches, groups or organizations can develop an ongoing outreach by “Adopting” a high risk motel or part of town. Groups will purchase a SOAP Starter Kit that includes a DVD to train participants how Human Trafficking in the US and how to approach the motel(s) to offer soap ongoing (daily or weekends only). The group is encouraged to commit to 6 months of 1 Year and to hold fundraisers and awareness events so that they can continually provide soap to the motel.
When my dear friend Mary told me about this outreach, I told her I would be there and so would my sister (good thing I know my sister well because I didn't ask her until a day later)!   Jennifer,  her friend (one of my new favorite people) Renee, and I signed up.  We were so excited about being a part of something so important.  
I had no idea what to expect.  No clue what the day would be like.  In fact, my devotional was perfect as I got up Saturday morning.  
" Let Me prepare you for the day that stretches out before you.  I know exactly what this day will contain, whereas you have only vague ideas about it.  You would like to see a map, showing all the twists and turns of your journey.  You'd feel more prepared if you could somehow visualize what is on the road ahead.  However, there is a better way to be prepared for whatever you will encounter today: spend quality time with Me.  I will not show you what is on the road ahead, but will thoroughly equip you for the journey ahead.  My living Presence is your Companion each step of the way."- Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
We got in the car, got my diet coke to wake me up, picked up Renee, stopped at a perfectly yummy bagel shop, and drove out to Oakland Christian School in Auburn Hills.  I could not have imagined the day that began to unfold before us.  
As we entered the school, I began to realize that it was a much bigger event than I had thought.  I believe there were about 150 people all together with one purpose at heart; and that purpose was to be a voice for those trapped in the world of human trafficking.  As we registered and got our t-shirts, I could not help but get excited that I was about to be apart of something really important as I wandered the school gym.  
Theresa Flores began to help us all understand why we need to get angry about what is happening in our country and to our young children,   As she began to read the statistics, it was all I could do to keep from weeping in the bleachers   The more she she shared her she gave more emotions began to stir.  Please, read Theresa Flores story about how she was raped, kidnapped, and trafficked right her in my state, Michigan.  Yup Michigan...not some other third world home, Michigan.  Read her full story here!  I was broken, sad, and then in the very pit of who I am began to burn outrage.  I wanted to just begin to yell out to Theresa, "I am so sorry this happened to you! I'm am sorry we allow this to go unpunished in Michigan.  I am sorry we don't teach about it more.  I'm sorry the Church has not done enough.  I am sorry we are not raising our children to respect human life.  I am so sorry!"  I got really angry and so should you!
Angry enough to do something about it.  Angry enough to get out of our nice homes and go to wretched hotels to pass out soap.  Angry enough that we get our churches to adopted hotels, be the ones to stand on guard, and not let one more child be rapped, drugged, and sold in our neighborhoods.  Angry enough to reach down into our pockets and give money to these type of organizations that are actually trying to make a difference.  Angry enough to educate our children.  Angry enough to write or call our representatives, and protest at our capitols so laws can be changed.   Angry enough to make our vote be the voice of change.  Angry enough to start programs in our churches or communities that are not afraid to talk to men and women who are addicted to these types of bad behaviors.  Angry enough to rescue these children.  Angry enough to give the innocent a voice.  Angry enough to change things.  
I was angry and I turned that anger energy towards loading up soap into boxes and head downtown to some hotels.  We got to pick our places that we would travel to; and since we were second in line, Jen, Brad, and I decided to go for the big dogs!  We picked the hotels right next to Cobo Hall where the Detroit Auto Show takes place.  We also decided to pick some hotels near my sister's church to raise awareness about what is happening around their neighborhood.  

We were pleasantly surprised about the response we found at the big hotels.  Our first stop was the Renaissance Center.  This place is what makes Detroit's skyline....yup we went to the biggest hotel first!  They surprised us with their concern and action they have already been taking to be a part of the solution to stop this horrific crime in their hotel.   Many of the hotels responded the same.  We were very pleased to hear things such as we are training our staff what to look for, we are having a meeting soon and we will take your information to that meeting...all positive stuff.  And not to mention it was great to be downtown.  It was a lot of fun.
The hard hotels came next.  Jen and I grew up near 96 and Telegraph and we knew the kind of hotels we were going to find on Telegraph.  These hotels are not your Courtyards, Holiday Inns, Red Roofs, or even your Super 8 Motel's.   Nope these are the privately owned, super sketchy, wouldn't send an enemy to type of motel we were about to visit.   The kind that you drive by and wonder who in their right mind would ever stay there type.  The type that as you drive by knowing in your heart of hearts that nothing good probably happens there.  In fact, one of them was next door to a strip club...I think you get the idea.  
Their response was different.  Some just wanted the free soap, some blew us off, one guy didn't even bother to get off his phone (in fact when my sister asked him if he cared about missing and exploited children, he said,"I am too busy") some listened, and one guy out of 7 motels actually cared with his actions.  I want to focus on the last guy.  His hotel was seedy, he had pornography on the wall, and you could tell he probably had seen things that should not be.  But he listened and as soon as Brad and Mary left, we watched him walk over to the front and tape up this missing children's pictures and sit down and open his box of soap.  Now granted his business hummmm...well maybe we would question it....but it only takes one person to begin to care, change, and make a difference.  Hopefully, that man will begin to be a part of the solution and not turn his head and pretend that kind of garbage doesn't happen at his hotel.  
We then went back to Auburn Hills to report what we learned and did to Theresa.  We felt that we actually might have made a difference.  Even if one girl is helped by staff, one girl calls the number on the bar of soap, or if one manager decides I am not going to let this go on in my hotel..... then it was absolutely, totally worth it!
I encourage you to get involved, get educated, just do something!   Check out were a S.O.A.P Outreach might be happening near you and go.  See what your community is doing to solve this horrible problem.  Get involved at your church and what they are doing to stop human trafficking.  Since I am a pastor,  if your church is not doing anything volunteer yourself to start something.  
Jesus has not forgotten these children.  We have!  We need to be Jesus to those who are powerless.  
Get Angry,  Human Trafficking hurts the very heart of God, and...

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