A few months ago, I began reading an impactful book by Gary Haugen called “The Locust Effect: How the end of poverty requires the end of violence”. As all Haugen’s books do, it gripped me. It awoke again, my heart’s desire to hear the cry of the oppressed and to take a stand on behalf of those that suffer around our world. Many of the stories in this book are heart-breaking, yet not surprising to me as I’ve been able to work closely with people who have similar stories of oppression and unjust treatment. In fact, a lot of my encounters and studies on this inspired me a few years ago to get my masters in social work, and find ways to bring hope and healing to such amazing, yet burdened people. Haugen writes, “…the greatest devastations of violence is invisible- it is the destruction of the person inside. For victims of slavery, forced prostitution, sexual assault, and other intensely violent forms of oppression, the psychological wounds of trauma are invisible; they receive almost no treatment in poor communities; and they do not simply ‘heal with time’…” This truth motivates me. It breaks my heart, yet inspires me.
In the course of reading this book (and I still have yet to finish it…), I had applied with an incredible organization called Unseen Ministries to be considered as a photographer on their upcoming trip to Thailand. They were taking a group of artists to capture stories of the work that is being done in the midst of Thailand’s reality of sex tourism, sex trafficking, and the exploitation of many vulnerable people. With my background in social work and heart for exploited and vulnerable people-groups, I knew I had to apply. I’ve always dreamed about using my photography in a way that would help bring justice and also shed light on important issues, but in a way that is honoring to people. I was drawn to Unseen because they partner “with people all around the world to care for orphans, fight human trafficking and end hunger and poverty.” And I love Unseen’s mission to; “equip groups already engaged in social justice causes with the tools and education they need to get their message out”. I was on my way to our annual family trip to Canada when I had my phone-interview with Danae (and I distinctly remember sitting in the airport holding back tears as I was sharing with her my heart for trafficking victims/survivors). I knew that for the next week I would be mostly off-the-grid with little to no cell or internet service.
I can recall the moment.
I was riding a bicycle down an island road, wind in my face and tears streaming down. Thinking about the book, and the truths within it, thinking about this potential opportunity and if I could handle it, if I was chosen to go. “Daddy-God, please let me go! I want to go. I want to serve you in this way…” I lifted up my heart-felt prayer and waited a few days. I kept wondering if He would answer my prayer in the way I had hoped, or if He had a different plan. I kept wondering if it was crazy for me to think that I would get chosen to be the Lead Photographer for an important trip like this. Then, as we drove off the Canadian island back to the US, I saw the message in my inbox “Let’s go to Thailand!”. My heart jumped and my joy overflowed, knowing that God had heard me and answered me in this way.
I’m so so honored, and so excited for this trip.
We will be working with three amazing organizations that support survivors of sex trafficking. There’s so much to say about each one, but I’m sure I’ll have even more to say after the trip…so I’ll wait! I am so excited to spend time with the people of these organizations, and hopefully bring encouragement to each one of them, as well as learn so much from them.
We leave THIS FRIDAY! And although I’m a little nervous, I know that I’m going with a purpose, that God goes before me into these hard and difficult places (because He is near the broken-hearted)…and that I can trust that this is where I’m supposed to be. If you pray, our team would appreciate any prayers for our time- for the people we will encounter, for the work we have set before us, for our team, for travel, for God to surround our trip and also shine His love through each one of us to those we get to meet. I’m expectant. And I can’t wait to share more stories when I return. In the mean-time, be sure to check in with us on instagram at @unseenmin and @loverootsphoto. You can also check out my friend, Teryn’s blog here…she is the writer coming along on the trip and will hopefully be sharing a lot of great stories!
See you when I get back!
Photos from my friend Erin of Eve’s Wish Photography