I didn’t ask Anna what it was like to let her little girl sleep with old men for food because the tears rolling down her cheeks were answer enough.
As long as I live I will never forget the day I spent with my family in her infested home on the other side of the globe. I couldn’t judge this momma’s choices for even a second because I’ve never been desperate enough to sell off my teenagers to save my younger child.
Anna told us how she boiled corn and tried to provide for her seven children after her drunkard husband ran off, but month after month she came up short and had to make desperate decisions to keep her family fed. And she didn’t ask her kids to do what she wasn’t willing to.
Her teenager got pregnant at 14. She is now a young momma, rescued and thriving at the maternity home in Kenya, supported by Mercy House Global. We started the non-profit more than 8 years ago for survival prostitutes, for girls just like this one.
But it wasn’t the daughter who was safe that I grieved for that day. It was her older son who was still owned by a neighbor down the sewage-littered road in the slum. He worked all day and most nights—not for money, but for food. I wondered if she knew we call this slavery.
I don’t know what he looks like but I can’t stop imagining his face. He is among the 40 million slaves in the world today.
Women and girls account for an estimated 71 percent of this number and 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are thought to be below the age of 18. (source)
It’s so easy to get absorbed in our own little world that we completely miss the way the rest of the world lives. And I can say it because that’s what I did for a very long time. But I dare you, I beg you to here this truth: it is time for Christians to hear the call, step up and do something about modern day slavery.
Last week, my social media feed was filled with red crosses drawn on hands as a statement by the #enditmovement to remind us of this epic statistic. But it’s more than just a big number. It’s real people in real places in our real world today.
Do you know what’s ten times worse than sticking our head in the sand and pretending we don’t know about trafficked people trapped in slavery?
Contributing to it.
Sadly, our culture and Christians supports slavery. We’ve got more pornography users in the church than ever before. There is a connection between sex trafficking, slavery and what’s being Googled by our neighbors, family members and fellow church members. But we can’t just point fingers at those who contribute to sex trafficking.
When we purchase cheap fashion, too-good-to-be-true deals, and even buy popular name brand from stores that still force children into labor and underpay, undervalue workers, we are contributing to modern day slavery. (I dare you to click on this list and this one to learn about 15 popular stores that use child and forced labor. I literally felt sick reading it. “Most of these people (64 percent of those trapped in slavery) are in forced labor exploitation in the private economy, most likely to be domestic workers, construction workers or those in manufacturing.” (source)
Can you imagine working in deplorable conditions for .33 cents an hour for 14 hours a day sewing clothes that end up on the racks American thumb through? It’s not okay.
And I think once we know– we are responsible. It’s high time Christians step up and stop supporting slavery.
I’m passionate about fair trade products because I know who made them. And while we cannot always find fair trade options for what we want or need, when we can we should. When I buy fair trade, I know no one was chained to a sewing machine to make the dress I’m wearing or a child wasn’t forced to work 12 in the sun so I can put chocolate in my kid’s Easter basket.
I’m hoping and praying and begging for those who can hear my voice to help me continue to provide work for Anna and thousands like her.
Today, because of fair trade+ a big God + shoppers like you, Anna sits at a loom five days a week in a slum in Kenya and against all odds, she is weaving her way out of poverty. I’ve sat next to her, barely able to control my joy and tears at the unspeakable miracle of what God can do. A dignified job has changed her life and given her children hope and freedom.
When we can buy fair trade, we can trust that there is a real name behind the handmade product–someone who was paid fairly. When you shop at Mercy House, they are also given access to the Gospel.
When we stand before God someday, I believe we will be held accountable for what we knew and what we did about it. When I answer for my actions, I don’t want to offer feeble excuses for how I used my resources that sound like, “I didn’t know my purchases were supporting slavery. Or shopping fair trade was inconvenient or expensive.”
When I stand before God, I want Him to see that I stepped up.
Here are 5 ways you can step up:
- Know before you go. Go ahead and research your favorite stores. Begin asking where things are made.
- Check out this comprehensive list for ethical and fair trade options.
- Advocate. Become a part of the solution and share what you learn with your family and friends. Teach your children.
- Become a monthly donor at Mercy House Global. We are committed to creating dignified jobs in Jesus’ name in 29 countries through our fair trade subscription club.
- Plan ahead: Join a club option at Fair Trade Friday and get recurring fair trade gifts delivered every month. Enjoy some and set aside others for gifts.