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Setting Children Free

There is that awkward moment, even between husband and wife, when you're not quite sure how to verbalize a reaction to something profound you've just experienced with another person.

So it was over the weekend as my husband and I walked hand-in-hand out of the movie theater, having just watched "Sound of Freedom." I'm usually the one to break the weird silence in moments like this, and Sunday night was no exception. It wasn't what I wanted to say, but all I could think of to say at the time was a totally insufficient, "Wow, that was so powerful!" And then... more uncomfortable silence.

My husband doesn't love deep conversation.

But later that night, before bed, after kids had been tucked in, I asked him, "What do you do with a movie like that? I mean, how do we respond? Are we to be more vigilant and observant in airports? Do we send money to a ministry? Do we tighten the reins of supervision over our kids when we are in crowded, confusing places?" It was late and we were both tired, so he didn't offer much in terms of a reply. But before I kissed him good night, I thought to say, "I guess we pray for courage."

And now I can't get that thought out of my mind. Courage.

I don't know if you're like me, but when I see movies like this one, with such a noble and heroic character such as Tim Ballard, I try to put myself in their shoes, and wonder if I would be that brave, that committed, that unstoppable and selfless. It doesn't matter if the character is male or female; it's more the authentic core of the person that I dream of emulating. I'd like to think I would mirror their valor and strength, but then I'm quickly reminded of my many flaws and my obvious weaknesses. I like to be in my pajamas by 9pm. I don't like skipping meals. I get cold easily and I don't enjoy pushing past my physical limits if I don't have to or if there isn't a significant reward at the end of it. In other words, I like comfort. I crave predictability. I'm wary of risks.

In contrast to a Tim Ballard figure, I am not a man. I don't have powerful muscles, specialized military training, or the ability to fake or turn off my emotions. I don't speak any foreign languages fluently, and I really don't enjoy traveling that much - especially if it means losing my creature comforts, much less my life. I do not have the emotional constitution to bear the heaviness of something so wicked and horrifying as child trafficking. But I do love children - that has been true my whole life, even when I was a child myself - and I have a passion to protect, nurture and guide them. And I was reminded early this morning that although I might not be suitable for the kind of death-defying mission depicted in this movie, I am certainly equipped to advocate for children in a different way.

Because there is more than one way to exploit their innocence, and it's not always done in secret by despicable, slimy-haired, tattooed offenders. Sometimes it happens in our own homes, in our own schools, in our own churches. Sadly enough, caring, well-intentioned adults can be the perpetrators. Let me explain the connection, in a roundabout way.

What words and phrases come to mind when you think of child trafficking?

- deception

- fear

- loss of innocence

- brokenness

- lives damaged

- bright futures destroyed

- wickedness

- theft

- trauma

- manipulation

- tragedy

I'm sure there are more, but I trust you get the idea. Now...

What words and phrases come to mind when you think of children suffering with avoidable chronic diseases that result, at least in part, from the poor quality foods they are given by adults who (not always, but oftentimes) can definitely afford to do better?

How do you feel when you see an overweight 5-year old, so heavy and encumbered with extra skin and fat that he can barely walk and breathe at the same time?

How does your heart respond when you see a child who consistently struggles with attention deficit and disruptive behavior get rewarded for "a good day" with Skittles, M&Ms, or a bag of chips with a Sunny D on the side?

How do you respond to fellow parents who share about the new medication they've been advised to add to their children's treatment regimen, all the while observing the concoction of lifeless, industrialized food that same child is routinely consuming for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

What goes through your mind as you walk down the breakfast aisle at the grocery store, or browse through the kid's menu, or carefully consider the government-provided meals in your local elementary school or hospital?

I can't speak for you. But I know what I think and how I feel.

I feel like parents and children are being deceived by our industrial food complex. They are being manipulated into believing that food should be fun, tasty, cheap, and easy, and that nutrients just don't matter.

I see theft of innocence as kids are coerced into trading a vibrant, carefree life for a mind-altering, medicated one.

I notice the incredible stress weighing down families that are trying to navigate the constant care of a chronically ill child. I see these same struggling marriages.

I dwell on the tragedy of once-healthy bodies becoming lifelong victims of diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, avoidable surgeries, pointless injections, and the false promise of the next new pill, therapy, or procedure.

I'm saddened by the way parents refuse, or simply are unable to acknowledge their role in their children's ongoing poor health.

Futures are being destroyed. Trauma is leaving its mark. Bright hopes are dimmed, if not suffocated all together.

This intense force which seeks to destroy our children's health is crafty, destructive, and evil, even if many of the perpetrators are not. It's very possible to be doing harm, and not even realize we are doing it. But once we know better, we must do better.

Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

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