The trip I didn’t want to take, to tell the stories you may not want to hear

Right now I’m in the middle of a 13-hour flight to Beijing, China. From there, I’ll take another flight to another country in southeast Asia, where I will be meeting up with Matt and Laura Parker, the founders of Exodus Road, to spend a week learning about what they do. I will be joined by fellow bloggers and friends Heather Armstrong, Roo Ciambriello, and Jamie Wright.

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. Exodus Road is an NGO dedicated to rescuing women from the sexual trafficking circuits in southeast Asia. We won’t be disclosing the specific country in order to maintain confidentiality with the investigative teams on the ground. My friend Jamie visited the same country with Exodus Road last year, and when I was first asked to go on this trip, my first instinct was HELL NO. I made a lot of excuses for myself. I figured that orphan care was my pet “cause.”  I figured that southeast Asia wasn’t really on my radar. I figured that sex trafficking was something someone else could champion against. But really . . . I was scared. I didn’t want to hear the stories, and I certainly didn’t want to see the problem first-hand. It seemed daunting to write about . . . to think about . . . to even acknowledge It seemed easier to avoid.

But the truth is, the stuff going on in southeast Asia has been on my radar for a very long time . . . since I was a teenager . . . in ways that are deeply personal and painful. I didn’t want to go because it’s easier to avoid and deny and pretend this isn’t happening. Child trafficking is horrific. Human trafficking is horrific. Sexual trafficking . . . it’s unimaginable. I DON’T WANT TO IMAGINE IT. I sure as hell don’t want to be up close and personal with it. I want to live a happy existence of watching The Bachelor and worrying about which camps to send the kids to this summer.  I wanted to relish in the privilege of not having to think about the sex trafficking industry because it’s not affecting my daily life or my immediate family.

But in truth, I think my desire to avoid this topic is why there is so little being done for the victims. It’s a difficult subject to broach, and our sense of justice and empathy can get the best of us because it’s so hard to fathom that our brain just sort of shuts down. It’s a shadowy reality of our world, and it’s far too convenient to brush off as something Other or Elsewhere. I’ve been blogging about social justice issues for years. Why would I not want to talk about this issue?

I finally decided that my impulse to run away from this trip was the very reason I should go. Because I think many of us are collectively turning a blind eye to this global issue. This morning I woke up in a panic, scared to death about what I may learn or hear about or see on this trip, and wondering why I agreed to do it. But I’m feeling a resolve as our plane inches across the digital map in front of my seat. . . a resolve to learn and share and tell this story well. So, I’m asking this of you. I’m asking that you push through the temptation to gloss over my posts for the next week. I’m asking that you push through the impulse to avoid what I’m going to say. I hope that you will join this journey with me, both intellectually and emotionally.

And if you’re the praying type . . . I’ll take those, too.

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