I believe that our beliefs about our humanity, our femininity and masculinity directly affect what we will do, how we will grow, how we will fail and how we will recover.
I’ve only 200 pages left of Daniel Walker’s “God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue” (these are iPhone pages, out of 2051). The book walked me alongside Walker as he infiltrated countless brothels around the world, including women trafficked in our own Atlanta, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Each chapter ends with a page of helpful statistics that reveal how widespread this problem runs. Men who frequent brothels come from every walk and every appearance in life. However, he did say the stereotypical sex tourist was “overweight, unattractive and with few social skills.” What could this mean?
Is there a connection with us in the western world denigrating the unattractive and their search for validation. The cult of beauty doesn’t merely affect women. If men cannot find approval here, will some buy it elsewhere.
While actively fighting to record and amass evidence to incarcerate the pimps of these brothels, Walker also leads us to a place of pity. Henry David Thoreau,
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Henry David Thoreau
Are these men imprisioned by lust and greed or are they truly living every man’s fantasy? Walker talks about the enslavement and deprivation that the sex tourists create for themselves. This made me wonder, what if we rescued men from false ideas (e.g. conquering heroes deserve the fawning of many women, sexual conquest means men are sexy and wanted, sex with virgins leads to purity, multiple sexual partners of multiple ages, ethnicities multiple times prove they are really Men’s Men) as proactively and passionately as we rescued their victims from human trafficking.
This battle of ideas is precisely where Paul says the Evil One wages war. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
Walker showed me how the brothel was as much a part of God’s creation as a crystal cathedral, that God has not surrendered this ground to anyone, and that women and men working there were as much his image bearers as you or me. Walker adequately teaches that human trafficking isn’t the main or only problem, that this atrocity flows from poverty, sexism, gender inequality and addition. I believe sexism and gender inequality is something I can actively do something about today in how I write and think about and love men and women. This is why I co-run Soulation.
In the final chapters I saw Walker break. His story explains why and how, a story I will not tell you here.
Suffice it to say, I believe Walker makes it clear that his broken theory of gender (masculinity means men must have adventure to be happy, women cannot handle certain hard things about life) led to certain decisions (I can’t tell my wife how bad it is out here, it would be cruel to hurt her with this information) that paves the path for his double life and pushes him down a slippery road that forces him out of undercover missions.
He find he needs rescue just as women and children need rescue.
If you have any interest into the problem of forced prostitution, reading God in a Brothel will help you see the layers of reasons behind why women and children continue to be trafficked, raped, destroyed. The problem may begin with men’s demands for sex, but it doesn’t end there.
You may even find yourself part of the problem.
What I appreciated most was Walker’s honesty of the messiness of rescuing others. Especially when you think your own stance is mighty enough to lift others up.
Walker realized, rather late, that his “work inevitably and insidiously began to affect my attitude toward my own wife . . . perhaps most destructive was my growing inability to be completely vulnerable and open with Alice about all that I was seeing, doing and becoming.”
Bingo. Whenever men think invulnerability is key to masculinity the evil one has reared his head. This is a lie.
Neither male nor female can become appropriately human if they are trying to be invulnerable.
Walker’s work reminds me of another person’s. She is also engaged with rescuing children from human trafficking. A new friend, Melissa Hartwick, is moving to Nicaragua in a few days. As she explains,
I’m moving to a place where I will have to have a guard outside my house at night. I’m taking on the responsibility of 5 children, with another 10 or more likely to join me within the first year. I’m becoming a full time mother to teenagers at the age of 23. We won’t have hot water. We don’t even have a kitchen counter. We will live mainly off of rice and beans and water. We’ll be battling lice, ecoli, and parasites, and have very little medical care in the case of anything serious. I’ll be feeding these kids, giving them clothing, overseeing their schooling, and teaching them trades.
I’m leaving my entire family. My sister just had a baby. I’m giving up years of playing with my niece and time with my brother and his new wife. I won’t be able to come home to visit often at all, because I can’t just up and leave my children. Which means that I will only be able to see my friends about once every other year. I’ve also sold everything I have in order to help fund this home.
I had a dream job. I was a bridal gown designer, and I even had some of my dresses in local fashion shows and magazines. But I shut my company down in order to love these children. And yet, and I want you to really get this point: it does not seem like a sacrifice. Because these children are the most important thing in the world to me. I cry knowing that one of my daughters is being beaten, and I am not there to save her from it. I ache knowing that my children are going through pain, and I am not there to help them through it, to love them and hold them and tell them everything will be alright, that Papa God loves them so very much, and so do I. That they are part of a forever family now, and I will never leave them, just as their Papa God will never leave them.
What’s perhaps most interesting to me is that Melissa, like Daniel, longs to rescue as well, and yet, she doesn’t believe her sex is the stronger one. She grew up learning that women are naturally subordinate. While struggling against the idea only recently did she land on RubySlippers and other blogs helping her see another way to understand God’s idea for women. Just a few weeks ago Melissa wrote me for the first time,
I want to let you know about my life work, as I think it will be encouraging to you. In 23 days I am moving to Nicaragua to start and operate Casa de Gozo, a rescue center and home for orphaned or abandoned children and children at risk of sex trafficking and prostitution. Please keep me in your prayers, especially as I will be living there and running this by myself. Thanks so much, Jonalyn!
I began writing Melissa, sending her books to prepare her heart and mind and praying for her.
I see that Melissa’s desire to help is already accompanied by a believe in her own personal vulnerability. She isn’t winding her gender identity around her mission to save the Nicaraguan children. Instead, she’s giving up her trappings of identity, her career and her family, her comforts and her American future to slip her hand into Jesus’ hand and follow. I pray she will not break like Daniel Walker.
But, if she does, I know the God of the broken remains near. And that this God is ready to use the broken (God Wants the Broken) of this world. The story isn’t over for Daniel Walker, nor for Melissa Hartwick, nor for you or for me.
Daniel Walker got it right, his mission was about Rescue: men, women, children. We need salvation, not by another human, but but a Being great enough to understand our human weakness and great enough to pull us up.