January now officially kicks each new year off with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month! And as such, it seems like appropriate a time as ever to catch up on some book reviews, namely “The Beekeeper”.
This book is a true story, and one filled with true horrors. With that being said, I want to share a quote from a book called “Slave Stealers” by Tim Ballard before getting into this.
“Do you have children, Tim?”
“Yes,” I responded, my eyes matching the intensity I was reading in his.
“Then let me ask you something….” He hesitated. He must have known the question was somewhat cruel. But he went forward with it anyway.
“Could you get in bed and sleep at night, knowing that one of your children’s beds was empty?”I knew the answer was no, but I couldn’t get the word out, as instant tears and emotion blocked my ability to vocalize. I just shook my head.
Books like this can be hard to digest, but Tim Ballard argues that if we don’t learn how to make it personal- imagining our own children and recognizing that the victims are real children of other heartbroken parents – and act as if our own families and loved ones were on the line, then this criminal market will never end. So in the parts when your heart and tear ducts start to swell at the same rate, and you think you’d rather just not finish, consider for a minute why you feel that way and what you can do. It might just be a defining moment in the start to someone’s rescue.
“The Beekeeper” is based on true stories from Abdullah Shrem, a beekeeper working to help liberate Yazidi women kidnapped by Daesh (aka ISIS), who through many means and people escape. He tells their stories in hopes of bringing light to the problem and to “rally the troops,” so to speak, against ISIS.
But for all the horrors, this book is very interestingly written, leaving no words to the author alone, but always quoting verbatim the conversations she had with the beekeeper and others involved in the rescues or being rescued.
If you’d like to learn more about the author and Abdullah Shrem (the beekeeper), then you can also check out this PBS News Hour Report and interview with her!
After finishing my first post about what O.U.R. does, I did what every independent adult does and made the daily phone call to my mom to chat. (If you haven’t read it, check out this post.) She told me about a recent trip she’d made with my 17-year-old brother to In-N-Out Burger. Being 17, “sex” is still a decently uncomfortable word that you hear all the time, but definitely don’t say around your parents unless you have a real question. So when he lifted his burger off the tray to see the words “CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING” mixed in with some other characters, he was probably thinking, “I’m just gonna pretend I didn’t see that or know what it means..” We all know the feeling, right? I’m just gonna pretend I didn’t see that so it doesn’t become a bigger thing than it needs to be..
My mom said it even surprised her some. I mean those are huge trigger words for a parent, especially when you think you’re just out for a shake and fries. Then BAM. “CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING” gets thrown in your face with a list of stats, things to look for, and ways to try to prevent it. That burger stop just got real deep real quick.
And I just have to say – way to go In-N-Out! (Click here or on the blue link above to see how In-N-Out is joining the fight through donations this month!)
And then, of course, we also need to give a quick shoutout to Arizona for blasting the highways with this phone number this month:
By shining a spotlight on the dark truth that such evil things are happening, In-N-Out and these road signs can really make a difference to someone. You can make a difference.
Knowledge. Is. Power!
If we can do nothing else, we can certainly still spread the knowledge about what is happening. Learn what and where the issues are, and then tell someone else about it. I’d bet a lot of money that no kidnapper stepping into one of those In-N-Out locations with malicious intentions will carry out their plans when they hear the mother and her athletic teenage son at the next table talking about what it means to keep yourself and others safe from traffickers.
I have kind of begun to imagine traffickers as vampires. They can’t even stand the light anymore. Cowards and weak, except that they’re so darn sneaky and scary. They need the darkness to function, and cower and shrivel away under the sun.
Oh, if only! Be a light anyway!
Now, The Book Report
In Tim Ballard’s latest book, “Slave Stealers“, he shares overwhelming examples of the brightest, yet most abused souls that lit the way to become steadfast beacons of freedom. The theme of the book sheds light on how to join the liberators. Every chapter left me in awe and reflection. Most chapters left me pausing to fight tears that I don’t believe even pregnancy hormones can be blamed for. And the book as a whole has left me tormented with a need to do something.
So here I am, a fresh stack of books about slavery from the library and five more internet tabs open trying to decide where to begin with all this self-assigned studying. All to tell you, my small audience, that some victim out there needs you to act for their best outcome. I know this writing thing isn’t nearly enough, but look at what Frederick Douglass accomplished in writing! So, for me, it is at least a start to feel committed to the cause by writing about it and enlisting others’ attention. Let me share a few major points, doctrines almost, that really stood out in “Slave Stealers”.
1. What is slavery?
This is important to understand up front because it can become problematic to make nonpersonal, general comparisons between historical slavery, often called the transatlantic trade, and modern-day slavery. Though both forms of abuse should certainly be called slavery (as there is no other word for what happened then and what is happening now), it’s important to distinguish between the two evils. For there are marked differences between the two. We must be careful to preserve the integrity of the stories of the old and the new slavery and to protect each story and those players in it.
“Slave Stealers”, pg 4, Tim Ballard.
What is the old slavery then?
The transatlantic trade we’re familiar with, right? We study it in school. As Ballard also reviews and further explains in “Slave Stealers”, it was the open, unmasked, accepted and legally protected sale and trade of humans. The slavery was accounted for by witnesses, signatures, state-recorded money exchanges, and overall impossible to escape because any “illegal freedom” would have resulted in harsh punishment, even on the family of the runaway. And that was the thing – their freedom was considered illegal! How could they ever hope to be their own person anywhere they went? I feel like Tim Ballard answers and elaborates on all these things superbly.
So what is the new/modern slavery?
Well, through a lot of trial and error, the world is coming to unite in and implement the truth that freedom cannot be a legal or monetary thing, but a God-given right. Legally, in the US and most countries, we are now protected against the pains of slavery. The government promises to try to back us and rescue us in situations where our freedom is at stake. This means that when slavery happens now it is hidden, undocumented, and done under the guise of something else. This makes it difficult to escape, because while people now truly want to free any and all slaves today, and sympathize with the horror of the situation, how can we begin to find them? It’s a different kind of dark and seemingly hopeless trap. Hopeless except for people, like the O.U.R. operators, who are making the rescues happen and finding the children in despair.
2. We need to make it personal.
“Do you have children, Tim?”
“Yes,” I responded, my eyes matching the intensity I was reading in his.
“Then let me ask you something….” He hesitated. He must have known the question was somewhat cruel. But he went forward with it anyway. “Could you get in bed and sleep at night, knowing that one of your children’s beds was empty?”
I knew the answer was no, but I couldn’t get the word out, as instant tears and emotion blocked my ability to vocalize. I just shook my head.
“Slave Stealers,” pg 56, Tim Ballard
The evolution of Tim Ballard’s response to this question, and the decisions he made on how to cope with the answer are beyond inspiring in this novel. I think we will all absolutely understand the desire he expresses at first to disassociate ourselves from the problem and people involved. My mother in law actually just told me this week that some of her friends or acquaintances had turned down the opportunity to go to a weekend conference for women, because they are emotionally not able to sit through his talks – and of course, he would be speaking. Ladies, I 100% understand. I ugly cry every time. But I’m also filled with incomparable hope and determination to act that you just cannot get from sitting cozy at home. The courage and power he has to be able to embrace and love the world as it is and the dangers it presents to his children is amazing! So maybe ignorance would be bliss, but knowledge is power. And as we really try to make it personal, to connect with and deeply love and mourn for those that are victims, we will find our own ways to know how to hope and help and love and give in ways that can liberate someone.
3. “There is magic in service.”
“Slave Stealers,” pg 238, Tim Ballard
This just builds upon the last point. As we feel the issue become personal and grow a feeling to need to act and join the rescue in some way, Tim Ballard assures us that we will find ourselves serving more. When you get to this point in the book, everything seems to come together perfectly in those five simple words. The way that each slave he describes became the conqueror was through service – to a brother, children, friends, strangers. In their own depths of despair, they gave to others. They gave up their means of passage, some food, some friendship, some fear, whatever another person needed more right then. It’s not just shadows of people drifting in this underground affair. These are what I call spiritual giants!
I often think that for me this image of broken down, starving people is an easy way I disassociate myself from the issue. Whether it’s the reality or not – which it is – I just don’t know anyone physically at that point, so I struggle to truly imagine the horrors it takes to get there. Therefore, I don’t make it personal or feel driven to act in the same way. They are just these unreal ghosts of people on the TV ads to me. It’s sad, but honest.
That’s one thing I have started to change in my small perspective of slavery while following O.U.R. and Tim Ballard’s stories. I now believe that some of the strongest souls we could ever imagine are waiting to be rescued! The kinds of people we want to have influencing our politics, media, literature, and own families are praying for us to come. The kinds of children that grow up to be liberators and inspirations themselves are out there, and isn’t that how we would see our own children and friends? Don’t we hope that if anything ever happened to a loved one, that all their strongest traits and beliefs would get them through it? So, while these children are sure to need special recovery and treatment of every kind, they are also carrying around something powerful to have made it out at all, and we would do well to fight to bring out the best in them for others to see. We would do well to remember the potential we can give back to them. Really, we should treat everyone this way and serve a little more, because, well, there is magic in service.
This book is truly inspiring. I hope that as you read, something in your understanding or perspective of human trafficking is shook like I was. I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings! Or to talk about ideas and ways that you might be able to help.
For the next few days til the end of January, here are just a few of the places you can go online to make a donation that will make a difference, or just to learn more: