This post has been a couple months in the making… Lack of time/motivation to blog coupled with some reflecting and thinking about this post = delay in publishing.
Having a child gives me a new perspective on the work I do. Starting in 2011, I started working (eg volunteering full time) for Walk With Me, an organization which provides support and services to victims of human trafficking (primarily sex trafficking). Though emotionally and physically draining at times (being on call almost 24/7 will do that to you), I loved the people I worked with – my boss (Timea), the survivors we supported, law enforcement officers, social service providers, volunteers, etc. I learned so much from all of them and felt like my work was so meaningful and fulfilling. When I got pregnant, I was offered a position with the Reformed Church in America (a denomination I had grown up attending). As much as I knew I would desperately miss victim services and front line work, I knew my new position with the RCA would be more conducive to family life. Even now I miss working with Walk With Me (though I volunteer when I can), but I felt called to speak to churches to raise awareness and spur action. I am so proud that in creating my position, the RCA has taken a stand in recognizing that slavery is still happening and has dedicated resources to make a difference.
Most of my days are filled with thinking of and working within issues of human trafficking. Not only am I doing this work professionally, but I am in the process of
trying to complete completing my Masters and writing my thesis with a focus on the methods pimps use to target and recruit girls into domestic sex trafficking. It can be incredibly draining to be engaged in such disturbing issues. Before having A.J., it was difficult enough – to hear the stories, knowing that such atrocities happen in our world. But after A.J….. Everything has changed. I used to be able to watch Criminal Minds and while I would be disturbed that people are capable of rape, murder and other evil acts, the dramatization of it didn’t affect me too much. But I haven’t been able to watch an episode in its entirety since A.J. has been born. I still do extensive reading and research (much of it fairly graphic and disturbing) for my work and thesis, but now I read it through a different “lens” and am devastated at the thought that it could happen to A.J.
I’ve watched a lot of TV since A.J. has been born (breastfeeding is very conducive to Netflix watching…). I had a chance to catch up on The Office, a show I used to watch before getting married but missed the last couple of seasons. There’s a clip of Pam after she’s had a kid (9.07) that just totally cracked me up! I couldn’t find a YouTube clip, so you’ll just have to bear with the quote…
When I was about 4 or 5 months pregnant, I went to court with a young girl who had been trafficked. She was to testify against her pimp, and I was there for moral support. He ended up pleading guilty which was great because it meant she didn’t have to testify, but we still went into the courtroom to watch the proceedings. As I sat there, I could feel the baby inside me kicking and moving fiercely; I remember it because I had just really started feeling her move a lot in the last couple of weeks, her kicks getting a lot stronger and startling. Another young girl sat behind me. The young girl I was there to support told me that the one behind us was the girlfriend of another pimp. That girl was visibly pregnant, a couple more months farther along than me. I sat there thinking and reflecting… How different will the lives of our two babies be? How will our children view and act out justice? Compassion? I still think of that girl and her baby often and wonder how their lives are.
I had intended to accomplish a lot more while pregnant than I actually did; I thought it would be ideal to finish my thesis before the baby came and really get some serious work done! That didn’t turn out to be the case because of how sick I was. Also, I used to scoff at the term “baby brain”…. Let me tell you, it is real! But for all I did manage between April and December, it was special to have A.J. along for the ride. She was “with” me when I worked one-on-one with girls who had escaped trafficking. With me when I went to court for emotional support. With me in the presence of pimps and traffickers. With me in front of crowds of tens and crowds of hundreds as I spoke in Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ontario and British Columbia about justice, human trafficking and our Christian response. With me as I worked alongside brave law enforcement officers, front line workers, missionaries and survivors.
And I’m so fortunate now to be in a position where I can have her so close by while I work. I brought her to Pella, Iowa last month for work where she was with me on stage during the RCA Global Mission report. The previous year she was in me as I was introduced as the Coordinator of Human Trafficking Outreach and spoke to the delegates about modern day slavery. This year she was asleep in our Ergo on stage during the Global Mission report and in my arms as the General Secretary President mentioned the Expose the Darkness project, a project I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into in the last year.