A Broken Heart for Valentine’s Day

I wrote a little overview of our Valentine’s day gala we put on for Love146, to fight human trafficking, and submitted it to our local paper (hence the faux journalistic style, and Utah specific comments). They never published it, so here it is:

This last Tuesday, a unique Valentine’s party took place. While couples across America were packing restaurants to celebrate their relationships, about 30 couples gathered in a small church in east Sandy, with a little different focus. They also came together because of love, and also enjoyed a catered dinner and live music, but the gathering was not the typical Valentine’s evening of romance. It was focused on the heart breaking realities of human trafficking. This was an awareness and fund-raising effort for an organization called Love146, to defend, protect, and restore children caught in the tragedy of the sex slavery industry.

The reality of modern day slavery is indeed heart-breaking, even shocking. We learned that approximately 27 million people are enslaved today, generating $32 billion annually (second most lucrative crime activity). The majority of female victims are in the sex industry. An estimated two children are sold every minute. We heard a story of the torturous life of a girl caught in sex slavery, left disfigured from beatings.

This Valentine’s day, attendees also learned how Love146 was started in response to this tragedy. The founders went overseas on an investigative trip to a brothel, to see trafficking first hand. Young girls were contained behind a window, despondently waiting for their next customer, each girl reduced to a number on a menu. However, one girl stood out to them. One girl stared intently back, she still had fight left in her. That girl was #146, and from that encounter the organization was born.

While these stories left many in tears, there was also reason for hope. This fund-raising effort had a substantial impact. In fact the final presentation of the night showed the restoration homes that has been built to protect and nurture children that have been rescued out of slavery.

But surely this doesn’t happen here in America, right? Sadly, about 100,000 US children are forcefully engaged in prostitution or pornography, the average age a female enters prostitution is 12-14. And even here in Utah, there are have been hundreds of cases of trafficking, and some of the highest pornography usage in the US, fueling demand.

Dinner attendees aren’t the only modern abolitionists, you too can be a part of this movement, and make a important impact even with a small amount of time and money. Again, international exchange rates mean donations to groups like Love146 go a long way to tangible prevention and rescue efforts. You can join the local effort in Utah by supporting the local organization Operation61 (they host an annual race in Liberty Park called STOP TRAFFIC). Even without money, you can make a difference. Learn more. Make others aware. Call your US senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, and your representatives to urge them to keep US supply chains slavery-free, use diplomatic efforts to protect victims, and fund the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. This office is a tiny expense (we spend roughly 333 times as much to fight drugs as we do to fight trafficking), and non-partisan issues, so even moderate pressure can have an tremendous impact.

I was proud to be a part of this evening, and I wanted to commend the generous sponsors that made the evening possible, including SitePen, GSBS Architects, PurCo, SDI, USANA, the Point Christian Church, Chick-fil-A and caterers, Good Day Catering. I am also grateful for being part of a faith community, Sandy Ridge Community Church, that supports putting faith into action, pursing the Biblical call to fight injustices.

Sometimes a broken heart on Valentine’s day is a good thing!