I read an interesting article by Laura Gunderson, entitled, “Teens have more savvy and cash, and Portland-area malls are taking note.” The article goes on to tell that they conducted a study at a town center and they found out that it’s teen shoppers make up 10% of its overall sales and that the teens frequented that mall at least once a week. Gunderson also said noted that “Teens are a savvy, cash-carrying market force that malls and retailers are working to better understand and serve.” Our teenagers are being watched not only by retailers, and malls but also traffickers, predators, and an unseen enemy of our souls. So, how can we engage in culture today?
We can learn to engage culture by doing what outside influences are doing. They are watching and surveying our youth. They are studying patterns, needs, likes, dislikes and they are gathering information and using it to their advantage. I met my first trafficker as a teen in a mall. That was 26 years ago. Today those same schemes that my trafficker used are still being used by other traffickers. Do you know what they are? Rebecca Bender has a great brochure on this website that is free to download called, Red Flags. I was surprised when I heard other stories of others who were trafficked through the mall like I had been. It was also a moment where I finally felt free to speak up about my situation as well, which then helped others identify themselves as victims or survivors.
My first trafficker was much older than I was, and I gravitated to him not because he was handsome (too me he was not) but, because he could afford things and he befriended me. He never pushed me into sex. He got to know me, he spent time with me. He became my homeboy and then he became my homeboy that used to hook me up with sales for the drugs I would occasionally sell for extra cash. He then, would take me to some “special spots” that he knew about. He always would ask me, “Baby girl, what that man say to you?” I was so naive to the “game,” that I thought these older men was approaching me for real actual dates. I would tell Vitamin that they asked me if I wanted a date and I said, “Uh, no thanks. But I got rocks if you want some.” And he would laugh. Little did I know he was scouting out how many people would approach me in those hours.
One day my roommate and I needed money for our rent. He was there of course. He was available. I did not have to ask him for the money, he offered it. He had a proposal and he told me it would involve transporting drugs. But when we reached San Diego, the truth of his plans was revealed, and my life turned for the worst. I was involved in a culture that seemed so hard to reach. My family suspected something but never really asked me, I was living on my own life of hell—out of sight, out of mind. I once asked to return home and was told that I could not return because I did not get along with my step Dad. I cried. I could not say what was happening because I was too afraid, too ashamed, and too unlovable. I could not voice what I was going through because I could not wrap my head around it as well. I cried and cried and thought my fate was sealed. That this was who I was. That I had no choice, no options. That my purpose was to serve the perversions of the world the rest of my life. But as you can see, today I am writing you Free in Christ. I am no one special, but my God is. And so, anyone on this earth can experience this freedom as well. God’s word says in Matthew 10:10 (ESV), “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” God is the only one that can give life abundantly.
3 things we can do to be effective in engaging a culture:
1. Do your research! Learn about the culture you are trying to engage. Do not go in blindly, but with some knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 19:2, “2 Desire without knowledge is not good, and to be overhasty is to sin and miss the mark.”)
2. Love. Love. Love. For me, it was the “act” of kindness and love that drew me to believe in a man who later became my trafficker. But every dark deed eventually comes to light (Luke 8:17). God’s truth is the only thing that can set us and others free. (John 8:36). If we follow Jesus and Love others as ourselves we too can extend our hands towards a culture that seems hard to reach. We do not have to change who we are, or look like them, or even talk like them. All we must do is Love God and Love others as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40).
3. Ask God for Wisdom. Keep asking God for an open door to speak into the lives of others. Ask for wisdom in discerning when to engage and when not to. (James 1:5 “If anyone of you lacks wisdom you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”)
In the end, when we look at the needs of others we will find it really has not changed throughout the years. No matter what race, gender, or age, humanity thrives when we are simply loved (1 Cor. 13:13).
Angelica is a woman who is passionate for the Lord. She was born and raised in Hawaii. Angelica is also a devoted, loving wife, mother, and, grandmother. She is a sex-trafficking survivor and mentor, college graduate and holds a certification in substance abuse counseling. Currently, Angelica is a caretaker and small business owner. One of her greatest passions is seeing others accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior because it is through that acceptance for others and herself where she has seen miracles, faith, hope, and Aloha (Love).