the children with roses

by Laura on January 21, 2011

And, now, for an admittedly heavier post {in conjunction with the upcoming Idea Camp: Orphan Care Conference}. The following is about human trafficking, child labor and how complicated these problems really are.  Please know that I claim no ‘expert status’ on the issue . . .

They walk the streets selling roses–  flowers in the Western world that husbands give wives for Valentine’s Day or boyfriends bring dates for prom.

But, just recently, I’ve learned that selling roses here means something much different than a “Happy Anniversary” sentiment or a falling-in-love proclamation.

On the streets of Southeast Asia, children and women selling roses often means

they are selling themselves.

And maybe a pimp watches from dark alleys, or maybe they have nowhere to run,

but the disadvantaged are sometimes forced to sell much more than the long-stemmed flowers in their hands.

And just last weekend, a friend saw this reality in the flesh — an elementary-aged boy, drunk on Tequila, on the dark streets of Bangkok,

with roses in his hand.

And the weight of that knowledge has pressed in on me all week.  The images.  The questions. The horror.  As I drive my kids to their Asian language class or sneak away to a coffee shop to work, I feel a scream in my head and the tears burning my throat.  I don’t know how to reconcile my reality with the reality of the boy with the roses.  And I want to race down to Bangkok and tear through streets to find him, to rescue him, to bring him home, to keep him safe.

And we say, “Why don’t you? Is it really more complicated than a 1 hour flight and some leg work and a place for him to stay?” And I’ve asked that same question, and I’ve had to answer myself with —

Yes, it most definitely is more complicated than that.

Because there’s a lenient culture and child rights and law-enforcement.  There are legal problems and missing identification papers and the danger of underground activity. There is money being made and money being spent, and, unfortunately, there is demand and

there is supply.

We know a pastor here in SE Asia whose family took into their home a former young prostitute.  They had done the hard work of the rescue and were knee-deep in the process of restoration when a knock interrupted evening routines.  A gun was pointed in their faces, and an evening with homework became an evening with violence.  “She’s my property, and you stole her,” the intruders said.  And the Rescued one was stolen, once again.

We also know of an organization in SE Asia who have been working for months in an effort to prosecute the traffickers involved in the slavery of several women.  The organization has been consumed with long interviews and costly legal meetings, for months— all to bring justice to one trafficking situation.

It most definitely is much more complicated than we think.

And the knowledge of that leaves me feeling both small and paralyzed.

Because I just don’t know how to rescue the boy with the roses. Even though my friend has the boy’s picture on his camera phone, I don’t know how give that child a taste of safety and justice on earth, don’t know how to steal him away from those who have stolen him in the first place.

But I do know this, every time I see roses– in a flower shop window or on the commercial from television or even on my kitchen counter– it will be a physical reminder to me to stop and pray, fervently and with an ache that causes me to still cry,

for the children selling roses.

That they would somehow be safe tonight.

That God would prove to be a Rescuer for them.

And that we, as His body, would somehow,

do something.


Would you commit to the Prayer of the Roses?  Would you let roses be a reminder to you to pray specifically for the children who are trafficked or abused in our world today?

Consider visiting the Idea Camp’s Blog to read more incredible posts about the plight of the orphan.  While you’re there, consider attending their conference next month.  It would be a practical way to step in to this issue.

To learn more about the trafficking of women and children, visit NightLight, an organization in the heart of the same red-light district the boy with the roses was last weekend.  You can visit their resource page, HERE.  You can also visit International Justice Mission {video above} for information about trafficking and social justice worldwide.

  • @ngie

    I pray that by the gentle leading of our Father’s hand you are able to channel that compassion into making a significant mark on the face of this issue. There’s GOT to be a way…

    • Laura

      @ngie, I agree. There’s GOT to be a way. And I guess it’s that hope that have people around the world keep on trying . . .

      Thanks for your heart for the world, friend.

  • Sandie Stirgess

    Dear Laura,

    I am in shock! I had no idea that the children selling flowers were not JUST selling flowers. I mean it is tragic enough that they are not in school and are on the streets working, but to think they are also involved in prostitution. “Rescuing” that little boy, I totally agree with you, would be a very complicated process. If you ran in naively (which you are not doing) you could potentially cause more harm to come to him and jeopardise all that you are doing for the girls at Breannas House. Thank you for raising our awareness to this plight.

    • Laura

      Sandie, Thanks for your encouragement. And I totally agree– obviously we wouldn’t jeopardize the girls at BHJ. They are a priority, and it feels really good knowing that {prayerfully!!} they will not find themselves on the streets b/c of what they are getting at BHJ. In many ways, it seems pre-emptively fighting the issue is much easier than fighting for kids already in the “trade.” Still a hard, awful reality.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting . . .

  • http://Facebook Rebekah

    I’ll never look at roses the same way and that’s a good thing…each one I see and each one hold…will be a prayer for a child…thanks for image and knowledge…

    I wouldn’t know if you didn’t share….


    • Laura

      Rebekah, I can’t tell you what that last sentence you wrote did for my heart. I don’t like writing so often about the tragedies we are tasting over here. It feels like a “downer” and something maybe many roll their eyes at. And I hate feeling like that, bc I know it is hard to always hear about heavy things. But, I appreciate that you are open to the knowledge and encourage even the harder posts, like this.

  • Logan

    I’m such a blogging novice, but i put a link to this post here

    My heart was stirring as i was trying to go to sleep tonight…i think this was why.

    Love you friend!

    • Laura

      I love your heart. And I LOVE that you are starting to blog it, friend . . .

      Thank you and lots of love from here,

  • Kindra

    laura, i am so grateful for this post, for you sharing your torn heart, for the heaviness you give and for the hard and immediate message

    i read that you don’t want to write a lot of “downer” posts, but please keep them coming – i/we need to know how t0 pray for our brothers and sisters around the word, for the boy selling roses, for the prostitute – we need to know of this injustice and complexity

    thank you so much again, this post is really challenging

    • Laura

      Thanks, Kindra- I definitely do struggle with this– the occurrence of so many heavy,depressing posts. I know it’s hard to hear– it’s hard for me to write! Typically, people don’t visit/comment blogs that are too “social justice-y”. So I appreciate your desire to hear,no matter how hard, and to KNOW.

      Thanks for being sad about it with me . . .

  • Mindy Carlettini

    Hi Laura. I just wanted you to know that I am new to your blog and I can’t keep this little boy off of my mind either. I am praying for him, and I wanted to tell you that you are doing something by being a voice for HIM. And all the others. How tragic. And I too, had no idea.

    I’m so happy to have found your blog. My husband and I recently planted a church and are living in a new area, and I have felt like a “missionary” at times. But these stories pale in comparison to being surrounded by middle class Americans. Thanks for opening my eyes to the world around me and for inspiring me to get out of my bubble!

    I will be praying for you and I look forward to following your blog!

    • Laura

      Mindy, Thanks for the encouragement and I am glad we connected! I totally think a person can feel like a “missionary” anywhere– middle class America included! I reckon everywhere is really a place to grow and learn and serve. Sometimes I think its harder to live in America, because the needs are oftentimes so subtle and so hidden. At least here, the needs are out in your face . . .

      Hope your new church is going well! Glad to have connected via the web world . . .

  • Mindy Carlettini

    I think I may have hit the newsletter button to late…I would love to read your newsletters!

  • Tamara

    Laura, I am thankful for you reminding us again of OUR CHILDREN in danger even while I’m sick to my stomach with the knowledge . . . Thought I was doing what I could but now have a visual for more prayer, more intention. Thanks, kiddo.
    Great sermon by Todd today on Romans 8:31-39 and I HAVE to believe that nothing separates these children from the love of God either. Except . . . how are they supposed to experience His love in the here and now?
    Keep doing what you’re doing even when it’s a sad and COMPLICATED situation. You’re bringing on God’s love!
    Hugs from here.

  • Amy Sullivan


    Something so ugly covered with something intended to be so beautiful. I commit to pray every time I see roses.

  • Amy Sullivan

    ps Just read through your Good Reads of the week, and you weren’t kidding- they are good! Thanks for passing along all of your finds.

  • Teri Miller

    This is painful to read, painful to imagine. The horror and depravity of humanity. The helplessness. So yes, we join you, Laura – trusting that “the fervent prayers of a righteous man availeth much.”

    • Laura

      Amy and Teri,

      Thank you for hearts that want to pray. Hearts that are open to hurt for children half a globe away.

      It’s so easy to get numb and not think about it and busy ourselves with others things, isn’t it? For me, at least, that is all too often the case.

  • Marla Taviano

    In Cambodia we saw (and met) so many women/kiddos/boys who were being trafficked. So heart-breaking. Sometimes I just feel so helpless and want to just forget it all, but I know there is much I can do. That ALL of us can do.

    A ministry we’re involved with called Hard Places is doing a nation-wide 10-mile walk in May to raise money to put a stop to sex trafficking in Cambodia and starting the first ever Boys’ Club–a place where boys can escape the horrors of sex trafficking and be safe and learn a trade.

    Anyway, before I write a novel, here’s the link:

    • Laura

      MARLA– I love that you are giving us a practical way to get involved. Thank you for wanting to jump in and take action. That is beautiful. Everything matters . . .

      And I love that you are involved in a ministry to boys in the sex industry. This is an equally heartbreaking thing. It seems natural to focus on the girls, but it is just as important to remember the boys that are trapped, too.

  • Cheryl

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. In America, it is so easy to be numb to that stuff and it is a good reminder for me to read. And the fact of the matter is that sex-traffiking is happening in the US and A LOT right here in Texas. Thanks for involving us with what is going on there and how we can be praying. Lord, come quickly!

    • Laura

      You are so correct, Cheryl. Trafficking is happening in the US, too. It is NOT just an overseas issue, though we easily assume it is. Thanks for being open and wanting to know and NOT be numb.

  • erinbeth

    I’ve spent many nights with haunting images keeping me from finding sleep. I deeply understand this place you’re in. The anger. The desperation.

    Once your eyes are opened to it, you see it EVERYWHERE.

    God is even in control of this. That is a hard truth for me to grasp. But, He is.

    • Laura


      I agree. Once you start to recognize issues of abuse, whatever forms it may take, it seems to crop up so many places . . . and is just so overwhelming.

      I know many can learn a lot from your openness in this journey, brave friend.

  • Amy

    Thanks for sharing, sis. The image you drew in my head with your words will not easily be forgotten. I’ll remember to pray for him and all the others out there everytime I see roses. Love and miss you!

  • Annie

    Yes, I knew of this. I have known about this. I have spent many nights sickened by the thought of this horror. What if that was our child?? That puts it into perspective. Why don’t I do something about it?! I hate that I want to do something and I don’t know what to do! I will pray. I can give a little financially. But I want to do more. God please give me the ability and the avenue to do more! We have to have our hearts broken! We have to contemplate and feel that sick fear that the child must feel! I think people overlook it and refuse to feel. We must feel.

    • Laura

      Annie, I love that you FEEL. We have to start with that, don’t we? Have to start with the openness to put ourselves in their place, to be broken, and have the guts to THINK about it. It’s so easy to just “turn it off” and choose not to think/feel about hard issues.

      I love that you are feeling and are moved to passionately want to act, Annie. Let me know how God leads you . . .

  • Rachel

    Laura, this is heartbreaking! I had no idea! Thank you for sharing. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching in the U.S., there are roses everywhere right now. I’m purposing to allow them to remind me to keep a prayer vigil for ‘your’ rose-sellers, and I’m asking my friends to do the same.

    Thanks for being my eyes in that part of the world.

    • Laura

      Thanks, Rachel. Thanks for wanting to pray and for sharing this with your friends. I love that you are using your influence to encourage/challenge your own circle of friends. Love that.

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  • Bethsaida

    Hi Laura,

    I would love to communicate more with you. I’m working at a non profit in northern Thailand fighting against the sex trade there. One of major program initiatives is to reach the children int he red light district there. would love to join together in prayer.

    may God bless your family, and the work you guys are doing there.

    • Laura

      sending you an email now . . .

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  • Kathy O’Keefe

    I work in a flower shop, I will be praying a lot, so sad and heart wrenching.
    Praying for all who are working to change this horrible plight.

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