The One Where I Come Clean

by Laura on August 27, 2012

I’ve written lots over the past year about the realities of sexual slavery and exploitation as we’ve come to witness them from our time in SouthEast Asia. I’ve written about street children and prostitutes and the men who visit them. I’ve told stories about stumbling into one of the worst red-light districts in the world with our three children and about the abolitionist from 8th-grade who has woken up again.

But what I haven’t been able to communicate online until now is specifically how my husband and I became involved in fighting it.

And today, I come clean.

For the past year, my husband has been involved in covert investigations into the sex industry. He has been searching in the darkest of places for women and children who are being held as modern day slaves in brothels. He has been registered as an informant with the local authorities and has spent many late nights gathering evidence of the exploitation and abuse of women and children.

And while it wasn’t the path I ever would have chosen or conceived for him or for me, it has been a journey that has taken us deeper into the heart of God than we ever thought possible.

It’s been a Story that has taught us about a Love that is greater than fear, about a Light that invades darkness, and about a Gospel that takes form every time a brave investigator enters a brothel for the sake of Rescue.

And the people we have met through our time in these places we’ve staunchly avoided until a year ago have changed us, as well.  We’ve met 16-year-old prostitutes and toothless pimps, overweight white men looking for love and skinny transvestites selling themselves for cheap. Here’s the story of one of the girls, a trafficked victim we’ll call Sarah, who Matt was able to meet in a brothel three months ago:

  {Email subscribers may need to click through to the site to view above video.}

And, unfortunately, Sarah’s story is not unusual in SouthEast Asia, as 30% of all trafficked victims come from the region. It’s not unusual globally, either, where it’s estimated that every sixty seconds two children are sold for sex. 

But here’s the encouraging thing we began to find through our networking in the arena of intervention– we began finding other men who were doing the same thing as Matt was. Ex-military men and former police officers, Westerners and nationals, Christian and Buddhist and agnostic, men who were committed to stopping the abuse of women and children by systematically entering the places where they were being held and gathering evidence which could lead to their rescue.

And make no mistake, it is costly work– physically dangerous and morally challenging. But, as Matt began working with some of these brave men in the field on mission and over coffee in meetings, he began noticing that a glaring need they all had was for funding. Many lack the professional- grade covert equipment which would make their evidence-gathering more efficient, and most lacked the finances needed to conduct operations, as well. Another area of need for many of these investigators was connections with those in government which could effectively push through legal prosecutions.

And out of these relationships and our realization of the common needs of investigators, came the idea for The Exodus Road- a coalition of investigators and support staff working together on specific cases of sexual slavery in SouthEast Asia. It’s an idea born from the concept that we desire everyone working in targeted intervention to succeed and to rescue, regardless of organization or religion. And it’s an idea that Matt and I felt we should move home to fund, particularly since the investigators are unable to speak freely about their work, for obvious safety reasons.

We believe that in advocating for the undercover investigators we’ve met, we are most definitely advocating for the victims they meet and, hopefully, are empowered to rescue.

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So, there it is folks. The cat’s out of the bag and all that. Thanks for being patient with me over the last year as I have spoken in vague generalizatioins. As you can understand, for security concerns, we couldn’t broadcast the specifics of the journey we were being lead into.

I’d be honored if you would stop by our site, The Exodus Road, and check it out {The revised, super-awesome site should be launched on Tuesday sometime. If you visit the site before it’s launched and get the grungy version with mis-aligned, kinda-scary photos, you can re-visit it later and marvel at the before and after.} You’ll find out more specifics about our network, ways to get involved, and more stories from some of our investigators, who have a collective 610 victim rescues under their belts already. I’d love for you to sign up for updates by getting on the mailing list or liking it on Facebook. Stop back by here Tuesday, August 28th, too, where I’ll be telling a bit of the story of how we got involved in undercover work in the first place and will be doing a giveaway from one of our sponsors, as well.

www.theExodusRoad.com

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Okay, so let’s have it– what did you think we did for “ministry” overseas– like, really? How foggily did I communicate? Have you ever had to omit major truth for the sake of a Greater Good?

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  • Diana Trautwein

    this is remarkable, Laura. Thank you so much for posting this and for coming clean. I suspected that this was what your ministry was related to, but had no clue how. Thanks for lifting the curtain just a bit. Many, many blessings as you begin the tough work of fund-raising – I cannot imagine any two people better suited to this ministry than you.

    • lauraparkerblog

      oh, gosh, well THAT was encouraging.
      As always.

      :)

  • http://www.shellibourque.com Shelli Bourque

    After you mentioned the book, God in a Brothel, I surmised that your ministry had taken you into the direction of intervention, and even wondered if Matt was working on the front lines. Amazing to hear the story of Sarah. It is so painful, yet there is so much hope, thanks to the work you are doing. I’ll be watching for the website launch today.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks Shelli– guess I wasn’t as vague as I thought I was!!

      Thanks for caring about girls like Sarah . . .

  • http://www.angiewashington.com/ @ngie

    Love the website. Love the role you two are playing. Love the unveiling. Love the story. Love the storyteller.

    • lauraparkerblog

      And I love that crazy-encouraging missionary south of here. . .

  • http://twitter.com/worshipVJ stephen proctor

    This is so exciting, Laura! I’m glad the cat is finally out of the bag and now I can start talking about it more openly and publicly, especially online. I’ll be working on a blog post to tell my community about the work you guys are doing. And I’m having a blast with Matt in Nashville. We have a ton of meetings lined up and some really cool people to meet. =)
    love you guys.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks, Proctor–

      Your work on our behalf is inspiring. Thanks for putting your neck out for us and this work . . .

      Have fun with Matt– he’s a pretty amazing person. :)

  • Brittany

    I am so impressed with you Laura. If it were me, and my husband was in constant danger, I would be consumed with worry. You inspire me greatly when I hear what you have been through and what you are doing now. Sex trafficking is very sensitive for me as I have a heart for women and children. I can’t wait to get involved

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks, Brittany . . . I DID really struggle with fear a lot on those nights when I was by myself. But, honestly, they were some of the richest times with God because I really had to trust HIM with him. Ya know?

      Love your heart. Can’t wait to connect.

  • Michelle

    I had commented earlier on the deeper story and this, too, is so moving, Laura. What an amazing victory through Christ.

    • lauraparkerblog

      THanks, Michelle .. ..

  • http://www.facebook.com/ann.williams.5220665 Ann Williams

    Hi Laura-
    I love your blog and usually end up in tears either from laughing and relating oh too well -or moved by Gods heart and yours too.
    I just watched the video and was wondering what happens to Sarah and girls like her when they are rescued- do they go back home – what is the future for most of these girls? I know it is complicated and every story different but wondered if you could speak to that. Thanks- Ann

    • theexodusroad

      Thanks, Ann! Yes, this is a great question. I will do a whole post answering it in detail but the quick version is that they are taking to after care facilities for about a year while they wait trial. Then, they go back to their home countries, usually with some funds from the government, unless they get citizenship in the country they are found. Our hope is to send them to quality after care facilities with counseling, trade skill development, etc– places like Love146, Somaly Mam Foundation, ZOE Childrens Homes, Ezekiel Rain, Hagar Interantional, etc. Unfortunately, we don’t always have control over that and sometimes they are placed in the government facility which is not as quality . . .

      Thanks for asking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamjoelspencer Adam Spencer

    I just found your blog via Steven Proctor. First off I wanna say how thankful I am for the brave work you are doing. I lived in Thailand for many years, first as a student at Thammasart in Taprachan, then organizing short-term mission teams in the north with Teen Mania and other organizations. I studied Thai at Union Language School in the heart of Patpong. I’ll never forget how shocked I was to see the nightly transformation of that area in Silom, from legit businesses by day to human trafficking by night. I often thought of ways to reach out in that area and effect change – I’m so grateful to see that you and your family have found a method that works! I live in the US again now but hope to return to Thailand soon. If you need any help let me know.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Hi Adam,
      Thanks for stopping by– Stephen has been such a champion of our humble work there, we are really thankful to know him!

      So neat that you have connections to Thailand, too! It’s a beautiful place, but you are so right in that it becomes a different world past 9 pm. And I totally agree, it’s hard to know how to “really” help when you are there.
      Thanks for your willingness to help. We are working on ways to connect people in the States practically to the undercover work there in Thailand, and we just are coming up pretty blank with the exception of financial help. It’s a tricky one, right?

      Regardless, thanks for stopping in . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Teri-Miller/100000244322626 Teri Miller

    Laura –
    I don’t think you were as vague as you thought…it was clear where God was leading your hearts, despite having to avoid clarification of all the details.
    I LOVE the website & logo!! (yeah, George & Justin!! Just spent the weekend with those guys, at our Free Agent Academy event!)
    So grateful for your willingness to step into the ‘fight’ and follow God’s call. Your family is such an inspiration!

    • lauraparkerblog

      Matt always said i sucked at lying.

      ha ha.

      Well even if I wasn’t maybe vague enough, thanks for your encouragement– and YES have been so blessed by Justin, George, and Stephen with their work on our behalf– such a practical way to love and serve.

      And one of these days, we will HAVE to get together–

      Now there is NO excuse! :)

  • Erin Cook

    oh Laura. I love what you all are doing. SERIOUSLY love it. It’s been such a blessing to watch your journey and pray with you through it. God’s used you so profoundly to show me that ANYTHING is possible with Him. I don’t know what God’s doing in me after this year in Uganda…but I know I’ve got friend’s in Colorado and a passion to see girls live in freedom :)

    • lauraparkerblog

      by “friends in colorado”, I very much assume you mean me?!?!

      even if you didn’t, definitely would love to meet you in real life! thanks for your encouragement– how’s uganda? how’s your heart these days? intense? what you expected?

      • Erin Cook

        you’re absolutely who i meant :) Uganda’s …crazy. very intense. mostly in the sense that there’s so much work to do and so few people to do it, so everyone is ALWAYS working. which means the attention i give my heart is minimal. doing ok. it’s hard here in ways i didn’t expect – like challenges with being part of building the foundation for the ministry, or desiring community with my team, but lacking it…or feeling much like a team.. when i get a chance to breathe and find some coherent thoughts, I’ll shoot you an email. but prob not for another week :)

        • lauraparkerblog

          Oh, girl, i hear you– its all the glorious unexpected tensions you are walking right now–

          at home, but not
          a team, but not yet
          wanting community, but feeling alone
          feeling overwhelmed, but not feeling effective
          ahhhhh . . . ..

          hang in there. God is working, even if it feels like walking uphill in thigh-high mud.

          hugs from here, L

          • http://www.facebook.com/lorie.greer Lorie Greer

            I was blessed by your conversation tonight. I’m glad I peeked in on your conversation.

  • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

    Love your heart and your passion and your sacrificial obedience to go against the grain. So proud to know you, even through The Internets. Can’t wait to watch your journey just continue to unfold before you. Buckle up, girl. The ride’s only gonna get wilder! And put up reminders for yourself: You are never alone. Not for a split second.

    Standing with you. Praying for you. Always here.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Wow, Alece,

      Thanks so much for your encouragement. I have such unbelievable respect for you and your journey and your writing and the way you are moving forward in the world–

      gosh, would love to meet one day face to face. Think we would have lots to talk about, for sure. Think we would be a bit of kindred spirits, if I had to guess and all . . .

      thanks for the prayers. :)

      • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

        man, i would love that too. are you still stateside?? maybe we can overlap somewhere and make it happen.

        • lauraparkerblog

          Yup, living in the colorado springs area. If you’re ever in the area. . . :)

          • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

            I didn’t realize you were living there — so great! No plans right now, but I’m dying to get back out to CO. I would love to meet up if that ever works out!

  • http://twitter.com/rachelc41 rachel cleveland

    So glad to have learned of you & your husband’s work. Thanking God that you said YES to the call. Will support every way we can. Wish I could hug ya!

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thank you so so very much.

  • Laura Heinemann

    Hi! My name is Laura. I’m a 19 year old student at the University of Texas. And I just wanted to tell you how inspired I am by you and your husband’s story. Being younger and trying to figure out what I want to do in the future, things like this post give me hope. I just want to say yes to what God wants for me just like you and your husband have. I want to live boldly for him. And you are such an example of that!

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