“I Know What You Do”

by Michelle Brock on December 18th, 2012

We have been on the road for a couple of months now, and sometimes we don’t have the best opportunities to eat healthy meals.    There have been days where crackers and cookies get us through the day, after which we don’t feel very good.  A real meal is such a luxury.

I recently came across this video clip on Holly Austin Smith’s blog.  It offers us a glimpse into some of the everyday moments that victims of sexual exploitation experience.  It is quite moving.  When we think of trafficking victims, our minds usually go to the trauma of the sexual acts themselves, as well as the abuse that goes along with “the life.”  But there are more subtle traumas that most people don’t realize – like that of being alone, or eating unhealthy road snacks as if they were meals, or bearing the judgment of others.

Sometimes it is easy to figure out what someone does, but it is much harder to know their story.  May this be a reminder to us to extend love, grace, and understanding to those around us, especially those who we would more easily judge or look down upon.






On a Highway to Newtown, Connecticut

by Michelle Brock on December 15th, 2012

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On the way to a morning interview in Massachusetts

This past week we spent several days in Boston area, interviewing some really fantastic people for our documentary.  After a morning meeting in Massachusetts on Friday, we got on the highway to continue our journey.  On highway 84 we turned on the radio and were horrified to discover that 20 little kids and several adults had been killed in one of the largest mass murders in America’s history.

As the details unfolded, I glanced down at our map. Turns out we were four exits away from Newtown, Connecticut.  I couldn’t believe it. What were the chances that after visiting 8 countries in the last two months, this little town was literally minutes away from where we were at that moment.  We took the exit and stopped to say a prayer for Newtown, and the families whose long journey of mourning was just beginning.  The coffee shop was packed with journalists and photographers.  A local woman was being interviewed.  The baristas looked shell shocked, teetering on the edge of tears.  In this quaint little town, with its beautiful Christmas decorations and cozy homes, an event of such magnitude seemed like a crude paradox.

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Approaching Newtown, Connecticut


We spent that night just minutes from where another massacre took place a few years back, at West Nickel Mines School in which 5 Amish girls were killed.  Now we are in Virginia, where the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history took place at Virginia Tech in 2007.  The theme of the last 24 hours has been gun violence.

I have a hard time taking off my goggles of prevention.  My passion for prevention has only grown in the last few months as we have been examining the issue of sex trafficking through that lens.  As a result, I have been asking myself what prevention looks like in many other contexts as well.  Teen pregnancies.  War.  Cancer.  Domestic abuse.  Poverty.  Gun violence.

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Flag at half mast in Newtown


On bus, train, plane, and car rides over the past several weeks, Jay and I have spent hours discussing systems.  We need to put systems into place that protect us from ourselves.  Just as there are systems that allow sex trafficking to flourish, there are systems that enable other abuses and crimes to exist.

A researcher we interviewed recently pointed out that not only does the law have a penal effect, but also a normative one.  Laws have a role in shaping societal norms, and societal norms can promote or deter violence, or exploitation, or abuse.  America’s gun violence problem leads me to look at the system that allows it to flourish.  When a 20 year old legally has access to a weapon akin to what is being used in war combat, I must start asking the question of what message is being sent through the law.  Rifles are used to hunt animals.  Handguns and semi/automatic weapons are used to hunt people.  Though the law itself cannot stop someone who is determined from walking into a school and opening fire, it can make it harder for them to access a weapon and it can certainly shape societal attitudes regarding the acceptability of using a gun to deal with various circumstances.

Deep down we all know that even gun control is not primary prevention, because the real causes reside within people – pain, anger, disappointment, revenge, bitterness, mental health issues. Addressing these is a much more complex journey.  We need each other. This has certainly reminded me of the importance of being intentional in my own relationships.  Systems and laws aside, to “know and be known” not only helps prevent things like this from happening, but promotes the opposite – love, belonging, hope, and real community.

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Sun setting on a tragic day


As the sun made its blazing decent, I could not help but think of how  Newtown, in one tragic day, had indeed become a new town.  I grieve with the families who lost their little ones in this sad event.






The Real St. Nick

by Michelle Brock on December 5th, 2012

Many of us know St. Nick as a jolly plump fellow with a white beard, a taste for cookies and milk, and a big bag full of toys from the North Pole that are suspiciously similar to ones found on the shelves of Toys R Us.  Today I came across a comment from Shane Claiborne about the real story of this man:

santa claus1The original “Old St. Nick” who inspired the tradition of Santa Claus –  Nicholas was bishop of Myra in fourth-century Turkey. Little is known about his life except that he entrusted himself to Jesus at an early age and, when his parents died, gave all of their possessions to the poor. 


While serving as bishop, Nicholas learned of three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by their father. Moved to use the church’s wealth to ransom the lives of these little ones, he tossed three bags of gold through the family’s window. We remember this ancient Christmas gift, even as we remember that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year in the global sex trade today.


Let’s do radical things like that this Christmas.