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For Those Who Run and Those Who Don’t

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I used to view marathons though the lens of two categories: the people who run them and the people who don’t.   I happen to fall in the latter but I love watching marathons.  You’ll find me hanging out with the other “don’ts” cheering while happily drinking coffee and eating doughnuts.

Simone Halpin runs marathons.  She’s legit.  She’s also a wife, mother of three, director of women’s care at Moody Church and through that role has been working to launch Naomi’s House a residential home for women who have suffered sexual exploitation and trafficking.  The home (scheduled to open in 2016) will offer hope and healing through recovery, residential living, and reintegration, all centered on the transforming grace of Jesus.

I spoke with her just a few days before the Chicago Marathon last week and asked the obvious question- Are you ready for Saturday? Her response was something like:

Ready or not, I’m running anyway.

Pray for me, she added.

What I loved about this response was her commitment to run without pretending it was going to be easy.

I think it’s the same way she approaches the fight for justice and redemption in the dark, messed up world of human trafficking. She knows she isn’t just working for a “good cause” with simple solutions checked off during the 9-5. It’s overwhelming, sickening, and you might not feel ready to get in the ring but you do it anyway.

She also knows it’s also going to take more than human effort, as important as that is. It will also take dependence on God who can deliver both physical and spiritual freedom for victims.

When the UPS guy dropped a package outside my door I tore open the envelope with a pit in my stomach.  I wanted to learn all I could about human trafficking and yet, I didn’t. When reading about suffering or injustice my view of the world breaks a little more.  I simply can’t unlearn or forget what I take in. I can’t look at my daughter and not think of the millions of daughters being sold, abused and dispensed like objects.  Human trafficking is slavery and if you think it’s only a global issue, something that happens in faraway places you don’t identify with, you’re wrong. I am a proud Chicagoan for many reasons, but this statistic is not one of them:

Each YEAR in the Chicagoland area, 24,000 women and girls are being exploited.  33% have been exploited by the age of 15. 62% by the age of 18.

From the book “Girls Like Us” by Rachel Lloyd:

When I tell people that the agency I run serves over three hundred girls a year in the New York City metro area alone who’ve been trafficked for sexual purposes, they’re invariably stunned. When I tell them that the girls and young women we serve are predominantly U.S. citizens, their shock and sympathy turn to utter incomprehension. “How?” “What do you mean?” “From here?” “How?” “Where?” To talk about trafficking conjures images of Thai girls in shackles, Russian girls held at gunpoint by the mob, illegal border crossings, fake passports, and captivity. It seems ludicrous and unthinkable that it’s happening here in America to American children. -pp. 11

It’s happening here, right now.  In the land of the free.

The longest race I’ve run is a 5K (the metric system helps me feel it was more impressive than 3.1 miles). I’m thinking if you’re going to run a 5K times nine the training you’ve done is critical, but the adrenaline and show of support on the day of the race give you an edge.

I imagine the cheering and handmade signs from the crowd help.

I imagine the water stations and bananas and power bars help.

I imagine the runners beside you, in the grueling race with you, help.

Last year I witnessed a Chicago Marathon participant run into a bakery at mile 12 and run out with a vanilla-frosted cupcake. I deemed her my favorite runner in the race.

It occurred to me that it takes all sorts of people to contribute to the entire experience and meet the unique needs of the runners. People that, in one way or another, help push the runners a little farther to the finish line. People that show up to support the brave few who have committed to run, ready or not.

My categories are not so neat in anymore- with the people who run marathons and the people who don’t.

Because being issued a bib and standing at the starting line might feel like a scene from a sweaty nightmare, but holding a sign does not. When the race feels daunting we can show up: encouraging, handing out water, donating money, passing out a cupcake if that’s what it takes. We might not be runners on the course but we can help push them closer to the finish line.  

Those working against human trafficking need all the support they can get.  They need you.

Helping change the trajectories for these women might feel beyond us. Often we want to help but are unsure of where to start meeting the needs.  Good news, here is a really clear way for you to show up and get involved.

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I met first Simone and learned about Naomi’s House when planning Rooted Chicago, which exists to point women to the movement of God in our city and plug them into that momentum. Human trafficking is dark, but Naomi’s House is a bright spot doing good.  We believe when we funnel our gifts and take seriously Scripture’s call to maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute (Ps. 82:3) God uses us to bring new life and healing for His glory.

Naomi’s House is hosting the same event in two different locations on two different dates to share their mission, give an update on their progress and what it’s going to take to open their doors.

October 22, 6:30pm @ Moody Bible Institute, ASC 2 (Chicago)
October 29, 6:30pm @ College Church, The Commons (Wheaton)

If you want the opportunity to learn about and support a solution that will provide recovery, residential living and reintegration for local women, register here.

If you want to learn more about human trafficking, the compelling book “Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not For Sale” by Rachel Lloyd might be a tough read but will likely get you moving for these girls.

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