Tuesday, September 6, 2011

God in a Brothel

Just finished a new book published by IVP by Daniel Walker. After Walker became a Christian in college he wanted to work in the area of Christian development in the third world. When he was unable to find the job he was looking for, he followed his other passion, law enforcement, and became a police officer in his native New Zealand. Then a job opened up combining his two main interests as an investigator and Christian work in the third world - for a ministry that tried to rescue sex trafficking victims around the world. Walker's book, God in a Brothel is a hard hitting account of his years as an investigator. His book has two main purposes. First, he provides an overview of the sex trafficking industry which he has seen firsthand and up close. It is not a pretty picture and I am sure he has spared much of the grim details. Children as young as 5 are available in many places in the world for sexual exploitation by adults. This probably does not come as a surprise to most people but it is not something we like to think about. This was Walker's world for many years. So, the second purpose of the book is more confessional. Walker talks candidly about how his experiences as an investigator affected his personal, spiritual and marital life. He was mostly unprepared for what he found in the sex trade, and he had to learn what he needed to know by his own experience. He experienced as many failures as successes it seems. He explains how difficult it is to become part of that world and enlist the help of local law enforcement to extract the victims. He ran into a web of collusion between the sex traffickers and local law enforcement along with government officials. Seems the sex trade is such a lucrative business many people look the other way. When Walker would arrange a bust, somehow the news of the raid was often leaked ahead of time. He was able to save some sex slaves but the ones who were hidden or relocated at the last minute are the ones who haunt his memories to this day.

Obviously, the greatest price he paid was personal. His job was to convince the sex traders that he was a legitimate sex tourist. So, he was put right in the middle of the ugly, glitzy, sexually hyped atmosphere of selling sex, selling bodies of young girls. He details how at first he had the attitude of a hero come to the rescue of these young victims. Plus, he had God on his side so how could he fail. He was filled with disgust and hate for the male perpetrators of these sex crimes. From his high horse, he had a hard time admitting what his experiences were doing to him. When his missions failed at times, he wondered why God let him fail. The faces and stories of the victims he met ( he paid for time with the girls, got to know them, covertly recorded their conversations, and made excuses why he did not want sex with them) haunted him when he failed to save them. He felt personally responsible when he could not rescue them. Sometimes, he was able to rescue them but the aftercare he arranged for them failed and they wound up right back in the same place or a worse one. He felt like he was carrying the burden of rescuing sex trade victims himself and was critical of other Christians who were only interested in personal salvation and whose prayers were solely about personal problems like good weather and curing a bad cold. Gradually, his work came before his marriage. He was not able to discuss with his wife what his work entailed. He and his wife were growing apart during his long absences from home. The ministry he worked for either didn't understand this or didn't see the need for counseling because apparently he never received any.

Walker was alone. He worked alone. Many times he was in dangerous places with no back up. If he was found out, no one ever would have discovered his body. One of the most profound parts of his story is how he bought into the Christian myth that following Christ meant he was supposed to be ready to sacrifice - his life, his marriage, his personal emotional health - and God would be pleased and take care of him. No one helped him see how wrong he was. He had no ministry team to help him find balance when he was getting himself into trouble. Most importantly, he was not able to see the warning signs that he was being pulled deeply into temptation. Rather, he was filled with self righteousness as he compared himself to the men who were abusing girls to satisfy their lust. And he was critical of a church which he saw as too individualistic and too inner directed to care much for the injustices he was experiencing daily.

He details how he had set himself up for a great fall. It's a powerful story and one with a great lesson. Christ put us into a Church for a reason. We are not meant to be long ranger Christians out saving the world by ourselves. We are sinners who are in need of forgiveness and grace, and systems of accountability, and a great deal of honesty and transparency in relationships. We need to learn all these things. Especially, when we are involved in areas of great wickedness and evil -even for the sake of Christ - we need to be part of a team of brothers and sisters in Christ. For we can and will be tempted - even by the sins we deplore. Walker also is right to be critical of the Church. The Church needs to be in the world - right in those places Walker was - and in other places like those. That is where we need to be. Walker has taken what he has learned and begun a ministry to the victims of sex trafficking that churches can become part of. It's called NVader. Check it out.