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Storytelling Trip April 2016

April 1 – 8 of 2016 The Exodus Road  hosted several influential storytellers on an exposure trip to SE Asia. They witnessed firsthand the realities of human trafficking and how The Exodus Road is strategically fighting this injustice. They met undercover investigators, interviewed national police, toured red light districts, and saw actual case files of sex slavery. This was not your typical storytelling trip.

In addition to sharing on social media, below you will find video footage of their experience in an attempt to really bring YOU to the front lines with us. You can connect with the team members individually (handles below) or with The Exodus Road’s organization on Twitter (@theExodusRoad), Facebook (The Exodus Road), Instagram (The Exodus Road), or the hashtag #TheExodusRoad or #TERstorytellers.

You can also join in their fundraising efforts here: BRAVO Team Support

Why We Host Storytelling Trips

Meet the Team
Tina Francis
Tina comes to us from Vancouver. She is an Indian who grew up in Dubai, moved to Canada, and married a Zambian. She is one of the strategic leaders/writers at She Loves Magazine.
Sarah Mae
Sarah Mae lives in Pennsylvania where she home schools her children. She writes prolifically on her blog, sarahmae.com. She also has a number of books that have been published. Her most recent work is Having a Martha Home the Mary Way.
Vickie Reddy
Vickie and her husband Mark are the Executive Producers of The Justice Conference. Originally from Australia they now live in Chicago. She helped launch the #WeWelcomeRefugees movement.
Alece Ronzino
Alece lives in Nashville where she works with non-profits, and does copywriting and editing. She is the founder/curator of One Word 365. You can find her personal blog here: Grit & Glory.
Dawntoya Thomason
Dawntoya joins us from Phoenix. She and her husband speak together on justice issues. They have two small children who are homeschooled.
Ian Brander
Ian is a videographer located in Colorado Springs. He has done filming for The Exodus Road at recent events. His creations are alive with emotion and purpose.
Laura and Matt Parker

Laura and Matt Parker

TEAM LEADS

Co-founders, The Exodus Road

Video Stories from the Front Lines
Storytelling April 2016
Group Photo April 2016 Storytelling Trip
Stories of Liberation
justice and love grit and glory

Justice & Love

By: Alece Ronzino

My knowledge of The Exodus Road was merely surface-level before I traveled to Southeast Asia to see their work in action. And, to be blunt, I went into it with a lot of skepticism. I’ve sadly become pretty cynical and pessimistic when it comes to non-profits, having worked in that sector my entire life. So I went into the trip holding The Exodus Road under a microscope, practically looking for flaws and faults and reasons to poke holes in it. Awful, I know.

But then I landed in Thailand.

And with everything I saw, heard, and experienced, my trust in the organization and its leadership only grew and strengthened.

The transparency, integrity, excellence, and strategic thought with which they operate is unrivaled…

(more)

she loves magazine tina

TGIF: How I Made Peace with my Breasts in a Brothel

From SheLovesMagazine.com, a five part article with stunning photos of the red-light district in SE Asia

By: Tina Francis Mutungu

In the moment of transfiguration, the girl on the stage morphed into the 10-year-old version of myself. I saw a prepubescent south Indian girl growing up in Dubai. I saw the girl who curved her back to avoid her clingy shirt. I saw a teenager, frustrated with being objectified. I saw a young adult who felt defined by her thin resume and empty bank account. I saw a new mother vacillating between feelings of being too much and not enough.

I also saw something else in the transfiguration. I saw the divine spilling out of Fai. I felt it spill out of me too.

All this while, we had been whispering “Namaste.” We had been doing this without realizing it: through exchanged tokens and compliments. This ancient Sanskrit word, “Namaste,” means, “I bow to you.” The divine in me honours the divine in you. A crown of jasmine had forged an unspoken kinship between us.

(more on shelovesmagazine.com)

good christian men

Why Good Christian Men Go Into Brothels

By: Sarah Mae Hoover 

I have the highest esteem and respect for these men who keep on despite the narrative that men aren’t able to have self-control, that they are owned by lust.

They’ve been bruised by this work, by people who can’t understand why good Christian men would go into brothels.

Well I’ll tell you why good Christian men go into brothels…

(more)

the world is starving for love

The World is Starving for Love

By: Tina Francis Muntungu 

The world is starving for love.
GREAT love.
REAL love.
TRUE love.

I was a victim of sexual abuse as a child.

So when I traveled half way across the world to learn about human trafficking I mentally prepared myself to cry.

For the victims, I mean. I didn’t expect to cry for the “bad guys”…

For a brief blip, I had the rare gift of clarity about our shared humanity: victim + aggressor + witness.

I was crying… For the men who buy bodies. For the men who desecrate said bodies. For the pimps. For the traffickers. For the mamasans.

(more)

brothel homemaking

Housework and Going into Brothels: the Holy Work of Both

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

This is life, the holy and sacred and burdened life we wear.

Joy and heartache. Good and evil. Housework and brothels.

We intersect.

The key is to live well and open where you are, but to look and see and give and work in the holy dark.

To stay bright. To sit in the darkness with those who are in it; to push it back where we are able.

I will not look away anymore. I will continue in my work with The Exodus Road. I will pray and support and write. This is also good, holy work.

And I will teach my children to not look away, but to care and to help. Age-appropriate and in the seasons of time, but I want to nurture into them the holiness of justice.

(more)

the brother who shows up

The Brother Who Shows Up

By: Alece Ronzino

When Sudir became a teenager, he learned what had happened to Nandi—the sister he had absolutely no memories of, because he’d been so young when she left. At 16 years old, he moved to Mumbai, determined to find her.

He searched brothel after brothel after brothel. 

Until eventually he found her. 

(more)

last night in the red light district

PDA and My Trip to Southeast Asia

By: Dawntoya Thomason

Desecration is the act of depriving something of its sacred character and the destructive treatment of that which is to be held sacred or holy. It fits well to describe the vile act of children being used for sex.

Cornel West says, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” I didn’t understand what that meant for a long time. After a life long obsession with PDA, I still somehow missed the point. I understand now that justice is love’s PDA.

(more)

finding light in the darkness

Finding Light in the Darkness

By: Vickie Reddy

I went to Thailand to face my fear of the dark, but I discovered more about the power of the light.

Darkness can be equally difficult to explain to someone who’s caught in the midst of it, as it is to someone who simply can’t see it.

There are forces of control & exploitation that aren’t obvious. The poverty, the hopelessness, the desperation, and the greed all come together to provide the perfect breeding ground for human trafficking to exist. This is true all over the world, but it is especially true in SE Asia.

After receiving a day of training and preparation for the week, we spent our first night in Thailand in the brothels of the red light district where we saw.…a lot.  Broken people, humanity being exploited, de-valued, used, discarded, it was empty, and numb. It was devoid of any light or hope.

(more…)

until

Until

By: Alece Ronzino

I need to try to take these thoughts, feelings, memories, questions… and clothe them in syllables—dress these intangibles with threads of letters so that I can hold them in my hands and trace them with my fingers in the way a blind woman perceives what she cannot see through the darkness.

(more…)

tina on processing upon returning

Now What? What Now?

By: Tina Francis Mutungu

There is a sea of faces, stories and sinews. They swirl around in my head like a rusty carousel playing a haunting refrain.

Now what?
Now what?
What now?

Immersing yourself into the New World is hard. But so is returning to the Old World where everything is exactly as you left it.

(more…)

BRAVO rescued survivor with country director

Should We Embrace the Life We Have?

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

No, we will not tell these girls to wash their faces and embrace their lives. We will go forward to creating a better life for those who are in the teeth of the wicked. We will advocate for the prey, the vulnerable, the snatched.

Join me.

(more…)

Badassery (video)

Alece Ronzino traveled with us on our Storytelling Trip (April 2016). She is the founder of the One Word 365 community, where she encourages people In January of each year to choose one word as a resolution of sorts for the year. Her personal word for 2016 was “Badassery” and here she talks about how that word played out for her in Asia.

By: Ian Brander

(more)

Faith Goes to the Dark Places

By: Alece Ronzino

…We claimed the American Dream as our Christian right.

And somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the picture that’s actually painted for us in the Gospels. Within those pages, I don’t see a sterile faith, holed up to avoid contamination.

I see pursuit.

Search.
Rescue.
Scandalous grace…

The faith we’re beckoned to is not concerned about preserving its image or “avoiding the appearance of evil.” Instead, it walks down the back alleys; it steps into the slums; it pulls up a stool in the pubs; it sits in the brothels; it finds and frees the shackled…

But even the smallest flame can shatter the blackest night.

(more)

People, Not Products (video)

“I heard somebody say, they are coming here to buy products and not humans.” Sarah Mae Hoover shares why she cares about human trafficking.

By: Ian Brander

superheroes are real sarah mae protected

Superheroes are Real. I Met One. 

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

(Trigger Warning: sexual abuse, sexual content)

This past week I met a man who is no less than a superhero to me.

As a matter of fact, I’ve met a few superheroes this week, but I’d like to highlight one man in particular today. I’ll call him, “S”.

S is an Indian man who works with The Exodus Road and goes undercover into the brothels of India to gather evidence of minors being bought and sold for sex. And when I say minors, we’re talking as young as 7 years old.

Take a minute.

I have a 7 year old daughter and a 10 year old daughter…

(source)

vickie ready team shot

Going Where People Don’t Want to Go, and Doing What Others Don’t Want to Do

By: Vickie Reddy

I’ve just spent the past week with these 4 in SE Asia and I am walking away with much hope in the midst of overwhelming brokenness and despair. They are the lights in the darkness, they are the ones sacrificing their own agendas and fears to love and serve others.

It’s hard work and it’s not easy, comfortable or glamorous, but it is what is required to make a difference for the tens of thousands of people being trafficked in SE Asia alone each year… 

(source)

street burdens

Learning to Not Look Away (and the gift of the burden)

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

The ache of the world. The injustice.

So often I just keep scrolling past the hard news because I can’t carry the burden of it. I look away. Pretend it’s not there or say I’ll look later. It’s my privilege to do so.

But this past week I heard “S” (an Indian man who goes into brothels to rescue girls) pray, “Thank you God for the gift of this burden.”

This burden, this weight of all the injustice, a gift?

(source)

Alece Ronzino shares about a girl she met in a brothel in SE Asia. (video)

“Her name was Ang. In those 20 – 30 minutes I was a safe place for her.”

By: Ian Brander

yes we got her

“Yes! WE GOT HER!” Our storytelling team was with our India Director in Thailand when he got the call that his team back in India had successfully rescued a 15 year old virgin girl within 14 hours of her placement in a brothel by her parents. Seeing his face light up on the phone, hearing these four words come out of his mouth, it was a moment of true celebration.

(source)

group

A group shot on the steps of a famous Buddhist temple today. We had a packed Day Six which included: a session learning about trafficking in India, a trip to a temple to learn & appreciate culture, and a visit through a hill tribe village to conduct a video interview or two.

The highlight of the day, though? When we got to be with the Indian team leader when he received the text that a raid was successful and a 15 year old girl was RESCUED.

(source)

start the conversation

“WE HAVE TO START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT TRAFFICKING. AND THEN KEEP HAVING IT. The more we are willing to talk about the issue, and especially with those doing the work, the closer we are to affecting change.”  – Vickie Reddy

(source)

we are changing the whole culture

We heard about home-based brothels in rural communities in India during a presentation from our India Director this week. These families sell their daughters out of their homes, which is a cultural norm.

“The arrests and raids are sensitizing them,” our Director said. “We are changing the whole culture and teaching them it’s not okay to sell their girls.”

(source)

We closed our week learning about human trafficking on the front lines by releasing traditional lanterns into the night sky — a reminder that light & hope KEEPS RISING.

Image sources:

(1st(2nd) (3rd)

sarah mae tina and nikki in a mountain village

Sarah Mae, Tina, and Nikki in a mountain village.

“Human trafficking is not somebody else’s issue. It’s a HUMAN issue. And we should all care about it.”

-Sarah Mae

(source)

things i can never unsee

I’ve Seen Things I Can Never Unsee

By: Alece Ronzino

I’ve seen things I can never unsee, heard things I can’t unhear, and learned things I’ll never forget — evils and atrocities I couldn’t have made up in my wildest nightmares, but also stories of light pushing back the darkness in ways I never could have imagined.

For every horror that’s devastated me, my heart’s been equally wrecked by unwavering pursuits of justice, love that never quits, hope that persists against all odds, and bravery in the face of great risk.

I can’t reconcile the two sides of all this. I simply can’t. All I can do is sit in the tension.

And so.

I sit.

(source)

Thailand 1.16 014

On the importance of investing into NATIONALS:

“You can not fly into a foreign country and solve its problems. It will not work and they might hate you for it. NATIONALS are the biggest catalysts of change for their own communities.” Matt Parker, in a Storytelling Team orientation meeting.

We learned about human trafficking in India from our India Director, pictured here.

(source)

child with vickie

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

– Nelson Mandela 

(source)

when life has killed the dream

When Life has Killed the Dream You Dreamed

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

Meet O (that’s what we’ll call her). O is a “free lancer”, offering her body for service. She is on her own. No pimp or brothel, just the street and her willingness to do this work in order to pay off her husbands debts. Her husband, who is a “bad man, only thing he hasn’t done is kill someone.” Her husband who won’t grant her a divorce. Her husband and his parents who keep her 7 year old from her because of her work, even though she does the work because she owes six banks on account of him.

She tried working at “company” but couldn’t make what she needed. She’s 33.

“What was your dream when you were a little girl?” We ask… (more)

the world is starving for love

The World is Starving for Love

By: Tina Francis Mutungu

The world is starving for love.

GREAT love.
REAL love.
TRUE love.

(source)

king

Being Baptized into the Red Light District

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

We were going to get baptized into the red light district. We were going to go out and walk the famous “walking street” where thousands of people come from all over the world to see and touch and taste a vast menu of sexual options.

Whatever you want, you know.

More girls come over, one for each of us. They try to give us lap dances. They want to know if we like ladies. They giggle and I say, “Can we just sit? Let’s just talk.” We fumble through. I try to tell them they are beautiful. One girl is at University studying to be a lawyer. She says this land is the land of smiles, “happy happy all the time.” I look into her eyes. I don’t say anything. She says, “Well, not happy all the time.” No, of course not. … (more…)

Heading to the Red Light District (video)

We spent two nights in one of the most extreme red light districts in the world as a storytelling team. We went to learn and to listen. And the people we met, the things we saw, struck deep chords — about sex trafficking, about humanity.

By: Ian Brander

there is a time and a place to stare at the beach

There is a Time and a Place to Stare at the Beach 

By: Dawntoya Thomason

If I could post this photo of how we started our day next to a photo of how it ended, it would be quite the paradox. We had to grab a selfie to show the world that God makes beautiful things for us to use and enjoy. But last night we witnessed God’s creation, beautiful women and girls being used for people’s enjoyment in a way that God never intended.

There is a time and a place to stare at the beach and say, “Yes Lord! This is for me to see and realize your beauty and might!” But there is a time to stare at the darkness and say, “Yes Lord! This is for me to see and to realize that you have called people to join you in the work of flourishing those who are being held captive and hindered by the working out of darkness in their lives by themselves or others…  (more…)

sitting with her grit and glory

Sitting with Her

By: Alece Ronzino

I was in a brothel. In front of me, girls danced on the stage. They swayed back and forth on their high heels, and watched themselves in the mirror as they gripped the poles.

Their faces said it all. Flat affect. Emotionless. Vacant. Eyes far off.

… This is how it works, I learned. The patrons of these brothels request a girl by number, offering to buy her a drink. In exchange, she spends time with them.

My girl—#37—came and sat with me. Though she didn’t know much English, we Forrest Gumped our way through a conversation, asking questions back and forth, sharing little bits of our lives with each other. Her name is…  (more…)

i cant unsee the things i saw last night

I Can’t Un-see the Things I Saw Last Night

By: Tina Francis Mutungu

I can’t un-see the things I saw last night. I feel shock, grief, anger and all the ugly feelings in between.

And yet. And yet. And yet.

There is a low bass note of LOVE humming in my ear.

No answers. No easy solutions.

Just a peace offering of eye contact and a heartfelt smile.

I’m learning how to sit in the dark. (more…)

through ordinary people sarah mae

Through Ordinary People Rescue is Coming

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

Going into brothels is dark, good, holy work.

Lots of naked bodies, blank faces, and abuse.

But there is hope because these girls who are humans, not products, are seen and loved, and rescue is coming. 

(more…)

last night in the red light district

Last Night in the Red Light District

By: Vickie Reddy

Last night we spent the evening in the red light district. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of how to process all that we experienced … 

It’s overwhelming and suffocating. There is a desperation for something to numb the emptiness and pain because there isn’t a light to lead the way out, to give hope.
The darkness is really dark, and it’s really scary, and I want to run far from from it, to stay where I am safe and comfortable. 
(more…)

saying yes to facing the darkness

Saying Yes to Facing the Darkness

By: Vickie Reddy

I’ve generally been one to avoid pain, discomfort & darkness, often finding something else to distract me or keep me from having to face anything that made me remotely uncomfortable. If something was not fun, I honestly struggled to engage with it, or stick with it. The big problems of the world, and any kind of brokenness at all were too much for me to try to process so I found it easier to not sit in that place.

The past two years God has begun to show me how to sit in the uncomfortable, how to start facing the darkness (He’s been so gracious, only giving me what I can handle at a time and easing me into it)…

I’ve also learnt that my tendency to lean toward avoiding pain and searching for the joy and excitement in life is what is now enabling me to face the darkness and brokenness without being overwhelmed by it. I am learning to say yes…  (more…)

the lioness and the finger

The Lioness and the Finger

By: Laura Parker

Two full-sized lionesses were sitting together in a corner of one of the glassed-in observation rooms, when a single young woman walks undramatically into the room in flip flops. We thought maybe she had food, maybe she was going to do some training exercises, perhaps she was a vet and going to check them. …she walked into that cell and stared those two lions right in the face and held up her finger and pointed at them once. And then she casually leaned back on a nearby stump, and started playing her smartphone. She completely ignored the two beasts less than three feet away…

And that experience, these pictures, drip with meaning of a million lessons, a thousand analogies. Lessons about lies and truth, power and control, giving up the inherent power within us. The forces of exploitation can look a lot more subtle, though no less powerful, than a physical handcuff. It’s a web of lies and deceit, threats and money. It is the strong preying … (more…)

passport in hand

I Said Yes

By: Sarah Mae Hoover

At night I am awake with anxiety.

“What are you doing going to SE Asia when you are a mom of small-ish children? You are being foolish. Stay home. Stay safe.”

During the day I’m excited, thinking about adventure and possibility and hope and light in dark places.

I’ll be leaving next week (NEXT WEEK!), and I will share with you what I learn. I’m going to listen and observe and ask questions and tell stories about it all here on the blog. And I’m hoping that you will join me in being a part of the light that pushes back against the darkness. So come with me? (more…)

when i hurt deeply

When I Hurt Deeply

By: Tina Francis Mutungu

When I hurt deeply, I don’t want answers and solutions. I don’t want to be “saved.” I want to be heard. I want someone to sit with me in my pain and let me blow my nose into my t-shirt.

They SIT WITH ME IN THE DARK. And sometimes, just in this sacred act of sitting together, they help me find my way back to the light.

There are SO. MANY. IMPORTANT. STORIES. that *need* to be told and they need to be told well

WITHOUT…sensationalizing others’ pain; turning people into tropes, props, or stereotypes; or sacrificing human dignity. 
(more…)

namaste

I Love the Indian Greeting “Namaste”

By: Tina Francis Mutungu

This little Sanskrit word literally means “I bow to you”—or, in a more common translation, “The divine in me honours the divine in you.”

I’m often wary of going on short term “volunteer” trips because it’s so easy to lose the spirit of “Namaste” in the process. I worry about propagating a “savior” complex. Even the noblest intentions can assume an air of unearned authority. They can broadcast the damaging rhetoric of the (powerful) West needing to save the (powerless) East.

The truth is, while I live (more…)

badassery

Ways Unexpected

By: Alece Ronzino

When 2016 began, I had no clue that badassery would lead me to buy a second home, wear things I swore I’d never wear, say yes to uncomfortable situations and say no to things that aren’t life-giving, feel my own confidence growing, or share publicly about my chronic illnesses.

And I certainly didn’t imagine that badassery would take me to Southeast Asia. (more…)

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