Battling Child Exploitation

This issue of the magazine focuses on one of the most painful and tragic aspects of poverty: child exploitation through the sex trade, sex abuse, slavery, gangs and drugs. At Compassion we grapple with these ugly issues every day, but we don’t often feature them in our magazine or other materials.

Battling Child Exploitation

From the Heart of the President, Wess Stafford

President Wess Stafford shares his passion for releasing enslaved children.

Prevention is where Compassion puts the bulk of its energy, commitment and resources on your behalf.

This issue of the magazine focuses on one of the most painful and tragic aspects of poverty: child exploitation through the sex trade, sex abuse, slavery, gangs and drugs. At Compassion we grapple with these ugly issues every day, but we don’t often feature them in our magazine or other materials.

Many organizations exploit the exploitation in their fundraising, falsely assuming that givers can be motivated by pity or guilt; the “pornography of poverty” is the result. We disagree with that perspective and feel that both the poor as well as compassionate donors deserve to be treated with more dignity and respect. Our message tends to focus more on hope, vision, passion, dreams and possibilities — the other side of the coin.

Our staff around the world constantly fight for children and heroically confront evil face to face.

The rescue of children enslaved in the sex trade is dramatic, grips our hearts, and desperately needs to be done. But for a girl to be enslaved in a Bangkok brothel, an awful lot of things had to have been wrong upstream in her young life, and we at Compassion believe there is an equally compelling, powerfully strategic approach called prevention. It may have less “marketing” sizzle, but it is our goal to make sure children and families don’t fall into that trap in the first place. As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Prevention is where Compassion puts the bulk of its energy, commitment and resources on your behalf.

As you’ll read in this issue, the statistics are staggering. There are 27 million people living as slaves in our world today. That is far more than were enslaved when William Wilberforce fought for the abolition of slavery in the early 1800s. Today’s slavery is less visible and obvious, and the majority of modern-day slaves are children. They’re not selected for their strong backs and bulging muscles, but for their vulnerability, their innocent little bodies, and how easily they can be controlled and exploited.

Jesus was never more angry and forceful than when people were mistreating children. He didn’t softly coo the words, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” He roared those words in great indignation (see Mark 10:14). He saved the most graphic, passionate expressions of His heart for when He sternly warned in Matthew 18:6, “If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Essentially, He told them — and us through the centuries since — Don’t harm My children! “Do not despise one of these little ones” (Matthew 18:10). “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).

God couldn’t have made it clearer that the abuse of children you will read about in this magazine breaks His heart, inflames His passion, and will reap His most powerful condemnation and punishment. And Compassion’s ministry — your ministry — is right at the epicenter of His kingdom’s priorities. What we do is profoundly Christian and incredibly important — in this world and the next! Sadly, the poison of this evil is not just “out there”; it’s also here, in our own country, our own cities, churches and homes.

In the United States, one in every three little girls is sexually abused before her 18th birthday, and one in every six little boys. And it’s usually not some deviant villain hanging out in the street-corner shadows, but rather a person the child knows and trusts — even a church leader. If you’ve ever read my story of being abused in Too Small to Ignore, you understand that I speak from personal experience.

I am convinced that nothing delights Satan more than when the spirit of a child is destroyed by abuse early in his or her innocence. I am also convinced that nothing delights the heart of God more than when a child is rescued, blessed and discipled to be “released from poverty” and given the chance to reach his or her full God-given potential. That is what each of you is doing with your sponsored children. We at Compassion are honored to serve you by blessing your children — your sponsored children as well as those you tuck into bed at night.

As you read about this evil being perpetrated against children, you may be sure there is a battle being waged between the angels of heaven and the hosts of hell over each little child. Satan is bent on their destruction. And all heaven stands and rejoices every time a child enters in. My joy and confidence in the heat of this ugly battle is the assurance that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faithfulness to your sponsored children in these economically difficult times. Sometimes it is only your sponsorship that protects a child from a life of certain horror. Your involvement in your sponsored children’s lives is loving, strategic and eternally important. May God bless you as you have blessed His little ones.