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FBI recovers exploited children: 2 lessons for us

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Operation Cross Country was the largest such sweep to date against child prostitution. Here Sacremento police and FBI agents recover a juvenile from the sex trade (Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

The FBI recovered 105 sexually exploited children this week and arrested 150 pimps and others.  “Operation Cross Country” was a three-day nationwide enforcement sweep in 76 cities.  The FBI worked with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  The effort was part of the Bureau’s “Innocence Lost National Initiative,” and is the largest such enforcement action to date.

Since its creation in 2003, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has identified and recovered more than 2,700 children who have been sexually exploited.  Most of the victims recovered in this week’s effort were 13 to 17 years old; the youngest was nine.

More than a million children are exploited by the global commercial sex trade each year.  More than 160 countries are affected by human trafficking, an industry which generates $32 billion in profits annually.  As a father of two, I cannot imagine the pain of parents whose children are exploited, or the horrors these children experience.  But God can.

Jesus’ incarnation and atonement prove that as we hurt, he hurts.  He faced our temptations (Hebrews 4:15), felt our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), died on our cross and rose from our grave.  God hears the cry of every orphan (Exodus 22:23) and is “the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14).  Jesus loves children (Matthew 19:13-14) and calls us to “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

What does all this mean for us?

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Second, it may be that you are in a hard place yourself.  Like the exploited children and their families, you feel abandoned by God.  But you’re not.  A day before the FBI’s sweep began, the children they recovered had no idea their rescue was at hand.  We cannot understand all the ways God is working behind the scenes, but our inability to see his hand makes it no less real.

When Joshua led Israel to cross the flooded Jordan river, the priests were told to stand in the water, with the promise that “as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap” (Joshua 3:13).  So they stepped out by faith, and “the water from upstream stopped flowing.  It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan” (v. 16).

Here’s the catch: Adam was 20 miles upstream.  It took two hours for the water that stopped flowing at that spot to make its way down to the priests.  In other words, they had to stand in the flooded river for two hours with no visual confirmation that God was keeping his promise.  But their faith soon became fact.

Stand strong—you may be two hours from victory today.