March 10, 2014
In the last few years, human trafficking has been a buzz-word of sorts within the Christian music industry. Nearly every artist seems to have ties to an organization committed to fighting this human travesty.
Unfortunately, the entire issue runs the risk of compassion fatigue. In other words, as people are increasingly inundated with the term, it’s likely that concern will soon become vague cognizance and the potential for action deteriorates.
But what if human trafficking became more than words?
What if advocacy became more than a suggestion?
That’s exactly what the band, Vota, is hoping for. When their latest album, Love Found Me, was nearing completion, the band encountered Tiny Hands international, a Christian organization committed to fighting poverty and injustice in the world.
When the band learned more about their work and, in particular, the realities of human trafficking, their hearts were torn and then decided they had to do something.
“Traffickers are targeting the poorest families in Nepal,” says Bryan Olesen, the band’s front man. “They are convincing the parents to send their children to 'get work.’ Then they'll take these young girls across the border and sell them to brothels in India.”
Worldwide, nearly two million children are forced into sexual exploitation at the hand of traffickers. Nepal is one of the most concentrated areas of illegal trafficking in the world. Tiny Hands International has built several border patrol stations to monitor the transport of slaves.
“Tiny Hands has set up border monitoring stations, which are essentially wooden shacks,” says Bryan. “They are allowed to interrogate everyone coming through and the average station rescues about 200-300 girls a year. We knew if we were going to help, it would need to be in a tangible way, so we decided to help build, support and staff five border stations for five years.”
The campaign was simple enough. Vota released their album, Love Found Me, and offered it for free. The caveat: before anyone downloaded the free album, they had to watch a short video (featured below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaGUqR83Ufc) that explained the horrendous situation in Nepal. Those who then decided to donate to the cause received not only the free album, but a second album available exclusively to donors.
“Ten months in, we hit our goal,” says Bryan. “It was just such a worshipful moment to see how God provided and blessed these ideas. We will rescue about 3000 girls a year through these five stations. That 15,000 in five years. The problem is bigger than we can solve, but we are making a dent in it. Most of these girls who cross the border are never seen again.”
For the “little band from Lincoln, Nebraska,” as Bryan self-effacingly describes the band, that dent will be the world to so many girls and families. In the fall, the band plans to visit the stations in Nepal, documenting the experience and capturing the goodness of God first-hand.
“We’re going to take video of everything to be able to show people, ‘We did this. You are part of it.’ We can offer people something rarely seen. We’ll show them the stations. Maybe some of our fans will think, ‘If they can do it, maybe I can do something.’”
Through their music, faith and obedience, Vota has done something very few advocates ever see actualized—they have taken real steps, seen real things come to pass that save the lives of real people.
In a world with media hype and sound-bites dictating the common cultural cause of the moment, the real easily gets lost. Statistics become numbers and no longer represent real people. Compassion becomes obligatory and borders on legalism. For all those reasons and more, people like those who comprise Vota, are oxygen to those lulled to sleep by slogans that come up empty.
Human trafficking is one of the most trendy causes at the moment…but as the second largest human crime in the world, second only to drug activity, it can’t be sidelined or softened.
It is ugly, cruel and heartless.
Vota reminds all of us to bring our heart back into play…and gives us a step-by-step guide to reach out and do something.
Jesus instructed us to go into all the world. Vota is giving us a play-by-play to do just that.
For more about the ongoing campaign, visit lovefoundme.org.
Caroline Lusk is editor of CCM Magazine.