Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let's Thank the Guys Doing the Hard Stuff

A couple of weekends ago, a surprise meeting at the immigration office landed me in downtown San Jose with my husband for the evening. We stayed in a lovely old hotel and enjoyed a stroll through the downtown shopping area that afternoon. As evening set in, we strolled past an infamous "hotel/casino" in the heart of downtown that is widely known to be a front for a prostitution ring. You can find it listed in just about any tourist guide to Costa Rica and an image search of its name will give you an eyeful of what's really being marketed there. It is also widely known that most of the women (girls?) working the place are not Costa Rican. They are Columbian, Nicaraguan and who knows what else. Which of course led me to wonder how many of them got here by being trafficked here. And how many of them were under-aged and stolen and trapped.

For a quick moment, I wanted to tell my husband to march in there and have a look around, to scope it out and see if there were any girls who looked too young, who looked afraid, who looked like they had been hit or hurt, who looked like they were there against their will. I wanted to tell him to ask to see their boss. To ask if they were any girls for sale. To ask specifically for foreign girls and see what he said.
About a minute later, I realized, of course, that this was not an option.

We are not equipped for this, us two foreign missionaries. We proclaim the Gospel to an indigenous people. We build chapels in poor areas. We are working to provide meaningful work to women. We have committed ourselves to taking whatever action we can to fight modern slavery. I am humbled and feel a great privilege to be called to this work. God gave us the perfect job for who we are, what we know and  what we feel called to do.

We are not undercover investigators. We do not have the collective experience, the collaborative cooperation, the expensive equipment or the strong sense of purpose that sends us into the world's darkest corners to find, gain the trust of, record the stories of modern day slaves, then coordinate their rescue, the prosecution of their captors and the beginning of their journey to recovery.

But The Exodus Road does. They've got all that. And they're using to set captives free. 

And right now they're inviting those of us who care passionately about the fight to end slavery to offer our support and encouragement to the men on the front lines -- the men who strap themselves up with undercover surveillance equipment and spend their nights in brothels in Southeast Asia collecting the information they need to rescue the underage victims of sexual slavery. That's a hard job description to carry around day in and day out. I am certain there are days they'd rather not do it. I am certain there are nights it feels hopeless. And I am certain they often feel all alone in those dark places full of scum bags thinking not rescue but ruin.

Would you take a moment to write them and express your gratitude some time between now and January 10th. Hand-written notes would be greatly appreciated. They can be mailed to The Exodus Road |  PO Box 7591 |  Woodland Park, Colorado, 80863. 
If you are unable to get a hand-written note in the mail, you can submit a letter online here. 
Could it be any easier than that? For those of us who want with all our hearts to fight this atrocity but have been called to the front lines of a different kind of work, what better way could there be to offer our hope, our support, our encouragement to the guys doing the hard stuff for us. 
I'm taking away your excuse that you don't know what you to say too. Here's Laura's letter. She and her husband Matt founded this work. They lived it on the ground for two years. The lady knows what she's talking it. Let her teach you. And I am pasting mine below too. So there. No excuses. 
Make a little room in your inn this Christmas and shine a little warmth into a dark world. Because really, what better way is there to honor the light of heaven dawning on earth?
So go do it. Do what you can. Don't wait. Night will come quickly in Southeast Asia and these guys will hit the streets once again. Let them know they are not alone in the dark.


Dear Investigator,
I just wanted to take the time to tell you thank you for the work you do. I am a wife, mother and foreign missionary with a passion for the cause of ending human slavery and sexual exploitation. I want so badly to run right into all those places, wrap those little girls up in my arms and take them home. But that's not how it works, is it. You know that way better than I do.
The more I learn about what it takes to go nightly into the darkness of the world of human slavery, find and gain the trust of its victims, coordinate their rescue, prosecute their offenders, and put them on the road to recovery, the more I am humbled and grateful for your commitment, your sacrifice, your heroic passion.
I know there must be nights when you don't want to leave the comfort of your home and hang out with scum in dank corners of this broken world. I know there must be moments when you want to scrap the process and just punch someone square in the face, or grab a little girl up in your arms and just run. Yet you don't. You stay the course knowing what real rescue means. You do it night after night, fighting the discouragement and the hopelessness that hangs over these places for the ray of hope that is one person freed from captivity.
For this, I personally am so very grateful. I want to be part of the solution to human trafficking. I want to face the darkness of that reality and shine hope. I want to love enough not turn away from ugly situations. Often it seems that from where I am, there is little I can do. But I hope by letting you know that your work and your sacrifice are deeply appreciated by those of us who do not fight on the front lines, you will feel a little less like no one notices what you are doing,  a little less alone in the darkness, and a little more like you are a part of an army. Your back up might be far away, but we will not leave you alone. And we will not forget you. I will offer a prayer for your safety and the success of your work each night as the darkness creeps over my part of the world and hope it makes its way to you to be a small beacon of encouragement. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being the one who does the hard thing.
Colleen Mitchell


  1. Your blog is such a source of encouragement. I have been praying for your family and your work since I discovered it. Thank you for sharing about Exodus Road. I will get a letter in the mail to them tomorrow and will spread the word.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your heart in Jen Hatmaker's Facebook comment section. As someone who operates from a somewhat fearful, apprehensive space, I really needed to read your story. It gave me shivers, tears, and a bit of courage. You've got a new blog subsciber, lady!
    Blessings, joy, and contentment to you!
    Dara Shultz