Sunday, November 17, 2019

A New Kind of Scary - Part 3

A new awareness of the scourge of human trafficking has motivated some in the business community. I recently read about efforts to train flight attendants to look for signs that a person is being trafficked and under the control of a pimp that is flying them to a destination in or out of the U.S.  Several young people were rescued because of the diligence of airline personnel.

Stuart Davis meets Pope Francis
My oldest son, Stuart Davis, is an executive with Canada’s Scotiabank.  His responsibilities include monitoring fraud and money laundering of criminal organizations. Anti-human trafficking is part of his responsibilities. He recently spoke at the United Nations on the subject and just returned from a trip to the Vatican where he met with Pope Francis and the leaders of other world religions. It is recognized that international efforts on many fronts will be necessary to tackle this modern form of slavery. Here is Stuart’s description of what he does.

“Many folks tend to think of banks as just focused on profits but what they fail to realize is that many banks are also focused on doing good in the communities that they serve.  One of the ways that they do this is stopping financial crime.  Helping banks stop financial crime (also known as anti-money laundering) has been my career largely since the events of 9-11. But since 2016, my career in banking has taken an unexpected but very meaningful direction, a focus on anti-human trafficking.  A survivor of human trafficking spoke at a conference my team attended and asked who is willing to stand with me and help?  We did, launching Project Protect among the Canadian banks to disrupt the illicit flows from this heinous crime. 

Human trafficking and the profits generated is believed to be the 3rd largest crime in the world.  Studies have suggested that there are over 40 million people trafficked per year and it is often happening right here in our communities.  However, it is often a hidden crime that includes labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and the sexual exploitation of children.

Through the collective efforts of many involved, some impact is being made but much more can be done.  Our early efforts and successes in Canada have drawn international attention.  We have been aligning with those with common goals and purposes globally.  As a result, I have had the honor and privilege to be invited to speak recently at the United Nations on our bank’s initiative to help survivors of human trafficking.  And very soon I will be discussing efforts to protect child dignity and fight child exploitation at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted by His Holiness Pope Francis.

I would have never thought that my career in banking would have a higher purpose and tap deeply into something we can all be passionate about.  Making this world a better place and helping those being victimized recover their lives.  If you are not already involved in helping, please consider how you might do so this Thanksgiving season.”

It will take all our efforts, no matter how big or small, to rescue people caught up in modern slavery.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A New Kind of Scary - Part 2

As a senior adult, I live in a bubble. Our community consists of adults age 55 and older. We belong to a church where we mainly associate with others in our peer group.  I stay on top of the news, but often remain unaware and uninformed about the serious cultural issues affecting my part of the world.  In my last blog post I wrote about how my eyes have been open to the scourge of modern slavery—human trafficking.

Since my initial blog on the subject, I have researched ways people are addressing this problem.  I’ve interviewed two people that work in different ways to make a difference. 
Leah Kurtz works as a volunteer with the Out of Darkness Ministry in metro Atlanta  She shared the following with me in an interview. The three-fold purpose of this important organization is to 1) Reach, 2) Rescue, and 3) Restore. This Christian organization works with people who have been victims of commercial and sexual human trafficking.

The local group of volunteers spends Saturday nights in the known hot spots and red-light districts of downtown Atlanta and surrounding counties. They pass out roses and cards to individuals and work to build relationships with those who work the streets.  The cards provide a hotline number for those who want to call for help.  Some volunteers go into strip clubs in order to be a positive presence in a negative environment.

It can be very difficult for those who are trafficked to try to escape their situation. They have been threatened and brainwashed by their pimps and have few resources. The presence of the Out of Darkness volunteers provides an opportunity for them to ask for help. The 24/7 hotline helps them to contact someone who can listen.  If they are prepared to come out and go to a safe house, the group will conduct a rescue. As you can imagine, this is a dangerous process.

The safe houses are kept secret to protect the residents who stay from two to six weeks. The volunteers help the residents to obtain ID cards, Social Security numbers, birth certificates, and other documentation to reenter society.  Often detox from drugs and alcohol is required. All who complete the short-term stay are admitted to  long-term programs which last up to a year.  Bible studies, trauma care, PTSD counseling, and classes in life skills are offered.  Every person is different and requires help in different ways.

Leah further explained that the average age of a child that enters the human trafficking world in Georgia is 11-14. Over 2,000 men per month pay for sex and profit the pimps up to $32,000 per week.  It is a more lucrative  business than the illegal drug trade. 

Even if you don’t feel led to volunteer with this group, you can pray, and provide financial and material support.  Any help will be greatly appreciated.

My next blog post will tell about how the business community is involved in raising awareness of human trafficking. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A New Kind of Scary

Scary movies, decorations, and parties dominate during the month of October in preparation for Halloween.  Skeletons, witches, and monsters grab your attention at Home Depot and Walmart. With no small children in our life, we don’t involve ourselves much in the make-believe celebration.
Real life scary stories are harder to overlook. In my insular world, people don’t talk much about slavery.  After all slavery is dead in this country, or so I thought.  My eyes have been opened recently to an ongoing form of slavery called human trafficking.  It is frightening to think that over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today.  They range in age from nine to nineteen with the average age being 11. 

Some of the forms of slavery involve the sex trade, labor exploitation, organ harvesting, and black-market babies.  And the law enforcement and legal communities are struggling to stay ahead of the exploding criminal organizations that profit from exploiting others.

A human trafficker can earn on average over $250,000 a year pimping out a young girl for sex.  Many victims are brought into the U.S. from Eastern Europe and southeast Asia and sold to work in sweatshops, as domestic servants, and in agricultural work. It’s not a topic discussed much on the nightly news or in the halls of Congress.   However, the U.S. State Department calls forced enslavement the greatest human rights issue of our time.

Any child or teen runaway—both male and female—is in danger of being snatched and forced into slavery.  The internet plays a significant role in grooming vulnerable minors to meet up with older men and women who sell them to traffickers for a healthy profit. 

Florida, California, and New York are the states where most human trafficking occurs. Metro Atlanta, where I live, sits on important Interstate routes that provide quick access to the interior of the country.  The income generated by forced slavery in the U.S. is expected to exceed that of the drug trade in as little as five years. 

I suspect you are equally disgusted and saddened by what I have written.  These are just some of the statistics that you can find on the internet.  Those who manage to escape are psycho
logically traumatized for the remainder of their lives.  Many live with lifelong disease and disfigurement from their capture.  The problem seems so overwhelming that I wonder if there is anything being done to combat it. 

A lady recently spoke at our church about what is happening at the local level to rescue teenage girls.  The group is called “Out of Darkness.” Also, I have become aware of the efforts of the financial industry to track down the criminals that engage in laundering money from their illegal enterprises.  My son, Stuart, is involved through his banking job in Toronto. I will interview both for my next blog post in order to raise awareness of how we might get involved.

As Christians with a moral compass, we need to pray for our lost children and young adults that they will be freed from their slavery.  Pray also for our law enforcement organizations tasked with finding the criminals who perpetrate these heinous crimes.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Long Hot Summer

Courtesy of Pixabay

Fall is one week away, but today the temperature records in Atlanta were shattered.  Instead of the mid 80’s, we have had 97-99 temperatures for the past week.  The last time it was this hot in Atlanta was in 1900.  We finally got some rain, but everything is suffering. My low energy level is a product of this extreme heat. If I don’t get my errands done in the morning, they don’t happen.  Regardless of what some people think, there is not a whole lot I can do to change the weather patterns. What caused the heat back in 1900 in Atlanta and what is causing the heat today are probably not the same weather process. 

It is said that the invention of the air conditioner allowed the South to rise again after the decimation of the Civil War.  The first air conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier, not to keep humans cool but to keep factory equipment from overheating. My first experience with an air conditioner was in 1958 when I visited my sister in Atlanta for the first time.  The heavy-duty window unit helped to keep my upstairs bedroom cool in the hot Georgia summer.

I am ready for the cooler weather of fall.  The stores are filled with darker colored clothes, sweaters, and boots. I am ready for a wardrobe update, but it will have to wait a while longer. My plans to make my winter staples of soups and stews have been put on hold too. Today I saw a display of forlorn looking gourds and pumpkins in front of the grocery store.  They looked out of place and slightly shrunken from the intense heat. 

Many trees are trying to turn to fall colors, but I’m afraid they will go from green to shriveled brown.  What a disappointment that will be.  I checked the weather in the town where I was born in upstate New York.  The daytime temperatures average in the upper sixties and nighttime in the upper 40’s.  They will have beautiful trees by the end of this month.  I do miss that annual colorful display.

Wouldn’t it be nice to save some of this heat and release it next January?  Then I will be complaining about something else.  A Bible verse comes to mind: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24   No matter what each day brings, we all have so much to be thankful for.  I was challenged recently to write down three things I am grateful for each day and to thank God for each one and to share that list with others.

Book cover courtesy of Pixabay
The first item on my list is to thank God for you, my blog readers.  Some of you have followed me for the past seven years since I started writing. You are the reason I write.  Your support keeps me sitting at my computer asking God to help me put words on paper. When you comment and share my blog post, it means so much.  God bless.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Turn in the Road

In recent weeks, I’ve learned that I am not too old to go in a new direction.  Senior adults—me included—are notorious for not wanting to change their living conditions, schedules, habits, or affiliations with friends and groups.  We enjoy the routine and similarity of each day and don’t want to be jarred out of our comfort zones.

After 23 years of love and loyalty to our church, Charles and I are being led to find a new one. It started in January of this year when we realized the distance and traffic on our route to church had become more of an issue than ever before.  The still, small voice of God spoke to my heart and said we needed to find a church closer to home.  I didn’t tell Charles about my feelings at the time, because I knew we didn’t want to leave our close-knit group of friends with whom we study the Bible, worship, and share life.

Charles is still a top-notch day and night driver in all weather conditions. He can navigate the interstates with the best of them and I can ride with him anywhere.  Not so for me.  My night driving skills have changed, and I avoid heavy traffic on the interstates at all costs.  When it’s raining, my driving skills really deteriorate.  We had already changed doctors and dentists and other providers in order to stay within a less than five-mile radius of home.

Recent developments in our church and issues that no one saw coming six months ago have confirmed that my earlier thoughts and urgings were preparing me for the inevitable. Theological differences with our pastor and staff helped us realize, it is time to move on.  We are not too old to go in a different direction after all.

Our friends will still be friends.  It will just take more effort to see them and communicate with them. We have no idea at this point where we will find the right church for us.  But God knows where he wants us to worship and serve.  He will lead us in the future just as he has in the past.

The Bible verse from Jeremiah 29:11 will be my anchor for the next several months.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Rocket Scientist

Where were you on July 16, 1969? Most people were gathered around their small televisions to watch grainy live footage of Neil Armstrong take his “first small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind.”  We sat our 18-month-old son on a kids-sized chair in front of the TV so he could see history in the making.

The USA celebrated the three men launched by the Saturn rocket who made their way to lunar orbit and the two men who walked on the moon’s surface.  Little did I know that twenty-seven years later that I would marry a rocket scientist who worked on the Apollo program to make the moon walk possible.

For two and a half years—from 1964-1967--Charles worked with Lockheed Missiles & Space in Huntsville, Alabama on two engineering challenges of the Saturn V rocket. They were both unsteady aerodynamic problems that could cause grave structural damage to the launch vehicle.  He explained these problems to me several times before I could understand them enough to share them with you.

The Saturn V was so light and limber, the engineers described it as a “wet noodle.” Like a flagpole in the wind, oscillating vortex flows from strong ground winds could cause the whole vehicle to shake from side to side and fall off the launch pad. Charles’ experience in aerodynamics prepared him to learn about these unsteady oscillating air flows.

The second challenge concerned the small rocket or launch escape system on top of the Apollo command module. The concern was it would vibrate excessively and cause the Saturn V rocket to wobble and come apart during takeoff. His group had to measure the oscillating frequency of the launch escape system to see how much it would shake the whole vehicle.

The research conducted by the Lockheed engineers contributed to NASA’s understanding of what to expect during the lunar mission. It was fortunate none of these problems occurred and the launch and return to earth was successful. According to Charles, it was challenging work where he learned mathematical principles that apply to his vortex control work today.

Scientific research by unsung heroes who did the grunt work necessary for a successful effort made the moon landing possible. Much of life is like that.  It’s the behind-the-scenes folks who care for the sick, teach the children, and keep the office running (to name a few) who make it possible for others to succeed.

During this third week of July as you gaze into the sky and enjoy the Full Moon, or as others call it the Hay Moon, the Buck Moon, or the Wort Moon, remember this quote by President Ronald Reagan.

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do,
if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Words Matter

“One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.”  (Suspended Coffee-blog post quote)

That one day arrives much sooner than we think.  The necessary gobbles up so much time, not much is left for contemplation and creativity.  The impetus to finish Charles’ memoir, Chasing a Whirlwind, became more real this past week when I read about the sudden death of Jennifer Kennedy Dean.  She was a writer extraordinaire on the Christian’s prayer life and spiritual growth. She wrote dozens of books on those vital topics.    She had not been sick, and I am sure she didn’t wake up that morning expecting it to be her last.

I wake up every morning determined to get back to editing Charles’ book, and before I know it the day has gone.  I sure can’t blame Charles. He has given me page after page of material to edit and massage into a story format. So now it is up to me—no pressure, right?

The same has been true with my blog writing in June. I’ve neglected it far too long. First, we spent a very busy week working in our church’s Vacation Bible School. Both Charles and I were at the church by 8 am each day setting up for the boys’ and girls’ arrival.  He manned the parking lot making sure everyone was safe. At the registration table, my workers and I passed out name tags and helped the kids find their rooms. We were done in by the end of the week, but so glad to have been a part of the VBS team.

We spent the next week working with a realtor to help my son find a new place to live. Apartment rents in this area are sky high, so he needed to find a better fit for his budget. We looked at over a dozen places and  agreed  on a townhouse closer to his children.

Finally, we were able to take a week’s vacation in the mountains.  We traveled to Highlands, North Carolina and soaked in the mid-70’s temperatures and the beauty of the hills and valleys around every bend and curve.  Charles hiked, I shopped, and we both enjoyed being away from home and all our responsibilities.

Now it is time to put aside all the going and doing and get back to the business of writing.  A change of pace is good, but there is also a lot to be said about routine and quiet times.

Tomorrow I will take Mark Twain’s admonition to heart and kick my book writing into motion.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”