Sex trafficking in today’s world is a hot topic that deserves attention. Estimates have come out that each year roughly 800,000 women and children are enslaved, enslaved strictly for the use of prostitution, stripping or pornography. They are abused, tortured, drug-induced and in some cases stolen away as little girls from their families under the false pretense that they are going to work at a legitimate job. The numbers of those in sex slavery are saddening, angering and noteworthy. When discussing this issue with college students, many wonder out loud: “What can we do? Can anything actually change?” The numbers are so huge and the issue so big, many simply give up hope and do nothing. Yet, those very questions, instead of killing the desire to do anything drove one young couple from Allegheny Center Alliance Church to do something incredible.
Josh and Jackie Blanchard asked themselves the question: “What can we do?” and sought the Lord in the process to assist in answering that question. They both come from backgrounds of music; Josh being a talented producer and rapper and Jackie a gifted singer. As they took stock of their passions, a dream was birthed. They dreamt of using music to tell a compelling story to highlight the true, ugly nature of sex trafficking. The God-birthed dream ended up in 2010 in the form of The Voice.
The Voice is a musical that tells the story of a young trafficking victim from Romania named “Roxanne”. The storyline is based on a compilation of several true stories regarding the devastating issue of trafficking. Too often, young girls and women from economically depressed nations are preyed upon by traffickers and lured to other nations with the hopes of making a better life. The musical has three movements: The Descent, The Despair and The Dream. The Descent details Roxanne’s journey into prostitution as a result of her father’s drug addiction. Like many other Romanian girls, once into the hands of traffickers, Roxanne gets sent to Amsterdam and then to Spain to different brothels. The Despair echoes the emotional despondency that so many trafficking victims experience: fear, anger, hopelessness and finally drug-induced numbness. In The Dream, Roxanne finds out that she is pregnant which brings about a whole new set of emotions like confusion and hope. Throughout the musical, the refrain “Can you hear my voice I’m calling? Will you take my hand and lead me home?” is repeated from the perspective of Roxanne. In a dream, she hears a voice that seems to be calling to her. That voice is God, who ultimately calls each and every one of us out of our lives of bondage to sin and into a life of freedom in Christ. The purpose of this musical was to raise awareness and to spur the church toward action in caring for these oppressed women and children.
This performance raised over $25,000 for a Christian and Missionary Alliance safe house in Spain that dedicates itself to saving those trapped in sex slavery. The Voice also began to expose the true and ugly nature of sex trafficking at a time when it wasn’t the hot social topic being highlighted. The sad reality is this: many people do not know how bad nor how pervasive the issue of sex trafficking actually is. Little girls are losing their innocence and being forced to please others with favors girls shouldn’t even know about much less do. We, as the church are called to care for the poor, the broken-hearted and the exploited, yet on this issue, The Church (Universal) is doing too little. There is more to be done to expose and abolish sex trafficking and this amazing couple is beginning a grass-roots effort, using their gifts and talents to serve the Kingdom in this way.
When I first saw The Voice, I was ignorant to much of what was actually going on with this major issue. The Voice inspired me to dig deeper and see what I could do. Josh and Jackie aren’t done yet either. They’ve now begun a new musical called Shadowed Faces to bring even more exposure and raise even more money to help abolish this evil trade.
Unlike The Voice, which follows the story of the trafficking victim, Shadowed Faces follows a young American businessman who travels to different countries for work, and becomes enticed to purchase sex. At each location the audience is exposed to the culture of each country, the humanity of the slaves in each country, and the battle between sin, darkness, and the freedom of grace found in Christ. Since 2010, Josh and Jackie have continued to learn about the bondage experienced by those trapped in sexual slavery for both the victims of trafficking as well as those who purchase sex. A study done in 2011 by Abt Associates Inc. found that as many as 15-20% of American men purchased sex at least once that previous year.
How has the purchase of sex become the fastest growing black-market industry in the world? The answer is simple: sin. Both the men who are trapped in sexual addiction and the exploited victims are in need of a deep, inner healing, which only God can bring about. No one wakes up one day and says that he or she wants to become a trafficker, or a man who purchases sex, or a woman who sells herself to make a living. Scripture tells us however, that the ruler of this world is of the kingdom of darkness and, since the fall of man, no one can escape sin, except through the saving power of Jesus Christ. Ultimately the domain of sex trafficking is the domain of Satan himself. We know that our only hope of salvation is Jesus Christ, but there are so many trapped in bondage, to sin and modern day slavery, that we must answer the Matthew 28:19 Great Commission to “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That is the emphasis behind Shadowed Faces. Josh and Jackie have heard the voices of their Father, reminding them of the countless millions of people trapped in the world of sin; “Can you hear their voices, calling? Will we take their hands” and lead them to Christ Jesus? Will you?
The purpose of Shadowed Faces is twofold: to spur the church on toward love and action in bringing Christ to those trapped in modern day slavery and also to raise support so that the Blanchards can serve full-time as Marketplace Ministries workers to prevent human trafficking. These days, the Blanchards are praying about where in the world God will send them. In the meantime, they are working to schedule tour dates to bring Shadowed Faces to interested churches and organizations. [If you are interested in finding out more about hosting a Shadowed Faces performance, you can contact the Blanchard’s at firstname.lastname@example.org] or check out their website- www.jaxandthebeatfox.com or their Facebook- www.facebook.com/jaxandthebeatfox
Josh and Jackie have been serving alongside me in ministry and are currently helping to build an international presence with global students at Aletheia Community Alliance Church (Allegheny Center Alliance Church’s Campus Site), which I have the privilege of leading. Their story is one worth highlighting because they are the real deal! God is calling them to some deep, rich, dark and risky stuff. I hope and pray that as you’ve read their story you are moved by this dark reality as well.