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Let me start by saying that I can’t remember the last time I cried as much as I have today.

Around 1:30, I was sitting in class when my phone buzzed once in my pocket.

A notification.

A friend had posted an article on my Facebook wall.  He left it with the simple words “This man is from Glenview.”

This morning, Alex Campbell, of my sleepy, suburban hometown of Glenview, IL, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

His crime?

Sex and labor trafficking.

Sex trafficking, that’s basically the polite way of describing the systematic


gang rape,


& use of terror,


genital mutilation,


and murder

under which millions of women and children are oppressed across the globe every day.

These victims are daily forced, under threat of death, to let strangers tear apart their bodies and their souls.

Labor trafficking, that’s no better.

Our society tends to focus its abolition efforts on sexual exploitation but forgets about more conventional forms of trafficking.

But they’re both evil, and the two often go hand in hand.

They are both slavery of the worst sort.

And they’re across the globe.

But that’s just the thing.

they’re “…across the globe…”

Slavery’s not here…these people, these victims, they’re across the globe.

They’re in in Eastern Europe or Africa or wherever the hell Taken was filmed.

They’re not anywhere I would ever go.

They don’t shop where I shop.

They don’t eat where I eat.

They’re somewhere else.


They’re not being forced to have sex with up to 40 clients a day down the street from my local high school.

They’re not being raped with a baseball bat 5 minutes from where my sisters lay their heads to sleep at night.

Are they?


The picture I posted above, do you know what it is?

Take another look if you missed it.

I’m shaking typing this right now.

Tears are rolling down my face.

And I don’t care who knows it.

Because this is the stuff of nightmares.

This picture,  the prosecution used it as key evidence in trial.

It’s a tattoo of self-praise that Campbell forced this young woman to disfigure her back with.

It reads:

“to death, I live for he, thou he lives in me, anywhere I go, for he be & forever lives”

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that seeing this made me want to die.

Around 1:30, I began to cry so hard that I had to stumble out of class mid-lecture.  I could scarcely believe that I was reacting like this (I don’t cry in public!)

…but there I lay, absolutely crushed, shaking on the ground outside the auditorium, my hands growing numb and my eyes stinging.

I’m not one for hysterics usually, but my body had other plans.

I called my parents and stuttered, stupidly sobbing, over and over again the only words I could think of: “how could this have happened? HOW can this happen in Glenview?”

Later, my pathetic cries turned to God.

“What am I supposed to do about this?!”

You know, for the past few weeks, I’ve been praying for God to break my heart.

Daring him, almost.

Do it, God.

I want to feel the pain you feel.

bring it on, God. I can handle it.


Though I get only a part of the story, God sees all of it.  And He hurts for the oppressed more than I do.

God hurts for the story I heard a couple of weeks ago at Not For Sale’s Global Forum.

[REDACTED], currently a Federal Prosecutor for the Department of Justice, was talking about a case he had recently been working on, though he didn’t give all the specifics at the time.

He told me about a defendant, a man (maybe from Atlanta or D.C. or Detroit?  he didn’t say) who had taken his sex slaves out to dinner one night at a local restaurant (for his birthday).  After the meal, this man called the waiter over to take a picture, where he made these women get down on all fours like dogs and smile for the camera.

One woman refused to smile.

When, on his return home, this man saw this, he tied up this woman and beat her to the precipice of death for her transgression.

After a particularly devastating physical blow, she cried out in her native tongue.

This man demanded from the other women (he made them watch the assault) to know what she had said.

One translated.

“God, help me!”

The simple mention of her God’s name enraged this man.

He threw her to the floor and he got on top of her and he spit in her face and he screamed four words that will haunt my soul until the day I die:



And it was a powerful story, but that’s all it was.

Until today.

This man, I discovered today, is none other than Glenview’s very own Alex Campbell.

It wasn’t happening in Atlanta.

It wasn’t happening on the East Coast.

It was happening in my own soccer mom, white collar town of Glenview (and Mount Prospect), IL.

Where my father and mother live.

The two towns I’ve spent my entire life hopping back and forth from.


But allow me to throw a little Brightside into the mix here with what may sound like an absurdly asinine statement:

there’s hope.

Today was a victory, not a defeat.

God has not given up on this planet yet and neither will we.

The God this girl called out to, He’s alive.

And He has this absolutely crazy plan to make all things new.

So it’s not up to me to end trafficking.

It’s bigger than me.

It’s bigger than us.

Justice is God’s idea, and it’s been indelibly set in motion.

Today was proof of that.

Today then, if we can get past the absolute evil of it all, can serve to remind us that there is hope, that this Jesus is alive.

That He’s restoring

and redeeming

and renewing

and reclaiming this world

and reconciling it to Himself more and more every single day.

He’s healing this infected earth,

and these twisted souls,

and He’s mending broken hearts

and He’s chosen us to partner with Him to do it.

He’s letting me tag along for the ride.

This bears repeating.

God is offering you a chance to be a part of His great restoration project, the healing of this world.

It’s freaking insane.

I don’t understand it most of the time.

But He’s claimed it.

And it’s true.

Take Him up on it, and we’ll fix this place together.


Around 1:30, I was sitting in class when something deep inside me broke.

Something cracked.

In a selfish way, I think maybe I regret reading that article.

It broke me. I’m infected with this now.

It hurts so much.

And I’m afraid.

I’m so afraid that I’m going to be stuck like this for the rest of my life.

And part of me is worried that’s a good thing.

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish 
that He didn't trust me so much. 

-Mother Teresa

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!
- Amos 5: 21,23,24
13 Comments Post a comment
  1. We never think of horrible things like this going on so close to home. It’s always somewhere else, but never so close.

    Thank God this man has finally been brought to justice.

    November 29, 2012
    • I thank God for His hand in this. I thank Him for the brave women who gave testimony not once but twice (because of a mistrial after one of the victims RECOGNIZED Campbell’s defense attorney as a client of hers 0.o!), for the firm commitment of the prosecutors who put this man behind bars, and justice being done.

      It’s in motion.

      November 29, 2012
  2. Wow.

    This post really tore at my heart too. It’s too easy to think about how these things are “far away” and don’t have anything to do with me. They do.

    God calls us to stand up and cry out against this evil… pure evil.

    Thanks so much for this post. I sit here devastated, but in a way that I think strengthens me.

    November 29, 2012
    • I hope it does strengthen you. This world is a mess, and evil beyond words. But we know a One who is in the business of making all things new.

      He promises.

      Let this inflame you for spreading the Gospel, the Good News of God’s potent message to victims and traffickers and activists and bystanders and every human being across this earth: “these are my children. I hear their cries. this is not okay.”

      November 29, 2012
  3. Bryant Kuramitsu #

    very touching and heartfelt my son who will change the world. I love you. Thank you for sharing this

    November 29, 2012
  4. Ryan, I cannot tell you how much my heart breaks right along with yours. This case is super eye-opening and a sobering reality. Praise God that He answered your prayers for a broken heart – He seriously revealed His love for these victims to you.
    I’ll pray that God will continue to cultivate in you this heart of compassion and love and action! I am so encouraged by your attitude and trust in the Lord!!

    I’ve been really broken by this issue the past few months as well. It’s disgusting, its prevalence is frightening, and it is so overwhelming and seems almost impossible to overcome. But through it God has really been showing me how He is bigger, and greater, and more powerful than any evil in this world. Christ alone has the power to break every chain of oppression and hopelessness.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    I’m looking forward to fighting with you to reclaim this world for God’s glory 🙂

    December 1, 2012
    • thank you Mari. I resonate with 100% of what you are saying. We received your email as well and I’m looking forward to working with you in this. I’m glad God brought our lives together once again, and in a very meaningful way, after all this time apart 🙂

      December 2, 2012
  5. Jarvis #

    Although i can’t compare human emotions and feelings with God’s, this post provides an insight of how He feels about injustice and sin in this broken world.
    Increased appreciation, marvel, wonder and praise for a Saviour who paid the heavy price of sin and soon will bring proper justice ;).

    Once again, very raw response but well written. To God be the glory

    December 19, 2012
    • to God be the glory, brother. Thank you for stopping by and for the comment. Though we are weak, raw, emotional, seemingly abandoned, and broken, Christianity alone among the world religions can claim that our God too experienced such pain. Praise be to Him who will make all things new!

      February 20, 2013
  6. Jan Carter-Black #

    Your commitment leaves me speechless and in awe! So much conviction from someone so young! Much has been given to you therefore much is expected. But not to worry. You have all you need to “carry the fire”.

    February 18, 2013
    • thank you for the comment, Professor! I appreciate you reading the post.

      It’s funny, I didn’t ever want to care about this, but I don’t know how I could ever go back now. I can think of nothing better to do with the some precious years I have left on this earth than end slavery.

      February 20, 2013

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