Today's post has less to do with the writing craft and more with an issue that has been weighing heavy on my heart for some time now. That is the issue of human trafficking and child exploitation. Not only do I want this post to be a call to action as I reflect on the new film "Sound of Freedom", but I also want it to be an encouragement for you in your writing.
ABOUT "SOUND OF FREEDOM"
Sound of Freedom is a film based on the incredible true story of former government agent, Tim Ballard (played by Jim Caviezel) who sets out to rescue children from sex traffickers in Columbia. It has reached more than $100 million in box office sales and is said to be one of the most important films this year.
When I went to see this movie in theaters, I did not anticipate just how much it would impact me. I have been aware of the epidemic of human trafficking and child exploitation for a while, but I didn't want to think about it. It was too dark, too ugly, too sickening.
But I refuse to stand on the sidelines anymore.
It all began last NaNoWriMo when one of my favorite YouTubers, Abbie Emmons, started a fundraiser for an organization called Operation Underground Railroad, which exists to rescue children from sex trafficking and exploitation and provide aftercare for them. Each week during November, she hosted "Write With Me Livestreams" where writers could come together to write and donate to O.U.R. if they felt led to. I was so inspired by participating that I began educating myself and following Operation Underground Railroad and its founder, Tim Ballard.
I heard about Sound of Freedom in several of their newsletters, so I took my family to go see it. All the showings for that night were completely sold out, so we went early the next night to get a seat.
This movie blew me away. I honestly struggled to write this post because I feel I lack the right words to describe the effect this film had on me... and everyone in the theater. It completely shattered my heart, and every time I think about it, my heart is broken for these precious children trapped in slavery. I felt every emotion; fear, anger, grief, and utter disgust for how people can be so incredibly evil.
It's heavy and accurate without ever being graphic. The depictions of human trafficking and the crimes committed against children are beautifully handled. It's powerful, to say the least. I left the theater that night with tears streaming down my face, but I was changed.
"Human trafficking is the fastest-growing international crime network the world has ever seen. It has already passed the illegal arms trade. And soon it's going to pass the drug trade. Why? Because you can sell a bag of cocaine one time. But a child, the most precious child, you can sell a five year old kid 5 to 10 times a day for 10 years straight. No one wants to talk about it. It's too ugly for polite conversation. But meanwhile, over two million children a year are being sucked into the deepest recesses of hell."
- Tim Ballard, Sound of Freedom
It's so important to see this film and spread the word like wildfire. But I left the theater wanting to do something more to help. While processing the movie and asking God to lead me, I was struck with a deeper realization of just how powerful stories are.
I've always believed stories are powerful. How could I not? As an avid reader, I experience the way stories impact me, the key they have to my imagination, and the effect they have on my emotions. I would not have the same relationship that I have today with Jesus if it weren't for the authors J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Francine Rivers.
As a writer, I begin to understand why stories are so powerful and how to craft one that is effective and spellbinding. Storytelling and novel writing, as you've probably heard, is not merely an imaginative narrative one makes up in their head. Storytelling is a science and a process that has real, phycological effects on the brain.
Stories change how we think about something because they change how we feel about it.
For example, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is credited as one of the major reasons for the abolition of slavery in America. "In the 19th century, the only book to outsell Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the Bible,” according to the article “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” from The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.
I truly believe that a story can change the world (it's one of the reasons I write, after all), but watching Sound of Freedom convinced me even more of that. I believe Sound of Freedom could be our modern-day "Uncle Tom's Cabin".
I am also convinced that we, as writers, can make an incredible difference in the world. Maybe I won't be embarking on missions to rescue children. That's not what God has called me to do. But he has given me a love for writing and storytelling. And He's likely given you that love too.
I began to realize that I could do something more to help by holding out my hands to God, letting Him lead my steps, and being a good steward of what He's already given me. This film also made me realize how God has given unique gifts and opportunities to each one of us. For others, it may be law enforcement, leadership, or counseling. For us, it's storytelling, writing, blogging, or filmmaking.
With God's strength, provision, and direction, we can make a difference with our words.
MORE WAYS TO HELP
Operation Underground Railroad leads the fight against child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation around the globe. Their work has no boundaries- they go to the darkest corners of the world to assist law enforcement in rescuing children and ensure ongoing aftercare. O.U.R. provides critical resources to law enforcement and preventative efforts that benefit at-risk children worldwide. They will continue to go to the darkest corners of the world until every child is safe. Join the fight with me! Go to OURrescue.org to learn more.
One of the biggest ways to make a difference is by going to see this movie and spreading the word. Angel Studios has a pay-it-forward program where you can purchase a ticket for someone who may not be able to afford it. You can also claim free tickets from people who have already paid it forward. You can do just that, and learn more about Sound of Freedom here.
Pray for these kids and for the people going into the darkness to rescue them. Pray for provision, guidance, protection, and peace. Pray for freedom and restoration. Pray over your writing and your life. There's nothing more powerful or dangerous than fervent, open-hearted prayers.
Commit all that you have to the Lord and ask him to use you. Even if it's not specifically in the fight against human trafficking, God can and will do beautiful things through you and for you if you ask Him. He is the one who gave you a love for writing and storytelling in the first place, and He gave you that for a reason.
Your writing and your prayers matter more than you think. So keep fighting, keep putting words on paper, keep pursuing Christ, and please spread the word about this powerful and important film. Because as Tim Ballard says, "God's children are not for sale."
Have you seen "The Sound of Freedom"? How can you make a difference and spread the word? What is a story or film that has greatly impacted you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!