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It all started with Abraham.
Actually, it all started with the Ancient of Days, but God used Father Abraham--before he was either a father or Abraham--to save the world.
The Lord had said to Abram,
"Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
"Abram, I've blessed you," the Lord was saying, "but those blessings aren't just for your benefit, to make you and your family happy and comfortable. I'm giving so much to you so that you can give to others. I'm giving you a family so that one day, all of mankind can be restored to My family. Abram, you're blessed, but not just for you. You're blessed to be a blessing."
A defining moment in history, as God laid out the beginning of His plan of salvation. And the next verse is just as important: "So Abram went."
The Lord said go...so Abram went.
Obedience is that simple. God grants us blessings--talents and passions and resources--with the admonition to bless other people. "I've given you abilities...so help those in need. I've blessed you financially...so use it to fund homes and save children."
God says go, so we go. He says give, so we give. The Lord blesses us, so we bless others.
We're blessed to be a blessing.
Obedience is that simple.
Maybe your home is a ranch-style, brick house, with a big backyard and swing set.
Maybe you live in a tiny apartment with your friends—a few of whom forget to wash their dishes.
Our boys live in a modest but comfortable house in the Dominican Republic—with a classroom, counseling office, and plenty of bunk beds and laughter and love. Our second Blackbox home is underway, too—already more than halfway funded by our 50/50 campaign.
But another home—one even more important than any of these—was written about 2,000 years ago. We celebrate it this week:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
The God of the universe took on flesh. He became human, and lived where we live.
He made His home with us, because He wanted to be with His children.
He still does!
And so, we raise money for Blackbox houses. We train counselors and teachers. God considered His children worth leaving heaven for, and so we pray every day for boys who have no home to find their place with us.
We pray that one day, because of a temporary Blackbox house, they will find their everlasting home in heaven.
Because God made his dwelling among us.
More Than a Trend
I didn’t care.
Even now, I wince as I type those words, because they’re so hardhearted. I wince because the truth hurts.
I didn’t care about sex trafficking.
More than that, I didn’t care about the children that sex trafficking enslaves. The innocence lost. The families and futures and psyches destroyed. To be honest, justice ministry seemed like another “trend” of today’s church…and I’m not a very trendy person.
But then. Then, I began to listen to the news reports, and to the stories of friends who witnessed firsthand the destruction and evil that is sex trafficking. I talked to Roger Twitchell, international field director for Blackbox, and I traveled to the Dominican Republic, where my hard heart softened and broke. There, the children became, not faceless foreigners a world away, but boys whose names I knew and whose personalities made me smile. Boys who drew me pictures and flew paper airplanes and wanted to play games on my iPhone. They were children not unlike my own, except for the fact that they had endured unspeakable evils…and I hadn’t cared.
The truth hurts. It will hurt until we change the story. And trendy? Caring for children isn’t a trend! It’s the call of Christ, who said, “Let the children come to Me” (Matthew 19:14). It’s the mission of the church, where looking after orphans and widows is pure and faultless religion (James 1:27). It’s the very heartbeat of God Himself, who is “a father to the fatherless,” and who “sets the lonely in families, and leads out the prisoners with singing” (Psalm 68:6).
Setting lonely in families? Blackbox does that every day. In fact, funding for the second Dominican home is already underway. And leading out prisoners with singing? What better captive to free than a young boy imprisoned by sex trafficking?
Blackbox does all this because caring is more than a trend. It’s acting like God. God cares. God loves. When God sees His children hurt, He does something about it.
And so must I.
Between my wife and me, we have 28 nephews and nieces. Yep, 28! Some are now grown and married, and some are just turning three…but I am used to the name "uncle.” I like the title. It clearly indicates that there is a relationship between the two of us—one of affection and closeness. I think about my own uncles and can't help but chuckle as I recall several humorous stories. The dominant thought that comes to mind is laughter. I have good memories, because I have good uncles.
When I walk in the door of our home in the Dominican Republic, the word "tio" (uncle) rings out. I love the sound of it. I never told the boys what to call me.—They just assigned the title themselves. There is a growing relationship with the boys, and the title implies closeness, family even. I am one of several uncles the boys have—a few Americans, but mostly Dominicans. They need good uncles—godly men who point them toward God. For these boys, the damage done to them by (usually) older men is partially undone by their encounters with healthy men who show them what it really means to be a man.
When you give to Blackbox International, you are a part of the story, and on behalf of the boys who receive the blessing from your giving, thank you.
The story must change.
Be the Change: Jeff Crouse
Great news from Blackbox: we recently welcomed our eighth boy into our Dominican Republic home!
Eight! That means eight warm, safe beds away from the streets. Eight lives transformed by counseling and education. Eight young men encountering the God who made them and loves them and has a plan for the their lives.
Eight stories are changing!
Last month, thousands of runners hit the streets of Tulsa, OK, for a 2K, 5K and 15K run. In each race, several runners represented one team. They came from different towns and churches, but they still ran together. They passed out yellow bracelets and wore bright yellow tee shirts that sparked the same question:
"Hey, what's Team Blackbox?"
And 33 runners were glad to explain.
Put simply, Team Blackbox is a way for runners to raise awareness and support for the boys of Blackbox International. It all started with high schooler Kasey Hendrix, who organized her own 5K on behalf of the organization. Most recently, at the 37th annual Tulsa Run, Team Blackbox runners paid a donation, learned more about sex trafficking through tourism, and told others about Blackbox both on the day of the race and later through social media.
Some had never run a race before. Others were experienced runners who placed in the top ten of their bracket. On race day alone, the team raised over $2,000 for the ministry. When one runner posted race pictures online, her facebook friend asked more about Blackbox and added, "I didn't know this happened to boys!"
But the truth is, it does happen--to hundreds of thousands of boys worldwide, each year.
And so, they run. Whether organizing their own race like Kasey, or wearing yellow like the 33 in Tulsa, Team Blackbox runs for the boys whose stories must change.
Interested in representing Team Blackbox at a race in your area? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can't vs. Won't
Ever considered the words “can’t’ and “won’t”? Their differences are clear enough. At their basic definitions, can’t means “unable,” and won’t means “unwilling.”
I remember the morning my daughter and I had a major showdown over those words. She was not yet two years old, and I asked her to turn off the television.
“Nooo,” she said. “Can’t!” She meant, of course, “I don’t want to do that, Mom. I’d prefer instead to keep watching my show.”
I told her again, and again she refused–this time a little more defiantly. Round and round we went, until many stomps and yells and tears later, she turned off the TV.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t obey. She just didn’t want to. Not unable–just unwilling.
Consider those words in the life of a Christ-follower. “Nothing is impossible with God,” Jesus said, so when He instructs, He also empowers. The same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us. How, then, can we say “can’t”?
Unfortunately, like my daughter, we often say “can’t” when we mean “won’t.” God calls us to obey Him, and we answer back with all our excuses–our financial limitations, our over-full calendars. “I’d love to help with missions!” we say, until we find out their greatest needs are prayer and finances.
“I don’t want to do that. I’d prefer instead something a little less…costly.”
We dig in our heels defiantly, pitching a toddler’s tantrum before the Lord of the Universe, and tell Him “can’t” when we really mean “won’t.” We’re not unable–just unwilling.
But the thing is, God did. He loved enough to send His Son, to die, to serve. He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He didn’t already do for us–and then some. He was a willing servant.
By His power, we can. Will we?
The wedding was great! Everyone celebrated. Everything was fine until someone went to get more wine.
“There isn't any more," the message came back. "It’s all gone.”
“It can’t be! Surely there’s some in the cellar. Did you check there?”
“Yep. None. That’s all we have.”
Mary made a classic mom-ism: the implied command. She looked at her son–the Son–and said simply, “They have no more wine.”
In other words, Jesus, do something.
“It’s not time yet,” He replied. A mild objection, which Mary ignored and instead told the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
She knew Jesus would help.
And He did.
He always does.
“I have no more _________,” we say. No more money, no more peace, no more joy. We think of the thousands of boys caught in sex trafficking around the world and we say on their behalf, "Lord! They have no more family! No more childhood. No more direction. No more hope."
In other words, Jesus, do something.
And He helps. He always does--and not just with a watered down substitute, either. "You have saved the best till now," the servants told Jesus in John 2, because He always responds with better, superior, richer, more. He sets the lonely in families. He meets every need according to His glorious riches--and often through His people. He gives more love, more fulfillment, more healing and more life. He changes the story. He makes the story more.
“I know you’re all out,” He says, “but I am enough. ‘Let the one who is thirsty come,’ because I have saved the best till now.”
We Sing for Them
When my kids were younger, I made up a simple tune to Numbers 6:24-26–the priestly blessing–and sang it to them as a bedtime prayer. I still sing it occasionally, even though they’re in middle school and high school now, and they look at me with an awkward mix of “I’m way too old for this, Mom,” and “Please don’t stop.”
Not long ago as I sang, a lump came to my throat. The tears weren’t for my own kids this time, but for all the boys without moms to sing blessings over them at night. For those who don’t get tucked in and prayed with and sung about. I cried for the hundreds of thousands of boys with no one to ask the Lord’s protection and grace and peace.
It’s not okay that so many are lost to a world where fears are constant and nightmares are reality. It’s not okay that hurt and mistrust and shame are second nature to these boys. It’s simply not okay, so we work together and raise money and intercede to God on their behalf. We know the story must change, and so, we sing for them.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
Recently, the Blackbox team spent several days in the Dominican Republic, training and counseling and planning together. One evening, happy but a little drained, they gathered in the living room of the boys' home, relaxing and visiting, until Blackbox Counseling Director Jeremey Wolfe started some music.
And all at once, they started to dance.
Everyone danced--the boys, the houseparents, field directors Roger and Elaine Twitchell, the counselors and even Abuela. They started a conga line that wound throughout the little house. Then, one of the boys spun Elaine round and round, as the fatigue from the week melted away into laughter and joy and freedom.
But one boy remained on the couch.
At age 14, he pretended to be too interested in his computer game to notice the fun around him. His eyes, though, looked shy, as though he wanted to join in, but wasn't sure how.
Elaine approached. She took his dark hands in hers and said with a smile, "Let's go!"
She pulled him off the couch and he joined the dance, laughing and playing and experiencing the security and love and fun of family.
And that's why we exist: to bring boys from bondage into the freedom of the dance. So that those who've never known joy or love can encounter the Christ who came to give them a rich, full life. We're here to bring hope and healing to as many as we can, through a stable home environment, through compassionate counseling, through education and art...and even through music and laughter and dance.
We Pray for Children
by Ina Hughs
We pray for children who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those
who don’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can’t find any bread to steal,
who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
whose monsters are real.
We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
who never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and
whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.
We pray for children
who want to be carried and for those who must,
for those who we never give up on and
for those who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smother with affection and
for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.
(from A Prayer for Children by Ina Hughs)
God of the Story
God is a story teller. The very Author of life has written our boys on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), and each day He writes a new paragraph in their young lives. So much evil and pain has already been written there, but now–by His strength and grace–a new chapter has begun. Today, God tells a story of hope and freedom and life.
God is a story weaver. He weaves together people and life experiences and spiritual giftedness in order to make beautiful designs, just like a weaver blends different colors of thread in his work. For example, Blackbox board member Peter Buckland served for years as director at a Christian children’s home. Peter oversaw the house parents, and he trained and encouraged them as they ministered to children who were hurting. Today, Peter’s experience makes him an invaluable asset to the Blackbox team. Who better to minister to our house parents in the Dominican Republic? God is weaving Peter’s know-how from the past together with the needs of the Dominican staff today to write a beautiful story of love and mercy.
God is a story changer. That’s why we do what we do, and that’s why we ask for your help. Because conservative estimates say that 1.2 million children are trapped in slave trafficking worldwide, and approximately 400,000 of those are boys. Because children shouldn’t know the things that our children know and bear the emotional and physical scars they bear. Because the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came to bring abundant life (John 10:10). Because God can redeem every story.
Because the story must change.
What I Can't Tell You
by Wade Landers
Working with boys who were trafficked for sex means we have to deal with a lot of issues. There is often physical abuse, mental abuse and of course sexual abuse. The technical word is trauma, and the boys often arrive to our Blackbox home having never dealt with any of their painful experiences. There is fear, denial and anger. A lot of anger.
But what makes restoration work most difficult is the shame involved in what has happened. That shame seems to always be present. At Blackbox, we work hard to protect the identity of the boys to not expose them to even more shame.
Because of that, here’s what I can’t tell you: their names.
But I can tell you that they each have a story, and that the story is changing. I can tell you they are finding hope. I can tell you they have a future, and that the shame they feel now is being replaced by understanding the honor they have as one created by the Creator of the universe!
Still, everybody needs a name, so I have a name I use each time I think about the boys. I hear it pronounced in Spanish, which is fitting since our first home is located in a Spanish-speaking country. It is a common name in the Dominican Republic.
And yet, it’s the most important name that can come to mind when thinking about the boys.
It’s the name that brings healing from trauma and freedom from shame.
Thank You, Lord
Thank You, Lord, for Blackbox International.
Thank You for planting a seed of an idea in the hearts of men and women who wanted to serve You and save children. Thank You that today, that seed has grown to bear much fruit for Your glory.
Thank You for a faithful overseas team. They love You more than their own comfort, and they care for the boys like their own children. They are Your hands and feet--Your light in so much darkness.
Thank You for the volunteers and supporters in the states. They donate money. They run races and pass jars. They pray. They make a difference for others, because You have made a difference in them.
Thank You for the boys--for entrusting them to us, and for their very lives. Thank You for healing them and for offering them, in Christ, the hope that does not disappoint.
Thank You, Lord. Thank You for changing the story.
by Bryan King
It's bound to happen. We read the numbers: 400,000 boys worldwide and 10,000 boys in the Dominican Republic. The news ticker tells about another ring that is busted. We hear of another city where sex trafficking is on the rise. After awhile though, we are not shocked. We aren't horrified. We are no longer moved to do something about it. It's not personal, because we don't see the faces or hear the stories behind the headlines.
I have never met one of the boys in Blackbox International's care. I've never even seen the face of one of the boys in the Dominican Republic. But for me, it's personal.
It's personal because I go home and look at the faces of my kids. All three have similar but unique stories. Their stories begin like this: defenseless, hopeless, alone. The next part goes like this: adoption, hopeful, family.
My kids are part of the reason I volunteer for Blackbox International. When I look into their eyes and think about the boys who have no one to stand up for them, it becomes personal again. I'm shocked again. Horrified again. And I'm determined to do whatever I can so that the story can change for one more.
Blackbox International Trustee
When God Interrupts
God had interrupted him before.
In 2009 when Brian Jennings and his wife adopted a daughter from Ethiopia–a sister to their two young sons–God interrupted their tidy, set ways with bigger dreams and deeper love than they’d ever known.
So a year later, when Brian’s spirit again felt an unsettled “tug” to something overseas, he didn’t know what to expect. He only knew that God was interrupting.
Was he supposed to go on the mission field? Adopt again? Brian wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know what You want me to do,” he prayed, “but I know it’s something outside America.”
Brian’s restlessness continued until finally, in June 2010, Wade Landers called.
“I want to talk to you about a really big thing we’re doing that I want you to be a part of,” Wade teased, “but I’m about to leave the country for a while, so I can’t tell you about it for three more weeks.”
Brian had no choice but to wait. Three weeks later, Wade and Brian met for coffee. Wade shared the beginnings of the Blackbox story–the dream of a home where sexually trafficked boys could be restored in the name of Jesus. He asked Brian to join the new organization’s leadership.
Brian’s heart resonated with everything Wade said. He knew this was from God, but wanted to pray about the decision first. That night, Brian went on a prayer walk to ask the Lord.
“I tried to ask God, ‘Do You want me to do this?’, but God wouldn’t even let me get the question out. I’d say, ‘Do You…” and He’d cut me off with, ‘Yes. Yes! Of course.’ This ministry is so obviously His heart that I didn’t even have to ask permission.”
Finally, after a few more attempts at verbalizing the question, Brian laughed. “I imagined myself saying, ‘Sorry, Wade. I tried to ask God if I could, but He kept interrupting.'”
Brian’s yes that June night eventually led to an overseas survey trip in January 2011 and to his placement on the Blackbox board of trustees. To date, seven boys are finding hope and healing in the Dominican Republic home, and Blackbox is prayerfully considering next steps in other countries as well.
When God interrupts, He breaks pretty molds and plans. He interrupts to prompt His people to action–to call us to a “ministry that is so obviously His heart.” And like a raindrop on a pond makes ripples from shore to shore, when God interrupts…He changes the world.
The Work of the Lord
“If this isn’t the work of the Devil,” said Blackbox board member Chris DeWelt, “then I don’t know what is.”
Indeed, the atrocities of sex trafficking are glaringly evil–straight from the Enemy himself. It’s not uncommon for those on the Blackbox team to feel overwhelmed in the struggle–to weep for the boys, to have a sense of prevailing heaviness and darkness, and even to dream about the scenarios they’ve witnessed.
Yet, even in the struggle, we are not powerless. Even as we weep, there is hope. We are not overwhelmed, because the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
At the end of the day, boys are being saved! They’re finding healing from their past and purpose for their future. The story is changing…and if this isn’t the work of the Lord, then I don’t know what is.
The social services agency that oversees our Dominican Republic home requires an adult to sleep in the boys’ bedroom each night. Considering the abuse our boys have experienced, an adult male isn’t appropriate in that role for Blackbox. So, after prayerfully considering our options, our international team arrived at one person.
Abuela–grandmother–is an older, Christian woman who spends every night in the boys’ bedroom. Picture seven rowdy, ornery boys all around the age of 12, piled on bunkbeds around the simple room–and there, in the corner, she’s on her bed, too. The boys tease and play, and Abuela teases right back. She talks with them and prays with them and brings a sense of security and warmth to our messy-but-beautiful, God-ordained family.
She doesn’t have to do much, but what she does makes a world of difference. She does her part to change the story for our boys, because the story must change.
5 Things You Need to Know About Sex-Trafficked Boys
by Executive Director Wade Landers
1. It happens! You may not like to think about sex trafficking or even acknowledge that it happens, but it does. Pretending and ignoring won’t change the truth. Once you know, you can’t un-know. Now, the question is yours to wrestle with: what will you do about it?
2. It’s cheaper than you think. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much—it’s not like if it were really expensive to sexually abuse a boy it would make it better. But the fact is, in some countries it costs less than a dollar to buy a boy for pleasure. The lower the price, the greater the sense of shock, urgency and even helplessness against such an atrocity.
3. It’s growing. It’s unclear whether sex trafficking is growing because of awareness—we’re looking harder—or because of the depravity of mankind, or both. Regardless, sex trafficking happens all over the world—from Port au Prince to Prague, from Missouri to California, from remote villages to busy cities.
4. It’s happening at younger ages. At the Blackbox home in the Dominican Republic, the average age is 12. 12! The youngest resident is 9, and some boys were sold as young as 7.
5. It can change! We can create awareness about this issue, and it can change. Support organizations like International Justice Mission as they help nations and communities enforce laws to protect minorities and rescue children from this evil practice. Join with Blackbox to provide a place for these boys once they’ve been rescued—a safe place to receive an education, appropriate counseling, and an opportunity to change the future.
How much more do you need to know? Just this: God knows each boy and He cares deeply. Do you?
We’re so grateful for partners like you who join together to provide hope and change for these boys. Because the story must change.
12 Years Old
Ever known a 12-year-old boy? How would you describe him? Most are a roller coaster of hormones–an awkward blend of childish meets adult, insecure meets confident, little meets big.
12-year-old boys are funny and smart and ornery. They’re smelly, but they still don’t shower. They’re tender, but they haven’t learned how to handle the love in their hearts.
They are boys becoming men, created in the image of God.
Currently, five boys live in our first home in the Dominican Republic. Their average age: 12 years old.
Unfortunately, our boys have experienced more pain in their 12 short years than most of us will encounter in a lifetime. The atrocities visited upon them are unimaginable. They’ve been forced to live a different story than anyone ever should.
And so, we work on their behalf. We partner together and pray and raise money and hold 5K races. We travel to the Dominican Republic to train counselors and encourage house parents.
We do these things because of Jesus. “Let the children come to Me,” He said–even the funny, ornery, smelly ones.
Ever known a 12-year-old boy? So has Jesus, and He loves every last one.
Quit Feeling Helpless
by Brian Jennings
When I hear the numbers, I get overwhelmed in a hurry.
400,000 boys are victims of sex trafficking.
60% of tourism to Costa Rica is connected to the sex industry.
15,000 boys are being trafficked in the Dominican Republic.
Some numbers come from the State Department and others come from boots on the ground. But they overwhelm me all the same. And the danger is that overwhelmed leads to statements like, “What difference could I make anyway?”
We must rise above the defeatist attitude and do what we can, even if it feels small. God’s in the business of making small things seem quite huge. Do you remember those two little fish that he got a hold of? They fed five thousand.
As a member of Blackbox International's board of trustees, I've been so greatly encouraged to see the example of young people who have chosen not to stand on the sidelines. They are doing what they can. And it’s changing our world.
Feeling overwhelmed? Watch this!
She runs a tourist shop in the Dominican Republic.
“After I heard about sex trafficking,” she told Blackbox, “I began to see it everywhere around me.”
“One day in my shop, I noticed a 50-year-old white man walking next to a 13-year-old Dominican boy. They browsed the store, and then went across the road to a restaurant. I watched them enter a café and sit down.”
“The boy was wearing all new clothes. They were gifts from the man, because kids here can’t dress like that.”
She continued to watch as the man ordered a large meal for the two to share.
“The entire time—while they shopped and walked and ate—the boy never raised his head. He never looked up—not once.”
Scenes like the shop owner witnessed play out all the time. So much depravity. So much pain. So much shame destroying a life before it even begins.
“We have to do something,” the shop owner concluded. “We must stop this.”
Isaiah wrote, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” (Isaiah 58:6, 59:1)
Surely He saves. Surely He hears.
Surely He rescues—surely. Swiftly. Completely.
And surely He uses His people to change the story.
We have to do something.
We must stop this.
The story must change.
His group was there to construct a church building for the people of that country. By day, he mixed concrete and labored long hours in the hot Central American sun. But in the evenings, Jeremey's group taxied into the city, hoping to see the culture of the land they'd visited.
Each time the taxi approached a certain intersection near a poor neighborhood, Jeremey noticed several boys on the street corner. They were hard to miss, because as the car drew near, the young boys called out in their own language, and lifted up their shirts.
Thinking it was just a prank in that culture, Jeremey finally asked their guide what the boys were doing. The answer turned his stomach and broke his heart.
"They need money," came the reply, "so they're propositioning you."
There are some realities that simply shouldn't be. Young boys offering themselves to tourists is one of them. Jeremey didn't know how to respond, or what to do with what he now knew to be true--until he talked with Wade Landers, executive director of Blackbox International. Wade asked Jeremey to come on board with Blackbox--then in its beginning phases--and work until there is no such thing as boys on street corners, propositioning men.
Today, Jeremey Wolfe serves as Blackbox International's Director of Counseling Services. He helped develop the counseling curriculum used in the Blackbox home, and he oversees the international counseling staff. Jeremey's heart still breaks for the boys on the streets--for the boys living a reality that simply shouldn't be.
But the God "who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were" is in the business of changing reality (Romans 4:17). He rights the wrongs. He brings beauty from ashes.
Some realities simply shouldn't be, so God rewrites the story.
Because the story must change.
The place: India. The group: local pastors. The topic: sex trafficking. The shock: that it happens to boys. Last year, as Blackbox researched India’s need for aftercare homes there, we gathered 15 local Indian pastors who serve in the central part of the country. When we began to describe the situation—that underage boys are trafficked for sex—they were shocked. At first, some denied this really happens in India.
As we defined what trafficking is, how the boys are used, and what it looks like in different areas of the country, the men began to speak up. One by one, they shared situations they were encountering in their churches and communities. Within a few hours, every pastor said that they were actually already working with trafficking victims or knew of trafficked victims in their community, especially at the train stations.
One older pastor, with tears in his eyes, stood up in front of the group and stated that no one had ever talked publicly about the things that were happening. He said that he was hopeful now, because there were others he could talk to as he works with these boys. He was not alone in the fight.
Thank you for your financial gifts to Blackbox. When you give, your support is an encouragement to us. It’s a reminder that we are not alone in this fight!
By the end of the meeting, the men had listed over 150 boys they know who are being used for sex against their will—boys who are “hired” by tourists, truckers, factory owners, and more. The numbers in India alone are staggering. The need is great and the time is now!
That’s the price to use a boy in India.
The story MUST change!
-Wade Landers, Executive Director
Never Had a Place
In the weeks before boys come to our Dominican Republic home, Blackbox field director Roger Twitchell talks regularly with social workers there. In one such meeting a few months back, a social worker made a poignant comment.
“Until now,” she told Roger, “we’ve never had a place to send the boys.”
Never had a place, indeed. That seems to be a recurring theme in the boys’ lives. They’ve never had a place to feel safe. Never had a place to play or learn. Never had a place to be treated with respect, or gain proper boundaries and a healthy self image. Never had a place to encounter the God who loves them.
Now, they have all that and more. It isn’t always pretty, and it certainly isn’t easy, but now, they have a place.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10)
May the church be a place for everyone–all the children God loves. May the people of God show His love and mercy in every word and action. And may Blackbox be a home for boys who have never had a place.
The Story Must Change
Everyone likes a good story. We’re drawn to stories of adventure, suspense and love. Good stories warm our hearts and inspire us to action.
Everyone has a story. From the suburban soccer mom at Starbucks to the Middle Eastern man kneeling in prayer several times a day, each of the 7 billion people on the planet has a unique set of experiences, personality makeups, hurts, hopes and dreams. Their stories are being written by the Author Himself.
But there are some stories we don’t tell. Some secrets are too shameful, we think, to discuss too openly. These are the hurtful stories of abuse.
Our boys know this. They don’t want to talk about the atrocities they’ve experienced, but ironically, the more they tell their stories, the more healing they experience. At Blackbox, counselors listen to the stories–no matter how painful–to help the boys find restoration and to give back the stories that have been taken from them. God ordained the boys’ lives from the beginning, just like He knit together the soccer mom and the Middle Eastern man. God has a plan–a good story with blessings and a hope and a future. He aches when He sees how Satan has twisted His story for the child He loves so dearly.
And so, we join the Author in His efforts to rewrite the story. We work to tell a story of redemption. We work until there is no such thing as sex trafficking in tourism. We work because we want God’s story to be theirs.
We work because the story must change.
“It’s too much.”
That’s what we said when we first heard about sex trafficking. We said it again later, when we met real boys who’d endured real atrocities in an entire industry built on abuse. We cried and prayed again, “Lord, it’s too much!”
Too much pain. Too much evil. Too much innocence destroyed. Too much for young boys to overcome. Our hearts ache and our stomachs turn and we want to turn away and look instead at prettier things, but we can’t because…it’s too much.
And into the “too much,” God says, “Enough.” He answers the overwhelming lack with His overwhelming sufficiency. He silences the injustice with His justice. And He does all this in one word: redemption.
In scripture, our word “redemption” is two Hebrews words. The first one means to exchange something of no value for something of value. It’s a transaction word. In Jesus Christ, God takes a life destroyed by evil and exchanges it for something beautiful. He brings beauty from ashes.
Redemption also means, simply, “near,” as in, a close relative, or the next of kin. In all the pain—right there in the midst of all the atrocities—the Lord is there. The Redeemer God is near.
“It’s too much!” we cry.
“But I am enough,” He responds.
When it comes to running a home for rescued boys, house rules are important. Clear expectations teach the boys boundaries as well as instill identity, worth and purpose. Blackbox board member Peter Buckland encourages our houseparents in the Dominican Republic to phrase the rules something like this:
In your other house, you __________, but here we _________.
You used to __________, but now you __________.
In this family, we __________.
The parents might say, then, “In your last house, you didn’t help with chores, but here we all work together. You used to tell lies, but now you tell the truth. In this family, we respect one another.”
Statements like these don’t just ask for good behavior. They remind the boys that they are not where they once were—that they are more than who they once were.
And isn’t it the same for every believer of Christ? Each of us is a rescued son or daughter, adopted into a family whose head is Christ and whose Father is God Himself. In Him, we don’t just have boundaries for good behavior. We have identity and worth and purpose!
“Once you were not a people,” wrote the apostle Peter, “but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).
Because of Jesus, we can say, “I was bitter, but now I forgive. I used to be afraid, but now I have courage. I used to worry, but now I trust. In this family of believers, I love and serve and live life to the full.”
In Christ, we are not where we once were. We are more than who we once were. We have the truest identity, a lasting worth, a meaningful purpose. We can rescue others because we were rescued ourselves. We live by a new set of rules, because we were lost, but now, thanks to Jesus, we are found.
Get out of town at night, away from the city lights, and look up at the sky. It comes alive with brilliance and beauty. When we see stars, we see God’s orchestration and we marvel at His creation.
And yet, what does God see?
“Some nights, I look up at the stars, and I think how beautiful they are,” Blackbox field director Roger Twitchell remarked. “But then I think, ‘Lord, when You look down, You don’t just see all the beauty in the world. You also see all the bad.’”
Roger continued, “When God looks on us, He sees the evil. He sees the sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic and India. He sees all the yuck…but He’s holding back heaven to make it stop. Maybe…maybe…He’s waiting for the church to rise up and make it stop.”
Maybe He’s waiting for the church. Maybe the God who created the stars is waiting for His followers to, as the apostle Paul wrote, “shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).
And so, Christ-followers, let us get out of town at night, away from the city lights, not just to worship the Lord for making the stars. Let’s run to the darkness to be stars ourselves.
At the close of a Blackbox training session in the Dominican Republic, Executive Director Wade Landers offered these words:
There are dark things in this world. And God tells His church to go into those places and bring His light. When the boys come out of the darkness, they come to this place to find light.
This place is safe.
This place shows the love of God.
In this place, the boys can work through all the things that have happened to them. They can get an education. They can dream. They can play soccer or baseball or basketball. They can do art, play music, and do lots of good things.
Most importantly, in this place, they can meet Jesus. And that changes everything.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Three Ways to Help
People often ask how they can help Blackbox International, and we're so grateful. Our Blackbox partners serve in three main ways:
1. Volunteer. As our ministry grows, we'll have more and more opportunities to help. Sign up here to be a part of the Blackbox community.
2. Give. One-time or monthly donations make a world of difference for a boy a world away. Click here for more on how to give.
3. Pray. We saved the best for last. Would you commit to praying daily for this life-changing, life-saving ministry? On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, Blackbox board member Peter Buckland prayed these words over our boys. Join us in lifting them to the Father, because He alone can change the story.
May he always love and obey You.
May he grow up to be a wise man.
May he enjoy reading the Bible and learning Your truth.
May he love You all of his life.
May he be filled with Your Spirit.
I'm Not a Prisoner Anymore
Before coming to the Blackbox house in the Dominican Republic, one of our boys lived in a government-run home. But "foster care" there isn't the home-like setting it is in the states, and he felt isolated. Months later, when he arrived at Blackbox, the social worker warned the teacher, "You'll have a hard time getting him to talk in class. He doesn't ever talk in school."
Not long after, that same social worker returned for a visit. She observed a few minutes, and then remarked in surprise, "I thought you didn't speak in class!"
The boy's response silenced the room: "There, I felt like I was in prison. Here, I don't. I get to go to school. I get to go out and do things. I talk now, because I'm not a prisoner anymore."
And that's why we do what we do. That's why we spread the word and donate and pray. So that boys silenced by injustice can find their voice. Boys trapped in fear can rest in security. Boys held in bondage can run in freedom and say with joy, "I'm not a prisoner anymore."
Wounds that Heal
In traumas like those our boys have experienced, counselors often use the analogy of a deep cut. Leave a wound untreated, they say, and it’s much more susceptible to infection and problems later on. The infection may even spread and affect other parts of the body.
But it’s better to clean the cut and remove all the germs. Physicians clean wounds gently but thoroughly, and check them periodically to make sure that healing is happening. Eventually, only a scar remains—nothing more than a reminder of the old wound. The trauma becomes a distant memory.
In the same way, if boys rescued from the sex trafficking industry ignore their pain, it gets worse. It spreads to affect other areas of the boys’ lives, and it keeps them from being who God intends.
At Blackbox International, counselors treat the wound of sexual trauma until all that’s left is a scar—a healed reminder of the past, no longer a hindrance in the present.
That’s what the Christian faith is all about, really. This week, we’ll celebrate a risen Lord—the Great Physician whose death brought us life, and whose blood cleansed us gently but thoroughly. We’ll be thankful for scars, because “by His wounds we are healed.”
A few years back, at an old Spanish ranch in California, I took a picture of a millstone. It was an enormous, heavy stone circle, and I marveled at its magnitude.
I thought of that picture again a few weeks ago, when I traveled with Blackbox International to the Dominican Republic. I played with the boys in the home there, folding paper airplanes and laughing when their planes flew and mine crashed. The boys teased and played, and I loved every second. I silently thanked God for setting them free.
And all at once, I remembered that millstone.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in Me—to stumble,” said Jesus, “it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
The unspeakable abuse that our boys endured at the hands of wicked men robbed them of their innocence and left them with hurts too deep for words. They’ve been deceived and traumatized physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. By God’s grace and power, the boys will heal, but to this point, the evils committed against them have left them in bondage—and susceptible to stumbling.
I threw my paper plane again and pictured that giant rock
around the necks of the perpetrators.
“It would be better, indeed,” I thought.
And that’s why Blackbox exists. Not for “millstone justice” against the wicked—ultimately, that’s up to the Lord himself, who takes hurts against His children very personally. We exist for merciful justice and blessing on behalf of the boys, remembering that ultimately “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” perpetrators, but against the enemy himself (Ephesians 6:12). Blackbox takes boys the enemy came to “steal, kill and destroy,” and offers them abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).
We exist for freedom—freedom from millstones, freedom from bondage and stumbling, freedom from deception and death. Freedom to throw paper airplanes and laugh and tease and play. Freedom to become the men that God intended.
Because “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Art therapy is a key component of the Blackbox counseling curriculum, because it lets the boys express their feelings and tell their stories in a safe, productive way. On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, the Blackbox team trained the counselors in art therapy and brought art supplies for the boys.
The boys’ faces lit up as they unpacked paints, markers, sketchpads and more.
“Gracias,” one boy said shyly at Field Director Roger Twitchell’s nudging. He hid a grin and sat down with his new supplies. And then, as the whole Blackbox team watched, he started to paint.
It was a powerful moment: a blank slate, a new picture, a masterpiece in process by the Artist Himself.
“I couldn’t help but think of the painting God wants to create in his life,” Executive Director Wade Landers said. Only the Lord knows all He has in store–His purposes and plans for the boy’s future. We pray he’ll be a confident, whole man who loves the Lord. We pray that God will bring about his healing and lasting freedom.
A blank slate. A fresh start. What will it be? Who will he become? And won’t you join with us in painting a new picture?
Last week, Blackbox International visited our home in the Dominican Republic, and for three days we trained the Dominican team in methods of counseling and teaching. We ate together, laughed together, prayed together, learned one another’s cultures and enjoyed the bond that is ours in Christ.
Now, after catching a red-eye back home, we’re weary. Weary from two days of travel and three days of training. Weary from the heat and humidity, and from the headaches that come from starting a new organization in another country. Most of all, we’re weary from the overwhelming need—so many boys awaiting rescue! We rejoice for the two we’re helping, but our hearts ache for the thousands still trapped.
And yet, we persevere. Christ’s call to seek and save the lost is too important to ignore, so even in the fatigue, we won’t quit.
“Let us not become weary in doing good,” Paul wrote, “for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).
Lord, raise a harvest! Let us scatter seed on good soil, and let Your word take root in young lives. Find us faithful, Lord, to not give up or grow weary. Be our strength and motivation, that we might bear much fruit for Your glory. Amen.
The call comes in to the national office in the Dominican Republic, and the country director slumps down in his chair. These calls are the epitome of the word “bittersweet.” On one hand, there is a boy who has been freed from the abuse of the sex-tourism industry. He has the opportunity to find healing and hope for a future.
But on the other hand, this boy has a story, and it’s one that no one wants to hear. At age 8 or 9, a parent walked out, leaving the other parent trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. There are mouths to be fed, shoes to be bought and school fees to be paid, and the lone parent feels trapped. Helpless, even. Desperate.
“There’s money to be made from the tourist,” a neighbor whispers.
But a few weeks later, the boy is sent to the beaches. He knows what he has to do. And a new vicious cycle begins—this one worse than the poverty.
Blackbox exists to provide hope to both sides of the story. The motivating passion behind our work is to see the trafficking of boys for sex stopped, and for those who have already been victimized to find hope.
Thank you for your gifts and prayerful support. You are a part of this story…
…and the story must change.
Why Blackbox? There's a Story...
Occasionally people ask why we chose the name “Blackbox.” Often, they assume the term refers to that critical recording device on a plane.
An airplane’s blackbox is valuable! The information it contains is so important that, when a plane crashes, rescuers go to incredible lengths to retrieve it. Save the blackbox, no matter the cost!
In a way, Blackbox International has the same philosophy: we rescue boys from the wreckage of sex trafficking. They are most valuable to us because they’re valuable to the God who made them. We’re committed to helping them find hope and healing, no matter the cost.
And yet, even though the analogy works, that isn’t how our name came to be. It began with Executive Director Wade Landers, and it refers to the blackbox of protection across the eyes of the boys in our pictures. Years back, Wade learned that no one was helping boys in the sex trafficking industry, and he felt called to do something.
“I decided that our organization would always protect the boys’ identities with a blackbox over their eyes–but they wouldn’t be hidden behind the box in shame,” Wade said. “In that moment, I realized, ‘There’s a story behind every blackbox…and that story must change.’”
From Shocking to Something
Palm trees, beaches, and the warm waters of the Atlantic drive a booming tourist business in this area of the Caribbean. The nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic are home to both extreme poverty and scenic, luxurious beaches. On the Dominican Republic side of the island, all-inclusive resorts dotting the coast are full of tourists mainly from Europe. There is much to draw people to this place. The picture is postcard perfect!
Except, warm sands and free flowing drinks are not the only reasons people vacation here. The grim reality is, a portion of the vacationers also come to engage in prostitution. For some, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, and then raping men and women, boys and girls, are all just a list of activities to enjoy while relaxing, getting away from it all, and taking a vacation.
It is shocking that people “enjoy” themselves for a time of “holiday,” and then leave behind emotional and physical carnage that devastates the victim. The sad reality is that it happens more often than we want to admit.
We have to do something. Beyond the shock is the truth that trafficking children for sex tourism happens, even to boys. Beyond the shock, we have to create awareness of the problem and propose solutions. Your donations help make it possible to provide a safe home for boys that have been rescued out of this form of slavery.
Another boy just entered the home this week! Next week, a third will be brought in as well. Slowly, something is being done. Thank you! There is always more to the story.
Because the story must change.
My husband and I are residence directors at Ozark Christian College, which means our family lives in an apartment attached to a boys' dorm. My nearly-100 sons keep me busy spraying Febreze (it's a boys' dorm, after all) and baking cookies (they ate nine dozen just last week).
It's a pleasure to be "mom" to each of them.
But only one boy calls me mom for real. Only Nathan is my true son--my firstborn!--the one God chose to make me a mother in the first place. I love all of my dorm sons, but they each have their own mamas who think the world of them. Only Nathan delights my mother-son heart.
When I hear of the sex trafficking atrocities endured by nearly half-a-million boys worldwide, my heart breaks, and my mind goes first to Nathan. He's my boy! My smart, funny, handsome boy with his whole life ahead of him. There are 400,000 other moms, though, whose sons are victimized by the sex trafficking industry. Moms who don't know where their boys will sleep tonight. Moms whose hearts ache for the smart, funny, handsome boys they will never see again.
400,000, and each is someone's boy. Enough! The story must change. Lord, move Your people to stop the atrocities. Let us save Your sons! And let the hearts of mothers delight once more.
He was stolen from his home and sold into slavery. He was mistreated and deceived. He was blamed and shamed.
Yet in the end, Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
In a world that intends harm, the redeemer God trades beauty for ashes, wholeness for brokenness, freedom for bondage. By His goodness, He saves many lives—like Joseph and the family of Israel. Like the 400,000 modern-day Josephs in bondage, and like the boys in our house in the Dominican Republic.
And we who walk in the freedom Christ died to give must be about His business. We must work together—and pray together and give together—“to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
“In justice ministry,” said Blackbox Director of Prayer Shane Wood, “you must be broken. But the brokenness cannot debilitate.”
We hear stories of the sex trafficking industry–stories of truckers in India picking up children on the side of the highway, abusing them, and leaving them along the road again…stories of young boys so impoverished that they offer their bodies as a means to make money–and our hearts break. Our stomachs churn. We weep, and we pray with John, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Broken hearts are necessary, and ministry must come from brokenness.
But our brokenness cannot debilitate.
“Eventually,” Wood continued, “we have to do something.”
And what will we do? What will we do for the children God loves? We’ll pray. We’ll give. We’ll help men to stop looking at porn, because pornography turns the wheels of the sex trafficking industry.
We will, as World Vision founder Bob Pierce wrote years ago, let our hearts be broken with the things that break the heart of God. But our brokenness will not debilitate. It will motivate. We will do somethingabout the stories we’ve heard…because the story must change.
One boy entered our hearts
The horrific realization, that our world had almost no idea that boys were victims of sex trafficking and that these boys had no places equipped to help them, first sprung into our hearts because of an encounter with one boy on a street in Southeast Asia.
There was no help for him.
Nor was there help, almost anywhere on the planet, for the other 400,000 trafficked boys.
Blackbox International was officially formed, as a Board of Trustees committed to this work, in 2010. Three years of prayer, research, planning and work followed:
A first-of-its-kind, comprehensive therapeutic curriculum was developed and translated.
Partnerships were built.
Legal issues were tackled.
Trips were made.
An organization was structured.
Funds were raised.
A country was selected to open our first home (The Dominican Republic).
A house was rented.
House parents and counselors were hired.
Obstacles were overcome.
Doors were opened.
And then it happened.
One boy entered our hearts again. The first boy entered the first Blackbox home.
IT HAS BEGUN!
Many of you have been praying, giving and raising awareness. Thank you. One boy is now a recipient of your prayers and kindness.
But he will not be the last. Not even remotely.
So Blackbox is praying about and working to do two things:
Ensure that the dozen or so boys, whom we anticipate will soon be in our first home, will receive the highest quality care possible. Our commitment to quality means that we will not open future homes until we are certain that our model for care is highly effective.
While we will not immediately open another home, we are already working diligently to ready ourselves for extensive growth. We are laying the organization groundwork and exploring options in other parts of the world.
The Dominican Republic now has what most continents do not: a place where trafficked boys can find help and healing.
It is right to celebrate and give thanks for what God is doing in the Domincan. Please join us in this.
It is also right to prayerfully and boldly move forward. And you can help!
You can pray. Blackbox is built on prayer.
You can spread the word. Forwarding this e-mail, with your own message included, helps. Retweeting and sharing Facebook updates on social media helps. And talking to your friends, families, churches and business helps.
You can give. One-time gifts are always a huge blessing. They help us pay for special initiatives and projects (like buying a vehicle for our Domincan team). But our biggest financial need is to add monthly supporters. Whether it is a $20 monthly gift from a college student or a $2000 monthly gift from a church, regular giving allows us to wisely prepare for the future.
Thank you for caring about trafficked boys.
The story must change. For one boy, it’s already begun.
Brian Jennings, Trustee
What Francis Chan considers an emergency
My wife and I recently decided to give all of the royalties from my previous book, Crazy Love, to the Isaiah 58 Fund. All of the money goes to the needy in the world- the starving, sick, impoverished, and to those in the sex-slave trade. We reasoned that if we kept all this money we would end up spending it on things we didn’t need. We knew that in the long run (eighty years from now), there would be no regrets. But if we bought things that wouldn’t last beyond our time on earth, we would end up disappointed and regretful. I was a bit shocked and discouraged by some of the responses we received.
People told us that we were being foolish and irresponsible with the gifts God gave us. They said we should have at least put some away in case of an emergency. My response back was, “Is it not an emergency that children in Cambodia and Thailand and even the United States are being raped every single day of their lives? Why is it that not an emergency?” Is an emergency only an emergency if it affects me and my immediate family?
(Francis Chan, Forgotten God)
Thank you for seeing the world as we do, and thank you for partnering with us. Blackbox International is committed to not only helping trafficked boys, but also making their plight known. It is an emergency.
Oh So Close
Posted on May 7, 2013
Lots has been happening since we completed the 50/50 Campaign. God has been good, and there are plenty of things to keep lifting to up to him, as we prepare to open our first home for trafficked boys in the Dominican Republic.
Blackbox has hired two counselors. This is a huge step. They will soon be trained in the therapy curriculum that has been specifically developed for trafficked boys. These counselors will be investing enormous amounts of time with the boys. They are Dominican, professional, strong believers, and very trusted. Please thank God for them, and pray that he would work in them to bring about great healing in the boys.
We are currently interviewing house parents, and we hope to complete this process very soon. We have some great and Godly candidates. Please pray for our future House Parents. Their task will be great, but our God is up for it!
We have a team actively searching for a rental property/home. This has taken a little longer than expected, but we need to find just the right place. Please pray about this.
We are very thankful that our DR Team is leading well. We've been very blessed. Continue to lift up them up, as they are very busy right now.
Lastly, pray for Blackbox as an organization. We keep hearing of the need for this ministry in many places. Ask for God's guidance to be made clear, as we look to the future. Pray for regular givers to join the team. And pray for the boys who need the healing that will be found through Christ and his church.
Thank you for partnering with us. We love you much.
How we won a $10,000 communications package
Posted on December 11, 2012
The aroma of coffee lured me into a large cafe that also served as an exhibit area. I had just arrived for Day 1 of the Story Conference in Chicago, and I had some time to look around. One exhibitor immediately caught my attention. They had turned a large refrigerator box into a display. I moved closer to get a better look.
I soon discovered that, instead of spending thousands of dollars on a fancy display, they committed to giving away a $10,000 branding package. Anyone could tell their own organization’s story to them, and they would prayerfully consider which compelling story would win their services.
I told them the story of Blackbox, and how we believe the story must change for these boys. They asked engaging questions, I did my best to answer, and after ten minutes, I dropped my card in the box, and then found the coffee.
For the next two days, there seemed to always be a new person at their booth, sharing their story.
Four days later, I was back in Tulsa, OK. It was a rare day, in that I did not turn my cell phone on until after lunch. When I did, I saw that it had been blowing up. I had multiple missed calls, text messages, and direct tweets. There was good news. Blackbox was chosen.
ResonateOrDie is the voice of The Resonate Group®, Inc., a full service strategic and creative studio that helps ministries shape their vision and mission into meaningful and innovative brands that resonate. We have found them to be kind, genuinely concerned about justice issues, and very capable of helping us be more effective.
Initially, they have been helping us think about our organizational clarity (or focus). This sounds easy, but is actually quite grueling. It’s also very healthy. An organization that is laser-focused is able to think, act, and communicate clearly, which allows them to both grow, and be sustainable. Obviously, this is crucial to us.
Blackbox is very grateful to Kerry, and the crew from Resonate. Thank you all for helping us change the story for these boys. We are glad that their story resonated with you.
The story of trafficked boys has resonated with you (who are reading this) too. We are encouraged. God is moving. People are listening. Many are giving to help us launch our first home. And soon, very soon, the story will change!
Brian Jennings, Trustee
"They are monsters!"
"What kind of a person could do such a thing?"
I serve on the Board of Trustees for Blackbox International, which provides hope and healing for boys rescued from sex trafficking. While our focus is on caring for the boys, we can't help but be dismayed by the fact that there are people responsible for atrocities committed to the boys. You've probably felt similar emotions. These people are vicious, scheming and ruthless. Monsters.
Surely, their childhood dreams did not consist of trafficking kids for profit. How did they get there?
Proverbs 5-7 provides stern warning against sexual sin. In chapter 7, the picture is painted of a foolish lad being enticed and trapped by a prostitute. To him, it seems like a night of fun, but horror awaits. It will cost him his very life (vs 23). He will not rebound. There is no recovery.
"Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death." (Prov. 7:27)
Many a fool has assumed that they can nibble on a crumb of sin and not be snared. And many a fool has been snared by their Enemy. They've been crushed. Their soul has turned to pitch. And the scary thing is that this is just the natural progression.
"But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. Then when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is full-grown, it gives birth to death." (James 1:14)
So how does one become a monster? a trafficker? a slave owner? It begins with one unchecked sin.
But there is good news. God offers forgiveness and healing for all. If a monster like Paul can come to salvation (Acts 9), so can anyone on the path to the destruction.
So deal with your little sins now. Pray for those entangled in sin. Warn them in love. Cling to God's grace. And in the end, the only real monster, the Devil, will lose the war. Good will triumph. Jesus will reign.
It's not just a battle in the realm of trafficking. It's a battle that begins in the hearts of men and women. Don't neglect the nurturing of your own heart as you join us in this effort. Thank you for partnering with us.
Brian Jennings, Trustee
Why We Are Going Light On The Brick And Mortar
One of the great challenges that any charitable organization faces is that institutions tend to give rise to brick and mortar. Lots of brick and mortar. Once this gets to a certain level, the tail often wags the dog.
All ministries begin with high ideas which center around people. You know what I mean -
things like bringing people to Christ, helping people who need it, creating community, or training leaders for ministry.
At the core of Blackbox International is the desire to help some very vulnerable people - trafficked boys. Part of this equation is making sure that facilities don't start to wag the dog. Instead, we are committed to utilizing facilities that will be culturally appropriate. They will be ones which are typical for the area. They will look local. They will feel local. This is important for several reasons:
Blackbox seeks to maintain a low profile abroad for a number of reasons, especially related to issues of safety and dignity.
It will not only help the boys in their healing, but it will facilitate a healthier reentry into their own cultures. This is crucial.
It will be cost-effective, which makes the ministry more reproducible.
Thank you for partnering with us.
Trustee, Blackbox International