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Help Send A Message to U-Haul: #freepalmer

*** UPDATE ***
#freepalmer to #palmerfreed

Thanks so much to all who have lent your voices, posts, tweets, and most of all, your care and concern to this effort. We have a solution! In fact, as you may have seen in tweets and facebook links earlier, we have been able to get on the road, and we have made it to Ft. Worth, found some wifi and wanted to send an update. We’d have done it earlier, but to be honest, we wanted to get moving.

There are many to thank, but I’ll start with Mr. Don Chandler, the Regional Shop Manager for U-Haul in Abilene, TX. Don and his team (for he is not working alone) came up with a great plan that should get us to Nashville sometime tomorrow, Sunday. He has said that he wanted to find a solution that would be the way he’d like to be treated (maybe a golden rule?) and I believe that he has done that. He has secured a new, smaller truck that we can drive while pulling a trailer, while a tow truck has taken our broken down vehicle to Abilene. There, they will load the contents into a U-box pod and deliver it to our home in Nashville.

Don also sent one of his regional team members from Odessa, about 100 miles away, to take personal care of the process on the ground in Pecos. Mr. Chandler and his team have treated us well, with great empathy and communication all day.

The social media aspect of this has absolutely helped to get us a solution, and I can’t thank you enough for your help and ideas. I’ve heard from so many great people, including Anna Ortiz, whose mother lives in Pecos, TX and offered help. Steve Holt (!), a youth worker in Cincinnati that I don’t even know, who called and said that he has 2 former students within 2 hours of Pecos ready to help at a moment’s notice. Adam McLane, my friend and co-worker, has been a huge help in spreading the word as well. And Beth Lee for tweeting Sir Richard Branson and asking if he’d jet pack in to Pecos to get us. There are many, many more.

As I told Don Chandler, my intent with this social appeal was not a vendetta, but to get extraordinary help in an extraordinary time. And I appreciate that he, his team, and his supervisor, were willing to do just that. Yes, I am tired, frustrated, anxious and emotionally thin. We are about 400 out of 1,100 miles into the drive, and have many other details to sort out before this is through. But I can see some light, and that’s what I needed. So please, consider thanking Don Chandler and his team in the venues where you were able to move the needle and gain his help. Here’s what I’m posting and tweeting:

Thanks Don Chandler & team, & @UHaul_Cares, for answering the call. #freepalmer #palmerfreed Update: bitly.com/N0j8ny

I’ll update more later, but for now, a thousand thanks to each and every person who has helped. It is amazing and humbling to see the response from family, friends, and perfect strangers. You have each had a significant affect in my life. Peace to you all.

dave

=====

I need your help. You know how there are times that you can’t seem to get help from a company you’re working with, and you don’t know what else to do but write and post? Well, it’s that time for me. You see, in the past 52-ish hours, my U-Haul rental truck has had 4 mechanical issues needing to be addressed, including one that necessitated me calling 911 to get medical help for my dad, who passed out from heat exhaustion as a result of the truck overheating and not allowing the AC to work.

In that time I’ve spent 4 hours on the phone with U-Haul representatives and their affiliate companies trying to get help, find solutions, and arguing to ensure that I could safely get my dad to the nearest airport (170 miles away) in a vehicle with air conditioning so that we would not be in a situation to need emergency medical assistance again. As of this writing, I am sitting in a hotel in Pecos, TX, awaiting word about what sort of help U-Haul can give me. This is where I need your help to apply pressure to U-Haul. I’ve tried to be as gracious as possible on the phone, and I believe that the recordings that U-Haul does will bear that out. Nonetheless, it’s time for U-Haul to stop finding the lowest-common denominator solutions and to do the right thing and take care of the situation for real.

If you would, please:

1) Post to Facebook: @uhaul: do the right thing. help dave palmer, Ref # 47123. #freepalmer http://bit.ly/N0j8ny

2) Tweet: @uhaul: do the right thing. help dave palmer, Ref # 47123. #freepalmer http://bit.ly/N0j8ny

3) Email publicrelations@uhaul.com and ask them to pay attention to this case. Please include the link to this post and the above reference number:  Ref # 47123 http://bit.ly/N0j8ny

I appreciate any and all help with this. I really just want this debacle to be over so that I can get settled and see my family. I’m tired of arguing with U-Haul and calling them names in my head that I never want my kids to hear. I’m tired of wondering if the truck I’m driving can make it another few miles. So below is the quickest recap that I think I can do. Thanks all.

dave

As quick a recap as I can do:

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27 (Time on the phone with U-Haul & Affiliated Agents: Approximately 15 minutes)

My dad and I left San Diego a little after 6 PM, with the truck loaded and vehicle transport holding the car that we are towing. We got no further than 25 miles outside of San Diego, in Alpine, CA, when the truck overheated. After an hour, a repair shop showed up, inspected the vehicle and advised that we down shift to lower gears and kept RPMs low when going up and down hills, as the roads in that area are steep. We took his council, and though it was warm, it was not incredibly hot, so we kept the AC off to keep the engine temperature down. We made it as far as Yuma, AZ, instead of our intended Tucson, and decided to start early to avoid heat, and see if the truck would work better.

THURSDAY, JUNE 28 (Time on the phone with U-Haul & Affiliated Agents: Approximately 86 minutes)

We departed Yuma around 6:45 AM, heading east on I-8. The truck was running hot, but not overheating as long as the AC was off and we watched our speed and RPMs. We drank copious amounts of water and Gatorade, and stopped every 90-100 minutes to rest, cool off and regroup. But my early afternoon the heat was getting unbearable. We decided to stop for lunch and asses our situation, and my dad asked that we pull over right away, as he was feeling the heat. Fortunately we were at an exit with a truck stop in Lordsburg, NM. As we exited the freeway my dad passed out. I parked in the truck stop lot and called for help, and then called 911 myself. 2 amazing gentlemen from an area Rent-A-Center, one with emergency medical training, helped me to get my dad inside as we waited for the EMTs. The EMTs were there in about 6 minutes and did an amazing job of caring for my dad and helping me to do the same. They did not hurry us, and eventually suggested that we get to a place where dad could rest, regroup and asses what we would do next.

They took him in the ambulance to an area hotel where one of the EMT’s daughter works. As I arrived at the hotel with the truck and trailer they were wheeling him to a room and getting us set up for rest. They were angels. The first thing that I knew I needed to do was make sure that my dad was taken care of and not in an un-air conditioned vehicle. I also felt, along with my family, that the best thing for dad was to get him home to Chicago. There was no way that he needed to make the rest of the trip with me. So after  a series fo calls with family, I booked my dad a plane ticket back to Chicago from El Paso, TX, which was the closest airport, at 170 miles away. I then began the process to make sure that he could get there safely and on time.

And thus began my series of calls to U-Haul. As I mentioned, Lordsburg, NM is not close to anything. Aside from the local towing company that helps with repairs for U-Haul, the next closest U-Haul service station is in Deming, nearly 70 miles away. Need a rental car? It’s either 60 miles north in the mountains, or 120 miles to the east in Las Cruces, NM. I spoke with a series of U-Haul staff, demanding managers / supervisors, as the situation required attention from people with decision-making power. I requested that they find a rental car or other safe, suitable transportation to get my dad to El Paso in time for a 4:30 PM flight the next day (Friday).

I was put in touch with a local repair shop (Badlands Towing), and Jim, the manager there. was very helpful, and joins the heroes list alongside the Rent-A-Center guys and the EMTs. Jim came to the hotel we were at, and while my dad rested I took the truck to his shop. He pressure-washed the radiator, which was filthy, and felt that it was the main culprit, not allowing enough air to get to the engine. He said that he felt OK about the truck’s potential, but still said that in extreme heat (over 100 degrees along our entire route), a truck can have issues with heat.

I spoke with two separate customer service managers during the evening, Callie (sp?) and Heather. I believe it was Callie tat contacted Jim at Badlands, but by the time I got back she was off duty and I began speaking with Heather. I told Heather that I was not at all comfortable with my dad driving in the truck, even with the repairs, as the gaps on the road between service centers were long and unpopulated, and that if the truck broke down again we might not be so lucky as to be in a spot where EMTs could arrive quickly. After much discussion, I requested that she modify an idea to have someone from Badlands follow us to ensure that the repairs held. I asked that U-Haul compensate Badlands to have an employee follow us to Las Cruces, where I would rent a car, take my dad to the El Paso airport for his flight, and then I’d return to the truck to deal with it.

At first she contacted a local/regional person that she said had the sole authority to authorize that kind of response. I later learned that this person’s name is Phil Sales (sp?), and it is a name that I hold in incredibly low esteem. She communicated that Phil felt that the radiator cleaning should be enough of a fix, and that he’d authorize Badlands to follow us 20 miles down the road, since any trouble would happen in that distance. I respectfully and forcefully disagreed, as I refused to be 50 miles from the next service station in Deming with the possibility of a breakdown and no AC. I explained that the best case scenario was that the repair was good, and he’d have to pay Badlands a fee to ensure that a customer was safe. If the repair wasn’t enough, then my dad would still be safe from the heat, and able to make his flight, and I’d still be taking care of the truck.

I went on to explain that any other alternative scenario would not be good for anyone, and that aside from any legal, financial or PR liabilities arising from a tragic accident, that the life of an 80-year old man was quite literally at stake. Heat stroke in 100 degree + weather without prompt medical attention can be deadly, and I was not playing around with this; I implored Heather to explain this to Mr. Sales. When she next contacted me she said that Mr. Sales would authorize Badlands to follow us to Deming, and if we wanted him to go any further then we’d have to pay for Badlands’ time. To say that I nearly blew a gasket would be an understatement. I explained to Heather that Mr. Sales needs to understand that I was not trying to bargain, with me starting at 120 miles (Las Cruces), him countering with 20 (arbitrary figure), and then him coming back with 70 as a compromise.

I explained that this was an issue of taking care of people and not to be haggled over, particularly with a truck that had had 2 repair calls in less than 24 hours. Heather stated that Mr. Sales was the only person authorized to make that call. Aside from my not believing that a senior U-Haul person could over-ride their local/regional person, I told her that she needed to understand the gravity of the situation. She said that she understood and agreed, but couldn’t get past Mr. Sales, and she couldn’t get anyone else above her hierarchy at the time. She asked that I call again in the morning when the Badlands shop opened.

At this point I drafted an email to go to the U-Haul Publicity department as listed on their website. They have not yet responded.

FRIDAY, JUNE 29 (Time on the phone with U-Haul & Affiliated Agents: Approximately 142 minutes)

I woke in time to call U-Haul at 7 AM as advised by Heather. She was not on duty anymore, and so I began to recap the issue with various customer service people before finally reaching Samantha. She got caught up on the scenario and offered to call Mr. Sales again, understanding the scenario. In the meantime I called Jim at Badlands and asked him if he’d be willing to go as far as Las Cruces if U-Haul / Mr. Sales approved it. He assured me he would and that he understood our concern. Samantha returned my call and said that Mr. Sales would authorize Badlands to follow us to Deming, 70 miles away, and that if the engine temperature was high, then Badlands could go as far as Las Cruces. I was offended that he was still, in my mind, haggling with me about my dad’s safety, but he was not budging.

At 9:45 AM, we met Jim from Badlands and began our trek east on I-8, with Jim following in his truck. The AC was working decently, but within 25 miles, as we began an incline, the truck struggled to get up the hill. The engine temp rose, though not to a level to over  heat, as long as I maintained a lower speed. When we reached Deming I told Jim what was happening, and he agreed that we should proceed to Las Cruces with him following. He communicated this to Mr. Sales, though I don’t know what the exchange was. My plan was to call a rental car company in Las Cruces. My dad, surprising me, asked Jim if he would take him all the way to the El Paso airport, allowing me to avoid the rental car expense and extra 2 hours on the road; I didn’t care about those things, but Jim said that he’d be happy to help us, as he understood our concern and knew that it was the thing for him to do.

So when we arrived in Las Cruces, we stopped, and my dad got in Jim’s truck for the rest of the trek to El Paso. I called Samantha at  U-Haul again and told her that the truck was running hot and that I needed to take it to the U-Haul repair shop in El Paso, which is a full-fledged U-Haul repair and service center. She agreed and gave me directions to the repair shop. As I exited the freeway according to the directions, I found myself staring up a steep hill. Within about 1/3 of a mile up the hill the truck overheated and necessitated a 3rd service call.

The El Paso shop sent a crew out to work on the truck while I sought shelter at a nearby gas station/restaurant. After about 90-100 minutes, I was picked up by the repair crew, and learned that they had replaced the thermostat and fan clutch. They believed that the problem was fixed, and asked that I take the mountain pass as a test of the repairs, assuming that if the truck could make that pass then it would perform well on the more level roads east of El Paso. The truck did alright, making up the hill slowly, but then running steadily and cooly. I spoke with the shop via the phone and they wished me luck, thinking that the problem was solved.

I went by the El Paso airport to pick up my good friend Brad, who had flown in from Chicago to make the rest of the trip with me. Brad is an amazing friend. We began our trek and the truck seemed to be running well. As we approached Van Horn, TX (pop approximately 2,900), I noticed a light had just come on. Being cautious, we stopped, and I called U-Haul yet again while we filled the truck with fuel. I spoke to a Travis or Trevor, and he told me that Samantha had left for the day, but he would look for another manager. In the meantime, he asked what the problem was. I told him that the truck was running very well, but a light had come on, and with no manual in the truck, I didn’t know what the light meant. This is the craziest exchange since Mr. Sales’ life-haggling over my dad’s health. I asked for an audio recording, but the gist of the exchange was,

Travis/Trevor: “So, Mr. Palmer, the truck is running well?”
Me: “Yes, but I’d like to know what the light means.”
Travis/Trevor: “If it’s running well you should be OK.”
Me: “Do you know what the light means?”
Travis/Trevor: “No sir, I do not.”
Me: “Can you please find out what it means? This truck does not have a good history.”
Travis/Trevor: “Um. OK. Hold on a minute while I look.”

After some research, Travis/Trevor said that it was a power train light, and that the power train may have sustained some damage. I expressed that Van Horn, TX seemed to have nothing aside from a gas station/diner and an unsavory looking hotel that might not even be running. And in the time that it took him to look that up, we had turned the truck’s ignition after filling it with fuel, and the light was off. I recall that he thought that we should continue with caution. I was getting a call from my sister at the time, and told Travis/Trevor that I needed to take the call, as it had to do with my dad’s travel, and requested that he have a manager call me back about this issue.

Two hours later, with no return call from U-Haul, the truck was running fine when we heard a sound that was like a giant fan blowing as hard as possible. It came out of nowhere. I immediately pulled off at an exit we were approaching, and the AC shut off, the hazard lights stopped blinking, and our headlights dimmed to almost nothing, even with the high beams on. As we struggled to move down the road the power train light went on. The truck hobbled in to a hotel in Pecos, TX. I called U-Haul yet again, and after nearly 26 minutes waiting for a manager, I was connected to David, my 4th U-Haul manager during this debacle. I reviewed the history, and said something to the effect of,

“David – this has been an extraordinary experience for me, and not in a good way. I need you to do something extraordinary with customer service and take care of this for me. I’ve had 4 repair calls for the same truck, a 911 call to get medical attention for my dad, arguing for the safety of my dad, not to mention the expense of his buying a plane ticket home, my extra nights on the road and the fact that I’m still not even half way to my destination when I should be arriving there now. You need to do the right thing here. Get my belongings that are in the truck, and trailer with my car, to my destination in Nashville. I’m not driving this truck again. I know that you contract with companies to drive trucks for other people, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. You need to solve this.”

Customer Service Manager David said that he would see what he would do but wouldn’t have any answers until the morning (it was almost 10 PM by this time). He also said that things like other drivers were handled by other departments. I stated that this was not the time to look to a standard customer service playbook, but to come up with an extraordinary response for an extraordinary situation. I understood that he’d need to work on it overnight, and that the right thing to do was to come up with a real solution. I said that I’d expect a call at 7 AM per his timeline.

It’s 12:55 AM Saturday as I finish writing this, and I need help to get U-Haul to pay attention to this in a meaningful way. No more band aid solutions, no more haggling over tiny solutions. It is time for a BIG solution to help a customer who has been through a hellish experience get to a destination safely and in a reasonable amount of time.

The only people who have gone out of their way for real on this trip have been non-U-Haul employees: The Rent-A-Center guys; The EMTs and their family members who helped us; Jim at Badlands Towing. Every U-Haul employee has erected a barrier to serving us, while these other folks immediately acted to help.

If you’d be willing to post to Facebook and Twitter that’d be great, as would an email to U-Haul’s PR department. The info that I think would help are at the top of this post.

More Than 1,000 words: 2 sites with evocative art

Last week, Rachel Held Evans posted a link to this site for the Old & New Project. I spent a fair bit of time looking through the varied images that two graphic designers have assembled, being inspired by scriptures, and committing to excellent design as well as an unfiltered response to the passages that they are designing for. I appreciate that they haven’t tried to wrap every story concept up in a nice, resolved way. There is beauty, confusion and some great humor in these designs, and I encourage you to check them out. What’s more, they are donating proceeds from the sale of prints to the fine folks at blood:water mission.

Are You A Spiritual Refugee?

Elsewhere, David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor, shared a moving illustration entitled, Are You A Spiritual Refugee? As we see the increasing number of people identifying as being of no faith, many of whom are disenfranchised from the churches of origin. After explaining his definitions of spiritual refugee as well as Internally Displaced Persons, Hayward writes, “They are either in unhappily or out altogether. It is a terrible choice to make that some find liberating and others find extremely terrifying. Just like refugees and internally displaced persons.”

Writing like this continues to chalenge me to consider just how welcoming our churches are, and to ask how we can be more intentional about creating spaces that welcome, give rest and peace and excitement and inspiration to those who are seeking a place of refuge.

2 Cool Resources | 13 Weeks of Goodness

Occasionally I run into some really compelling looking resources to engage groups and, really, entire churches if there’s enough interest in that. The past few weeks have brought 2 of them to my attention that I want to share with whomever reads stuff here, as I think that their approach, attitude and aesthetic are all very much from the space of their creators – young adults with some fascinating thoughts on life, faith and such. It’s an interesting time for writers and publishers of resources, and I’m seeing some great innovation in myriad spaces. So without further ado…

1) GOOD NEWS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: This is a piece written by 2 of my good friends, Adam McLane and Jon Huckins. The fact that I also share office space with them has no bearing on this, as they have no idea that I’m giving them props while we sit in the same space. This is a 6-week small group curriculum that challenges us to think about how we actually are good news in whatever setting we are in – homes, schools, neighborhoods, campuses, etc. The curriculum includes study guides, discussion ideas, as well as hands-on experiments that groups can try each week as a means of putting the ideals into practice.

Don’t just talk about good news. Be good news.

For Jon, much of this comes from his experience leading an intentional community here in San Diego, called Nieu Communities, that also trains members of the community on how to plant more of these groups. Jon and his group have done some amazing things in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood, transforming a vacant handball court into a weekly neighborhood soccer/BBQ and family festival where neighbors gather and experience life together. They’ve also embraced immigrant communities and served as advocates and friends for those trying to navigate a new life in the US, as well as working with the farmers’ market and connecting poor neighbors to fresh fruits & vegetables to improve their health.

On top of that, Jon is leading a group in the Global Immersion Project, which this August will see a group of 10-12 people spend 12 days in Israel & Palestine, spending time with families and community leaders in the West Bank and in Israel, and being immersed in the stories of these communities. Jon is all about sharing life with people.

Adam recently wrote this about an experience he had while working as a youth pastor in the Detroit area that completely re-aligned his views on what it means to be good news to someone:

“You have a horrible job. You go to work early and come home late. You rush around everywhere. And when you are home there are always people coming over at all hours. You have a beautiful yard, too bad you never get to enjoy it. I don’t know what kind of church you work at but I’d never want to be a part of something like that. My life is way better than that.”

Talk about letting the air out of the balloon. I’d spent a couple years waving and trying to make small talk with my next door neighbor and this is the first serious conversation we ever had.

Of course he was right. If all he knew about my family was what he observed through his kitchen window his synopsis was dead on. Everything he said was true. I was working like crazy at the church, but in three years, had done little more than shake my neighbors’ hands and exchange names.

Simply put, my life wasn’t Good News to him. In fact, as he so clearly articulated, the way I lived was pushing him further away from God. I’ve read tons of books on evangelism and apologetics and let me state the obvious:Nothing I could say was going to draw this neighbor closer to God because I was living in a way he didn’t want to have anything to do with.

His prophetic words were a tough pill to swallow. But it was the truth. If I wanted to make an impact on my neighborhood I was going to need to change how I lived before my neighbors.

So please visit the website for The Youth Cartel, a company that Adam is a partner in, and check out Good News In The Neighborhood. It’s a downloadable product that includes print as well as short videos for each chapter. You can download the videos if you’d like (about 2.5 GB) or just stream them when you meet with a group. Enjoy the invitation to be good news!

2) ANIMATE: This is an upcoming 7-week study from the fine folks at Sparkhouse, the ecumenical wing of Augsburg Publishing. Animate features seven conversations on foundational topics of the Christian faith, with each one led by a different leader. The topics and  leaders/authors involved are:

–  God | Faith Is a Quest  –  Brian McLaren
–  Religion | Spirituality Is Not Enough  –  Lillian Daniel
–  Jesus | The Revolution of Love  –  Mark Scandrette
–  Salvation | Abundant Life Now  –  Shane Hipps
–  Cross | Where God Is  –  Nadia Bolz-Weber
–  Bible | A Book Like No Other  –  Lauren Winner
–  Church | An Imperfect Family  –  Bruce Reyes-Chow

You may recognize some names. Brian McLaren is the sort of godfather of the Emergent Christianity conversation. Lillian Daniel is the pastor of First Congregational UCC in Glen Ellyn, IL. Nadia Bolz-Weber is the pastor of House For All Sinners & Saints, an ELCA church plant in Denver, and she also has a great blog at SarcasticLutheran.com. Mark Scandrette is a friend of mine in San Francisco who leads a faith community and is an author/speaker and can be found at JesusDojo.com. I have heard most of the others speak, and by the looks of the teaser video clip this is going to be a wonderful resource for groups.

So there you have it. 2 cool new resources that are sure to spur conversations, discussions and meaningful experiences. Let me know what you think!

You Are Invited: Homebrewed Christianity Uncorked Podcast Taping

You Are Invited: Homebrewed Christianity Uncorked Podcast Taping

Let It Breathe!

For those of you who don’t know, Tripp Fuller, the youth pastor of The Neighborhood Church, a UCC congregation in Palos Verdes Estates, is also a founder of a fantastic podcast and blog community called Homebrewed Christianity. Tripp, Bo Sanders and the rest of their crew have an amazing catalog of theological and cultural conversations with names big and small from around the country. They have more content than I ever have time to stay current on, but I love every time I stop by the site. And there are 2 Homebrewed events that I’d like to invite you to:

1) This coming Thursday, May 24th, Tripp and Erin Wyma, Associate Pastor at Manhattan Beach Community Church, will host a Homebrewed podcast taping called Theology Uncorked (they’re meeting at a wine bar, hence the departure from taps to corks). It’s happening at Friends Of The Vine in Redondo Beach, from 7-9 PM. The topic: “Christianity + Homosexuality = ?” I encourage you to check out the links above, send in questions, and join the conversation.

2) Homebrewed Christianity will be doing a special Annual Gathering podcast on Friday, June 8th, at Alcatraz Brewing Company in Orange, CA, just 2.5 miles from Chapman University. We’ll be setting up at 9 PM and announcing guests soon. Please come join us for a fun way to wrap up the first day of Annual Gathering.

Guest Post: The Slave Trade Chain

Guest Post: The Slave Trade Chain

This is a guest post from friend Stephen Keating. Stephen was a participant at the Romero Center’s recent Sex Trafficking Consultation conference, and he’s written several pieces for Homebrewed Christianity as well as his own blog about the experience. I’m so thankful for Stephen and his willingness to share the experiences and insights that he gained, as well as his heartbreak and emotional responses. Please take the time to check out the rest of his writing about the experience.

I emphasized some statistics in the last post, but now I want to share a story. How does a girl become a trafficking victim? Friday afternoon our group from Centro Romero went into Tijuana and visited several different sites. We met a man (I’ve omitted his name for safety) in Tijuana who runs a safe house for girls told us about the economic chain involved. The trafficking occurs along a well-established route:

A large number of victims are taken from communities of extreme poverty in places like Honduras and Guatemala. Traffickers go down into these communities and identify potential children. They approach the mother of the child and say “That’s a beautiful daughter, can I buy her for $100?” Because of the extreme poverty, lack of education, and the dire needs of their large families, the mothers often agree to sell their children (often with the added incentive of violence). Once the traffickers have purchsed the children, they are moved to port towns and then on to warehouses in Chiapas (southern Mexico). In these huge warehouses, there are rows and rows of children with signs hung around their neck with prices. Brothel owners, pimps, and other traffickers go to the warehouse to purchase the children for approximately $200-500. They are then moved from southern Mexico up to border towns like Tijuana. At this point, the children are sold again for $500-2000. In Tijuana, a girl on the street can be propositioned by U.S. “sex tourists” for 10 minutes for $40. A very young girl will go for $200-500, virgins for even higher. Pratically anything you want, if you have the money, you can get. The girls are sold to 10-15 times a day.

Some of the girls are moved from town to town to keep their profits high. Others are moved across the border. Traffickers may connect with Americans and pay them to use their children’s birth certificates to move the trafficked child into America. Once in America, they are sold for approximately $15,000.

This whole process can occur in 15-30 days. Throughout the process, the children are raped and their spirits are broken. They are manipulated into believing that they are worthless. Pictures of their brothers and sisters are shown to them and they are told that If they ever speak out to anyone, their family will be attacked.

The Mexican government estimates that 137,000 children, women, and men are currently caught in this chain. In reality, that number is probably much, much higher.

Ouch! A Reminder That Nobody Knows You Unless You Say Hello

Ouch! A Reminder That Nobody Knows You Unless You Say Hello

Last week I was at a conference in Palm Springs for a couple of days. It’s called the BOOST Conference, and it’s for those who serve kids in out of school time programs (before & after school stuff). As someone who has been a volunteer youth worker for most of the past 20 years, I love this environment. It’s fun, exciting, smart, dedicated and a wonderful group of “all-in” people. I got to hear some of the talk by Sir Ken Robinson about the need for creativity in education, a little from Milton Chen of Edutopia, as well as get to hang out with some of the most brilliant and engaging people in education and youth services. It was wonderful.

One of the booths in the exhibit hall area was for The Trevor Project, a non-profit dedicated to crisis intervention and suicide prevention in the LGBT community, particularly among youth and young adults. I’d heard of The Trevor Project via social media, where they do an excellent job of networking. And of course having some prominent supporters like Neil Patrick Harris and Dustin Lance Black doesn’t hurt, but I discovered their involvement later on.

I struck up a conversation with the staff person at the table, asking more about his work as a trainer and presenter that worked with schools, community organizations, etc. I asked him, “do you ever work with any faith-based groups to provide resources or address the topic?”

“We work with anyone who wants us to come be with them.”

“I get that,” I said, “but I’m someone who is in faith circles a lot, and I’m curious about that community in particular, since so many LGBT youth come from religious households that may not be safe places for them.”

“Well, I’ve only been with the organization for a few months, so I can’t speak to the long term track record, but I’ve never been asked to do a presentation for a religious group.”

Ouch!

We continued talking, and I explained that the UCC as well as several other mainline groups are active in advocating for and serving with LGBT communities, and that there may be avenues available for The Trevor Project to provide some insight and education about helping LGBT youth and young adults to find safe places free of condemnation. He thanked me and we agreed to be in touch in the days ahead.

As I left I wondered just how actively we are as churches in not just providing safe places for sisters and brothers in crisis, but in letting our communities know that we are safe places? Many of our churches are decent at that, and I’m not suggesting a systematic failure. But I recall so many conversations with my progressive UCC family where they encountered someone who had just discovered a Christian community that was active in works of justice as an integral part of their faith life. And often the response is, “well we’ve been doing that for years.” A few months ago in that scenario, the person new to this discovery shot back at a group, “well I never knew you existed, so you may want to step up your efforts a bit more.” Ouch! Again!

But it was a good “ouch!” It reminded me that I too often stand content with the knowledge that “my” community is, in theory, a place that espouses values that serve and comfort the disenfranchised, the left out and the left back. But being a place for those fellow travelers and seeking those folks out to let them know that they aren’t alone are two very different things. It caused me to never rest on the virtual laurels of thought and assent when those things are meaningless without the active implementation of those ideals. It’s the difference between the theoretical and the practical.

We often criticize the practical applications of others as not being in line with our theory when we haven’t a leg to stand on when it comes to practice.

So thanks to The Trevor Project for the reminder that the work is never done, and we are to seek out the lost and left out and injured with an abandon that inspired a shepherd to leave 99 sheep to find the one that was lost. A shepherd that didn’t cater to the demands of the contented masses, but rather sought out the deep needs of the left out.

Who Made Your TV? Reflections on Tijuana from Adam McLane

Part of the latest section of the border fence

Yesterday my good friend Adam McLane (Click on his name to read his post) and I joined Carlos Correa from Centro Romero and his good friend, pastor Alfredo Gomez, for a short trek into Tijuana to get an overview of the work and ministry that they are engaged in, as well as getting a glimpse into what groups who work with Centro Romero experience. I’ve not yet had time to write about it or post picture (those are coming), but this morning I saw that Adam had written a moving and thoughtful post on our experience and his reflections on it.

Please take 3-5 minutes to read and consider this. And thank Adam for his thoughts while you’re at it.