Love 146 works toward the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation thorough prevention and aftercare solutions. Heather and Ben are strong supporters of LOVE 146, and often travel to SE Asia to experience LOVE 146′s efforts first-hand.
Heather recounts her most recent journey in the following words:
November 2012 I just returned from my 3rd trip over to SE Asia to see the work of Love 146, a non-profit committed to abolishing human trafficking with an emphasis on children who are sold for sex. I had hoped that it would be easier this time, but it was no less heartbreaking. However, the people we met, who are all heroes in this fight, give you a deep sense of hope that balances the pain and motivates you to use your abilities to support them and the movement.
I traveled over there with 10 amazing women. Being together as a team allows you to feed off of each other’s strength and the laughs that we shared were quite therapeutic. God had a perfect plan in sending us out together. We landed in Phnom Penh and met with Glenn Miles who oversees Love 146′s operations in Asia. Incredible man. He consults many people who are involved with sex trafficking in the area and helps them with their various organizations. We saw the posters and flip charts they have created to grow the education and aide to help in shifting cultural habits — conveying the message that domestic violence isn’t good and spending money on beer and prostitutes hurts everyone involved.
We visited a Young Life center with Jamie Hanson, a good friend of Ben’s from Oregon. He oversees that region for Young Life that has 5 YL centers around Phnom Penh. The Young Life workers facilitate contact with kids by providing computer labs in local high schools and teaching English. Jamie and I are hoping to build a connection there as Young Life can utilize the educational materials Love 146 has created while connecting with kids and building leaders to help break the cycle of exploitation. They are doing a great job speaking into kid’s lives and providing them with much needed support.
Our first night in Phnom Penh, we walked around a beer garden and visited an ice cream shop that Love 146 has opened up in the middle of a row of bars. This provides a non-threatening way to interact with prostitutes to share with them that there is a way out. Having a permanent presence will be a great resource as they try to reach out to the men and women who are entangled in this business. As I watched the Western looking men talking to the girls I couldn’t help but wonder about the deep need in their own lives – why did they need to portray the misconception that they are “Prince Charming” with lots of money? It seems to be all part of an illusion that goes along with this sex industry. We continued to visit people and learn about their work. An amazing British woman named Ruth has opened up a coffee shop, gift shop & nail spa to provide work for men & women who have left the brothels. On top of the coffee shop she created a beautiful prayer room where people who are working in this area from all over the city can come and feel supported and gain refreshment. www.daughtersofcambodia.org
We went around with Phany from Kone Kmeng who I met on my last trip. He is of the most inspirational people I have ever encountered. He grew up in a poor province and his parents went against the pressures of his community to keep him in school. (The Cambodian people there just don’t see the importance of education as there reality is based on the short term – providing food for today). After high school, he moved to the city and begged a college to let him attend. He couldn’t afford to pay the tuition daily, so he went only on M, W, F and would ask his friend what they learned on T & Th. He got a job working for a British diplomat who took him to church. He was tutored in English by Laura, a missionary from Hawaii, who helped him grow in his faith. He now helps out countless vulnerable children in the countryside and the city. We went to a school in the slum where kids whose parents live on the railroad tracks are able to attend. They were all so much smaller than their ages because of the malnourishment. We went to a home in the city where the kids from the countryside are able to live and go to college — hoping to rise up a new generation of leaders that will carry on the vision of Phany’s heart. www.kone-kmeng.org.
Phany’s wife, Lida, runs Precious Women, an outreach to prostitutes to help them escape the life of a brothel (which now is mostly karaoke bars & beer gardens). She opened up a bridal shop as a sustainable business for the women and they rent out wedding dresses and provide other services for weddings like styling hair & doing make-up. Weekly they go out to bars as part of their outreach and invite women to come to the shop. The afternoon we visited a group of girls were there & had a hair styling contest. We interacted with them and then circled around them and prayed over them. One young girl was sobbing. There was a little girl who came with her big sister who is part of the “brothel house” — no older than 5 years old and I wondered what her little eyes have seen — she never cracked a smile.
After dinner that night, a few of us went to an actual karaoke bar. We were taken upstairs to what felt like a private “lap dance” room. Four young women were brought in and we just sat with them and conversed with them through a Khmer speaking couple who works for Love 146. The girls were absolutely beautiful. They sang a couple of American songs and nervously sat there while we asked them questions. The ‘mama san’ figured out we were from an NGO, but didn’t seem We walked away wondering even more what their hellish life is like. And to think that that is one of many, many establishments where many, many girls have this life as their destiny. Something that I learned this trip was that these brothels don’t really hold the girls forcefully, but the expectation of Cambodian culture where the daughter is expected to provide for the family keeps them working there as they believe they have no other alternative. We made a quick trip to Bloom, a beautiful cupcake shop that is providing help and a jobs to girls who have been rescued. Ben’s caddie’s brother and his wife have helped there twice and are now moving to Cambodia to open up a 2nd location in Siem Reap, the city where Angkor Wat is located and child trafficking is tragically growing, especially to provide young boys to tourists.
Ben flew in after the tournament with his dad and met us in Manila, Philippines. We had a powerful last day together. We visited a drop in center in the middle of the city where they are gathering up street kids from a particular park area. These kids are homeless (often sleeping on a piece of newspaper at night) and known for being sexually exploited. At this place – called the Round Table – about 15 kids are provided lunch. They are loved on with music and art. The girls who have been restored at Love 146′s safe home are going into the city to work there and it has been a powerful extension of their healing — from victim to liberator. We heard a few of their crushing stories — one little girl said she had been to a big hotel to go swimming, but after more questions, it became clear that a Western man had “rented” her and her 2 siblings from their mother for some time in his hotel room. It sounds pretty common for perpetrators to video record their encounters with kids and post them to cyber space child porn websites.
The highlight was our trip outside the city to the “Round Home” — Love 146′s beautiful safe house. They celebrated their 5th anniversary and it was a huge celebration, with a cotillion and 2 girls birthday’s. In its 5 years, the Round Home has taken in over 40 girls, all of whom (but the 12 that are currently living there) have been reintegrated back into society. Their therapy techniques are powerful and it gives you great hope to see the restoration that is possible. The day ended with a special reception thrown for us by the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas. Ben met the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia during the CIMB golf tournament and he put us in touch with Harry, a very gracious man who is especially concerned with human trafficking and the sex trade in the Philippines. He invited about 25 people to meet us and hear about our work with Love 146. It was quite an honor! Everyone there was concerned and eager to help, so hopefully some significant relationships were formed.
The trip was a powerful time of seeing the full cycle of exploitation and seeing the many angles that Love 146 is attacking through the various people they have identified and are supporting. It is a BIG problem and a huge battle to fight — but God can do incredible things through his people and their faithfulness does not go unnoticed. Thank you for reading and for your support as we continue to commit ourselves to this issue!!
So good to be home and hug our kiddos in time for Halloween…
Much love & thank you for your support, Heather
LOVE 146 – The Organization and How Heather and Ben Became Involved
Through a friend and musician, Lamont Hiebert, Heather was told out about the horrific issue of child sex trafficking in 2005 when Lamont led worship at the PGA Tour Bible study during the Bob Hope Classic. Lamont had recently taken a trip with IJM (International Justice Mission) to SE Asia and learned all about the problem and how IJM was responding to it. His heart was broken and moved to start an organization to help fight this battle, Love 146, with a focus on prevention and aftercare.
Soon after their conversation, Heather agreed to join the group as a board member and took her first trip to Cambodia and Thailand a couple of months later, where she too, saw firsthand the vulnerability of those in extreme poverty and the all too common exploitation of young children because of their desperate living conditions.
The perspective she gained on the trip was life-changing and the calling to do something motivated her to come home and convince Ben that they needed to do something to help — and that is where their golf tournament fundraiser began — in May 2005, the first Day with the Pros, a pro-am that has been held six times since and has raised over $1.9M for both Love 146 and H.O.P.E. Farm.
Ben and Heather are motivated by a quote from Gary Haugen, founder of IJM, “The issue isn’t where is God, it is where are God’s people?” Heather has remained a board member and has recently become even more involved as the issue of underage sex trafficking and exploitation has shown itself a serious problem domestically as well. Because of online classified ads, there is now an accessibility to “buying a girl” that we haven’t seen before, and the demand is rampant for younger and younger girls.
Through Love 146, Ben and Heather hope to make a difference as we increase awareness and advocate for laws to change and services to be provided for rescued kids who have been exploited, as well as educating our youth through prevention education so that kids will not be as vulnerable.