Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why Cambodia?

A friend recently asked me, "Why Cambodia when there are so many other horrible things happening in the world?"

I thought this was a good question and it has been bouncing around in my head ever since he asked. Sure I could go to Darfur and chronicle the atrocities. I could fly to Tibet and film how communism has crushed that countries cultural heritage. I could sneak into Iran and take footage of the oppression that the people live under. There are any number of options and those are only the first few that come to mind.

I know that things are bad in numerous regions of the world and personally, I don't really have any solid answers for what I can do to bring change. But in Cambodia, I believe that we truly have a chance to make a significant and lasting impact. That is because we will be coming alongside of, and supporting, an organization that is already producing results. They already have the structure. Their main hindrance at this point is awareness of what they are doing and funding. Thats where something as simple as a video documentary can make a world of a difference. If we play our cards right this project has the potential to bring in millions and millions of dollars in support to help fund a program that is already working.

I already have a rough working model in my head as to how this all will work out. Some ideas I may share with you in subsequent posts while others I may keep secret until they are ready to be fully introduced. I don't want to let all the cats out of the bag just yet. Besides, its a working model and will inevitably be different three weeks from now anyway.

Anyway, back to the original question. "Why Cambodia?" Well I guess the answer is simply that "I gotta start somewhere, so why not start somewhere that I already have connections with people who are already making a difference?"

Our aim

What can really be said? I often ask myself this question when I think of the horrible atrocities that are happening over in Svay Pak. So when faced with such a horrible outlook, there is only one hope, and that is Jesus Himself. All other means of resolution to this problem are temporary and fruitless. With this said, I wish to say that doing a documentary is not the solution in itself. It is my hope, and Seth's, that we "document" what glorious things that Christ is doing; primarily in the lives of the girls rescued from brothels and the actions of those partnering with the Lord in ending this madness. I don't know how this all will turn out, nor do I think that a media success will by any means end sex slavery, but purely the powerful hand of God. I say with sincerity that whatever the outcome of this project may be, it is my desire that Agape be strengthened in their ministry and that God would work miracles in their midst. I can't wait :)


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Good intentions are not "good" enough. We need success!

I had the opportunity to watch the MSNBC special about the child sex slavery in Cambodia today. It was interesting to watch. The unfortunate thing is that it did not offer any solutions to the problem. The special showed how the government and police forces were compromised by corruption that served to clandestinely support and aid the child sex slave industry. You can not trust the police because many of them receive payoffs from the pimps and pedophiles. They also interviewed a center that rehabilitated young girls who have been pulled out of sex slavery. The worker sadly estimated that over 40% of the young girls brought to the center will run away and go back to prostitution. At first I thought this was outrageous, but after talking with Clay I have a better understanding of why so many girls might run.

Most of these girls come into the centers with drug addictions that have been forced on them by their pimps. They are in a very bad mental state and do not trust anybody but themselves so even though they are in a loving and caring environment, they do not perceive it that way and many will try to escape. The Restoration Center that is operated by AIM has had girls run away as well, but thankfully, all of them have come back. Agape attributes its success to Gods grace and not to their own credentials. Clay also told me that there is a strong connection between all of the centers out there which I did not know up until this point. He spoke very highly of all of the centers and even relayed a story to me of one man who "spent 3 days without sleep trying to find one of the girls that ran away after she had threatened to kill him and his staff."

There was also an American pedophile that the MSNBC special confronted with video evidence of him confessing to raping 14, 15, and 16 year old girls in Cambodia. The video should have been more than enough evidence to convict (as was stated by Colon Powell in an interview) and yet at the end of the program we find that the man still has not been brought to justice even though he is currently in the United States. The special just gave the feeling of hopelessness. There was no real answer to bringing any lasting change.

In a recent update from Clay, I found out that he recently had the opportunity to represent AIM at a UN summit on child sex slavery in Cambodia. Apparently there were many well funded and educated organizations that are working to end sex slavery at the summit. Each one stood up and, like the MSNBC special, sadly announced that in spite of their best efforts, they are not seeing any progress. Now, in stark contrast to the hopeless reports from MSNBC and the UN workers, Clay let me know that the only organizations at the UN summit to give a "good" report of progress were the few that are led by Christians. It is the Christians who are making an impact. The world has good intentions but no real answers when it comes to combating such evil. It's not that others are not doing their best, its just that there truly is only one answer and His name is Jesus!

I see this all as exciting news. It is becoming more apparent that we have an opportunity to not merely bring awareness to the horror that is being forced on these beautiful children in Cambodia but also to offer hope that this horror can be stopped. That will be the difference that makes this film project worth every minute.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Micah has now been added as a contributer to this blog so look forward to reading posts from him soon.

We have narrowed down the date to fly out to the first week of June so hopefully that will work. There is a possibility that we may push the date back to some time around August but I am hoping and shooting for June. We will see.

I have also added a link to Agape International Ministries website to the blog for your enjoyment. Check out "The Beginning of Rahab's House" link on the News page for the story behind the former brothel that is now an outreach center in Svay Pak.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Catching you up to date.

A good friend of mine (Clay) has just flown back to Cambodia. This time to stay for the better part of two years. He is working with an organization called Agape International Missions to bring an end to the rampant child sex slavery that has destroyed so many innocent lives in that country.

Before we dive into that though, lets rewind back about eight or nine months in the past to the point where I inadvertently become involved. Clay had just finished telling me what he had decided to do with the next few years of his life. He had recently met with a man named Don who is spearheading a philanthropic organization in Cambodia. Don runs a restoration center for young girls who have been rescued from the sex industry. He is also supporting a network of over 500 Churches throughout Cambodia and is training them to effectively attack the sex trafficking industry at its heart. How they do all this will be an explanation for a later date. While Clay is describing what he is planning on doing, a crazy thought enters my head. "Can I come out and visit you?" I ask. "I don't see why not," Clay replies. Immediately I begin thinking about what I could do to help out while I am there. This would not be a vacation. In fact, far from it. The likely options run through my mind at first. I could bring medicine and other supplies that are needed, or I could just make myself available and do whatever I can to help the organization while I am there (ie. paint walls, sweep floors, whatever). None of these benefits that I offer though seem to make my trip out there worth it when compared to the distraction that I might cause to Don and Clay. Then it comes to me, "I could bring a camera and video tape what you guys are doing! That way you have something to show people who are interested in supporting you guys" (now I am in no ways a professional videographer, but I do know how to hold a camera so why not give it a go). Clay likes the idea and we leave it at that.

Now fast forward about five months or so. I had been thinking about the possibility of going out to Cambodia and I just could not get it off my mind. I was currently visiting a friend (Micah) and I started to tell him about the idea. He is a film major at Chico state and a talented one at that. I decide to ask him if this might not be something that he would be interested in. He says he would think about it. A few weeks later, he is on board 100%. I email Clay, and to my surprise, the organization was already very excited about me coming out to film a "documentary" on what is going on out there and what they are doing about it. Apparently things had grown to be much larger than I expected. I had no idea that this would be received so well on their end. Micah and I began to write up a rough outline of what we want the film to be and discuss equipment needs and options.

Fast forward again, about four more months. It is January 08 and Micah and I are hammering away at Clay with the questions that we have over dinner. Some friends and family are present as well. We discuss scenarios and options and it is becoming apparent that this thing is actually going to happen. We have enough money for the first camera and our flights have already been taken care of. Our tentative date is set for sometime between the end of May and the beginning of June this year.

Now we are finally back to the present. Clay has just arrived back in Cambodia and the NY Giants have just routed the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. All I can think about is this documentary (part of this is probably due to the fact that I am procrastinating from my "curriculum and methods" course homework). I have been watching documentaries on sex trafficking in Cambodia and it is apparent that we are attempting to do nothing new, except in one way. The documentaries that I have watched so far have great content and most do a terrific job of communicating what is going on in the region (or so it would seem with my current understanding). There is just on problem. None of them offer a lasting solution to the problem. Most only tell you how awful the situation is and leave you miserable at the end. All they seem to hope for is that greater public awareness will influence foreign policy and put pressure on the Cambodian government to crack down. There are a few films which have taken a crack at offering a way to fix the problem but their methods are poorly thought out and ineffective. They encourage purchasing girls out of the trade and then releasing them, which is about as sensible as buying up all the drugs from a drug dealer so he will not be able to sell the drugs to children. This does nothing to end the problem and actually ends up inadvertently validating the pimps by acknowledging their perceived right to sell these girls in the first place. The pimps will just go out and get more girls, just as the drug dealers will purchase more drugs.

The situation in Cambodia is complex and is deeply rooted in the countries more recent history. There is no "quick fix" and one should not be duped into thinking that there is. This blog will serve as a reference point for me to write out my thoughts as we prepare to film Agape International Missions campaign to bring about a sustained decrease in Cambodian sex trafficking that will lead to its eventual (I pray to God) elimination. Some posts will be short updates on unfolding details, whereas others will fall more in line with this one as we continue to mentally and emotionally process what we have gotten ourselves into. Stay tuned.