FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Developing a Heart for the Oppressed

with Gary Haugen | November 26, 2008
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Crimes of oppression and slavery are happening all over the world. On today’s broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Gary Haugen, author of Terrify No More about these crimes, and about what Gary is doing to free those trapped in slavery.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Crimes of oppression and slavery are happening all over the world. On today’s broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Gary Haugen, author of Terrify No More about these crimes, and about what Gary is doing to free those trapped in slavery.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Crimes of oppression and slavery are happening all over the world.

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Developing a Heart for the Oppressed

With Gary Haugen
November 26, 2008
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Bob: Do you ever hear about events that are taking place in Third World countries and find yourself asking the question – why doesn't somebody do something about that?  How can these things go on, and nobody stops them?  Here is one explanation from Gary Haugen.

Gary: You know, I describe this situation in Cambodia where these children are being sold to pedophiles.  Well, that's completely against the law, but what they don't have is an advocate, and the reason there is so much slavery in the world, the reason there is so much sex trafficking, the reason there is so much torture and illegal detention or widows having their land taken away is not so much because of the power of perpetrators but because of the vulnerability of the victims.  They simply have no voice. 

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 26th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  There is a way for Christians to be a part of the solution and to be an advocate for those who are oppressed.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  I don't know how many of our listeners had a chance a number of years ago to see a story on NBC's "Dateline" that dealt with the subject of sex trafficking – and I guess we ought to say at the beginning of our program today that a lot of what we're going to be talking about on this program is related to that subject and may not be appropriate for younger listeners.

The story was – well, it was shocking, it was disturbing, it was compelling, but it also offered some opportunity for hope in the midst of what is a tragic, worldwide situation.

Dennis: NBC, Bob, as you mentioned, interviewed Gary Haugen, who joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Gary, welcome to the broadcast.

Gary: Great to be with you, Dennis.

Dennis: Gary is the President and founder of International Justice Mission and, Bob, I think it would be good if our listeners just heard a brief clip from that NBC "Dateline" interview, because I think this introduces the subject of what Gary and his team are all about.

Dateline Host:  (From videotape.)  Walk up to any motorbike taxi driver in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, as we did recently with our hidden cameras, and he'll tell you where to find girls for sale – very young girls.

Taxi Driver:  That would be the (inaudible).  Well, how is this?  No problem.  They are no problem in Cambodia.

Dateline Host: He told us to take a short ride to a village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.  "Dateline" went there recently with investigators from a human rights group called the International Justice Mission.

Gary Haugen: This is the kind of brutal ugliness that is sort of hard to open your eyes to, but, once you do, I think, as a human being, you've got to take responsibility for it.

Dateline Host: Gary Haugen, a former federal prosecutor, has a staff of lawyers and former detectives who gather evidence of abuses including sex trafficking.

You basically run a sting operation?

Gary: Sure.

Dateline Host: The undercover mission we documented led to police raids and a dozen or more suspected pimps arrested, more than three dozen girls were set free from the brothels.

Dennis: You know, Bob, as I've learned a little bit more of this from reading Gary's book, "Terrify No More," and from hearing about what's taking place around the world, I have the greatest of respect for Gary and for your team and what you're doing.

You know, we think about living by faith and walking by faith, but you've really done that in some courageous and heroic ways in rescuing children, young children, from one of the most hideous and barbaric practices that's taking place today.

Back in the fall of 2003, National Geographic, and, you know, you don't think of National Geographic and their magazine uncovering something like sex slave trade and the selling of children for sex acts, but they ran an article in their magazine that gave some astounding statistics.

Gary: Yes, National Geographic did a special feature on modern-day slavery, and it pointed out that there are, in the world today, about 27 million people held as slaves in our world today, and that it made the point that's metaphorical slaves, that's actual slaves.  And that that's more people in slavery today than were extracted from Africa during 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  And millions of them are held in the slavery that is the business of rape for profit.

Dennis: You think about that – isn't that about the population of California?

Bob: 27 million – yeah, uh-huh.

Dennis: The entire state in some kind of bondage today, right now.

Gary: Absolutely.  It's absolutely the fact, and I've seen hundreds of them with my own eyes.

Bob: And, as you said, not all of them are involved in sex slavery.  That's a large part of it, but you have people who are working as slaves in stone quarries, working as slaves rolling cigarettes …

Gary: Correct.

Bob: There are all kinds of trades where people are simply in slavery and forced to do this work, or they are beaten or executed, right?

Gary: Correct.  It's coercive force just like the Hebrews were compelled to labor in Egypt.  There are millions around the world who are suffering from similar slavery.

Dennis: Put a face to these slaves.  I mean, are we talking about adults, 19, 20, young people?  Or do they make slaves out of real young children?

Gary: Well, sadly, the age range is very wide, but I certainly have seen it prey most viciously upon children and also perhaps in its most ugliest form in the sex slave trade.  I was part of an undercover investigation that International Justice Mission was doing in Cambodia, and I was taken to the back of a brothel where I was presented with about a dozen children between the ages of 5 and 10 years of age, who were being held as sex slaves, being offered to perform sex acts for visiting pedophiles and sex tourists who were coming from all over the world and jumping from Cambodia, I could go to parts of South Asia where I see children working in rock quarries.  They work seven days a week, 10 to 14 hours a day breaking rocks with little hammers.

They don't go to school, they don't play.  I could go to parts of Latin America where children worked in agriculture as slave children in mining.  There used to be in America millions of children who were in slavery and then after slavery in horrific child labor situations, and there was a heroic struggle in our country that many Christians led to begin to deal with that injustice, but that's an unfinished battle around the world and in my place by the millions, it's the face of children.

Bob: Gary, with all of these children involved, are their parents slaves as well?  Are these whole families in slavery or – you know, Mom and Dad are supposed to be there to protect the kids.  Where are Mom and Dad?

Gary: Well, let me tell a story about the first bonded slave I ever met.  It was a girl named Shama [sp], she was living in India in a very poor village, and I met her when she was 10 years old but three years before, when she was seven, something terribly happened to her.  She had her mother beginning to die in the process of childbirth, and so the family desperately needed $35 to bring a doctor to the village to stop the mom from dying.

Well, Shama's family is very poor.  They've never seen $35 in a lump sum before, and so the only place they could get it was to go to a local moneylender, and he would give them the $35 but only if Shama would be sold to work as a bonded slave.  And so at the age of 10, she went to go work for the moneylender, who was in the business of manufacturing cigarettes.  And so Shama would just sit in one place on the floor rolling cigarettes, 10 to 14 hours a day.

Dennis: She wouldn't go to school?

Gary: No, she wouldn't go – she did have a day off.  She had one day off, so she worked six days a week, 10 to 14 hours a day, she had a 15-minute break in the middle of the day to have her lunch.  Otherwise, it was back to rolling these cigarettes.  And when I met her, she had been doing this for three years because, see, the trick is you can't get out of the debt unless you pay it back in a lump sum, and she is physically forced to show up for work every day, and she would get paid by the moneylender about 70 cents per week for working this way, which she would then share with her family so that they could eat.  So they never accumulated enough money to pay the debt off in a lump sum, and so three years later she was not one penny closer to paying off that debt than when she started.

Not too long ago, I met a man in South Asia who was 70 years old that we were able to rescue from slavery, but he was just experiencing his 15th day as a free human being when I met him, and these children who are in bonded slavery as children, like Shama, they will end up like Narakalapa [sp], the 70-year-old man who spent his entire lifetime toiling as a slave on a plantation, never receiving a single rupee for his work.

Dennis: You tell a story of a family that needed $20 in the 1920s.

Gary: Right.

Dennis: And your path crossed with theirs.  They were still on bondage some 80 years later for that 20 bucks?

Gary: Correct.  Yes, this was that man, Narakalapa that I mentioned.  When I met him, he was 70 pushing 80, and he was born to this family in the '20s that had been taken into slavery because of a $20 debt, and so he was just born and, you know, a child of slaves becomes a slave himself, and so he worked on the plantation, sunup to sundown, a life of nothing but toil.  Any attempt to flee the plantation would result in beatings.  So his children were born into slavery, his grandchildren, and we intersected with them when actually there was a sponsored child who was being cared for by a charitable organization who wasn't showing up for school anymore, and so they asked us to find out what happened.

And so we traced this kid back and found that his parents took him out of school because the kid was so tormented by the way the father had been beaten because the plantation owner wanted the kid to leave school to come back to work on the plantation because the plantation owner thought he was old enough now.

And so they beat the father to say, "Bring your kid back."  But the father endured these beatings saying, "No, I want my child to go to school."  Muniraj [sp] is this boy's name – "I want Muniraj to continue to go to school."  But, after a while, Muniraj said, "No, Dad, I can't have you beaten like this," and so Muniraj went back to work on the plantation and so as we learned of Muniraj's story, we learned that there were whole families that were being held on this plantation as bonded slaves, and Narakalapa was one of them, and he was no almost 80 years old.  His children, his grandchildren, were all being subjected to horrific abuse as slaves on the plantation.

Dennis: Now, we need to say at this point not everybody who is in slavery is there because they are paying back a debt.  Some have been abducted.

Gary: Correct.

Dennis: A lot of young children are being abducted into the sex slave trade.  Most of these children are tricked to come to the city with an offer of some sort of job – maybe working in a restaurant or a noodle shop or washing dishes, and they're told, "You can send that money home to your parents," or – I actually knew a girl who wanted to raise money to go to Bible school. 

She was a good student, she went to a city across the border to try to get more money, but the woman who took her to that town for the job actually sold her into a brother where she was just beaten viciously and forced, then, to provide sex to the customers there seven days a week, never let outside of that brothel servicing five to 10 customers every day.

Bob: This is all against the law everywhere, isn't it?  Are there countries where slavery is accepted?

Gary: Well, this is the amazing thing is that, yes, indeed, this is totally against the law – the bonded slavery of Shama and Narakalapa is against the law; the sex slavery is against the law, but the problem is the law isn't brought to bear to actually defend these children.  There is no voice for them and usually the reason is because of corruption, local law enforcement has been paid off not to enforce the law, or it's the powerful people in the community who are making money off of this.

And so those verses in the Bible, which we read, especially from the Old Testament and in the stories of Jesus as well, where you see those who are weak, who are voiceless, where you see those biblical words of oppression and injustice, these are real people on our globe today.

Bob: Are there particular regions around the world where slavery is more prevalent?  Is Southeast Asia a hotbed of slavery?  What about India?  What about Africa?  South America?

Gary: It is a pervasive phenomenon in the under-developed parts of the world, but massive numbers are in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America and even in Eastern Europe now you see a lot of sex slavery as well.

And the reason there is so much slavery in the world, the reason there is so much sex trafficking, the reason there is so much torture and illegal detention or widows having their land taken away is not so much because of the power of the perpetrators but because of the vulnerability of the victims.  They simply have no voice.

And so what International Justice Mission does in response to the biblical call to be a voice is to come alongside and help the Christian community provide a voice to those who don't have one.

Bob: You studied at Harvard as an undergraduate, got your law degree from University of Chicago.  Was it all with international justice in mind?  Did you start off in school thinking someday I want to be setting captives free around the world?

Gary: Well, I had no idea precisely how this would be worked out in my life but, as a child, you know, I did read that big "Meet Mr. Lincoln" book that every kid has checked out of the library, right?  And I was so gripped by that story when – I think I was in second or third grade – that, yes, I thought I wanted to become a lawyer because Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer.

And then in fifth grade I read a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and this Baptist preacher who was engaged in sort of the unfinished work that Lincoln had begun of the rights of African-Americans.  And, as a young person, that also gripped my imagination.  But it was then in college that I began to see that this world of suffering that I was reading about in books from long ago eras was actually part of the suffering in the world that I was living in, and this is what the Bible refers to as injustice.

In Ecclesiastes, chapter 4, verse 1, it says, "Behold, I saw the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them.  But on the side of the oppressor was power."  There are people who are suffering in our world not because they don't necessarily have access to the Gospel, because they don't have water or food or housing.  They're suffering because of the abuse and oppression of other people, and what is the response of a follower of Jesus to that?  That's what we are exploring, and the Scripture is rich in giving us God's perspective on this.

Bob: In fact, if you go to the opening chapter of Isaiah, and you see the prophet talking to Israel and talking about their sinfulness, they are keeping their religious observances.  Isaiah is clear is saying that they are performing sacrifices, and they are doing their fasting, but Isaiah speaks very plainly to them about where they are missing it, and it's in this area of justice, isn't it?

Gary: Yeah, Isaiah 1:17 says, "Learn to do good; seek justice; rescue the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow."  I mean, it couldn't be more clear, but I have to tell you, I'm sure I would read that in my suburban setting in America, and those words wouldn't actually produce any concrete pictures in my mind.  Okay, "seek justice."  Well, what's the injustice.  Or "rescue the oppressed."  Well, who are they and what do they need?  Or "defend the widow" – defend her against what?  Or plead for the orphan.  What does he need?

See, until I got my eyes overseas and into some of the rough neighborhoods of our own country as well, to be able to see those who are suffering because of the abuse and the injustice that's perpetrated by other people, I didn't have context for that.  But now I do because I've seen the slaves with mine own eyes, I've seen the widows being pushed off their land, I've seen the victims of torture inside jails, I have seen street kids who are being beat up by police just because of the brutality and because the police will want to extort some money from them.

I should also say, though, too, that there is abuse of power not just overseas but it happens in our homes, it happens in our churches, in our communities.  You could go to your local battered women's shelter in your own community, and you will find there the problem – not specifically they don't have food or they don't have doctors or they don't have a house, but they have an oppressor.

Dennis: Yes.

Gary: And the question is, how do we, as followers of Jesus, respond to that?

Dennis: And I think that's a great question.  I think that every individual and, frankly, every married couple and family ought to address that question.  They ought to ask the question, "How are we going to respond?  What's going to be our part in addressing injustice in the area where we live or maybe joining forces with you, Gary, and what you're doing and supporting your work?"  I think that – I just want to encourage every one of our listeners to not be – well, as James said, "Don't merely look into the mirror and hear the words from the Scripture about the oppressed and those who have been treated unjustly and turn away from the mirror and do nothing."

Instead, look in that mirror and take a few moments sometime today and contemplate how am I going to right some wrongs, how am I going to, as a follower of Christ – and I like the way you put it, Gary – as a follower of Christ, follow Him into some hard places and feel His heart, which breaks for these people."

Bob: You can ask what can our family do?  What can other families in our church do?  What could we all do if we got together?  Is there something our church can do?  And, as you said, it could be injustice in our neighborhood or injustice in our country or around the world, but having a response to injustice is not something that is optional biblically.  We are called into this ministry and, again, it's not the totality of the Gospel, but it is part of the message of the Gospel.

I think back to Isaiah – Jesus stood and opened the scrolls in the synagogue, and he read from the Prophet Isaiah.  He said, "I have come to set captives free; I have come to liberate; I have come to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked."  And we can spiritualize that, and I think there is a spiritual side to what Jesus was saying there, but there is something about setting captives free, there is something about reaching out and letting justice roll down, as the Prophet Amos said, that we ought to be a part of.

And I think a great starting point for a lot of folks is to get the book that you've written, Gary, which is called "Terrify No More."  Learn about what IJM has been doing around the world and learn about what we can do, learn about what a just response is to oppression and inhumanity in our country and beyond our borders.

We've got copies of Gary's book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website, which is, and on the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast."  When you click in that box where it says "Learn More," that will take you to an area of the site where there is a link to the IJM website, there is a copy of Gary's book that's available there.  Other information available from us here at FamilyLife Today, and all of it, again, is on our website,

Or if it's easier, you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and request more information when you call or make arrangements to have a copy of Gary's book sent to you.  Again, the phone number, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

Let me take just a minute here, too, if I can.  I want to say thank you to our listeners who obviously have a heart for children around the world.  We've heard from so many listeners over the last couple of weeks as we've been talking about the needs of orphans, since we've been talking about orphan care and adoption and talking to Wess Stafford from Compassion International.

We've been getting a lot of response from folks who are saying, "We want to do something.  We want to help," and we so appreciate your heart for those in need.  And we also appreciate those of you who help support this ministry financially.  Your contributions to the work of FamilyLife Today are important.  We depend on your financial support to continue this daily outreach on this station and on other stations.

So we do appreciate it when, from time to time you get in touch with us and help support this ministry with a donation of any amount.  This week, if you are able to help support us with a donation, we'd love to send you a thank you gift – a brand-new book that's been written and illustrated by Barbara Rainey.  It's called "When Christmas Came."  It's an extended meditation on John 3:16, which, when you stop and think about it, is a Christmas verse, and Barbara has done eight original watercolor paintings that are incorporated throughout this book.

It's really a beautiful book, a great book for the family at Christmastime, and it's our gift to you this week when you make a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  If you are making that donation online at, when you come to the keycode box on that donation form, just type in the word, "Christmas," and we'll know to send you a copy of Barbara's book, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, make your donation over the phone and just ask to have a copy of Barbara's book sent to you.  We appreciate you, and this is just a way of showing that appreciation – a thank you gift that we'd love to send you, and we do appreciate your financial support.

Now, tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day, we are going to continue to hear more about God's heart for those who are oppressed around the world.  Gary Haugen will be back with us.  I hope you can carve out some Thanksgiving time to be with us.  Did you like that – carve out?  A little turkey allusion there.  I hope you can be back with us tomorrow.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  


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