journalism

Going Undercover, Saving Sex Slaves

The auditorium of the old Rexburg Tabernacle is packed. Everyone here has come to hear Tim Ballard speak, the man who founded Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit devoted to liberating child sex slaves. O.U.R. jump teams travel to countries like Colombia and Haiti, pose as buyers for sex slaves, and organize big deals with local sex traffickers. At the right moment, local police burst in with weapons drawn, arresting traffickers and O.U.R. team members. The traffickers are taken to jail, the teams are released, and the rescued children are placed in reputable care. It’s as intense as any sting Hollywood could contrive, but this is completely real, dangerous, and far more rewarding. (more…)

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Why Stories Are Weapons

I am reading a collection of nonfiction essays by Brian Doyle called Grace Notes. Doyle’s writing is a nice balance between the lighthearted and the serious. Though his writing is sometimes goofy, he truly believes that “stories maybe save lives.” He knows his writing has the power to heal and to build. He also knows his stories are weapons, as shown in his essay, “What Am I Doing Here?” In part, this piece describes his desperate desire for justice in the aftermath of 9/11, in which three of his friends were killed: (more…)

Lessons from the Homeless

September 2011–As I walked through the Gateway Mall on a busy Saturday afternoon, I noticed to two small Asian girls playing violins ahead of me on opposite street corners. Their violin cases lay open to receive tips. These girls, despite their young age, were polished musicians. “Where are their parents?” I asked myself. (more…)

My Seventeen-year-old Hero

I’d like to introduce to you one of my heroes. And she’s only 17. She has already done a wonderful job at telling her story, but it is a story that must be told more widely. Also, like all great leaders, she has enemies who misunderstand her story, and I want to set the record straight. (more…)

10 Days in Honduras: Returning to Jutiapa

Day 8:

Last time I saw Jutiapa was on a Sunday, a relatively quiet and empty day. This time, a Saturday, Jutiapa is bustling with activity. Cars and little taxis fill the streets, and people fill the shops and sidewalks. Everything is alive. Bairon said that at night it is even more alive. I wish I could see that. (more…)

10 Days in Honduras: Snakes, Witchcraft, and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”

Day 5:

Classes today were really fun. Up to this point, I’ve taught the alphabet, numbers, months, and days. The students are quick and keep me scratching the bottom of the barrel for more things to teach. Of course they still have the whole language to learn. But it is difficult to find things that are both simple enough for them to understand and simple enough for me to teach. (more…)