Saturday, September 15, 2007

"...and one of them wanders away..."

Friday was my first night out with an organization called StandUp for Kids.
The mission of StandUp is to go out in search of homeless and runaway teens. The statistics on runaways are frightening, sad, and downright horrible:

  • Within 48 hours of being on the street, 85-90% of adolescents will engage in sexual behavior, either forced, or for money, food or a place to sleep (still technically 'forced').
  • 80-85% of teens runaway because their home life really is that bad. They have a parent who's either abusive, an addict, or a prostitute; or they're in some other way being abused or severely neglected.
  • Contrary to popular belief, most teens don't runaway to get back at parents who won't buy them an iPod or let them stay out past curfew. They run away because they genuinely believe that life on the streets will be safer than life at home.
  • At any given time, there are over 1 million adolescents living on the streets in America.

As we walked last night, looking for places where runaway teens might hangout or live, we came across some areas that broke my heart and made me sick to my stomach. Most teens are only able to survive by prostituting themselves. They do it for money, drugs, a place to sleep, or something to eat. Last night we found a place where lots of this kind of activity happens. The area was very secluded, strewn with clothing, condoms, lighters and homemade drug paraphernalia. It made my soul sick to think of what goes on in a place like that. Of the kids who have every shred of their innocence taken by people who know they're easy prey.

I couldn't help last night but think of Jesus' parable of the lost sheep. "If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine... and go look for the one that has wandered off?"

To the best of our ability, we're trying to find the "one"s who have wandered off. But we can only do so much. We need help. I hope that some of you who are reading this will consider joining in the search.


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