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Archive for the ‘Social Activism’ Category

Priorities | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 25, 2019:

inside-mind1As a writer, I have a tendency to live inside my own head, thinking about my next column, laying out the plot of a new book, or working on a tricky scene or bit of dialogue. It’s not that I’m disengaged from what’s going on around me. But even during the most interesting discussion, the most challenging chore, or the most entertaining activity, a part of my mind is always searching for an idea to be stored on my mental hard drive and retrieved later to see where it might fit into a work in progress.

This isn’t always true when we’re watching TV. While David is surfing YouTube, Amazon Prime, and other streaming sites for interesting videos on sailing, RVing, metal detecting, bloopers, and other topics that interest him, I’m usually, writing, cooking, reading, working crossword and Sudoku puzzles, or playing with my phone. Once in a while, though, something catches my attention, and that happened this week when he was watching a video on auto detailing. (more…)

Marked for Life | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 18, 2019:

our father's childrenI’m home with all bones intact but with a heart that has more marks than I can count. Let me back up a step or two in case you didn’t read my last column. I went to Royal Family Kids Camp last week, a very special place where kids in foster care can spend five days and four nights just being kids and having fun in a safe environment. In 2013 I served as a counselor and came home with a broken ankle and a broken heart. This time I was the camp scribe. I wasn’t as actively involved in the organized games and other strenuous activities – and David was home praying that he would get his wife back in one piece – so I came home physically undamaged. But as I watched and listened with the eyes and ears of a writer, I saw and heard the struggles, heartaches, and triumphs of more children and counselors than before when I was focused on the two campers that were my responsibility. There are more stories than I can write, but here are a few.

“Jane” was so afraid of the water that she brought her own life jacket and continuously Pink wristbandquestioned her counselor about the lifeguard’s ability to save her if she got into trouble. All campers are required to pass a swim test in order to venture into the deeper end of the pool or to go over to the pond. She wanted to take the test, but she was afraid, so she practiced long and hard. By Wednesday, she was ready to try. Everyone in the pool area had seen her struggle, and they all stopped to watch. When she passed, the cheers and applause were deafening. The wrist band she earned became her pink badge of courage, and she showed it to anyone who would look the rest of the week. (more…)

Nightwalk for Hope by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 23, 2019:

For the silentAs a published author, the most common question I’m asked is what my books are about. I released my first novel last summer, and the short answer to that question is “it’s about human trafficking in small town America.” The second most common I’m asked about that particular book is “whatever possessed you to write about a subject like that?”

Before this book, my perspective on human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking of young girls, was very narrow, based primarily on movies and television crime shows. In my mind, this unspeakable crime was limited to the back alleys of foreign countries or a few mega-cities in the U.S. where orphans or run-aways were snatched from a hopeless existence and forced into something even worse. And it didn’t include children.

Then, one Sunday evening, a couple from Tyler visited our church. They had founded an organization called For the Silent whose mission statement reads, in part: we work to end sex trafficking and exploitation by empowering the voices of vulnerable and exploited youth. Their visit was a real wake up call.

Numbers are all over the place depending on which expert you read, but everyone seems to agree that over a million children are trafficked each year, and the average age when children are introduced into trafficking is 11 to 14. Not only is sex trafficking not limited to faraway places, it is not limited to nameless, faceless children who live in another reality. It is happening to girls – and sometimes boys – just like my grandchildren, the children and grandchildren of my friends and neighbors, the children I see every week at church or in the grocery store.

One of the stories the couple told us that night was about a thirteen-year-old girl who was targeted by a trafficker. She was an innocent, small-town girl who was approached by a stranger asking for directions. During their brief conversation, he gave her a non-threatening compliment then said good-by. Over the next several months, he “groomed” her. She “ran into him” frequently, and they became friends. At first they just talked, and then he began giving her small gifts. Their friendship grew, the gifts became larger, and she fell in love with him. He used her feelings for him to manipulate her into becoming part of his merchandise. Then, he continued to control her with fear and threats and violence. That’s why I wrote the novel I did – because I think the story of this girl and others like her needs to be told to people like me who don’t know these silent victims exist.

Nightwalk2When I visit various group to talk about my book, I offer suggestions about how each of us can help fight this horrible crime. One of those suggestions is to support groups like For the Silent, and an opportunity is available this week. The biggest fund-raising event for this Tyler-based operation is their annual Nighwalk For Hope. The following information is from their website:

 On the evening of Saturday, April 27th, we will come together as a community to shine a light on human trafficking in east Texas.

This family-friendly event includes multiple food trucks, bounce houses, music, face-painting, yard games, and more. As the sun sets around 8:15pm we conclude the night with a 2-mile walk on a section of the Rose Rudman trail.

Each participant will carry a lantern to light our way and to symbolize hope in the darkness.

[Online] registration is now closed. But worry not, you can register at the event!

Event Day Details:

 Event sign-in and registration begins at 5:30 pm in Rose Rudman’s Southside Park and we will start walking as the sun sets around 8:15 pm.

 T-shirts can be picked up at the sign-in table for participants who have pre-registered online. [Other t-shirts, tote bags, and souvenirs are available for purchase.] 

 We will have food trucks, kids’ activities, and music before the walk begins — so bring your family and a lawn chair or blanket, and enjoy a fun community atmosphere.

 We will have security, adequate lighting, and port-a-potties to help ensure everyone has a great time.

 For more information about Nightwalk For Hope or For the Silent, go to www.ForTheSilent.org or call 903.747.8128.



Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size



5th Annual Nightwalk of Hope | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 17, 2018:


I first wrote about For the Silent’s Nightwalk for Hope in May of 2015. Here is an excerpt from my original post:

Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, but did you know that, according to a story released by KLTV on August 24, 2013, a form of slavery called human trafficking is a growing problem – not in Africa or Asia or New York, but in East Texas. Human trafficking is defined as “the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.” Traffickers often target at-risk young people, sometimes twelve years old and younger, in order to sell their bodies for cash. A Tyler expert was quoted by KLTV as saying that, in Smith County, 33% of girls and 17% of boys will be sexually abused, some of them at the hand of traffickers, before the age of eighteen.

For the Silent is a non-profit organization based in Tyler and dedicated to bringing “hope to teens silenced by sex trafficking and exploitation in the United States through prevention, intervention and community mobilization programs.” Their second annual Nightwalk for Hope was scheduled for April 24 [2015], but due to stormy weather, it was rescheduled for May 8. The event featured a two-mile walk through Rose Rudman Park with music and other activities planned at the finish line. During the walk, each participant would carry a lantern to symbolize hope and freedom for those silenced by human trafficking.

As it turned out, we didn’t walk that year. The skies had looked threatening all evening, and as we were checking in and picking up our event t-shirts, the heavens opened up. Everyone ran for cover to see if the rain would pass quickly, but instead, it worsened and added huge bolts of lightning followed by deafening claps of thunder. Metal framed canopies, strings of electric lights, and electrical music equipment seemed likely targets for the weather, so the event was cancelled. We had ridden to Tyler with Kent and Stella – Spike’s people – so Kent ran for the truck and David ran to drop our money in the donation box while Stella and I sought shelter under a covered picnic area.

Somehow, David and I missed the Walk the next two years, but a few weeks ago when Kent mentioned that it was coming up on April 14, I pre-registered on-line, and the four of us made plans to “double date” again. By Friday, the weather was predicted to be acceptable if not comfortable. Fifty degrees and windy with temperatures dropping after sundown is enough to make old bones want to stay inside – but we believe in the cause, so we pulled out long underwear, hoodies, gloves, and jackets, and piled into the truck.

The event had changed some since the last time David and I were there. This year people bounce housesbegan to gather at 5:30 pm, and by the time we arrived at 7:00, we had to park much further away than we did in 2013. We had quite a warm-up stroll before the Nightwalk began. There were also several bounce houses that I didn’t remember from before, and music that had a great beat but is definitely not played on “60s on 6.” Instead of a small concession stand selling tacos, nachos, and soda, there were four food trucks selling gourmet coffee and ice cream sandwiches, all things cheese, and a large selection of Tex-Mex. There was still a donation box, but there was also a raffle for a bicycle that had been donated. We still received an event shirt, but there were other t-shirt, tote bags, and souvenirs for sale. I hope that everyone sold out since the proceeds went to For the Silent.

David and I had eaten dinner at home, so while Kent and Stella stood in line at the food trucks, we watched people. All generations were represented, from babies in strollers to couples who looked older than we think we look. Some people were conservatively dressed, and others sported wild hair colors and haircuts. Some shared their dinner with their four-legged family members and others danced, but everyone smiled and laughed. And when the sun went down, we all gathered on the walking path for the same purpose.

Nightwalk2Before we set off, we were each given a battery-powered lantern but told not turn them on yet. Then, Kenny Rigsby, Founder and Executive Director of For the Silent took the microphone for a few minutes. He thanked us all for coming and told of the progress that is being made – the victims who are seeking help and the few brave ones who are testifying against their traffickers, the prevention programs that are growing, the education that is taking place in the community. Finally, it was time, and as hundreds of lanterns were turned one, he shouted, “There is hope in the darkness.”

Maybe you missed this year’s Nightwalk, but there will be another one next year. As longFor the silent as there are organizations like For the Silent, there will always be hope. If you would like to learn more about For the Silent and how you can donate or get involved, go to www.ForTheSilent.org or call 903-747-8128.



Mass Shooters: Are they shouting, “Look at me?”

Everyone-look-at-meOn June 17, a 21-year-old man shot and killed nine people during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. His website consists of white supremacist diatribes and apparently features a picture in which he is posing with a handgun in front of a Confederate flag. It has been reported that he shouted racial slurs during the attack and that he later told police that his purpose was to start a race war. One account said he almost didn’t go through with the attack because the victims were so nice to him. I couldn’t help but wonder what circumstances in his twenty-one years might have prevented the attack altogether. (more…)

Nightwalk for Hope Rained Out | by Linda Brendle

NightwalkSlavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, but did you know that, according to a story released by KLTV on August 24, 2013, that a form of slavery called human trafficking is a growing problem – not in Africa or Asia or New York, but in East Texas. Human trafficking is defined as “the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.” Traffickers often target at risk young people, sometimes twelve-years-old and younger, in order to sell their bodies for cash. A Tyler expert was quoted by KLTV as saying that, in Smith County, 33% of girls and 17% of boys will be sexually abused, some of them at the hand of traffickers, before the age of eighteen. (more…)

Camp Epilogue – About That Injured Ankle | by Linda Brendle

I’ve been home from camp five weeks, and things are pretty much back to normal – most things anyway. I no longer burst into tears for no reason, and I rarely break out into my own version of the camp theme song, complete with motions. I still think about my girls often and pray for them daily, but I no longer find myself obsessing over how I might adopt one or both of them. But then there’s my ankle. (more…)

Listen to What the Kids Say about Royal Family Kids Camp (Video)

My last eleven posts have been about my experience as a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp last month. RFKC is a camp for foster kids, most of whom have been abused. After hearing what I had to say about it, I thought you’d like to see what the kids have to say about it. (more…)

Providing a Safe Place for the Kids | by Linda Brendle


David and I were asked to share a little about our camp experiences at church this morning. This is what I said.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.                                                                                                             Proverbs 18:10

Most of the kids we met at camp don’t have a safe place. They may never have had one.

During training, we were told not to try and “fix” the campers or try to counsel them. These kids have counselors and case workers and teachers and foster parents to help them with their issues. Our job was to provide a refuge, a safe place. (more…)

Royal Family Kids Camp: Princesses in Flip Flops | by Linda Brendle

Cover of "Princess (DK Make-Believe)"

(NOTE: This is a continuation of a series about my week as a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for foster children, most of whom have been the victim of some kind of abuse. To read what has gone before, see the links at the bottom of this post.)

Weepy Thursday

I woke up feeling weepy Thursday morning. Not only did my ankle hurt, but my heart also hurt, knowing that I’d be saying good-by to Jane and Sue in a little over 24 hours. If the girls shared my anxiety, they didn’t show it. The teen helpers had set up a nail salon in the common area in preparation for The Royal Tea later in the day, and before breakfast all the girls were sporting nails with rainbow colors, glitter polish, decals, and more. But Tea Party or not, we were still at camp, and we had dance class, activity centers, and Kids’ Club. Before you know it, it was time for lunch. And then it was TIME… (more…)

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