Christa Black is a guest blogger and an Advocate Alliance member for Project: AK-47. She is a musician and songwriter, having toured with The Jonas Brothers and Jordin Sparks, and more recently, she is the author of the book ‘God Loves Ugly.’
“Babe, I need to go home and pack so I can drive to Atlanta tonight.”
My husband (or Studhubs, as I like to call him), had started his new job with Project: AK-47 and one of his first tasks was driving down from Nashville and setting up a booth at the National Youth Leaders Conference in Atlanta. I’d heard bits and pieces about the organization and knew it was groundbreaking, but somewhere between the facts on a page and my heart’s involvement, the gravity of the child-soldier situation hadn’t fully computed. In fact, sometimes it seemed more like a sensational storyline from a big, Hollywood blockbuster than someone’s reality.
“Let me go with you and help,” I offered, not knowing what I was getting into. “I have some writing I need to do and can just take my computer. I’ll help you man the booth in the meantime.”
The next morning we entered the exhibit hall and set up our camouflage booth with posters of kids holding guns, positioned in between the displays of Liberty University and a store that sold gigantic beanbags. Needless to say, we stuck out a bit. I put on a Project: AK-47 T-shirt and dog tags and waited timidly behind Lucas as youth pastors and workers began to flood the hall.
“What do I say to them when they ask me questions?” I asked.
“Just listen to me a few times and you’ll pick it up. You’re a quick learner,” he assured me.
Strangers wandered by, shooting curious looks at the army booth adorned with pictures of children. Some didn’t make eye contact with us, clearly not wanting to be bothered or informed, but others marched over, asking questions about the kids with the guns. I would just smile and nod as Studhubs talked, informing them about the organization and the need. How there are over 300,000 child soldiers in the world and 100,000 of them are in Burma alone. How Project: AK-47 is the only organization on the ground in Burma who had relationships with the Generals and leaders to negotiate and put these children in orphanages. How many of these children were between the ages of 6-18, and most of them were forgotten and alone. How the life expectancy of a child soldier was only 7 years. How they’re stripped of their names and assigned a number. How their childhood is filled with drugs and guns instead of toys and games.
And how the only thing keeping us from rescuing many of them is money.
My heart sunk, disgusted and grieved. The more I listened, the more the knot rose in my throat. The more I heard about these forgotten children, the more I knew I was now responsible for what I had just heard. And that if I didn’t take what I’d learned and do something, there was a huge possibility that no one else would.
Someone was counting on me, and my response meant they lived….or they died.
These weren’t just pictures behind me in a booth. They were actual children. The dog tag around my neck wasn’t just decorative jewelry. It was an actual child—a child that had been almost abandoned by the rest of the world. It was a child who wakes up every day with no choice other than to fight or be killed. They wake up every day with no hope. They wake up every day with no future. They wake up every day believing this is their fate, and for many of them, it is.
These kids breathe every breath assuming that no one is coming for them.
But they are wrong.
Inside of our little booth in Atlanta, Georgia, the two of us fought for the freedom of children, alongside people all over the world who understand the life-or-death work of Project: AK-47 to free child soldiers and sex slaves. We proudly wore our T-shirts and dog tags. We contended with strangers for compassion and aide. I had never been more frustrated with those who seemed not to care, and more overjoyed with those who understood the commission.
By no means are we wealthy people, but compared to the majority of the world, (as I sip my $3.50 Starbuck drink and eat my $2.50 muffin), we are millionaires. For the price of my temporary comfort today, a child can be saved.
And the choice is up to me.
When learning about the atrocities of the world, the knowledge can be overwhelming. Sometimes the magnitude of the problem seems to be so enormous, I feel like a little ant in a cornfield, unable to help. But the beautiful thing about Project: AK-47, and the reason I’m proud to be an Advocate, is because the starting point is simple.
Care for a child. Become a $7 monthly donor. Take 5 minutes to pull out your credit card, give up a day or two at Starbucks every month, and literally, save a life. It really is that easy, and the time isn’t tomorrow—it’s right now.
A child is counting on you, on us.
And I don’t plan on letting them down.