As I tucked my 4-year-old daughter into bed last night, I kissed her softly on the cheek, told her I loved her, and reminded her that I was in the next room to protect her. She always sleeps better when I say that, and, well, I thoroughly enjoy doing it. If ever there was a little girl made of "sugar and spice," it's her.
Millions of fathers across the country no doubt have similar routines each night with their daughters, enjoying those precious moments that won't last forever.
I thought about my daughter as I watched the new movie "Caged No More," which opens in theaters this weekend and tells the story of an American father who gets involved in the illegal drug trade and falls so far behind financially that he flies overseas and sells his daughters into sex slavery. It's a shocking plot, yes, but it's based in reality and inspired by true events.
It's also a story that will cause you to think of your own kids and wonder: What causes someone to do that?
Globally, an estimated 27 million people are trafficked each year — that is, treated and even sold as slaves — and 1.2 million of them are children. Many of those kids and adults live their lives in brothels and other sex industries, and in some cases, they were put there by their parents.
These modern-day slaves are loved by God and deserve freedom, even if most of the world doesn't even know they exist.
Human trafficking is most prevalent in Europe, Asia and Africa, although it takes place in the United States, too, and it is the fastest growing crime in the world. Sadly, though, many Christians are unaware of its existence, which means they can't fight for its elimination.
That's where "Caged No More" (PG-13) comes in, opening our eyes to the horrors of human trafficking and sex trafficking without being explicit or gratuitous. It's a film that church groups can attend, despite the subject matter (although young children probably shouldn't watch). It stars Kevin Sorbo, Emmy Award-winner Loretta Devine, Alan Powell and Cassidy Gifford. Two of the co-producers of "God's Not Dead" were involved in it.
Devine plays a grandmother who is searching for her missing granddaughters, and Powell — who in real life also sings in the band "Anthem Lights" — plays a cousin of the daughters who travels overseas to find them.
"It was difficult as a father to wrap my mind around the concept of selling your daughters," Powell told me. "It's a detestable, tragic, the lowest-of-human-nature industry that is profiting from that. We need to do everything that we can to stop it."
"Caged No More" is not the first film made about human trafficking in America, but it is the best one I've seen. The story is stomach-turning, the acting solid, and the plot will keep you guessing.
Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
"Caged No More" is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content and violence. There is no explicit sexuality or coarse language.
Post-movie discussion topics: human trafficking — what can we do to help stop it?; human depravity — what causes a parent to sell his or her own children?