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Ending Child Slavery: a Modern-Day Rambo Against Evil

The Story of Tim Ballard

Source: Alex Goodlett, Deseret News
“I was the first agent on the scene, and he jumped into my arms and wouldn’t let go. I came home that night and collapsed on the floor and cried like a baby.” — Tim Ballard

Most of us live in bubbles; spaces where things like child sex slavery, terrorism, war, and genocide are far away concepts.

That doesn’t change the fact that slavery, terrorism, war, and genocide are real, everyday occurrences. Take what’s happening in Myanmar for example:

There’s no doubt that the majority of us — residents in this comfort bubble — do feel for individuals touched by atrocities. But, what do we do about them? How can we help out? Is there anything a Writing Studies major from Utah can do? Most of us settle for spreading awareness; it’s our way of helping out.

Some people do more.

Some people, like the heroes we read about in books, transcend a heroism commonly believed to be attainable.

But this story isn’t a book.

This story is real.

A Mission Unlike Any Other

Some people, like Tim Ballard, are put in the unique situation where expertise and personal belief mix to create an inspired mission.

Ballard had worked with both the CIA and Homeland Security before hearing from a superior that he’d been chosen to form a special unit dedicated to child crimes.

He said of this exchange, “I told him no. It’s the one thing I wouldn’t do. It’s the worst possible thing anyone can see. Who knows how that would affect you?”

“He felt my religious background would be a protection for me.”

There are over 21 million cases of human trafficking in the world that we know of. About 2 million of those cases involve children.

Ballard likely knew the extent of the atrocities better than any of us possibly could. No wonder he was hesitant. He knew what comfort the “bubble” we all live in can offer.

In the end, his conviction demanded that he do what he could for children being sold as sex slaves. After discussing, thinking, and praying about the matter with his wife, Ballard decided that it was his purpose.

“The very reason I said no at first is the very reason we came to the decision to say yes — because we have children.”

In his first case, he rescued a 5-year old boy from child slavery — an experience that almost shattered him. Of that experience, he recalled, “This little boy was being violated in the worst possible way. I was the first agent on the scene, and he jumped into my arms and wouldn’t let go. I came home that night and collapsed on the floor and cried like a baby.”

Any one of us would remember that experience for the rest of our lives. Ballard, lamenting about what he saw that day said, “There is nothing worse on earth. There is nothing worse in hell.”

He almost gave up. He almost wasn’t strong enough. But Ballard had a mission to do. He had received an answer to his prayers that it was his purpose. “I made a commitment to God and to that little boy that I would do everything I could, even if it killed me.”

He would jump back into the fray.

Even if it killed him.

Operation Underground Railroad

Instagram: ourrescue

Tim Ballard started Operation Underground Railroad after his service in the Department of Homeland Security.

“We go about our lives thinking we have eradicated slavery, but it’s bigger than ever. There are more slaves today than all the slaves in 300 years of the transatlantic slave trade.”

In an effort to create a more powerful organization, Ballard has attracted other heroes to his cause. Former Navy Seal Dutch Turley and former US intelligence officer Matt Osborne serve as his VP of Rescue Ops and VP of Foreign Missions, respectively. Both belonging to the same Mormon faith as Ballard.

Throughout his experiences in rescuing children, Ballard hasn’t strayed far from the conviction that led him to his efforts. “Some of the most spiritual moments of my life have happened while sitting across the table from a child trafficker,” Ballard states solemnly. “I feel the Spirit with me in those moments of complete darkness.

There’s no doubt that we look up to people like Tim Ballard. And he’s here on Medium. Tim Ballard started a Medium publication for Operation Underground Railroad that you can find here:

Our Place in the Fight

Do we fully comprehend our capacity?

Do we really know how much we can do?

I don’t think we do. When we read stories like Ballard’s, we shed a tear, shake our heads, and think that heroes are simply better men.

Tell that to the Arland D. Williams, the balding, 47-year old bank examiner from Illinois, who died saving five people in the freezing water of the Potomac.

Tell that to Taylor Winston, a 29-year-old marine veteran from California, who stole a truck during the Las Vegas shooting, to save the lives of over two dozen injured.

As Ballard says,

“I didn’t run into this line of work heroically with my sword unsheathed, I went in kicking and screaming.”

The truth of the matter is that we all have the same capacity in the fight against atrocity, evil, and corruption.

I’m starting to see a common denominator to every story of heroism:

Conviction + The Ordinary Man/Woman = Heroism