By Steve Rees, Special to ASSIST News Service
LOS ANGELES, CA (ANS – May 2, 2017) — A two-hour drive south of Los Angeles – at the United States border with Mexico – trafficking in sex sweetens the pot of a $32 billion global criminal enterprise that ensnares 21 million victims within 140 countries.
In the U.S., 1.5 million sex workers are bought and sold for profit and, globally, 5.5 million children are victimized and abused, according to statistics cited by undercover sources involved in liberating the exploited captives of human traffickers.
Rescuers invest – on average – 18 months of time and emotion into the lives of children recovering from abuse as objects of forced sex.
Hollywood. Hong Kong. The jungles of the Amazon. The bush of Africa. The slums of the Far East. All are complicit in the dehumanizing sex trade.
Derek (D.J.) Williams, the son of missionary parents, has researched the dirty details of sex trafficking in Hollywood and among the nations of the world where he’s traveled, chronicling his observations on extreme poverty and other social justice issues through a variety of media.
“It’s amazing how prevalent trafficking is right here – two hours from where I live,” says Williams about Los Angeles, where he met his wife of 20-plus years.
“It’s happening right here in downtown L.A. – not just in places like Africa. ” says Williams, an author, producer and director who counts Hollywood film makers among his circle of peers and friends. “It’s happening everywhere,” he says.
Williams was born and raised in Hong Kong and – with his parents’ spiritual DNA for travel to the nations of the world – he spent 10 years building a ministry alongside worship leader, Tommy Walker. They were partners in a global outreach of worship evangelism that originated in a tiny southern California office.
Together, Williams and Walker worked alongside big names in worship and ministry, including Franklin Graham, mega church pastor Rick Warren, and international evangelist Greg Laurie.
In Zambia and the Philippines, Williams helped produce live records and documentaries of concerts with crowds of up to 20,000 nightly and, by day, he rolled up his sleeves to serve underprivileged children and adults who lived in the forgotten places of the world.
Manila was the backdrop for a documentary, The Invitation, Williams filmed to capture the stories of children who lived in a city dump, where 14,000 families scavenged for survival.
Years earlier, Zambia, Africa was the setting for another documentary Williams produced, the beginning of the second act of his story.
It was near a river in Africa– of all the places Williams traveled over a 10-year period – where he embraced his true mission field: Hollywood, California.
“I’m on the Zambezi one morning and we’re shooting footage for a documentary from an open-air (vehicle). We’re filming this elephant and, long story short, we got too close.
“Next thing I know, his ears go out, his trunk goes up, he looses a trumpet sound and begins charging us head on with his big tusk.
“The guy who is driving stands up, raises his arms and, sure enough, the elephant stops,” says Williams who – that night – realized the close call and other harrowing experiences among the nations had provided him plenty of fodder for his real passion: storytelling.
At home in Los Angeles, Williams parlayed his world travels and love of a good story into a manuscript that nobody knew he was writing.
When he finished it, Williams sent the manuscript to an Edgar Allen Poe- nominated Hollywood producer, asking his friend to read the finished work.
Judith McCreary, co-executive producer of television dramas Law and Order: SVU, Criminal Minds and CSI, is glad that Williams followed her advice to share the story with the world.
Williams’ manuscript, based on research of insider information related to sex trafficking, led to his first published novel, The Disillusioned, a book of fiction that’s based on real people and places he encountered around the world doing missionary work for his church, Christian Assembly, in Los Angeles.
Williams shares his parents’ beliefs; a thread of personal faith is woven throughout The Disillusioned‘s dramatic, cause-driven storyline.
“(The Disillusioned) is an engrossing tale,” says Tony Guerrero, founder of the Fight Against Child Trafficking (FACT) Alliance.
“It makes you think about the world we live in and your place in it,” Guerrero says.
An idea for a second book was seeded in Williams mind as he wrote the first one and it, similarly, contains fictional characters whose lives mirror people he’s met on the mission field and beyond – including his mother and a female evangelist many considered unconventional in the 1920s.
Both suffered with depression and, in the case of Williams’ mother, she made a one-time suicide attempt.
A mystery, Waking Lazarus bridges past and present events and people, including a notable character, Evelyn Shaw, inspired by Aimee Semple McPherson, who founded The Foursquare Church and Angelus Temple in Los Angeles.
The novel’s subtle Christian messaging did not put off other Hollywood insiders, in part, because it addresses social issues and causes like The Disillusioned‘s expose of sex trafficking in a fiction book.
Peter Anderson, an Oscar-winning cinematographer in Hollywood, endorsed Williams’ second book
“Waking Lazarus is a captivating visual story with a colorful narrative,” Anderson says. “Once I started reading, it was hard to put down.”
Sales of both books – in what Williams calls the Guardian Novels – began a funding stream for social causes like clean water, food distribution and affordable housing in January 2017 with the Guardian Alliance.
The series will continue with books three and four, which Williams is currently writing and planning.
In March, the Guardian Alliance helped Feeding America provide food to 550 needy families with donations from Williams’ book sales. International Justice Mission, Habitat For Humanity and Charity Water also benefited from the Guardian Alliance in the first four months of the year.
Social and political issues are being thread throughout the third novel, tentatively titled The Auctioneer.
During a book tour for Barnes and Noble, Williams discovered people who wanted to talk about how to go about changing the trafficking world after buying The Disillusioned.
Recognizing his mission field is also in the U. S – not only overseas, Williams welcomes opportunities to share his faith, acknowledging that what began in Hong Kong with his parents years ago is continuing today.
“My DNA is still the same – in missions – but it’s a different field now.
“I’ve had more one-on-one conversations with people about my faith in the last 10 years than I probably did growing up as a missionary kid and doing ministry for 10 years,” says Williams, who maintains friendships with the children he and his wife, Sonia, supported financially and spiritually when he traveled overseas more frequently.
“I’ve found it challenging and rewarding to navigate the journey of writing stories that appeal to those who are believers, as well as those who have yet to discover God’s eternal grace and love,” says Williams, who is currently pitching television shows to Hollywood networks.
In a relationship that dates back to ministry in the Philippines with a close church friend, Mitch Kruse, Williams has produced over 300 episodes of The Restoration Road Program, which is aired on 60 television channels worldwide.
Some of the episodes have been adapted into a book titled, Street Smarts from Proverbs (FaithWords/Hachette), co-written by Kruse and Williams. Due in bookstores and for online purchase in June, the book features real-life stories aired on The Restoration Road with Mitch Kruse as well as Kruse’s insights into the greatest wisdom book ever written, Proverbs.
Offering his talent and writing tips to Kruse and other would-be authors is another mission field that Williams is growing to love.
Twice this year Williams will address Christian writers in different parts of the U.S.
The director of the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers conference, Marlene Bagnull, was so impressed with Williams that sight unseen, she invited him to keynote and teach a six-hour continuing session at both Estes Park and Philadelphia. For information about the writer’s conferences in Colorado and Philly, visit http://writehisanswer.com.
Photo captions: 1) I’m Not for Sale. (http://www.iamgoal5.org/) 2) D.J. Williams in Africa. 3) The “Smokey Mountain” waste site outside of Manila in the Philippines is a notoriously grim place where children (like these two young boys) could be seen on a daily basis sifting through garbage searching for items for reuse or resale. (Image by photographer Harmut Schwazbarch, 2006). 4) The Disillusioned cover. 5) D.J. Williams at a Barnes and Noble store. 6) Mitch Kruse with D.J. Williams. 7) Steve Rees.
About the writer: Steve Rees is a freelance Christian journalist who loves the church and writes about how it engages the culture and works toward fulfilling the Great Commission. He lives in Longmont, Colo. and attends Resurrection Fellowship, a nondenominational, missions-driven church that honors all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the five-fold ministry offices. The church is in Loveland, Colo. Rees formerly worked as a newspaper reporter and was among the first journalists who wrote about Promise Keepers before it spread nationwide from Boulder, Colo. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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