Earlier this year, when the End It Movement urged hundreds of thousands of people to wear a red “X” on their hands to promote awareness of the 27 million people in slavery around the globe, Amor Sierra decided to make hers permanent.
That’s because she’s brimming with gratitude for the ability to choose her own mark and passionate about helping others do the same. Once counted among the 200,000 slaves in the United States, Amor escaped in 1988 and went on to become a successful commercial real estate senior manager. After 22 years of corporate work, she sensed God calling her back to Miami. She obeyed, not knowing exactly what that would look like. Soon after rejoining Calvary Kendall Church and starting work with their campus outreach, she met tattoo artist Will Quiceno. Both former slaves to drug addiction and now passionate about sharing their faith, they decided to join forces. Using Will’s artistry and Amor’s administrative skills, they pursued a dream that had long been forming in Will’s heart — to minister to those who didn’t choose their own marks, and to those who had a choice but regret the marks they’ve chosen.
Knowing that many human trafficking victims have been “branded” by their captors with tattooed barcodes and other marks, Amor and Will decided to start Life Under War, an organization that offers free tattoo cover-ups for victims who have been branded, and for former gang members who were enslaved by their own choices and have found new hope through their faith in God. When they started Life Under War at the beginning of 2013, they reached out to another Christian tattoo artist, Chris Baker of Ink 180 in the Chicago area. The goal of Ink 180 is to establish a national network of tattoo artists and dermatology groups providing free tattoo cover-ups or removals. (Chris was recently highlighted in the U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Human Person’s Report, page 23, and was an invited guest of Secretary of State John Kerry at the state house dinner and report presentation.)
Making beauty out of the ashes
Will often gets a vision of what to tattoo on a client after praying with them and listening to their story. “He can turn something horrible into something beautiful with his tattoo machine,” Amor said. And God has honored Will and Amor’s faithfulness. In May, Amor purchased two South Beach, Miami tattoo shops: First Class Tattoo and Miami Tattoo Company.
Beloved, a ministry that reaches out to people in the sex industry, is holding church services on Sundays at the Miami Tattoo Company. For anyone who wants a red “X” like the one on Amor’s hand above, Life Under War is donating 100% of the proceeds to the End It Movement.
In Inked: Choosing God’s Mark to Transform Your Life, we tell a number of stories of people who’ve chosen literal and figurative marks for their lives, and how God has redeemed their stories to make beauty out of the ashes.
Once broken by an abusive relationship and marked by shame and pain, Lilly fell into a cycle of cutting and carved the word “WHORE” into her thigh. Once she had confronted her brokenness and let God “re-ink” her identity, she covered up her physical scars with a tattoo of a colorful tiger lily — her childhood nickname and a symbol for her of hope and innocence. Now, she shares her inspiring story with other young women to help them grow in their own faith.
Major league baseball player Josh Hamilton’s story — of the drug addiction that nearly ended his career, his marriage and his life — is well documented. Many of the 26 tattoos that cover his body are demonic in nature, but he has a picture of Christ on his calf. He told us that it’s as if his internal spiritual battle was being played out in the external marks — marks he says he passively let the artist choose. As the apostle Paul wrote, our fight isn’t really in the realm of flesh and blood, but we’re in a battle against cosmic forces of darkness. Just as the End It Movement’s mission is “to shine a light on slavery,” Josh has decided to use his tattoos to show how God has the power to make something beautiful of our marks.
What about you? Maybe you haven’t been a slave of human trafficking, but at one time or another, we all have been in bondage to a brand that we chose or that someone else tried to place upon us. What marks do you need to allow Christ to cover up?