For one week in January, my world turned upside down. My nightmare began with what I thought was a random prank phone call in the middle of the night. When the caller used my name during the second call, it became clear that this was not random. When the text message came through with a sexually graphic edited photo of my children and me, I realized that this was something sinister.

The phone calls and text messages continued day and night over the next week. We were not able to pinpoint where the calls originated, despite our best attempts. The caller was smart. He used a spoofing software to make it look like his call was coming from somewhere else. When I tell you that these texts and edited images of my children are the most disgusting and vile things I have ever seen, I am not exaggerating.

The Bible tells us that there is evil in this world and I thought I knew what that looked like. I didn’t have a clue. As a Christian, I tend to run in social circles of other Christians. Beyond that, the people that I am friends with and interact with on a regular basis are good people who live their lives by a moral code. My life experiences never prepared me to come face to face with pure, unadulterated evil.

I have searched for the reason why God allowed this horrific experience into my life. One of the conclusions that I have come to is that I can share some of the lessons that I have learned with you so that you can protect yourself and your children from the horrors of online predators.

You may be asking how this person was able to get photos of my children. As a writer, I had posted a few family photos to my blog which is public. Other photos could only be found on my Facebook page.

What I didn’t realize is that ANY photo that has ever been used as a profile picture or cover photo is available for the public to see—not just your current cover photo and profile picture. Also, even though I had my privacy settings set to the highest level, friends and family who had posted and tagged us in photos did not. This meant that those photos were also available to the public.

Why does this matter? Because there is a disgusting underworld of the internet where predators and pedophiles look for photos of children to trade like currency. What may look like a completely innocent photo to you, may be akin to a pornographic image to them. Furthermore, when you take a photo with a smartphone and most digital cameras, GPS data gets permanently stored in the photograph’s digital signature. This means that anyone can find where the photo was taken—your child’s school, the playground, your home.

I thought I knew what it meant to be afraid, but I had never known fear like this. Because I didn’t know where this person was located, I had to assume that they could live right here in Fredericksburg. And since they had my personal phone number, there was the very real possibility that they were someone I knew. Everyone was a suspect in my eyes.

This person opened the gates of hell into my life. Finally, that Friday, I decided to call upon the power of heaven for him. Please make note of that. Praying for, and not against, this person was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was done as an act of obedience to God’s command to pray for our enemies.

I sent an email out to some of my closest friends—women who had walked this difficult journey with me. I asked them to plead with God for this man’s salvation. He had visited my blog. He had read the Gospel message. We prayed that God would water the seeds that had been planted and change his heart forever.

And then it stopped. Not one more call. No more texts. Nothing. Just like that it was over. Our God is mighty and powerful. I may never know what caused him to stop contacting me. Maybe he moved onto someone else. Maybe he ran into technical difficulties. Or maybe the God of Heaven and Earth got ahold of his heart and changed him forever.

For more information on how you can protect your family from online predators, visit my blog today.

Heather Ablondi is a women’s ministry speaker and author who lives in Fredericksburg. You can contact her through her website, heather ablondi.com.

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