I can remember the first time I heard about human sex trafficking. It was from a good friend of mine who specialized in sexual abuse counseling, and also co-founded a coalition to both educate and fight against human sex trafficking. She spoke to me briefly one evening about the work she and others had been doing. I left that evening feeling distraught and disturbed, but it didn’t take long for me to return to my regular activities and push it out of my mind.
Over the next two years though, God had different plans. It seemed everywhere I turned, this topic of human sex trafficking was being spoken about—not just around me, but directly to me. One day, it became abundantly clear to me that for the past two years I had been disobedient in running from something that God was clearly asking me to take interest in and do something about.
I had a thousand excuses as to why I didn’t respond earlier—I was already active in serving in youth ministry; I needed to focus on my three girls; I wasn’t qualified; I was concerned getting involved might endanger my daughters, and the list went on. The truth of the matter is I was scared—scared to enter into an area that meant I had to face head-on the dark evil of the world and receive what would come along with that. Scared to be uncomfortable and pushed to the end of myself and my perceived abilities. However, I could no longer know what I knew and do nothing about it, and I couldn’t do anything about it without God’s leading and complete dependence upon him. God was saying, STOP RUNNING!
Over the next six months, I asked questions, went to conferences on sex trafficking, read books and articles, and I learned the following and much more:
As I was learning and trying to figure out my next steps, a therapeutic home for women aged 18-39 opened near me, and I underwent training to be a volunteer in the home. I remember driving weekly to the undisclosed location, praying the entire way. I would enter the home and spend my time with the women doing a variety of things: cooking, going for walks, driving them to appointments, and sometimes either sitting in silence or listening to a woman scream and come undone as a trigger had heaped the trauma upon her all over again. These women were broken, exploited, controlled, and recovering from addiction and trauma that I could not even begin to imagine. I continued to pray that God would prepare me for the dynamics of the home each time I entered it, and to be a non-threatening light for him. When it was time to leave, I would go to my car and cry the entire way home. I wept for them, for their experiences, and for the thousands of boys, girls, women, and men who were experiencing abuse and trapped in slavery at that very moment.
My heart and mind were so heavy, and if I’m honest, there were times that it was so hard and so uncomfortable and unfamiliar to me that I didn’t want to go back. You could feel the spiritual darkness in the home, and it was often more than I could bear. It was at that time that God brought John 16:33 to me, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This is a verse that I both cling to and find great hope in every day as I continue to learn of the atrocities of our broken world, remembering that he has already overcome the world.
God continued to give me the ability to volunteer in spite of myself, my excuses, and my fears. I was given the incredible opportunity and blessing to be a mentor to one of the women in the home. Her story broke my heart, but doing life with her, being trusted by her, and sharing the hope of Jesus with her, was the greatest blessing I received. Being in the courtroom with her as she testified against her trafficker proved to be some of the hardest days. I longed to see him convicted (which he was), but to also receive the punishment he had doled out to my friend and other women. I was reminded by my friend that first introduced me to all of this, that her trafficker was also in need of a Savior and to pray for him. This was a harsh reality that I was not prepared to process but knew that I needed to do so.
Eight years into this journey, I still have days where it overwhelms and breaks me. Every day the darkness and oppression of others continues—children and vulnerable individuals who cannot fight for themselves being exploited and brutalized in the vilest of ways. Imagine if that were your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor, or you. You would want and need someone to fight.
God has to remind me to stop running, to surrender, and rely wholly on him, and to live and pursue helping others knowing he has overcome this world; to stop worrying about my own feelings, my own comfort level, and to pursue what he has laid upon my heart. Perhaps you need that same reminder. What is it that God has asked you to do that you are running away from? Stop running, surrender, and allow God to use you how he chooses—fears, discomfort, and all.
July 30th is the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. In a time where this topic is coming to the forefront in the media, I ask you to focus on what is happening in our area here in Lake County. Do not become distracted by the Hollywood sensationalism as it removes the urgency and reality of what is happening in our backyards. Seek the truth of the situation in Northwest Indiana, and ask God to reveal to you what your role in this may be through: