This summer, I'm in Atlanta, Georgia with Out of Darkness, Inc., through The Atlanta Dream Center. I've been an intern here for 3 days now, and I'm learning so much about sex trafficking in the USA.
Before I get into the swing of things here, let's take a look back at how faithful God has been on my journey. This is how I got involved in the fight against sex trafficking:
I got involved in the fight against human trafficking in the fall of 2010...during my senior year of high school.
I was diagnosed with lupus in March 2010, and it's been a struggle for a very long time. This is where my story begins.
Starting in the fall, my lupus started acting up. I was sick for four months of my senior year.
During my down time, I read the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It's the story of Hosea in novel form.
A man takes a prostitute for a wife and loves her unconditionally...just like Christ loves the church unconditionally (even in her unfaithfulness). The main character in the book (Sarah) was sold by her mother into prostitution (child sex trafficking) when she was six years old.
When I finished this book, I was dumbfounded. I asked my mom if there were really little girls that were sold like that, and she said yes. This lit a fire in me that the Lord has never extinguished (Praise God!).
During those four months of sickness, I joined the Student Abolitionist Movement (SAM) with the Not For Sale Campaign (notforsalecampaign.org). I researched sex and labor trafficking of women, men, and children. This really developed a heart in me for freeing and caring for the child victims of sex trafficking. I vowed to fight it. For three years I raised awareness at my high school, in my church, and at NGU.
Last summer, I journeyed to Cambodia for the hardest summer of my life. While I was there, I did typical volunteer work as well as teaching English and leading devotions for 23 precious Cambodian girls. These girls were rescued from sex trafficking or rape. They were between the ages of 6 and 17. I love those girls so much, and there's never a day when I don't think about their beautiful little faces.
I was there for two months, and each month God taught me something extraordinary.
Month #1: Trafficking is not hidden in Cambodia. If you walk on the streets at any time during the day or night, you will see it happening. It's so sad. BUT, at the same time, victims that have had victory are starting many types of businesses to employ girls so they don't have to go back to prostitution. Safe homes are spreading, awareness and legislation is being changed, and there are beauty parlors, stores, markets, restaurants, and bakeries opening all across the globe that are employing these girls to give them a better life. God rocked my heart during this month: where is this opportunity for girls in America? Who are going to be the game changers to make this kind of revolution happen in our own country? I have been on the path for foreign missions since I was fifteen, but in this month God made it clear that His will for me is to stay in the states and help the US victims!
Month #2: I was really sick with lupus and had a hard time moving and working. God taught me how to rely on Him for every ounce of my strength. When I returned home, the doctors told me I could no longer go overseas. What is SO COOL is that this news would have broken my heart until that first month in Cambodia. When God called me to stay in the states, He was preparing my heart for this hard news.
Since then, I have been researching organizations and starting the process of what working with victims of sex trafficking. I found Out of Darkness.
Their aim is to reach victims (through jail visits, street ministry, etc.), to rescue them, and to restore them. These women are typically above the age of 18, but many of them were exploited in their young years and trafficked between the ages of 11 and 14. These women are not people that have willingly chosen prostitution; they have been sold. They are slaves.
This summer, I'm going to be discovering what the fight against trafficking looks like in our own country and deciding what steps the Lord is calling me to take from here.
I have also been approached about writing a three article series on sex trafficking for a Christian girls' magazine: NiNe Magazine.
There are many exciting things in store for this summer, and I am so excited to see where the Lord is going to lead!
PRAISE GOD for this opportunity!