In a recent post, What’s Next, I wrote about allowing God to guide you step by step to your ‘next.’ An unexpected adventure unfolded after I wrote that post…
One Sunday at church, I saw a video from a ministry partner in India –CICM and Aatma Vikas. They have a program, The Skipping Stone, that brings freedom to those seeking a new life from human trafficking and extreme poverty. This particular video told the story of a woman named Rushka who had been forced to work in a brothel at age 15 to support her family. The Skipping Stone teaches marketable skills to women like Rushka, so that they can escape their hopeless situations and live in true freedom.
Rushka’s story wrecked my heart and stirred my soul. I have a special love for India and the women of that culture, and I left my church that day feeling certain that I was about to hop on the next mission trip flight to India.
A little perplexed, because I’m a hot-mess-of-a-world-traveler, I asked God what all of this stirring and wrecking of my heart meant: You will one day go to other parts of the world, maybe even India, but right now I have something for you closer to home. Ok, God. Let’s do this thing.
I immediately remembered that a friend of an acquaintance had started a local ministry that meets the needs of women who have been rescued from sex trafficking and prostitution. I couldn’t remember all of the details, but after some searching, I discovered that Catalyst Ministries was indeed up and running…okay God, this IS closer to home. Is this what you meant?
As fate would have it, Catalyst was in need of (and praying specifically for) someone who could teach health and wellness to the women. It was a tailor-made assignment for me. Ironically, I also have a degree in social work (MSW) that had been waiting to be revived –an added gift to share.
I had followed God’s carefully laid breadcrumbs to the doorstep of this ministry, uncertain of what would come. Suddenly, my passion for making an eternal impact collided with my experience in wellness and social work. God, you are good…and you are always working.
Today, I’m learning about the horrors of human trafficking in our country and around the world. It’s a heartbreaking and grotesque reality. I can’t read the stories, facts and statistics without tears in my eyes and a pit in my stomach. Here are some facts:
- An estimated 40 million people (13 million children) worldwide are victims of human trafficking -approximately 80% of cases as sex trafficking and 19% as labor exploitation. This is the 3rd largest international crime behind drugs and weapons trafficking; the three tend to be intertwined.
- These statistics only scratch the surface –human trafficking is under-reported and difficult to detect due to several aspects: victims’ fear of law enforcement; physical/psychological abuse and resulting fear of retaliation (against victims and/or their families); language barriers and/or lack of knowledge of available resources; and traffickers frequently moving their victims.
- This is not just an international problem. All 50 states in the US have reported cases of human trafficking. According to Polaris Project, the most accurate trafficking database, there were 31,569 cases reported (via hotline, text message, or online form) in the US between 2007 and 2016. There was a 35% increase in reporting from 2015 to 2016. 86% of reported victims were female and 14% were male.
- The top 5 nationalities represented in these cases: US Citizens, Mexico, China, Philippines, and Guatemala. The top 5 ethnic groups affected: Latino, Asian, White, African American, and Multi-Racial.
- Almost 50% of sex trafficking victims reported that their trafficking began between the ages of 12-17.
- At-risk groups include runaways. They are typically approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of running away.
- The top 5 recruitment tactics used by sex traffickers: intimate partner/marriage propositions, familial, posing as a benefactor, false promises/fraud, and job offers.
- Poverty is a huge driving force, and traffickers use all manner of fraud, abuse, threats, and even confinement to coerce their victims.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and it seemed fitting to share my story with you. As you can see, the problem is enormous (but God is bigger.) Initially, I didn’t know about it because I wasn’t looking. Several months before this experience, I had asked God to give me his eyes and to increase my capacity for compassion. He grabbed hold of my heart and guided me toward a divine purpose.
It can be scary to pray, “Lord, break my heart with what breaks yours,” but I encourage you to do it sometime. When you pray this prayer, be prepared to be plucked out of your comfort zone and dropped into something rewarding and eternal.
*For more information on Catalyst Ministries, visit www.catalystministries.net.
*Statistics for this post were taken from the 2016 report from Polaris Project. For more information on Human Trafficking, visit www.polarisproject.com.
*National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)
*ICE Tip line to report suspected trafficking: 1-866-347-2423