Over the past two years, I have been learning the facts and statistics of human trafficking. What really ignites my passion is actually seeing it, hearing the stories of survivors, understanding the depths of it’s consequences. Before I share my stories about what human trafficking looks like, I would like to define what human trafficking is for those who do not know:The TVPA (The United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000) defines “severe forms of trafficking” as: a. sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
b. the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thy hand; forget not the afflicted. O LORD, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek; thou wilt strengthen their heart, thou wilt incline thy ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
This definition explains it, but what exactly does that look like in the world around us? I have had the opportunity to see just a little of what those words look like. My first experience I had was back in 2007. I went on a mission trip to Chongqing, China. It was the first time I experienced so much oppression. I was drawn to the young girls there, and them to me. We colored pictures together, and shared something I can’t explain in words. I did not understand all the emotions that I was experiencing. What I saw was the pain in the eyes of the young girls. At the same time I saw so much hope within them. Even though I knew I couldn’t help their situation, I sensed the hope that someday things would change. I saw children everywhere, with elderly parents. When I asked why this was happening, I was told how the children (especially girls) were taking care of the elderly parents. They were really not their actual parents. They were expected to take care of the home as is they were adults. What I saw was the effects of the “one child policy”. These children were slaves. This experience changed my life forever. I can not share pictures of the children’s faces. publicly. But, even if I were able to share them with you, you still wouldn’t understand the emotions that went with it. This was the beginning of something so much bigger than myself. It was the beginning of God breaking my heart for the things that break His. I just didn’t know it at the time!
Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him! As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before fire, let the wicked perish before God! But let the righteous be joyful; let them exult before God; let them be jubilant with joy!
In March 2012, I went on my second mission trip. This time I went to Senegal. I was already learning about human trafficking, so I understood ( to some extent) was I was seeing. This time however, it was the Talibe boys who touched my heart. Talibé is a word derived from Arabic that means disciple or follower. In Senegal, talibé is the term used for a boy who is forced to beg on the streets as part of his Koranic education. These boys are trafficked by their families in order for the rest of the family to survive. They trust that they are being well cared for. Most of these boys live in a daara—a run-down shack that doubles as a Koranic school and is shared with up to 25-30 (or more) other boys. The daara is controlled by a marabout (teacher) who receives the cash collected by the boys. I had the opportunity to spend some time in a daraa. The reality was painful to see. But again, there was a sense of hope. One of the mission teams was there to help build a school, a safe place for these and other boys of Senegal. The church that hosted us have a good relationship with the marabouts. It is just of the beginning of God’s work there!
For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
So, what does it look like? One thing I have learned is that it takes many forms. Even though it looks so different in different places, it is the same thing. It is one of the consequences of poverty. It is rooted in money and power. It leads to different things, but it is always ugly! It is deception that has gone on way too long! The good news is no matter what it looks like or how complex the problem is, no matter what else it leads to, there is always hope. Their is a Savior that already has won the victory! That doesn’t mean we sit back and keep hoping.
Even though there are 14,500 to 17,500 trafficked to the U.S. each year there is a shift that is happening! In the United States, I have had the privilege of meeting survivors of human trafficking. I have heard their stories of victory. I have heard the stories of Johns and pimps who have repented and are also making a difference. I have heard stories of those coming to know the Savior. I have been encouraged by seeing them empowered to help stop this injustice. I am inspired to see some learn of their Father’s love through it all!
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
The important question is what is your part in this big picture? What can you do to help stop it? It all starts with prayer! We need to turn our prayers into action! Find your place. All it takes is a willing heart. God will show each of us what we can do!