Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Setting People Free

Everyday we see people as we go about our lives. A businessman might stay in a hotel with a staff that cleans his room. A stay-at-home mom might splurge on a massage or go get her nails done. A teacher interacts with students. We might run into a neighbor's cleaning lady taking out the trash. Servers take our orders when we eat lunch at a restaurant. Sometimes teens will show up at our front doors selling magazines.

All these scenarios have the potential to put us in contact with victims of human trafficking. Knowing the indicators to watch for could aid in the rescue of a modern-day slave. A Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet says that trafficking victims often:
  • show evidence of being psychologically or physically controlled
  • are unable to leave home or a workplace
  • won't speak for themselves, someone with them will provide information
  • won't have any kind of identification like a passport or driver's license
  • won't have many personal possessions
  • think they owe a huge debt they can't pay
  • will have lost a sense of time or space, they may not know the city or state where they are
If you suspect you've come into contact with a victim of trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888. Before you call note every possible detail because they will ask questions to determine whether to call in local authorities.

Caring enough to pay attention to the people we come into contact with can change their lives. It even has the potential to set someone free.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Learning to Work with Girls at Risk

This guest post was written by Carrie Ngangnang, Justice Advocate, International Justice Mission.

When Frederick Douglass said slavery "has been called by a great many names, and it will call itself by yet another, and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume," he knew what he was talking about.

Modern-day slavery looks different than it did during the nineteenth century when Douglass spoke those words. Today, slavery is not bound by borders, race, religion, economic status or social class. At its core, slavery is the exploitation of the most vulnerable. 

Orange County, CA has one of the highest populations per capita of homelessness in the U.S., with only 3,400 temporary shelter beds available. An individual needs to work 141 hours per week at minimum wage in order to afford average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment. It should come as no surprise then that hundreds of homeless families find themselves residing in motels. This working homeless population is a socially neglected, ignored and an extremely vulnerable population. 

Thirteen years ago, before I was familiar with slavery, I worked with the motel population through my local church. We created opportunities for families from the church to be in relationship with families living at a particular motel in Costa Mesa. I saw trafficking at the motel during that time; however, I couldn't identify it. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Throughout the past 5 years, my understanding of slavery has grown and I have learned from hundreds of experts on the matter. 

Recently, I’ve gotten reacquainted with the motel population in an exciting way. A few weeks ago, we started a small group, designed for the teen girls who live at the motel. These girls are incredibly vulnerable. They live in an environment that breeds all types of addictions and unrelenting cycles of brokenness swirl around them constantly. We plan to share with the girls that their circumstances do not define who they are; their Creator does. We want them to know and believe that they have choices in life that don't depend on their motel room number. We want them to understand that God created them out of unrelenting love and with great purpose. We hope to crush the potential for a life in bondage to another and usher in the confidence, security and freedom that Jesus brings through a relationship with Him. 

The girls were excited about starting their group. We talk about who God is and how He created us. They ask thought provoking questions that greatly encourage us. 

It’s true. Jesus is the hope of the world. He’s the hope for these girls. He’s the hope for all of us.

How wonderful would it be for this generation of homeless children to find their value and their worth in Jesus Christ and ultimately extinguish the possibility of a life of bondage to a trafficker? What I learned from hundreds prepared me for a few. We can step in front of this modern-day form of the old monster slavery and bring it to a screeching halt once and for all. We are doing it, and we’re starting with a few silly beautiful teenaged girls living in a motel

See Carrie's recent article, "Modern Day Slavery and the Biblical Call for Justice," for Dharma Deepika: A South Asian Journal of Missiological Research on Transform LA's web site.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A 40-Day Prayer Journey

40 Days Freedom TVThe greatest thing anyone can do to fight human trafficking is pray. The Lord holds the keys to rescuing each one of the 27 million slaves held in bondage throughout the world. Many rescues have taken place as a direct answer to prayer. Devoting ourselves to seek His face has the potential to end this nightmare for so many men, women, and children.

Following the Lenten calendar, Traffick Free Pomona (TFP) is calling believers to pray for 40 days--from Ash Wednesday (February 13) until Easter Eve (March 30). To help you pray specifically and grow deeper in your understanding of modern-day slavery, TFP has made a prayer guide available

Let's take this prayer journey together. It only takes a few minutes each day to think about our those who are enslaved to cruel and vicious masters and to pray for them. And it will make a difference to that little 7-year-old girl forced to be a sex slave in Thailand, to the little 9-year-old boy harvesting cocoa beans 12 hours a day 7 days a week on the Gold Coast, to the Sri Lankan teen in domestic servitude in Singapore--and perhaps to the girl next door who's being beaten and raped by a pimp.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Can You See Her?

She may live on your street or mine--a girl who might easily escape your notice, but attracts a trafficker's attention.

This was the street I lived on while in high school. It was in the finest area of our city--a neighborhood with gorgeous homes. When we moved there, I finally had my own bedroom. My friends envied our pool, shuffleboard court, and the upstairs den I shared with my two sisters. But I would have traded all of it for a family that ate dinner together every night.

After my parents divorced, I rarely saw my dad. My mom and stepfather fought ferocious battles. So did I, within myself. Why was my family such a mess? Where was my safe place? Who could I trust? I longed for someone to care about me, to ask about my feelings and pay attention to them. No doubt, my parents did the best they knew how, and now there's so much for which I'm grateful. But I was a kid back then and didn't understand what seemed to be a facade of fancy houses with hidden secrets. If human trafficking had been a problem then, I would have been at risk for becoming a modern-day slave.

Life is hard and many girls have parents who, for one reason or another, don't pay much attention to what their children are doing. What's the likely outcome for a girl when her stepfather pours a beer over her mother's head--just as a new heartthrob from the wrong side of the tracks comes to the front door? Though we had a rule about my mom meeting the boys I dated, that night when I fled the chaos, no one noticed. By the sheer grace of God, I was a teenager during a time when the entire country operated for the most part on biblical principles. And, the boy I dated respected me.

At nineteen I got married. He said he loved me and that was enough. But it wasn't enough to make the marriage work. Still longing for the stability of an intact family, I thought a baby might help. My firstborn son became the joy of my life, but by the age of 25, I became a single mom, and that was hard.

Evidently some young moms today are having survival sex. They need to make money and many of them don't have job skills. So with casual sex no big deal, they become easy prey for traffickers who offer easy money. The children of prostituted young women frequently end up in foster care, and the mom keeps turning tricks hoping one day to make enough money to rescue their babies.

Recently the woman who lived next door while I was in high school told me what is likely another trafficking story. She said she'd learned that the young girl who had frequently come over to play with her granddaughter had become ensnared in prostitution and was working in Las Vegas. Quite possibly a trafficker had targeted this hurting girl and manipulated her into modern-day slavery. The younger they are, the more money they're worth.

What other scenarios put a girl at risk? Do you know? Do you care? Can you see her? My next post will be about the indicators that a girl is being trafficked and what you can do to help.

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