Several years ago I received an invitation to attend a meeting about human trafficking in my state. The meeting just happened to be within blocks of my office, and I knew the topic was going to be an emphasis for the mission organization I represented. I walked into the meeting uninformed and unprepared for what I discovered.
After two hours of sitting in a conference room with 20 other people representing law enforcement, counselors, shelters, and non-profit organizations, I was a mess. I watched videos interviewing girls who had been trafficked less than five miles from the high school where I graduated. I learned of a labor trafficking case discovered less than two hours from where I lived. I learned that human trafficking and slavery wasn’t just an issue in another country. It was happening everywhere, including my community.
I returned to my office that day and pondered the trajectory of the ministry I was leading. How could we make a difference? How could I equip other ministry leaders to take notice? This pivotal meeting turned into six years of intentional education and awareness on the subject.
Unfortunately, the issue still exists and is as important today as it’s ever been. Consider the approximately 20-40 million slaves in the world today and the $32 billion industry of trafficking people. If the women in your church could make a difference, what would it look like in your city and in your community? Here are a few ways I started tackling the problem and equipping leaders to make a difference.
- Offer education on the subject. Awareness and information are the primary ways you can equip women to make a difference. Invite a local law enforcement officer to speak to your leadership team. Take a group to a conference where you learn more about trafficking. Read a book that addresses the issue. For me, taking four women from my leadership team to an all-day conference was a starter. Later, I invited an expert to address my entire leadership team on the issue. Some of them told me the whole thing made them feel uncomfortable, but they became some of the biggest cheerleaders and advocates for helping others understand the issue.
- Develop various prayer strategies. We offered a walk-through prayer experience at several events. It explained various kinds of trafficking and how it impacted both the local community and the world. We printed prayer bookmarks with daily prayer prompts. We prayer walked around the arena where our city hosted the NBA finals. (Most people don’t realize large sporting events or political conventions attract traffickers and prostitutes to your city.) Engage women to adopt a people group where trafficking is prevalent and begin intentionally praying for them.
- Engage with women who work at local clubs. A couple of churches I knew made an effort to get to know some the young women who worked in some of their local nightclubs. They took them gifts, food, and developed relationships that led to sharing the gospel. It became an ongoing ministry for these churches and was an expression of loving those who are often marginalized.
- Know where shelters exist that specifically help women out of trafficking. Check your community and your state shelters and be aware of places where victims can stay. Often, these kinds of shelters are rare, and there is a difference between domestic violence shelters and the need for trafficking victims. There is also a difference between a place for adult victims and minors.
- Find a missional project where you can contribute. I connected with a missionary in East Asia who began a bakery for women coming out of trafficking. I was so compelled by her story that we encouraged women from an event to contribute funds for her endeavor. The women gave enough to keep the bakery funded for an entire year. If you need ideas, go to onelifematters.org/projects.
- Purchase fair trade products. Most fair trade products give men and women an opportunity to make a fair wage in countries often plagued by labor and sex trafficking. Look for items that support these artisans. Your local LifeWay store carries several jewelry products that are fair trade. You can also check out WorldCrafts offered through Woman’s Missionary Union. For product information, go to worldcrafts.org/
One final way you can participate is to join the End It Movement! On February 7, draw a red X on your hand or wear a piece of movement clothing. Snap a selfie, and post it using #enditmovement. Raise your voice to share this important message of freedom. Our voices are louder when they’re raised together. After you post about End It, head into your local LifeWay store. Show your post at checkout to receive 20% off your entire purchase. It’s our way of saying “Thank you!”
To find out more about the End It Movement and LifeWay’s partnership with Passion, click here.