Not too long ago I ran into Dr. Kyle Henderson (FBC Athens) in a downtown Dallas hamburger place when he was in town on an airport run. We had a lot of things to talk about, but I remember his energy and focus when he said about people of faith: “We need to be about bodacious things in the way of Christ.”
He was right, and his words followed me. About a week later Sandy Wisdom Martin, Texas WMU, Carolyn Porterfield and I sat down to talk about HOW to live out a bodacious thing in the way of Christ to help victims of human trafficking. Texas is a highway for trafficking. The stories of our own Texas teens lured into trafficking are horrendous. To make matters worse, these domestic victims are often left without the same level of help and services that immigrants and refugees get.
We started with a list of people who inspired us – all across Texas – who are doing something to stop human trafficking and start the healing process for victims. Within our Texas Baptist family we quickly got up to about 30 congregations or individuals who are fashioning some part of their ministry to help human trafficking victims. Prayers, phone calls and emails later and we were in a room together, ministries big and small. We are now a group called FREEDOM RING.
People showed up like Dr. Jay Abernathy, FBC Palestine and Refuge of Light Ministry, a group that is in partnership with Buckner for a residential facility for domestic victims. Other large Baptist children and family ministries like Buckner International, Baptist Child and Family Services, and South Texas Children’s Home Ministries are deeply engaged in HT ministries in Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Muldova and on the Texas border that support and sustain victims of exploitation.
Local Baptist Associations in Beaumont and Austin are convening groups to provide safe house services for their areas. Baptist Student Ministries is promoting and staffing Red Light Bakery in Thailand through GO NOW MISSIONS this summer. Ministries like Cornerstone Children’s Ranch, in Del Rio, Traffic 911, Traffic STOP, led by TL Grover, and New Life Refuge in Corpus Christi are working with law enforcement, children services, juvenile detention and community responders to bring a compassionate care to difficult situations and victims. But the rules and regulation of victim services, the vulnerability of runaways and the evil hold of trafficking perpetrators make a bodacious effort a bodacious challenge too.
FREEDOM RING – Eight weeks later, some of these same ministries were at a Senate Hearing in San Antonio explaining the difficulties of providing adequate services to victims and we are mobilizing to educate churches along Interstate 10 where trafficked victims are found.
FREEDOM RING – will be hosting a concert tour through Texas College campuses and along Interstate 10. Sara Johnson is bringing her musical talent across Texas and the Texas BSM is helping on campuses to raise awareness, prayer and money for ministry. (“Like” her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thesingersarajohnson)
FREEDOM RING- will have a special exhibit area and breakout session at the Texas Baptist Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi (http://annualmeeting.texasbaptists.org/). Come by and meet the terrific ministries and the amazing people that God has called forth.
FREEDOM RING- learn more, give your encouragement, join the monthly phone call by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org with your phone number and help “bodate” a bodacious effort for Christ’s redeeming love.
The victims of trafficking in Texas are often recruited from vulnerable situations. Runaways are initially befriended by pimps, told they are loved and beautiful only to be entrapped and threatened into prostitution and addiction. Young US citizens whose parents have been deported are targeted by traffickers along the border. Young inexperienced, girls are recruited for prostitution by young men whose sole purpose is to seduce them away from their group of friends and pass them off to a trafficker.
At the Senate hearing, one victim told of being prostituted from the age of 9 and her traffickers told her that by running away from them, she would only learn that the people out there wouldn’t care, that she would be treated worse. “None of my teachers ever asked about my bruises and when I was pregnant and delivered at 11, no medical person took up for me, but believed whatever story they told them.”
You may not be the person to help a victim, but you might be the person who befriends a troubled teen or steps in as a caring teacher or nurse with a compassionate curiosity. You might be the person who can connect with the sullen or disengaged teen who is just a step from exploitation or maybe you just want to be sure that if this is someone’s gift, they get to do it. We know that we can do more together as FREEDOM RING.
At the Senate hearing in San Antonio, the Chairperson Senator Van de Putte took time to say that it has been the faith community that led the way on this issue of trafficking by bringing attention and persistence to the plight of victims several years ago – and now 33 laws in Texas have been changed to prosecute the crime, train law enforcement and help victims. “Lawmakers followed the lead of the church,” she added. Senator Wentworth, San Antonio also expressed his commitment to end trafficking and affirmed the role of the faith community.
FREEDOM RING is a step in a bodacious beginning that is already speaking with the voice of Christ.