This post is adapted from the original, which appeared on the Imagine Conference blog. Read to the end to see how you can be part of Imagine Conference this year!
Her name is Nicole, and I met her.
She traveled all the way from California to my house. I wish I could say I’d invited her. She walked right up to my front door and knocked. “I can’t let you in,” I said. “I have so much going on, you know, with work, my husband, kids. I’m a mom; you understand.”
There was no response. She knocked again. “I guess you didn’t hear me; I can’t let you in. I have to send these emails and plan dinner. The house is a mess. Sorry! Not a good time.” Nothing. Then came more knocking, soft and polite. “Wow, you again.” I was getting annoyed. “Honestly? I haven’t worked out yet today, or had my quiet time, or showered for that matter,” I said. “Can you please come back when I’ve met all their needs plus my own, wrapped up these projects, gotten myself organized, and my kids are in school all day?”
I opened the door a crack and walked away because I thought she’d left. Then she was standing in my living room. “My name is Nicole,” she said. She had long brown hair and was extremely attractive—she looked like she could have been about my age but was probably younger. Her look was on trend, and she had a welcoming smile. “Hi, Nicole,” I said, and I resumed working.
“When I was 18 years old, I was addicted to drugs and dancing at a club to make ends meet,” she began. “I met a guy, and he offered to help me get clean.”
That was the beginning of her nightmare, as that man would eventually enslave and traffic her across the United States, forcing her to pick up other women off the street as they went.
I stopped what I was doing and listened as Nicole shared details I couldn’t even repeat about her seven-year ordeal, which included constant abuse, threats of violence, and two forced abortions. As she talked, I could hear my two daughters shrieking with laughter from their attic playroom, and I broke down and wept.
Because her name is Nicole, and I met her. And my world was rocked forever.
A Call to Action
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. There are more people in slavery today than at any other time in human history:
The U.S. State Department last put the number of victims worldwide at an estimated 27 million, but according to its most recent report, it’s likely in the tens of millions.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year, according to the International Labour Organization.
In 2016, an estimated 1 out of 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 86% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran away.
While there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the United States, it probably reaches into the hundreds of thousands.
And here’s the kicker:
Only 1 percent of human trafficking victims are ever rescued.
That these statistics are overwhelming and disheartening is an understatement.
Impossible might be the best way to describe the prospect of even slowing the momentum of this massive, powerful, runaway freight train of darkness—let alone stopping it in its tracks.
Except for one thing.
As Christians, we serve the God who created every single man, woman, and child enslaved in trafficking today—who sees, and knows, and loves each and every one of them. The God for whom nothing is impossible, and who wants to remind us that what is impossible with man is possible with God (Luke 18:27, Matthew 19:26). The God who might be calling you to action. Just like he called Christine.
We Can’t Do it All, But We Can All Do Something
In 2007, Christine Caine—today an internationally known teacher, evangelist, activist, author, and speaker—was walking through the airport in Thessaloniki, Greece, when she noticed that littering the walls were handmade posters showing the faces of girls and women who had disappeared. She wondered how there could be so many people missing at the same time, until someone told her they were all victims of human trafficking.
Caine was incredulous. “I thought ‘Human trafficking? That doesn’t happen, that’s ridiculous.’ Then I went online and did some research, and I was stunned.” [“Abolishing Sex Slavery by Helping One Girl at a Time”]
Or as she would later put it: “My. World. Was. Rocked. Forever. … Life as I knew it before seeing the missing posters was over.” [“A Dream Come True”]
A year later in 2008, she and her husband, Nick, founded The A21 Campaign, an anti-human trafficking organization dedicated to abolishing injustice in the 21st century. A21’s comprehensive approach includes raising awareness, preventing future trafficking, taking legal action, and providing rehabilitation services to survivors.
With a stated mission to abolish slavery everywhere forever, A21 has 12 offices in 11 countries—all focused on aspects of its three-pronged solution: Reach, Rescue, Restore.
REACH THE VULNERABLE AND DISRUPT THE DEMAND.
RESCUE VICTIMS AND SEEK JUSTICE AGAINST THEIR CAPTORS.
RESTORE SURVIVORS AND EQUIP THEM TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY.
That first one, Reach. That’s where you and I come in: “Prevent slavery from ever happening by engaging people through events, student presentations, and education programs.”
Chances are you’re feeling pretty unqualified right about now, seeing as how you’re not ready to go off and found an entire antislavery organization. Chances are you’re thinking something along the lines of
I’m too busy.
It’s too big an issue.
I can’t do it all.
But we can all do something.
“Often, I think, because we think, ‘I can’t do it all,’ we end up being paralyzed. So we do nothing,” says Caine. “But if we understand we can’t do everything but we all must do something, and we all find the one thing that we can do, then we’ll find that together we will all make such a huge difference and we’ll be able to put a stop to this.”
Putting a Stop to This Part One: The Walk for Freedom
Remember my earlier encounter with Nicole? It was imagined, but her story isn’t, and it was what showed up in my living room that day. A few years later, on a warm May night at a church in suburban Pittsburgh, I was there as Nicole stood next to Christine Caine and shared her story live in front of an audience for the first time. You see, Nicole is alive, well, and free today because of A21. And now, she’s part of the fight.
So were we.
Walk for Freedom Pittsburgh participants standing for freedom in front of the Point State Park fountain
On October 14, 2017, I joined tens of thousands of other 21st-century abolitionists in 400 cities and 50 countries around the world by participating in the Walk For Freedom, A21’s global fundraising and awareness campaign, in downtown Pittsburgh. A couple hundred of us dressed in black gathered outside Station Square and walked silently in single file to Point State Park. Along the way, we shared statistics and literature about human trafficking with curious passersby.
Check out the video recap:
Missed the walk this year? Join us next year, and in the meantime …
Putting a Stop to This Part Two: Imagine Conference 2017
Join me at Imagine Conference 2017! The Imagine Conference, being held this year November 10-11, 2017, at North Way Christian Community equips, educates, and engages believers in the biblical call to care for the vulnerable, the lonely, the hurting and the at-risk people around them.
During the two-day event, participants will hear powerful stories and compelling speakers; attend breakout sessions; and meet other like-minded people interested in seeking justice and living out love in areas like family preservation, mentoring, ministry to refugees, adoption and foster care, missions, human trafficking, and embracing all life as made in the image of God.
Eugene Cho, Imagine Conference 2017 keynote speaker
On Friday, November 10, experience an incredible night of worship and storytelling and hear from keynote speaker Eugene Cho!
Learn directly from those who are on the front lines in the fight against human trafficking, and find out how to support and partner with local and national organizations like A21.
Together, as followers of Jesus, we can do something. Together, we can answer His call to live out love.
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life… Use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5:14