Practical Ways for the Church to Help Trafficking Victims

by Beth Grant

Never, never will we desist til we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name, released ourselves from the load of guilt… and extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back to the history of these enlightened times, will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long — William Wilberforce, speech before the House of Commons, 18 April 1791.

Provide basic personal items and toiletries for rescued victims in a local shelter.

  • Have qualified members of the congregation provide language translation for foreign trafficking victims and authorities.
  • Offer volunteer medical and health personnel from the church to a clinic serving prostituted women and child victims of abuse.
  • Report signs of child sex abuse/exploitation or exploitation of minors to authorities.
  • Bring awareness of the trafficking issue in public schools to aid in prevention.
  • Initiate a meeting of community church leaders and interested people of faith to prayerfully consider how to collaborate for awareness, prevention, and intervention in your city.
  • Begin an outreach into an area of prostitution in your city
    or town, prayerfully building relationships and establishing the presence of Jesus there.
  • Work with local authorities to start an aftercare shelter for trafficking survivors.

f9336a1a9c582e8de30d514742931d9fRaids? Best left to law enforcement or agencies working with law enforcement. The church is most effective in doing what only the church can do … bringing hope and healing through Jesus Christ and life-changing ministry to victims.

Prevention: By including the topic of sexuality and the injustice/danger of sex trafficking in Christian education curriculum for upper elementary children, middle school, and high schoolers, the church is helping fore- warn young people to the dangers of trafficking. Middle school girls are especially vulnerable if they are unhappy at home, in an unhealthy home environment, or if someone has already sexually abused them as children.

Knowledge about trafficking framed in compassionate concern for young people within our churches and communities can open doors for dialogue with vulnerable children and teens, making potential victims less at-risk for traffickers who want to victimize them. A healthy identity in Jesus Christ and understanding one’s value as a child of God created for good purposes are the greatest deterrents to exploitation.

Prayer and Intercession: In Jesus’ announced ministry mandate in Luke 4:18, His anointing not only included proclaiming the gospel but also for setting the captive free. As Pentecostal followers of Jesus, this is also the mission of the 21st-century church. However, the first step in helping men and women in sexual slavery — like any other kind of slavery — is for God’s people to pray and intercede for those in bondage in our communities. Steps for strategic intercession include:

  • Praying over the areas of our cities/communities where evil reigns. This includes known areas of prostitution and drug use.
  • Beginning a prayer group in the church among women with a heart for sexually exploited women and children. We must precede all action related to spiritual bondage with intentional, intensive intercession. Vision, passion, discernment, workers, and empowerment flow out of prayer.
  • Beginning a prayer group among men in the church for men who are exploiters and who are themselves in sexual bondage to pornography or sexual exploitation. Jesus came to bring freedom for both women and children who are being exploited through trafficking and for the men who exploit them — whose hearts are bound with evil.

76d04dc8813223fcc9d20f8a19fcbcaeResearch: Investigate what others are already doing in your com- munity in terms of sex trafficking. Learn what respected state or national secular or faith-based organizations are already doing. Inquire of law enforcement and social services to learn if and how trafficking is occurring within your city. Is your city a city of origin, transit, or destination for victims? Bring together those in your church who are employed in law enforcement, social services, public schools, counseling, medical workers, and legal profession- als to get a clearer understanding of what is happening locally. Knowing what is happening and who is already helping victims or potential victims in your community helps you understand how your church can help engage practically and share the hope and healing of Jesus Christ.

Note: Ruthless organized crime largely controls sex trafficking. You must precede any action to help victims with prayer, research, and dialogue with law enforcement professionals who work with this issue. Trafficking laws in America define how people can give help, so become aware of the legal issues surrounding your potential engagement with victims.

Examine your hearts and attitudes as followers of Jesus: As members of the body of Christ and a local church, prayerfully considering how to engage in ministry to those in sexual slavery requires us to examine our attitudes toward prostituted women and children. Do our attitudes reflect our culture’s attitudes or the heart of Jesus?

As parents, teachers, social workers, medical personnel, counselors, middle school/youth pastors, here are questions to ask ourselves:

  • If a young girl of age 10 or 11 looks promiscuous or highly sexualized, how did she get that way? Little girls are not born sexualized. If they look highly sexual as a minor, something has happened to make them see themselves as sexual. Sexual abuse is not their fault or responsibility. Do we naturally blame the victim?
  • Secular culture portrays child pornography as a victimless crime. How did a young girl come to be in front of the pornographer’s camera? Who or what is keeping her there? How does it destroy her future?
  • If a prostituted teen or woman comes to our church, will we welcome her in our hearts and community of faith on her journey to healing and deliverance? Or, will we reject her because of personal fear and judgment? Or, is our compassion conditional, based on how she ended up in a life of prostitution?

Jesus demonstrated compassion and forgiveness for all, including prostituted women and men who exploit them. Are we, as His followers, willing and ready to ex- tend the same grace and opportunity for forgiveness and healing?

WHY THE CHURCH MUST ENGAGE

Several years ago an official with the U.S. State Department confidentially approached me. She shared her concern that the success rates for secular agencies working with trafficking victims in America were dismally low. For that reason, she stressed that the church must become engaged with helping trafficking victims if they are to experience any long- term hope and change.

There is no full recovery, freedom, and hope from the trauma of sexual slavery without Jesus Christ . Many good secular organizations in America are helping survivors with le- gal, medical, political, or social services. However, since sexual slavery is more than physical slavery — it devastates the spiritual, mental, and emotional dimensions of the person as well — only Jesus Christ can bring new life, healing of body, mind, and spirit, and a new beginning for victims. Through His love and liberating truth, Jesus can make a prostituted man, woman, or child a new creation, transforming their identity into one with value as created by God. “If any man [any woman] be in Christ, he [or she] is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV). Jesus’ mission through His church is to take broken, exploited people and help them become strong, valued men and women of God.

Restoration from sexual trauma is a healing journey. This healing journey is best walked with patient people of faith who believe in God’s work in the trafficking victim’s life — people who believe in miracles and know that God is not willing that any should perish without Him. Sadly, what society offers in terms of victim services is often weeks long at best. Who better to walk with survivors of sexual exploitation than the community of faith who can pray, trust, and love on the healing journey? When social services stop, who will be there for survivors?

In the evil darkness of sexual slavery, the light and love of Jesus Christ and His people shine most brightly. A graphic description of a dark world of violence and injustice in Isaiah 59 is a frighteningly accurate portrayal of what is happening in areas of America’s cities and even small towns. God’s response to such violence and evil, however, was not avoidance but sending truth and salvation through His Son. God sent Jesus to invade the darkness of evil and redeem those in bondage to it.

In the same way, the church in America cannot allow the present darkness of sexual slavery and its related evils to intimidate it nor can the church ignore it. Rather, it is time for the church to challenge the darkness with the proclamation and engagement of Jesus Christ’s love, power, and truth. As the church does, it will see God’s raw grace at work as exploited men, women, and children find healing and freedom through Christ Jesus. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” ( John 8:36).

Helping trafficking victims requires an engagement of the whole gospel. Sometimes we view ministry to those victimized by sexual exploitation strictly as compassion ministry or a humanitarian endeavor of the church. The truth is, helping victims of sexual exploitation find new life requires the whole ministry to which Jesus has called the church: a transparent presentation of Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Healer integrated with Christ’s compassion expressed in practical ways to survivors. An authentic integrated compassionate ministry will see men, women, boys, and girls find healing, be set free from sexual bondage, and become redeemed brothers and sisters in the community of faith.

The Spirit-empowered church is uniquely equipped to facilitate healing for trafficking survivors. Dark spiritual power is often evident in those who have experienced years of sexual exploitation, especially victims who have been subjected to religious rituals as a part of their bondage. As a result, it is the work of the Holy Spirit through His people in discernment, wisdom, healing, faith, and deliverance that is critically needed to help the sexually exploited find deliverance and free- dom. May God give His church wisdom and courage to engage in this battle for freedom.

Dr. Beth Grant is the co-founder of Project Rescue. Reprinted with permission from CompassionLink.

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