As I pondered the enormity of the human trafficking problem I had just discovered, I was overwhelmed. I had heard of teen and preteen girls being sold for sex to any man who would pay the price. I had heard of women cleaning house and taking care of children sometimes 20-hours a day for wealthy families whose adults sexually and physically abused them at will. I had heard of prep cooks at restaurants being worked 15 hours a day, then having to spend another few hours at home cutting vegetables to take back to the restaurant the following morning.
Then I heard that all these people were afraid to leave their “employment” because their lives and the lives of their loved ones had been threatened by their traffickers. When I learned of the torture some of them had endured, it made me physically sick. My heart broke inside as I realized the enormity of pain endured daily by these innocent ones.
These trafficking victims are American-born children and adults, as well as some foreign-born nationals. All this is taking place in U.S. cities, towns and rural communities every day.
Our country, for the most part, is a place where people care about others. We have laws that can be enforced, and law enforcement and social service people who will compassionately help. Remembering that we live in a country where freedom and safety are the norm, not the exception, gave me hope to believe I could make a difference.
I began to ask God, What can I do? The answer I received surprised me. I didn’t consider myself a writer at all. In fact, I had complained many times that writing was my least favorite part of college. But as is often the case, God believed in me more than I believed in myself.
My book, In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States, was published in early 2011. It’s an easy read, with true stories of victims, perpetrators and heroes related to this atrocity in our midst. It accomplishes the mission I envisioned, giving the reader an understanding of what human trafficking looks like in the U.S. and what to do when one sees it.
I challenge my fellow Christians to ask themselves, What is God calling me to do? As I have engaged in the fight against human trafficking in our backyard, I have come to realize that we can all do something with little to no interruption of our daily routines.
Here are some ways you can help, even as you’re driving or waiting in line. Pray. Talk to others about this problem in our communities. Watch for signs of trafficking around you; if you spot something suspicious, call the National Human trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888. (Put this number in your cell phone.)
If you have become educated about human trafficking, whether by reading In Our Backyard or another way, do more if you’re so motivated. There are plenty of anti-trafficking organizations in every state that could use your help with events, computer work, speaking at the local service clubs, donating, or even just setting up chairs and putting up posters.
In short, each one of us can help protect our children and others from this horrific crime in our backyard. Whether by prayer, being aware, or giving time or money, faith means taking action. James put it well, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
Your action in bringing awareness or assistance, however large or small, may save a life today. What will you do?
Nita Belles work with Central Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans.