Slavery Right in Our Backyard
Written by Pastor Jim Law
In a special needs orphanage in East Asia, a little boy rested on a pallet with eyes wide open. An oxygen tube provided necessary assistance to maintain his breathing. He rested peacefully, but was lethargic.
After looking into his eyes, we asked the orphanage caregiver, “What is his birth defect?” She responded, “He doesn’t have a birth defect. He was taken by human traffickers as an infant and placed in a storage container. Because of lack of oxygen, he has permanent brain damage. We don’t think he is going to be with us much longer.” Sadly, by the end of the year, her prediction was correct.
Upon returning to the United States, the temptation for us was to compartmentalize this atrocity as an incident that occurs only in far off places, but the truth of the matter is that human trafficking is a global scourge that does not discriminate based on any criteria. The lives affected by modern day slavery are not only in third-world settings, but are in fact occurring in our own backyard.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that between 100,000 to 300,000 children are victims of human trafficking in the United States alone. This number encompasses minors who are coerced into child prostitution as well as different forms of slave labor.
Even closer to home, according to research provided by the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home (www.lbch.org), “Louisiana is not immune to this growing epidemic.” Citing a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, “the New Orleans/Baton Rouge corridor ranks in the top ten cities in the country for human trafficking.”
While labor trafficking is a grievous reality, where victims are forced to work long hours with little or no compensation, studies show that sex trafficking constitutes the majority of all slavery today. We live in a hypersexual world where illicit sex is championed without hindrance.
It has been established that children who have experienced prior sexual abuse are at a very high risk of being sexually trafficked. With statistics showing that one in three females and one in six males will face sexual abuse in their lifetime, these numbers underscore the vulnerability many face in this vicious cycle of abuse and shame.
The widespread success of human trafficking should cause us to question why the abuse and degradation of innocent people is such a prosperous industry? And furthermore, what should the response of the church be in light of this “under-the-radar” suffering? The expansion and prosperity of the human trafficking industry is a call to God’s people to awaken to the cry of the helpless and enter into the fray.
The need of the hour is a “William Wilberforce type” of resolve as he spoke against the slavery of his day when he said, “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”
It is missional living for God’s people to be on the front line of human suffering with the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the heartbreak of this modern day slavery, we would suggest you consider with us how the churches of Louisiana can be involved.
God’s People Calling Out in Prayer
Begin by placing these needs on your church prayer list. We would appeal to pastors to consider bringing these to the full attention of the church as it gathers for corporate worship. Simple, accessible resources abound for any congregation to begin praying specifically for the needs of human trafficking.
Churches Partnering with Open Hearts
The circumstances surrounding human trafficking are complex. As we read of the plight of those caught in its deadly web, we began to see that the dynamics were more involved than rescuing the victims and imprisoning the pimps. Often those entrapped do not even see themselves as enslaved, coupled with a legal system that is ill-equipped to deal with the situation effectively.
Because of recent press on this subject, awareness of human trafficking is growing, and yet it is easy to feel directionless and overwhelmed when it comes to getting involved. However, there are ministries and resources in place for the Church to be engaged in significant ways. Far beyond a mere social program, we should enter the battle with Christ-centered hope for those living a nightmare.
As God’s people, one thing we must not be is apathetic. The late Calvin Miller wrote, “Apathy bakes casseroles for church fellowships while battles rage….And turnpike-wide, they drive forward like lemmings into hell. Churches don’t cry. Seminaries don’t cry. Bookstores don’t cry. Only God cries!” May the church mobilize to use the gifts God has given to minister the gospel to those affected by human trafficking. If we take a step, Christ will open the doors.
Dr. Law has just completed his 20th year as senior pastor of FBC Gonzales. In addition to his pastoral duties, he also oversees a ministry which takes accredited, theological education to hard places in the world. He and his daughter Naomi collaborated on this article because of a burden they share to advocate for those caught in the pernicious industry of human trafficking.