None of my friends were enslaved, beaten daily, or raped. I didn’t know anyone who was addicted to drugs – the closest thing I knew of was an uncle who got too loud at baseball games. No one in my little world struggled to put food on the table, or struggled to have a table. The closest thing I knew of to abuse was a mom and her two kids who we helped run away to Texas. There was no schema I had that could make sense of trafficking, so when I first heard of it I responded the only way I knew how: with compassion and empathy. What if that was my friend? What if he was my cousin? What if she went to my church?
I was a goody-two-shoes growing up, not because I wanted to be, but because I didn’t understand why anyone would want not to be. The idea that someone would intentionally do the wrong thing, would take advantage of someone – a teenage girl who might very well be my friend – was unspeakable. I was enraged to hear about this evil happening all around me.
There was never an audible voice, but I distinctly remember the thought, “Are you really going to just live your life and not do anything about this?” “What is the point of working for your comfort and security if these people are abused constantly?” “Who do you think you are?” Most importantly, “Whose do you think you are?” I knew that if my life belonged to Him, I could not live for myself; I could not ignore this evil. I had to fight it. I had to help my friends – even though I hadn’t met them yet.
Students Stopping the Trafficking Of Persons (SSTOP) is a student-led organization at Bryan College which has always been focused on finding ways to engage with God’s work of justice. It was the first thing I started looking for when I arrived at Bryan College, and I was disappointed to find out that it was not very active. I was passionate – angry, really – about fighting trafficking, and I wanted to do something. I had to learn that while educating myself, raising awareness, and educating fellow students is not particularly exciting, it is what needs to be done.
I am now in my third year at Bryan College, and I lead SSTOP to the best of my ability. The group has become larger and more active than ever before, and it is my goal to maintain that enthusiasm and channel it into something meaningful. We are developing partnerships with Blazing Hope Ranch, with the Worldview Initiative, with the International Justice Mission (IJM) and other organizations. In addition to our bread and butter of on-campus awareness and education, we are working towards education and prevention in local high schools and church groups. As always, educating ourselves is vital, lest we find ourselves drifting from our purpose.
The students involved in SSTOP are diverse – different ages, backgrounds, and goals. Christian Ministry, Pre-Law, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Worship Arts, and other majors are all present. There is not just one way to fight trafficking, there are needs everywhere. For myself, I have a passion for law enforcement, investigation, and post-rescue care of victims. Other individuals have a passion for research, for counseling, for ministering to victims and counselors, for prevention, for reaching out to perpetrators, for changing the laws that allow trafficking, and more.
One often overlooked way to get involved is through financial donations. The most effective organizations are non-profits. They depend entirely upon donations from caring individuals to make their work possible. I personally support IJM out of my meager income, but more importantly, I join the staff of these organizations in prayer, interceding on behalf of them, of their clients, and of those they have not yet encountered.
Most people are not called to dedicate their lives to a particular cause, but they would do well to be generous with what they have been given, and support those who reach out to the oppressed and marginalized. Gary Haugen, founder of IJM, compares his work to a little boy asking his daddy to let him help on some project. The father does not need the boy’s help in fixing the car, or caring for the garden, but he joyfully allows the boy to join him in his work. In the same way, we are to join our Father in His work of justice, and find deeper relationship with Him in the process.