Moon stated that since the Crawfords entered her life, "I have realized that I have value and worth. And now that I know God, I can always pray for his help whenever I have a problem." The Crawfords are among a growing number of Christians worldwide working to live out the love of Jesus by reaching out to sexually exploited people. The Crawfords decided to move to Thailand after a short-term mission trip to Asia. Christa, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was dissatisfied with corporate law and had been providing legal aid at the Union Gospel Mission in Los Angeles. Mark had been leading an expanding multiethnic church and pursuing a master's degree at Fuller Theological Seminary to prepare to minister to prostituting women. (Jewell, 2007, p. 28).
When Kerry Hilton moved from New Zealand to India with his family in 2000, he was amazed when seeing 6,000 women and girl prostitutes on the streets of Kolkata, Calcutta. Over 2 million girls and women are believed to make up India's sex industry -- and prostitution sales totaled $4.1 million a day in 2004. Hilton, who traveled to India for this reason but was completely overwhelmed about what to do, decided if business put them into the sex industry why could it not put them out -- and help them also find Jesus? He drew up a business plan, rented a building surrounded by brothels and hired 20 women who wanted to escape prostitution. Hilton's wife, Annie, trained the women in a couple months to sew 30 jute bags a day. Today, 70 former prostitutes work from 10 a.M. To 7 P.M. At Freeset, sewing 100,000 tote and gift bags a year. The bags are marketed globally, many custom-designed for the Christian conference market. Hilton says he is not just rescuing women, because they are also transforming the community. They pray daily at Freeset and meet in prayer cells each once a week (Jewell, 2007, p. 28).
A similar business is established in Cambodia by Swiss Christian businessman Pierre Tami. He left the airline industry in 1994 to start Hagar Cambodia, a shelter and rehabilitation center in Phnom Penh for women and children. Tami started three prosperous businesses with help of professional staff and the World Bank's private sector entity, the International Finance Corporation -- soy milk, sewing silk products, and cooking/catering -- to provide employment for women and support their families. Last year, Hagar Catering gave almost half its profits to the ministry. Woods, a businessman and volunteer who is now paid by a local church in Australia, shows the women in Hagar Catering how God can help them in their daily lives through acts of Christlike compassion and justice. He explains that "We don't use these tragedies to be Bible-bashers. We journey together with them, with love and compassion, to find the injustices and speak up on their behalf in very practical terms" (Jewell, 2007, p. 28).
Those who are helping these women and children come from a variety of backgrounds and religions. Many became involved in the early 1990s. The split of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the growing globalization have added considerably to how many individuals are trafficked annually. In Europe and America, awareness grew when police exposed a number of major sex-trafficking rings. Conservative Christians and Jews spoke out for enslaved southern Sudanese. Some American donors paid to free Sudanese slaves. In 1992, Orthodox Jewish businessman Charles Jacobs read that in Sudan just about anyone with $20 could buy a black woman as a slave. He became co-founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, which raises awareness about slavery, especially in Mauritania and Sudan (Deann, 2007, pg. 31).
In 1997, lawyer Gary Haugen, after assisting in the U.N. investigation of genocide in Rwanda, founded International Justice Mission, which sponsors rescue raids of sex slaves in South Asia. In 1998, Laura Lederer, a human-rights activist, assembled a coalition of faith-based, human-rights, and feminist groups to raise awareness of human trafficking in the same area.. The National Association of Evangelicals sent a policy representative, Lisa Thompson. The coalition kept grew to add other groups including:
1) World Vision, which works through the Child of War Center, Gulu, Uganda, a project that rehabilitates child soldiers; 2) Shared Hope International, a not-for-profit that former Congresswoman Linda Smith of Washington State founded, rescues and rehabilitates women caught in sex trafficking; 3) Project Rescue, a program associated with Teen Challenge and the Assemblies of God, helps enslaved women and children in India and Nepal; 4) Anti-Slavery International from Britain lobbies governments, supports research, educates the public on slavery, and runs rehabilitation and liberation projects; 5) the Salvation Army develops services for trafficking victims and presses for greater local church involvement and public policy reform; 6) Concerned Women for America raises awareness among Christian women and pushes for strong enforcement of existing laws against sex trafficking.
Seven years ago, Sandy Shepherd in Texas got a call from her Deacon Neal Choate of the First Baptist Church. He said that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had just arrested seven Zambian boys, who were part of a touring choir First Baptist had hosted. Choate said the boys needed a place to stay or they would spend the night in jail and asked her to house all seven overnight. For the last two years, Shepherd had been fighting battles for this group, not knowing that she and her church were being duped. A Baptist missionary, Keith Grimes, had recruited the boys to tour
America with his ministry, TTT: Partners in Education.
Grimes had promised the boys and their families salaries, an American education, and stipends for families back in Zambia. He had also claimed the tour would raise money for Kalingalinga, the very poor hometown of these seven boys. The ministry never paid these Zambian boys or built new schools and pocketed all the sponsorship money. When Grimes died in 1999, his brother and sister assumed ownership of the boys and continued to keep the captive choir out on the road.
When Choate called Shepherd this time, she had already stopped her involvement with the choir, and had joined other American Christians aware of the scheme. They had built a village school with their own money. In January 2000, after the boys sang in a Houston church, they quit in exhaustion. Their manager telephoned the INS, demanding their immediate deportation to Zambia. (Alford, 2008).
When the choir disbanded, choristers struggled to remake their lives. A few of them still tour in the U.S. As the Zambian Vocal Group and Zambian Vocal Collection.
One of the boys continues to live with the Shepherd as a foster child. Some former hosts adopted choir members and some older choristers married Americans. Arkansas physicians sponsored one choirboy through medical school, now a doctor in Florida. With help from Shepherd and others, 17 former choristers received T. visas. The foster child of the Shepherds, Kachepa, can never return to Zambia. Corrupt government officials he exposed and envious former choristers have vowed to kill him. Free the Slaves said Shepherd is a typical antislavery crusader, is an everyday citizen who would not let injustice prevail and was willing to risk personal involvement. "She understands it's not just about one boy...It's got to be about the thousands of people who are in the same situation. When Kachepa finally receives permanent residency, he hopes to have a reunion outside Zambia with his family. He has worked three jobs to support kin he last saw when young. Enrolled in college, he hopes to study dentistry. He smiles, but behind her foster son's captivating smile, Shepherd notes a deep sadness. Kachepa's spirit seems dogged by survivor's guilt -- ever mindful of God's blessing, yet burdened to help others. (Alford, 2008).
The problem of human trafficking is a sizeable one, and there cannot be too many organizations working on it. The Tear Fund, a United Kingdom relief and development charity that teams with local churches to work with people in poverty, has also united churches in many countries across the world to work on this problem. Tearfund supports the work of church-based organizations, particularly in Asia, addressing the problem of human trafficking. These collaborative organizations are uniting with communities in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Uganda and the UK. They are lobbying governments to work toward stopping trafficking, punish the slave traders and help the exploited victims. They are rescuing women and children by helping them escape exploitation and giving them skills to earn an alternative, sustainable income.
Also, they offer trauma counseling and the hope of new life through Jesus.
Alford, D. (2007) How Christians worldwide are sabotaging the modern slave trade.
Christianity Today. 51(3)
Busch, David. ABC Radio National a Light at the Door. Interview Retrieved April18, 2008 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/encounter/stories/2008/2125162.htm
Glatz, C. Nuns Social Aspects Catholic News Service Retrieved…