God uses a variety people to fight against human trafficking. There are those who seek girls out on the street to encourage them and share Christ’s love. Others are passionate advocates in local and state governments, and there are those who give rousing speeches to churches and assemblies. Some people spend weeks investigating prostitution rings that are exploiting young kids, while others rush into danger to rescue girls held captive for months. Some stand up for girls in court who have been wrongfully criminalized, and still others nurse their wounds in a Children’s Clinic after rescue.
Me? I teach young girls who have been exploited how to solve multi-variable word problems in Algebra and how to balance chemical decomposition equations in Chemistry. Some days, if I am lucky, I get to see God reveal truths to them about His love as they heal, grow, and find hope. It’s not glamorous, but education is a critical piece of the puzzle in equipping girls to reclaim their future. These girls are facing obstacles such as recovering from trauma and many times climbing out of poverty.
I’ve been working with survivors of human trafficking for a year and a half now. I was the first male to be hired to work with the program. Some ministries working with trafficking victims stay away from using male employees, but Wellspring Living thought it would be constructive and even therapeutic to hire a man to work directly with the girls in a safe environment. In the beginning we were all a little on guard trying to figure out what the correct boundaries would be. Our girls haven’t just been sexually abused but many times brutalized by men in their lives. If these girls aren’t abused physically, the emotional abuse and manipulation endured deeply scars these kids, some as young as 13 in our program.
So, you can imagine there was a little trepidation on my part about how they would react to me as a male teacher. What we have found, though, is that the girls already have a mix of positive males in their lives, so it’s not like I am some type of alien. But it is incredibly rewarding to be able to model a healthy male, adult relationship for them. While I’m a pretty big man, they quickly realize I’m just a big softy and open up to me in some meaningful ways. I have the benefit of working with my wife, Sophie, here at the Victory program. We have the honor to demonstrate a Christ-centered marriage and family life for the girls. All of us who work with the girls recognize that every moment is a teaching moment, not just in the classroom and therapy groups. Every conversation and reaction to outbursts is an opportunity for us to extend grace, model love, and teach life skills. God is in these details.
The young girls that come to us are all unique and each have their own stories and personalities. Some are fairly close to being on track in school so we just have to make up a credit or two as they complete the program. Others, however, have missed entire years of school and we get the opportunity to help them catch up; sometimes even graduate high school. There are a few who show up without a single high school credit at 17 years of age. Sometimes those are the most intelligent girls who have had to use their wits to survive on the street. But it’s a lot to make up so we get them as much knowledge as possible and set them up to succeed on the GED. Not that those plans work out perfectly every time, but school is the buy-in for our girls to accept the help we offer therapeutically and spiritually. They WANT to achieve in school, so as soon as they realize what can be accomplished they have a reason to be here – a tangible benefit they understand.
The reality is these girls are more than statistics or sad stories about sex and sad men. They have hopes and dreams just like every other kid in America. In Monarch (our youth small group) they talk about their struggles with faith and doubt just like you and I. They have more junk to sort through, deeper shame, and more reason to question the goodness of God. But God shows up for them. Some are reading their Bibles more than any kid I had in youth group and being more honest about their questions in the process. It’s not always pretty. Their pain causes them to fight and push back with God and those of us who care for them. I once had a girl tell me she wanted to throw up when she looked at me. I asked friends on Facebook and twitter to pray for her and later that day she came up and thanked me for not giving up on her.
So we keep going. I would like to ask you to keep praying for our girls. We get them for a short time and they head back into the same world that treated them like a commodity. Ask God to continue to work in their lives and find ways you can get involved in their lives through Wellspring Living or other organizations around the country who work to Rescue, Restore, and Renew. You can make the choice to face the reality of what’s happening or continue to hide and let them suffer.