by Karen Karpinski, Director of Education
I am often asked by pastors and other church members what they can do to help end human trafficking. I would like to reply, “Are you teaching about human trafficking?” Sadly, the parents of a minor lured into human trafficking we recently met with, would not need much urging to learn about what is called human trafficking, modern-day slavery or sexual exploitation. They would not even have recognized what was happening to their child, who grew up in the church, had not one of our trained volunteers recognized the signs and connected them with ESTN. Too many others may be the ones sitting in the church pews each Sunday, oblivious to the crime which is ensnaring many of the minors in our state – until it is too late.
While there are many approaches for churches to assist in the fight against human trafficking, one of the most important one is to prepare their parishioners with the truth. There are many churches that have already partnered with ESTN and do discuss human trafficking. Some have allowed us to do youth presentations, empowering young people to be safe through the knowledge of the basic lures traffickers use against them. Others have provided financial help through donations and gift cards drives. But there is more that can be done.
We have very real needs for emergent housing for our survivors. We would love to develop more relationship with churches that could pay for several months’ rent, or would provide a furnished apartment- or two. There is also a great need for foster parents to house and love a minor survivor. Training can be provided to teach families the behaviors to look for and how to respond. What better way to show our faith than to unconditionally love a girl or boy who has never known a love that expects nothing in return?
Yes, churches can provide rescue and food kits. They can encourage their youth to do door hanger campaigns, or start a gift card drive to help with survivor needs. But the most urgent need is to share our Christian faith by loving a child who has been so drastically hurt. Churches, we need you!