We Are On  A Mission

By Derri Smith, Founder

Mission: An important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation

Mission, many would agree, is a key to finding meaning in life and personal satisfaction. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner said, “You don't become happy by pursuing happiness. You become happy by living a life that means something.”

A true mission is larger than yourself, and the stakes are high. A mission is different than an ambition or goal. Getting out of bed in the morning, losing twenty pounds or earning a promotion can all be hard to do and represent goals pursued and achieved. Goals can sometimes morph into missions. If you overcome the urge to stay in bed so you can go out and save people’s lives, as would a doctor or firefighter, then you are mission driven. If you lose twenty pounds in order to qualify to become a police officer, or if you work hard to qualify for a job keeping inner city kids out of gangs, then you may be on a mission.

Mission has to cost you something…it always involves sacrifice. At the same time, mission helps you process pain and sacrifice differently. Someone shivering in the cold might be on a mission or merely in a mishap. If you get frostbite because you are locked out of the house, then you experience pain differently than the person driven by a mission to climb Mont Blanc.

You may have noticed that we at End Slavery Tennessee are on a mission. Our mission is all about freedom. Nelson Mandela said it well: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Right now, too many Tennesseans have no freedom about where they work or who touches their bodies. They aren’t free to live out their dreams or use their gifts to benefit the world. We who are free engage this mission determined to build communities that respect and enhance the freedom of others.

Is this mission Impossible, or mission doable? Our mission is absolutely  do-able—but not overnight. It will likely take another two decades or so to truly eradicate human trafficking. I heard the US Ambassador for Trafficking in Persons, John Cotton Richmond, describe the mission of ending human trafficking. He said it is like planting an orchard rather than growing a garden. A garden produces the first year. Orchards take many years. When the fruit finally begins to produce, it isn’t even that great, but you can still measure progress over time: You can measure the diameter of the trunk and the number of branches. At End Slavery Tennessee, we have, over the years, gained the long-term perspective to believe in ultimate fulfillment of the mission.

Still, we need milestones of progress to keep us motivated. And the progress in the decade since we started is incredibly encouraging! We’ve gone from weak, insipid human trafficking laws to the strongest in the nation. Gone from a “that doesn’t happen here” attitude to a complete cultural shift among legislators, law enforcement, child protective services, the courts, the media and community members. Changed from no services for survivors to specialized, effective, comprehensive care. We’ve built collaborative systems across the state and the region that work. And every year we see individuals identified, cared for and restored to live free and we  see traffickers and purchasers no longer allowed to operate with impunity, but instead facing stiff penalties.

We are on a mission. We are determined to succeed. We have clear innovative strategies to do so. But we cannot do this alone. Faith communities, businesses, community and professional organizations and individuals can all leverage their power, talents and sphere of influence to create a slave-free Tennessee and to help other regional partners create a net that spreads from shore to shore.

Human Trafficking is a huge wrong that we, who engage the mission together, can genuinely make right.

Join the mission: Learn how you can give, volunteer, intern or partner.

With thanks to Donald Miller whose podcast on mission inspired this article.