As a missionary to Italy, my main ministry efforts are focused on combatting trafficking there. However, since we have been back in the States for a time I recently enjoyed the privilege of joining efforts to combat trafficking right in and around my hometown.
I grew up in northeast Ohio and like any city and small town around the world these days it has its own harsh reality of how sex trafficking is causing incredible pain and destruction in the lives of treasured ones made in the image of God. But there are ordinary people who God uses to do heroic things to bring hope and healing.
One way that I’m passionate about combatting trafficking is through education and training. Personally, when I received knowledge and tools to pair with my heart to help the hurting, I was empowered to be a more effective advocate in the lives of those I most wanted to serve. I love providing that fuel to others who have the same fire to fight injustice and make a difference. That’s why for the past three years I’ve been facilitating the translation project to create an Italian version of the “Hands that Heal: International Curriculum to Train Caregivers of Trafficking Survivors” (which is going to be sent to print any day now!!) and that’s why about a year ago I earned my official FAAST certification to train large groups on the Hands that Heal material.
So back near my hometown this past month I was honored to provide that same training, following the Hands that Heal curriculum, to a fabulous group of women who are involved in anti-trafficking efforts in northeast Ohio.
I co-led the 3 day training to equip these caregivers of survivors of sex trafficking to provide holistic care from a biblical perspective. The sessions I taught were:
- Intro to Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking
- Ending Demand
- Cultural Issues in Trafficking and Trauma
- Understanding the Psychological Needs of Survivors
- Understanding the Social Needs of Survivors
It was my third training and one of the things that made this one extra special was that many of the participants were from a ministry where my mom is on staff. She was able to participate too so it was humbling to play a small role in equipping her and the rest of the Rahab Ministries staff who are serving victims and survivors faithfully. God has done some amazing works of transformation in the lives of those they have reached, including one woman who is a survivor of sex trafficking, is now on staff at RAHAB, and was a participant in the training!
Another reason this training was extra special was because of the involvement of a ministry called Girl Set Free. Their great desire is to partner with us (the Tellos and ATR) as we serve victims of trafficking in Italy! The director of GSF has become a good friend of ours and we love her heart to learn all she can about sex trafficking and how to best care for survivors through opportunities like this training. We can’t wait to tell you more about the vision God has given us to work together to rebuild the lives of survivors in Italy. (Stay tuned for more on that later!)
In Ohio, and around the USA, the average age of of a girl when she is first caught into the sex trafficking industry is 13. I was that age, living in this area, not so long ago and if I was in trouble I would be so blessed to have any one of these women touch my life. I’m thankful that I was able to spend 3 days working with all of them, some of my “hometown heroes” if you will, to empower them to continue reaching out to those who are looking for a way out and need to know there is hope.
Doing this work can often be lonely and it forces you to face a lot of despair. But God is bigger. I love this quote from the HTH curriculum. Dr. Bethenee Engelsvold, an anti-trafficking worker in India writes:
“We who seek to address the carnage of human trafficking are small Davids in a land filled with Goliaths. But God knows no culture, no enemy, no trauma, no obstacle that limits His sovereign power and ability to transform the lives of survivors, one life, one miracle at a time.
Indeed. Keep throwing those stones, Davids! In the name of the Lord, keep throwing those stones and then step back and trust God to bring down the giants in your midst.