Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (MNN) — Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a slave.
That translates to roughly 30 million slaves around the world–more than the entire population in the state of Texas (according to figures cited by Operation Mobilization and the United Nations).
Of that number, two million are children traded into the commercial sex industry. Long-term consequences of trafficking include physical and psychological trauma, disease, drug addiction, unintended pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death.
Mind-boggling, isn’t it? What can be done? You can climb for freedom. Trafficking (especially sex trafficking) isn’t a victimless crime. Shout their names from the rooftops. Speak for them because they can’t.
Introducing: Operation Mobilization’s Freedom Challenge. Tomorrow, we’ll fill out the picture of the Freedom Challenge a little more. Today, we’ll focus on the Freedom Climb, a rigorous hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, for one purpose: to fight for those who are enslaved.
OM’s Tina Yeager is the U.S. director for the Freedom Climb. She says their goal is to stir compassion, action, and advocacy for the issues of modern-day slavery, exploitation, and global trafficking. Here’s what’s happening: “We have 20 women going to Mount Kilimanjaro. February 13th, they head out and they will begin a 7-day trek on Mount Kilimanjaro. A majority of the women are coming from Africa, but we do have a handful of women coming from the U.S.”
Each climber commits to raising $10,000 for Freedom Challenge, a part of OM, which has 55 projects around the world in 30 countries. The Freedom Climb funds 17 projects in Africa that specifically focus on the needs of these women and children. Each project helps women and children around the world climb out of their circumstances and find hope and freedom. Yeager says they do this with a multi-level approach: “Our primary focus is prevention, and then we also have a development program. We rescue and we restore, as well.
It’s not just the challenge of the climb itself, but one of engaging a community, a church into rallying to engage in the battle against modern day slavery and oppression. For example, she shares some of the specifics that could be shared with a church being approached for a climber’s support. “We have schools, we have programs for the children after school, we have feeding programs, and we have rescue programs for these children that then educate them, as well. We have vocational centers for the development program, teaching women how to sew, so that they can provide for their families.”
Since its inaugural event in 2012, the Freedom Climb has hosted climbs in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Ecuador, and to Mt. Everest base camp.
Today, more than ever, climbers are needed, and it’s due in part to the refugee crisis, says Yeager. “The refugees are so vulnerable to trafficking because they are struggling to survive. Unfortunately, they’ve been a huge focus of prey for the people that are actually victimizing these women and children around the world.” Since learning of their risk, OM launched a multitude of responses involving anything from refugee campsto vocational training and self-help groups. “These self-help groups are actually teaching them about their rights and their value and that they’re made in the image of Christ, giving them dignity and giving them self-worth.”
Pray that the women and children who are enslaved will be set free. Pray for their safety. Pray that the cycles of poverty, shame, slavery, and despair will be broken. Sound like some big goals? Try this one on for size: “[Pray] that God would give our team divine wisdom and direction to really grow this. Our heart would be to free a million women in the next ten years. It’s going to take a lot of us coming together to do that.” To that end, pray that the ministries and programs in place to end these cycles will thrive. Pray that the funds needed for these projects will come in. Pray that those who do not yet know God would come to faith in Him.
If you’ve made it down to the end of this article, you may have spent three minutes reading. That’s 6 people who’ve fallen into slavery if you follow the estimates! How will your next 30 seconds be spent?