International (MNN) — 159 pimps were arrested and 105 kids rescued from trafficking by the United States FBI’s three-day sting operation last month.
Bill Blacquiere, President of Bethany Christian Services, says this was a wake-up call. “These recent arrests by the FBI I think have brought to people’s attention [that] child trafficking goes on here in the United States, and the reality is that this goes on in all 50 states.”
Bethany cares for vulnerable orphans in 20 countries including the United States. Ministries cover foster care, adoption services, and reaching kids who are at-risk of trafficking.
“Here in the United States, many of the children who are trafficked are children who have been physically abused, sexually abused, neglected by their parents, they become homeless, and…are victims of being trafficked,” says Blacquiere.
Many kids exploited for sex and labor in the United States have also been shipped in from other countries. “Many children end up being trafficked because of poverty,” says Blacquiere. “In some of our work that we do in other countries, we provide sponsorship so children can stay with their families and stay in school. Without that, parents sometimes are talked to about releasing their child for what the trafficker would say is to give them job training.”
Bethany does sponsorships in 10 different countries as a major part of their ministry. For example, Bethany facilitates 100-120 adoptions in Ethiopia, but they sponsor over 5,000 children. Sponsorship costs just $30 a month to keep a child in school, in their family, and out of the trafficking ring. Click here to sponsor a child through Bethany.
There’s also Bethany’s trauma and torture counseling center for kids and teens who were rescued from trafficking. Blacquiere explains, “We refer to them as survivors. Through counseling and through having good relationships with mentors and people they can stay with, they can turn around that trauma in their life and become very emotionally and psychologically healthy members of society.”
Teens who age out of the orphanage system are often easy targets for traffickers. To turn 18 without a family means you’re on the street with no job skills or assets. Bethany reaches these teens, providing job training and independent life skills.
But Blacquiere says Bethany would rather see teen orphans placed in families. “Right now we have a lot of children that are waiting for adoptive families. These are children that are older, but they’re on the verge of exiting the orphanage, and they need a family.”
The love and hope of the Gospel is Bethany’s driving force. “We demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ, and we do that by word, by telling people what we believe, who we are, telling them about God’s love for them. In addition, we demonstrate that by providing them [with] families, counseling, and showing them what it really means to be loved and cared for,” Blacquiere shares.
He encourages believers to pray “that there would be law enforcement in every country to end child trafficking. They can pray for our members in congress who are enacting legislation and providing funds to prevent child trafficking. And then of course, they can pray for more foster and adoptive families.”