Human trafficking and breaking the powerless narrative

By December 20, 2019

International (MNN) —  With the #metoo and #churchtoo movement, the fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation can feel never-ending.

Yesterday, we covered why Christians should continue the work to end human trafficking and not grow weary of doing good. (Read the article here.) Now, we are digging deeper into the narrative surrounding human trafficking.

As previously noted, in 2019, The Freedom Challenge, an organization under Operation Mobilization, started a domestic partnership with the like-minded Logos Wilderness Therapy.

The Human Trafficking Narrative

Chelsea Van Essen, who is a licensed social worker and therapist, is the co-founder and clinical director of Logos Wilderness Therapy. She focuses on trauma and complex trauma and works with trafficking survivors. Primarily, human trafficking comes down to the exploitation of power and control.

“Oftentimes, when we’re healing from trauma or with trafficking survivors, we’re actually trying to re-establish the feeling of empowerment and control, and then also put those protections back in place,” Van Essen says.

human trafficking

(Photo courtesy of The Freedom Challenge via Facebook)

Re-empowering people means starting with enlightening ourselves. Access to a multitude of stories about exploitation and abuse in the world is overwhelming. However, Van Essen emphasizes the need to not live into the narrative that the world is overcome with evil or that the average person is powerless.

“God has created us to live into these spaces of dignity and value of human life,” Van Essen says.

The next level of fighting human trafficking is seeing the individual.

“The first thing that [is] lost with human trafficking is the dehumanization. That’s the first thing that happens where people are objectified for someone else’s pleasure or power,” Van Essen says.

Reinstating a person’s dignity and humanization is powerful. Examples of seeing the individual are found in Scripture, too. Tracy Daugherty, the director of The Freedom Challenge, says human trafficking is a narrative throughout the Old Testament. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he was trafficked to Egypt. But before Joseph came Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.

Hagar and God

Daugherty explains how Hagar was trafficked from Egypt to Abraham, the same man who God makes a covenant with and who Christians call “the father of faith”. Despite being a man of faith, Abraham takes Hagar, most likely because social norms of the day said such an action was morally acceptable.

(Photo courtesy of The Freedom Challenge via Facebook)

“He picked up this woman and then, of course, she becomes a, really basically a sex slave for [Sarai/Sarah] [Abraham’s wife] to have a child for them. And as you continue on that story, what I love about it is she is the only woman in scripture that God reveals himself personally to. He says my name is El Roi, the God that sees,” Daugherty says.

In Hagar’s story, God makes it clear that he sees her pain and how His people have wronged her. His face turns toward her pain, and he provides for her and her son.

“It’s just good to remember that this is not a new story. It’s not a new narrative. We’re just more aware of it, and from the very beginning, we see the enemy’s plan to exploit God’s beautiful, resilient, fabulous creation,” Daugherty says.

A Heart for the Vulnerable

Van Essen urges followers of Christ not to be surprised by evil. This surprise is the first step to feeling helpless. God has not abandoned His people, and He does not call His people to manicured lives that never touch the edges of darkness.

(Photo courtesy of The Freedom Challenge via Facebook)

“It is always God’s heart for us to turn towards and walk towards pain. We don’t want to do that. But, when we just look at the model…it is always God’s call for what does God require of us, to love justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God,” Daugherty says.

“I am made in God’s image, which means that he empowers me to turn toward what He deeply cares for, and He deeply cares for those women and children who have been exploited in the world.”

James 1:27 reveals how what God considers undefiled religion is looking after the orphans and widows and staying unspotted from the world. Continuing the push against human trafficking is just one of the ways to live out pure and untainted religion.

Breaking Power Cycles

Furthermore, Van Essen notes how people should not try to fix the survivors of human trafficking. The Bible shows a pattern of God seeing people who are vulnerable experiencing pain and suffering. He draws near to them and moves them forward.

“It takes away this power dynamic, right. So, if I’m not over here trying to fix you, because then I’m assuming I know how to fix and rescue you and I don’t, right, that’s God’s job,” Van Essen says.

“I think in a lot of ways to remain hopeful is to have these reality checks of who am I? What is my space? What’s my role? And who is God? That does bring so much peace to my heart. God is the one sovereign, rescuer always, and then I am a partaker, a journeywoman with Him in this work. And that actually gives me the strength to like not [to] look away from what’s happening.”

Dig Deeper Into Ending Human Trafficking

Are you interested in joining or digging deeper into the work of fighting against the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable individuals? Then consider teaming up with The Freedom Challenge.

In 2020, The Freedom Challenge is headed to Israel to host the Jesus Walk. The Jesus Walk is a five-day wilderness backpacking trek. Participants will walk through Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Along the walk, they will also minister to communities and learn more about the places where Biblical events took place.

To learn more about the Jesus Walk or to register for the event, click here.

human trafficking, Jesus Walk

(Photo courtesy of The Freedom Challenge via Facebook)

The Freedom Challenge is also hosting six one-day regional events. To find a regional event near you or to host an event, click here!

Another way to step up is through prayer. Pray for both the survivors and victims of human trafficking to find peace and healing. Pray for God to restore the dignity of those who have been dehumanized.

Ask God to encourage the Church not to turn away from pain or become overwhelmed by it, but to provide a light in the darkness instead. Pray for the Church to see the individuals impacted by human trafficking. And pray for the provision of The Freedom Challenge and Logos Wilderness Therapy.

Last Thoughts

On a closing note:

“As we discover these stories that often have men in the center, we can really without knowing [it] place a shame blanket on all men. I am the mom of two boys, and I have an amazing husband…what I would like to say is for our brothers; we need our brothers in Christ to stand up and be a voice, an advocate for their sisters,” Daugherty says.

“There [are] t-shirts out that say “the future is women,” and as much as I love women, I don’t want my future to look like that. I want my future to be men and women because we’re both made in the image of God, and it’s going to take all of us, the full Kingdom, to be able to stand in this fight.”

To learn more about The Freedom Challenge, click here.

To learn more about Logos Wilderness Therapy, click here.



Header photo courtesy of The Freedom Challenge.

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