I started my journey in the fight against trafficking as a prideful advocate. When the Lord confirmed I had found my purpose, he reoriented my attitude and showed me how having God on my side is a game changer.
In high school, a friend of mine went on a mission trip to New York. During the trip, a local volunteer took her on a walk around a Queens neighborhood to pray over brothels. She came home, unable to contain her disbelief and frustration at the brothels, thinly disguised as massage parlors, where women are sold for sex. My heart was immediately broken by this hidden crime. Though I didn’t know it at the time, that information would shape the rest of my life.
A few months later, my youth pastor’s wife took us to a volunteer training in Austin for Redeemed Ministries. In that training, I began to understand how pimps manipulate women to believe they are being loved when they are really being exploited. I learned that girls my age are sold for sex every day, not far from where I live. I realized how blind our world is to this crime that was only legally defined 15 years ago. That training rocked my world, and I had to find a way to help.
I was too young to begin volunteering with Redeemed, but I held on to what I learned. Over the next few years, I researched more about sex trafficking and labor trafficking. In 2014, I came to the University of Texas and joined the International Justice Mission chapter. I had found my life passion, and I couldn’t wait to see how I could make a difference.
In December of my sophomore year in college, I was at church singing “Oh Holy Night” with little conviction and a mind full of distractions. Then, for the first time, as if being jolted from a dream, I truly heard these lyrics: “Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease”.
The Lord grabbed hold of my heart as tears filled my eyes. Never before had I felt so certain of God’s presence. Before this moment, I loved to tell people about my newfound passion, but my motives were twisted. I didn’t care if people saw the millions of victims or experienced God’s glory in this movement, I wanted them to see me. I wanted admiration and praise. But when God moved in me that day, he showed me three things. He humbled me by reminding me that I was only a small part in a movement that has to be big. He taught me that acting without Him would be futile. And he confirmed in me that I had found my purpose, as long as I would trust Him with it.
It is not in my name, not in Redeemed’s name, not in IJM’s name that victims of trafficking will find freedom. If we work in our own effort, we will accomplish nothing. We cannot stand firm in this fight alone. But we are standing with the God of the universe! And in His name, all oppression shall cease. He will end exploitation when Christ returns, and we get to be a small piece in His beautiful plan of restoration.
As we go throughout our days as volunteers, employees, students, interns, advocates, we must call on His name to be our guide, our strength, our hope in this fight. When we call boldly on His name, He will move (Matthew 7:7-8). When we are discouraged and burnt out, He will carry our burdens (Matthew 11:28). And if we are faithful to His call (Micah 6:8), we can take part in breaking the chains that bind our brothers and sisters (Romans 8:31). In His name, all oppression shall cease.
Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For whoever asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened.”
Matthew 11:28 “come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Micah 6:8 “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?”
Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Author: Kelly Coles
Kelly is a student at the University of Texas studying Journalism and Sociology, graduating in May 2018. She hopes to use her education to fight human trafficking through research and storytelling. Kelly is the Summer 2017 Media Intern for Redeemed.