By Karen Kellogg
I learned about sex trafficking three years ago. I was horrified. It was gut-wrenching and unspeakable, and I couldn’t believe it was happening in the United States. My first reaction was to get in my car, drive downtown, find some of these desperate girls and rescue them off the street.
I think most people have a similar reaction when they first learn about sex trafficking.
I learned, however, that I didn’t need to drive downtown. Sex trafficking was happening at the school just across the street from my upper middle class neighborhood in one of the wealthiest counties in America, a suburb of Washington, DC. How could this be true?
Unfortunately, sex trafficking happens in small towns, suburbs and big cities. It does not discriminate against socioeconomic status, race, or even gender. It happens at the mall, on the streets, in schools. More and more, sex trafficking occurs online and via social media. These predators are everywhere.
As a pastor who works to send our members to serve the most vulnerable people in our community, I knew that I had a responsibility to do something about this issue. I started by meeting with some like-minded Christians in downtown DC. The group had a passion for this issue, and they were living in an area where trafficking was more common, but I realized that I could have a larger impact in my own backyard. I started looking at Fairfax County and what was being done. After a few phone calls, I connected with a grassroots group that had started a campaign for teen sex-trafficking awareness and prevention. The Just Ask Prevention Project was just getting under way (www.justaskva.org).
Through our involvement with Just Ask, our church hosted two events where more than 350 people had the opportunity to learn about teen sex trafficking. The best news is that one of the people attending our event last May ended up helping a young woman to recognize that she was in a trafficking situation, and eventually an arrest was made!
So what can people in churches do to help put an end to trafficking? Start by learning as much as possible about human trafficking through books, videos, websites, and talking with other people. In the book Justice Awakening, Eddie Byun does a great job talking about the justice of God and describing the issue of sex trafficking. My favorite part of the book is that there is an entire chapter devoted to what churches can do. There are long-term and short-term, group and individual, large-church and small-church ways to make a difference.
Freedom Sunday offers churches a way to start talking about human trafficking. Scheduled for February 22, 2015, Freedom Sunday is designed to educate people around the world about the horrors of human trafficking. Get more information at www.chogtrafficklight.org.
Everyone can do something to help stop human trafficking. What will you do?
Karen Kellogg is the pastor of local engagement and events at Fairfax Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia.