Millions of human beings suffer due to the chains of human trafficking. This complex problem continues to metastasize at an alarming rate, and we must act now if we hope to arrest its growth and reverse its impact on individual lives and our culture as a whole. While law enforcement, government agencies, and charitable organizations can meet many needs of the victims of human trafficking, only the church can provide them with true healing and eternal hope. Engaging and equipping local churches is perhaps the most powerful way to end human trafficking and to deal with the shattered lives in need of healing.
What happens to the children and young women rescued out of human trafficking? How do they rebuild their lives, restore their souls, and reclaim their dignity after months—often years—of unbelievable abuse and degradation? Returning to the testimony of two survivors of human trafficking form prior sessions, we discover the vital importance of addressing spiritual elements for complete healing.
What’s something you hope will happen in the next month? Is there something you’ve been planning or wanting to happen? How do you exercise patience when you’re forced to wait?
The “Awareness” homework from your previous session involved selecting and watching a film from the ones listed on the Trafficking Hope website list, and then choosing a 5-10 minute clip for the group to watch. After viewing this clip, allow the group member(s) who selected it to explain why they chose it.
In Sessions 2 and 3, two survivors of sex trafficking—a young woman from Texas named Rachel and a teenager from Cambodia named Maly—shared how they became imprisoned by their captors and then eventually broke free. Their testimonies are based on true events, although identifying details have been changed for their protection. Here’s where they are today:
“After that day in the prison Bible study, I knew my life was different. I was still scared, overwhelmed, ashamed, and angry, but when I accepted Jesus into my heart, I experienced a sense of peace bigger than all my other feelings. With the help of my friend Corinne—who got released a year before me—and the leader of the Bible study, Sally, when I was paroled I had a place to go. The transitional home helped me start my life all over again. I felt like a kid but there was something really good about the simple routines of mealtimes and taking classes.
I spent about six month at the transitional home, and I had a panic attack when it was time to leave and move into an apartment with two friends from the church I’d started attending. But they were so supportive and prayed with me all the time, reminding me of what’s true about who I am in Christ and how I’m forgiven. I have made the choice to forgive the men who used, but that’s not as hard as forgiving myself. But I know how to fight the enemy now and I’m so grateful for the way God loves me so much.
Now it’s been almost two years since I left prison. I have a job at a grocery store, lead a women’s recovery group at church, and volunteer at a youth center twice a week. It keeps me busy. I’d love to be a mom someday because I love kids. But I still have a long way to go before I think I’d be a good mom. With the Lord’s help, though, I’m on my way…”
--Rachel, aged 32
“One day I am sitting in my sewing class, and someone knocks on the door and interrupts teacher. She goes to the door and speaks to another woman, one of our counselors, and they come back in and ask me to go with the counselor-lady. She tells me she has a big surprise for me, and I dare not think it could be so, even though I have prayed and prayed to God for this one thing for so long.
We walk into the library and there sits my younger sister with another counselor. My sister is taller and looks like my twin now, with bright eyes and long dark hair. We both shriek with joy and begin crying like a waterfall right there. We hold each other close and just hug and cry for a long time. I feel like we have both come back from the dead.
God has been so good to us. I can never thank Him enough for rescuing us and helping us to have a good life. We love Jesus and want everyone—especially other girls like us—to know He died for their sins so they can be at peace and have joy.
I want to be a tailor, maybe a fashion designer, so I keep learning how to make pretty clothes. My sister wants to be a teacher. We are so happy to be together again. We thank God every day.”
--Maly, aged 17
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11, NIV).
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1, NIV).
What unique challenges do trafficking survivors face once they have been set free? How is their journey to healing going to be different than other individuals who have been through a crisis? What special needs do trafficking survivors have?
Make a list of the feelings described or listed by Rachel and Maly here. How do you relate to their fears, anger, and uncertainty? How can they continue to express their feelings without letting their emotions overwhelm them and impede their progress toward healing?
Rebuilding trust is a huge issue for trafficking survivors. How have you recovered from past betrayals or times when others deceived or manipulated you? What would you share with survivors such as Rachel and Maly about what you’ve learned?
Rediscovering a sense of joy and childlike wonder is often an important part of healing for survivors of human trafficking. What are some activities, hobbies, or other forms of recreation that help you relax and overcome the stress in your own life? Which ones might be helpful for trafficking survivors?
Think through these possibilities carefully because some enjoyable activities we take for granted—shopping for a new dress, having a spa-day makeover, or watching a movie—often trigger painful memories or even panic attacks for survivors. The key is going slowly and communicating frequently about what they’re feeling. Healing takes time.
WHO C.A.R.E.S.—YOU DO!
Last session you were asked to choose one of the five C.A.R.E.S. areas and complete some homework specific to that area. This session it’s time to report back to the group on your findings. Even if you worked together with others to complete the homework, have each group member share what they learned.
Your homework was to compile a resource guide listing various stakeholder groups and their contact info for quick reference. Email and/or provide hard copies of your list to other group members.
You chose a 5-10 minute film clip after watching one of the full-length movies on the Trafficking Hope website. The group watched it earlier this session but make sure you share with other members why you chose this particular scene or scenes.
Homework for you involved downloading applications such as SEE SEND (iOS & Android) where you can anonymously report suspicious activity and AMBER ALERT (iOS & Android), the official app of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which provides real-time feed of active Amber Alerts on your smart phone. Share any insight you gained from this experience and show other group members how to download and use these two apps on their own smart phones.
Using your influence and personal network with local schools, social service groups, health care providers, law enforcement, churches, men’s and women’s groups, you contacted some of them about having a speaker address their group on the issue of trafficking. Share your results and ask for help from your group members following up if needed.
You identified local sources providing services (shelter, food, job training, counseling, etc.) to victims of trafficking. What needs do these local agencies and organizations have that your group can help meet? Ask for other group members to help you in following up and meeting at least one group’s need.
Thank God for being a God of Hope, a hope that is real and built on the Cross of Jesus. Praise Him for all the ways He is at work around the world to end human trafficking. Ask Him for guidance and direction on how you and your group can participate in helping trafficking survivors rebuild their lives. Continue to pray for their freedom from their captors as well as the powers of darkness. Conclude by asking for God’s protection for everyone in your group, as well as everyone involved in the fight against trafficking—protection from physical danger and exhaustion, from emotional distress, and from spiritual attack.