10 Mar Human Trafficking
It was a chilly, winter evening in Herndon, VA as I sat in the backseat of an SUV. I was on a stake out with a few friends, waiting to see if any men would head into the illicit massage parlor to solicit trafficked women. This parlor was strategically placed among restaurants and other downtown shops, a business among businesses. I watched as a man parked his navy-blue Honda Civic and headed toward the door and I sprang from the car to intercept. He got nervous when he saw me approaching, probably thinking I was a cop.
“How are you doing tonight?” His eyes started darting around, clearly startled. Most sex addicts are filled with shame and don’t expect to be stopped in an act. He turned to face me and said “I’m fine.”
I proceeded to tell him that the massage parlor he was headed into was a front for prostitution, using girls who have been trafficked from Asia for sexual services. He looked at me and acted shocked. He then shared that it was his birthday and he had some free time. I let him know that I am a pastor from Ashburn and handed him a card with a phone number to an anonymous sex addiction hotline. He took the card. I commented on his wedding ring and asked him if he wanted to pray. He said, “Yes, please.” I grasped his hands and prayed for freedom.
In 2017, Polaris Project analyzed more than 32,000 cases of human trafficking and developed a classification system that identifies 25 distinct types of human trafficking in the United States. I quickly learned that this is not just a problem in Asian and Europe.
It is happening right here. In our back yard. Down the street from our churches. Next door to where our kids play.
As a pastor I recognize how Jesus did ministry. He was out in the community with sinners, with prostitutes and tax collectors. He didn’t spend the majority of the time in a synagogue, and when He did he was usually calling out the religious leaders for their pride and lack of grace. I ask myself hard questions. “Do we spend time where sinners congregate?”, “Are we being a light among the present looming darkness?” I realized there were addicts all around me, in fact they’re in my church on Sunday, addicted to pornography which is a gateway drug to other avenues, all leading to deeper bondage.
I want to be a man of action and allow my faith to lead me into situations where I must depend on God. I believe that is the kind of faith our congregations desire to see lived out. It starts right here in our neighborhood. It’s not a government problem. We who represent the Church should prayerfully consider how we can bring FREEDOM to the girls and boys who are victims of trafficking, as well as those enslaved in the addiction.
I was introduced to Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative (NOVAHTI), when their Executive Director, Kay Duffield called me and blatantly asked me to get involved. I feel passionate about being on the front lines when it comes to faith, so reaching out to local sex buyers resonated with me. I joined the team of volunteers who serve alongside the staff, who have together visited 87 brothels in the surrounding area.
I can’t do this alone and neither can NOVA-HTI. You may not be called to go out on the streets but there are a myriad of ways you and your congregation can join the fight that can change our community. We don’t want people to be trafficked in our town. While we alone cannot stop this world-wide trafficking epidemic, we can make an impact right here in our hometown.
To find out where to begin and how to make a difference, mark your calendar and make plans to join us for the Justice Summit on April 26th & 27th. I hope to meet you there so we can consider how we might help bring freedom in Jesus name to this entire area.
(Bio: Will Cravens is the Director of a local mission organization known as Endurance Leadership. In addition, he is the lead pastor of Bridge Community Church and serves on the teaching team at Christian Fellowship Church. A native of the area, Will has served on pastoral staff at McLean Bible Church and at Truro Church in Fairfax, as well as locally and overseas with the ministry of Young Life. He is the author of the book, “99 for 1” detailing his multiple trips to San Diego, California to live amongst the 13,000 homeless there to find his life-long friend, Ed Pelzner. (Available on Amazon.com).