Joining Forces to Protect Our Community
The average age of a person enslaved in human trafficking is just 13 years old. Let that sink in for a moment – 13. What were you doing when you were 13? Complaining about those strict teachers who kept giving you homework? Organizing your next neighborhood football game with your buddies? Talking on the telephone with your friends? The children trapped in the snare of human trafficking are dealing with unimaginable things on an hourly basis. It’s not just our daughters that we have to worry about – boys are also commonly victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking victims are 55% female and 45% male.
Ministry Village at Olive was recently invited to participate in the Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force at the local Human Trafficking Summit in early January. Two MVO employees and Charis House graduates attended the event to learn more about the issue of human trafficking, how it is affecting our community, and how Ministry Village can be part of the solution to end it.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Researchers estimate that more than 21 million people are currently enslaved worldwide– TODAY. Victims are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage or forced labor. They are young children, teenagers, men and women. As our opioid epidemic has increased, there has also been a noticeable increase in the selling of babies. Slavery generates more than $150 billion for its traffickers each year.
Between 1.5 and 2 million children will go missing this year alone. Five thousand of those children will die. These statistics are directly linked to the issue of human trafficking. Recruitment using social media is on the rise. When we watch our young kids playing outside, we feel like we can keep them safe. But as the “playground” grows larger and outside of our reach through the Internet, what do we do? What about our teenagers and college students — our young men and women? How can we protect them?
If you have that desperate feeling in the pit of your stomach, you’re not alone. Groups like the Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force are growing in numbers and influence to call attention to this horrific practice and, most importantly, to figure out how to stop it. Members of local law enforcement, the Department of Children and Families, the Family First Network, area churches and concerned community members are joining together to create a plan for educating the public and working to prevent people from falling into this trap, and to rescue those who already have.
Kristin Lipscomb and her husband Josh are the Senior Pastors of Liberty Church and she is the founder of The Secret Place Home – a safe house for child survivors of human trafficking in Circuit 1. (Circuit 1 covers Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties.) According to Kristin, who serves on the Executive Team for the Circuit 1 HTTF, “The HTTF (Human Trafficking Task Force) is a network of partnerships that unites governmental agencies, law enforcement, nonprofits, faith-based, victim service providers, educational institutes and concerned citizens to prevent the exploitation of adults and children in all forms of human trafficking.”
The Secret Place Home is an important piece of the puzzle to solving this ongoing tragedy. Founded by Kristin Lipscomb, The Secret Place Home is the first of its kind in Florida north of Orlando, providing “a home of refuge and hope” for girls ages 12 to 17 who are survivors of human trafficking. The security and hopefulness this place offers its residents is vital to restoring their lives – a startling similarity that we at Ministry Village can see with the work we currently do through the Charis House.
As Ministry Village actively works to serve “the least of these” throughout our community, we are honored to be included in this task force. We believe that through this network of organizations, churches and community members, we can bring a vital perspective of faith and support that is needed to make a transformational difference. Your support of Ministry Village remains vital as we become involved in these new projects. We covet your prayers, your donations, and your time.
If you are interested in learning more about the Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force, visit their Facebook page.