DULUTH — A couple of nights ago I got on a bus at the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center with approximately 50 people and took what was described as “an unholy tour.”
Many of the passengers aboard the bus were Baptist pastors and their spouses and laypersons who got an eye opening tour of metro Atlanta’s sex trafficking (modern day slavery) hot spots.
I had the preconceived notion we would make a direct trip to downtown Atlanta and see some of the roughest neighborhoods in the inner city. That did not happen.
Our two-hour tour took us to Duluth, Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and some of the most economically prestigious communities north of I-285.
Some of you will remember that a man was arrested in March after a woman called 911 from inside a home worth nearly $1 million in Sandy Springs. The 20-year-old woman claimed she was threatened and held against her will. When the police arrived on the scene to investigate, they found eight women ranging in age from 19 to 22.
Those of us on the “unholy tour” were also told there are 80 massage parlors north of the I-285 perimeter that are also brothels.
The downtown area of Atlanta may be the epicenter for some of the worst examples of sex trafficking and lurid behavior, but gated communities with million-dollar homes are not exempt.
Bethany Walker, who works for Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, put the tour together for us and was a great hostess. She stated, “You may wonder what these ‘unholy tours’ have to do with the role of the Public Service Commissioner.” After a brief pause, she added, “Absolutely nothing! Commissioner Echols just has a passion to eradicate human trafficking.”
The Public Service Commissioner was in California and not available to accompany us on the tour, but Walker was certainly a worthy substitute. She explained, “The number of victims in this slave trafficking business is the second-largest criminal enterprise after drug trafficking. The number of victims today (28 million) far surpasses the number of victims of the transatlantic slave trade (15 million).
During the course of our tour we had some amazingly articulate speakers, including three women who have been rescued from traffickers and now are incredible trophies of God’s grace who serve Christ in significant ways.
One of the speakers was Jeff Shaw, who left his practice as an attorney and in 2011 established a non-profit organization called Out of Darkness for the purpose of fighting sex trafficking.
Shaw indicated that many of the children and teenagers fall into the trap of sex trafficking because of a disastrous and intolerable home life. He presented an analogy of the people who died in the World Trade Center in 2001. Some of them died in the blazing inferno and others decided to jump to their death.
Shaw said, “Many of those who are engaged in sex trafficking are like the people who were in the World Trade Center on 9/11. They had one of two choices – both bad. There are many children and youth who have it so bad at home that they think anything will be an improvement over that.”
On the tour we were told that there are 300,000 missing children in the United States and many of them are slaves to some trafficker. Altogether there are 325,000 women and children subjected to commercial sexual exploitation in the United States alone.
The movie Taken is about a young college student who was abducted in Europe and became a victim of human trafficking. It is a movie that depicts the horror of modern-day slavery and how women and children are treated like chattel.
Kasey McClure was one of the speakers on the tour. She started dancing at 18 years old at the Gold Club in Atlanta and was making thousands of dollars a week and living a life of luxury, but ended up in destructive relationships and feeling like she was being used. She started looking for a way out of the bondage she was experiencing and started asking God to show her the right way.
God sent a man into McLure’s life who gave her the courage to walk away from the deadly lifestyle she was living. She said, “God opened a door and showed me the way out.” Shortly after leaving the industry Kasey became pregnant with her first child, Sarah. God spoke to her and told her to go back and show the women entrapped in sexual trafficking the way out.
McLure formed a nonprofit organization named 4Sarah, Inc. She explained, “It’s named after my daughter because having her was a turning point in my life.”
McLure credits Ray Newman, former Georgia Baptist Public Affairs representative, with helping her set up a scholarship program to help victims of human trafficking. Today she is a radiant and articulate Christian who is on a mission to rescue women from “modern day slavery.”
What you can do
Ashleigh S. Chapman, president and CEO of the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration, and Justice, also spoke to our group and urged churches to get involved in the mission to end human trafficking and the exploitation of the vulnerable.
Chapman mention three ways to become engaged:
- Support those engaged in combating human trafficking and protecting the vulnerable.
- Develop the relationships, resources, solutions, and strategies needed to fill existing gaps.
- Mobilize a global collaborative network to engage together on behalf of those in need.
Fathers have a distinctive role to play in preventing human trafficking. All the speakers on our tour told us that none of the children, girls, or women entrapped in this quagmire of sin and debauchery had strong father figures in their lives.
Your church can become involved in a ministry to those entrapped in human trafficking. Check below for additional information: