Trafficking in DC
We can easily become overwhelmed by harsh and seemingly sterile statistics. By providing the following information we do not want to cause any emotional disconnect or number blur. Pastor Perry Noble says, “Every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God.” By reading, learning and digesting these statistics we see trends and patterns that are happening in our very own city. These numbers equip us with knowledge on how to strategically address the issues and bring about change. While you read these do not let them be a distant concept – this is happening in our very own city: along K St. NW, in Columbia Heights, in Baltimore City, outside the Youth Service Center, just to name a few. Remember that there are individual stories, families and children behind each one. Let’s see some numbers:
- In 2011, approximately 125 child victims of sex trafficking were identified by local NGOs and law enforcement in the D.C. area.
- More than 50% of D.C. school children live in sing-headed (predominantly single-mother) households
- 32% of D.C. children live below the poverty line, which is twice the national average (according to local service provider FAIR Girls).
- The National Runaway Safeline estimates that 1.6 million children run away from home every year in the United States.
- The average time it takes before a runaway is approached by a trafficker or solicitor is 48 hours, making runaway youth an extremely vulnerable group.
- All of these factors show that children in the D.C. area are at a much higher and dangerous risk for being trafficked. D.C. is also one of the largest hubs of human trafficking in the United States due to it being the nation’s capital that draws both tourists and international leaders as well as being one of the largest cities on the east coast.
“Isn’t it noteworthy in the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus does not give a straightforward answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Surely he could have provided a catalog of those whom the scribe could love as himself as the law required. He does not. Instead, he tells a story. It is as if Jesus wanted among other things to point out that life is a bit more complex; it has too many ambivalences and ambiguities to allow always for a straightforward and simplistic answer.
This is a great mercy, because in times such as our own — times of change when many familiar landmarks have shifted or disappeared — people are bewildered; they hanker after unambiguous, straightforward answers. We appear to be scared of diversity in ethnicities, in religious faiths, in political and ideological points of view. We have an impatience with anything and anyone that suggests there might just be another perspective, another way of looking at the same thing, another answer worth exploring. There is a nostalgia for the security in the womb of a safe sameness, and so we shut out the stranger and the alien; we look for security in those who can provide answers that must be unassailable because no one is permitted to dissent, to question. There is a longing for the homogeneous and an allergy against the different, the other.
Now Jesus seems to say to the scribe, “Hey, life is more exhilarating as you try to work out the implications of your faith rather than living by rote, with ready-made second-hand answers, fitting an unchanging paradigm to a shifting, changing, perplexing, and yet fascinating world.” Our faith, our knowledge that God is in charge, must make us ready to take risks, to be venturesome and innovative; yes, to dare to walk where angels might fear to tread.” – Desmond Tutu, God Is Not A Christian
“Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us.”
― Desmond Tutu, God Has A Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time
- Do these statistics overwhelm, discourage or disengage you? Why?
- How does God feel about these numbers?
- What should the church do about them?
- What risks is God nudging you to take to serve your neighbor?
- Open Table: Open Table is a unique opportunity to be directly involved in the life of an individual who is coming out of trafficking or an individual who is living with HIV/AIDS. Essentially, you will be a part of a missional community that mentors an individual to help implement a customized life plan to empower them. With one hour a week you will assist in guiding the individual towards stability and independence. Tables generally meet once a week for 6 months and then at a lesser intensity as the work progresses. You don’t need to be an expert at anything – just the ability to use Google. For more information or to sign up contact Amanda Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pray that God would make these numbers real and personable to us.
- Pray that God would open our eyes to what is happening in our own communities, as painful as it may be.
- Pray that we would learn what makes individuals vulnerable to traffickers and exploiters so that we may engage at all levels.
- Pray that we would not be overwhelmed by the sadness and brokenness around us – let God show us that while we may not be able to do everything, we can still do something.
- Pray that God would reveal what that something