STOPPING THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING
PROBLEM HERE IN THE OZARKS
I was hungry and you fed me.
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.
I was homeless and you gave me a room.
I was shivering and you gave me clothes.
I was sick and you stopped to visit.
I was in prison and you came to me
Then those sheep are going to say, Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you? Then the King will say, I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me, you did it to me." Matthew 25:34-40
The Ozarks --- I love it here! If you enjoy mountains, we've got them. Lakes? They're all over the place. Rivers? We have the Eleven Point, Northfork, JACKS FORK and CURRENT right here in our backyard. Whether you love hunting, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, motorcycling, or almost anything to do with the great outdoors, you can find it in the Ozarks (HERE). But like most places, there's a dark side that few people ever see. And it doesn't get much darker than the modern slave trade --- Human Sex Trafficking.
End Slavery Now says says of Human Trafficking, "There are an estimated 20.9 Million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking." At all times it is slavery at its core." While some of this slavery might constitute forced labor, household servitude, forced marriages, etc, etc, etc, much of it (probably the biggest majority) has to do with the sex industry. The same site goes on to say that, "In the United States, any minor under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex acts is automatically considered a victim of sex trafficking under the law. Worldwide, it's estimated that there are 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking." Which begs the question of how bad the problem is here in the US?
Although official Justice Department statistics say that 17,500 women / girls are sexually trafficked into the US each year, they readily admit that the problem is probably larger than anyone could even guess. This is because for every girl saved, many experts estimate that there are 99 that are not. Approximately half of those being trafficked are under the age of 18, while over 80% of the confirmed victims are American citizens. Needless to say, the problem is massive. But because Sex Trafficking is largely a 'hidden' crime, few of us ever have it cross our minds. And fewer still realize that it's going on right here in our own small communities. After Steve, Theresa, and the girls spoke to our church recently, I realized that the problem is far bigger than most of us could have ever dreamed possible.
Sexual Trafficking is able to remain hidden because victims are intimidated by fear --- fear of physical violence, fear someone will hurt their children or families, fear of being abandoned and thrown out on the street, fear of law enforcement and prison, etc, etc. Furthermore, because many of these women are brought to the US from other countries, the language barrier makes it that much tougher for those being trafficked to leave. But thanks to the grace of God, ministries like Casey's are making a difference. Fortunately there are others following suit as well. Enter Steve and Teresa Dunlap.
I first met Steve, a retired school administrator and pastor, several years ago when he came in to have a forty year old shoulder problem fixed (HERE). Although I have been an outspoken proponent of what they do ever since I learned about it two or three years ago, yesterday (June 25th, 2017) they spoke to our church about what they do for trafficked women / girls and how their ministry works. After learning about Human Trafficking about six years ago, Steve and Teresa were so burdened for the plight of these girls that they began making trips to Mexico, where they started a home for women wanting to escape.
A couple years later, they felt led to start a home locally. They founded ON TIME MINISTRY, and then remodeled a donated 5,500 square foot home to house women coming out of trafficking, calling the facility CEDAR MOUNTAIN. They have recently completed a second location in Houston (MO) that is currently housing women as well.
I have had the honor and privilege of taking care of many of their girls over the past couple of years, and yesterday I got to hear the stories and testimonies of six of them. I wept. Not only at the horrors they have been delivered from (whatever you are thinking, I promise that the reality is far far worse), but that through the grace of God, their lives are being transformed in miraculous fashion.
Steve and Teresa caught a vision and the things they are doing through their ministry are like nothing I have ever seen before. They quit their jobs (very good ones), sold everything they owned, and have dedicated their lives to saving the lives of these girls. They're all-in. Their ministry is run in similar fashion to the orphanages run by the great English pastor GEORGE MUELLER, who took care of over 10,000 orphans in his lifetime --- without ever asking for donations. He prayed and God provided for their needs in astounding ways over and over and over again. We heard so many stories like this yesterday, my head is still swimming.
I would suggest that you --- as individual families or through your church --- step up to the plate and find a similar ministry to partner with in your area. If you are one of my local readers, there's no place like home. Contact Steve and Teresa today and see if there is anything you can do or any way to help out. Have them to your church and catch the same vision they've caught. Because running three homes that house many women entails paying monthly bills, giving money is always a great option. I am putting a check in the mail today, and would ask you to consider doing the same.
Jesus came to take care of the widow, the orphan, the sick, the lonely, the heartbroken, and the downtrodden (HERE). I'm not sure if there is a more heartbroken, lonely, and downtrodden group than those being trafficked. After getting to know a number of these beautiful young ladies over the past few years, all I can say is that On Time Ministry is doing exactly what it was intended to do. May God continue to bless the Dunlap's work! Steve, Teresa, Amy, Debbie, and the rest, we love you guys! Keep fighting the good fight.
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