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 NORTHFORK, Eleven Point, JACKS FORK and CURRENT right here in our backyards. 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. 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 of it) 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 U.S.?
Although official Justice Department statistics say that 17,500 women / girls are brought into the United States each year for the express purpose of sexual trafficking, they readily admit that the problem is certainly larger that that --- probably much larger (stats also reveal that 80% of the victims are American citizens). Unfortunately, these same experts also estimate that for every girl saved, there are 99 that are not. And to top it all off, approximately half of those being trafficked are under the age of 18. 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 Ozarks communities.
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 from one country to another, the language barrier makes it that much tougher for the enslaved to escape. But thanks to the grace of God, organizations like Steve and Teresa Dunlap's ON TIME MINISTRIES are making a difference.
I first met Steve, an ex-school administrator and pastor, several years ago when he came in to have a forty year old shoulder problem fixed (HERE). After hearing about Human Trafficking for the first time from a TV program back in 2011, Steve and Teresa were so burdened for the plight of these girls that they began making trips to Mexico, where they started a home in Juarez for women wanting to escape that lifestyle (HOGAR DE GRACIA or House of Grace). A couple years later, they felt led to start a similar home locally. They founded On Time Ministry, and then remodeled a donated 5,500 square foot home for housing women coming out of trafficking, calling the facility CEDAR MOUNTAIN, recently completing a second location in Houston (MO --- CORNERSTONE) that is ready to house women / girls, but needs a full time house mother.
I have had the honor and privilege of taking care of many of their girls over the past few years, and yesterday (June of 2017) 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, sold everything they owned, and have dedicated their lives to saving the lives of these girls. They're all-in. My first thought upon seeing what they are doing is that 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. Mueller never asked for donations, but instead prayed, watching God provide for their needs in astounding ways over and over and over again, often at the last second, but always "on time".
Last evening (September 25, 2017), On Time Ministries had their first annual fund-raiser at the OZARKS CAFE in West Plains (a huge shout out to Heather and Geoff Hughes for their incredible generosity). If you were there, you already know that I am not exaggerating when I say it was awesome! The people of God showed up en masse to support the ministry and support trafficked girls. T and S both spoke, sharing a small portion of their testimonies of the ways that God has changed their lives through On Time. The only question that remains is what can you do to get on board?
Firstly, I would suggest that you --- as individuals, businesses, corporations, families, or churches --- 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 (there is a volunteer training coming up soon). Secondly, have them to your church and catch the same vision they've caught. And thirdly, because running three homes (with several more in the works) entails monthly expenses, giving money is always a great option. For the record; these facilities are not simply "shelters," but homes where the girls come to be loved, taken care of, and then trained up to re-enter society as healthy, productive, and fruitful, women --- it's a two year program. I am putting a check in the mail today, and would ask you to consider doing the same. Oh; and be sure to check out the brand new article in 417 by Stephanie Towne Benoit called HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN I-44 (BTW, we love you "Lyla"!).
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 who are 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 created 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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