There is Hope – The Anti Child Trafficking (ACT) Mission Sets Bold Agenda

Many girls don’t make it out alive.  Debbie was one of the lucky ones.

This story is Adapted From ABC News.  Fifteen-year-old ‘Debbie’ is the middle child in a close-knit Air Force family from suburban Phoenix, and a straight-A student. One evening Debbie said she got a call from a casual friend, Bianca, who asked to stop by Debbie’s house. Debbie went outside to meet Bianca, who drove up in a Cadillac with two older men. After a few minutes of visiting, Bianca said they were going to leave. Debbie started to go give her a hug when she was pushed  into the car. She was tied up, blindfolded and taken to an apartment 25 miles away. She was drugged, raped and sold for sex over many weeks.

Police said she had been held by her captors at gunpoint and kept in a dog cage for more than 40 days, the chances of getting out alive seemed slim. But then police investigating the case heard tips that she was being kept in an apartment in the Phoenix area.  Police searched the apartment but at first didn’t find Debbie. But they were still suspicious and on another occasion broke down the doors to the same apartment and realized with a shock why they’d been unable to find Debbie — she was there, but she was tied up and crushed into a drawer under a bed. Within hours, Debbie was safely home. “I was so happy,” she said. “I was so happy to see my mom. I was so happy to be home. I’m able to be with my family.

graffiti-671583_1280There is hope. The documentary In Plain Sight recounts the stories of six women in the United States who independently became aware of child and women sex trafficking in their area and became abolitionists. Five of the six have opened aftercare facilities for trafficked victims in places like Sacramento, Nashville, Baltimore, Little Rock, Huston and Dallas. At the time this video was made the sixth abolitionist, who already provided anti-trafficking training for professionals, was in the process of opening a home for victims.

Interviews with rescued victims reveal horrific stories of being raped at the ages of 4 and 5, one with her mother’s approval. Two tell of being sold by their mothers, one at age 8, another for a pick up truck. These grateful residents are provided a safe, homelike atmosphere where they can heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Often they receive education and vocational training. They all express relief and deep gratitude at being safe, loved, and nurtured, sometimes for the first time in their lives. Many are beginning to discover gifts of which they were unaware.

The Anti Child Trafficking Mission (ACT), a mission of St Francis, Youngsville and Trinity, Warren is making a difference. They held three meetings in February at churches in Warren and Youngsville, where they taught about child sex trafficking and reviewed actions that could be taken to serve vulnerable, trafficked and rescued children. Diane Brandt, ACT’s founder said, “We are thrilled that 19 Episcopalians and five members of the community attended. Many signed up to form teams and take action.” They set a bold agenda to:

  1. Lobby PA legislators to pass Senate Bill 851, the Safe Harbor Act, which requires trafficked children be protected and treated as victims. Astonishingly, this bill has been stuck in committee since November!

  2. Host a speaker from a local foster care organization, because foster children are some of the most vulnerable to trafficking.

  3. Sponsor a Heart Gallery Sunday with photos of children seeking adoption.

  4. Create “Freedom Bags” to provide rescued children with personal items such as socks, hoodies, t-shirts, sweatpants, etc., because they usually have nothing but their “work clothes” when they are rescued.

  5. Teach a safe internet practices class for children and their parents, because many victims are first contacted on-line.

  6. Distribute Trafficking fliers at bars, motels, sporting events, gas stations, casinos, etc., to both alert the public to trafficking and to notify victims of the Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-3737-888.

  7. Sponsor conferences on trafficking for schools, teachers and students.

In addition to the churches they have spoken to Crime Stoppers of Warren County and a Women Educators Sorority and are scheduled to speak at a Christian Women’s group. They are eager to educate others about this horrific crime and share the many actions that can be taken to prevent trafficking, protect vulnerable children and assist those who have been rescued. To learn more call Diane Brant at 814-688-4425.

Welcome to The Forward

Welcome to the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania’s new blog, The Forward. Here you will find that, as our mission statement says, we are a community of miraculous expectation and of transformational ministry. You will be able to learn about stories from our diocese as well as hear messages of hope. From time to time, you will see messages and videos from Bishop Sean Rowe and other clergy from the diocese.

You may recognize the name The Forward from its days as a printed and, more recently, an online newsletter. There are several reasons we thought that a blog format would be more effective for delivering our news and stories. First, this format allows us to keep you connected in a more timely fashion; as soon as stories and news are available, we can get them to you.   A blog also allows us to share multimedia content, such as video and audio files. Perhaps most importantly, this will allow you to share the news and stories that have impacted or are important to you. By having individual stories online, you will be able to share them through social media, email, text, or by printing out any particular story and sharing it with your congregation. On a regular basis, we will send an email to those of you who are subscribed to give a rundown of recent posts that you may have missed. (To subscribe click the “Join our email list” button on the side bar.)

Pending budget approval, we also hope to publish special edition printed newsletters twice per year. The plan is that each of these would be specific to a topic that fits in with our diocese’s strategic plan and our congregations’ needs at the time of publication. For example, a special edition on stewardship could be published ahead of stewardship season to help our congregations plan for their campaigns.

In order to make all of this work, we want to hear from you. Please let us know of events or stories from your congregation. Tell us if someone in your congregation has an interesting story to tell. Make us aware of new ministries in your congregation. We are constantly looking for stories to include and would love to hear from you.  We also encourage you to share your comments about stories that have been posted or to let us know about topics that you would like to see covered.

We hope that The Forward blog will keep you engaged and informed. We welcome any feedback you have. Please call me at 814.456.4203 or email me at jgoulet@dionwpa.org with your comments, suggestions, and story ideas.