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Emerging Out of the Depths: Helping Victims of Human Trafficking

by Brandon Ratliff, Outreach Ministry Coordinator at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

Imagine this Situation

You’re an FBI agent on a task force tackling the issue of human sex trafficking in South Florida. The victims you rescue are often minors, uneducated, speak minimal English, have no possessions or resources, and are physically and emotionally traumatized. Although your training has prepared you to prosecute the traffickers, how do you begin the process of healing for the victim?

This is a huge problem in Florida, bigger than most people can imagine! According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 100,000 children are trafficked inside the United States each year. Florida is typically ranked as the #2 or #3 state with the most trafficked children. The needs of these victims are multifaceted, complex, and long-term. Rescuing them from trafficking is but the first step in a long process of restoration. Unless these holistic needs are addressed and resolved, trafficking victims remain at a high risk of again being trafficked or forced into prostitution.

Local Church Outreach

As an outworking of our mission to declare and demonstrate the liberating power of the Gospel, staff and members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church began exploring how we might join in efforts to eradicate this problem from our community. We became convinced that a local church body was the best place for victims to experience holistic healing. Subsequently, Coral Ridge was invited to join a task force coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security alongside other law enforcement agencies in order to become a key partner in helping victims rescued from trafficking.

“We became convinced that a local church body was the best place for victims to experience holistic healing.”

Our vision is to see victims (and our partners) encounter the grace of God made possible by Jesus, and subsequently become members of a Gospel-centered church community. Meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs is a tangible demonstration of the love of Christ and ultimately increases the witness of our congregation and the welfare of our city.

Beginning outreach ministries to our communities is often a daunting task due to the overwhelming entrenchment and complexity of problems such as human trafficking, homelessness, poverty, or foster care. Furthermore, local churches are often stretched to provide the financial and human capital to effectively engage in outreach ministry.   Our experience has revealed four early steps that are critical in the development of effective and sustainable outreach ministry:

Four Steps to Get Involved

  1. Simply put, research. Research the nature of the problem in your community and the current state of affairs in addressing the issue. Often, you will not be “creating” but “joining” ongoing efforts.
  2. Identify actual needs. It can be tempting to decide what your ministry will do without listening to those you’re striving to serve. Listen to both partners and those the ministry aims to help; identify the actual needs and determine how your church can become effective in addressing unmet needs.
  3. Move to meet those needs with partners. It requires a city-wide solution to address a city-wide problem. By partnering with other organizations–both Christian and non-Christian– your church becomes a more effective agent in creating change.
  4. Involve volunteers early and often. It is almost certain that there are members of your congregation who are passionate about the issue your ministry is addressing and able to help. By involving the laity, you improve the sustainability and effectiveness of the ministry and avoid creating a time drain for staff members.

We’re excited to be a part of the solution in addressing human trafficking in Broward, but we’re even more excited about the opportunity to declare and demonstrate the liberating power of the Gospel to both trafficking victims and our partners. Ultimately we hope to see lives radically changed by the radical grace of God, and a healthier and more vibrant city in the process.

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*This article was in the winter 2013 issue of Knox Now. See the full magazine here:

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