Faith in ActionMagazine

No Longer a Slave

Bree Barker (standing far right) and other cadets from the College for Officer Training took part in a recent flash mob at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y., to raise awareness about human trafficking.

Bree Barker (standing far right) and other cadets from the College for Officer Training took part in a recent flash mob at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y., to raise awareness about human trafficking.

I have always been intrigued by the existence of human trafficking in our world. I’ve often wondered, how could such a heinous crime be so prevalent in a world that we say is so advanced?

In pursuing this question, I was told that the answer is to combat this crime through our purchasing decisions; through what we choose to watch, see, and read; and through what we choose to say via social media and governmental forums.

All of these strategies were great, but I wanted to do more.

While working as a youth director at The Salvation Army in Newport, Kentucky, I decided to take a day off. I drove to Columbus, Ohio, and volunteered to work with the Army’s Anti–Human Trafficking (AHT) Department.

That day, members of the department were working to restore a house that would be used as a safe haven for victims of human trafficking. As we painted and cleaned the interior of the house, someone called the AHT hotline. She was a woman whom I’ll call “Linda” (not her real name).

The program director spoke to her and then asked me if I would help “rescue” her. Of course, I obliged.

Linda’s neighborhood was one that many people would probably avoid. As we approached her house, I realized that God was involving me in the process and purpose of Linda’s redemption. My heart pounded.

As we entered the house, Linda frantically collected her few belongings. We met Evan, her son, who was less than a year old and sick. A rash covered his body. She told us that he was also having trouble eating.

Linda’s abuser, who had left the house that day for a short time, was due to come back at any minute. Knowing that this was her chance to escape, we quickly loaded Linda, Evan, and her things into our car and left.

NoLongeraSlave_2At the safe house, a group of employees and volunteers from AHT immediately showered Linda with love. She could offer them little, but because she was a human being worthy of being loved, they loved her.

For the first time, Linda experienced such love. Accepting this love became the platform from which she would rebuild her life.

Linda and Evan received medical treatment, a warm and safe place to call their own, and practical help.

She also met other women who had recently been in her situation. In sharing their stories, they created a bond of equality, respect, and love.

That evening, I drove home wondering, what will happen to Linda and her son? They had a long road ahead of them that required difficult decisions and concrete changes. But I went to bed that night knowing that The Salvation Army would offer them the resources and support they needed to begin their physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, and social rehabilitation.

For several weeks, I visited Linda and Evan at the safe house. He had become such a healthy and happy baby. And the life had returned to Linda’s eyes. She went through daily treatments to detox from her addictions.

I could tell by Linda’s words and actions that she truly felt loved, accepted, cared for, and respected by the AHT staff. Each time I visited the house, I noticed Linda’s growth. God was doing a great thing in and through her life.

As I reflect on my AHT ministry and my time spent with Linda, I realize that, as human beings, we all have similar stories. At some point in our lives, we’ve been enslaved by something. Linda’s enslavement was physical, but it can manifest in a variety of ways. We can be enslaved to greed, hate, jealousy, violence, drugs, or sex. And the list goes on.

Linda saw her opportunity to escape. She knew whom to call and she trusted them. Once Linda was physically safe, she could then focus on her emotional and spiritual safety.

There are times when we need to make that call and talk with someone who can help us out of our enslavement. God himself offers us freedom from our enslavement. In Romans chapter 6, Paul tells us that we were once slaves to sin, but we have been given the opportunity for freedom.

Personally, I used to be a slave to comparing myself to others. I thought that I wasn’t good enough if I wasn’t as pretty, as talented, as thin, as cool, or as sporty as my peers. I didn’t think I was worthy of being accepted or loved. This mindset controlled my life; every choice, every action, and every word were filtered through my desire to make myself worthy.

However, when I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior, my thinking radically changed. I realized that I was loved because I was a child of God, rather than because of my appearance or my ability. Moreover, I didn’t have to be perfect or “all cleaned up” to be accepted by God. He accepts me just as I am.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I should continue living my life in the same way. God loves me so much that He didn’t want to leave me as a slave to sin. He desired to restore me spiritually and emotionally. God restored me because I called out to Him. Incredible things happen when we call out to our Savior. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

—Cadet Bree Barker is a member of the Messengers of Light session at the College for Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y.

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