by Colleen Smith
Ministry is hard. Ministry is even harder when you want to help someone but don’t know how.
A few years ago, I had no idea how to love the women I’d see on the streets. I had no idea how to minister to them. I didn’t know what they needed tangibly or what they needed to hear. But I did know God made them in His image and, despite their choices, He still loved them. I did know He desired for them to know Him. I also knew he wanted me in their lives—even if I didn’t know what He would later call me to do.
I am not asking you to go find the prostitution circle in your town. Though there likely is one, do not hang out there at 3:30 a.m. But what I would ask you to do is to pray about how you can be involved with sex trafficking survivors. For me, I could help those I didn’t know how to help by building friendships with girls on the street which eventually led to a ministry God wanted me to start called Pretty in Pink.
Pretty in Pink starts with a pink bag and an invitation for friendship. Pretty in Pink starts with prayer and hope she’ll reach out when she’s ready. Pretty in Pink provides necessary resources and a phone number to call when she needs a safe place, a friend or a cup of coffee. The pink bags carry tangible items I have worked with former street girls to decide what is needed. For example, each bag has a pink bible, a journal, a pen, toiletries and usually candy or some sort of snack. Some pink bags have flip-flops, under garments, a gift card for a local coffee place or food place where they can eat.
Many want to help but don’t know where to start. Here are a few ways you can tangibly help minister to human trafficking victims:
- Seek out ministries that may have already been started in your town that minister to sex trafficking victims. Most major cities have sex trafficking rescue ministries, safe homes and other places serving these individuals. Many will provide the training you need to be involved.
In Baltimore there are several options including The Samaritan Women, which is a spirit centered, hands-on, therapeutic approach helping victims of sex trafficking change their lives forever. Safe House of Hope is another street outreach program. Starry Night is another ministry and also has a 24/7 line for victims. These ministries do exist and they are always looking for people to serve alongside them.
- Maybe you are not called to work one-on-one with sex trafficking survivors, but you have a heart to help. Most street outreach ministries are non-profit and can benefit from financial partners willing to invest one time or make recurring financial gifts to their ministries.
Financial partners who invest in these ministries may never understand what their gifts are providing. But because of financial partners, street outreach ministries are able to continue to exist and help survivors experience life change.
- Resource donations is another tangible way to support victims. Many street outreach ministries gift the victims a goodie bag, clothing, gift cards and food. When you reach out to a ministry local in your community, you can request a donation wish list. If someone asks me how they can support Pretty in Pink, I share with them what I put in the bags. I ask people to send gift cards, so I can purchase supplies or to take the girls on the streets out for coffee or dinner. Every little bit helps.
- These ministries are often filled with darkness and prayers for the victims are much appreciated. Many of these ministries also have a prayer guide, an email list or a newsletter sharing stories of survival and life-change. Pray and sign-up for lists so you may stay aware and lift ministry leaders up in prayer every day.
- Love them. When these women decide they want life change, they begin attending church. They want to transition back into what we call “normal life.” When they do, love them. Welcome them into your churches. Invite them to your dinner tables. Get to know them. Get to know their stories. Jesus ate dinner with sinners. He sought out prostitutes, tax collectors and all the others who people found hard to love. Survivors need to understand community and experience the healthy love that exists in community. But most of all, we need to love them so they see Christ in us.
If you can’t find a local ministry to partner with in your community, there are a few national organizations I really respect who are helping human trafficking victims all over the world, including A21, World Help, Hope for Justice and Treasures. While you may not be able to walk alongside these ministries in person, they are all doing great work in the human trafficking world nationally and internationally.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:34-35).
If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, then please don’t ignore it the Human Trafficking National Hotline is open 24/7 to take reports of human trafficking victims National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888
Further resources to help you read and understand human trafficking a little better:
- Scars and Stilettos
By Harmony Dust
- In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United StatesPaperback
By Nita Belles
- Girls Like Us
By Rachel Lloyd
- God in a Brothel
By Daniel Walker
- Somebody’s Daughter
By Julian Sher
- Off the Street
By Christopher Baughman
Colleen Smith is a team member of Captivate Church and serves as a missionary in her neighborhood.
Published May 15, 2018