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Crosspoint hosts Hope61 training

Alice Murray Special to
Gannett Media
The Destin Log

Editor’s note: Alice Murray participated in the Hope61 training during November at Crosspoint in Niceville.

NICEVILLE — It’s the second largest illegal business in the world, surpassed only by the illegal arms trade. An estimated 40,000,000 people are victims of it worldwide. Kids are being recruited for it from their own homes.

What is it? Human trafficking, modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. Should the church turn a blind eye to this societal blight? According to a ministry known as Hope61, the answer is a resounding, “No!”

Hope61, which aims to prevent human trafficking, was founded by One Mission Society missionary Joyce Oden in 2010. Oden had personally observed human trafficking occurring in the Philippines and was moved to combat it.

The words of Isaiah 61:1, the “Lord has anointed me to … proclaim liberty to the captives,” provided inspiration for the ministry’s name. The ministry’s aim is to mobilize the church around the world to take preventive action to deter future bondage.

Tom Overton, global director of Hope61 says, “The church has not only the responsibility but also the opportunity to facilitate and change through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

But for the church to act, church members must be made aware of the problem and what to do about it. The slogan “Raising Awareness. Equipping The Church” sums up Hope61’s plan of action.

Through what it calls Engage Training, Hope61 prepares and equips churches worldwide to address human trafficking. Specifically, the training highlights how church members can identify those vulnerable to becoming involved in such trafficking. The ministry has five national trainers — one each in the United States, Haiti, Mongolia, Spain and Uganda.

Several more countries are scheduled to add a national trainer in 2020.

Lori McFall, the U.S. national trainer, with assistance from Hope61’s Tonya Overton, presented the Engage Training in November to some 50 concerned individuals gathered at Crosspoint church in Niceville. The trainers defined human trafficking and the forms it may take. The simplified definition is that human trafficking “forcefully converts a human being to a commodity.”

Someone profits by stripping the rights and dignity from another person. Four key trafficking areas were identified — sex, labor, child soldiering, and organ trafficking (most commonly kidneys and corneas).

Trainees learned that regardless of the type of trafficking, three categories of individuals are involved. There are victims, traffickers and buyers. The trainers emphasized everyone is vulnerable to becoming someone in one of these three categories.

Methods and tactics of luring or recruiting people into human trafficking were identified and discussed during the Engage training. They include seduction/romance, false job advertisements, abductions, lies about educational or travel opportunities, sale by family, and recruitment through other victims.

Though the tactics may vary, the recruiting pattern usually follows the same steps: gain the victim’s trust, provide for the victim’s needs, isolate the victim and force the victim into trafficking.

While it is disturbing to imagine human trafficking occurring in our local area, such activity is taking place. Crosspoint Missions Pastor Tyler Fuller related a personal experience to the trainees about an attempt made to recruit a Crosspoint church member into human trafficking.

The young woman was contacted by phone and offered a lucrative job out of state; the remuneration promised was far beyond what she could reasonably have expected to earn. She related the offer, which she had planned to accept, to church staff who intervened and averted her becoming a human trafficking victim.

Attendees at the Engage training were stunned to learn human trafficking recruiting occurs right in their own homes. Luring through social media contact is the top method employed by human traffickers in the United States. As the Hope61 trainers pointed out, the internet has made every child who logs on susceptible and accessible.

Runaways are particularly at risk to being recruited into human trafficking. Statistics reveal 90% of runaways will be approached by traffickers within 48 hours after leaving home.

While children and youths are targets, they are not the only ones who may become victims of human trafficking. Hope61’s training materials identify five primary groups of vulnerable people: the uneducated, immigrants, addicts, the abused and the impoverished.

The last part of the Engage Training was practical in nature. Participants made a list of at-risk people in their own community; the list included the homeless, mentally ill, impoverished and drug users. This exercise heightened trainees’ awareness about what situations in their own area might make one susceptible to human trafficking.

But what can the church do about human trafficking? The foundational principle conveyed by the Hope61 training is that vulnerability is reduced when people meet Jesus. The church has the responsibility to share the Gospel and the opportunity to transform communities into those like God intended.

As Tom Overton said, “For far too long, the church has off-loaded its biblical responsibility to respond to issues of injustice in its community.”

With their awareness raised, Engage trainees turned to considering available assets. An extensive list was compiled of the various talents, gifts, abilities, interests and experiences available in the trainees’ church community. These abilities ranged from sewing and baking to language and repair skills.

The way to see positive change in the community, according to Hope61, is to identify the gifts and talents of church members and build on those. Pairing assets of church members with vulnerabilities of community members forges connections that reduce vulnerability to human trafficking. If the at-risk feel loved and connected to a church family, they are at less risk of being exploited.

Physically using those assets out in the community is key to building bridges that will bring people into the church. How can this connection be accomplished? An older woman might take a neighborhood teenage girl needing attention under her wing and teach her how to bake.

An older man at the Engage training suggested he could bond with local teenage boys whose fathers were absent or deployed by showing them how to repair various things.

After a time of prayer, each participant was asked to devise a plan of action. First, they identified an at-risk group to which they felt led to minister. The trainees then focused on skills and talents available to reach those at-risk people. Finally, they had to determine the first few steps they could take to use those assets to connect with such people.

As the Engage training concluded, the work to prevent human trafficking began. Trainees had learned how to identify the vulnerable around them and how to apply available assets to those at risk. They had also been made aware of their responsibility and their opportunities to combat the problem of human trafficking.

The challenging takeaway from the Hope61 Engage training was that the church can and must prevent human trafficking through the power of God.

For more information on Hope61 training, or to schedule this training at your church, contact Lori McFall at lmcfall@onemissionsociety.org.