How did you get started rescuing girls from sexual slavery?
On a mission trip in Central America several years ago, we were feeding people in a trash dump when a nice looking little old lady and two skinny little girls came up to me. My friend who speaks Spanish told me, “This lady is a madam and she wants to know if you want these little girls for sex.” I was shocked. They were just tiny and starving. I took them to one of our orphanages and told them, “Nobody’s ever going to hurt you again. They are now all grown up and doing great.
What motivates you to do this?
Redemption and transformation. That’s what the Gospel of Jesus is all about. We demonstrate the goodness of God – we demonstrate redemption be setting people free.
In your opinion, what is the root problem behind sexual slavery?
The No. 1 problem is a “me-first, survival of the fittest” worldview. No other religion or secular worldview sees people as intrinsically valuable. Only Christians say, “You are a child of God and are worthy to be treated with all kindness, respect and dignity.” Only Christians value life and freedom because Jesus does.
Number 2 is an addiction to porn. It’s American and European men traveling and sexual tourists that cause much of the market, but porn is prolific in most cultures. So many people say, “I’m not hurting anyone by looking and this,” but they’re fooling themselves. Our thoughts lead to actions, like molestation and rape. That’s why God wiped out the world with a flood in Noah’s time. “The thoughts of man were continually evil.” He didn’t have to judge them by their actions, because he knew their thoughts. Porn doesn’t lead to anything positive.
What age range are the girls and boys you rescue?
We think of sexual trafficking as girls being kidnapped or stolen, but in India, the problem is much more socially acceptable. How so?
The practice of being a bondservant is still in play there, and in so many places around the world. Their husbands or families take out loans from loan sharks as lower caste people don’t use banks. The girls are generally collateral for defaulted loans. They don’t understand what interest is so they are easy prey for some really bad people. We pay off their debts and set them free.
Once their debt is paid, what is next for these girls?
We have no cookie cutter plan. We do everything relationally depending on each girl’s situation. We give them Jesus, medicine, food, housing, education, job training, micro loans for small business – we find out what fits each girl’s needs and situation and that’s what we do. King Jesus is very personal with us, so we help them each in a very personal way.
You have a very successful sewing school in India. Tell us how that is making a difference?
These girls can be independent if they learn a trade. There are only a few patterns they need to learn to make Indian clothing. We give them the treadle sewing machine, tons of fabric, and all they need to set up their own seamstress business to support their children.
These girls don’t come to you alone. Many of them have children, is that right?
The 184 girls we’ve rescued who far have over 400 children. One of our 17-year-old girls has five children. She was literally pregnant at 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. We help their kids too by giving them medicine, food, shelter and education, because once we rescue them, we’re responsible for them until they can help themselves – and we’re OK with that. We know it may take a long, long time, but why wouldn’t we help people when we can?
Why is Nepal such a hotbed of human trafficking?
The problem there is girls being raped or smuggled across the border into India to slave markets because there is almost zero chance a trafficker, once caught, will be prosecuted. In Nepal, the victim must pay $1,000 for prosecution of their perpetrator goes free. The word is out and the girls of Nepal are literally being stolen from that nation.
How does Answer International’s work in Nepal differ from what you’re doing in India?
Our work in Nepal is more about prevention. In Nepal, girls are generally smuggled across the border bridges into India for immediate sale at slave markets – men literally bid of these girls on their phones or by internet – and they are put on a plane to the Middle East and never heard from again. We work with a ministry that has highly trained profilers at those bridges – a bridge intervention team – that spots possible victims. They blow a whistle and the police come running. They are questioned and the girls are rescued before they are sold.
What do you do with the traffickers?
Answer International pays to prosecute them and send them to prison where they cannot hurt another girl. Then we go to prison and tell them about Jesus. We’ve paid for prosecution of 19 men, saving hundreds from sexual slavery. We have a crack law team that has not lost a case yet. We answer evil with good.
Can you tell us about the truckload of small children your team in Nepal rescued?
This is how bad it is in Nepal: Six children, all under the age of six, were literally scooped up from a poor village and thrown in the back of a truck headed for the border. Our bridge team immediately said, “What’s this one guy doing with six little bitty kids?” They stepped in and rescued the children. We are still looking for their parents. Our team has actually asked people, “Why did you do this?” and they generally get told, “A man’s gotta make a living.” They have no regard for human life because their religion, whether Hindu or Muslim, says you deserve what you get if you’re poor, abused or assaulted. Christians don’t think that way.
What if you cannot find their parents or the girls have no home to go back to?
We have started an orphanage and a girls home. We’re setting up a sponsorship program and looking for partners to help us keep these kids from becoming a sad statistic.
Girls are very vulnerable in India and Nepal. How does child marriage play into this?
Poverty is the biggest factor in Nepal. They have kids and they can’t feed them so they marry their daughters off to much older men, even if they know they are monsters, just to get them out of the house. In both India and Nepal, girls are often married off between 12-18 years old. Some of these men have other wives, so these girls are often abused and abandoned. With nobody to help them, they are easy prey for traffickers.
How do Hindu beliefs play a key role in making these girls targets for trafficking?
In my opinion, the caste system is demonic. If you are born into poverty, you deserve that from a past life. It’s Karma so they are shunned. If someone helps them, they are shunned too – literally abandoned by their family and village. If a girl is raped, violated or abandoned by her husband after marriage, she is shunned by her family and village.
How does Belize differ from India and Nepal?
We’re finding that sexual trafficking is very different from nation to nation depending on the government. In Belize, the government does literally nothing to protect its children. Over 90 percent of trafficking in that nation happens WITHIN THE FAMILY. An adult male is molesting the kids or he’s trafficking them out for money – and there are no legal consequences for abusers. Literally, nobody is helping these kids. We’re teaming up with ministries already on the ground there to find solutions and rescue some of these girls and even boys.
What is the role of the church?
The role of the church is to get off our blessed assurance and help someone. Help people – even if they will never come to your church. We know God is good. Our job is to spread His Goodness even as it seems like evil is taking over our world.
You know, so many Christians don’t even believe God is good. They see hurricanes, sickness, violence, poverty, slavery and say, “If God is good, why?” The answer is God is good and evil is not. Those problems are OUR problems. Slavery is a human institution and we need to solve that problem. That’s why Jesus didn’t abolish human slavery or poverty while He was on earth. He abolished a much worse kind of slavery – eternal slavery to sin, death and satan.
Again, our job as the church is to answer evil with good. I will not be impressed with evil because a little bit of good can overcome a whole lot of evil.
How can people get Involved?
Our biggest problem right now is there are many border crossings from Nepal into India, eight of them major crossings. We only have the funding to man three bridges, but we want to do eight or more. It’s $3,000 per month to man a border crossing. We need more partners.