In spite of everything else going on around us in the world, the work on the local level keeps calling, people are still in need and the Spirit continues to move.
In the late fall, I was invited to a weekly meeting at Five14 Revolution – a ministry working to address the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of Wilmington women. Five14 offers case management-type services to help vunerable women leave the commercial sex industry and the support to begin rebuilding their lives.
Week after week, I’ve volunteered by sharing my recovery experience, voice and pastoral presence to an incredible group of women who desire to be made new and to leave their dark pasts behind them. Their desirous hearts crave renewal. Together we seeking ways to experience the freedom of God’s life-changing love. At our weekly meetings, we share our raw and honest stories in order to heal and then grow toward new ways of understanding and being. In our shared testimonies of broken (much of which begins in our childhoods) we find unity.
Some alarming stats: Trafficking is a $99 Billion dollar global industry where only .04% of victims are identified. A person can be sold for sex anywhere from 15 to 40 times in one night. More alarming is that exploitation is targeting the very young: Children as young as 11 years old are being recruited on social media sites, while 40% of children ages 4 to 8 have connected with a stranger on social media. I was alarmed to learn that trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world – it is EVERYWHERE… and it is evil. You can learn more statistics about human trafficking/exploitation here: https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=23329.
Exploitation and trafficking are an assault on the physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual parts of a person. 90% of victims have experienced childhood sexual abuse resulting in thoughts, feelings and beliefs about love and sex that are twisted and misaligned. In Wilmington, NC, drug abuse is common in 90% of women who either get hooked on drugs as a result of exploitation or turn to the commercial sex industry to feed a drug habit. For women experiencing poverty of homelessness, sex becomes a means to survive and get basic needs met.
Due to so many factors, many women find themselves in dark pits of despair and hopelessness. On average, it takes five to seven engagements to build lasting trust that leads to choices that will end cycles of vulnerability. Then it takes consistent support, trusted partners and resources for months or even years (depending on the person’s past) in order for someone to rebuild their lives. This also includes a strong plan for recovery and network.
Recovery from addiction is a necessary component to help people break free of explotation, trafficking and working in the commercial sex industry. I have been focusing my volunteer hours at Five14 by helping women learn and live out recovery principles, as they deal with their trauma. Together we are discovering an awakening that makes a way toward healing and offers direction that is rooted in a sense of belonging, guiding toward lives of purpose and usefulness. We are not what happened to us, and yet our stories can serve as testimonies of the power of God to recreate lives and resurrect the dead back to life. I am continuously amazed by the desirous hearts of the women of Five14 for healing and wholeness. May God continue to work among us.
You can learn more about the mission of Five14 Revolution at www.five14revolution.com. Five14 is funded by the donations of private donors and small business. You can support their work through their website.