“My dad always taught us when you see a problem, you own it.”
It’s a bold statement. But we feel it in our bones.
Megan’s words captivate us as her dark eyes pierce through the crowd. We are discussing a heavy topic. Human trafficking. But this is no ordinary group. The women at the front of the room bring a brightness and hope that break through the gloom.
Operation Underground Railroad has arrived in Virginia. And unlike so many other organizations that struggle to survive in the movement to end sexual exploitation, O.U.R. has landed in Richmond with their characteristic bang! Volunteers Kierstin Crain, Beth Graviet and Megan Schlensker are leading the way.
It’s the first meeting and every chair is filled. An extra row is added halfway through. Some people have driven more than two hours to attend. A few even show up wearing O.U.R. t-shirts and swag to boot.
The light and energy in this organization are palpable. And that’s no coincidence. Tim Ballard, founder and CEO of O.U.R., claims the only effective way to battle something so horrific as human trafficking is to “shine a light in the darkness.” That philosophy is reflected in everything they do.
As I scan the room, I’m struck by the diversity of the congregation. Men and women. Young and not-so-young. Different skin tones and body types. Anyone peeking in might wonder what draws us together. The truth runs deeper than the eye can see. Rescuing children from the bonds of slavery? That’s a cause that tugs at our humanity--that touches our very souls. The thought makes me smile.
Several of us are here because our hearts were pricked in June at the Mothers’ Retreat at Southern Virginia University. Kelli Houghton came from O.U.R. Headquarters to speak at the conference which was titled, “The Errand of Angels.”
If anyone is on the errand of angels, it’s Operation Underground Railroad. This nonprofit doesn’t just focus on awareness. They’re actually boots-on-the-ground rescuing kids from sex trafficking and providing aftercare services all over the world.
Part of the reason O.U.R. is so successful is because they have a three-pronged approach, one of the team leaders, Beth, explained:
EMANCIPATE child victims
EMPOWER law enforcement
ENLIGHTEN the public
Whether we like it or not, child sex trafficking is real. In fact, it’s a $150 BILLION-dollar industry. As we come to realize this and the truth hits us, we have a decision to make. Just like Megan said: “We see it, and then we own it.” We can’t turn away. And although not all of us can join a jump team and physically rescue children, team leader Kierstin helped us to see that there is so much we can do.
We can pray for those who are going on these missions.
We can talk about child sex trafficking and let others know that it is a real problem!
We can share information on social media.
We can train on the O.U.R. website to recognize warning signs of trafficking in our own community.
Here are some more specific ways to get involved:
At the end of the night, we could have left feeling heavy. Instead, we felt empowered. In fact, a quote buzzed into my mind:
“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a tent with a mosquito.”
O.U.R. is a mosquito in the face of child sex trafficking. A big one. And you can be one too. You’re never too small to make a difference.
Happy Digital Parenting! ~MSM