Retired MLB pitcher fighting human trafficking and poverty

by Lee Warren |

SAN FRANCISCO (CHRISTIAN EXAMINER) — Even though Jeremy Affeldt retired from baseball after the 2015 season, the former San Francisco reliever who was on three championship teams over his 14-year career today is focused on listening to the cries of children from around the world who are trapped in human trafficking.

The 36-year-old father of three, who has always been one to express his Christian faith with action, and his wife, Larisa, launched The Jeremy Affeldt Foundation -- an organization committed to reaching out to youth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- while he was still playing baseball. 

"I'm focused on those who don't have food or clean water," he wrote in a recent post on his Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball blog. "I'm focused on orphans and victims of human trafficking. Imagine being hungry, or having a contaminated water supply. Imagine what happens to children who don't have a parent to love them. Imagine what it's like to be deprived of your freedom! These are the lives I want to help save."

 They also founded Generation Alive, a logical extension of Affeldt's foundation which seeks to develop young leaders committed to serving others.

With his passion for reaching and training youth, the thought of human trafficking angers him.

"If I see someone trafficking a human being, you might see me flip some tables," he wrote. "That might be the time for some righteous anger. Is that the right way to respond? I don't know. It would be a good time to ask for wisdom. Would an angry reaction be a reflection of Jesus, or would it straight up be a situation in which my flesh blazes with anger? I have to trust God to guide me in those times."

Human trafficking statistics are staggering. They are also hard to gauge, for obvious reasons.

According to a report by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, an estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking; 1.2 million of them are children. People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries, affecting every continent.

Some estimates are far higher. A collection of professional athletes from around the world — including Affeldt — who are joining forces to battle human trafficking by educating fans and donating funds to the cause, says the global number is closer to 30 million people.

According to Montana attorney general Tim Fox, nearly 300,000 children are trafficked for sex every year in the United States.

Affeldt knows the problem is pervasive, and he knows some people have their doubts about whether trafficking can be ended. For him, though, it's about doing something about the problem right now because each person who is rescued matters.

"But we can end trafficking for some people," he wrote. "We can end poverty for some people. We can end disease, sorrow, and suffering for some people. And so that's what we do. It's our calling as human beings in Christ, and so we rise to the call. I can't save the whole world, but I can do my part. I can reflect Jesus by meeting a need, whenever or wherever I see one.

"We are here to create the conditions of God's justice, like freedom and health, joy and community. That's why we're here, so that's what we do! We don't have to finish the battle. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. We're here to help when we see a need. That's all."