Sex trafficking bust a reminder of ongoing ministry need

by Joni B. Hannigan , Editorial Staff |

(The Porch Light/FBCH/Screen Capture)

NAPLES, Fla. (Christian Examiner) – Officers busted a human trafficking operation in Southwest Florida's Collier County earlier this week, taking into custody two men they have been investigating since July.

A victim who appeared to be "fading in and out of consciousness," according to Wink News, was rescued in the raid where authorities also discovered evidence of sex trafficking and drugs.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, according to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is currently engaged in Operation Cross Country (OCC), an effort involving multiple law enforcement agencies committed to identifying and recovering victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

And the state of Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking.

Last October alone the FBI and its partners rescued about 150 child victims and arrested nearly 150 pimps, according to records – bringing to date the number of victims rescued under this program to more than 750 with more than 1,000 criminals arrested.

Victim specialists work with a variety of organizations to provide information and assistance, not limited to food, shelter, medical needs, and clothing – and when also needed to help obtain legal services, housing, employment, education and job training.

Collier County is home to what was the largest human trafficking ring in state history. An investigation that began in 2013 led to the discovery of a lone victim during a traffic stop – who in turn led authorities to six other women aged 26-35 working as sex slaves. The women, forced to have sex with 25-45 men daily, had been illegally brought into the country with the promise of jobs and family reunions, according to a news report.

Just a few of the ministries specifically designed to meet the needs of trafficking victims worldwide include:

▶ Florida Baptist Children's Homes which several years ago unveiled "The Porch Light," a comprehensive program offering safe homes and support for child victims of domestic sex trafficking. Supported in part by the churches of the Florida Baptist State Convention, this residential program has been touted by outspoken advocates such as Bobby Bowden former head coach of Florida State University, who in November tweeted: "#Shinealight to end sex trafficking w/@The_PorchLight GIVE to http://www.theporchlight.org  POST a pic, TAG your friends!"

The president of FBCH, Jerry Haag, in December, reached out on social media in circulating a Porch Light tweet thanking Florida's governor for inviting him and his wife for a holiday invite. "Thanks @FLGovScott for inviting President Dr. Haag and his wife Christi to FL Leader's Holiday Reception. #happy2015."

▶ Baptist Global Response, a global Southern Baptist Relief and Development organization. "BGR supports projects that minster to the medical, psychological and emotional needs of women and children who have suffered "atrocities at the hands of traffickers," according to the BGC website.

"Raka" a 10-year-old girl sold to sex traffickers is fetured in a videa as one who represents millions of sex slaves around the world.

▶ Point Loma University in California which announced a first-of-its-kind scholarship for survivors of human trafficking. A goal of raising $40,000 seed money for the "Beauty for Ashes Scholarship" was met with $38,854 by 228 people in two months.