HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – Catherine "Cat" French, the founder of Elijah Rising, talks freely about a little known underbelly drawn to the City of Houston, well-known for it's diverse Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern populations.
French told women gathered for a local meeting of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) in late January, that Houston is among the top 20 cities in the country noted for sex trafficking and ignoring the situation does not work.
"Clearly we need supernatural help on this issue," French said only days before Super Bowl XLIX, a time when people agree sex trafficking could reach a frenzy.
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Rebuke the oppressor. Defend the fatherless. Plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17 (NKJV)
She is a modern-day abolitionist who takes people on van tours through heavy "sex trafficking" areas -- places that masquerade as strip clubs and popular cantina's but which she says anchor a flourishing commercial sex trade.
During the van tours, riders are told the names of people who own the property where it is suspected that women and children are being exploited.
Elijah Rising is a non-profit ministry that provides "rescue and extraction. " It can be a dangerous undertaking, said French, who is a former sociology professor and social science researcher who claims an extensive background in outreach and ministry to prostituted women and children.
Volunteers are trained to help in these situations, according to French, who has developed curriculum that includes informed prayer and outreach.
Both "entry-level" and "higher-risk" options are offered to volunteers who participate in organized prayer and briefings at the ministry headquarters before going on various missions including: "Backpage Outreach," "Cantina Outreach," "Street Outreach," "Brothel Outreach," "Hotel Awareness," and "Strip Club Awareness."
"If we give up on sending people into dangerous places, we have to give up on sending people to foreign missions," French said at the meeting. NAWBO will donate the proceeds of a silent auction at a gala next month towards furthering the work of Elijah Rising.
Focusing on the vast need for "prayer, awareness and intervention," French says in a video on the organization's website, "I don't want Houston to prosper on the back of sex slaves."
She told NAWBO women those who are rescued need a place to sleep, they need jobs, and some need "tickets" to go to various places. "They need real aftercare," she said.
Noting Houston's less than desirable placement at the "top" of the list for sex tourism and sexual exploitation, she announced the "Innocence Project," a worship and prayer time each Saturday in advance of Super Bowl 2017 in Houston.
French is encouraging teams from throughout the city to engage in worship and prayer to this end -- "that sex trafficking would decline instead of astronomically increasing" during the Super Bowl.
In Arizona, Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, spoke about sex trafficking in a question-and-answer session at Valley Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley last November in advance of the Super Bowl there this week.
"It's a large event, it's a party atmosphere. And I'm afraid that's a part of the element in all of this," McCain said, according to a report on abc15.com.
McCain's remarks indicate she has a no-nonsense attitude towards traffickers, calling them "bad guys" and indicating Arizona is a "fly-over state" where traffickers need not stop.
French, in her video said the ministry, which has Isaiah 1:17 at its heart, understands, "Jesus is the only one who will end trafficking."
"Where sin abounds, grace abounds," a promotion for the ministry states. "#LoveJesusEndTrafficking."