In January 2013, a group of six women from the EPC visited the Dream House and Shine Career School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Pam Harvey, then National Director for Advocacy and Education, (Greenwood Community Church, Greenwood Village, CO), led the trip which also included people from other denominations. The highlight of the trip was meeting with the 17 teenage girl residents of The Dream House. Since work with survivors of trafficking is sensitive, the focus of the meetings was to get to know the girls through their weekday activities in school and recreation in safe settings. This rich opportunity emphasized the opportunity to redeem the childlike quality of trust and hope in young girls from whom it had been robbed, often as a result of being sold by their families or deceived by friends.
In addition, the team visited with other ministries in the area working in tandem for justice for these girls: International Justice Mission, Chab Dai, Daughters of Hope to name a few. We also visited one of the Killing Fields and a prison in Phnom Penh associated with the mass genocide that took place under the Khmer Rouge in. This visit was shocking and sobering. The exposure to the history of such violent oppression with an understanding of the attendant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) helped to explain why Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. The team was sickened witnessing street upon street of nightclubs in the central city on the river thriving on the child sex tourism business. The thought of the girls from The Dream House having lived through such situations was unbearable and reason to engage in the fight against this inhumane evil.
The anger and the sense of helplessness that pervaded the team caused them to be resolute in becoming more educated about the problem. Wendy Dabbous (Woodland Presbyterian, Memphis) returned to lead a Bible study in her church on the subject. Others are looking locally to increase the awareness of those around them as well as participate in the fight for the rescue and restoration of survivors.
We encourage you to become aware of the enormity of this problem, to know what is happening in your community and state. The issue is one that is very difficult to stare in the face and talk about in church programs. We, as the church, cannot afford to turn our backs on it. Since it is not just a women’s issue, we encourage church-wide efforts to be made to learn about and take actions on behalf of the countless victims. 27 million adults and 13 million children are in slavery today. It will be the trained individuals who work directly with the survivors, but all of us can be a voice for them in our churches.
Greenwood Community Church,
Greenwood Village, CO
First Presbyterian Church,
Woodland Presbyterian Church,
Advent Presbyterian Church,
Interim Director of Women in Ministry, EPC
Pictures provided by Dan Brill at Brill Creative and all rights reserved