Alice (not real name) is married to a man in Morocco. As a woman in her culture, she has very few rights. As long as she does what’s expected of her, she’ll bring honor to her family and things will go smoothly.
Or so she thought.
Like many women, Alice was offered a job in Spain, just across the border of Morocco. It was a simple job picking fruit and she accepted—even though she had no legal papers to work there. What she didn’t know was her employer had connections to a brothel owner who paid well for new “recruits.”
After a few weeks on the farm, he told her he had a better paying job for her and introduced her to the brothel owner. The owner told her she had to pay a debt for being there illegally. She tried to resist but he threatened her. He’d harm her kids. He’d tell her husband and bring shame to her family. By the time Alice figured out what was happening, it felt like it was too late.
She didn’t speak the language. She didn’t have a passport. She was stuck.
It’s estimated that 6.3 million people were involved in forced commercial sexual exploitation in 2021. This includes people of different races, nationalities, ages, genders and economic statuses. Most of these survivors have situations in their lives that make them vulnerable to exploitation. Once they’ve been sexually exploited, they often become trapped in a life of darkness—unable to see a way out.
Gateway 328 Joins the Fight to End Human Trafficking
Gateway 328 is a ministry of Ward Church that partners with organizations that work on the front lines in the fight against human trafficking. When international travel wasn’t possible in 2020, Ward member Rachel Sochacki, Director of Outreach Sue Hanstad, and a team of others met and prayed to see how they could fight against sexual exploitation locally.
Two things became clear in that time:
- There are “gateways” that lead a vulnerable person into human trafficking.
- The love of God is a gateway toward freedom.
They formed Gateway 328 based on Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” They partner with two organizations: All Worthy of Love, who ministers to women in Detroit, and Not Abandoned, providing tools and support through Freedom Centers located in Thailand and Spain.
Gateway 328 Partners With Not Abandoned to Fight Human Trafficking Abroad
This past spring, part of the money raised for the Ward Church Easter Offering went to help Not Abandoned purchase a new building for their Freedom Center in Algeciras, Spain. Algeciras is a major gateway for trafficking women between two continents. Currently, Not Abandoned offers health education, food for women and their kids, Spanish classes, job opportunities and trauma support in Algeciras. The new building will help to expand on these services and will offer job skills and business training, a bakery, trauma-informed counseling, a place for church services, and other resources.
Not Abandoned also has Freedom Centers in Pattaya and Korat, Thailand, a rural area where poverty often leads to desperate situations. They teach prevention programs, awareness education, and financial literacy, as well as job skills training so students can learn other ways to earn money. The idea of honor versus shame makes women in these cultures more vulnerable. Pattaya, Thailand, once a modest fishing village, is known as the global sex tourism capital of the world. In Thai culture, the oldest daughter is expected to earn money for her family and any childless aunts, uncles and elders. Sometimes, the brothers go to college using the money sent home from their sister. This cultural expectation is how the daughter brings honor to her family, which is valued above morality. It doesn’t matter how the money is earned as long as you don’t talk about it.
These Not Abandoned Freedom Centers offer practical programs and services that provide hope and a way out of the sexual exploitation women face each day.
Over the summer, we’ll be sharing stories of human trafficking both locally and abroad. If you would like to learn more about Gateway 328 and the opportunities they offer to fight trafficking locally and abroad, visit their webpage or email Jennalin at email@example.com.
Article by Nicole Wells