Human trafficking can be defined as the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Several MidAmerica students recognize this ongoing problem and have decided to do something about it.
Ashton Mason, Joey Alligier and Leigh Ann Martin started a ministry on campus to raise awareness for domestic minor human trafficking. They are preparing people’s hearts and minds for such a heavy topic, starting conversations that are uncomfortable and getting people out of their comfort zone and into reality. One of those students, Martin, a junior psychology major, said that this ministry is focused on three major aspects: service, prayer and education.
“We will teach them about human trafficking, be active in prayer and then go and utilize those two in the community,” Martin said.
Alligier said that they are starting with prayer to keep everyone centered, since human trafficking is such a big issue and cannot be solved with a quick solution. He also said that they want to work with some specific human trafficking organizations, such as Exodus Cry which is centered in Kansas City.
Both Mason and Alligier said that working specifically with human trafficking is not the only thing that this ministry is focused on. They want to work to prevent the beginning steps that potentially lead to human trafficking.
“We want to address the roots of the issue such as working with children, poverty and homelessness,” Alligier said. “We want to work there because those are the roots of what may turn into human trafficking later on.”
The main goal for this ministry is to educate MidAmerica students. They want people to know that human trafficking is a real issue in our society and our city because it can be easy to cover up.
This ministry is partnering up with MNU’s social justice club and is planning a trip to India to work with Rahab’s Rope, a safe house for the women who are victims of human trafficking. This trip is scheduled for two weeks in the beginning of June 2016.
However, these were not the original plans for this ministry.
Ashton Mason, a sophomore ministry major, said that the original hopes and dreams that were placed on her heart for this ministry were to go into organizations and work with the victims. Although actually working with the victims is not possible at this point because a doctorate in counseling is needed, the group still hopes to make an impact through prayer and raising awareness.
Another struggle that this group faces is working with such a broad topic that is so heartbreaking, Alligier said.
“I think it will also be hard for people to readjust their mindset from sub Saharan Africa to downtown Kansas City,” he said.
Currently the ministry is focusing their efforts more locally since Kansas City is such a big center for human trafficking.
“The 35 highway that goes through Wichita and Oklahoma is one of the major hubs for trafficking because it culminates in Kansas City,” Alligier said. “From that hiinghway you have 670, and 70 which goes all the way west and all the way east. So basically, Kansas is this main line where people can come and bring people and it is easy for them to get out.”
Oak Park Mall is another big center for trafficking in the Kansas City area, Martin said.
“Men will come in to seek out women and develop some sort of relationship with them to bring them into the cycle,” she said.
This is why the group wants to get people involved. They want others to see that trafficking is happening right here in our community.
“All of us have a part to play in God’s redemptive plan,” Alliger said, “that can be overwhelming at times so people can tend not to do anything. Starting small is okay. Often people who become successful started out with an idea that they liked and were passionate about.”