Have you ever watched a movie about something important that God wouldn’t seem to let you let it go? Joy Fopma did, it was the documentary Nefarious: A Merchant of Souls, a movie that opened her eyes to modern sex slavery around the world. Joy was already a survivor of sexual abuse who had worked her way through trauma with Jesus’ help. As she saw the plight of other young girls and boys being exploited in this way, her response was “What can I do?”
Trafficking is a game of supply and demand and Iowa is in the prime location for it due to interstates 35 and 80, a major hub of transcontinental travel. Exploitation often involves gaining the trust of young girls seeking a career in modeling, or through internet chat rooms. Truckstops and online ads often connect the exploiter with the exploited. The average age of a trafficking victim is 12 years old.
Compared to surrounding states, Iowa ranks about in the middle of trafficked victims. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, there have been 31 cases reported so far in 2016. That number is down from 36 in 2015. Of 2016, Illinois reportedly had the highest number trafficked victims, 97, while South Dakota has the least, eight.
Joy began learning more about human trafficking, and founded a faith based anti-trafficking non-profit called Wings of Refuge. Its goal is to provide a place for victims of human trafficking to heal, be counseled, pursue opportunities for education, and be connected with a local church. Before Wings of Refuge came on the scene, there were no beds for human trafficking victims to be found in Iowa. Rick Bachman of Grinnell Friends, a former law enforcement officer, has recently joined the Wings of Refuge board to share with it some hard won wisdom and experience of serving the ends of justice in Iowa.
The ministry of Wings of Refuge is one the Iowa Yearly Meeting Christian Social Concerns Committee wants to highlight with our 2017 theme of loving our captive neighbors. We are pleased to announce that Marissa Price of Wings of Refuge will be offering two workshops at Yearly Meetings sessions. These workshops are geared toward learning more about both human trafficking in Iowa and the work of Wings of Refuge as it tries to meet as much of that need as God allows. The same workshop will be offered twice to allow as many people as possible to attend, and will take place Saturday July 29th @ 9-9:45 and 10-10:45 AM. We hope and pray as a committee that the ministry of compassionately reaching out to Iowa’s victims of modern slavery with the love of Jesus will be lifted up in prayer, and also financially; and that God’s people would be equipped to learn to see and serve their local communities in some new ways, living out Jesus’ call to proclaim the year of God’s favor, to bring recovery of sight to the blind, and to set the captives free. Please join us in this opportunity, and also, consider prayerfully if God might lead you to bless our committee financially as we try to establish a renewed vigor among the churches of Iowa Yearly Meeting for God’s heart for justice.