Tonight was not a typical Friday night. I had signed up to meet with these people I barely knew to discuss human trafficking and how to educate our community. I get to the mall and get my handmade "Not 4 Sale" red tank top. And a pair of handcuffs. What did I just get myself into?! Well, turns out the ringleader actually volunteers with the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. She had some startling facts about domestic trafficking, which is trafficking going on within the US. Did you know Florida is the #1 state in the country for the number of open trafficking cases? I didn't! But Florida also #1 in the amount of resources to provide to victims. The reason we chose the mall for our battlefield [ha!], is because many young girls are abducted, coerced and stolen from shopping malls! There have been several cases reported in Pensecola, FL. Crazy huh?
So our group of 8, all fired up with Scripture and knew information are ready to educate the whole mall. Only we couldn't approach people. And we couldn't hand out information unless they asked. Let me just tell you it was amazing to see God open doors to conversation. "So you aren't for sale" "What's with the handcuffs" "OK, I just have to ask...what's with the shirts
?" So many great conversations with really receptive people.
But it doesn't stop there. Our mall closes at 9pm, but 5 of us decided to hang out a little longer to maybe catch some stragglers. We find ourselves outside the food court, talking to a group of 10 - 15 skater/rockers/goths. Five preppy white kids shouldn't have made that much of an impact, right? Maybe my newly pink hair and nose ring helped a little, haha. But they asked us so many questions about trafficking, they took our pamphlets, they wrote down websites, and they shared their hearts. Janelle, 19, with her bleach blonde dreads highlighted hot pink, matching pink eyeliner....belt....tights....bracelets....million-watt smile, tells me about working at a local strip club, and seeing the girls get pregnant by their pimps, and being forced to go on "dates" by the management with johns. Broke my heart. I gave h
er our information and begged her to report any forced prostitution going on. She wants to get a "Not 4 Sale" tattoo on her arm with a bar code. Ryan, thin, smoker, so entertaining....homeless...squatter....18. MJ, 21, the self professed mallrat. Brendan, moldable kid with bright red hair...you would have thought we just gave him a winning lottery ticket. Hungry kids, hungry for good and right in an evil and dark world.
By this time, its 9:15....9:30...9:45....and all I can see are these 3 young middle school girl
sitting on a planter with their matching American Eagle tees. They go in, I assume, to call their parents. I follow them in and offer my cell phone. Mom is half an hour away. WHAT????? These girls, 5th, 6th and 8th graders.....at the mall....alone....on a Friday night???? THIS SHOULDN'T BE! This is how girls are trafficked. So I sit with them, hear their stories, and tell some of mine. They got an earful on trafficking, and took the pamphlets. Mom rolls up at 10:20. Even the skater kids have gone. I walk the girls to the car and tell her I was sitting with them and she thanks me. And then I go into my trafficking speech, letting her know how many young girls are abducted from malls, just like this one. She wasn't a fan. But she got her daughter back tonight. Who knows if I hadn't been there, if she would have.
I read my trafficking books. I watch movies and documentaries on injustice. I talk about Cambodia and spout off the facts. But what do I DO? Until tonight, nothing. It's all going to change. My life is changed. I am here to make a difference in my community, wherever that community is! Today its here. Tomorrow maybe it will be the world.