Sexual slavery is alive and well in the United States. In fact, there's an American interstate highway that's known, within certain circles, to be a main artery for sex trafficking.
With over 27 million people around the world forced into modern-day slavery, and many of them trapped in various forms of sexual slavery, the Southern Baptist Convention's International Missions Board President David Platt said Wednesday that only the Gospel has the power to eradicate the slavery epidemic.
Speaking at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's national conference on The Gospel & Politics in Nashville, Tennessee, Platt, like many others, admitted he once thought the issue of slavery was a "relic of a bygone era" before his time.
Platt, who's also a New York Times bestselling author, explained that he held that assumption until he visited Nepal and witnessed how countless girls were being exploited in prostitution on the streets and in "cabin" restaurants in Kathmandu, where customers come in, eat, and take little girls upstairs and rape them.
Often, girls are raped over 10 to 15 times a day with little hope of their salvation on the horizon.
Platt told the story of Malia, a girl from the Himalayan mountains who was first trafficked when she was 9, after a strange man duped her mother into letting him take Malia to Kathmandu so that she could work for him and earn money to send back to her family.
Platt said the trafficker told Malia's mother that she would only be doing work similar to what she was doing around the house, but would earn way more money to support the family.
Despite the promises made to her mother by the friendly man who visited her mountain home, Malia was forced into sexual slavery, never saw her family again, and her family never received any of the money that was promised to help them survive.
"For the first time in my life, I came face-to-face with the horrifying reality of what happens in those mountains, and heard story after story of girl after girl," Platt said. "When I got back to the city of Kathmandu, I walked past restaurant after restaurant with slaves waiting outside, and cubicles inside. I saw where Malia once lived, I saw where Malia now works and no matter how hard I try, I can't get the sights out of my mind."
Although many Americans think sexual slavery is a problem that doesn't exist in the U.S., Platt asserted that such a thought is naive and stated that trafficking victims are shipped back and forth all the time on American highways.
"I flew back from Nepal and I landed in Atlanta and I drove to my home in Birmingham, Alabama, where I was living on Interstate 20. Growing up, going up and down this interstate that spans all the way to West Texas, I had no idea that it was known as the 'Sex Trafficking Super Highway of the United States,'" Platt said. "The same road that represents freedom for 10 million travelers every year, reflects a reality of slavery for countless girls every night right here where we live. It changes your perspective to realize that the man and the woman at the table next to you at the rest stop may not be what you once thought."
Although Platt emphasized that more people are enslaved throughout the world today than at any other point in human history, the one thing that could possibly destroy the slavery epidemic is the heart-transforming power of the Gospel, which Platt said is the only thing that can give hope to the abused and transform the evil hearts of the abusers.
"How do we fight slavery like this, here and around the world? There are no easy answers to questions about slavery, no simple solutions to the epidemic problem," Platt asserted. "Yet, I am deeply convinced that the Gospel alone provides the depth of perspective alteration and heart transformation needed to eradicate slavery."
"In short, fighting slavery begins with believing the Gospel, seeing that the good, Holy and loving Creator God alone is the owner of all people," Platt added. "Fighting slavery continues with applying that Gospel and living the truth that all people have been made in the image of God and thus are to be esteemed and never enslaved."
The Gospel calls on believers to "pursue" trafficked victims, traffickers and those who purchased the services of the trafficked victims, and preach to them about how Christ died for our sins and salvation, Platt said.
"Fighting slavery requires that we proclaim the Gospel, that we do all we can to tell the utterly hopeless that ultimate hope is found in Jesus Christ, which leads to the shocking reality that the Gospel addresses slavery," Platt explained. "Literally, the Bible says that Jesus became a slave of humanity in order to save humanity. This is the essence of the Gospel, the climax of the Christian message is that the Master over the world has become a slave."
"In this way the Gospel reveals what or rather who the Malia's of the world most need. In that Cabin restaurant on the other side of the interstate, they don't need news of gods who condemn them in their sin and provide requirements for their salvation," Platt continued. "They and other girls like them, by the time they become adults, will have been raped repeatedly, thousands of times. They don't need a king who is waiting for them to come to him. They need a Saviour who pursues them, a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to search for the one."