This July Fourth, remember the victims of sex trafficking

Independence Day concert at the U.S. Capitol, West Lawn in Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2015. | Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol Concerts

If you have ever been around my home city of San Diego on the July 4th, you know that the firework show over the bay is absolutely epic. The “Big Bay Boom” lives up to its name, with at least four firework displays occurring in harmony across the city. Each year, this loud display lights up the night sky, inviting everyone in the United States to reflect on freedom.

And this always gets me thinking. What are the firework displays in my life?

As Christians, we have been set free. John 8:36 tells us that whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed. And if we are truly free, our lives should loudly declare it. Not through grand displays of self-righteous behavior or a “look at me” attitude, but through serving one another. Check out Galatians 5:13:

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Given this, today I want to talk about a few practical ways that we can use our freedom to love and serve others who may not know that freedom yet. Specifically, I want to share about the reality of human trafficking and how you can actually make a difference through your life.

The truth about trafficking

Many of us did not really become aware of human trafficking until the movie “Taken” came out in 2009. Even then, trafficking seemed like somewhat of an extreme, distant reality. But what if I told you that both sex and labor trafficking are happening in your own backyard? What if I told you that it is happening in your neighborhoods … and even within your school system?

Not surprisingly, the pandemic accelerated the pervasiveness of human trafficking. According to the United Nations General Assembly in November of 2021, “the ongoing pandemic exacerbated existing risks and made larger groups of people vulnerable to poverty,” causing an increase in forced labor and online human trafficking. As vulnerability increased, so did the crime of trafficking.

Importantly, trafficking doesn’t always come in the forms we expect. In fact, it may look much different than the movie “Taken,” and it often does. As mentioned above, online trafficking has become pervasive in this digital age. That means that it could be happening right under our noses — on social media or in the public library. Labor trafficking is also pervasive, and this should cause us to pay attention to the products we buy and even the clothes we wear. The people being trafficked may not always be who we expect, either. Someone who attends school regularly, for example, may be experiencing forced sex labor in their home on the weekends.

I know this is heavy, but it is so important that we understand the magnitude of this crime. And it is incredibly important that we know that we can actually help by using the freedoms we have been afforded.

Practical ways to fight for freedom

There is this old expression: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That expression rings true when it comes to trafficking. Here are a few small things we can all do to see massive impact.

Get active and join the movement

This is something I’m really excited about. During the month of August, the San Diego Freedom Center is hosting a worldwide, end human trafficking movement campaign called “United for Freedom.”

Whether you are an avid walker or runner or prefer to get moving in a different way, you can help raise awareness about human trafficking and the San Diego Freedom Center by participating in “31 days of movement” through the United for Freedom movement campaign! Whatever form of movement you choose (walking, running, zumba, a plank challenge, etc.) you get to set your own goal or choose a team to partner with in fundraising to combat human trafficking.

Vote with your dollars

You may not know this, but many popular food products and clothing items are produced through unethical labor practices. That is why it is incredibly important for us to get educated and use our freedom of choice to purchase products that have supply chain transparency. When we spend our money, we are essentially saying “this is what I’m willing to support, and this is what I’m choosing to say no to.”

The Sweat & Toil app is an incredibly helpful tool to help with this. You can use it to scan an item in the grocery store to track where products came from. If you see something you don’t like, feel free to talk to the store manager. Managers typically want to keep their customers happy, so if they know they aren’t going to sell a product, they will pull it from the shelves.

Look for signs of human trafficking

Because human trafficking is happening all around us, it is helpful to be aware of some of the signs that someone may currently be in a trafficking situation. If you suspect that this may be the case, here are a few questions to ask: 1. Is this a child that has stopped attending school? 2. Does this person have bruises in various stages of healing? 3. Does this person appear to be coached on what to say? Remember that some people being trafficked may continue to lead relatively normal lives, so make sure to stay educated on the signs. You can read a more extensive list here.

Using our freedom to serve others

As we contemplate and celebrate our spiritual and physical freedom over the month of July, take a moment to pray and ask God what He would like you to do with that freedom. Christ set us free for something — so that we would use our freedom to serve each other out of love and grow in deeper levels of freedom each day through the Holy Spirit. Just like the fireworks over the San Diego Bay this July 4th, I hope your life loudly declares the freedom you have been given.

Miles McPherson is the Senior Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. He is also a motivational speaker and author. McPherson's latest book “The Third Option” speaks out about the pervasive racial divisions in today’s culture and argues that we must learn to see people not by the color of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.


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