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How We Got Started in The Fight Against Human Trafficking…

In January of 2013 missionary Lowell Hochalter asked me to go on a different kind of missions trip. He works for an organization called FREE International that works to prevent human trafficking and educate people on the issue. He told me that FREE had been invited to do a number of school assemblies in the New Orleans area. The reason was simple, the Super Bowl was happening there at the same time. He further educated me on the fact that the Super Bowl is the biggest time for trafficking to happen  in America. He even went on to tell me stories of children as young as eleven years old being sold at this time there. They couldn’t pay me but they desperately needed my help. I couldn’t say no. I brought my ticket to New Orleans that day and had no idea what was waiting for me a week later.

The minute I landed in NO I was rushed to a school to meet with the rest of the team and to do a school assembly program. When the assembly program started I knew this trip was going to change my life. In the school we heard stories of students dropping out of school and being coerced into trafficking already. Students that were only freshmen already being sold for sex. But, it wasn’t the school assembly programs that altered my wife and I’s future, it was what FREE did at night. Led by the founder, Micheal Bartel the team would go out on the streets of NO and literally look for underage girls and boys that were being sold. Working with law enforcement we had a booklet that had pictures of underage girls believed to be being sold in the area at that time. Page after page after page of someones daughter being caught in a industry that takes a way your freedom and makes you a slave. We did school assemblies and walked the streets looking for almost two weeks. There was a handful of success stories because of the work that we had done but I remember looking at the booklet at the end of our journey and seeing so many faces we hadn’t found yet. So much work that still needed to be done.

Getting on the plane to go back home I was reminded of my little girl, Gracie. She just turned one years old this past June. I was reminded of when I first held in her in my arms. Then to the first time I saw her smile and of course the first time I heard her laugh. I would do anything to protect her. I would only be a phone call away if she ever needed me. She is MY daughter and I am HER dad. I love her. I kept looking at the booklet of missing girls though and thinking “Who’s going to protect them? Who can they call?”. That’s when I knew my wife and I had to get involved. I couldn’t and I still can’t shake the question of, if it was my daughter Gracie who would go after her? Every time the answer is always “I would!” From that moment on I knew this was our fight to be apart of.

My Work With FREE…

FREE International has two sides. The find and rescue side that involves looking for underage trafficked victims across the country along with training on prevention. Then there is the education side that uses school assembly programs and community based events to help bring awareness to the issue and spread the word on what to do if your community might be effected by trafficking. Every member of FREE helps out where needed and both sides help in the Super Bowl outreach but I will be spending a good part of my time on the education part and jumping in on the searching and rescuing when I can.