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Posts Categorized: Araminta Freedom Initiative

#ICYMI: Top 10 Facebook posts of 2015

2015 top 10#10: Baltimore takes stand against human trafficking (5/20/2015)

#9: 3 Baltimore strip clubs raided in human trafficking investigation (6/27/2015)

#8: Child trafficking happening here and pediatricians need to be alert, experts say (12/1/1/2015)

#7: Warren Brown talks about his son’s arrest on human trafficking charges , featuring Araminta Certified Volunteer Stephanie McKew (3/23/2015)

#6: Selling American girls (12/17/2015)

#5: 50 Shades of Gray (2/12/2015)

#4: Police, schools warn of dangerous apps (12/7/2015)

#3: When sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens (12/14/2015)

#2: Operation Cross Country (10/14/2015)

#1: I was 17 when my boyfriend sold me for sex (12/19/2014)

 

Christmas Past, Present, and Future

advent candles, all lit including Christ candle Merry Christmas John 1 5Joy to the world, indeed, for the Lord has come…and He has come as a child.When Jesus later directed His followers to “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them” (Mt. 19:14), He did so knowing what it was to be a child in this world. The Eternal One came into time, and had His own mixed past, present, and future experiences.

[F]or it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself… 

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As we celebrate Christmas with those we serve at Araminta, Charles Dickens’beloved Christmas novella is close to my heart. I am reminded that Dickens himself was a victim of trafficking, forced to labor as a child to pay off his parents’ debt. He stated that he never lost memory of the “sense of being utterly neglected and hopeless.”

Surviving this hardship, he used the power of his pen to stand on behalf of marginalized children with his compelling writing. Regardless of his Christmases Past, the beauty of Dickens’ message lies in the hope of Christmas Present and Future.

Christmas Present

On Sunday, we sat surrounded by the joyful sounds of laughter and exclamations of glee at Christmas wishes fulfilled. We observed sweet moments of tenderness and words of affirmation exchanged between mentors and mentees and among survivors.

One survivor encouraged a younger girl, “You can do this. When it’s hard, remember you can make it. I’m here for you. We all are.”

Our first Araminta Christmas party for the survivors in our mentor program, creating community, family, and a place of belonging, is a hope fulfilled in this Christmas present.

However, this Christmas Present still echoes of Christmases Past.

Christmas Past

“I don’t know how to celebrate Christmas.”

Words of a survivor haunted by Christmases past. Christmases stolen.

Through tears of vulnerability, she shared how hard the holidays are, bringing painful memories of years shuffled through the foster care system without family, wishes never coming true, and enduring abuse at the hands of a trafficker who promised her the family she so desired.

But this Christmas, she learns to celebrate, surrounded by her mentor and Araminta volunteers, who are helping her establish new traditions. She celebrates this Christmas Present, as she understands His presence.

Christmas Future

As I grieve for their Christmases Past, knowing too well it is the present Christmas of too many children, I dream of a Christmas future. A Christmas morning in the not-so-distant future, when children will awaken to a Christmas morning in their Araminta group home. A home where family, hope, joy, and peace are their Christmas Present.

Thank you for being a part of the Araminta family,
and during this Christmas and all future ones to come,
may He “fill you with all joy and peace.” (Ro. 15:13)

Merry Christmas Joy to the World in script lettering on red background

Hoping in Confident Expectation

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” –Heb 11:1

ADVENT4As we come to the close of this Advent season, we turn to the expectant hope Araminta upon which was founded – the hope for a region in which every child is free from human trafficking.

The hope that we have for this is not the same hope as the hope it won’t rain tomorrow, but comes from the meaning of standing in confident expectation. We have a confident expectation that this region will no longer be a place in which the trafficking of children is allowed to take place.

At times as we wade into the darkness of this issue, it is hard to imagine how we can stand in expectation of a region without human trafficking. An issue riddled with so much sin and complexity, it almost seems unimaginable that the trafficking of children could be eradicated.

Yet we at Araminta stand in expectation that it may not be tomorrow, or next week, or even next year, but that we will see the Baltimore region free of child sex trafficking, and we will see it in this generation.

The only way we can stand in that expectation is because of our faith. We serve an amazing God who can do things “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Eph. 3:20)

When we look at Hebrews 11, we see heroes of faith who saw God do amazing, unimaginable things. From Moses and the parting of the Red Sea and the deliverance of the Israelites, to Abraham becoming the father of many despite a barren older wife, to the New Testament stories of Paul and Silas being freed from prison, we have assurance that our God is capable to fulfill even more than what we stand for in expectation.

One of our favorite songs at Araminta is Sara Groves’ “All the Saints.” She sings, “Oh, let me be one of them,” listing in the lyrics not only the heroes of faith described in Hebrews 11, but others through the ages, including our namesake, Harriet Tubman.

We know that each of you – our faithful community giving of your time, energy, resources, prayers, and more – are saints standing with us in expectation for how God can move and see a region in which Araminta, defender, is no longer needed, for all will be made whole.

As this Advent season comes to a close, we know that so much of this world is not how God has intended for us to live but, as those called according to His purpose, we can work toward making the Baltimore region His Kingdom “on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Mt. 6:10)

We hope in confident expectation that one day the great injustice of child sex trafficking will be eradicated.

Prepare the way of the Lord…then what?

advent candles with three lit and isaiah 12 7Last week in our Advent reading we were told to prepare the way of the Lord. This week, John goes further, telling us in Luke 3:8 to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

John refers to the entire crowd as a ‘brood of vipers’; neither gently nor patiently, he points out the crowd’s hypocritical and self-righteous ways. His message is clear: your association with a great and powerful religion is not enough. Faith in the right object, the case for most of the crowd standing before John, is not enough. This faith must produce action.

John goes on, this time with grace and patience, and talks about what kinds of fruit are produced when our faith is in keeping with repentance. He makes a connection for the crowd between economic issues, social injustices, and spiritual issues: Do you own two shirts? You have more than you need. Do you have food? Give some away. If you make money at the expense of others (e.g. tax collectors), don’t take more than the minimum. Be content with your wages.

Where are we seeing fruit in our work with Araminta?

Recently, a woman who has a ministry to victims of child sex trafficking told Araminta staff, “There is something different about every survivor I work with who receives services from Araminta; they have HOPE in their eyes.”

Hope.

This hope results in part from the prayers, the tangible acts of kindness, the daily sacrifices of each volunteer effort on behalf of the survivors we serve. Hope matters!

One of our mentees recently expressed the following gratitude for Araminta:

What I am thankful for with Araminta is that I have people who care. People are there no matter what. You at Araminta stay, and you are still here.

You care and you stay – actions that speak volumes to those whose relationships have too often been marked by exploitation and neglect.

While we serve in an area where one can easily get overwhelmed with the darkness, the words and picture of John the Baptist offer us a perspective on the source of our staying power and the reality of our mission.

Christmas morning comes with a blessing – New Life – and with a privileged burden to produce fruit. We see in our daily interactions that evidence of the New Life of Christmas morning making a difference in the reality of the lives of the survivors we serve. We see it in each of our mentor / mentee pairs and in the women we have helped move into their first homes.

Ultimately, the message John preached was one of freedom: we who have been given the gift of New Life are motivated to share what we have. No longer motivated by greed and the law, we are to freely give what we have freely received. (Mt. 10:8) This is what we witness in the working out of the mission and vision of Araminta: manifestations of Grace and Hope and New Life.

In that day you will say:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.” (Isaiah 12:4)

When Expectation Doesn’t Seem to Come to Fruition

advent candles with two lit for second sunday of adventIn the gospel texts for this second Sunday of Advent, we see John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for the Lord. (Lk.1:68-79, 3:1-6) He was prepared and expectant, ahead of his time, but his end was jail and death.

Even those who took John’s message to heart often expected of Jesus an earthly kingdom and freedom from oppression in their lifetime – a hope that ended in bitter disappointment when this Messiah they would make king suffered the humiliating death of a common criminal.

So what are we to do when the expectation that Advent calls us to doesn’t seem to come to fruition?

On this day 150 years ago, the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, officially banning slavery, and yet modern-day slavery still exists. Earlier that year, upon passage of the amendment in the U.S. Congress, Frederick Douglass rightly declared:

Slavery has been fruitful in giving herself names … and it will call itself by yet another name; and you and I and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume.

In any of its forms, we know this is not God’s intention for His creation, and so we prepare and expect the Year of the Lord’s Favor, as outlined in Isaiah 61, proclaiming good news, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom and release from darkness, comforting all who mourn. In this time, He promises “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.”

We at Araminta stand in expectation of a region free of trafficking. We recognize that this can only become a reality as we walk humbly with our God in His timing and provision.

As we continue in this spirit of preparation and expectation, recognizing that God’s hand in history usually does not look like we anticipate, may we realize with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  that “[t]he answer lies in…our acceptance of finite disappointment even as we adhere to infinite hope.” (Shattered Dreams, sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 1959)

When God first freed His people, they knew their destination was the Promised Land, but the journey was not what they expected. Perhaps this is the first model of trauma-informed care! Too often we are focused on the destination when God is focused on the journey and relationship that prepares us for His ultimate destination.

Indeed, the author of Hebrews reminds us that this earthly destination was a promise seemingly unfulfilled for generations on end:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. …All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13)

Returning to the ultimate preparer, we see John the Baptist, when in prison, sending his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Mt. 11:3 / Lk. 7:19) Jesus’ response points not to the earthly kingdom some expected, but to God’s kingdom made manifest on this earth through restoration.

May we continue in this path of preparing the way of the Lord, that we all will be ready for His second coming, which we eagerly anticipate!

Advent: A Season of Preparation and Expectation

ADVENT1On this first Sunday of Advent, we reflect on this season as one of preparation and expectation. We celebrate Christ’s first advent as a babe born in a manger and continue to prepare with great expectation His second coming.

But lest we become “so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good,” Christ Himself teaches us how we are to wait when, in His model prayer, He entreats, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt. 6:10)

This kingdom, then, is not simply an other-worldly future existence, but a current state of bringing earth in line with heaven.

What if all the preparation we pack into the month of December was how we lived year-round?

What if the expectation was that of the psalmist, who said, “Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. “ (Ps. 25:5)

What if in preparation for His second coming, we lived out His will on earth now, allowing Him to make us “increase and abound in love for one another and for all”? (1 Th. 3:12)

We stand on the shoulders of some of the most heavenly-minded people, who recognized that God had a current work for them to do in making this earth a more just place for His creation here and now.

A private faith that does not act in the face of oppression is no faith at all. –William Wilberforce

I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. –Harriet Tubman

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received. –Mother Teresa

We are so thankful for our volunteers and supporters who continue to model for us how to be a part of seeing His “will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

In this season, we at Araminta stand in expectation of what God will do in the eradication of human trafficking, and are thankful for what He has already done. Throughout this season of advent, we will be sharing ways that we are standing in expectation to see how God will move.

This advent, let us celebrate Christ’s first coming, and continue to prepare in eager expectation for His second coming. Happy Advent!

5 Years

Has it really been 5 years? 

screen shot of founders video with youtube play button overlay

Watch founders recount our first time
of discernment together

Other videos available on our YouTube channel:

5 years from the day I sat in a room with the seven other founders of Araminta and resolved to stand against the injustice of child sex trafficking? 

In some ways, that day seems like just yesterday, and in other ways, it seems much further in the past. 

When I look back on that first day of discernment October 30, 2010, I remember there was an unspoken knowing in the room. We knew we were not committing to something we felt on a whim. This was not just another cause that would have our attention for a short while and fade away. This was something God would ask us to give our whole heart and commitment to.

Your sufferings have been the theme that has arrested and engaged my heart…Your sufferings no tongue can express, no language impart… God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of society.

—William Wilberforce 

Looking to the great abolitionists of the past, their words and actions at once captured our hearts, and compelled us to act. These abolitionists had spent their lives in dedicated service to see the end of the slave trade, and yet as we came together five years ago, the reality remained that there were more slaves in the world than at any previous time in history. 

5 years ago, there was a deafening silence around the issue.
5 years later, tens of thousands of Marylanders have heard the truth and are using their voices to break the silence. 

5 years ago, we knew God’s people were being called to step out in service.
5 years later, 350+ people have become certified volunteers with Araminta, and represent more than 60 churches. 

5 years ago, the trafficking of a child was not legally considered child abuse in Maryland.
5 years later, the trafficking of a child is included in our state’s child abuse laws. 

5 years ago, traffickers in Maryland were allowed to keep the money they made from the sale of others.
5 years later, their assets are seized. 

5 years ago, teachers were not trained on how to recognize the signs of child trafficking.
5 years later, Araminta partners with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to bring comprehensive training and reporting reform to Maryland schools. 

5 years ago, many survivors walked alone in their restoration.
5 years later, a survivor stands surrounded by Araminta volunteers in her new home, as they pray over her new beginning.
5 years later, a survivor works with her mentor to apply for college.
5 years later, a survivor uses her voice to testify against her trafficker, wearing the clothes provided to her by Araminta donors while her Araminta advocate sits in, witnessing her bravery.
5 years later, Araminta founders and board gather to pray at the property they believe will next year house child victims of trafficking. 

5 years later, we look back on the road behind us with deep gratitude and we look forward to the road ahead with great expectation. 

In another 5 years, I believe we will be celebrating
5 years of lives changed in our home for survivors!

I am encouraged by Wilberforce’s commitment to seeing his mission through. It took 40+ years, but 3 days before his death, he saw the abolition of slavery in England. May we continue in our work with the same resolve…

Until Every Child Is Free

2015 Maryland Human Trafficking Legislation

This week is an important week for MD human trafficking legislative lobbying. As a Maryland citizen, you have a voice and can use it to bring freedom to victims of human trafficking.

Lend Your Voice

The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force is supporting several pieces of crucial legislation that will be heard in committee this week.  Professional members of the Task Force will be providing testimony in support of the legislation in committees. And we need to tell our representatives that we want their support of these bills. 

Here is the schedule of the hearings.  Please call or write your representatives this week and urge them for their support.

Tuesday, March 3rd:
HB 905 (Trafficking as an Affirmative Defense, with Necessity Defense)- House Judiciary Committee (MD Issue Brief Affirmative Defense)
HB 456 (Safe Harbor Working Group)- House Judiciary Committee (MD Safe Harbor Brief)
SB 521 (Safe Harbor Working Group)- Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee

Wednesday, March 4th:
SB 520 (Trafficking as an Affirmative Defense, without Necessity Defense)- Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee

Friday, March 6th:
SJ 3 (Honoring HT Victims During WWII)- Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee (Senate Joint Resolution 3- Honoring Victims)

Thank you for using your voice for those whose voices are not heard.

October Volunteer Spotlight – Tara

“I’m not law enforcement or a social worker. Is there really anything I can do to end human trafficking?” We often hear this from members of the community, who become passionate to see trafficking end, but do not know if there is a place for them in this work. At Araminta the answer is a resounding, YES, we need everyone and that includes YOU!”

Our greatest resource is our volunteers. We have volunteers from all different backgrounds, professions, and each have been inspired to join Araminta in a different way. Each volunteer contributes to furthering Araminta’s mission using his or her own strengths and gifts. We know that our mission to see the end of domestic minor sex trafficking will require the entire community coming together and taking a stand. Our volunteers and supporters have given so much to this mission and we are so thankful for them.

Each month, we highlight the story of volunteer that has joined us in our mission. Their story may be the beginning of your story becoming a part of Araminta.

Meet Tara, AEM Training Team Coordinator

Tara 1Tara was part of Araminta’s first volunteer training in March of 2012. She quickly became an integral part of our Awaken Equip Mobilize (AEM) training team and is currently the team coordinator for AEM training. If that wasn’t enough, Tara has been competing in various running, triathlons, and swims throughout the year.  During 2014 Tara has completed (or will complete): 4 open water swims (including a 9 and 10 mile swim!), a 5k, a 10K, a sprint triathlon and a winter indoor tri relay as the swimmer.  She has used these races as a platform to raise awareness about domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and raised almost $1,000 for Araminta.  When asked why she swims and fundraises, Tara answered, “The victims of DMST that I volunteer with Araminta for, that Araminta exists for, have had freedom stolen from them. When I swim in open water the feeling is almost indescribable but freedom is pretty accurate. No lane lines, no walls to stop or turn at, just water and sky. The symbolism of that action in contrast with those who cannot just go is why I keep going… Everyone doesn’t have to, nor can, swim for 5 hours in the ocean. But nearly everyone can give $20. My pitch is I’ll do the swimming if you do the giving. Do what you can is the clear message.“

How do you volunteer with Araminta?

I am the AEM Training Coordinator working with a volunteer team on curriculum design and logistics to equip future volunteers with the information and tools necessary to volunteer with Araminta in many different ways.

What fundraising races have you done?  How close are you to your goal?

I filled my year with races this year, so far 6 events have been completed including 3 open water swims, a 5k, a sprint triathlon and a winter indoor tri relay as the swimmer. All of these have been in support of Araminta through raising awareness and funds. I’m close to hitting the $1,000 raised mark through 20 different donors from all across the country.

Why did you decide to do all of these races?

It started with one goal of completing the Chesapeake Bay 4.4 mile swim in June, which included work last year to qualify. As I researched other open water swims for the rest of the year, a 10 mile river swim October 4th caught my eye as a new kind of challenge. I had to apply in the winter and I did not expect to be selected to participate in the inaugural event in Richmond. When I got the email that I had been selected my jaw dropped. At that point the longest distance I had completed in an open water event was 1 mile. But this year the plan was to go from that 1 mile to 3 miles in May, 4.4 miles in June, 9 miles in July and then the 10 miler in October. It’s going to be a crazy adventure for sure.

What motivates you to do the fundraising races and how do you share your passion with those you are asking to give?

The victims of DMST that I volunteer with Araminta for, that Araminta exists for, have had freedom stolen from them. When I swim in open water the feeling is almost indescribable but freedom is pretty accurate. No lane lines, no walls to stop or turn at, just water and sky. The symbolism of that action, in contrast with those who cannot just go, is why I keep going. For many of the people I reached out to for support, hearing about DMST was news. Over the months of emails and social media posts, I’ve made anyone reading the information at last aware that this is happening here. For some of them giving financially has been the next response. Everyone doesn’t have to, nor can, swim for 5 hours in the ocean. But nearly everyone can give $20. My pitch is I’ll do the swimming if you do the giving. Do what you can is the clear message.

Why do you volunteer with Araminta?

When I attended the very first action night I already knew I wanted to be a part of the mission. Hearing the mission statement, “As we ourselves cease all active and passive participation in the many forms of the exploitive sex industry” – accountability for our own actions, specifically PASSIVE – struck a chord with me. We all have to do our part to move the mission forward and never settle for just ok.  Beyond the mission statement as someone who works with Diversity and Inclusion focused initiatives in my full time job, the unifying principle of “Provide a platform for unity among all those who join in the effort” was a cementing statement for me. As a Christian, I have very strong beliefs that I base decisions on but I am keenly aware that my foundation is not the same as everyone else. Recognizing that and stating it as a principle for the organization was something else I could easily stand behind. Having been aware of human trafficking in the states on a very basic level for several years, it wasn’t until Araminta that I knew the breadth of the issue in our own neighborhoods.

I had recently completed time volunteering with conferences and conventions in the northeast and was looking for a way to plug into a non-profit locally that I could really whole heartedly support the mission and vision of and that could use me. The timing was perfect as my event management and training and curriculum design backgrounds could fit with the volunteer training team. The past 2 years have gone by quickly but we’ve been able to do so much. But of course there is still plenty of work to still be done. The planning and moving forward never stops.

What is your favorite part of being a volunteer?

It’s the “aha” moments I get to see while I sit in the back of training. Sometimes it’s from another member of training team listening in on a session for the 3rd time and something new hits them. Other times it’s from the future volunteers realizing what we are doing isn’t just a “pie in the sky” dream but a real mission with teeth to it that will mean their grandchildren may be reading about DMST in their history books as a thing of the past in Maryland.

We are so thankful for Tara and all that she has contributed to Araminta! If you would like to become a certified volunteer with Araminta, our next training session starts Oct. 23rd. Registration is now open at: https://aramintafreedom.org/volunteer-training/

Slavery Has a New Name

Frederick_Douglass_c1855“They would not call it ‘slavery’, but some other name. Slavery has been fruitful in giving itself names… and it will call itself by yet another name; and you and I and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume…” – Fredrick Douglas (speech at 32nd Annual Meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, May 10, 1865)

The great abolitionist predicted that slavery would always exist, even if it needed to change its name. 130 years later we now know what form slavery has taken. In Maryland, it has taken the form of human trafficking of our US children.

It is hard to believe that this still takes place on our soil, but the Department of Justice estimates that approximately 300k children are at risk for child trafficking into the commercial sex each year. Just a month ago the FBI rescued 168 children from trafficking and 2 of those were here in Baltimore. In the past year, 62 children have been identified as victims of trafficking. And we know we are just scratching the surface of the number of children who are exploited here in our state.

Araminta’s mission is to awaken, equip, and mobilze our community to end the trafficking of children in our state. So we engage our community in several ways. First we do prevention and intervention seminars with adults who can intervene on behalf of exploited children or those at most risk. We do this through the school system and have trained nearly 1500 educators and student service workers to intervene on behalf of their students. We also work with hotels to keep the exploitation of children out of their business and create traffic free environment. And we provide services for the children who have been rescued to walk beside them as they rebuild their lives and provide for their needs.

When Maryland voted to join the Union and fight against slavery, we were called “the First Redeemed.” We want to be that again. We want to be the first to end the modern day slavery of children. But we can’t do it without our entire community standing together. We believe there will be a day when those who would exploit realize that they are no longer welcome in Maryland because the people simply won’t allow it.