Baldwin Baptists helping victims of sex, labor tradecomment (0)
March 13, 2014
By Bruce M. Sims
National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) is in the last year of a four-year emphasis on human exploitation. The educational resources, real-life stories and missions opportunities have helped Alabama Baptists grow in their knowledge of what is happening worldwide and statewide in this area.
Many Alabama Baptist groups and other state organizations have developed ministries to help counter the growing human trafficking business.
Baldwin Baptist Association is one Alabama Baptist group trying to make a difference through its Hope Haven shelter for victims of human trafficking.
“There are two main forms of human trafficking today ... labor and sexual,” said Donna Armstrong, director of Hope Haven, who recently spoke at First Baptist Church, Foley.
Labor trafficking happens when recruiters sell unsuspecting people in other countries on the idea of coming to the United States to participate in “the American Dream.”
Brazilian native Zenaide Bartholomew is one who fell victim to labor trafficking.
“We were told by this particular company that they would arrange our six-month work visas, provide for our welfare while we were here and would pay us $20 an hour, which in Brazil would be a small fortune,” she said.
But when Bartholomew arrived in south Baldwin County, she was told she owed rent and other expenses to the handlers.
“They told us it was no big deal as we would soon be making lots of money,” she said. “What I ended up doing was working three jobs, or approximately 120 hours a week, cleaning condos, working at restaurants and so forth.”
Bartholomew escaped, as did some who were with her, thanks to a couple who took them in when they learned of the situation.
In the sex trade business, the girls are controlled by fear, said Lee Krueger, Baldwin Association WMU promotions coordinator. The pimp threatens the girls’ families if they try to escape. He also “owns” the girl, so he can sell her anytime.
These sex rings are happening in Alabama, Krueger noted.
That’s why Baldwin Association started Hope Haven, Armstrong added.
“Our WMU not only saw a need for a shelter, but this is something that was laid on our hearts by the Lord,” she said.
Hope Haven provides a safe place for the girls and women coming out of a trafficking situation. They are fed, clothed and ministered to through Bible study and caring volunteers, but there isn’t an automatic trust, the leaders noted.
When the victims arrive, they have no light in their eyes, Krueger said.
“After they have been shown kindness and acceptance we begin to see a bit of a spark, which continues to grow as they heal,” she said.
“Some of the girls ask how God can forgive them considering the sins they have committed,” Krueger said. “We explain that there’s nothing that the Lord can’t do and that includes forgiving all of us for what we have done.
“It’s important for the girls to realize that they are victims of this terrible thing that has happened to them.”
For more information about Hope Haven, call 251-281-8467.