Third in the Country
It seems these days that there are lots of debates in our community about where Orlando stacks up compared to other places in the country. This conversation has been encouraged recently by our loss of a bid for the second Amazon headquarters and by a certain undefeated collegiate football team that has claimed for themselves the title of #1, national champion. How about this one:
Third in the country.
According to Florida Abolitionist and the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando is third in the country for the number of reports to the national human-trafficking hotline behind only Washington D.C. and Atlanta.
This number should be startling. It indicates how much trafficking is taking place right here in the City Beautiful, but it should also provide this glimmer of hope—people are reporting it. There’s some level of awareness and training that has equipped our citizens to read into their surroundings and shine light into darkness.
On the frontlines of this battle are Tomas Lares of Florida Abolitionist and Dee Coleman of Samaritan Village. Both of these organizations can be credited with raising awareness about the problem before us, though each approaches the fight differently: Florida Abolitionist with more focus on rescue and intake, and Samaritan Village with rehabilitation.
We were blessed to have Tomas and Dee join us at our quarterly FaithServes Forum this past Sunday for a presentation and panel Q&A. There is great work happening in Orlando, but there is also a long road ahead of us. Last September, Orange County approved two million dollars for the state’s first crisis-shelter for victims of human trafficking. Yet, in Orlando there are less than ten beds for long-term (12-18 months) rehabilitation and care, with Samaritan Village offering six of them.
The best way for First Pres to be involved is to give of our financial resources, social capital, and time in partnership with Florida Abolitionist and Samaritan Village, who are the experts in their field. One immediate way you can respond, right where you are, is to pray for the women and children who either have been rescued from their captivity or remain in need of rescue. Tomas indicates that the first 24 hours after rescue are critical. If you would like to be notified when someone in Central Florida has been rescued, text FA to 43506. For those who desire to be involved further, we encourage you to reach out to them directly to volunteer.
The reality of of this industry is that as long as there is a demand, human trafficking will be an issue. Our singular hope is this: Christ, who alone can redeem the sinful parts of our hearts that manifest with such evil. This is why the Gospel must go forth and we, with repentant hearts, do our part with ministry of the Word and partner with our brothers and sisters in deed.
Follow me for more information about Florida Abolitionist.
Follow me for more information about Samaritan Village.