Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you’re Joy Brooks, every day is a chance to raise awareness about the horror of modern-day slavery and trafficking. She started the organization Prayer For Freedom to call people to greater awareness and encourage prayer for change.
Human trafficking includes sex trafficking and labor trafficking. It’s estimated that 27 million people live in slavery today. Countries around the world, including the United States, are sites of origin, transit, destination and/or internal trafficking.
Joy spent several years working internationally with different mission and church organizations. In 2009, when she was living in Romania and teaching English as a second language, dance and other arts, Joy heard a presentation on human trafficking that changed the course of her life.
“I didn’t realize what I was seeing around me,” Joy said. “Slavery is visible and invisible. I began fasting and praying, listening to God and asking God what I could do to make a difference. I can pray, so I started praying. I can ask other people to pray, so I started asking other people to pray.”
Today Joy lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and along with prayer, her organization is committed to education about human trafficking and victim assistance and advocacy for survivors.
In 2011, Prayer For Freedom joined with other organizations to pass stronger state laws that emphasized prosecution of sex traffickers and third parties who are aware trafficking is taking place but do nothing to stop it. Another important piece of advocacy is supporting police training to teach officers to recognize trafficking and signs of trafficking and enforce laws against it.
Understanding slavery, responding with prayer and action
Many people think that modern-day slavery doesn’t affect them. That’s just not true, Joy said. Food, clothing, and other goods we purchase may have been harvested, sewn or built by slaves. Joy pointed to organizations like Slavery Footprint that not only educate people about human trafficking, but also help you calculate the slaves that are working for you — bringing you your daily cup of coffee, new laptop or sweatshirt.
Joy said she thinks most people would be surprised to know that the average cost of a slave — the purchase of a human being — is about $90. And the average age of a sex slave today is 13 for girls and 11 for boys, Joy said. These startling and troubling numbers reveal the vulnerability of hundreds of thousands of children and young people around the world. And for Joy, they point to the need for prayer and action.
“When you spend time in prayer, your heart changes and you become open to problems and becoming a part of the solution,” Joy said. “You pray about what you can do and take the next steps.”
And the next steps for Joy included becoming involved in victim assistance programs that help survivors of human trafficking. “It’s easy to see the problem and think you understand the answers, but working alongside survivors changes your perspective. They amaze you with their resilience.”
Joy volunteers with Mosaic Family Services in Dallas, Texas, an organization committed to helping survivors lessen trauma and find resources they need to move forward from their experiences. Mosaic provides case management and legal services. Prayer For Freedom provided Christmas gifts to Mosaic for survivors last year.
Joy’s understanding of compassion has changed as a result of her prayer focus on human trafficking survivors. “There’s a great need for compassion — the compassion that God has for us — because survivors need so much compassion to process what has happened to them,” Joy said.
By centering anti-human-trafficking work in prayer, Joy sees no limitations to what can be accomplished, and that means there’s no limitations to what might be changed in the person praying, too.
“I believe that prayer changes the world,” Joy said. The problem of human trafficking is so big — so huge — that if we ask God to change what God can change, then we can change anything. People’s hearts are changed through prayer. We are changed. And if we change, the world will change.
“At Prayer For Freedom,” said Joy, “we pray in community. Then I hear miraculous stories of change, victims who are rescued. The sad thing about it is that sometimes the answer to prayer is more prayer.”
And sometimes the answer is to keep moving. This year, Prayer For Freedom hopes to expand its work and travel internationally with volunteers who will work and pray with others about human trafficking and “give hope to people after such tragic events in their lives,” Joy said.
As Prayer For Freedom grows and the movement to end modern-day slavery expands, Joy invites others to join her in taking action and making time for prayer: “Everyone can pray for the end of human trafficking. No matter where you are with God, you can pray and God will open your heart.”