This question encourages me because it acknowledges that trafficking is indeed a (huge, BTW) problem in the US. It also reveals a false dichotomy (either/or thinking where both/and is possible). But since it has come up, I would like to explain with 3 answers:
The Simple Answer
I feel “called” to the country of Thailand in general, and the city of Chiang Mai in particular. That answer may sound arrogant, ridiculous, or perfectly reasonable, depending on your perspective. But, it’s the simple truth. I prayed, then I listened. I had no previous connection to this city or country. Yet this specific location revealed itself in bizarre and undeniable ways.
The Strategic Answer
I read recently that “the further we are away from a problem, the more simple the solution looks”. This is certainly true of the incredibly complex problem of human-trafficking. As tempting as it sounds to suggest “obvious” answers (free the victims, lock up the bad guys), these actions do not address the underlying issues of supply and demand, struggling economies, undocumented minors, poverty, crime, lack of education, and corruption at all levels of business, government, and law enforcement. Add to these issues increasingly violent pornography, child pornography, and sexual crimes perpetrated by and against younger and younger children. All of this, to say nothing of deep questions of the heart: What of justice? Mercy? Love? Hope?
There are no easy answers. But there are strategies (individual, community, regional, and national) that can make a positive difference. It begins with asking questions, observing, and searching for truth. And this process can actually be easier (especially for a novice like me) in Thailand than in the US, for the simple reason that the problem is more “out in the open”. Trafficking is extremely prevalent in America, but also extremely well-hidden.
I certainly hope that in the future I can use what I learn in Thailand to make an impact on the trafficking problem in the US- whether in awareness, prevention, rescue, prosecution, or restoration.
The Spiritual Answer
One of the most transforming experiences I’ve had in the last 3 years has been working with Syrian refugee families in my hometown in NC. This is personal, not political. I don’t know what the best immigration policy is. But I don’t know how demonstrating compassion for the people who are here (as survivors of a horrific war) can make things worse. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they do not communicate with each other; they do not communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.”
There is indescribable joy in getting face-to-face with someone who is different from me, and trying to connect as human beings. It reminds us all that we bear the image of the same Creator. And I can’t think of anyone who needs to be reminded of his/her worth as a child of God than a victim of sexual violence. There is something powerful about delivering that message in person.