I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Cyntoia Brown case out of Tennessee that has gained national attention. Brown was granted clemency (mercy or lenience) on Monday, January 7 after serving 15 years in prison for killing the man who bought her in the human trafficking sex trade.
Brown killed the man when she was just a teen, yet she was tried as an adult and given life in prison that required a minimum of 51 years of service. After her case sparked national outrage, lawmakers in Tennessee revisited the case and treated her like a victim, rather than a perpetrator.
Here I sit, in my office in Oklahoma City. A city that is known for our sports teams, our new streetcar, and being one of the nation’s biggest cross roads for sex trafficking of women and children. But is this a topic we discuss and actively pursue how to bring about change? Sadly, for most Oklahomans, no.
Because of the central locations of Oklahoma in the United States, at the cross roads of Interstate 35, I-40 and I-44, Oklahoma City is a hotbed for one of mankind’s most despicable sins, human trafficking/modern day slavery.
A few reasons why Oklahoma is such a hotbed for human trafficking are: our incarceration rates, leaving children practically orphaned while their parents are in jail; the high-teen pregnancy rate, which feeds into the incarceration rate of parents, the vicious cycle of addiction passed down for generations because of the above mentioned problems and our location.
What can we, as the Church and body of Christ, do to combat these staggering facts? It’s going to take us getting out of our comfort zones, but I think, primarily, discipleship is a way to combat our state’s problem.
Join a mentoring program in which you can be paired up with a child whose parent or parents are incarcerated. These children need guidance and someone to look up to. Be that person for them. One program that has ample resources and ways to connect with prisoners and their families is the mentoring ministry through Prison Fellowship. This ministry is responsible for programs like Angel Tree during Christmas time.
Next, with Oklahoma having one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, I think it is clear what needs to change. People need Jesus. Jesus is the answer to all of our problems. He is the answer to government shut downs; He is the answer to legislation problems; He is the answer to addiction and He is the answer to a heart change that needs to happen among believers today.
Much like Brown was granted clemency, as Christ followers, we should be the first to offer mercy to the struggling and lost world. Share the Good News of healing, restoration, freedom from addiction and freedom from lives of slavery to sin.
Other steps to take to be positive change in our state include being alert and recognizing the signs and watching for behavior that looks out of place or abnormal. Not all indicators are present in every human trafficking situation. However, if you feel someone is in danger, always report it.
For help or to report suspected human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1/888/373-7888 or submit a tip online at www.ice.gov/tips.
I don’t know of her spiritual fate, but I am relieved that Brown was granted clemency and hopeful that the rest of the days of her life here on Earth are free from human trafficking. I am also hopeful that she can proclaim she is forgiven and set free, in more way than one.
Oklahomans, let’s do our part to bring about the winds of change in our state because human trafficking is not “OK.”