In a couple of months my daughter Laurel will embark on a courageous year of service to some of the most hurting people in the world in one of the most desperate places in the world. This will certainly be a life altering year for Laurel. She is in the process of raising support for this work with International Justice Mission. I have pasted below a copy of her letter, a story about a young victim of human trafficking, and support information. I post this (and tag some folks) mostly in the hope that people will pray for her, and also in hope that this note might get forwarded around, potentially connecting with those who may have interest in this ministry. Thank you for reading this.
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” – Psalm 10:17-18
"He wears a clean white shirt, is 40-something and paces outside the massage parlor in a seedier part of the city. He could be any man. A neighbor. A brother. A co-worker. 'Hello, sweetie,' the girl greets him from the doorway, as she's been taught. She has a quota to meet. If she doesn't, she'll be beaten or scorched with an iron by the person running this brothel......The man has no way of knowing—nor does he care—that this girl was trafficked into the city. He also doesn't know or care that this girl is guarded by a man with a gun at all times, is not allowed to speak to others, and is drawn, malnourished and exhausted. He peeks inside. Dim lights. Plenty of girls. What he can't see are the squalid living conditions upstairs, the fetid room with mattresses on the floor, the medication to induce abortions, the drugs to numb the emotional and physical pain of sexual trauma......'Come on in,' she invites him, wondering that if he has a daughter, would he want her far away from home, tricked into prostitution by promise of a good job? The girl forces a smile, takes him by the hand and ushers him inside. She is only 15 years old" (“Caged Birds” by Marielena Zuniga).
As hard as it is to believe, my four years at UNC-Chapel Hill came to an end in May when I received my degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. I wanted to look for an opportunity that enabled me to incorporate both my academic training and my faith. I could not get the issue of human trafficking off my mind, and stories like the one above made me want to help even more. Various conferences, conversations and convictions led me to discover the work of International Justice Mission (IJM), and I decided to apply for a Communications internship. I was so happy to receive a twelve month placement in South Asia, where I will be moving in late September to work in the fight against unprosecuted rape and forced prostitution.
It is hard to wrap my mind around these numbers, but the facts are sobering. According to a recent article in National Geographic, there are 27 million slaves in the world today, unseen and unheard by most of us in affluent nations. Worldwide, the total market of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion, more than the annual profit of Nike, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined (UNICEF). The brutal act of kidnapping children, some as young as 5 years old, and forcing them into sexual slavery is happening to 2 million new children every year (UNICEF). Trafficked girls are often allured with the promise of a good job. Some are kidnapped and drugged, only to awaken trapped in a brothel and forced to provide sex to customers up to 50 times a day. In some instances, these victims are sold by family members in order to pay medical bills or family debts. Police complicity often leaves these girls with no one to turn to for help.
International Justice Mission is a non-profit organization composed of Christian attorneys, social workers, criminal investigators and support staff. IJM investigators spend thousands of hours infiltrating brothels and uncovering the world of sexual exploitation. IJM staff then works with local authorities to lead police interventions and rescue victims from this horrific nightmare, placing them in safe homes where they receive aftercare and begin new lives of freedom. IJM lawyers work to secure the conviction and sentencing of brothel keepers and other perpetrators involved. The goal is address the root of the problem by prosecuting the perpetrators in local court systems and making a way for communities to make structural changes that can prevent such abuses in the future.
You can help. You can pray for the work of IJM in the fight against injustice and for the victims. And you can certainly pray for me. Please post the enclosed prayer card as a reminder.
You can also help support me financially. Because the internship is a volunteer position, I need to raise $20,200 to cover expenses such as airfare, visa fees, rent, meals and transportation—essentially all the costs associated with the assignment. This figure is daunting, and I would like to ask you to consider making a financial contribution. By making a tax deductible donation, you enable me to work with an organization that infiltrates some of the darkest places of human suffering to bring the light of hope to the desperate and hopeless victims of human trafficking. If you are able, you can mail a check to me, or you can give online easily by going to http://www.ijm.org/getinvolved/internshipsupport and selecting my name from a drop-down menu. Any amount will help me reach this goal, and all the details about providing financial assistance can be found on the following page.
Two years ago I would never have imagined that I would be writing this now. If you know me well, you are aware that this will be a challenging environment for me. Pray for me as I learn to adjust to life in a new and very different culture and manage my responsibilities there. I see this internship as a huge answer to my own prayers that God would give me a way to serve Him that would both use my gifts and take me to a place of real need. This is a life-changing opportunity for me to see and experience firsthand both abject poverty and unthinkable violence, but most importantly how God ensures that "the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish” (Psalm 9:18).
If you would like to receive regular updates of my time in South Asia, send your contact info to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t hesitate to call me at (336) 209-7284 if you have further questions or would like to meet in person to talk about it. I’ll be in touch in a few weeks to follow up with this letter and answer any questions you may have.
Manna's Story (from International Justice Mission)
Manna lived with her brother and was beaten by him on several occasions. When she was 14, she decided running away was her best option. Passing through the clutter and scuffle of a train station, a young woman noticed Manna crying and offered to help. She listened to Manna and won her trust, promising a job selling fabric. The woman led Manna to a place to rest and slept beside her that first night, but when Manna woke the woman was gone and another woman warned that her life was no longer her own. She would not sell fabric but her body. Manna refused her first three customers, but the brothel keeper pulled her hair, punched her and beat her repeatedly until she gave in to the men who had come to rape her. She tried to run away and even begged the men who raped her to rescue her or call the police. The nightmare continued for two years until another girl whom IJM had rescued led IJM operatives back to rescue more girls hidden in a soundproof dungeon. Manna was one of four young girls rescued from that dark place. She now lives in the freedom of an aftercare home that provides love, safety and schooling where she studies to become a social worker. IJM helped build a case against her brothel keepers. They were both convicted and sentenced in 2004 to five years rigorous imprisonment. With a smile that filled the room like sunlight Manna said, “I came to prison, but I am not alone. God took me from that place to here. I am requesting to God that like IJM saved me they will save even more. What is impossible for men is possible for God.”
There are several ways to give a tax-deductible* donation to IJM…
1) Give online using your credit card or debit card: The easiest and fastest way to give is to go
online to IJM’s website, www.ijm.org. Then scroll over the word “get involved” on the top of the page and click on “Internships & Fellowships.” From there, simply click on the link on the right hand side of the page for “Support an International Fellowship or Internship.” Alternatively, you can also follow this link:
In order for the funds to be counted towards my fundraising goal, you must select my name,
Laurel Gillespie, from the drop-down menu when you enter your donation information.
If you do not see my name in the designation menu, you can also type in my name in
the “Comments” box.
2) Set up monthly giving: Information about setting up monthly giving can be found on the link
3) Write a check: If you prefer to write a check, please make the check payable to “International
Justice Mission” and do NOT write my name anywhere on the check, including the memo
line. Instead, please attach the Donor Information Slip below with your check. Checks written
to IJM that have my name appear anywhere on the check will be returned to the donor. Checks
to IJM should be mailed directly to me, and I will forward the check to IJM’s headquarters.
Mail checks to:
106 East Keeling Road
Greensboro, NC 27410
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no
more.” – Psalm 10:17-18