By Stan Friedman
MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA (April 7, 2014) — Victims of trafficking now being restored through ministry of the Covenant Church of Colombia were among the presenters last month during a 10-day conference “United Against Human Trafficking and Abuse” (Unidos Contra el Trato Humano y el Abuso) that was held here and in a remote region of the country.
They told harrowing stories of abuse as well as the hope they are now finding on their road to recovery. Students from North Park Theological Seminary as well as members of the Covenant Church of Mexico joined the Colombians as participants.
A variety of themes were addressed including creation and gender, causes and consequences of human trafficking, connections between abuse and human trafficking, the role of the family in preventing human trafficking, healthy sexuality, self-deception, and cultures and context.
Human trafficking is a thriving business in the country. Raising awareness and providing education on ways to combat it is crucial, organizers said.
The first two days of the conference were held in Medellín, a city of two million people; Monteria, a city of 450,000; and the remote community of La Ye de Sahagun, with a population of just 500.
La Ye was chosen because a Covenant congregation meets there but also because the community is located at a crossroads of two major highways where trafficking, prostitution, and abuse issues are continually prevalent.
Participants visited an elementary school and high school, where they met with students on the theme of human trafficking and abuse. Discussion included warning the students about how traffickers often use social media to lure their victims.
The Covenanters also met with the high-school faculty during a special session. “This was definitely a highlight of the trip as this kind of interaction and input at this school and in this community had never been experienced before,” Covenant missionary Gary Sander, said.
“It was a powerful time for participants themselves to receiving healing in different areas of their lives,” said Covenant missionary Julio Isaza.
“The lives of everyone involved were definitely changed as the intense focus of the theme played itself out,” Sander said. “The hope is to continue to build on this theme, and, within a couple of years, be back here again to continue.”
One of the Covenant ministries that continues in Medellín is Valuable Women in the Hands of Jesus, Sander said. It reaches out to women and girls in bars in an attempt to help them get out of the lifestyle.
Planning for the trip began in March of 2013, when seminary professor Paul DeNeui, Covenant missionary to Mexico Janice Kelly, and Mexico Covenant Church pastor Ernesto Lopez traveled to Colombia and met with representatives of the national church and missionaries.
Stopping slavery is a daunting task, and progress is difficult and slow, Sander said, but he added, “We are hoping that the human condition will not grow numb to the focus on human trafficking and abuse and that this can serve us here in Colombia, in Mexico, and in the U.S. as the Covenant works to eradicate this from being an accepted part of society.”