By: Cecilia Lopez
The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action, liberation from slavery or restraint- or from the power of another.
When we think of freedom we often categorize the word within our nation's history. In a time we do not know, and have yet to realize. Our minds just cannot think of a time in our generation, in our precious country, when a group of people where sold as property, kept in conditions that were less than par, and without any choice to make on their own accord.
What if I told you that there are more people enslaved today, than ever before in world history?
What if I told you that these enslaved people are among us, each and every day?
According to A21.org there are millions of slaves in the world today. More than ever before in human history, and only 1% of victims are ever rescued.
I'm sure that by now, you are a little confused and not real sure what I am talking about. Let me explain because these are the statistics that shook me to my core. These are the statistics that were engraved in my mind and in my heart for months, before I decided to be a part of the solution. And like you, I was confused. I just couldn't understand, and sometimes I still struggle with these numbers.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. It is considered to rank among the top three in biggest organized crimes in the world. Up there with drugs and weapons.
In 2015, I joined a Walk for Freedom in Killeen, TX. Four hours from San Antonio, where I reside. A21 is a global organization in the fight against human trafficking internationally. They have twelve offices around the world, two in the U.S. As part of spreading awareness on this issue, they have a global event called a Walk for Freedom. It happens all over the world, on the same day. For a period of twenty-four hours there is a new walk starting every five mins somewhere around the world. It's a very powerful, and moving event. My first experience with this walk was in Killeen. There was nothing closer to San Antonio. I couldn't understand that.
I drove the four hours in anticipation to join with abolitionists at this walk and make a difference. Not really knowing what to expect. As I drove home, I was so impressed with the young lady who hosted the walk. She was a senior in high school. The school she attended required a major project before graduation. She mentioned her classmates were putting on walks for breast cancer, and other types of events. She'd met Christine Caine, the founder of A21 a few summers before at a church camp where she was a guest speaker. She remembered being heart broken by what Christine described on the topic of human trafficking, and thought that the Walk for Freedom would be the perfect event she would host for her project. Impressed by her, and with some help from the Holy Spirit, I knew I was called to do the same in my city.
In 2016, without knowing how everything was going to play out, I decided I would not only host the Walk for Freedom in my city, but I would also start an A-Team [Abolitionist Team]. I met so many people who would become great friends, and help me accomplish this goal I had set out to do. There were some bumps in the road, but overall, we put on a wonderful event. We had a few shy of 300 participants. The impact on so many people was just overwhelming.At this point, we knew we had to do it again.
My goal of hosting a walk turned into creating a non-profit organization, becoming a part of AACAT [Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking], having many allies in this fight against trafficking, and being a part of the Super Bowl Justice Rally in 2017.
As a team, we set out to begin the planning for 2017 Walk for Freedom. From the onset, things were rough. Planning was not easy. There were many pieces that had become so difficult, so expensive, and so unexpected. We prayed throughout the year, that somehow everything would work out. As the day approached, things seem to fall into place. There were a few loose ends we had to prepare for. The day finally arrived and with anticipation, we gathered.
The morning started a little rough. There were a few things that transpired that added worry and weight on my heart. As the walk began, and there were things happening both during the walk and back at the park where we began, that were out of our control. I remember praying as I walked- ' Lord, cover this event with your peace. Settle my heart. Be here with us. Let your grace cover us.'
As we finished the walk, we had a live band playing worship music with songs geared toward freedom. My heart rejoiced, and I was quickly reminded that no matter what was transpiring all around, the goal of our event was being fulfilled.
As I met with several people after the event, including our guest speaker, when I heard someone say they thought there was a survivor walking this walk with us. My heart stopped for a second. At the moment, the only words I could think were: 'We did this for her! She was THE ONE!'
After I went home, those words just resonated in my mind and in my heart. I became undone. In the quietness of my time in prayer, I opened my heart and every tear that I'd held. Every worry I'd kept inside. Every fear I had. Were now soothed over by the realization of what had just occurred. That day our ONE was in the midst of our cause. The ONE we fight for. The ONE we pray for. The ONE we walk for.
She was there.
I still get emotional telling that story. All of the trouble we went through all year, even the day of....had now made sense. We have a very real enemy who will stop at nothing to make sure we do not see anyone saved. Today, we not only walked for the ONE. We walked WITH the ONE. Side by side, declaring that freedom rings, and Jesus saves. Today, our enemy didn't win. Freedom did. Freedom will always win- and we are here to make sure of it. We are modern-day abolitionists, Freedom Chasers.
Definition of Freedom: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedom & http://www.dictionary.com/browse/freedom
Definition of Human Trafficking: https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html