What many know as the home of the Lemon Ice King and incredible ethnic food has become the home of something far more sinister. According to recent reports, “Queens, New York is emerging as an epicenter of human trafficking in the United States.” For instance, as you stroll though the neighborhood of Corona, you will walk by men passing out “chicka chicka” cards. Though this card seems harmless as you look at the bouquet of flowers on it, you realize that the number on the card connects you to a residential brothel in the neighborhood. Continuing to walk through the neighborhood, you see a white refrigerated van that drives by and stops on a side street. Upon closer inspection, you notice that there is a bed in the back of the van with a girl laying on it. If you continue to walk along Roosevelt Avenue you will find people walking the street and many massage parlors promising “happy endings” and “sensual massages.” This happens everyday in Queens. In Queens, like everywhere else, exploitation is hidden in plain sight. Though many of us avert our eyes, it doesn’t automatically disappear.

This is why we chose to have “Let My People Go” take place in Corona on August 24th.  “Let My People Go” is a movement in NYC to inspire and equip people, especially church and community leaders, to stand against the exploitation that is happening in their neighborhoods. With pastors, leaders, and interested community members in attendance, the panelists dealt with everything from the nature of human trafficking to the practical steps that the church and community can take to abolish it. The event began as Pastor Juan Carlos Suero testified to witnessing prostitution within blocks of his church. Raleigh Sadler pointed to the fact, that like Pastor Suero, all Christians must recognize what is taking place in our neighborhoods. He explained that “human trafficking is happening in every community in the world, but the Church is also in every community in the world. However, we will never care for the oppressed, if we don’t know that they exist.”

 Jonathan Walton explained that before we began doing social justice, we must first rely on the gospel. One “will never be able to testify to a freedom that they have never experienced,” he said. His point was that the Gospel of Jesus Christ not only models freedom but inspires the believer to see others set free both physically and spiritually. As Christians rest in the gospel and become better “stewards of their time, talent, and treasure,” they can fight human trafficking. For example, if people would not consume clothing and food that is produced by the hands of forced laborers, the demand would diminish. Walton’s point was simply that if the demand is weakened, the need for supply will cease. This is a tangible way that every believer can fight human trafficking.

However, a question lingered on the minds of those listening: “What happens to the victims of human trafficking?” Alyssa Moore pointed to the work that the Nomi Network is doing with caring for survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia and India. As these girls are given jobs making clothing which promotes human trafficking awareness, they are given marketable skills that provide the framework for their personal restoration. Jimmy Lee pointed to the gospel when he spoke about the restoration of the victims of sex trafficking that come through the doors of Restore NYC. Lee reminded those in attendance that “restoration without restoration to our Father is incomplete.”

For that very reason, we inspire Christians to recognize that God has called his church to be part of the solution. God has called you to “Let My People Go.”

If you have never been able to be part of a “Let My People Go” event, click here to register for the event in Washington Heights next week!