Free & Fit Outreach - A21 Walk for Freedom - Saturday 19th October 2019 - by Jess Leichtweisz
Free & Fit Outreach - A21 Walk for Freedom - Saturday 19th October 2019 -by Jess Leichtweisz
I had heard of human trafficking before. However, it happened to people I didn’t know in places far away that I couldn’t relate to. So like it is for most people, it was easy to disassociate myself from it. The truth is, I didn’t really get it. I didn’t get the magnitude of the problem. I didn’t know it happened where I live. I certainly didn’t realize that it happened to people who shop in the same supermarkets I do and even go to my church. Until I did. Then, I could no longer ignore it. It is easy to not care about something when we don’t understand it. The idea that human trafficking and slavery still exists today seems unbelievable. Like literally, I didn’t believe it. I had friends who told me stories about seeing things when they want on mission trips to faraway lands. I heard them talking but I didn’t really get it. It was so different from anything that I could possibly relate to. However, this summer I had the privilege of hearing Christine Caine speak at Hillsong in NYC. When she entered onto the stage she started off by announcing that nine women had been rescued that day from slavery and were now in safe houses with A21. As the church cheered, for the first time, it became real to me. A seed had been planted. But to be honest, by the end of the sermon, I forgot all about it and went back to scrolling social media to see the more familiar news of what my friends had for brunch, who went to the gym and whose dog did something cute. However, I loved Christine’s energy and decided to buy one of her audiobooks. I listened to it in 24 hours and was enthralled. She spoke about A21 and I heard stories of women that had been rescued from slavery. Hearing their stories changed everything for me. I could no longer disassociate myself from human trafficking and I know longer wanted to. I bought the rest of her books and immersed looking for solutions to a problem that I just learned about. I knew I wanted to get involved with bringing awareness to human trafficking. If I didn’t know it existed, it seemed reasonable to think that some of my friends may also not know. I don’t do politics. Going to a walk and carrying a sign to bring awareness to a cause was way outside of my comfort zone. I was terrified I would look like a Trump protester. I try to bring as little attention to myself as possible walking down the street. But I did it anyway and here is why. Awareness that a problem exists in the first step in solving it. We live in a world that is interconnected. Everyone follows what everyone does non stop. If you don’t post about going to the gym, a workout doesn’t count. We are constantly uploading all aspects of our life. While that may seem daunting and overwhelming, it can also be life saving. When we are all connected, we all matter. We can no longer look away and pretend that someone doesn’t exist and that they are not important. If we know what to look for and we know who is at risk, we have the power to help them when they are in a vulnerable or dangerous situation. So, I set out to tell my community that slavey is real today in 2019, that it exists and that if they know what to look for, they may be able to spot it and help. Even during the walk, the idea that awareness can make difference still seemed like a nice idea. It was enough of a motivation to hold a sign around town for a mile but I don’t know if I really believed in my heart what I was doing actually mattered. It wasn’t until the walk was over, I realized the power in what we just did. After the walk, a woman greeted us at the church and told us a story that solidified the real purpose of our gesture. One day while leaving college, her niece was abducted and sold into slavery. When I heard her tell the story, I realized how many times the exact same thing could have happened to me. She simply sampled some juices outside her college. They had put a sedative in the juice and when she woke up no idea where she was and was being held captive. When she stopped posting online, her friends and family knew something was wrong. Her community came together to find answers. Her photo was shared thousands of times all around the world until her captors realized we no longer live in a world where people don’t matter and they let her go. Traffickers target people that they think that nobody will notice have gone missing. That’s why I believe that we have the power to end human trafficking for good in our generation. It can stop with us. There is power in community and each of us have a voice. That voice has the power to change and even save someone’s life. I will no longer look at human trafficking as an issue that exists somewhere, somplace that is happening to people that I don’t know. By viewing it that way, I am asserting the same opinion of the traffickers- that people I don’t know don’t matter. The truth is we live in a world where we are all connected. I choose to be aware and choose to be connected to all of mankind, not only on social media but in spirit. I understand my community exists far beyond the town that I live and that by simply sharing someone’s story, I can make a difference in someone’s life. That’s why I joined the walk for freedom.
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