Until All Are Free

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Over the last 3 years, I’ve been involved in anti-human trafficking efforts throughout Lexington and Richland Counties.  Human trafficking, simply stated, is the exploitation of a person’s vulnerabilities for commercial gain.  This includes commercial sex acts and forced labor, especially from anyone under the age of 18.  On the forefront of global efforts is the A21 Campaign.   With over 14 offices across the globe, A21 seeks to abolish human trafficking by reaching out to the vulnerable through education and awareness, working with law enforcement to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers, and restoring the survivors to a state of independence.  A21 is an incredible organization that was founded by Christine Caine in 2008.  I can’t recall exactly when the first time I heard of it was, but most likely in high school in association with the Passion Conference and the END IT Movement.  However, it wasn’t until I was nearing the completion of my associate degree in criminal justice, the fall semester of 2016, that the passion for fighting the injustice of modern slavery surfaced in me.  It was during this time that my own heart was soften toward victims of crime, and while my honor society started raising money for Lighthouse for Life, I was given the opportunity to learn more about trafficking in the midlands and to connect with the Richland County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT).  I’ve been a member of the task force ever since, serving on the Education and Awareness committee for almost 2 years, and within the last year have started joining the SC State Task Force meetings.  I have also had the privilege to have participated in special operations with Richland County Sheriff’s Department where we would search for victims and arrest the people who think it is okay to buy a human being.  These operations were of special interest to me because I wanted to be a law enforcement officer.  I wanted to be a K9 officer, SRO, victim’s advocate, and then be an investigator that specializes in human trafficking.  And I had my first steps already planned out to get me there, and I asked God to bless the paths that I wanted to walk down.  But that wasn’t God’s plan.

Needless to say, my life is not at all going where I thought it would be by now.  Though I have thoroughly enjoyed my volunteer opportunities, taking an internship was not on my agenda of things to do, and it was going against my logical mind.   I wanted to get my career started, and I needed a full-time job, not move to an unfamiliar location and volunteer my time and talents.  But when I came across the application in February, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I recognized that God was leading me here–which left me with a choice to make.  I could ignore his promptings, or I could follow in obedience.

I looked over the long, multi-step application process, and thought that it was comparative to that of a police officer, and it didn’t make sense to me to apply for this when the department that I wanted (and still want) to be at was hiring.  But I had no peace at just the thought of sending out other applications. When I submitted the application for A21 on March 6th, I did it with full conviction that this was my next step in life, and that first interview was one of the best–if not the best–interviews I ever had.  After patiently waiting for an answer and going through the steps of the application process for over 3 months, I now will be joining A21 in the fight against human trafficking.  Now that it is here, I understand why God closed the doors I was asking Him to let me through, and why He allowed all of disappointments that I have been experiencing for the last year.  All of it was to prepare me to take this step, to remind me that my life is under His control and not mine–which is hard for a control freak like me.  I know that I am going exactly where God wants me to be at this time in my life, and I know that He will provide for me as I follow His lead.  As Christians, we know that we are called to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Is 1:17 ESV), and to “open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov 31:8, ESV).  God is using A21 to do that, and now He is sending me to join them.

If you are interested in supporting me, please follow this link, send me an email at kristennmatthews@gmail.com, or find me at church!

Kristen