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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




AG Steps Up Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking in the U.S.

By John W. Kennedy
Feb. 27, 2011

In serving as a Rhode Island pastor for a quarter-century, Pasco Manzo focused on ministering to broken and hurting people living on the fringe: drug addicts, street people, alcoholics.

As the church he started, North Providence Assembly of God, grew and began supporting the efforts of Project Rescue — the Assemblies of God ministry to women and children trapped in sexual slavery — Manzo and his wife, Mary Ann, also became involved with helping the abused overseas.

But after the Manzos saw the 2005 Lifetime movie Human Trafficking, the couple resolved to do something more substantive to battle the scourge of young women being bought and sold in slavery in the United States.

In 2009, the Manzos began Run for Freedom (runforfreedom.net), a Florida-based organization to fight sex trafficking of young adult women in the United States. Now, with Pasco as an AG U.S. missionary chaplain, the Manzos are raising awareness and have established a 7.7-acre property designed to provide a safe recovery environment for those rescued from sexual slavery as they transition back into society. The centerpiece is the Dream Home, which has a 14-bed capacity and a cozy environment that allows the girls to begin the process of returning to a normal life.

The fenced-in property also has a tree-lined lake, covered dock, gazebo and a barn housing three horses, which therapeutically help the residents bond emotionally and regain trust. 

The Manzos bought the property, which had a $690,000 mortgage, for $282,000. Their financial support has come mostly from small donations through the ministy’s local One More chapters in Florida and New England.

One More fundraising efforts have included motorcycle rides, five-kilometer runs, banquets, golf tournaments and orange apparel sales (connected with the Manzos’ campaign to make orange the color associated with freedom from sexual slavery). Speed the Light and Light for the Lost also are providing assistance. All the labor for remodeling, as well as furniture and equipment, has been donated.

The signature fundraising event is a dinner and a movie night held in theaters where Human Trafficking is screened. Pasco says the film accurately depicts the realities of six types of trafficking.

“It’s a way for people in the community to be involved,” Mary Ann says of the One More chapters. “We need to do something because this shouldn’t be going on.”

“Our greatest need is qualified staffing,” Pasco says. “The number we take is based on the size of staff.” Currently, three more full-time residential staff — single women — are needed, including a house supervisor. The ministry pays for food and shelter; staff only need to raise their own support for their other needs.

Pasco also says a major challenge is raising awareness of what a rampant crisis sex trafficking has become in the United States.

“The church is lagging behind, not because we’re not people of compassion, because we certainly are,” Pasco says. “But we lack the awareness of what’s going on around us.”

“It is a sin-based problem,” Mary Ann says. “Because God cares about people, the church should be involved. Lives are being wrecked by the problem.”

Pasco, who also is on the executive board of New England Teen Challenge, says the yearlong recovery process helps women heal from trauma that can result in fear, nightmares, emotional numbness, paranoia, inappropriate guilt, clinical depression or lost meaning of life. Residents participate in daily devotions, one-on-one psychological counseling, educational tutoring and life-skills classes before transitioning back into society.

“They need unconditional love,” Mary Ann says. “We get them into a serene environment where they can clear their heads and realize that what has happened to them is not who they are.”

“Because Jesus is the center of the Dream Home program, these girls are able to be spiritually and emotionally redeemed,” Pasco says. “Jesus gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone.”


Moving forward

Meanwhile, an Assemblies of God anti-trafficking endeavor in Missouri is gaining traction.

F.R.E.E. International, a ministry founded by U.S. AG missionaries Michael and Denise Bartel in 2008 to help sex-trafficking victims, has assumed control of a project specifically to aid underage girls in the U.S. (see Pentecostal Evangel, Sept. 19, 2010, p. 22). F.R.E.E. already is training faith-based workers and assisting church-operated shelters in the Northeast and starting another base in Las Vegas.

Michael Bartel says David and Betty Cribbs of southwest Missouri have donated a new 13,000-square-foot vacant building to help with the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of exploited young girls.

“It fits squarely into the middle of what F.R.E.E. stands for — find, rescue, embrace and empower,” Bartel says. “There is an immediate need for housing and shelter, but more importantly there is a need for sustained, extended, holistic aftercare and discipleship.”

Bartel says the property will be a place where girls can receive counseling and education. The most urgent need is for staffing in hopes of opening the safe home by the end of the year. In addition to working with local congregations, the Bartels are partnering with Chi Alpha graduates as a way to find qualified staff.

Funding will be provided by congregations and individual donors. A $125,000 donation from Eastside Assembly of God in Tucson, Ariz., will provide seed money to finish the interior of the donated building. Retired AG National Women’s Department Director Arlene Allen is involved in raising monthly support to sustain operations at the safe house.

“The church needs to lead on this issue of exploitation,” Bartel says. “We want to train and resource our churches as to how to recognize and engage trafficking with competence and continuity.”


JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.