By Eric Hanson
Continued from Biking Against Human Trafficking
How could you possibly react when a monster as terrifying as human trafficking first confronts you? You cannot simply look the other way. The problem is all around, even in our own backyard. Yet it lies in the shadows, behind closed doors. It stays quiet. It remains more of a whisper of evil that most people will never hear. But must not be allowed to continue to destroy lives in secret. It is estimated that human trafficking is a 30 billion dollar a year industry, second only to drugs and firearms. An estimated 27 million people are lost in the hopelessness, forced into horrible conditions where they lose their identity and their humanity. How do you tackle an issue this large?
Team Up, Gear Up: Biking Against Trafficking is shedding light onto one of the darkest and often overlooked issues of our day. I have had the idea that I wanted to ride my bike from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon for several years now.
And after I returned from the World Race, when I traveled to 13 impoverished countries, I felt compelled to act. While traveling to these countries, I saw firsthand the horrors of extreme poverty, natural disasters, war torn lives, and people bought and sold into slavery. I felt sucker punched by these issues. How can people live like this in the 21st century? It is more survival than living.
Several times I was offered “boom boom” while in Cambodia. I learned later that that is slang for having sex with little boys. In Thailand, many of the girls on my team developed relationships with girls who would “work” for up to a dozen men a day. The situation was truly heartbreaking. Many of my teammates are still dealing with the things they saw. But a heart moved to compassion can be a more powerful force than even the most wicked of evils.
I will be joined by several others cycling for change, some of them were companions of mine during the year spent around the world. Stephanie Fisk spent time in Thailand, a place well known for the rampant sex industry. She worked directly with some of these girls. She also spent time in Northern Thailand, where many of these girls come from. Families often sell their children into these working conditions, with the dream of a better life. But the dream is quickly turned into a nightmare when they realize what has happened. These are vulnerable people, their lives often at risk if they try to escape. The fact that millions of people all over the world are being forced into dehumanizing working conditions is horrifying.
Stephanie says, “I will never forget their eyes. They are no longer the nameless and faceless. Their stories are etched on my heart and into my mind.”
Now that I have returned home, my most difficult decision is where to go for coffee, or what movie to rent from Netflix. But something inside of me has been disturbed. How can I go back to living an ordinary American life? I feel like I am being held accountable to the things I have seen. I can’t go back. I have to do something about these issues. Others must know as well.
Beginning March 24th, I will be joined by a group that will cycle 450 miles from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and back. We will also hike down and out of the canyon. This expedition will take eight days to complete. And we are hoping that others will be able to join us, even if just for one leg of the journey.
Several organizations are joining this campaign. Not For Sale, ALERT, Make Way Partners, Innocence Atlanta, The Well, and others will each be sharing in a nightly nationwide conference call. A representative will share what they are doing and give testimonies, followed by a time of Q and A, and corporate prayer.
The hope of Team Up, Gear Up is to bring awareness and to arouse a response. I believe that there are many young people who truly desire to serve others, live outside of themselves, and be a part of something big. The next generation of believers has an activist spirit, wanting to incorporate change. My goal is to challenge others, encouraging them to live radical lives of love and compassion. Together we can bring love and light to those trapped in darkness.
Biking Against Trafficking is my way of fighting for people who have been robbed of their voice. It is my way of saying we can all live in a way that gives people hope. If you want to be a part of Team Up, Gear Up: Biking Against Trafficking, call in to 1-218-486-1600 followed by the access code 472085# at 8 pm CST March 23rd through the 31st. Listen to testimonies and pray for those who are trapped in human trafficking.
Want to join the ride, but are nowhere near Phoenix? Saturday, March 29th, I am challenging others to get on their bikes and ride. Tell others, grab your bike, and ride for freedom!
If you liked this article, check out:
- The Great Bike Adventure: To the Grand Canyon and Back
- The Great Bike Adventure: To the Grand Canyon and Back, Pt. 2
- $1-2 Women
Eric is from Phoenix, AZ and works for Adventures In Missions. For more information, contact Eric Hanson at erichanson(at)adventures(dot)org.