My heart pounded me awake. The screaming in my ears was my own. As my eyes adjusted to the 3 a.m. darkness, it dawned on me that it was just a dream. No, it was a nightmare.
In my nightmare, my daughter, who was studying in Australia at the time, was abducted and sold into slavery. I remember every agonizing detail of the dream, from the faded floral pattern of the peeling wallpaper in the stairwell where they grabbed her to the dread in her eyes, the terror in my heart, and my panic. It would take me 24 hours just to travel there and by then she'd have disappeared into the abyss.
With my husband still lightly snoring, I grabbed my phone and texted my daughter to make sure she was okay. While I waited for her reply, I started to search for flights to Australia – as if I were Liam Neeson in the movie Taken. Unlike Liam Neeson, however, I had no idea what I’d do when I got there.
Finally the ping of her text. “I’m fine, Mom. What’s up?”
I felt a flood of relief, as I sank into the pillows and prayed. “Thank God it wasn’t my daughter,” was immediately replaced by the awareness that it was somebody's daughter.
Somebody's daughter was abducted and sold into slavery that night. Somebody's daughter ran away and was sucked into the web of human trafficking. Somebody's daughter was brainwashed to think there was no hope, no way out. Somebody's daughter was being used for profit and the salacious enjoyment of men in a dark and evil underworld. Somebody's daughter was silently crying out for justice.
That night, across the world and in my own state of New Jersey, people of all ages, colors, and genders were being held against their will, their passports held by unscrupulous “employers.” They were working as nannies, maids, bonded laborers with no hope or chance for freedom.
It's a tragic fact that there is more slavery in the world today than there was during the Civil War. <<Click to Tweet
In fact more there is more slavery today than at any time in history. There's an estimated 29.8 million people caught in human trafficking – modern-day slavery - whether it is the sex trade or forced labor or child prostitution. It’s the fastest growing and second largest criminal activity in the world.
Shortly after my nightmare, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook page about purchasing items made by survivors of human trafficking. I left a comment stating that I was interested in this issue. Then another Facebook friend, one with no connection whatsoever to the one who created the post, left a comment saying,”If you do something, let me know.”
I stared at her comment for several minutes that seemed like hours. And I pondered, “Will this be one more time where I say I want to do something, yet actually do nothing. Or this time will I actually DO something?”
So I reached out to Tanya who created the original post. We’d only met once, but still we were friends, at least in the Facebook sense of the word. I knew I needed to do something, even though I had absolutely no idea what it was.
Over her kitchen table, Tanya and I shared our thoughts and some information about the subject and the few organizations we were familiar with. We were just two suburban moms, outraged over the colossal issue of modern-day slavery, wanting to answer the question, “How can we make a difference from here?”
We committed to pray about it, and we agreed to meet again to watch a movie that we could possibly show to others.
I knew so little about this issue that was so big. I was afraid and wondered what we could do. After all, there were just two of us. That phrase “just two of us” reminded me of a Bible story where the prophet Elisha and his servant were facing an army of evildoers. The servant feared that there were just two of them, but the prophet answered, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) I realized that even though there are 29.8 million caught in slavery, there are over 7 BILLION people in the world. And most of those people would be opposed to slavery...IF they knew about it.
Edmund Burke who famously said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” also said, “Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
Around this time, I saw a photo of a cardboard sign that read:
“I ALWAYS WONDERED WHY SOMEBODY DIDN’T DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT.
THEN I REALIZED.
I AM SOMEBODY.” <<Click to Tweet
That quote and picture galvanized my decision to at least “do a little.”
In the days that followed, I casually mentioned my new endeavor to selected friends and family. With each discussion, my boldness and excitement grew because each person in one way or another said almost the same thing – “I was looking for a way to get involved in this, but didn’t know what to do.” Just like me!
In less than two months, our group grew from two to twenty-two! Within this diverse group, we had people of different ages and from all walks of life. Some had experience and wanted to be involved with the legislative and government side of the problem. Others were more interested in compassionate care for the survivors. And others were somewhere in between. We even had two members who were moving to Cambodia!
We created a mission statement, a website, and a plan of action. Justice Network was born.
Less than four months after that kitchen table conference, we hosted the movie showing of Trade of Innocents. Over 100 people attended the screening and an information fair with eight local and global organizations represented. That was just the beginning.
Justice Network formed to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking and support for organizations locally and globally that are already on the frontlines fighting this heinous evil. We exist to educate, equip, and empower friends and neighbors to become abolitionists. We provide education about the facts and ways to fight the issue and direct support to those organizations rescuing victims.
We are part of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, participating in and contributing to their activities, particularly events leading up to the NJ Super Bowl. Large sporting events are an attraction to human traffickers, with the Super Bowl considered, by some to be the number one such event annually. The Super Bowl came to NJ just six months after Tanya and I met in her kitchen; we never believed we’d be taking such an active part in raising awareness in our communities.
Through both secular and religious organizations, change is taking place. Traffickers are going to jail. Victims are rescued and redeemed. People are changing the world. I’m a “real housewife of NJ” out to change my corner of it and to do what I can to impact the lives of those in peril.
Susan Panzica is a Jewish Jersey girl who loves Jesus, her family, the ocean, and mangos. Her passion is to bring an eternal perspective to earthly matters through writing, speaking, teaching, and coffee dates. A quasi-emptynester who works with her chiropractor husband, she thoroughly enjoys when her college age children are home, with or without all their friends. Susan is a speaker, women and children’s Bible teacher, and writer of the devotional blog Eternity Café.