In 2011, Elijah Rising (a ministry committed to ending human trafficking) began offering van tours throughout the city in order to promote awareness of the impact and prominence of sex trafficking in the city of Houston.
“Part of our mandate is to drive the reality of modern day slavery into the consciousness of our society. To do this we offer approximately 2 hour tours of high probability trafficking areas. These tours are essentially a rolling Human Trafficking 101 class with visuals.”
Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar per year industry with over 27 million people currently living as slaves.* Eighty-percent of human trafficking is commercial sex trade. Out of the 27 million victims, eighty-percent are women and of these eighty, fifty-percent are minors. Houston is at the top of the list of offenders.
I was aware of these statistics before I went on the van tour and I will admit that, at first, the numbers are just numbers; there are no faces, just statistics. But within minutes of taking your seat in that van it all changes.
The van tour takes you through three areas around Houston that are heavily populated with brothels disguised as massage parlors, spas, adult studios, strip clubs, and cantinas. The first real shock is the proximity of these places to other businesses, restaurants, and neighborhoods. One of the highly populated areas of the cantina-style brothels was just across the freeway from where I once lived. I couldn’t believe it. You start the recognize the tell-tale signs of a brothel: dark or boarded windows; high walls and gated parking lots; a series of houses or buildings connected together; some really weird statues.
Once you see the buildings, you begin to hear the stories. The stories help to put faces to the numbers and that’s when the sick and the dread and the anger and the sorrow start to set in. This is a reality. Right outside my door.
And you weep.
Elijah Rising is ending human trafficking in our city by equipping a generation of justic warriors for prayer, awareness and intervention in the spirit of Isaiah 1:17 which says ‘Learn to do good, seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, plead the cause of the widow, defend the orphan.’
But there is hope. I soon learned that Elijah rising has started leasing a building that was formerly a brothel. We had a chance to walk through the building where they are currently remodeling; the building will serve as one of its offices. This was by far the worst and best part of the tour. Being inside that building and walking past shower after shower, room after room, made imagining the women and children trapped in this life of slavery far too easy. There was a real sense of sadness and darkness that remained in those rooms.
But hope was breaking through. With each pound of the sledgehammer you could feel the walls of injustice slowly crumbling down. Many of us cried as we walked those halls.
The Elijah Rising team has been praying over those rooms, the evidence of their faith in a God who saves written on the walls in crayola markers.
This place is a victory. God is pushing back the darkness. Jesus’ kingdom is coming. The Spirit is moving…
And you realize that there is a battle happening right outside your doors.
If you live in Houston or will be visiting anytime in the future, I suggest you do three things:
- Go on an Elijah Rising van tour. It will change you.
- Pray. Pray for the end of human trafficking in our city, and across the globe.
- Attend the Justice Summit this September 19th-21st here in Houston.
*These are the statistics I was presented with during the van tour.