AU Student Group Fights Trafficking, Experiences Church on the Street
By Carl Stagner
Some students gather to play chess, raise support for sports programs, or promote social activities and events. Bound is different. The Anderson University student-run, extra-curricular group has sought to put a dent in the epidemic of trafficking since the 2011-2012 school year. Started by now-Global Strategy missionary to Germany, Audrey Weiger, the group was actively championing the cause for freedom before CHOG TraffickLight came on the scene. From raising awareness to raising dollars, Bound is offering more and more hands-on assistance for Stripped Love in central Indiana. Not content to simply read or hear about what God is accomplishing in the work beyond Indiana, the group recently took a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to experience Church on the Street firsthand. It was an experience they’ll never forget.
Merissa Milnickel, president of Bound, calls the opportunity to visit Church on the Street a “God-thing.” Though interested initially in traveling to the trafficking-plagued country of Cambodia, finances presented a hurdle the students just couldn’t clear. But God had a life-changing opportunity for the group all along, within their grasp, only eight-and-a-half hours south of campus. Eleven students and one faculty leader embarked on the journey that left them with a tangible understanding of the link between poverty, drug abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking.
“We knew going into the trip that the likelihood of interacting with young girls in danger of being trafficked would be minimal,” Merissa reflects. “In busy cities, these criminal activities go largely undetected. We did know, however, that we would be spending time with Sylvia, the director of women’s ministry at Church on the Street. After a powerful morning of Bible study in which community members and Bound members each shared their testimonies, we began to see a common thread of childhood abuse, neglect, and former sexual trauma. To understand the prevalence of this issue, and recognize the grace of God through it all, was extremely powerful.”
Often the most life-changing experiences come when God stretches us beyond that which is comfortable. This was certainly the case for members of Bound. “Many of us also came face-to-face with the issue of urban poverty and drug addiction, something that we were not familiar or comfortable with,” Merissa recounts. “At the beginning of the week there was apprehension, despite the fact that we had two men in our group and had the advantage of numbers. But by the end of the week, we did not walk in fear. We understood that some people may be trying to hustle us. Yet we had, by the power of God, been greeted by truly joyful, kind, and humble individuals who were living on the streets for a variety of reasons. The beauty of sharing someone’s story was incredible.”
For these Anderson University students, such an experience could not be confined to the mind’s archive of pleasant spiritual highs. It must have an impact on life going forward. It has already made a difference in how the student group operates. “Instead of raising money and thinking about macro problems, we are now motivated to love people as they are, in their current circumstance,” Merissa explains. “We don’t try to save the entire world in a day, but we aim to leave a legacy of intentional community action based on the message of love.”
Bound is looking forward to strengthening its relationship with Stripped Love, even to the point of helping to staff their new drop-in center on a consistent basis. From April 21 to April 22, they’re also preparing a special, twenty-four-hour “Stand for Freedom” event, through which participating students will raise awareness for the fight against trafficking by standing for the duration while engaged in prayer and worship. Please pray for their ongoing ministries.