Late last year, I was told that a group of people from New Zealand were interested in taking the HOPE61 MULTIPLY training in March 2018. I admit, my first thought was, how big of a problem can human trafficking be in “100% Pure New Zealand?”
I’d never been to New Zealand, but standing on the other side of the world, it was easy to imagine it as an idyllic little place with pristine landscapes, beautiful beaches, and happy New Zealanders (Kiwis) enjoying the famous dairy and beef the country produces. There was not much room in that image for something as ugly as human trafficking. But within a few seconds, reality took over the image in my mind. Human trafficking happens everywhere. Even in a place as beautiful as New Zealand. New Zealand is more than rolling green hills, black sandy beaches, and make-believe hobbits. It has big cities, small cities, tourist towns, rural areas, farmlands, many cultures (Maoris, Europeans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians are among many), and human trafficking.
In 2016, a man was convicted of trafficking 15 Fijian workers to pick fruit in New Zealand. This was not an isolated incident. Also, there is story after story of young teen girls being lured by “boyfriend figures,” who ultimately traffic them for sex. These types of stories aren’t exclusive to New Zealand. These are the same types of stories we hear around the world. Different names and places, but the same awful horrors.
This year, from March 8-10, I trained 10 New Zealanders how to equip churches to prevent human trafficking in their communities. Our curriculum equips participants to train local churches to be able to answer three fundamental questions. 1. What is human trafficking? 2. Why should the church have a response directed at eliminating human trafficking? 3. How can the church prevent human trafficking? I believe each participant walked away with answers to those questions. I am very excited to know that several of these people will go on to be HOPE61 trainers and will lead ENGAGE trainings with pastors and lay-leaders throughout New Zealand. I pray that through my time in New Zealand, many churches will be equipped to prevent human trafficking in the near future.
By Tonya Overton, Assistant to the Director of HOPE61 and Trainer