By / Mar 24

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Dr. Rick Morton, the Vice President of Engagement for Lifeline Children’s Services to discuss how the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacts orphans, vulnerable children, and families in the process of adopting. They discuss how the war harms vulnerable children, and ways the church can get involved in caring for vulnerable children. 

Guest Biography

As Vice President of Engagement, Rick Morton shepherds the Lifeline Children’s Services outreach to individual, church, and organizational ministry partners as well as the ministry’s commitment to publishing resources that aid families and churches in discipling orphans and vulnerable children. Holding both the Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Arts degrees in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Rick taught on the faculty of his alma mater as well as the faculties of Bryan College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also served local churches in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He is an accomplished writer and sought after speaker. Most notably, Rick is the co-author of the popular Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-centered Adoption and Orphan Care and the author of KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology. Rick and his lovely wife Denise have been married for over 26 years, and they have 3 children, all of whom joined their family through international adoption from Ukraine. 

Resources from the Conversation


  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at That’s
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit That’s
By / Mar 23

With the beginning of Russian aggression, the entire population of Ukraine became vulnerable in an instant. An estimated 3.2 million people have fled the country as refugees and millions more are internally displaced seeking safety from Russian attacks. Among those, an estimated 200,000 orphans are infinitely more unshielded today than ever before.

Child welfare in Ukraine 

It’s impossible to keep that many kids safe during a war. They’re already missing thousands of children, and authorities worry they’ve fallen into the hands of human traffickers. The thought of Ukrainian orphans being trafficked and victimized breaks my heart. All three of my own children were born there, and I’ve devoted much of my life’s work to helping vulnerable Ukrainian children. These numbers — the hundreds of thousands of children being transported out of their war-torn home country, the thousands potentially lost to trafficking — aren’t just numbers to me. They shouldn’t just be numbers to you. 

Even during peacetime, vulnerable Ukrainian children face steep odds and a bleak future. Though Ukraine has sought to improve child welfare in the past 15 years, the majority of vulnerable children, or 60-70%, turn to prostitution or crime after aging out of the orphanages at 16 years old. An estimated 20% get imprisoned, and 10% attempt suicide. Children with special needs get shipped far outside Ukraine’s cities to grow up in isolation and developmental deprivation.

If Russia gains regional dominance, child welfare in Ukraine will take a huge step backward. International adoption and ministry services will no longer be possible for the hardest-to-place children, and domestic adoption and foster care will no longer be an option. These children will have no chance at a future with a loving family near home or in America. 

Russia has already used its own orphans as a geopolitical bargaining chip: Russia banned United States adoption back in 2013, a retaliation against American sanctions. Ukrainian orphans could be next. 

How we should respond

Our calling as Christians is to pray for, minister and witness to these children. We must support them — and Ukraine — in any way possible. We can’t turn a blind eye to their needs. Our calling as Americans is to advocate relentlessly for their protection. We have the benefit of being part of a democracy, where the political system responds to our demands. So, make demands. Speak, as I am speaking. Call your representatives and senators. Donate to and amplify the organizations doing the dangerous, on-the-ground work that will save these children’s lives. 

From afar, wars are just headlines and statistics. Maybe they increase the price of consumer goods or delay shipping times. Maybe they dominate the news for a few days before eventually fading into the background again. But it is morally essential that we remember the terrible human cost of war. Families have been destroyed; children have been lost to traffickers. More parents will fall into poverty after the war and have their children taken from them. If Russia manages to cut Ukraine off from international ministry and adoption, these families and children will be lost to a cycle of poverty and despair.

But every one of these children deserves a loving, stable home. Whether they’re children who have been evacuated as refugees or they’re children who remain trapped in the Ukrainian war zone, they need our prayers, our support, and our advocacy. Let’s keep all Ukrainian children safe — whatever it takes.

By / Feb 9

It’s tragic that we live in a world that includes human trafficking of any kind, but especially child sex trafficking. Children are some of the most vulnerable among us and should be cherished, protected, and nurtured. But the reality is that many are being abused and exploited by predators and are in need of help. Thankfully, God is raising up people and organizations dedicated to ending sex trafficking and supporting victims. Gretchen Smeltzer started Into the Light with these goals and shares below how Christians can join this mission.

Elizabeth Bristow: Gretchen, tell our readers more about Into the Light, a nonprofit organization you started in 2015 to end sex trafficking and bring hope to survivors. How did it begin? 

Gretchen Smeltzer: Into the Light began as God broke the hearts of followers of Jesus over the issue of child sex trafficking and then brought them together to a small town in Arkansas. None of us were survivors of sex trafficking or had previous experience working with trafficking victims. However, we were willing to learn how we could be effective in identifying victims and providing them with the support they needed to overcome this evil atrocity. 

We began by praying. Our founding board spent many nights on our knees together. We spent a great deal of time researching the need in our local community and state. After speaking with those in law enforcement who worked with victims, we learned residential care for victims was a great need. Believing God was leading us to open a home where survivors could begin the process of healing, we began communicating our vision to the public. God used this season to teach us what it looked like to provide trauma-informed care for victims. Then God revealed to us that we could connect with child trafficking victims in Juvenile Detention Centers. Through a partnership with Traffick911, we were able to launch prevention programs in four Arkansas Juvenile Detention Centers in 2016. Our prevention teams engaged weekly with trafficking victims who were hidden in plain sight under other charges.

God taught us that we could offer places of refuge by offering a listening ear, believing a child’s story, and communicating God’s unconditional love. Our prevention program connected with hundreds of victims in the Juvenile Detention Centers. By 2017, we could see that victims needed ongoing safe community, trauma-informed advocacy, and life-skills mentorship. Into the Light received a grant to provide long-term advocacy and mentorship to victims of trafficking. Each year, this program continues to grow. We have six full-time advocates who serve 16 counties in Arkansas. In 2021, our organization supported 165 victims. Our services include:

  • Crisis intervention 
  • Safety planning for newly identified victims of trafficking 
  • 24/7 crisis line to offer support to all of our current clients 
  • Court, legal, and law enforcement advocacy
  • Mental health needs
  • Transportation and housing assistance
  • Long-term mentorship to assist in building a life after trafficking

The basis of what we do at Into the Light is modeled after what God requires of us from Micah 6:8. We seek justice for victims, we share his mercy, and we seek to walk humbly with God in all that we do. 

EB: What do Christians need to know about the issue of child sex trafficking? 

GS: It is happening to children attending our churches, schools, and living in our neighborhoods. Readers may want to stop reading at this point because that is just way too scary to think about. Christians, please don’t! Who has more hope that God can bring beauty from ashes than followers of Jesus Christ? This is what our God does, right? Christians don’t need to live in fear of human trafficking. While it is dark, this is why Jesus came. Into the Light gets its name from John 1:5. The Light (Jesus Christ) shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Ending the trafficking of children is God’s heart. We can have great confidence in our God, our protector and defender — that he will equip believers to face the darkness no matter how dark or dangerous it may seem. While no one enjoys thinking about children being trafficked in their own community, we must. If no one thinks through this difficult issue and creates collaborative ways to end child trafficking, then it will continue.

EB: Like you said, many people are unaware that this horrendous issue happens in our own communities. Can you give our readers a snapshot of this reality? 

GS: It is important to understand that anyone can be a victim of trafficking. Trafficking happens to both girls and boys, however a higher percentage of trafficking is reported by females. Trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerabilities, and children are innately vulnerable. They are naïve and don’t always understand the manipulation, power, and control methods used by adults. Most of the time a child is sold for sex by someone they know. Traffickers are most frequently an older male or female whom the child thinks they can trust, a family member or close family friend, and/or an individual posing as a boyfriend/girlfriend. Children involved in social services and runaway and homeless youth pose the highest risks of being trafficked. When someone lacks basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter, traffickers can offer to meet these with the goal of exploiting a child for their financial gain. Common red flags for youth include:

  • Suddenly becoming detached from family and friends;
  • Contradicting personal information about their living and work locations and conditions;
  • Not being allowed to take adequate breaks for food or water while at work;
  • Recruited for a different work than they are currently doing or has a debt to an employer or recruiter that they cannot pay off; 
  • Noticeable change in their appearance or material goods without being able to explain where they received the resources to pay for the goods; 
  • Shows signs of physical or sexual abuse; appears fearful, anxious, depressed, overly submissive, and avoids eye contact;
  • Suffers from substance abuse problems or sexually transmitted diseases;
  • Sudden presence of or older “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” or “friend.”

EB: How have you witnessed God bring beauty from ashes this last year through the work of Into the Light? Can you share some stories of success you’ve seen as an organization? 

GS: This last year, our partnerships deepened with law enforcement and social services. This has led to intervention for many children being trafficked. We have witnessed very brave children share their trafficking experience with law enforcement and prosecutors. We have seen survivors grow into young adults and overcome great trauma to pursue dreams and goals for their lives. 

A few months ago, I had the privilege of standing with a former client, now dear sister in Christ, who shared her story of being trafficked but then rescued from a hotel by one of our advocates and law enforcement. She bravely and confidently shared how God had been with her through all of her darkest moments and how he had been her light and was helping her overcome her past. Survivors do the hard work of battling every day to overcome what the enemy has stolen from them. Even though it is difficult at times, our advocates know it is such a privilege to walk alongside these brave children and young adults. Some days, there are great successes, and sometimes there are great struggles. But God is faithful in it all.

EB: What should our churches know about supporting victims of sex trafficking? 

GS: It’s important for churches to understand that victims of human trafficking often have complex trauma. This occurs when a person is victimized multiple times. Healing and wholeness will not happen overnight. As humans who are loving and supporting others, we often want people to heal and be changed quickly. Christians called to share God’s unconditional love and mercy with victims of human trafficking must know there are no quick fixes. However, God is faithful and will redeem what the enemy has stolen and teach us about his unconditional love and mercy along the way. And the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom and guidance on how to care for each person individually. 

EB: How would you encourage a pastor to help stir up the hearts of his flock to care for the vulnerable? 

GS: A pastor could focus on studying Psalm 10 and Micah 6:8, allowing the Spirit to lead him on what his church body needs to hear from these scriptures. I would encourage a pastor to lead his flock in a focused month of prayer for victims of human trafficking in their own community, nation, and world. Before the time of prayer, a pastor could educate the body of believers on the issue of human trafficking. The prayer time could be focused on asking God to reveal how human trafficking is happening in their own community, wisdom and clarity to see victims, and that God would give them the compassion and perseverance to show the love of Christ to victims. Through prayer, God will be faithful to stir the hearts of those in the body who are called to end human trafficking. 

Those in church leadership, counseling, and shepherding roles should all be trained on understanding and identifying human trafficking and how it happens in their community. Most likely they have already encountered a victim of human trafficking and were unaware. In the last nine years, I have been a part of two churches, both in small, Southern towns, and have met survivors or victims attending. Thankfully, there is wonderful training easily accessible online. Shared Hope International has a Faith in Action toolkit to help church leaders share about the need to address human trafficking and learn how to equip believers to impact their communities.

EB: For anyone who has been stirred to action to help victims in their communities, what are the next steps? 

GS: Pray and then look in your own community to see if there are any organizations or initiatives that are currently serving victims of human trafficking. Ask how you can support their efforts. Ask to meet with the volunteer coordinator or someone in leadership and share how God has stirred your heart. Then be willing to serve in any way. Lastly, be patient. It takes time to learn how to effectively support victims of trafficking. Allow those working with victims to slowly teach you. Don’t expect an opportunity to begin serving victims if you don’t have any previous experience. 

If you can’t find local programs that support victims, I would suggest praying about how you can partner with local social services to support victims. Reach out to the department of child and family services or juvenile services, and tell them you have a heart to serve victims of trafficking. Ask them what the needs are for trafficking victims in your community and how you could support them. God may even lead you to start a new initiative in your community to help love and support victims. 

EB: It would be easy for many of us to turn away from the horrors of sex trafficking. What’s at stake if we do? 

GS: To be completely honest, lives are at stake. Victims of human trafficking have a much lower life expectancy due to the dangerous nature of living such an oppressed life. Many victims of trafficking die from drug overdoses, suicide, diseases, and homicide. Ignoring the issue also continues to allow this to be a normal part of our culture. Unfortunately, it is acceptable to pay for sex in our culture. If there wasn’t a demand for sex or free labor, then traffickers would not sell and exploit victims. Trafficking happens because at its core, it is a business model. Traffickers exploit humans for their financial gain. 

We must not turn a blind eye because all people are created in God’s image. Most importantly, if Christians turn away from the horrors of trafficking we are being disobedient to what God has asked of us to seek justice, show mercy, and humbly walk with him. Not everyone is called to the frontlines, but all of us are called to love God and love our neighbor. We can all pray for victims to be seen and receive the support they need to overcome what they have been through. 

EB: How can Christians learn more about these issues?

G: You can start with researching about the issue online. There are many excellent resources.,, and all have excellent free education online.

By / Dec 6

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Ambassador John Cotton Richmond, the former U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021 to human trafficking, forced labor, how Christians can get involved in caring for vulnarble people, and how the Lord led Ambassador Richmond into this work.

Listen to part one here.

Guest Biography

Ambassador Richmond’s career has taken him to the front lines in the global battle against human trafficking. As a Partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, he focuses on the intersection between business and human rights. John advises companies on how to keep their supply chains free of forced labor and their workforces free of sex trafficking.

Before joining Dentons, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed John, and he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021. Serving in the nation’s highest-ranking position dedicated to human trafficking, John led U.S. foreign policy related to modern slavery and coordinated the U.S. government’s response to the crime.

Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, John served for over a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, where he prosecuted numerous victim-centered labor and sex trafficking cases. He also co-founded the Human Trafficking Institute and lived in India for three years pioneering International Justice Mission’s slavery work.

John has received numerous honors and commendations, including being named a “Prosecutor of the Year” and receiving the David Alred Award for exceptional contributions to civil rights. His work caused the former head of the FBI’s human trafficking program to call him “every trafficker’s worst nightmare.”

John received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mary Washington and his law degree from Wake Forest University. Ambassador Richmond is a writer and frequent speaker on topics of faith, justice, vocation, and parenting and is a Fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his “Lovely and Talented” wife and their three robust and remarkable children.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Nov 29

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Ambassador John Cotton Richmond, the former U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021, to talk about human trafficking, forced labor, how Christians can get involved in caring for vulnerable people, and how the Lord led Ambassador Richmond into this work.

Note: This is part one of a two part episode. Listen to part two here.

Guest Biography

Ambassador Richmond’s career has taken him to the front lines in the global battle against human trafficking. As a Partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, he focuses on the intersection between business and human rights. John advises companies on how to keep their supply chains free of forced labor and their workforces free of sex trafficking.

Before joining Dentons, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed John, and he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021. Serving in the nation’s highest-ranking position dedicated to human trafficking, John led U.S. foreign policy related to modern slavery and coordinated the U.S. government’s response to the crime.

Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, John served for over a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, where he prosecuted numerous victim-centered labor and sex trafficking cases. He also co-founded the Human Trafficking Institute and lived in India for three years pioneering International Justice Mission’s slavery work.

John has received numerous honors and commendations, including being named a “Prosecutor of the Year” and receiving the David Alred Award for exceptional contributions to civil rights. His work caused the former head of the FBI’s human trafficking program to call him “every trafficker’s worst nightmare.”

John received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mary Washington and his law degree from Wake Forest University. Ambassador Richmond is a writer and frequent speaker on topics of faith, justice, vocation, and parenting and is a Fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute. He lives outside Washington, DC with his “Lovely and Talented” wife and their three robust and remarkable children.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Oct 7

Human Trafficking continues to thrive during the pandemic through utilizing online sources to groom and lure children and teenagers. With more people online, awareness of human trafficking and prevention is needed, now more than ever. Knowing human trafficking exists is the beginning of understanding what to do. Gaining a knowledge of what human trafficking is and being willing to educate others, intervene where possible, and take a stand against it can be preventative and restorative. 

Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Those entrapped by human trafficking need us to live out this Scripture. With human trafficking being the second largest criminal industry in the world and the fastest growing criminal industry, it stands to reason that it is one of Satan’s fiercest strongholds. Therefore, one needs to carefully pray as they seek guidance from the Lord on how he would have them respond to this issue. It is important to become aware and to learn all you can about human trafficking.    

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world because human beings can be sold repeatedly every day.  According to the Department of Justice, human trafficking is defined as to recruit, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain a person for labor or commercial sex, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purposes of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. In most states, cases involving the commercial sexual exploitation of minors under 18 years old are not required to prove force, fraud, or coercion. 

The Baptist Friendship House 

As a Send Relief Missionary, I help fight against human trafficking in North America and assist human trafficking survivors through Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans, Louisiana. I clearly remember the first time I saw the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, 888-3737-888, come across my phone screen. Together with my staff, we work to provide shelter or transportation to safety for human trafficking survivors. The first call received from the hotline connected us with a young lady from another state. I was able to make sure she was safe and went to meet her.  

When meeting someone, we take backpacks with a Bible, hygiene articles, snacks, socks, clothing, small fleece blanket, and other commonly needed items (See for backpack information). The items in the backpacks meet a need, build a relationship, and change lives. Due to the trauma victims experience, often leaving them with no possessions of their own, providing them with these needed items shows concern and builds trust. Tess, the young lady, was excited to receive the backpack. Trust was built, and she shared her story.

Utilize resources at Send Relief and Baptist Friendship House to learn about human trafficking and seek ways to make a difference in one’s church and community. 

Tess had been tricked into a trafficking situation from posting her vulnerable situation online. A predator saw the information she had posted and lured her with the promise of a job that would ease all of her financial stress. To Tess, the job offer sounded great and would provide her the opportunity to take care of her little girl. The job seemed legitimate, and Tess left her little girl with her mom to go to work. 

Once the human trafficker got her away from her home, he introduced her to other girls and told her he had an escort service. The trafficker explained how an escort service functions and told Tess he would place an advertisement for her on social networking sites. He explained that people would call the number on the advertisement, set up an appointment with her, and she would meet them in their hotel rooms where they would pay her for sexual services. The trafficker committed fraud. He misled Tess into thinking he had an honest business. 

Most people would question why Tess did not run at this point. She probably would have, but the trafficker used coercion and told her if she wanted to see her little girl alive again, she would do what he told her to do. Tess was trafficked through five different states before she met someone she trusted enough to tell part of her story. The person had seen a billboard with the human trafficking hotline number and told Tess she needed to call. Tess called the number, and we had the opportunity to intervene. We were able to get her safe, get her needs met, and get her back home to family. 

How you can help

Many calls have come our way since that first call. Partnering with law enforcement and our local human trafficking task force has been valuable in assisting others. Manipulation, disasters, the pandemic, and social media continue to be a driving force behind human trafficking.  I encourage people to utilize resources at Send Relief and Baptist Friendship House to learn about human trafficking and seek ways to make a difference in one’s church and community. 

Prayer is the key to making you aware of what God is leading you to do. Know the signs of trafficking. Memorize the human trafficking hotline number to report trafficking if you see it or to give to someone you think may be entrapped. Look up your state’s report card at to learn about the laws against human trafficking in your state and advocate for stronger laws. 

We can all make a difference in helping those ensnared in human trafficking. We have the mindset of helping others one at a time, otherwise one can get overwhelmed with the stories and statistics of those in need. As we drove one young lady to the airport for a flight to safety, she pulled her Bible from her backpack and said, “I have my Bible and a ticket to a new beginning.” You can join the fight against human trafficking and help others find a ticket to a new beginning, one life at a time. 

By / Nov 12

Gary Haugen discusses some of the myths about modern-day slavery and trafficking.

By / Feb 4

For Rachelle Starr, caring for women and girls impacted by the sex industry is not a passion as much as it is a calling. Since founding Scarlet Hope, she has seen hundreds of women leave Louisville, Kentucky’s pervasive sex industry.[1] This is what can happen when you take a risk and start serving people that many would rather avoid than love.                    

On a weekly basis, Rachelle and company go to where those most vulnerable are in their community: the strip clubs. Armed with a home-cooked meal and the desire to have a conversation, Scarlet Hope helps women locally and nationally transition from the adult entertainment industry by offering them transitional living, career counseling, housing, mentoring, transportation, and drug rehabilitation.

Preparing to die                    

But to really understand Rachelle’s mission, we need to go back to the beginning. As a toddler, she began to feel slight paralysis in her hands and her feet. Overtime, this paralysis affected her entire body. Apparently Rachelle had an autoimmune disease, for which there was no cure. The doctors were at a loss. By age eight, the medical professionals began preparing her parents for the worst. “This is looking really bad. She is definitely not going to make it,” the doctor explained. At this point, they ceased giving her medication to treat her disease.

Having exhausted all other options, her father brought her before the elders of the church that he pastored. Taking their cue from James 5:14, they anointed Rachelle with oil and prayed feverishly for her healing. If the doctors were unable to find a cure, maybe, just maybe, the Great Physician could fix what was wrong in her body. “So they prayed over me,” she explains, “and . . . over six months, I started regaining strength in my limbs, my feet, my hands.”

Six months later, during a routine follow-up, the doctors appeared perplexed. “I don’t know if we have the wrong results, but your disease is gone.” Her parents couldn’t believe what they were hearing. With tears of joy streaming down their faces, they knew that God alone had healed their daughter. Just to be on the safe side, the doctor kept her in the hospital for another week of observation. By this point, there was no missing this miracle—it was as if the disease had never been there.

As you might have guessed, Rachelle spent much of her early childhood pondering heaven and the afterlife. At the mercy of her doctors, her prescriptions, and her parents, she learned very early on that she was not in control of anything. “I knew better than probably any of my friends at that age that if I died, I wanted to be with Jesus, and so I repented and gave my life to the Lord and then it was within that year that the Lord healed me.”

The lessons learned from her childhood have never left her. Having experienced the healing and the love of God at an early age, she knew that she wanted to help people know that God loves them and is able to heal them regardless of what they have gone through. Her experience of vulnerability shaped her into the woman she would become. It would lead her to Theater X.

The birth of Scarlet Hope

In 2006, an ambitious 21-year-old Rachelle moved to Louisville. Living directly across the Ohio River in Indiana, she quickly became used to her interstate commute. Each day she drove across the bridge into the Derby City to work. Describing this period of her life as a season of “holy discontentment,” she became increasingly aware that this marketing position was not a long-term fit. Though her job was fine by all accounts, she felt that she was unable to use the gifts and calling God had placed on her life at an early age. There had to be something else out there for her.                    

Praying and fasting for God to direct her to those in need of him, she asked God to “send me to those that you want me to serve!” She didn’t care if God sent her overseas or across the street, she simply wanted to be able to share God’s love with vulnerable people. That’s when God opened her eyes to what was happening along her daily commute.                    

About a year later, on her daily commute, Rachelle noticed Theater X, an adult entertainment establishment. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, she had no real frame of reference for strip clubs or the commercial sex industry, but as she drove past Theater X, she says “it was like God just whiplashed me and took . . . my gaze straight to that building and he started impressing upon my heart to pray for them, the women in that place.”

Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, God showed Rachelle the vulnerable people who were in her path. Now she couldn’t continue to drive past them without doing something. So as she started praying for them, she sensed God very clearly communicating to her, “Go and share my love and hope with women in the sex industry.” She knew without a shadow of a doubt it was from the Lord. So, picking up the phone, she called her husband. She told him she knew God was calling her to go to women in the sex industry. Waiting for her to finish her sentence, her husband calmly replied, “That’s exactly what Jesus would do.” This was further confirmation that she was on the right track.

Beginning that week, she took another step and started researching the sex industry in Louisville. At this point she had little to no knowledge of human trafficking or sexual exploitation. Much to her surprise, she learned that in 2007, Louisville had the fifth largest sex industry per capita in the United States.

This statistic was mind boggling. She couldn’t understand why there could be so much exploitation in a city with such a proliferation of churches. So she started calling churches and introducing herself. “Hi, my name is Rachelle and I’m calling to see if you have an outreach ministry to women in the sex industry.” The responses that she received were sobering. Many people would say, “No.” And those were the nice people. Others would not even give her an answer. Still others said something to the effect of “we have a sign in our yard and if people like that want to come, they’re more than welcome, but we don’t go to them.”

How could these people going to church not want to engage with those working in strip clubs? This happens because in many cases, we see people not as vulnerable image-bearers in need of love, but as miscreants. I know, because I was just like them.

The first time that I heard about Scarlet Hope was in 2010. I’ll never forget receiving a phone call from my friend Cait one Saturday morning. Cait wasted no time in getting to her point.

“Raleigh, I am considering volunteering with this organization called Scarlet Hope. They work with girls in strip clubs.”  

“Umm. What?”    

“Yes, it’s this dynamic ministry that addresses the holistic needs of women trapped in the sex industry.”            


“Yeah, what are your thoughts?”

“Honestly, Cait. I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t think that God would ever call you to do something like that. Also, those women probably make more money than you. They don’t need your home- cooking or your charity.”      

As a Christian, I found it preposterous to even consider doing a ministry of that nature. Like I said, this was 2010. A little more than a year later, I found myself repenting at the Passion conference in Atlanta. Shortly after God opened my eyes to the evil of human trafficking, I called Cait and apologized. Seven years later, I would have the opportunity to apologize to Rachelle, as well. Without knowing it, I was standing in the way of God using His people to love these often forgotten women.        

Stop praying                    

Though she had noble intentions, Rachelle was repeatedly rejected by the churches that she called. Finally, she decided if no one else was doing anything, that she could at least start praying. Dragging her friend along with her, she began praying outside of several strip clubs. She mapped out as many clubs as she could find. As she prayed, she continued to reach out to the churches of her community. The answer was still a resounding “no.” No matter how much she prayed, it was like the church just wasn’t getting behind her vision.      

That all began to change on a summer Sunday in August of 2008. As she read the first chapter of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, she froze. The first two words on the page hit her like a brick: Stop praying.[2] It was as if God was inviting her to stop praying for a moment and to do something about the brokenness what she was discovering in her community. “Okay, Rachelle, I’ve already asked you to go. I’ve already told you. You don’t need all the pieces of the puzzle. I just want you to go.” And that’s what she and her friend did. Fasting for three days, they decided that Tuesday night would be the night when they entered into a club.             

And that’s how the ministry of Scarlet Hope began. Without a business plan and depending on God for each step, Rachelle watched as Scarlet Hope grew from an idea to thriving nonprofit, mobilizing Christians to leave the protection of their comfort zones and to find God working in each strip club.             

“God calls us to go into the darkness,” Rachelle explains. “When we see Jesus interacting with people, he’s coming into our darkness with His light.” That’s the point. Like Jesus, Rachelle and those at Scarlet Hope aren’t going to sit around waiting for women to find them; they are actively reaching women in the sex industry and showing up right where these women are. Whether these women are on the street, in illicit massage parlors, or in strip clubs, Rachelle believes that Christians can enter into the darkness to show them God’s light.           

“We knew that in order for these women to hear the gospel, we had to go to them,” she said. “The church sometimes has a tendency to give off a message that first people must ‘clean up their acts’ and then they’re ready to come to the Lord. But of course, this is actually the opposite of the message of the gospel. The gospel meets us right where we are, in the midst of our sin and calls us to our loving Savior.”[3]                    

This radical grace drives Scarlet Hope to serve the people that many would write off as perpetrators. Empowering women through their discipleship program, job training program, and their social enterprise, Scarlet’s Bakery, they direct each of their clients to their true value and dignity. Reminding each individual that they are more than the sum of what they have done or what’s been done to them.                

Excerpted with permission from Vulnerable by Raleigh Sadler. Copyright 2019, B&H Publishing Group.            


  1. ^ “Live X Rachelle Starr,” Reach Records, March 19, 2015, accessed March 30, 2018.
  2. ^ In the context of Crazy Love, the author is not encouraging readers to stop praying and do something. Rather, he is encouraging readers to stop talking at God and start pondering. Nonetheless, in this story, Rachelle got the first two words and felt God clearly leading her to stop wondering about what she should do and simply get going.
  3. ^ “Live X Rachelle Starr,” Reach Records, March 19, 2015.
By / Jan 29

A few years ago, two successful corporate executives teamed up to fight human trafficking. Kevin Malone, the former general manager of the L.A. Dodgers, and Geoff Rogers, a former vice president of IBM, founded the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. Jeff and Travis spoke with Kevin and Geoff during the 2019 Evangelicals for Life conference about how God called them to this fight and their work to build trafficking free zones in local communities.

Guest Biographies

Kevin Malone, named “The Best General Manager in the Game” in 1995, retired from professional baseball in 2001 after an illustrious 17 year career in which his teams earned a World Championship and several trips to the postseason. Kevin is the Founder and Executive Director of Protect The P.A.T.H. (People Against Trafficking Humans), and President and Co-Founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking where he currently serves as the director of the board. Malone has been married to his wife Marilyn for 35 years. They relocated to Las Vegas from L.A. in Feb. 2018 to fight child sex slavery. They have two children, Shannon and Shawn.

Geoff Rogers entered the hi-tech corporate world at IBM after graduating summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame. In just 7 years’ time, Geoff rose quickly to the rank of Vice President at IBM while running a North American software division. But as his corporate climb continued, the call of God was drawing him closer to ministry, and as he puts it, each rung on the corporate ladder became more and more hollow. Geoff and his wife Kerri co-founded the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking with Kevin Malone, where Geoff serves as the CEO of the organization, applying his vast business skills to the ministry. Geoff and Kerri have been married for 20 years. They place tremendous value on their family and enjoy spending time with their three amazing boys.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Apr 6

Injustice fills today’s headlines. Christians are hunted and killed in Somalia. Men are auctioned off as slaves in Libya. Imperfect babies are murdered in Iceland. Gang violence claims the lives of young men in America. Daughters are discarded in India for not being sons. Orphans are transported across borders and forced into prostitution in Nepal.

I’m heartbroken for the vulnerable people who endure injustice. The Lord opened my eyes to injustice and oppression a few years ago. In his mercy, he rescued me from my bubble of indifference, safety, and comfort. I was aware of oppression, but not personally affected by it. Knowing my four sons slept comfortably in their warm beds led to my own peaceful sleep. Injustice was easy to ignore with my egocentric worldview. But God.

With the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I began to wonder about the many mothers worldwide who are denied peaceful sleep because their children have been trafficked. I began to feel burdened for families without access to the gospel, clean water, food, and security. I repented of my indifference toward the plight of the vulnerable. He changed me and redirected my priorities. I wanted to be a seeker of justice and corrector of oppression (Isa. 1:17).

There are many ways to obey God’s good command to seek justice. Here are a few suggestions:

Justice seekers pray. We are abiders; we can do nothing on our own (John 15:5). We don’t seek justice in our own strength. We do the Lord’s work in his power. We humbly ask him for it. We are not the true givers of justice; our Father is. We are needy for him, and so we pray. We fight on our knees. Here are a few prayer guides to get you started—Operation World, IJM, and I Commit to Pray.

Justice seekers love. We strive to love like God loves. We love by giving ourselves. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16). We get involved in the lives of the vulnerable, just as Christ involved himself in our lives when we were vulnerable in our sin. We love as we give our time, talents, and treasures. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Justice seekers speak. We use our voices for the voiceless (Prov. 31:8). We leverage our networks to raise awareness. We challenge people who are content to live in their bubbles. We educate ourselves and others on ways to help. We tell stories of heroes who are making a difference. We show how these stories merge into God’s greater redemptive story. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “silence in the face of evil is evil itself.” So, we are not silent.

Justice seekers imitate. If we are in Christ, then we are God’s children. Our heavenly Father loves justice (Isa. 61:8) and therefore, so do we. We do what our Father does. We care. We feed. We clothe. We teach. We empower. We show compassion because our Father shows us compassion.

Justice seekers fight. We fight leaders who abuse their power. We stand between sexual predators and their prey. We protect the elderly from those who exploit them. We battle for justice in the courts and government. We fight through law enforcement. We fight with our votes. We fight with the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).

Justice seekers advance. We shine the light into the darkness (John 1:5). We advance the kingdom for the glory of Christ. We seek his kingdom on earth and reflect it through our lives. We make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). We advance the gospel that has the power to save those in darkness (Rom. 1:16). We do not retreat. We press on.

Justice seekers collaborate. This mission is communal. So, we wisely partner with other like-minded people as we fight for the weak. We work together as members of one body teeming with different gifts (Rom. 12:4-8), because strategic networking for the glory of God is critical to justice seeking.

Justice seekers worship. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Ps. 29:2). Our God is alive. He reigns on the throne. His glory fills the earth, and he is worthy of our praise. We worship the God who works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed (Ps. 103:6). He deserves our praise.

Justice seekers engage. We don’t ignore oppression; we engage it. We don’t look away in the face of injustice. We see it and let exposure lead us to action. We avoid pornography, knowing, among other things, that it fuels modern-day slavery. We welcome the fatherless into our homes. We welcome refugees into our communities. We welcome people who look different than us into our social circles. Oppression flourishes in the darkness, so we make every effort to combat it.

Justice seekers wait. While we work, we wait in anticipation. We wait for restoration. We wait for God to make all things new (Rev. 21:5). “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). We long for justice and for the God of justice (Isa. 30:18). Come, Lord Jesus.

This list is not exhaustive but serves as a starting place. We aren’t capable of doing everything, but we are commanded to do something. When we feel helpless, we can rejoice; our insufficiency displays the sufficiency of Christ. Our weakness magnifies his strength (2 Cor. 12:10).

When we are overwhelmed, we can rest. God is sovereign over all the earth, and his purposes will not be thwarted (Job 42:2). He will reconcile people to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

When we think that evil will prevail, we can trust. The battle is already won. Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33), and victory is ours in him.

When our unjust actions taint us, we can repent. He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Above all, justice seekers remember that the gospel is at the heart of justice seeking. Justice is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. When we seek justice, we find Christ. We don’t just desire people to be rescued from physical oppression—we want God to free them from the chief oppressor. “We fight like Jesus fights,” Gloria Furman said in her book Alive in Him, “loving righteousness at the cost of our lives, insisting on God’s truth, spreading the good news of his kingdom, and rescuing lost people out of darkness.”

That bubble we live in can be attractive and feel safe. It keeps our vision narrow and shields us from the outside world. But bubbles can be popped so that we no longer hide from or ignore oppression but, in Jesus name, seek justice.