By Michelle Wallace
Slavery was abolished in America in 1865 with the passing of the 13th Amendment to our Constitution. It was abolished in every other country in the world by 1981; however, there are still people enslaved around the world. And, yes, there are even slaves in America. Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. It involves controlling a person through force, fraud, or coercion to exploit the victim for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both.
The statistics are crazy. Trafficking is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world. It is estimated that each year 100,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk for becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Most people become aware but feel helpless to do anything. Enter Rebecca Jowers. She was first introduced to the problem of human trafficking on a global scale when she was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. As a wife and mother of four, her circumstances prevented her from moving overseas to serve in a ministry, so she began researching domestic human trafficking and realized it was not only a problem in our own country but right in her own back yard. In Texas alone, as many as 30 girls are trafficked as escorts each month. The average age a girl enters prostitution is 13. And an estimated 516 girls are trafficked via online ads each month in Texas.
During a conversation following a mission trip to China in 2012, a pastor asked Jowers about her post-seminary plans.
“My big, hairy, audacious goal is to establish a safe house for women coming out of human trafficking,” Jowers replied. Until then, she had only shared this vision with the Lord and her husband Raymond.
Months later, the pastor approached Jowers about starting an anti-trafficking ministry. Jowers agreed to serve on the leadership team.
“It turns out, I was the team!” Jowers laughs.
For the next year, Jowers continued to research issues related to human trafficking. She visited safe houses in Texas and in Atlanta. She read volumes and attended conferences. With help from others, she developed an after-care program based on Scripture and sound counseling principles. She recruited volunteers and accepted speaking engagements at churches, schools, and community groups. In 2013, Poiema Foundation was incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit entity.
“We felt called to step out in faith. God was calling us to establish a safe house,” Jowers says. Potential donors asked where the safe house would be located, but Poiema had no answer.
“We prayed someone would donate a house. But who donates a house?” Jowers says.
In April 2015, Jowers, volunteers, and the organization’s board began planning fundraisers for a safe house. Halfway through the month, before any fundraisers were announced, gifts started coming in.
“Before I could even step out in faith, God affirmed our work,” Jowers says. “It was as if He said, ‘I’ve got this. This is my work. You just have to show up.'”
In June, fundraising took a surprising twist when Jowers was invited to speak at a women’s Sunday school class at a church in Frisco, Texas. Lunch at a restaurant afterward found Jowers answering questions about Poiema and the safe house idea at a table of eight with the friend who had invited her to speak.
As they left the restaurant, one of the ladies told Jowers, “I think you may be the answer to my prayers.” She had a home in Texas she no longer needed and offered its use for free. The woman said she had been in the church service asking God what to do with her house.
Jowers, dumbfounded, arranged to meet the woman at her Dallas-area home.
“It was in excellent condition: fully furnished, a safe place with a washer, dryer, lawn mower and a refrigerator,” Jowers says.
At first, Jowers assumed the woman intended to sell or rent the home to Poiema. She was wrong.
“It’s going to be your house,” the woman replied. “I am giving it to Poiema.”
Jowers, shocked, realized she had forgotten to ask the donor what the balance of the house note might be. She texted the lady, who texted back, “Paid in full. Don’t you love those words Jesus gave us?”
Why the name Poiema? “Poiema” is a Greek word found in Ephesians 2:10, which states, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The word “poiema” is translated as “handiwork” or “workmanship.” God intimately and lovingly creates each person, and he cherishes every person as a precious work of art. Sadly, women and children in the sex industry believe they have no value or self-worth. But regardless of how they feel, the truth is they are God’s workmanship. They are custom-designed by the Master’s hand to do good works. The Poiema Foundation hopes to reach these victims and share the love of Christ and the good news that they have value and self-worth because they are intimately created by a loving Creator.
Connect with Michelle at www.HandofTheKing.com.