Once upon a time, Anna was born into a family that struggled to survive. As a result, she didn’t get the parenting she needed, she misbehaved and began to drop out of school. What she really needed was love and security. Her dreams were answered by Nick, the most amazing rich boyfriend. Except of course, he wasn’t amazing at all. To please him and try to keep him, Anna found herself selling her body. And then the horror really began. One day on the streets, she met a Christian ministry who promised to help her. She didn’t believe them. How could they really help?
Anna was whisked away to another country, and the sexual exploitation began again. This time, she ended up in hospital. The nurses stared, they wondered what the real story was, but they didn’t say anything. Anna returned to the street. Meanwhile, the politicians decided to legalise prostitution and cut funding police efforts to spot trafficking, so Anna was even more vulnerable. Another Christian ministry promised they could help her. Really? Freedom and normality seemed such distant dreams. Again, Anna did not believe them. The horror continued.
This story is repeated again and again across Europe. This story, and other similar ones, were created at EFN’s first big conference in 2013. We spent the whole time together looking at “Anna” and all the reasons why what happened happened. We saw all the opportunities where the story could have been dramatically changed if only there had been correct intervention. We considered why Anna would not dare to believe that she could be free from exploitation.
And then we saw what was needed.
It takes many different people to prevent exploitation. (Anna needed good children’s and youth work, and school teachers and medical staff equipped to know what to look out for. And people working with future Nicks. And campaigners to help politicians understand the best policies to stop trafficking).
It takes many different people to find Anna and help her believe life could change. (Intercessors, outreach workers, safe house staff, counsellors, a welcoming church to be family for the long haul, legal advisors, teachers, business people and more…)
No one ministry can prevent exploitation. But, by linking together, we form planks of wood that form a bridge. It’s a bridge that we can help Anna to see. The path to freedom may still be long but it suddenly seems possible.
Collaboration and networking spread good practice and save money and effort for us all.
Collaboration and networking mean that we can do things together, e.g. sophisticated campaigning, top quality training or prayer events that we could never do on our own.
Most of all, collaboration and networking mean we can build a solid bridge to freedom.
No matter how good we are, one ministry on its own is not enough for Anna.
A plank of wood is just a plank. But planks of wood linked securely together make a bridge that Anna can trust and dare to walk on.
And that’s why EFN’s conference is called Bridge.
Julia Doxat-Purser is the Socio-Political Representative & Religious Liberty Coordinator for the European Evangelical Alliance, wherein she inspires and facilitates excellent Christian engagement in society. Her particular interests are advocacy and enabling others to be effective in ministry.