“To be the feet of Christ in supporting the rescue of those held in slavery, and to rally the voice of the Church to be the light for both the victims and the perpetrators of human trafficking to find the one True way to freedom.”

heather, marci, renee
Marci, Heather, and Reneé on the recent trip

That is the mission of Oklahoma Wesleyan University’s Orange Movement, led by OKWU University Relations Director and First Lady, Marci Piper, along with Assistant Director, Heather Utzman (an OKWU graduate), and student leaders.

Contrary to what many believe, slavery did not end after the American Civil War. Today, human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry and there are 27 million men, women, and children living in its reality every day in Oklahoma and around the world.

Named after the abolitionist and founding father of the Wesleyan denomination, Orange Scott, the Orange Movement has existed on OKWU’s campus for several years, raising awareness about and fighting modern day slavery.

Recently, the ministry had an opportunity to create a partnership on the front lines of the fight in Southeast Asia. The Rahab House began with a local pastor and his wife bringing young girls—victims of sex trafficking—out of brothels to safety in their own home. The pastor’s family fed, clothed, and protected these girls, providing them a way to escape. Today, what began as a mission to rescue even just a few girls has turned into a home for more than 30 young women on the path to freedom.

The Orange Movement learned of this mission and began providing support for food and supplies, helping the girls to create a sustainable future. In November, Marci, Heather, and Reneé Terrill, an OKWU alumnus and Global Impact Coordinator with Westside Family Church, made their first trip to visit Rahab House.IMG_0757-logo

“There are experiences in life, people we encounter, and certain moments that leave us forever changed,” Heather said. “Our trip to Southeast Asia had many of these.” She recalled the things that stood out most were the joy people found in the midst of incredible tragedy, and their selfless kindness:

“One night as I was playing with some of the kids, my feet were being eaten up by mosquitoes. I didn’t know what to do except grin and bear it. Then one little girl—about 6 years old—reached up and grabbed me by the hand to lead me inside. She scampered off and came back with anti-itch cream. She motioned for me to sit down and began to rub lotion on all the bites. Her simple touch, her sweet act of kindness, left an impact on me that I won’t ever forget.”

marci and rahab girlsIt’s stories like this that make the impact real and tangible. With phrases like “27 million people” or “multi billion dollar industry”, the fight can seem hopeless. But it’s not.

“I’ve had people ask me if I had fun on my trip, and I feel weird saying yes.” said Marci. “I just was with a group of girls who have had horrible things done to them at a very young age and are now only somewhat safe. They have nothing, lack the ability to do much about it, and don’t know where their next meal will come from unless someone helps.”

It’s a heartbreaking story, but hope is still evident, she emphasizes, continuing her reflection:

“The fact is, I did have fun. I saw how God works in lives in the midst of abuse. I saw freedom, the freedom that comes not only from being rescued, but also from accepting Jesus and the love of the Father. And I saw joy—we had a cake party one evening and soon we all had icing on our faces. We didn’t speak the same language, but we laughed together and experienced joy.cake party selfie with rahab girls

And finally, I felt love — even though, for their safety, we were only able to spend a little time with the girls. The stilted English words of ‘we love you’ and a mass of girls giving me hugs were love and joy all at once.

So it was ‘fun’— fun in the best sort of way. The joy and happiness that God brings to our lives when we connect as His children: It’s just plain fun.”

The Orange Movement trip was an eye-opening reminder for the three women that slavery is incredibly real, but also that the actions of just a few can make a profound difference. Orange Movement is beginning the process to raise additional funds for the girls of Rahab House in order to build a more permanent home and continue supporting them on their journey.

rahab girls in prayerTo contribute to this project, visit okwu.edu/give and make sure to designate your donation for Orange Movement: Rahab.

Check back soon for the more to the story of Marci, Heather, and Reneé’s trip to Southeast Asia and refugee camps at the site of the world’s longest running civil war.

Photography by Heather Utzman
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