This is Sam from the Masking Journey Podcast, and our goal with the podcast has helped you to try to find your way in this difficult world. Your chosen Truth Network Podcast is starting in just seconds.
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William Wilberforce once said, let it not be said I was silent when they needed me. This is Lantern Rescue. Welcome to Lantern Rescue, and oh boy, do we have an episode for you today. We got a brand new guest for you. And Ren, why don't you introduce him for us?
I would be honored to. So Fernando is one of the greatest people we've ever met. I really can't say enough about him. I could go on for the entire podcast just talking about this person. He is just one of those people that God sent to us, and it is just literally incredible.
It's just a crazy experience. He kind of came out of nowhere, and we were really looking for help down in the Caribbean, and he was just sent to us. The relationship started slow, and it has grown, and he's one of our best assets.
Man, I really can't say enough. I'm going to get emotional talking about him. He's really touched all of our lives. He's gotten the opportunity to meet a lot of people on the team, domestic people. We've brought people down that are on our administrative team to meet him and to meet his crew, and it's just been an absolute pleasure and an honor to work with him. To kind of try to sum it up, he's our director of operations down in one side of the Caribbean, and he's going to talk about that a little bit, but he's really the man for us. He's the man for us in that country, and it's just incredible.
Yeah, and today we get to hear his story, right? And so, Fernando, welcome aboard and share with us your side of the story. Well, thank you for having me. Thank you, Ryan, for the introduction. First and foremost, if you hear some dogs, I have over seven dogs, and I'll explain to you why they're on, or my two sons probably will knock on my door or anything.
I'm a family man, so just excuse me, because I know there's going to be some type of noise that you're going to hear in the background. But anyways, yes, I've been in the Dominican Republic for the past 14 years. I'm originally from New York City, and the main reason why I do what I do is because I grew up in a domestic violence household. My father used to drink a lot, and my mom was a drug addict, where they both were, but my father used to beat my mom, beat me and my other brothers, and I couldn't help my mom much because I was a kid. And it just gave me a heart to try to help people weaker than myself growing up, so that's why any career path I took was always to try to help someone weaker than myself. Eventually, at the age of 13, I thought to myself, well, I need to leave because either my father's going to kill me or I'm going to end up killing him, and I started living in the streets at the age of 13 and eventually ended up sleeping at a graveyard, which to me was the safest place to stay at nighttime because there were people like gang members always trying to mess around or hurt homeless people and stuff like that, so the graveyard at night, no one goes, and I felt comfortable there. So then eventually, one of my friends stated, hey, they're giving away free pizza on top of ShopRite, there's a church, a youth pastor, so I was like, ah, well, let's go, let's eat and leave. But when I got there, I didn't get filled with the pizza, I got filled with what the pastor was saying, I got filled with the word of God about this man called Jesus who died for me, a significant no one, a kid in the street that has nothing died for me. It was like something new to my ears, I mean, it was just, I wanted to know more about this man called Jesus and it just filled me up that I was valuable to someone, so the rest is history, this is why I do what I do as far as anti-trafficking is concerned. So how old were you when the pizza incident happened?
Same age, late 13, coming into 14 years old, but I was still 13, so basically a year, almost a whole year, I was living in the streets sometimes, eating from the garbage, or a lot of restaurants were very kind at the end, even when we closed come by and they always have fresh food that never went out, but yeah, close to being 14. Wow, and so how did God arrange to get you off the street? Well, the same church, they saw my zeal to want to learn more, I was there for everything they had, even if it was a women's meeting, whatever they had, I wanted to be there.
I was the first one in to help set up the chairs, the last one out to unset the chairs, and I just wanted to know everything, and when they started doing later on street ministry, I was one of the youths that didn't even go to movie theaters or malls or anything, I wanted to be in the street ministry with what it was called at the time, Sidewalk Sunday School by Pastor Bill Wilson, and I was all over the five boroughs of New York doing street ministry. How wonderful, and so how did all that lead to where you are today, Fernando? Well, I got, I wanted, when I was in, well I can't speak about the long forest too much, but me and my teammates wanted to take a vacation and we wanted to go to Brazil, but one of our friends had a contact here with a famous singer, he said, no, come to Dominican Republic, this is as good as Brazil or whatever, so I ended up vacationing in Dominican Republic with some of my colleagues, and this is where I met my wife, and actually in the street corner, she was, so to say, my first victim that I rescued without knowing that this is what I was supposed to do, she was in the corner telling herself, and my teammates and I passed by, they got a couple of girls, I kept walking, but when I bumped into that corner, the spotlight, like there was a light on her only, and there was probably six other girls, but I just saw their shadows, but I saw her, but I kept walking, I didn't stop or anything, and then my best friend at the time grabbed her for me or whatever, and when I looked behind, I saw her walking, my heart started pumping and stuff, and we just talked for hours and hours, and I learned her story right away, how she got there and everything, and my heart just felt for her, so I started visiting Austin here and decided to start a family here, and that's how I got to Dominican Republic, and at that time, I met a person called Peter Everett that he was in charge of another NGO, but for anti-trafficking for minors, and he opened my eyes to the realities of human trafficking, and from there on, I knew this is what I wanted to do. Fernando, it's such an incredible story that you have, and how you connected with your wife, and how that gave you this passion to help people in trafficking situations. I know her story has really impacted you, and it's impacted a lot of us. Would you feel comfortable sharing a little bit more about that story, her journey, and kind of what it looks like for her to come past that trafficking background? Yes, yes, and thanks for asking, because with me, since I'm an investigator by trade, you have to get the information out of me. I'm just not going to tell you off the bat, so thank you.
You don't need to know more details about anything I say, just please tell me, and I will give you the information. Yes, she was even trafficked to Haiti before I got into the picture, and when she was able to pay her debt, she told me what she wanted on her knees to the owner, and started crying, saying, please, please, just let me go. I have a daughter, or she does, and I just need to go back home, and the owner forgave her debts, and she was able to come back to the Dominican Republic, which was literally two weeks before when I met her, so she just recently got back to the Dominican Republic when I met her in that corner. It was godsend, because she actually called the taxi five minutes before I got there, and the taxi came late, and when I was passing by, I heard her on the phone, saying, where are you at?
I'm still waiting for you. If the taxi came five minutes on time, I would never have bumped into her there, so for me, that also was a good connection. Now, it's been difficult with her, because during her trafficking, and even her growing up as a child, her mother used to give her to people to clean houses. She was seven, eight years old, cleaning houses, house to house, house to house, just to eat or bring money back to her mother, so even from that, she developed a mental illness called borderline disorder, and it's kind of like bipolar, but it's different in the way that it has abandonment issues, so when I talked about the seven dogs, that's part of it. Every time I go into a mission, she feels like I'm abandoning her, and she tries to get something to fill that void, and she gets dogs or some kind of animals.
Like, on point, I have over 20 chickens and roosters, so she's still dealing with that now, but since she converted to Christianity, it's a heck of a lot better. I don't receive suicide messages anymore and nothing like that, but she developed that during the whole process of growing up, and it skyrocketed when she was a victim, and a lot of these victims, they don't never come out 100% like they came in. There's always something there, meaning the rescue process is ongoing.
It's not just off the street. The rescue process is ongoing, and that's why we need people like Lancer Rescue that keeps communicating and building relationships with the victims after the fact, where most NGOs just stop at the rescue. Lancer Rescue keeps going, and I know this for a fact, because I'm there, and I see it with my own eyes, so that's why the victims need that extra care, that extra compassion, that extra time. With my wife, the first thing I had her do was dye her hair her original color, so when she looks at the mirror, she doesn't see Cynthia, which was her street name, because that's another thing that the traffickers like to do is take your identity away from you, so when you take your identity, you're taking your humanity, your past, your connections, your family, so little by little, it took a while, but she got back to her regular self. Wow. Wow, I've never heard that aspect of it, Fernando, and so how old was she when they began to traffic her?
Well, she was 22, let me think real quick, her daughter is 22 now, probably 18 or 19 years old. Wow, that's a tragic story. Well, again, we have so much for you in this episode when we come back. We've got a lot more coming from Fernando and the Dominican Republic.
We'll be right back. Lantern Rescue is a USA-based organization that conducts international rescue operations for people suffering from human trafficking. Lantern specializes in sending former U.S. Special Operation law enforcement and intelligence personnel to partner with host nations and assist them in creating specialized units to combat ongoing security problems, such as genocide, terrorism, and human trafficking.
As a nonprofit charity, they offer services free of charge to their host nations. Human trafficking has grown into the second largest criminal activity in the world, reaching an estimated $150 billion in annual activity. Lantern Rescue has developed rapidly to combat trafficking. Lantern operates through a trained international network in order to rescue women and children from sex and labor slavery, and facilitates holistic aftercare services. They're gearing up for operations right now, and you can go to lanternrescue.org to see how you can support them financially. Welcome back to Lantern Rescue in today's episode. Wow, what a story from the Dominican Republic and Wren.
We'll turn it back to you. Yeah, so we're hearing this incredible story about Fernando and his wife and her getting out of the trafficking situation. So what I wanted to ask Fernando is, now that you've had this relationship, such a close relationship with someone that was formerly a victim of trafficking, how does that affect how you conduct your investigations and how you see, like, the victims and how you identify them? How does that affect your daily interaction? No, it definitely opened my eyes because even to this day, there's a lot of people, including prosecutors from around the world, investigators, that still don't see human trafficking victims as victims. They think that they're looking for, you know, they're doing it for money or, you know, they like what they're doing.
And it's not true. Seeing how it affected my wife's mindset or her mental aspect, I see those victims just as victims. And sometimes it does affect personally when I do investigations. And just like the recent operation that, in another episode, we'll talk about Operation Catalaya, but I developed what was called compassion fatigue. And basically, when all these victims escaped, which I'll talk about in the other episode, it affected me emotionally, physically, mentally, and everything because I see a lot of them as my wife. And I wish that they can all receive the blessings that my wife receives that get out of the environment and have someone that would be there with patience and compassion and love until they get to their mental state as they were before they came into trafficking. And like I said, I see them as victims and I want to do everything I can to rescue them.
And sometimes, to be honest with you, I bump heads with prosecutors. I know you're one, but us investigators don't see it like the way you guys see it and vice versa. But we want the rescue to happen right away and what happened with this recent case because my thing is the victims. I don't care too much about the arrest or anything like that.
Of course, it needs to happen, but the victims, I want them in safe places to start the healing process. And that's what affects me. Watching my wife through the whole 14 years I'm with her, it was a long, long process. So, oh my goodness, I know everybody listening is like me, Fernando. They're wondering, you know, so with your background, what is it that you're actually doing there now in the Dominican Republic? Sure, sure. First of all, sorry for my English.
I lost a lot of my English 14 years here speaking Spanish, so it might have my tongue is tied sometimes. Well, I recently came back from surveillance. We are collaborating right now with Homeland Security from DC on a major case that involves four countries.
I can't go into detail with that. And we also are working on the case that involves Ukrainian women that have been trafficked to the Dominican Republic. Also, right now I am actually a Dominican police officer assigned to the SWAT unit as an instructor. I am a hand-to-hand combat instructor for Special Forces and SWAT personnel. I will be heading to Ecuador a couple of weeks to train their SWAT unit over there and also a hundred, about a hundred females that have been abused and trafficked. There's an NGO in Ecuador that houses them, and we train them on self-defense techniques from February 11th to the 16th or something like that.
So basically, that's what I'm doing at the moment. Well, Ren, you were right. He's a very, very amazing asset with a lot of skill sets that helps in so many different ways. Yeah, isn't that crazy? And he's just, like, our all-encompassing, like, anywhere we say go, he goes.
Like, he's just the most proficient and trustworthy person. It's incredible. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
Yeah, sure. So, Fernando, it is amazing that your wife got this happy ending. And I know she still has some struggles, as someone from that situation would, but I know a lot of survivors of human trafficking and victims, when they come to us, their eyes are downcast a lot, and they're very ashamed and embarrassed of what's happened to them, and it's hard for them to connect with people moving forward. And it's even harder for victims to connect with, you know, police officers or investigators, people that know details about what's happened to them or what's happened to other people and can assume things. How has that helped your wife, and how do you think you could help explaining your relationship with you and your wife and give hope to other victims out there that are hopeful that someday, whether it's with a cop or someone else, someday that they'll have a relationship, a healthy relationship, after a trafficking situation?
Is there any advice or insight you can give on that? Yes. My wife actually had, you know, God used me, but it's really the Holy Spirit that killed her or is healing her. She's not embarrassed anymore because, you know, she learned that her trials is a testimony now, and she does speak to a lot of young girls, and when she has the opportunity, I would give her the phone to speak even to a trafficked victim if she wants to speak or the victim is willing to hear because, you know, they have the same language, they have the same thought process and everything like that. She can get to someone way better than I can as far as the victim's concerned. As far as the victim finding a healthy relationship, I can't really say that that would happen because of a cycle that happens, like the same with domestic violence. For some reason, you get out of one tragic or bad relationship and you get into the same one again. Sometimes they just keep getting into that cycle, and really the only person that can help them now is the Holy Spirit because there's a change from in and then outwards, not outwards and in.
A lot of people tend to confuse that. But it's a hard process. They need someone, their mother or someone that would help them out during that process. It's not easy. Like I said, I used to get suicidal messages from my wife and it got worse when my son was born, my first son, because then she had postpartum depression and it was worse and I couldn't even work at all.
It was a struggle, but love and compassion will win at the end. Like I said, that's all I can say. I can't really reach out to a victim that way. That's why I have a service victim coordinator with me, that she's doing great and she's the one that reaches out to the victims.
Wow. There's so much that you said in that short sentence or two that just speaks to so many of us, right? Again, you know, it's kind of our prayers, right? That those of us listening right now that, wow, all these victims desperately need our prayers because it isn't just what the traffickers did to them. It's how, you know, Satan's going to continue to beat them up after they come out and how they can continue. And it's going to be, like you said, the Holy Spirit, but it also is going to take somebody like Fernando to love them past all that and to be patient and to be Jesus with skin on, which is why, and I couldn't agree more, that we're so grateful for the team at Landon Rescue and, you know, we've had a chance, Ren, right?
Well, you have. You've taken part in the teams that go over there with those victims and you've seen that. So I'm interested from your point of view, because I know you spent a lot of time with those victims on things that you think you would help. Yeah, so with the moving past that mentality, and I know there's a lot of push in the world to stop using the word victim and to stop using the word survivor, but what people do is victimizing to them.
They are victimized by their sedation and they move past that and they become something else and just because they were once identified as a victim does not mean that that has to be their perpetual identity. So I think something that's really good with helping victims and survivors of human trafficking is just to allow that story to cease for itself, to not be ashamed of it. Just call it for what it is that you were trafficked, that you were hurt, that someone took advantage of you and to identify it for what it is and not pretend that it wasn't as bad as it was. It's okay if you don't ever want to talk about it again after that. After you recover from human trafficking, it's okay if victims never want to talk about this again. But identifying it for what it was and not taking away from that I think is important because once you really call that monster out of the darkness, you can then move past it. Once you've identified it, you know, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem, right?
And I'm not comparing trafficking to addiction, but it makes a point that you cannot fix a problem, that you aren't willing to identify and accept. So I think the first part is really accepting that something bad has happened to them and then once that is accepted, knowing that that is not, it's not your identity, that's not who you are, it's something that happened to you. And then being able to move past that and if you never want to talk about your story again, then that's your choice, but if you do, don't be ashamed, don't be embarrassed. This is something someone did to you, you did not deserve it, this is not your fault, but we've moved past it and now you have this new life. So I think that, being able to separate that, and that might not be something that everyone can do and that might be, other people might find other methods, but I think if you're able to separate what happened to you, what people did, from who you are, I think that would be really helpful.
And Fernando, you had a word that you wanted to share. Yes, she used the word victim, that some NGOs prefer survivors than victims. Well, our job is to make victims into survivors and like I said, it's just not the rescue part of, let's say, the nightclub or the residential area. It's a long process and just like any survivor, let's say a survivor of a car accident, a survivor of fire, they will still have scars that show or scars that, you know, emotional scars, and they can use that as their strength, but they need someone to go hand-to-hand with them during the process. And like I said, I've seen firsthand Land to Rescue do that, and that's why I am very honored and proud to be part of Land to Rescue. Wow, Ren, that's quite a word too, like turning victims into survivors. I mean, I love that concept and wow.
Absolutely. You know, if you're listening right now, I know you're like, well, what can I do? Well, as Fernando explained, as Ren says, your prayers, right, there's going to be God that sets it up like he did for Fernando and his wife, that that light came on in that corner, that that right person is going to see that person that needs to get the connection, and so your prayers mean so much. And again, if the Lord puts it on your heart to contribute and invest in what's going on, what a great year to do that. There is so much going on. You know, you heard what Fernando said about the Ukraine. We've got that situation in, oh, Ecuador and all these different places, but the Lord has his places in all of those places, including you that are listening right now. And so, again, we would ask that you would prayerfully consider, you know, going to landonrescue.org, support us, see what's there, and join the team, right, Fernando?
Yes, join, join. This only can happen with three types of people, doers, donors, and door openers. Sometimes people cannot be a doer, which is boots on the ground, social media. Some people cannot donate, but some people have a connection. They can open a door.
So we need three types of people, doers, donors, and door openers. Oh, wow. You've got a lot of good stuff there, Fernando. Thank you, Ren, so much.
Have you got a last word for us? No, I mean, just thank you so much, Fernando, for being on and sharing your story. It's incredible stuff, and I hope people really listen to and take credit for what you've said today. Oh, me too, me too. Thank you. Thank you so much, both of you. God bless.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-04 17:04:25 / 2023-02-04 17:14:51 / 10