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Updates from West Africa

Lantern Rescue / Lantern Rescue
The Truth Network Radio
November 11, 2023 12:00 pm

Updates from West Africa

Lantern Rescue / Lantern Rescue

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November 11, 2023 12:00 pm

Robby speaks with TC and other members of the team, listen as they share the latest developments from operations in West Africa. 

 A warning: this program contains sensitive content. Listener discretion is advised.

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If you or someone you know has experienced exploitation call the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) at 1-888-373-7888.


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Share it. But most of all, thank you for listening to the Truth Podcast Network. Welcome to Lantern Rescue, a ministry program dedicated to bringing light into the darkness of human trafficking. It's time to light the way to freedom. This is Lantern Rescue. We tell the stories, we talk about rescues, and we empower you to do something about it.

William Wilberforce once said, let it not be said I was silent when they needed me. This is Lantern Rescue. As I get to talk to an old friend, TC is back with us as well as a new friend. We have Grant and Karp and Whitney all with us today. And so TC, this is really almost remarkable. I'm hearing things about what happened in Africa. It kind of blows my mind.

Yeah, it is. It's great to talk to you again, Robbie, and to have the team back, or at least part of the team. We're missing a few guys.

I wish they could be here. But we took a trip last month to West Africa and partnered up with some of the people that we are in constant conversation with that are trying to do the right thing for their folks in their country. And we took a team of six folks over, and we got busy. We got working, and I'm going to turn the team loose when you're ready to tell a little bit about what they did, their part in the operation.

Right. So the first day you were there, essentially, you were training this team. So maybe give us an idea, first of all, TC, you've got some folks that hadn't seen that kind of thing. So what did you start with, I guess? Well, it starts with our guy on the ground there.

I'll call him Dave. He coordinates, sets up, or creates the officer pool that we're going to be training. And he also secured a facility whereby I would talk, and he would talk to their ministry of labor types.

We actually met the ministry of labor, the minister of labor for Benin and his assistant, the director of labor there. So that was pretty high level. So that was cool. And Grant and Karp were able to go and actually work with the officers, and I'll let them talk about what that training looked like and what they were able to do. All right. So Grant, what did that training look like and what were you able to do?

Well, it was unique. I'm actually a police officer in the United States. So going over there, part of this was to meet with a group of officers whom I've never worked with. Probably they've never worked with any American law enforcement. And so part of what we were doing was meet with a group of guys, kind of get to know them, which the language barrier can make that a little difficult. They speak French.

I do not. So you have to rely a lot heavily on interpreters. And part of what we were doing was not only getting to know them as they would be the team that we'd be using in the market. Then we went into some subject control stuff with just real basic like handcuffing if need be, which they don't do a lot of that like we do in the United States.

But we thought that at a very basic level, some handcuffing subject control. How to question potential traffickers, separate them from victims. And just kind of how to position themselves as they're talking to people, being aware of surroundings, the type of questions to ask, try to get stories from both the suspect and the victim to see if stuff matches up. If they know the child's name, relationship to the child, stuff like that that they otherwise probably would not be thinking to do. It's stuff that, you know, as American law enforcement, most of the time stuff like that is, I don't know, taken for granted.

At least for me because you just get a lot of training stuff you don't think about. And at a very basic level, you know, they don't think like we do. So it was a unique thing and kind of a cool thing to be a part of being able to teach them stuff like that. So what kind of trafficking, you know, because our listeners in or I know exactly, you know, was this, you're looking at child labor trafficking or what did that trafficking look like?

What were you working on? They deal with both. The markets, you're probably going to see more labor trafficking there. Kids that are, you know, we were seeing kids that are 10 years old pulling a cart of, I don't know, a few hundred pounds full of rice or corn or whatever. Being exploited by someone who's trafficking them, which could be a parent, you know, lending them out to somebody for an unspecified amount of money or whatever service. And you see a lot of those kids flood into the markets doing stuff like that and you never even think of something like that in the United States.

You know, you never see a kid pulling a few hundred pound cart around just to, I don't know, get a bowl of food. Wow. And you said both kinds.

What was the other kind? I mean, there's there's the sex trafficking portion, which ultimately, you know, when we're when we're. When we're in the markets, you don't you don't know how they're being exploited necessarily. Like I said, we saw more labor trafficking, but the follow up investigation with the police and the upper echelons that we were working with within the police department. You know, they determine what type of exploitation these kids are facing, whether it be labor or sex trafficking. We don't necessarily know that at the time, but it's very likely either one of those things are occurring or both. Wow.

And Karp, what would you add? I would just add that, like Grant said, I mean, American law enforcement, we take for granted all the continued training that that we get here and it's quality training and it's something that we have, you know, boards that oversee that. And so when you're talking with these other countries, it's encouraging to see that those those guys, even though they don't have the quality training that we have here in the U.S., that they're still doing the work. Those guys are out there, you know, hitting the streets and still doing investigations.

And so it's nice to be able to support them in that and just reiterate what Grant said. You do have that labor trafficking and sex trafficking and both those sides. But then you also have, you know, there's a presence for the voodoo priest over there. And also there's a market that that's driven for that, you know, voodoo sacrifice that involves kids, you know, in that area of the country, too. So it's it's it can get overwhelming. And you're seeing where those people are still still doing the work, still willing to make an impact there. Wow. And so, Karp, could you kind of help our listeners and me actually, you know, when you guys talk about these markets, you know, this isn't like, you know, the Safeway or the food line, right?

Something else, right? It's like it's like you describe it. It's an outdoor market. I mean, they're set up with a bunch of stalls and we're talking, you know, hundreds and hundreds of stalls. I mean, I think this was, you know, if not the largest, one of the largest markets there, you know, that spans both sides of one of their their major what would be one of our interstates.

And it's on both sides of that with a pedestrian bridge that goes, you know, over top of it. And so just seeing all these hundreds of stalls and they're they're hawking, you know, all kinds of wares that are, you know, everyday items. And so you're seeing these these children that would normally be in school because driving around that country, we see all the schools that are set up and you see the uniformed kids that are they're going to school. And then you have this large population of children that for whatever reason, they're not in school and they are just being being used there. Officers were telling us that, you know, a lot of these kids that are that are being exploited for that, they get one meal a day and they're the first to get up in the morning or last to go to bed at night. And they work these these kids like they would, you know, a pack animal.

And so it's, you know, just going through and seeing that. And it's kind of a cultural, you know, a cultural fight that you have there with the mentality where people are going there to buy stuff and they see these kids that are that should be in school, they're not in school. And because of the cultural mindset, it's not necessarily frowned upon that you got a kid, you know, hauling a cart with a couple hundred pounds of feed in it, you know. So it's it's it's just a strange thing for our American eyes, our American mentality to see that and wonder why isn't the community as a whole, you know, doing more to combat this situation. And there are those I don't want to mislead our listeners, there are those that are doing the work that that kind of see that. But it's just a cultural mentality of people that look at that and see it. And some of them say, hey, yeah, that's okay.

That's just the way things are. So, Whitney, from your perspective, I mean, this had to be really different, right? Yeah, it was. I was very thankful and fortunate to be able to join in on, you know, this time with the guys out there. And really my part kind of played into more of serving those children afterwards after they were rescued or interdicted.

And then the aftercare portion later on. So we actually got to partner with someone that has been very instrumental and helpful in really kind of the aftercare process in that region. And so we have the joy of being able to provide some of those needs for those kids. But I will say, you know, and it's very much like the guys have said that the market is overly crowded.

You've got tons of people in there. And to touch on what Karp said, you know, in talking with our partner on the ground there, we are in the season, if you will, of kids being kidnapped and grabbed for child sacrifice. And so even though we are there to handle the market piece of this, the labor trafficking portion, those kids are also incredibly vulnerable to being kids pulled in on the sacrifice piece, right? And so we're aware of that as well, that, you know, what we're doing here is not, it's preemptive in a lot of ways.

And I thought that was just an interesting piece to consider as well. And moving through these marketplaces, it's hard. It's very much, again, like Karp said, you know, you've got this idea of our American minds, like, well, trying to figure out why are these kids not, why is education not valued for these kids? You know, and that's part of what we want to drive home in this too is, hey, you're exploiting these children because you're never getting the opportunity to be more, to make more, to do more, you know.

And instead you're exploiting the fact that someone doesn't care enough to allow them to have to step in and do an adult's job, you know, and then feed them bare minimum and treat them definitely not like your own child. You know, and to see in the marketplace, these young kids, I mean, we're talking about six year olds, you know, I have children that age, six year olds with these plates, heavy, heavy things on their head just piled high with, with produce or whatever it is that they're selling. And I mean, it just, you can't, you can't do it justice by describing what you see when you're in those places.

But it was an incredible experience and I am so incredibly thankful to have had that opportunity to see it firsthand. So my question is, I was thinking about that, what happens when these kids grow up, right? Like they become 18, 19, they have kids, I'm sure that they put their kids, because this is normal for them, right? What happens to that person that never had a chance at a childhood, you know?

Yeah, that's a hard consideration to make. I think culturally you just kind of get wound into that same cycle, you know, very much like we see very cyclical things here that occur, right? When you put yourself in that cycle or you're in that cycle of poverty, it's very hard to break it if that's all you ever know. And so I think the hope is that bringing some of these kids out of those exploited situations gives them that glance at a life beyond what someone has taught should be their normal. Right, and literally changing, right, the generational curse that's on, you know, that whole situation. It's amazing, I'm sure a lot of listeners like me can see new things to be praying about West Africa.

So we got to go to a break. When we come back, we're going to have a whole lot more on what's happening there in West Africa with our update with TC and his team. ...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 to see how you can support them financially. Welcome back to Lantern Rescue and today's update with what's going on in West Africa. This team has spent some time over there really opening my eyes to a lot of things that I really hadn't much considered. And so TC, you had mentioned that a big part of the role of what you guys are doing is essentially to keep the inertia of what's happening in the culture there and to eliminate friction, right?

Yes. So a lot of, sometimes I don't get to do some of the cool stuff that the rest of the team does, but, so I was back at what we'll call HQ at the police station there near the market and my thing was to keep the labor types and the cops going in the same direction along with their social services, and to make sure that the path is clear and profitable for the kids, and that it's something that's repeatable, we call it scalable, sustainable, all the Americans talk about all that cool stuff. But I found the reality is, and we always talk about working our way out of a job, but I've come to believe that that's never going to be the case. There's always going to be so much resistance to doing right and to taking care of these kids, whether it's cultural or spiritual or whatever. So, yes, we in this case as Americans go and we are kind of empowering, we're adding energy to the system. There are good people like Karp talked about that want to do the work that are doing your work, and we want to enable them to encourage them to continue.

And so, yeah, we're overcoming some of that friction as a team to make things, at least while we're there. And it does have an impact. For two days, at least two days following our work, there were very, very few kids in the market under the same duress that they were the day before.

So we'll take it. Yeah, obviously, you know, a lot of those folks are like the old saying about the frog in the hot water. They had no idea what they were doing would be in any way considered wrong because it's all they ever knew. Yeah, sometimes I think that's true, Robbie, and other times I think they just don't care. They're going to make a dollar, they're going to eat, and if it means that somebody else is going to have to hustle a little bit harder than they should or don't have a choice, they're going to eat.

And so sometimes I think we get used to things that are not all that great, but we kind of in the back of our minds know that it's not right. So where some of those people are in that process, I'm not sure. But I know that one of the ladies we worked with was definitely up in the grill of some of the some of the exploiters yelling at them and shaming them for what they were doing.

So I'm not sure, you know, that they all don't know that what they're doing is not right. So Grant, I'm curious from your perspective of seeing this gigantic culture difference between what, you know, you've experienced in the United States. You know, can you give us a little insight as to what it was like to actually see some of the enforcement go on and what the response to the people was?

Yeah, well, it is it is very different from our approach in the United States, as far as how we would build a case, manage a case, prosecute a case. You know, things like the layers that we have to go through to even build a case, whether it's information received and then, you know, watching people doing a stakeout, whatever it is. You know, when we did the briefing in the morning, everyone was set to go. Couple vans like like Karp said that there's a basically their version of an interstate that goes through and separates the markets. Karp and I were on the smaller side or the smaller market and they started going through the van. And I mean, before we even knew it, they were they were grabbing kids up and just they put them in the van. They'd get two or three or four kids in the van and then take them back to the headquarters.

No questions asked. And, you know, some of these some of the officers, their beat is the market. And so, you know, they they probably see this frequently and maybe without us being there, they're not doing much about it.

But with a little backing, you know, from from the Americans and what we were trying to push their leadership to do. You know, maybe they're finally able to do something. They're like, OK, we know we know this stall. They use this many kids and they already knew that they were using them for labor, you know, and they shouldn't be. So they were going through, grabbing kids, taking them back to headquarters. The kids kind of put in a back corner about 100 yards off the road and there were probably two or three times where they'd grab a couple kids. And there's, you know, 15, 20, 30 people that would be angry, but they they did not resort to violence, thankfully, because we were. Severely outnumbered if it would have came to that once they get the kids back there, these so-called guardians or people that are using them. They would just show up, you know, and the American law enforcement, we would we would never let the suspects or the accused be that close to a victim, especially, you know, a juvenile child.

But they were, you know, no more than 20 yards apart and they're barking at the cops and they were upset. Some of them may have been, you know, parents that were using the kids. Some may not have been. Some of them were probably being sold or used by their parents and given to these people that were in the markets. But just their approach was a little different.

So maybe that's something in the future. We're like, you know, we teach them a little more about separating victims and suspects and things like that. But they ended up getting 20, 30 of these kids in a back room and they were trying to get the full head count and get their names. And then they put them in a bus and took them to the aftercare facility or like a like a children and youth service and took them, you know, away from the scene. And then all the accused or suspects, they they did kind of have a little bit of an uproar out by the out by the highway.

Wow. When they took the kids out of there. But it was a lot of kids were smiling and laughing.

That was I also have young children. So it kind of breaks your heart. These kids, it's just sad, you know, but God has a plan for him and he's and he's using us to help them. And that's a unique thing to be a part of. And it's a it's a really cool thing to see that a team of people that I didn't even probably know a year or two years ago coming together to help these kids and being used by God in a way that, you know, these kids lives will be affected.

And if they have kids, hopefully they can break that generational just the deterioration like the curse of this. I don't know if these radical views and these kids that are being used and abused. So TC, did I understand they're like 101 investigations opened as a result of what happened over those few days? Yep, 101 kids. I've gotten reports back since we visited the shelters, which car from what can talk about if we have time, but 101 investigations, their organizations called those CPM, they'll interview the kids, the parents, the guardians. If they're over 15 or over, that's better, as far as their laws are concerned.

And if the kids aren't abused, if they're not hurt physically, and some of those kids will go back to their parents, you know, they don't have the system to handle on in one kids like we rescued in one city, filled up their one facility, like that's it. So there's, unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever their logistics even to the aftermath of the rescues. I'm sure. Absolutely. So, Whitney, that was a big part of what you got to do was the aftermath, right? Yes, I think it's an opportunity to work with our partner in that area.

And she is incredible. She and her team put over 100 bags together and she had her team had sewn shorts together for these kids like hands on, you know, and the people that she employs in her work are either high risk or survivors themselves of trafficking. So they were able to put these incredible just hospitality bags, if you will, together that had snacks in them. And actually, our team had gone down probably four or five weeks ago to help her put some of these bags together, a different part of our team.

So this is we got to kind of see the full circle round in this. The last day that we were there, we were able to pass them out at the different after cares that the kids had been moved into, like TC said, you know, we had 101 kids. So that was their kind of spread across the board in different locations. Some were at just a Just Boys home, you know, and we were able to go and just see the kids faces. And for me, that's powerful because it's that opportunity to see like, they already realized this is a better situation than what they were in. And you could see it on their faces, that they were at a place where there was safety and assurance and someone that cared about them.

You obviously have the couple that are still very hesitant and don't really understand fully what's going on. A lot of those were younger. And even some of the one of the after cares we went to, there was a sibling, an older sister and a younger brother, and they were there together. It was a powerful piece to be able to minister to them in that way, to give them something that gave them that reassurance that they were cared for and loved, and to know that they were in a place where they're being cared for and loved.

You know, we want to full circle this thing. We don't ever want to leave the children that we rescue in a place where they're made more vulnerable. And so that is a big part of our heart and our mission. And this is ensuring that wherever they go, it is a vetted organization or aftercare and that they are being ministered to in that way. And so from our listeners' point of view, Whitney, when you say ministered to, is this a faith-based kind of place they're going?

So not every aftercare, and just across the board, not every aftercare is faith-based. However, there is that follow-up, and when we're there, they get to see that hands and feet of Christ, right? And so we make sure they know that, hey, we're here because Jesus sent us to you, and he put you on our heart. That's why we're here. And so it's the Lord's mission above our mission at Lantern.

It's the Lord's mission that you would be set free. And one of the probably the best memories I have or lookbacks I have on this is one of the aftercares we went to. TC gathered all of the kids around, and I have this beautiful picture that is both painted in my mind and on my phone. But TC gathered all of those kids around, and you see these kids just flock into him as close as they all can pile in. And he just tells them that the Lord does love them, and he sees them, and that he desires to know them. And so he gave that gospel message, and that's what it's about. You know, we can all day long, we can rescue, right? We can physically rescue and pull people out of situations, but until we invite Christ in, the real rescue doesn't occur. And so TC did an incredible job of inviting Christ into that place for those children and for them to know him and to understand that the ultimate rescue is in Christ. And that was just a powerful moment for me to see. Oh, absolutely. I hate we're out of time, but what a great place to end and certainly a great place for us to think about praying for this team in West Africa.

TC, I'll give you the final word. Is there some way our listeners, obviously other than going to, that you might add that they could be praying for West Africa? They can pray for West Africa for the things that we talked about. They can pray for the team.

We didn't get to talk. I mean, Karp did one of the coolest things over there. He brought a card game and played with 25 kids, and it changed the whole dynamic of the immediate post recipe piece. You know, to be thankful to God for guys like this team, for with Karp Grant, Keith was there, Charlie was there, and they were willing. They put themselves out there. They went to a place that, I mean, there was an Austin area.

We didn't know how. So you have some brave people going out to do things for the good of others, so they can pray for them as well. Thank you so much, TC. Thank you all. Wow, what a great work God allows us to be part of. Thank you so much. This is the Truth Network.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-13 12:15:57 / 2023-11-13 12:26:59 / 11

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