On Wednesday, February 1 more than 100 Nazarene men and women volunteered for a special project called Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, or S.O.A.P., an outreach that seeks to raise awareness of human trafficking.
The 109-person group traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, the site of Super Bowl XLVI, for one day. Led by Chad Current, pastor of Living Hope Community Church of the Nazarene in Dayton, Ohio, the group was made up of members of Nazarene churches throughout southwestern Ohio.
One of the most active times for human trafficking in the U.S. occurs during Super Bowl week when many underage females are brought into the host city.
S.O.A.P.’s organizer, Theresa Flores, was a human trafficking victim herself as a teen growing up in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Flores is now a licensed social worker in the Columbus, Ohio, area where she serves as director of education and training for Gracehaven House, a faith-based care and rehabilitation home for young girls who have been victimized.
Flores addressed the group about human trafficking and its impact on the lives of thousands of underage, missing children across the U.S. The group then labeled 16,000 bars of hotel soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline phone number, 888-3737-888.
After preparing the soap packages, 24 teams visited 115 hotels in the Indianapolis area. Their mission was to look around the hotel parking lot to identify anything suspicious and to speak to the desk clerk or manager to seek help in identifying missing children that might be in Indianapolis during the Super Bowl.
To reinforce the process, each hotel was given a multi-page booklet containing pictures and descriptions of missing children and a checklist describing human trafficking red flags. Finally, the hotel was asked to use the hotline-labeled soaps in place of their normal soaps for a three-day period prior to the Super Bowl. Hotel bathrooms are the only place where a girl might experience some privacy.
In addition to 90 of the 115 of the hotels accepting the soap, the picture of one missing 17-year-old was immediately recognized by a desk clerk and a team rescued her later that evening. That girl then identified two more girls who were soon rescued.
Sixty-one women called the Human Trafficking Hotline as the result of a S.O.A.P. outreach at the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, Texas, and the prayer is that even more were reached this year.
Volunteers shared their experiences with a television crew from “America’s Most Wanted.” The episode featuring their interviews will air on the Lifetime Channel on Friday, February 24 from 8 to 10 p.m. (EST).
After the interviews the group met in small groups to pray for those who are being held captive as victims of human trafficking.
Flores hopes to mobilize S.O.A.P for upcoming high-demand events including the national political conventions in Tampa, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina, the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio, some NASCAR events, and upcoming Super Bowls.
—NCN News submissions