Assemblies of God Ministries Challenges Students to Fight Sex Trafficking

The principal took a breath and began to read. As she scanned the list, her eyes began to widen in shock. This list of red flags that help identify girls being trafficked for sex ... tears filled her eyes ... this list described 75 percent of all the girls in her school! 

For Assemblies of God U.S. Missionary Jeff Devoll and his wife, Tanya, reaching kids with a powerful positive message is the first step in transforming their lives from one consumed with self--self-preservation, self-worth, self-sufficiency--to ultimately live life positively selflessly.

"We need students intervening into the lives of other students," explains Jeff Devoll. "We're trying to break down the culture of 'mind your own business' and create a culture of 'whatever it takes,' even if it means being 'uncool' for awhile."

The Devolls' passion to change kids' lives has led to their creation of StudentReach, a school assembly program that goes beyond a simple, dead-end presentation. "DayOne3D", the main assembly presented by StudentReach, features a 42-foot screen and 3D videos that kids view through provided 3D glasses. The experience creates a desire and opportunity for kids to literally put what they've learned into action that day--and, as they continue, ultimately become a force in being a difference-maker in other people's lives as well.

Recently, FREE (Find, Rescue, Embrace and Empower) International, a ministry focused on working to rescue victims of sex trafficking and providing aftercare, founded by AG U.S. Missionary Mike Bartel and his wife, Denise, approached the Devolls and StudentReach about an assembly partnership. These two groups then joined with Mississippi-Louisiana Youth Alive to go into 16 schools and interact with 35 lunch clubs in Louisiana and Mississippi during Super Bowl week (Jan. 28-Feb.1).

However, instead of presenting the "DayOne3D" program, Lowell Hochhalter, an AG. U.S. missionary with FREE International, worked with the Devolls to create an entirely new program: "Say Something." Using the same basic principle of students being the key to making a difference, this assembly was based on the widespread issues of sex trafficking, missing children and sexual abuse.

"We want students to be the solution to ending modern-day slavery," Hochhalter says simply. "The assembly is designed to challenge and motivate students to 'say something'--to stop minding their own business, watch out for their friends, recognize red flags that point to a sex trafficking incident and basically become the eyes and ears for authorities who can intervene."

Hochhalter explains the reason that it's vital to share this message in schools is that children on the streets--of whom 67 percent are approached by a pimp or sex trafficker within their first three days on the street--aren't the only ones who fall victim to sex traffickers.

"A high percentage of trafficking victims are actually trafficked by a family member or someone who knows them very well," he says. "So the child may live at home, but still be a victim of sex trafficking."

Devoll adds, "There's a mindset that trafficked children are only from overseas, but they're also from our schools, runaways, dropouts, kids living with friends or relatives--and with one similar connection who can make a difference: friends from school."

Bartel, Hochhalter and Devoll agree that some schools receive the message differently than others. However, the tougher the school, the more real the message.

Bartel says that in one school, the entire assembly was on a razor's edge as tensions were high.

"I've never been in an assembly like that before--the school had metal detectors as we walked in and armed guards patrolling the hallways," he says. "The kids were broken and hurting themselves, they wanted to hate it [Say Something], but as each segment progressed, it hit them right between the eyes. The message landed right in their laps because it was what so many of them were already experiencing."

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