Couple aims to eliminate abuse, slavery
Jason Green, BNI News Service
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part story. The first part was published in our prior issue.
An Alabama-based couple is devoting their Christian mission and their lives to dealing with the origins of present-day, worldwide trafficking in sex-driven slavery that involves children. Milton and Kimberly Smith have devoted several years of their lives and massive energy and put their family's personal safety at risk as they have worked to make a difference in this problem and in the lives of those victimized.
Currently, the couple lives in Shelby County in the Chelsea community near Birmingham. But their ministry and their mission go forward from Chelsea, will continue to grow, provided they get their story told to enough people willing to give money and/or time. They will need both in order for Make Way Partners, the formal name for the Smith's mission and ministry, to succeed.
Our earlier story told of the Smith's mission in Spain, their investigation of a children's home in a nearby European country where they believed a financial scam and a haven for child sex slavery was housed.This story picks up there.
After discovering the problem at the children's home, and attempting to aid and protect the victims, they sought information on sex-slavery in other parts of the world. What they learned, observed and concluded is shocking, the Smiths said. They believe as many as 27 million people, mostly women and children, are now living under slavery, most in forms of sexual slavery.
They believe the primary current sources for the sex-slave trade are former Soviet Bloc countries in Eastern Europe. Literature from the Smith's Make Way Partners ministry provides information on incidents of sexual slavery throughout the world, however, indicating that an estimated 700,000 people are sold into slavery each year.
The United States is not immune to this problem, the Smiths said. The Smiths said information provided to them and Make Way Partners by United States' governmental sources indicates perhaps 50,000 women and children are being trafficked into this country annually.
The Smiths said there are three levels of sexual exploitation commonly associated with child-slaves – all damaging to the child and, ultimately, in the third level, a threat to the child's life. All levels are sexual exploitation and are illegal, Kimberly said, and violate basic Christian principles.
Slavery tends to be big business in the parts of Europe where the Smiths have worked and are seeking to intervene. Milton said legalized prostitution there generates as much as $1.5 billion in revenue. Illegal prostitution, including the sale of young women and children for sex, generates five times that much, he said.
The streets of Moldova, a small country once part of the Soviet Union, display numerous bill-boards featuring photos of smiling women enticing other young women to become "nannies" for child care in Western counties. The women so enticed, according to the Smiths, are directed to travel agencies that send them to Mexico.
Once in Mexico, the women are told they can cross the American border and gain employment as nannies with wealthy families or as waitresses. But when they get to Mexico, the Smiths said, they are met by people who place them in brothels where they are abused and prostituted. The couple said they believe government officials in Mexico are aware of the practice but do nothing. Corruption, they believe, is a large problem in many areas of the world.
"The major traffickers aren't in this country,' Kimberly said. "To stop the trade, we must go where they are. The fastest growing regions that are exporting victims of human trafficking are Eastern Europe and Africa. This is where it originates; this is where the ringleaders of human trafficking are. This where we must fight the fight."
This is where Make Way Partners steps in, and where the Smiths believe they can have an impact. The ministry raises awareness of the growing slavery problem in these parts of the world and funnels funds and manpower into those areas to help stifle the problem. Such is not easy, the Smiths said, due to corruption and long-imbedded practicese.
Make Way Partners works with The Persecuted Church, a group of Christians with deep ties in the Balkans and other portions of Eastern Europe. These European Christians act as a support group for those who undergo abuse or harassment from other segments of society, and are thus the best regional partner for the Smiths because they stand against other groups that apparently ignore and seem to support the sex-slavery trade. Those groups , the Smiths said,, include the Russian Mafia, a church and some governments.
Regional media outlets are of little consequence, the Smiths say, because all are owned by the government, as are gas stations and food stores. Consequently, the Smiths said, a grass-roots effort in the region is the only viable way of making progress toward stopping the sex-slave trade.
That is why the Smiths have dedicated themselves to this ministry.
For those who have interest in Make Way Partners, its mission and in helping Milton and Kimberly Smith, Kimberly says she should like to communicate with you. They have a web site at www.makewaypartners.com or you can contact Kimberly direct by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 205-240-8597
Donations to Make Way Partners are tax deductible, according to the Smiths, and they offer to confirm deductibility to those needing confirmation. A recently established board sets policies of Make Way Partners.
Recent months have seen substantial financial support come to Make Way Partners – in weekly or monthly amounts from interested people, regular support from churches and organizations and some major gifts from individuals in the five-figure range. Donations can be mailed to Make Way Partners, P. O. Box 2347, Tuscaloosa, Ala. 35403 or to telephone 205-366-4017.