I wanted to take a moment from regular Musely postings and write about a cause close to my heart.

© Tayler Aubin

I’m not a particularly shy person and never have been, but when I started 9th grade at my high school it was like all the courage was sucked out of me. I vividly remember my first day of class, my unsteady feet under my corduroy skirt and clinging to my few friends I knew from grade school.

A couple days into school I accidentally smeared charcoal all over the front of my shirt AND my only friends were out sick that day (amazing, I know, that all 3 were sick on the same day). It was a bad day. I was embarrassed and lost – I remember scanning the lunch room for a place to sit and feeling like I couldn’t breathe, like everyone was watching me, like I was some kind of helpless, friendless weirdo.

So, I ate lunch in a bathroom stall.

Then, I met Luke. Not in the bathroom, ha, but a couple days later. He was a year older, was  very funny and a little weird, and introduced me to his friends. Therein ended my lunchtimes in the bathroom. Luke not only gave me a backup place to sit at lunch, he also gave me confidence to meet high school head-on. With Luke’s encouragement, I got involved and started meeting incredible people.

I wasn’t necessarily a damsel in distress. Nor was I a victim of abuse or exploitation. But I was pretty helpless – and Luke rescued me from that bathroom stall and helped to give me a hand up.

So it didn’t surprise me one bit when Luke moved to Guatemala after graduating college and started working for the God’s Child Project. The God’s Child Project is dedicated to “breaking the chains of poverty through education and formation.” While it originated in Guatemala, the God’s Child Project has expanded to four additional countries.

Through clinics, schools, social work, micro-finance, homeless shelters, drug rehabilitation and human trafficking advocacy, The God’s Child Project is able to help the communities and people it serves. The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons is the aspect of The God’s Child Project that identifies trafficking victims and provides long-term rehabilitation for those who have been exploited.

2.5 million people are being trafficked at any given time in more than 135 countries. Human trafficking is the 3rd largest illegal industry in the world, second only to the international arms and drug trades, and makes $32 billion US dollars every year. 80% of victims are women, and up to 50 percent are children (according to the US State Department).

This is where the God’s Child Project and The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons (and Luke) come in.

Recently, a little boy named Nathan was brought into a God’s Child Project clinic by a group of tourists. He was very sick and required an operation to remove his appendix. When his mother arrived, hospital staff were shocked at how young she was – Nathan’s mom, Sonia, was 21, had 4 sons and had lost 2 husbands. When her 2nd husband died, Sonia spent all her money to move her family into Antigua and was conned by a man claiming that he’d help care for Sonia and her sons.

© Tayler Aubin

The man forced Sonia and her sons to sleep on the cement floor of a crowded room, and Sonia worked long hours for no pay. The man also forced Nathan out onto the street to shine shoes, taking his earnings when he returned after dark every day.

The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons helped to move Sonia and her sons into a home of their own – one with their own beds, food, a water filter, and other necessities. Nathan and his brother were enrolled in the God’s Child Project’s Dreamer Center School, and Sonia joined the God’s Child Project’s Mothers’ Club – where she can continue receiving weekly food donations and enroll in a special literacy project.

Obviously, Luke saving me from a miserable high school experience cannot compare to the work he does in Guatemala – but it’s overwhelming to learn about the incredible things The God’s Child Project does to help people and the ways in which my old friend has been involved.

In this season of giving, consider donating to the God’s Child Project. Your donation can help The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons rescue more children like Nathan and more mothers like Sonia (not to mention all the other incredible things the God’s Child Project does)! The God’s Child Project is dedicated to making sustainable and permanent changes to the thousands they serve annually.

Check out http://www.godschild.org to learn more about God’s Child Project programs.

www.GodsChild.org/Donate to donate to an incredible cause.

You can learn more about The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons by visiting: http://www.ITEMP.org