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Every day Americans encounter human trafficking and don’t realize it. From using smartphones that contain coltan mined by enslaved workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to eating shrimp from grocery stores or restaurants peeled by slaves in Thailand, the government says 134 goods from 74 countries are sold in U.S. stores that are produced by forced and child labor.
Trafficking takes many forms and is found in many places. But Sandra Morgan is doing something about it.
While Morgan worked with AG World Missions in Europe, she served as a nurse and began to combat human trafficking there. Until then, Morgan thought trafficking happened to other people elsewhere. Not to Christians. Not to Americans.
She returned to the U.S. and became administrator of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, and then director of the faith-based Global Center for Women & Justice (GCWJ) at Vanguard University. Along the way she discovered the shocking truth that human trafficking can happen anywhere, including many American neighborhoods.
While the U.S. State Department estimates that 20.9 million people are held in bondage throughout the world, there are more than 21,000 cases in the United States.
The good news is that under Morgan’s leadership, GCWJ is a leader in community education, engagement, and action on the trafficking front. In addition, GCWJ serves as the education partner for the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, where in 226 victims were rescued in one year.
One child in particular stands out to Morgan. Nine-year-old Shyima was taken to a $1.6 million Orange County home to work as a household slave. She slept in the garage and labored from dawn to late at night cleaning and caring for two small children. She never went to school or out to play. Nearly two years later, a neighbor called authorities when she noticed that Shyima was at home during the day when other children were at school. Shyima was rescued, and adults who enslaved her went to jail.
That’s the hope-filled lesson Morgan passes on to her students at Vanguard and to others whenever she speaks.
“I don’t want people to be focused on ‘over there’ when there are things we can do right now here,” she says.
She believes Christians are responsible to get involved in rescuing and restoring, citing James 1:27 which declares that the true test of religion is caring for widows and orphans.
GCWJ offers ample opportunities for people to understand the root causes of trafficking, and practical ways to get involved to make a difference.
Morgan encourages people to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888 to report anything suspicious. She cautions, however, that attempts to barge into a situation without training or clear understanding can cause more damage than healing.
“Take time to learn the root causes first, and know that rescue and restoration is a long process,” she says.
Vanguard University President Michael J. Beals says the center is an invaluable community resource.
“GCWJ is emblematic of ways the Assemblies of God addresses the real needs of marginalized and exploited persons,” Beals says. “Dr. Morgan’s advocacy to advance the global status of women is life changing. She is a true trailblazer in her field, and educates the public along the way — making her work a movement and a ministry.”
Morgan knows the battle must enlist many troops to be successful. Every semester, when she teaches her students, in essence she multiplies herself dozens of times.