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You know very well by now my intense passion and heart for ending human trafficking. This is an issue that when I first REALLY learned about it in 2011, I could no longer sit back and ignore it… it’s an issue I quickly dove into learning as much as I could about it. It’s an issue that affects women, men, and children of all ages, races, socio-economic statuses, genders, religions, cultures… it happens in every state in the United States and every country around the world. It’s a massive issue… but when we let the fact that something like human trafficking is such a massive issue cloud our vision and keep us from DOING anything about it… that’s when we have to sit back and realize that we CAN do something… we have to start SOMEWHERE.
Bridget and Don Brewster discovered, AIM, Agape International Missions while Bridget’s husband Don was the Executive Pastor of a church in Northern California.
On a 10-day trip to Cambodia with AIM, it became obvious that the country was still suffering from the effects of the civil war. They witnessed extreme poverty and broken families. A longing for kindness and hearing about the hope of the Lord was evident all around them.
Two weeks after returning home to the US, Bridget and Don saw a news special about children being sold into trafficking. It was happening just outside Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh near the areas Bridget and Don had visited on their prior trip.
Having not heard anything about the problem until they’d returned home, Bridget and Don reached out to the founders of the church planting arm of AIM and returned to Cambodia to learn more about the problem.
Many organizations were forced to stop rescues due to lack of resources and safe places for survivors to experience restoration. At this point, many children ended back on the streets, in brothels, or in jail.
Bridget and Don sold their home in the US and moved to Cambodia to help Agape set up a restoration home where trafficking survivors could begin the healing process and prepare for the future.
After just three months, their facilities were at capacity, but step-by-step, God revealed resources to help them manage the needs of survivors.
For Agape, it’s based on four pillars of prevention, rescue, restoration, and reintegration.
Agape checks in with each survivor once a month when they have entered the reintegration pillar. Only 5% of girls in the Agape program go back to their former lives.
Christ is at the center of Agape’s mission. Unconditional love, community, and employment with a living wage (for both a survivor and her family) allows them to return to a new life with honor and dignity.
Rescuing is not as simple as finding trafficking victims and getting them out. There must also be trauma-informed approach tailored to each individual’s needs.
Children of many different religions or no religion come to Agape. While they do not have to become Christians, they are taught about the hope of Christ and who Christ created them to be.
Agape knew that Jesus needed to move into the Svay Pak community, a large hub of trafficking in Southeast Asia. Agape planted a church there and reached out to help the men in the community learn about their identity in Christ.
The school, church, transition home, and clinic have served as preventative tools to help keep kids safe from trafficking risks. Agape just opened a new school facility where the children learn together instead of being spread out in different buildings.
Agape creates stability and assurance by providing a living wage through three employment centers where daily devotions, family-style meals, benefits, and child-care are provided.
The community was resistant to Agape’s presence in the beginning, but the creation of sustainable jobs and the building of intentional relationships helped with the trust needed to implement true change.
Much of Cambodia lost the traditional family structure during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Agape works to restore families through parenting classes and teaching about the ways God reveres children.
You don’t have to leave town to fight human trafficking. Start by being aware of the problem. Bridget recommends several documentaries including: Nefarious, The Pink Room (this one is about Agape International Missions), and CNN’s Every Day in Cambodia.
Be aware of what trafficking looks like and get involved in local community organizations that support the welfare and education of children.
Support Women: Find Molly’s lists of places to shop that support not only survivors of trafficking, but companies that also provide sustainable economic opportunity to vulnerable areas.
Help organizations that provide mentoring, shelter, and resources to girls who age out of the foster care system when they turn 18.
Prevention is key: Homeless children are especially vulnerable to trafficking, and it happens in your own backyard. Become a foster parent, volunteer in schools and teen centers. You can even support the local PTA system, regardless of whether or not you have kids.
27:34 – What’s Next For Agape International Missions?
Agape and its partners are constantly at capacity. Their goal is to build another transition home to relieve some of the existing homes that are already full.
Job creation is key: Agape hopes to build 12 more employment centers within the next 7 years to employ 1,000 more girls.
Agape also hopes to increase marketing efforts to grow sales and launch a unique brand for AIM. With their Three Strands Brand, they are featuring the 22 Bracelet (a bracelet that represents one girl trafficked being one too many, and one day in trafficking being too long). You can hear more about the compelling story behind the 22 Bracelet in Bridget’s interview.
After learning about the issue of sex trafficking in Cambodia in 2005, Don and Bridget Brewster sold their home, Don gave up his position as Executive Pastor of Adventure Christian Church in Roseville, CA, and they moved to Cambodia to lead Agape International Missions (AIM). AIM is a non-profit organization that is stopping the cycle of exploitation in Cambodia by preventing trafficking and rescuing, restoring, and reintegrating survivors.
The Brewsters have spearheaded AIM’s efforts to fight trafficking through AIM Restoration Home, a community center, the Lord’s Gym, a community church, transitional homes, employment centers, an accredited elementary school, and their own SWAT Rescue Team.
Their leadership has led to over 1,000 survivors rescued, over 800 survivors restored and reintegrated, and thousands of girls prevented from being trafficked.