By B.N.

Read 1 Colossians 1:1-23, 2 Cor. 5:14-21
“For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”
Spend some time in Colossians 1:1-23. Savor all that it says. Consider the reality of Christ, creating and sustaining all things.
Jesus came to proclaim, in word and in action, the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 4:43)
The good news of His superior justice. The good news that He was sent to make things right. The good news of His work of reconciliation that is currently going on.
He was sent to reconcile all things to Himself, for the glory of God. All things includes all people, creation, systems, communities, and every other created thing.
In his ministry of reconciliation, things that were broken are made new, whole, and heal, and what they were made to be.
Within the world of human trafficking is much that is not right. There is, within, brokenness in relationships with one another, with the community, with God, and a brokenness of how each person sees themselves.
We are called to that ministry of reconciliation, according to 2 Corinthians 5:14- 21.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (vs. 18-19)
We have the extraordinary opportunity to partner in Jesus’ work of reconciliation in the lives of victims/survivors, buys, sellers, and the communities that support or promote the work of oppression. We partner in His work of healing and mending the brokenness of the community, of individuals, of relationships, so that they came be healthy, thriving, and all they were made to be. We partner in His work to reconcile the church to the relationships it was made for in its community and bring His justice so that the church and its members live fully in all we are called to be. We partner with different groups in the community, including law enforcement, to make this possible, respecting their authority and roles, recognizing their part in God’s work of justice.
This is an expression of the good news and the work of ambassadors of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation.

Central Valley Justice Coalition has been moving forward to address an issue that has been on our hearts and minds and drawing boards for sometime- human trafficking hidden behind the doors of illegitimate massage parlors.
Within our community are many legitimate, skilled massage practitioners offering important beneficial therapeutic services. We want these businesses to thrive in their part in bringing wellness.
However, there are also businesses under the name “massage,” whose aim is not wellness, but profit through exploitation of their workers. These businesses entice the women, who come from other countries under false pretenses of promises of a job in the U.S.
Most often, a girl arrives from a foreign country with little, aside from a work visa, hope for a better future, and poor understanding of the English language. She may immediately apply for amnesty, but the process to attain this is a relatively slow one and requires an amount of money she is unlikely to possess (in the thousands.) This makes her an easy target for sex-traffickers who advertise in publications that are distributed in U.S. cities. These ads give the promise of easy work and comfy accomodations which lure the unsuspecting girls to cities such as Fresno. (of course, transportation is provided by the ‘do-gooders’.)
Then the exploitation, humiliation, threats of shame and violence begins.
Once they are brought to the massage parlors, they are compelled to work, and for the most part, the work includes providing sexual services for their customers in addition to forced labor doing massage. The women are either directly or indirectly demanded to perform sexual acts for their customers. Even among those given an option to decline, they may comply in in order to make enough money in hopes of survival outside the walls of their prison one day.
The women are paid very little money and are refused the option to leave their job. This refusal, and the demand to work, is backed up by withheld identification documents and visas, threats that law enforcement would arrest and mistreatment them, threats that they will be harmed, threats that their family would be shamed and/or their families would be harmed, the actual use of force, and physical, emotional, and mental harm. They also face the fact they are in a strange country with little or no English language skills, no resources, no understanding of the laws, no one to go to for help and to start a new life. They are required to pay for their housing and meals out of their meager pay. They eat, sleep, and work in the same building and are not allowed to leave the premises.

This is not just a “possible” situation in Fresno. There are already numerous documented cases by the Fresno Police Department, who have been actively working on effective law enforcement.

Here are some “Statistic Snapshots” from the forefront human trafficking organization, Polaris Project:
* “Johns” who frequent brothels disguised as massage parlor make it a “hobby” to buy sex and to track all massage parlors nationwide. There are more than 5,000 brothels disguised as massage parlors nationwide.
* Standard pricing structure: Johns pay a house fee of $60 – $90 per half hour or hour plus they occasionally pay tips; the women are pressured to “please the customer” in order to receive tips. These unpredictable tips are the women’s sole source of income to pay the numerous fees and interest rates they are charged by the network.
* Standard day for a woman in a brothel disguised as a massage parlor: 10am – 2 or 3am, 7 days a week
* Estimated average number of men a woman must have sex with daily: 6 -10

As bad as all this is, this is not the extent of the injustice done to the women, as well as to all those affected. For one, everyday in these businesses means that each woman’s identity, giftings, potential, and dreams are be suppressed.
On top of that, almost always the women do not realize that they are human trafficking victims (see “What Is Human Trafficking?”). This adds difficulty to the task of helping them, because police officers cannot respond to them as victim, if the women do not report themselves as victims, and the police cannot tell the women that they are victims. As victims of human trafficking, victims are not culpable for the activities they have been compelled to do by force, fraud, or coercion. Often, if women do not report themselves as victims, however, police have little choice but to arrest or cite them for the apparent crimes they see.

So what are we doing? We have been helping bring the issue to light. We know that there has been a growing concern from the community and we are partnering with law enforcement to educate the community.
We have also been working with local authorities to get an ordinance developed, approved, and implemented in the City of Fresno. The ordinance will serve to strengthen laws for businesses that provide massage services, in order to provide deterrents and legal ramifications for sex and labor trafficking in illegitimate massage parlors.
Actually, that’s one of the areas where we need your help.

What You Can Do
The Central Valley Justice Coalition is holding informational meeting concerning human trafficking in massage parlors on August 4 and August 13.
Our informational meetings will provide information about human trafficking in the massage parlors, and proposed actions to provide deterrents and greater legal action against this activity.ommunity. FPD Sergeant Chastaine from the Central Valley Human Trafficking Task Force will be giving a presentation along with representatives form the Central Valley Coalition.

Information on the meetings are as follows:
Thursday, August 4, 12:00 p.m., Fresno First Baptist Church parlor room, 1400 E Saginaw Way, Fresno 93704.
Saturday, August 13, 9:00 a.m. Fresno Pacific University BC Lounge.
(These meetings are identical in content, so it is only necessary to attend one meeting.)
Please RVSP with the date you intend to attend at cvjusticecoalition@gmail.com.
We would also appreciate your help in spreading the word to others and inviting people to attend one of the meetings.

We also need support in prayer. We ask you to intercede for the work to end human trafficking in massage parlors, those being oppressed, which includes both the women and those involved in the trade, our law enforcement, our local leaders, including our councilmen and mayor, our community, and the Central Valley Justice Coalition. See our prayer guide for some tips.
Contact us if you would like to support the work of CVJC at 725-1865 or cvjusticecoalition@gmail.com.
More information by Polaris Project on Asian Massage Parlors.

Central Valley Justice Coalition is honored to be supporters of the local ministry Beauty For Ashes, founded by Gina Loera.
Beauty For Ashes reaches out to women, boys, and girls trapped in prostitution and human trafficking* with the love of Christ. For most, if not all sexually exploited persons, there is no one they feel they can trust. The people in their lives have manipulated, used, and physically, emotionally, sexually abused them for their own gain. According to a recent survey of prostituted women throughout the U.S., most prostituted women surveyed said they would like to leave, if they felt they could. So what keeps them from leaving? For many or most, they have a seller or sellers (commonly called a pimp) who uses threats, control, and violence to control them. I have seen how these sellers has gone as far as tattooing those they came to own with their own name, so the women/girls know who they belong to. For all the victims, there is the the problem of not having another way to support themselves and any children they may have and, again, not having anyone they can trust.
Notice how I’ve mentioned girls and boys among the victims. The average age in which females are brought into commercial sexual exploitation is 12 to 14. Most of those being sold out on the streets either are or started off as children. There are also boys, and men, that are being sexually exploitation.

Beauty For Ashes’ approach to those they serve is simple, yet calls for great commitment and love: Every Friday night, they go out to tracks in Fresno, areas where commercial sexual exploitation occurs, give gifts bags to women (girls and boys) they encounter, and offer prayer. And then they return the next week. That regular presence has helped form relationships in which trust can be built, where openness to the gospel can be given a door, and where the women can seek help to leave, if they wish.

We want to invite you all to consider getting involved in supporting Beauty For Ashes. We will have a “Gift Bag Party” on Monday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fresno First Baptist Church campus.
This will be an opportunity to help make the gift bags for the month, but also to here from Gina about the ministry and their needs. Gina will be going on maternity leave at the end of July.

Among the greatest needs of the ministry are regular volunteers to commit to go out on Friday nights, both men and women. Volunteers do not have to go out every week, but we do ask that they commit to a regular schedule, such as twice a month, the first Friday of the month, etc.
We also need:
Volunteers to get donations of gift bags items or donate themselves (see Gift Bag Items)
Volunteers to prepare gift bags once a month
Volunteers for the Prayer Team

Gift Bags Items Needed:
Items such as lotions, candy, body wash, hand soap, nail polish or make-up, body spray, hair accessories, small Bibles or devotional books.

*What is the difference between prostitution and human trafficking? By federal definition, human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor service or sex acts (from adult victims) for financial gain. If the women being sold for sex is doing so without use of force, fraud, or coercion, by federal definition they are not human trafficking victims. HOWEVER, both prostitution and sex trafficking is considered commercial sexual exploitation. Any as noted before, women that may continue to be prostituted without the force, fraud, or coercion of a seller, started off as children who were sold, and thus were human trafficking victims.

Today was a fantastic day. The Central Valley Justice Coalition, along with Ronna Bright of Central Valley Against Human Trafficking and FPD Officer Fries, was invited to be a part of “College Hour” at Fresno Pacific University and to speak with students at a special coffee hour afterwards. It was a great honor to share with students and staff about the reality of human trafficking the the community and the role that believers play in responding to it.
We’ve had wonderful opportunities over the past few months to meet with people throughout the community and provide education, training, inspiration, and other tools. Thank you to everyone who has responded.
We encourage you to keep asking God how He wants you to move forward and feel free to contact us. We treasure the partnerships we have and may have among you in this community.