When buying real estate, one generally looks positively at features such as good schools, higher socio-economic bracket and low crime. Selecting the location of the Los Angeles Ministry Center for Send Relief took a decidedly different path.
When Los Angeles became the site to establish a Send Relief Center, its director, Daryl Lance, said one of the criteria was that it was in an area in need of gospel light. In particular, the center was to tackle the growing scourge of human trafficking, especially child trafficking.
“We’ve had conversations about the high degree of human trafficking that’s taking place in Los Angeles,” he said. “And on closer inspection, this part of East Los Angeles has the highest child trafficking numbers.”
The building that serves as the center’s home port, City of Los Angeles Baptist Church, is located in the middle of it all. Before becoming its pastor, Min Lee was a fellow Angeleno who felt compelled to go to church one day and pray for his people. The church was struggling, but had potential.
They invited him back to lead a devotional. Then they did it again. This happened enough times that he was asked to become a pastor. He accepted, becoming a re-planter for the church with the approval of the North American Mission Board.
Whether the Super Bowl – held this Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood – becomes an annual magnet for an increase in human trafficking has become a matter of debate. the Los Angeles Times‘ This week’s February 6 editorial calls it a dangerous myth. However, others disagree. Some evidence says online ads for sex augmentation whenever big events like concerts, trade shows, and sporting events happen, the Super Bowl is no different in that regard.
It can also be considered a moot point for the Send Relief Center. The fight against trafficking has no particular season or emphasis. This must continue every day.
California ranks among the top states when it comes to human trafficking, with Los Angeles easily being the epicenter. the The US State Department reported that the impact of COVID-19 on the economy has not only made vulnerable people more vulnerable to trafficking, but has led governments to divert funds elsewhere that would have helped combat trafficking.
The LA City Baptist Church’s location and desire to address these issues compelled the partnership with Send Relief.
“We wanted to build a ministry center that could partner with a church to equip their community to help solve the problem of child trafficking,” Spears said. A floor-to-ceiling renovation provided space for ministry as well as living quarters for up to 20 missionaries. This space can also be used for those who have been rescued and need temporary accommodation.
The center and church are also in an underserved community. “There are almost no parks or anything for the kids after school,” Spears added. “In the church and the center itself, we do a lot to strengthen the community and help families.”
These stages include a pantry and after-school programs. However, residents across the city have become so frustrated with issues like the relentless homelessness they have almost lost faith in elected officials propose a solution.
Send help won’t be the only group headed to the Super Bowl with the intention of fighting human trafficking. A key partnership for them will be In our backyard. Volunteers will scour convenience stores, cafes, restaurants and other places to leave information for trafficked people trying to find a way out.
One in particular will hold the attention of the group. “Gas station restrooms are one of the few places these girls can go and not be in close proximity to those who traffic them,” Spears said.
The group has identified 32 children – including 12 boys – who are certain to have been trafficked over the weekend. These leaflets will also be shared.
Time is running out to reach them and time is already running out.
“About 10 days after the Super Bowl ends, they’re taken to other parts of the state and country. They’re consolidated in that area for a few weeks, so we’re working hard two weeks before and up to 10 days after the game,” Spears said.
He and his family will be at SoFi Stadium this Sunday, but not to watch the Bengals and Rams. They will work alongside others, advocating for those who suffer from human trafficking. Groups will cover all entrances and exits.
A larger issue is at play, he added. The gospel is the global solution to these problems. It’s just that many remain closed to that as an answer.
“LA is a place people come to because they have hope in a lot of things,” he said. “When they get here, however, one of the main reasons they struggle is the breakdown of relationships with others, with themselves, and with God.
“It’s a place of prosperity, but many here don’t experience that. People have concrete needs. They seek to experience hope, and we can explain that hope to them.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is National Correspondent for Baptist Press.)