Nearly three years ago, Houston’s First member Leigh Kohler (above) saw a documentary on sex trafficking, which prompted a small prayer movement that began in her home. Prayer gave birth to Freedom Church Alliance (FCA), a non-profit organization that mobilizes local churches and assists anti-trafficking organizations and law enforcement in rescuing victims, restoring their dignity, and imparting the hope of Christ.
“Sometimes I would wake up and he would be raping me in my sleep,” said Veronica, of a pimp who drugged and kidnapped her outside a brothel near Telephone Road on Houston’s east side. Though raised in a Christian home in northwest Houston, Veronica’s youthful infatuation with a “bad boy,” who later became her husband, led her down a path to drug addiction, poverty and prostitution. Veronica had a baby girl at 16 and, at 18, married the baby’s heroin-addicted father. Children's Protective Services eventually intervened and their three-year-old daughter was sent to live with Veronica’s parents.
“Acts 12 taught me the power of prayer over the evil, dark places that exist in our city,” said Leigh. “As our prayer group talked, we asked ourselves: ‘What is the church doing about this?’ We wanted to help, but like many people, we felt paralyzed by the magnitude of the problem.” As they sought God, He began opening doors to meet with others who had a similar vision for helping vulnerable trafficking victims.
Veronica had had enough of prostitution and wanted to go home. “It was a world I had never seen,” she said. “I could feel oppression there — demonic spirits,” she said. “I felt so sick being there.” Veronica phoned to say she was coming home, but refused her mother’s appeal to give her a ride. It would be more than three months before Veronica’s parents and young daughter would hear from her again.
Leigh joined with others who were intent on doing something about trafficking at a local church. A vision was cast: what if churches came together as the body of Christ, combining resources to tackle what seemed an insurmountable problem. Leigh, three other visionaries and a small army of volunteers from several churches across Houston formed Freedom Church Alliance. They purposed to work alongside anti-trafficking organizations to bring freedom, hope and healing to victims in our city.
To get back to her parents’ home, Veronica accepted a ride from a couple in a Cadillac and shared a beer with the woman. Within a few minutes Veronica couldn’t feel her legs and was semiconscious. The man carried her to an apartment, and for the next three months Veronica was forced to trade sex for money, pimped by her kidnapper.
To comfort rescued women, the Freedom Church Alliance provides “Go Bags,” containing helpful supplies, which are distributed by various agencies, including the FBI and local law enforcement. FCA also partners with the City of Houston to raise awareness, provide education and after care for rescued women. FCA also provides lunch for those who are testifying against former captors in court.
“Amos 5:24 says, ‘Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ and Psalm 82:4 says ‘Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.’’’ said Leigh. “I’m blown away at God’s heart of justice for the oppressed.”
It had been more than three months since Veronica’s call to her parents and nearly six months since she had seen her daughter. “I desperately wanted to go home for Christmas,” said Veronica. “Since I had done everything I was told, he (the pimp) decided to trust me. He drove me to my home with instructions that he would pick me up first thing the next morning.”
Veronica’s family was overjoyed to see her on Christmas day. Her parents had filed a missing person’s report when she never showed up after her call. “My mother said that my daughter had been praying to see me on Christmas — and she believed she would,” said Veronica.
At home, she learned her younger brother had become a Constable in Precinct 4, the area where she had been kidnapped and held the past few months. He begged her not to return, but she was afraid for her family’s safety if she didn’t. “I felt trapped,” she said. “The pimp knew where my family lived.”
Within minutes of returning to the pimp’s apartment, a Precinct 4 Constable knocked at the door, questioned him, and took her downstairs to his patrol car for questioning. The officer explained they had been looking for her for months and wanted to give her the opportunity to be free. She chose to leave. The police officer cuffed her and told her pimp she had felony warrants. The officer put her in another car, where her brother was waiting.
Veronica was free, but learned that she was pregnant with the son of her captor. She met with counselors at Redeemed Ministries, a faith-based organization that provided her holistic care. “Redeemed is amazing,” she said. “They nurtured the calling in me to be a woman of God.”
Veronica’s sister adopted the son she conceived as a result of her imprisonment. Veronica and her young daughter have started over in another town and are doing well. “God is so good,” said Veronica. “His grace is overwhelming. He’s the reason I no longer suffer with anxiety.”
Leigh says the first two years of FCA were spent laying a foundation. “This is the year of growth,” she said. “We are praying for more volunteers.” The Super Bowl, being held in Houston in 2017, is the single largest human trafficking event in the United States. To address the demand for trafficking, Freedom Church Alliance is appealing to men to take a stand for purity, to encourage accountability, and to be defenders of women and children. “God is causing a movement in this city,” said Leigh, “and we are saying yes to the work He has for us to do."
The fight against trafficking is a massive undertaking, but as Leigh has shown, individuals can make a difference when they join together. To find your role, visit FreedomChurchAlliance.org to learn more and to contact them about local opportunities.