from the Desk of…A new view

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By Jessyca Elgart, Captain

I have been in my new appointment—assistant territorial social service secretary—for six weeks now. On my second day, I was told that a major responsibility of mine would be to head up the Territorial Anti-Trafficking Council. “Great!” I sarcastically thought to myself. I know human trafficking happens, but I have no personal experience or connection to it. It’s not one of my passions. Homeless issues, community development, grant writing, advocacy, emergency disasters, basic social services, and Excel spreadsheets—I am your gal. But human trafficking? What do I know?

While stationed in Alaska, I had heard about some people living in remote areas who had Russian “mail order brides,” but I never met one. I have seen many crime dramas on TV that focused on human trafficking—and even a documentary or two—but real world experience? Can’t say that I have. I guessed this would be just one of those responsibilities that I perform with a smile, but not be motivated to excel. I decided I could facilitate a once a month conference call, take minutes and share those with the National Council. But human trafficking and slavery in general are significant issues and, frankly, just plain sad.

Yesterday I was inspired—inspired by a group of young people! Megan from the Youth department came to me and asked about our anti-human trafficking efforts because one of the divisions is considering giving the profits of their youth council T-shirt sales to one of the programs. As we talked, she told me about the passion of a group of young people who are part of a Facebook group—TAPIOCA (Territorial Action Planning Initiative on Creating Awareness). They are reading the book Challenging Evil: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Radical Justice by S. Carvosso Gauntlett and Danielle Strickland, a reprint and updated version of a 1954 Salvation Army book. And wouldn’t you know it, the first chapter focuses on human trafficking. This group of young people doesn’t see the subject as too big, too sad, or too far removed from their ability to make a difference.

Later that day I came across a story called the Darker Side of Chocolate, the story of how slave child labor is used to produce much of the chocolate we eat. The Nestlé and Cadbury companies were motivated by an outcry from the public, so they no longer use cocoa from the Ivory Coast where slave labor is rampant. The people who forced those companies to look into their practices didn’t feel that they couldn’t make a difference—they saw the big picture.

As I sit at my desk looking out the windows of the north end of the 11th floor, I have a new view. No longer do I behold the beautiful mountains of the Chugach Range in Alaska, I now see beyond my city, my division, and my experiences. I, too, can make a difference on many social justice issues. And let’s face it—doesn’t Jesus expect us to make a difference?


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