By Gracyanna Boes ’19
When people talk about human trafficking they often use buzzwords like “victim,” “slavery” and “rescue.” While these words, in some cases, may be an accurate description, they also carry heavy negative connotations that hang over the heads of those who have lived through these experiences.
Word choice is critical in any situation. Especially if you are trying to elicit change. Making simple vocabulary switches, like changing “victims” to “survivors” and “slavery” to “exploitation” not only gives survivors their power and humanity back verbally, but it also changes the perception of human trafficking, and how to fix, it in the minds of those looking at the situation from the outside. On the Co:Mission Romania trip, my team and I were challenged not only to step outside of our comfort zones but also to change the way we think and speak about people who have survived human trafficking.
A life-changing missions trip
Twelve days. Eight students. This was not a conventional missions trip. Each day brought new adventures and life-changing lessons. We were able to visit multiple Christian and secular organizations that are passionate about preventing and ending human trafficking in Romania.
There were some more traditional missions activities like hosting events for children and young adults at local churches, and some less conventional, such as making candles or treating the women living at a transition house and their staff to a day of laser tag and ice cream. Seeing people from different walks of life working to overcome the same issues across the county was such a valuable experience.
Our hosts, Ryan ’06 and Andrea (Youmans ’06) Crozier (see articles in Romanian-Insider and Business as Mission) and Jen Sargent ’15 of Glittr, a ministry in Romania (see video describing Sargent’s work) not only gave us the opportunity to serve but also to learn. We spent many of our meal times with the people from these organizations who are actively changing the world. We asked them questions, heard their life stories, and marveled at the incredible work God is doing in and through them. In our downtime, we went on many education and historical trips to learn about the country and its people, including a sight-seeing prayer walk across the capital city, touring the parliament building, and visiting “Dracula’s castle” in the mountains.
Regardless of the day’s agenda, we were reminded every day that our job as North Central University students on a short-term trip was not to end human trafficking in Romania. But rather to honor, encourage and thank those who are a part of astounding things God is doing, bless them in any way we could, and educate ourselves on how change is being made—in the hopes of using this knowledge back home.
I feel safe in saying that all the students on this trip have walked away from it with a new love for Romania, a renewed heart for those who have survived or are at risk of human trafficking, and a conviction for the call God has on each of our futures. Thank you to Ryan, Andrea, Jen, and all those we encountered for all you have taught us. And thank you to North Central Co:Mission for giving students the chance to experience healthy short-term missions trips that are truly life changing.
Gracyanna Boes is a senior Creative Writing major.