Human Trafficking

American Baptist International Ministries Across the Globe

Through my research of human trafficking, I discovered an American Baptist International Ministry in my area and learned that their mission was similar to mine. Organized in 1814, the American Baptist International Ministries serves more than 2,500 short-term missionaries annually, bringing the U.S. and Puerto Rican churches together with partners in 76 countries. Unique in comparison to other churches, the International Ministries "tells the good news of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs" (International Ministries). The church's mission to abolish human trafficking fits precisely with their mission statement. Their goal includes prevention for at-risk women and children in addition to aid for victims.

Recognizing that the churches work to abolish human trafficking, I sought contact with the church and became acquainted with Virginia Holmstrom, Executive Director for American Baptist Women's Minitries, who's domain reaches within human trafficking. Meeting with Virginia Holmstrom, she explained to me some of the efforts that the Baptist Church does to combat human trafficking and the people behind these projects. To gain a better understanding, she kindly, gave me the contact information of three members of the church that work to abolish human trafficking. Connecting the fight across the globe, Mylinda Baits works in Costa Rico, Sarah Chetti in Beruit and Lauran Bethel in the Netherlands (profiled on Amsterdam's Red Light District page).

Mylinda Baits

"I became more and more convinced of my need to be a part of the solution in working against human trafficking as I met women and children whose stories touched my life. As a pastor, I did not want to stay in the church and pray when God's heart was breaking because His children were trapped in situations of danger and death" ---Mylinda Baits

Located in Costa Rico, Mylinda Baits and her husband, Gary Baits, work for the Costa Rican Baptist Federation, a partner of the American Baptist International Ministries. Their work centers on leadership development and theological education which includes encouraging and training local pastors and leaders. Their work has stretched over to around 30 local churches in their area. 

Mylinda Baits believes that the work of God is not limited within the church walls, but believes that it is essential to reach out beyond and help those in need. Living in Costa Rica, Mylinda Baits witnesses the vulnerabilities the country has to human trafficking. Though Costa Rica is considered the most stable country in Central America with lower rates of poverty than its neighboring countries, economically vulnerability is still present. Poverty causes desperation within people and this desperation is a vulnerability that human traffickers prey on. Traffickers are aware that people are desperately looking for work and thus use deceit to lure them into a false job. The legalization of prostitution and its cultural acceptance is also a factor that contributes to the vulnerability to human trafficking. 

The city streets and beach communities of Costa Rica are present with sex tourism and prostitution specifically where the Mansion of Light Church is located. (The Mansion of Light Church is one of the thirty churches that Mylinda Baits has worked with.) The Mansion of Light Church is located in a highly vulnerable community of low income families. This community includes a high number of young uneducated single parent homes that have little supervision of their children enabling drug and alcohol abuse in addition to a prevalence of domestic and sexual violence. Broken homes such as these sadly result in a high rate of school drop outs after the 6th grade adding to the continuance of the cycle. The lack of respect or value for women adds to this, continuing the culturally belief that women are solely useful for marriage and bearing children. Men loose interest, leaving young mothers to fend for themselves. The Mansion of Light Church witnesses the breakdown of this cycle right across the street from the church. Single parents find their responsibilities too overwhelming and thus desperately lean on sex tourism to earn money for their families. However, many find themselves caught in a trap and become sexually exploited. Hearing the stories of their neighbors, the Mansion of Light Church stepped in and created the Family Life Center, in Spanish called the Centro de Transformacion Mariposa. 

This establishment centers more on prevention rather than rescue, attempting to prevent the underlying vulnerabilities and thus strengthening the members of the community against the traffickers' attempts to exploit the weak. The Family Life Center strengthens families through parenting education, self-esteem, and vocational training in early childhood education. This establishment also opens up training and jobs for women in the church and community. For example, Mylinda Baits happily informed me that an administrator, two teachers, a pastor and a cook who work within the center are all now studying to finish their high school and college degrees through the encouragement of the Church. The Church and those behind its projects such as Mylinda Baits, continue to transform the community and save the futures of its at-risk members.

Sarah and Dan Chetti

"I cannot understand how people can treat fellow human beings so cruelly. But God is watching and there will be justice. I am just His hands and feet and voice and I feel privileged to be doing His work" ---Sarah Chetti

Sarah and Dan Chetti are the first International Ministries missionaries serving for the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beruit, Lebanon. The Ministry focuses much of its efforts on helping maids who are caught up in an unjust system and end up in prison. These women are victims of trafficking, their stories similar to Beatrice Fernando's. 

The women are put into prison because they have not been able to renew their work permits. Recruited by agencies situated in their home countries, many women agree under false pretenses and contract with the agencies to work in a neighboring country, such as Lebanon. When in Lebanon, the women find that their desperation for work has led them to a nightmare, to a life as an enslaved nanny/maid. In a foreign country, the women are lost within a new environment, new language and culture. The agencies hide the reality of the enslavement by paying the women with a salary of around $125 a month. In actuality, this salary is pretty  much eliminated through the costs of the renewal of a work permit which costs $800, in addition to a large sum of money that must be paid to the recruiting agencies and transportation costs. Sarah Chetti explained to me, "they are in prison not because of crimes but because...

1. They have run away due to ill treatment. It is a crime to run away according to the Lebanese law and they are seldom investigated to find out why they run away. The maid is always wrong.

2. They have not renewed their resident papers.

3. Some of the maids work illegally without renewing their papers as they are supposed to every year; so on their way to work, home or just out to the grocery store, they can be picked up by the police and taken to prison" (Chetti).

Through the CARITAS (Catholic Relief Agency), Sarah and Dan Chetti and others within the ministry are able to gain permission to enter and minister the Adlieh prison. Adlieh prison is long and narrow, the length of a football field and located under a freeway. This location causes the cells to be dark and without fresh air. Usually, there are four cells that are designated for the women. In each cell, there are about 50 to 60 women cramped within. Here, the missionaries minister and advocate for the women, in addition to helping them contact their families, helping with airfares so they can go back home.

Work Cited

International Ministries. American Baptist International Ministries, 2009. Web. 4 Apr. 2010. <>.

Work Cited Pictures

Mylinda Baits. 2009. International Ministries. American Baptist International Ministries, 2009. Web. 13 Apr. 2010. <‌missionaries/‌45>.

Sarah and Dan Chetti. 2009. International Ministries. American Baptist International Ministries, 2009. Web. 13 Apr. 2010. <http:/‌‌missionaries/‌56>.