OM writer Greg Kernaghan interviews Denise Heppner about her involvement.
What is Freedom Challenge about?
Denise: [It’s] not simply about climbing a mountain; it’s a symbol of the struggle that 27 million women and children face every day. It’s a way to generate action and confront injustice. Significant finance has been raised to help women and children in several countries already.
What happens if we don’t face up to injustice?
Denise: If we don’t collectively stand up to injustice in the world, it grows. Human trafficking is the second-largest economic activity in the world, after drugs. It will increase and overtake drugs, because you can sell the same human being over and over. Turning a blind eye to this says that we think this is acceptable.
At one point I wasn’t aware of this problem, nor its magnitude. I lived happily in my own little bubble of kids and laundry and dinners on the table. But God opened that door and what I saw was scary. Trafficking is not something that only happens on the other side of the planet; 30,000 girls trafficked every year in Canada alone, mostly by being wooed by pimps. We need to pray against it and for those in that have come to see this evil as ok.
Unless structures are challenged in a way that changes the rules to make a better future possible, what’s the point?
Denise: As with other slavery, this takes time and commitment at state levels. In the meantime, victims desperately need help to survive and to see change in their own lives.
Many Christians don’t realize the reality of a prostitute’s life: beatings, fear, drugs, bondage, helplessness. If they did, they would have more compassion toward them and more resolve to see things change. In the beginning, numbers like 27 million (victims) made me glaze over. But if I can pray and exert myself to help one single person, that will make a difference. That ideology has released me to make an impact in raising awareness and funds.
A 12-year-old girl from our community heard of the Freedom Challenge and phoned OM to inquire as to how much it would cost to save the life on one child from trafficking. They told her that $1,900 would bring that child out of slavery and into counselling and education. So, she had a bake sale, a prayer walk and a bottle drive and raised $3,800. What might we as adults accomplish through her example?
Tell us an example of someone who has been directly helped by Freedom Challenge.
Denise: OM in Moldova offered Christina the opportunity to do a small business training course. After this, she opened a small bee-keeping enterprise and earns enough to support her family. A 21-year-old from our church is part of the Freedom Team in Zambia. Along with three other women, she runs the Tabitha Skills Development program, which provides women the skills in sewing and other work to earn a livable income.
How has embracing this cause changed your experience of God?
Denise: At first, I didn’t feel I was capable of the Freedom Challenge and the changes it would bring. But I have learned that, if I do what He asks, God will bring something good out of it.
The more I get involved with the plight of other women, the more we discover we have in common. Our pasts may be checkered with sexual abuse, substance abuse, low self-esteem and more. Many girls coming out of trafficking are so crushed and broken that they return to it, convinced that it is all they can hope to become. The only path to redemption and self-worth for anyone is through Jesus Christ.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
To learn more about the Freedom Challenge, visit the website: thefreedomchallenge.com