ORHEI, Moldova – It was the first time she had truly been alone with her thoughts since their mission team arrived in Moldova, and Jamie Jackson couldn’t stop crying.
When orphaned children reach a certain age, they are required to leave the orphanage and start taking care of themselves. The friends she had made in just a short amount of time, Valentina (13) and her brother, Nelu (14), were coming up on that age.
“If they have nowhere to go, they’ve got nowhere to go,” said Jackson, a student at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and member of the UCM chapter of the Baptist Student Union (BSU). “(Human) traffickers know this and will line up waiting for the boys and girls to arrive.”
Jackson, along with six other mission teammates, spent two weeks in Moldova this summer because of God’s passion in their hearts to help stop human trafficking and bring the love of Christ to orphan children.
“When they come out of the orphanages here many of them go straight into prostitution and other service rings,” said Brad Carr, BSU campus pastor at UCM. “We’re talking to kids ages 14 to 18 and some even younger that are being sold into slavery or – and this is sickening to even think about – their organs are harvested and sold on the black market.”
Well-equipped orphanages and transition homes, safe housing that includes education in trade skills, are the only chance many of these children have to make it in this society unscathed.
They are also the best way to introduce the children to Jesus.
“We put on a kind of Vacation Bible School at the orphanage and we were there from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day building relationships with these children and sharing Jesus with them,” Carr said. “We saw nine children come to Christ.”
During their two-week mission trip, the students also passed out Gospel DVDs and posted flyers around the city of Orhei, pleading for the end of human trafficking there. Jackson said Moldova is ranked sixth in the world on the Global Slavery Index for human trafficking prevalence per capita.
“Being there and seeing how prevalent it is and how accepted it is in the society was the most shocking part of it all,” she said. “The officials protect pimps because the industry brings so much revenue to the country. Seeing the hopelessness in so many people’s faces around Moldova is something I can’t forget. It brought a whole new urgency to the issue.”
Allie Hanssen, a UCM student and part of the Moldova mission team, said one of her biggest takeaways from the trip was utilizing her mission mindset.
“I knew I was going overseas so I prepared my mind to be focused on my mission,” she said. “I realize now that I’m back home that I need to be in that mission mindset at all times. I feel like that’s a huge thing I learned through this trip that will impact the rest of my life.”