KIRKSVILLE – “Love at its highest level is not living for yourself but sacrificing,” said Greg Xander, campus missionary of the Truman State University Baptist Student Union (BSU). His college students – and other collegians around the state of Missouri – are living this out as they partner with Missouri Baptist churches and entities to raise awareness to end human trafficking.
On Oct. 6, the Truman State BSU partnered with five Kirksville area churches and the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home (MBCH) to put on the first annual Freedom Walk, hosted at the BSU building near campus. Over 70 people, at least 20 of whom were college students, took part in the event.
Participants learned more about the problem of human trafficking as they stopped at seven prayer stations, watched videos, and heard from speakers, ending with a free lunch provided by a local church. The prayer stations were “the most powerful aspect of the event,” Allen Calkins, the northeast Mo. regional representative for the MBCH. What participants heard “challenged and even shocked people,” he added.
The BSU’s interest in human trafficking originated a couple years ago when they started Safe Haven, a group in which college women who had been sexually abused could see “a love that is real – Jesus”, Xander said. They later hosted two “Unspeakable” sessions in a dorm lounge discussing the hidden side of sexual abuse. When Pastor Dan Hite of First Baptist Church, Memphis, asked if they would like to participate in the Freedom Walk, it “made sense with our hearts,” Xander said.
For Xander and his students, the theme of freedom resonated deeply. “We are for a world where every person can see how valuable and unique and loved they are – that they were always meant to be free.”
The Freedom Walk is just the beginning for the Truman State BSU’s part in the fight. In November, they are collaborating with Greek life to host Queso for Justice, a night of fundraising and awareness. They plan to host a kickoff for Dressember, a month-long national campaign during which women wear dresses and men wear ties to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Beyond Truman State, more college students are taking their stand against trafficking. This spring, the Students Against Sexual Abuse from Hannibal-LaGrange University plan to replicate the Freedom Walk on their campus. In Kansas City, a small group of Baptist students from the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) has been working for the past three years to raise awareness and funds and to provide volunteer support for local anti-trafficking organizations.
“College students have a passion to give back to the community and want to see change in the world,” UMKC senior Marissa Wilson, who attends First Baptist Church, Kearney, said. “This is one of many opportunities to help put something good back into the world and make a difference.”
The difference to be made isn’t just about freedom from trafficking. Ultimately, it’s about freedom for the human soul. “We cannot start with human trafficking and hope we can maybe then get to the gospel,” Xander said. As they and others continue advocating for survivors of human trafficking, they have the profound opportunity to help students and victims alike see that, as Xander puts it, “the life of freedom they were meant to live, they cannot live without Jesus.”
For that is where love at its highest level begins.