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May29WedIn Leamington, a new Army initiative is combatting sexual exploitation. May 29, 2013 by Captain Corvin Vincent
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We've all heard that sex sells. Wherever “johns” are willing to pay, there will be people who exploit women. Who will show these women mercy? Who will show them dignity and hope?
During the winter of 2011 while taking a course at the town hall in Leamington, Ont., a couple of police officers informed me that prostitution was a growing concern in the municipality. Up to that point, I had been completely unaware of the problem. Like the majority of Leamington residents, I assumed a “not in my community” attitude. After listening for a short time, one of the town officials directly asked me, “What is The Salvation Army going to do about this problem?”
Over the next few weeks I educated myself on the topic of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. I began to recognize the evil within my community and, even though I was fearful of fighting this growing epidemic, God reminded me through his Word that he was protecting me: “Receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty strength. Put on all the armour that God supplies. In this way you can take a stand against the devil's strategies” (Ephesians 6:10-11 God's Word Translation).
After sharing my concerns with a pastor friend, he introduced me to a local teacher, Lara Bishop, who had previously served on a human trafficking committee in Windsor, Ont. Bishop was one of the few people aware of this growing issue in Leamington. Together we formed a group of like-minded individuals with a heart for ministry and a passion to bring hope and dignity to those being exploited for sexual gratification.
I was inspired by a spoken word poem on YouTube written and performed by Amena Brown called Be the One, in which she encourages Christians not to accept the way things have always been. She asks Christians to “forge new paths, create new ways” to make a difference in our world:
A single snowflake can cause an avalanche
And a single seed can birth a tree
See the phrase 'change starts with me'
Is more than a cliché, it is a mantra
Let's make it a reality …
Imagine the change you could see in the world
If only you would be the one.
Our team decided to serve Leamington through our ministry, which we titled ONE, starting February 2011. Leamington needed an avalanche of change and we wanted to be that final snowflake that would bring it about.
ONE builds lasting relationships with women in Essex county who are sexually exploited and victimized with the hope that someday they will leave the sex industry and street life for good. Every human being has the right to dignity and hope and it is sad to think that there are individuals in our communities who profit from the suffering of others.
A big part of our avalanche of change is ministering on the streets. Our team has dedicated their Friday nights to walking the streets until the early morning to build relationships. These late-night walks have been encouraging. We have built relationships with bar owners and their patrons, prayed with individuals who needed prayer, served doughnuts and coffee to those who were hungry and befriended those in need.
It has been a few months since the inception of ONE and I could not be happier with the progress. We have a team made up of teachers and pastors, a former member of Amnesty International and partnerships with community groups. Over the past few months we have worked very hard, preparing ourselves to make a difference in our community. We are breaking new ground and it is important that we do things right.
It saddens me to think that sexual exploitation is not just a local problem. This issue is much larger than Leamington, Canada or even the world. Sexual exploitation is a heart problem. Our hearts have become calloused to the cries of women who are victimized. It has become socially acceptable to objectify women and too often the church stays quiet on this issue. But there are those who have made it their mission to fight, who have recognized this heart condition and will do everything in their power to be the voice of the exploited. The question is, what are you doing?
Captain Corvin Vincent currently serves in Leamington, Ont., with his wife, Captain Charlene Vincent, and three children.