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Fifteen has been a special number to me over the years. I’ve won a few high stakes games and celebrated a handful of incredible moments while wearing that number on my back, memories for which I’m forever grateful. But today, the number “15” represents something infinitely more important to me than a game.
Before I share with you why that number means something different to me now, however, I need to backtrack to 2020. At that point in time, my foundation, the Tim Tebow Foundation (TTF), had been discretely involved in anti-human trafficking for many years. And by God’s grace, we had witnessed some victories. But some wasn’t enough. There’s no such thing as “enough” when it comes to rescuing people out of darkness.
As my team and I felt increasingly burdened by the lives we weren’t getting to and just how widespread and pervasive this evil is, the more urgent the rescue mission became.
The buying and selling of God’s children as if they are nothing more than cattle at the market is happening every hour of every day, and in every region of the world. It’s happening in your city, probably in your ZIP code. To fight a darkness this powerful, one orchestrated by the enemy himself, was going to take an army.
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And so, in August 2020, TTF publicly announced Anti-Human Trafficking as our fourth focus area, an initiative that was met with a swift and strong response from passionate supporters worldwide.
To that end, one of the ways we raised awareness was through the Rescue Team, an army now numbering thousands committed to fighting trafficking through monthly financial support, advocacy initiatives, and prayer.
Over the last two years, God’s favor and the support of so many have enabled us to gain a bit of ground. In partnership with 10 like-minded ministries, we have helped rescue thousands of victims across the U.S. and four other continents.
We’ve expanded survivor care through the construction and/or operation of 18 safe homes in 6 countries. We’ve conducted awareness and prevention training to equip a growing number of advocates.
Together, we served victims in their darkest hour of need and walked arm-in-arm with them as they traveled out of unimaginable darkness and into the light. And we have witnessed God do the miraculous.
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I think of Natalie, a once-homeless military veteran who became trapped in trafficking when two men “rescued” her off the street, locked her in a bedroom in their house, and fed her nothing but alcohol for days while other men abused her around the clock.
I think of Mimi, a woman who hid in a Ugandan banana plantation all night long after her trafficker sold her to a cannibal and her life was on the line.
I think of Elly, a now-teenage Filipina girl whose very own mother became her monster when she forced her then nine-year-old daughter to “do a show” for a strange man on the other side of a computer screen.
Praise God, none of their stories ended there. All three of these women were rescued and have since taken significant steps on their individual journeys to restoration.
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To be honest, there are some days where the mission God has called me to takes a backseat to my own selfish priorities. And there are some days where I feel totally overwhelmed by an evil that has such total disregard for human life itself. But then I think of the survivors we have met who have found healing and hope.
I think of the ones to come whose names we don’t know yet. And sometimes, I think of the ones we didn’t get to. The ones whose stories we would have shared if only we had gotten to them faster. And it’s those which motivate me to turn my eyes to the Lord once more and trust that He will equip us with everything needed for the battles ahead.
That brings me back to the “15” I referenced earlier.
A few months ago, our ministry partners at Rapha International approached us with an urgent need expressed to them by law enforcement and government officials in Thailand—a need to expand their operation by providing additional security for high-risk trafficking survivors with active court cases.
At this very moment, there are 15 girls who need this specialized protection. Fifteen girls still extremely vulnerable to danger at the hands of ruthless traffickers who will deploy any tactic necessary to silence their victims before they can testify. Fifteen girls who are daughters of God—priceless in value, and yet, some of whom have price tags on their head right now.
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They are the reason I answered with a quick and emphatic yes when the team at TTF recommended we step in to help build a protection center in Thailand.
Once built, the TTF Protection Center will protect up to 60 high-risk survivors each year through the implementation of some of the tightest security measures available, while also providing them with Gospel-centered holistic care at the hands of trauma-informed staff.
At TTF, we often say that the timeline of those we serve is far more important than our own. For these 15 girls, that is undoubtedly the case. Every day they wait for this center is a day in which they are still vulnerable.
Can you imagine living like this? So many of us get to go to sleep most nights without any fear of what the next day will bring. We lay our heads down in peace, and yet how rarely do we pause to say thank you to God for such a gift?
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Honestly, I think most of us—myself included–take our freedom for granted. I think we take the peace we live in for granted.
I have no idea what it is like to walk in their shoes…to be treated as if I am disposable, nothing more than a pawn in someone else’s game. But what I do know is this – every person on this Earth is created and loved infinitely by a God who came to set us free, and who died and rose again to give us peace in the now and hope in the future. And if they were worth Him dying for, then they are worth us fighting for.
To join us in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation, please visit timtebowfoundation.org/protectthem.