By JENNIFER MEIER
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury 20-somethings Janae Horst and Nicole Hochstetler sat far apart from each other among 60,000 other young people in the cavernous Georgia Dome early January when they attended the 2013 Passion conference.
And they had the same idea — at the same time.
The money raised from a rummage sale they were putting together would go to Love 146, an organization dedicated to ending child trafficking and exploitation.
Their story began late in 2012. Horst and Hochstetler were talking about their love for garage, yard and rummage sales.
“Well, there really aren’t any during the winter months,” Horst said. “We talked about holding a rummage sale at our church. We knew we wanted to give the money to a good cause. But we didn’t have any idea what that would be.”
Although they attended the four-day Passion conference together, they sat across the dome from each other during one of the sessions.
The annual conference focuses on making Jesus famous, as well as fighting modern-day slavery. Since 2007, conference participants have raised $5 million for various causes.
“We were both listening to the work of Love 146, a group that fights child trafficking in Southeast Asia,” Horst said. “The stories were heartbreaking. I knew then that that’s where I wanted the money to go.”
But Horst was a little hesitant to share her ideas with Hochstetler.
“Well, I was just back from a year spent in Columbus, Ohio, interning for SEND Ministries in the REACH program,” Horst said. “I didn’t want Nicole to think I was taking over!”
But when they met for lunch together the following day, it was Nicole who said she thought the money should go to Love 146.
“She grabbed my hand and said she had the very same thought,” Hochstetler said. “It was God confirming in our hearts at the same moment that this was the right thing to do.”
Not only are the stories of children sold into slavery heartbreaking, they are also disturbing, horrific and sickening.
This is what the women learned at the conference:
• Children as young as 5 are forced or sold into prostitution.
• In the brothels they are tortured if they resist.
• They are sold 20 to 40 times a night into having unprotected sex.
• They are often gang raped, some are given forced abortions, many contract diseases and most sustain severe psychological and physical damages.
• Many do not live very long.
• It is estimated that two children are sold or forced into slavery every minute and that there are 27 billion slaves worldwide. It’s a business that brings in billions annually to those that exploit them.
“Once you are exposed to an issue, I think you have a responsibility to do something about it,” Horst said. “This is an issue that is not just happening in Southeast Asia. It’s happening all over the world — even in our own backyards.”
About Love 146
Rob Morris began Love 146 in 2002 when he went undercover to brothels in Asia to see first hand the scope of the problem. He said through a video on his website that it was very disturbing to pose as the very thing he found most repugnant — a customer.
He tells of looking through a window at little girls in red dresses watching cartoons on small television sets. Each girl had a tag with a number on it. Only one girl was not watching cartoons with a vacant, lifeless expression. She was the only child in the room with a little fight left in her eyes. Her number was 146.
Love 146 rescues as many children as they can through the help of donations and tries to restore their dignity through love, education and skills training.
Horst and Hochstetler brought their vision back to their congregation at Griner Mennonite Church in Middlebury.
“I didn’t know people could care so much,” Horst said. “Some people just gave us money to get the sale going. One man backed up a van filled with collectible toy cars to sell. It’s been so overwhelming.”
Griner Mennonite Church is one mile south of downtown Middlebury along Ind. 13. The rummage sale will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Those wishing to donate items can drop them off at the church from 6 to 9 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.
“Saving these children, giving them back their lives keeps reminding of this scripture from Isaiah,” Horst said. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
Both Horst and Hochstetler don’t foresee ever abandoning this cause. It’s Horst’s desire to one day visit Southeast Asia to help those in need.
“I would love to go visit, and I believe in a God who makes big dreams happen,” Horst said. “But we can do a lot right here, right now.”
To learn more, visit www.love146.org.