Now Reading
The Adventist Church A Weak Social Institution

The Adventist Church A Weak Social Institution

Systems for Human Trafficking Prevention in the Adventist Church 

By Mitchell Powers 

Johlyn was one of the thousands trafficked every year in the United States. She was young and caught up with a 16-year-old boy whom she trusted and believed to be her boyfriend. This young man convinced Johlyn to come away with him for a weekend. He got her into his car and drove off to a house where there were several girls who were unwillingly involved in the sex trade. Johlyn soon realized the grave situation she was a part of as she was drugged and forced to have sex for money in different hotels over a five-day period. [1] 

These stories are far too common and are all too close to our own communities. Last year, over 22,000 individuals were found to be victims of human trafficking. [2] The joys and liberties of life that we hold so close—our freedom, human rights, and decency—were taken from thousands of trafficked victims and survivors. Most of these tragedies happened in urban cities like Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, which are all central hotspots for human trafficking and slave commerce.  

Andrea Nichols, a professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College, shares in her book “Sex Trafficking in the United States,” that the role of weak social institutions aids in creating a vulnerable population and an increased likelihood to be trafficked. [4] These weak social institutions include poor education systems, family systems, and social structures that bolster low economic status.  

In addition, a dysfunctional health care system and a weak social safety net such as lacking treatment of mental health, child poverty, intimate partner violence, and homelessness all play key roles in human trafficking. [5] Disparities like these provide social gaps which traffickers use as tools for manipulation. For example, if someone can’t get ahold of good mental health care, they may lack stability and social awareness. Due to their instability and inept social skills, they may become incredibly vulnerable. 

According to the database for the general conference for Seventh-day Adventists, the Adventist church, a social institution, has no collective effort in fighting against human trafficking. [6] Sex trafficking is on the rise and an estimated 40.8 million people are victims to it. [5] Adventist articles have been written about this crisis and some small groups have been formed to stand up for social rights in their counties, but what about the rest of the nation? What about the dangers that loom over a young girl who walks the streets of Seattle? Why is the Adventist church, a group of people who claim to follow Jesus, inactive in a ministry in which Jesus would tend to immediately? 

For too long, the Adventist church has been uncomfortable with the human trafficking topic, leaving thousands of people wounded and without help. Using Nichols’ words, the Adventist church, in this scene, is a “weak social institution.” By not acting on the injustice regarding human trafficking, the church in turn propels the criminal industry.  

In Proverbs 14:31 it says, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” In this case the “Maker” is God, and understandably someone suffering from human trafficking is the “poor man.” Based off the text, it is an offense to God to oppress His creation. Is not a church “oppressing” people by not addressing the issue of human trafficking?  

Some may say the church is not the causation or fuel for human trafficking, but when a church group does not attend to the reality of humanity and recognize the likelihood of their younger congregation and community falling prey to human trafficking, they start to foster a place where trafficking can survive and even thrive. Consequently, they “oppress the poor man” and insult the very “Maker” a church strives to worship.  

See Also

But there is hope. Jesus told his followers to love one another. Love is a verb and requires action. We, as a church, can move forward and learn from our mistakes. We can think creatively, be innovative, and create powerful ministry through the works of the Spirit in us to make intentional and effective change in our communities.  

After careful research, here are three suggested ways the Adventist church could move forward in helping fight against human trafficking: 

  1. Run family health and wellness classes for the community. Many who fall prey to human trafficking are homeless runaways. That is typically caused by the family disowning a child for differing religious or gender beliefs as well as being engaged with drugs or alcohol. If the Adventist church (hospitals, schools, churches) could run a large-scale program for the community, it is likely that needs could be met and there would be less cases of human trafficking due to being an at-risk homeless youth. 
  1. Training teachers, pastors, and every Adventist employee. The Adventist church runs hospitals, schools, banks, businesses, and so much more. Hundreds, if not thousands, of trafficked victims have walked through the doors of our church’s establishments, and yet not enough employees are trained in how to identify if someone is being trafficked and how to help them. Training Adventist employees not only saves lives but answers God’s call for us to “take care of the sheep.” 
  1. Create a human trafficking prevention cohort. The Adventist church has brilliant minds being educated in their own higher education schools and should employ graduated individuals of associated fields to run a human trafficking task force in collaboration with Adventist Community Services, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Polaris Project, and other like-minded organizations to begin efforts on making change. By creating this team, the Adventist church then has the means of channeling the previously mentioned projects through a source and can streamline the education and training material for congregations across the nation. 

No human should have their freedom stripped, their dignity stolen, or their body mistreated. It is a gross understatement to claim that human trafficking is not an issue in the United States or in our community. In Walla Walla alone there are several cases of trafficked victims. [7] It is time that we as a church stand up for those who are hurt by the indecencies of human trafficking. Together, by the work of the Holy Spirit, we can be the necessary catalyst for people in need.  


  1. Nichols, Andrea. (2016). Sex trafficking in the United States: Theory, research, policy, and practice. New York: Columbia University Press. 
  1. 2019 US national human trafficking hotline data report. Polaris Project. Retrieved from 
  1. Nichols, Andrea. (2016). Sex trafficking in the United States: Theory, research, policy, and practice. New York: Columbia University Press. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. 2019 US national human trafficking hotline data report. Polaris Project. Retrieved from 
  1. Service: Love in action. Seventh-day Adventist Church.  
  1. Interview with Wanda Galland, 04/27/21. 
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top