Join the 121Hope Prayer Walk, and Change Lives!

Melissa Bogdany

Come out this Saturday to support victims and survivors of human trafficking

Michelle can be seen regularly attending Access Ministries events at Northland, which serve to help individuals with disabilities and their families engage in the church community. She was able to go to Joy Prom, a prom for individuals with special needs, and even participate in the Special Olympics.

“She is a true child of God,” says Meg Johnson, who leads 121Hope—Northland’s response to human trafficking. This ministry helped get Michelle plugged in to these loving environments after she was rescued from human trafficking. She had previously lived in Central Florida with her grandmother, who passed away about a year ago. After that Michelle, was a victim of a homeless man.The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office rescued her and contacted 121Hope, which turned her life around. And Meg will never forget that day.

“She came into our life on October 9,” she says emotionally. “The very first thing we did was get her connected with Access at Northland. It’s the first time in Michelle’s life she has a sense of community.

“She is such a bright light on Sunday mornings,” Meg adds.

The first case Meg — a probation officer for more than two decades, including 15 years on the federal level — worked, three years ago, involved a woman who had been sexually trafficked in Orlando. She was eight months pregnant and addicted to cocaine, and had not been to see a doctor during the pregnancy. She was rescued by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. She was put in contact with an OB-GYN who attends Northland—and is a testimony of God’s goodness.

“She delivered a healthy baby boy two days before Thanksgiving in 2016,” recalls Meg, a certified victim advocate.“That was God’s hand on her the whole time. That was such a God thing to see that child healthy.” The ministry helped place her in a Mount Dora residential program and later bought her a plane ticket to move and get settled.

As evidenced here, 121Hope brings hope to victims and survivors of human trafficking and empowers local abolitionists, all through one-to-one discipleship. The ministry works with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, which may say, “Look, we’ve rescued a young woman. Can you come get her and take her to the SafeHouse?” And 121Hope provides healing and restoration, working with Northland ministries as well as those outside the church, including Northland's LifeHope benevolence ministry and homeless ministries.

“Sometimes they literally have nothing on their back,” Meg says. “A lot of these women might not have a place to live. Whatever [the person] needs we try to provide. … No two survivors are alike.”

The average age of human trafficking victims is 11 to 14. “It’s horrible,” Meg says. But the trafficking is not just sexual; labor trafficking is an even bigger issue in Florida, she says. People from other states, even South Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, respond to fake ads for Disney or modeling gigs or hotel workers, thinking they’re going to make it big. They don’t.

“A lot of workers could work 16-hour days and not see a penny.” And there are field workers in Apopka who are trafficked, she says. “It’s literally in our backyard.”

As with any effective ministry, the types of success stories121Hope has facilitated don’t come without a lot of prayer. That is why 121Hope holds an annual Community Prayer Walk —which is this Saturday, March 10 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. beginning at Northland at Longwood. The walk, open to other churches and the community, has taken place annually, with nearly 40 people participating last year. For those who would like to participate but are unable to walk, they can join a small group that will be staying behind to pray together at the Longwood site.

“Prayer is the foundation of everything we do,” Meg says. “We may pray for a survivor. We may pray for law enforcement. We may pray for a therapist. We may pray for the church, the body of Christ. Or we may pray for state legislators or even U.S. Congress to enforce harsher penalties.”

Leading 121Hope, Meg is answering God’s call. “That’s what I feel He put on my heart, and I want to answer that call.

“It’s absolutely piercing to see somebody go from survivor to thriving — and it’s all for the glory of God, to shine His light,” Meg says. “It’s a dark ministry, but when that light shines, it’s piercing; it’s so beautiful.”

You can be part of that light! Come out and walk with the group on Saturday — you will help change lives. For more information, contact Meg Johnson at meg.johnson@northlandchurch.net.