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SWAT-ting trafficking with awareness

An international ministry is working locally to help residents become aware of an ever increasing global phenomenon — human trafficking.

SWAT Ministries International will host “Be Free” — an event specifically tailored to women — on Sept. 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Civic Center. Tickets are $30 each ($25 each in groups of eight or more) and must be pre-purchased. Proceeds go directly to fighting human trafficking.

Freedom advocate Ariel H. Hawley of Meadville is one of the speakers for the event.

“This is a day for women to enjoy being together, worshiping Christ, learning how to fight human trafficking and learning to have peace within ourselves,” Hawley said. 

Hawley visited Thailand in 2013 on a mission trip with her church in conjunction with SWAT Ministries. It was as she was working with trafficking victims and survivors that she became convinced this was what she needed to be doing.

“I fell in love with SWAT and what they’re doing, and how victims turn into survivors,” Hawley said, “and I felt that was where God was calling me to serve.”

Founded by Jon and Chrissy Espy, missionaries and hand-to-hand combat instructors in Thailand, SWAT partners with Christian organizations that already have rescue operations in place. They provide training for rescuers and self-defense training for girls — to build confidence and self-worth and to help rehab through the process.

“Awareness is the goal,” said Hawley. “We want women on fire for the Lord to get behind the ministry and help victims. There are lots of ways to get involved — giving, helping get fundraising going, sharing about what’s going on, praying.”

One physical goal of the ministry is to establish a long-term care children’s home in Thailand.

“We also want to bring the community together to bring awareness to other local ministries, like the Doll House, Heritage Hills Orphan Care Ministry, Destiny Rescue, Mercy House Global and Briar Ridge Children’s Ministries,” she said.

Each ministry will have a presence at the event and will be able to share with attendees what their individual ministries do locally.

Other speakers for the day are Virginia Alexander and Barbie Bassett, with musical guest Andi Cotten. The event will begin with breakfast refreshments at 9 a.m., followed by a session led by Cotten and Alexander. Following a lunch, included in the ticket price, Hawley will speak, and the event will conclude with a worship service led by Cotten and Bassett.

To pre-register and purchase tickets, visit www.swatministryintl.org/events or call Hawley at 601-754-7032.