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Accidental Advocate

How a television drama changed singer Natalie Grant's life—and motivated her to change countless others worldwide

Several of the women we've introduced to you through TCW's Cause of the Year: Combat Sex Trafficking got involved in fighting this horrific issue through their jobs. Here we introduce you to a woman who stumbled on this issue in a more relatable way—through a television program. Her story serves as an inspiring reminder that even one woman in God's powerful hands can make a big difference in this broken world.        —the Editors

Christian recording artist Natalie Grant was enjoying a rare quiet evening at home four years ago. Her husband, Bernie, was still at work, so she decided to unwind by watching television. Natalie curled up with a cup of tea, and flipped to Law & Order: SVU.

What she saw was anything but relaxing.

That episode of the reality-inspired crime drama focused on human trafficking, a term Natalie had never heard before. The images of young girls kept in cages and forced into prostitution shocked her.

"I thought, There's no way this is really happening," she says. So she grabbed her laptop and Googled human trafficking. What she found online that night changed her life.

Startling Facts and Faces

"The facts are staggering: Six million children are sold and abused worldwide, some as young as five years old," Natalie later wrote about her research. A 2004 U.S. Department of Justice report estimated more than half a million people are trafficked across international borders each year. Of those people, 70 percent are females, 50 percent are children—and most are forced into prostitution.

Through her Internet search, Natalie discovered Shared Hope International  (www.SharedHope.org), a faith-based organization that fights human trafficking. Her sense of urgency to call Shared Hope surprised her. "It's not like me to be so radically moved, so I knew it was the Holy Spirit moving me to make that call."

Just three months later, Natalie and Bernie traveled to Mumbai, India, where they and a group from Shared Hope toured the red-light district. As Natalie walked those streets, she saw hundreds of girls trapped in prostitution. One girl in particular is etched in Natalie's memory. Looking into an upstairs window, Natalie glimpsed a six-year-old girl sitting in a cage. Slave owners often cage child prostitutes to break their wills and allow them out only to "service" clients.

The girl's eyes met Natalie's for only seconds, but the moment was life changing for Natalie. "She wasn't just a girl who was poor—I'd seen that before," Natalie says, referring to her work with other relief ministries. "She wasn't just a child who had AIDS—I'd seen that, too. She wasn't just an orphan who lived among garbage heaps—again, something I'd already seen. She was a poor little girl with AIDS and broken bones. She lived in a cage and was raped 30 times a day. That vision is burned forever in my mind. And she was just one of thousands."

Opening Eyes and Hearts

In the three years since that trip, Natalie has become a highly visible spokeswoman, educating people about sex trafficking. She started The Home Foundation (www.TheHomeFoundation.net) to raise awareness and money for anti-trafficking organizations, such as International Justice Mission, Shared Hope International, and the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST, www.FAASTInternational.org). The Home Foundation supports only faith-based organizations, because, Natalie notes, "All the therapy in the world won't help if these girls don't learn about Jesus."

Natalie is especially passionate about these organizations' awareness-raising efforts. "Many people don't want to accept that something so horrific and barbaric as trafficking is happening here in the land of the free—not just in India or Thailand—and that traffickers are making a lot of money from this industry," she explains. "I tell the statistics to people, and they say, 'No, no, those aren't true.'" Regardless, a 2004 U.S. Department of Justice report estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year.

Besides educating people about these stark statistics, Natalie recently began mobilizing college students to fight trafficking. When scheduling her to give a concert at Washington's Northwest University in 2006, the event organizers asked her to speak about human trafficking at the school's chapel service. The students' response to Natalie's 20-minute talk astounded her; they raised $50,000 by organizing auctions and garage sales. These events also raised community awareness. Inspired by this campus's passion, Natalie secured 12 students summer internships in Mumbai, India, the same village she'd visited the year before.

"What Natalie's doing is phenomenal," says Bonnie Pritchard, an anti-trafficking advocate with FAAST, one of The Home Foundation's partner ministries. Bonnie cites Home's donation to help create FAAST's Hands That Heal, curriculum for training church and community groups how to care for and rehabilitate trafficking survivors. "Natalie has a heart for letting people know how to get involved."  

Overwhelmed and Overjoyed

Despite her passion for this cause, Natalie admits, "I get overwhelmed and fatigued sometimes; I wonder if I'm making any difference. Visiting the India red-light district was dizzying. There were so many victims, so many brothels, so many people with AIDS."

Her host on that trip was K.K. Deveraj, a Christian who works tirelessly to fight trafficking and rehabilitate victims through Villages of Hope, a home for women and children escaped from sexual slavery. Natalie recalls, "My husband asked him, 'How do you get up and do this every day?' Deveraj told us, 'We see the thousands, but God sees the individuals. Not that God doesn't see the whole problem. But he also sees each person individually. So we try to do the same—to help the ones he sends us.' I try to remember that truth and do what God puts in my path. And when I get tired, I think of that girl in the cage."

Natalie also finds motivation in Christians' moral obligation to act in the face of such evil. "We Americans are too comfortable," she says. "But once we know this evil is happening, we're responsible. God's going to ask us, 'What did you do?' We don't have to become Mother Teresa, but we need to do something."

Though the fight has been difficult, Natalie says God has given her a passion and purpose unlike any she's ever experienced. And she feels God is guiding her to do far more than she believed she was capable of accomplishing.

To any woman who thinks that because she's not famous, she can't have an impact like Natalie's, the singer responds, "All you need is obedience. People say, 'I'm just one person.' But 'I'm just' isn't in God's vocabulary. You don't have to go across the world, but you might have to go across the street. You can become educated and do something, even if it's small."

A Mother's Heart

Much has changed in Natalie's life since the evening she stumbled on that television program. In February 2007, she gave birth to twin daughters. The girls, Gracie and Bella, travel with Natalie and her husband as she sings and occasionally speaks around the country.

Motherhood has only increased Natalie's desire to change the world. She recently finished Women of Faith's The Revolve Tour, with concerts and talks for 7th- to 12th-grade girls. "I want to connect with those girls, because they'll shape the culture my daughters grow up in," Natalie says. "Being a mom, I have a greater passion than ever to make a difference in our broken world."

Her role as a mom also motivates her work against trafficking. "Those victims are each somebody's daughter," she says. And they're each important to our heavenly Father, too.

For more information on Natalie, visit her website: www.NatalieGrant.com.

Keri Wyatt Kent, an author and TCW regular contributor, is writing a book on women and social justice. Visit her website: www.KeriWyattKent.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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