Human trafficking is everywhere. The mechanisms for slavery exist in nearly every country around the globe. Labor trafficking, sex slavery, indentured servitude– these are realities for an estimated 27 million brothers and sisters of ours around the world. Today. On our watch. 

And The Exodus Road cares deeply about all. of. them. 

However, 27 million is a large number for one NGO to tackle, and since our roots began in SouthEast Asia through our own undercover work and police partnerships there, today our main focus remains in this part of the world. About a year ago, we launched into India, as well, funding cases and delivering covert gear to quality field teams. And it’s a necessary location to work in counter-trafficking, as estimates show that up to 24 million of the 27 million modern day slaves exist in Asia alone (check out this report HERE). As an organization attempting to systemically create change, we strategically apply pressure to adjust the landscape of modern slavery. And what better place to start than in some of the countries where slavery runs most rampant?

We’ve also learned through working with police and NGO communities here on the ground that significant resources are lacking particularly in this developing region where the numbers of victims are most staggering– and that’s why we’re here.

It’s why I send my husband out into brothels to look for children. It’s why we work long hours to raise funding for equipment that trusted police partners have asked for. It’s why we advocate and travel and write and have meetings, and quite frankly, bleed-out. Because a girl or boy in a brothel, and even millions of them, are begging for freedom, are desperate for it. And it’s not a half-hearted effort that will provide it for them. 

The Exodus Road-6

But having said all of that, we know, too, that the girl enslaved in a brothel could be in America, as well. 

And while the reported statistics of human trafficking and sex slavery are significantly less in the United States, we believe that freedom in the Land of the Free is something worth fighting for, too.

An estimated 40,000 victims were identified last year, according to the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report. Though they assume many more are present, the research remains inconclusive as to the current number of victims within the U.S. It’s also estimated that 100,000 children are victims of domestic trafficking right now and that 17,500 victims of trafficking were brought into the country last year alone.

- Modern-Day Slavery, NBC News

For the past eight months, my husband has been building trusted partnerships with several local government agencies in Colorado. This work takes time, and we’ve learned from experience that strategically fighting slavery must be done in partnership with local authorities. We’ve also been developing a program for local communities to actively become equipped to fight trafficking in their own neighborhoods, in partnership with police. We have sixty volunteers already signed up to run a pilot program in Colorado, and we’ll be hosting our first training for that program in late August. Our lawyers and our development team are still in process of setting up the program, both legally and effectively, but our hope is that by January of 2015, we’ll be able to provide average U.S. citizens with the tools necessary to really watch and combat trafficking, right in their own backyards. We’ll be revealing more over the course of the next few months.

We know that fighting trafficking on American soil will be slower and “less dramatic” work with much fewer tangible “rescues.” (Though even our beginning efforts have resulted in an arrest and rescue with local police in Colorado.) Trafficking in the U.S. is much more difficult to identify for many reasons and the laws about what an NGO can legally do are much stricter than in foreign countries. We know that; but we still believe in mobilizing civil society to rise up on behalf of the slaves in their own communities. Justice is in the hands of the ordinary, after all. 

Because, again, these things take time. 

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Some people have asked us why we host blogger or donor trips to SE Asia to observe human trafficking, since slavery happens right on American soil. Wouldn’t it save money? Wouldn’t it help “our” people more to just stay home?

My answer to that is simple: while the mechanisms of trafficking are the same in every country, it’s much easier to realistically observe and learn about it in places where it is most rampant– places like here in Asia, where such a large percentage of the world’s modern slaves walk the streets (or aren’t allowed to walk the streets). Since we as an organization are still developing our U.S. initiative particularly, we simply don’t have the infrastructure to effectively teach and demonstrate real cases of trafficking in America. Here, in Asia, we do.

Perhaps by next year at this time, we’ll be able to host blogging trips that highlight effective partnerships at “home” (for us) in America. But, for now, we feel confident that seeing slavery firsthand– and meeting those in the trenches sacrificing to fight it — is powerful in and of itself.

When we think of the scale of modern-day slavery, literally tens of millions who live in exploitation, this whole effort can seem daunting, but it’s the right effort,” Kerry said. “There are countless voiceless people, countless nameless people except to their families or perhaps a phony name by which they are being exploited, who look to us for their freedom.”

- John Kerry, in releasing the 2013 TIP Report 

Thanks, as always, for following along with us here at The Exodus Road. Please continue to read and share the stories that have been written this week about our time in the field by four seasoned writers. And please keep watch for reports about our upcoming program to bring freedom efforts to communities in the U.S., as well.

- Laura Parker, VP Communications, The Exodus Road 
*A note about statistics. The estimates around modern day slavery are extremely difficult to determine. Many organizations and government agencies report varying statistics, or even, as the Polaris Project says, claim that the results are too inconclusive to even estimate. If you want to learn more, check out any of the U.S. TIP Reports, especially the country summaries of places of interest to you. 

volunteer exodus road

Our friend, Amy Garcia, recently helped us wage war against sex trafficking—and she did it with a party.

A resident of Phoenix, Ariz., and mother of two, Amy recently held a fundraiser to collect money for a motorbike, which undercover teams in Southeast Asia could use for raids and operations. She called the event “Fundraiser for Freedom,” and it featured a silent auction full of items such as Rodan + Fields skin care products and burlap tote bags. The night also included a raffle and catered food from P.F. Chang’s. Matt Parker spoke briefly, as well, about The Exodus Road organization and the importance of its work. In addition, Amy set out Exodus Road merchandise for sale, and attending children wrote letters to undercover investigators, thanking them for their work.

The event raised $5,000 to purchase a $2,200 motorbike, making Fundraiser for Freedom a resounding success. The excess money would go toward the purchase of other necessary equipment for undercover operations.

The event developed out of Amy’s desire help enslaved women overseas.

“When I first learned about the prevalence of sex trafficking, it weighed heavy on my heart and I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she said. “I wanted to help but I didn’t know how.”

volunteer party exodus road

She heard Matt speak at The Grove Church in Chandler, Ariz., a year ago and began helping with social media and journalism needs for The Exodus Road. But, she wanted to do more to equip investigators with the supplies they needed to initiate raids. She wanted to give more than just her time and talents. She wanted to give money.

“I knew that my donation would be nothing compared to a group of people coming together and donating so I decided a fundraiser would be the best means to achieve this goal,” she said. “I also thought a fundraiser would bring about awareness of sex trafficking as well.”

Matt provided the means for that awareness. During his talk, he gave partygoers statistics on women and children who are forced to perform sexual acts daily.

“Some people were shocked about how big of an issue it really is—especially in Southeast Asia,” Amy said. “I think when most people think of prostitution, they think the women are there because they just want to earn money.”

volunteer party

party exodus road volunteer

But after hearing from Matt, people were horrified. Amy said they wanted to know more about how they could help abolish sex trafficking and free the millions of slaves around the world. Yet, by attending the fundraiser and purchasing skin care items or tote bags, they had already contributed to the cause. With money from the event, Jim*, a former Special Forces member and current undercover investigator, purchased a new, silver motorbike.

“These are nice bikes, large and powerful enough for bigger guys and should last us a long time. As always, thanks very much for your hard work and giving us the tools we need to do the job.” – Jim*, Undercover Investigator

Amy’s simple fundraiser can be replicated at any time and at any place so that undercover investigators can have the equipment they need. We at The Exodus Road need people to help with this fight and to host their own events. Whether it’s an Undercover Run, a Search and Rescue Home Party, Cocktails for a Cause, or another creative avenue to connect more people with the mission of child rescue.

“By volunteering, hosting a fundraiser or donating, you will be giving that woman or child a voice, giving them hope and an opportunity to be free,” Amy said. And then beautifully lived out her own conviction.

Amy Garcia and Matt Parker

Amy Garcia and Matt Parker


To find out more about how to host your own fundraising event, check out some of our volunteer fundraising opportunities here.

*Name changed


On Feb. 26, 2014, coalition-member Indian Rescue Mission agents raided a private brothel in Southern India, freeing a trafficked girl. During the operation, they used undercover cameras and equipment provided by The Exodus Road.

When The Exodus Road first began its partnership with IRM, the latter team operated with one half-broken camera. Using Exodus Road funds, they purchased at least two cameras for each team member along with a computer and several other pieces of surveillance gear, which helped to gather evidence against the brothel during the February raid. The first images of this video come from that covert equipment and depict that operation. They show a narrow alley, and a tiny, sparsely furnished room. In the video, a woman peeks behind a curtain, presumably calling a young girl. A moment later, the girl enters.

Agents showed these images to police, who then partnered with IRM to free the victim.

She was roughly 15 years old, and she told IRM agents that her parents had died when she was 8.  Her aunt took care of her until she reached puberty—and then, that aunt began to sell her, forcing her into prostitution. The film shows the aunt covering her face with her hands after confrontation with police. The abused niece hugs the social worker present during the raid, and buries her face in the older woman’s shoulder.

“She was in a trauma stage during the time of raid and she thought all of us are police,” an IRM agent said. “But our social worker went and took her to her side and then counseled her and gave her support.”

After the rescue, IRM sent the girl to a protective home.

The IRM agent who spearheaded the raid felt a deep connection to this case because he knew the particular community well. He said he felt a responsibility to make sure the girl attained her freedom. With courage, wisdom and cameras, he did.

“All those got involved were happy about the case and many people from the city appreciated the raid,” he said.


In 2013, The Exodus Road gifted 125 pieces of covert equipment, including undercover cameras, to field teams. Without these supplies, those teams couldn’t gather the evidence needed to motivate police to act.

You can help The Exodus Road fight sex slavery by clicking here to donate. Your gifts will be used to purchase vital cameras and covert equipment for the investigation and pursuit of human traffickers.

volunteer investigators

Do you remember back in January when we hosted our first training for volunteer investigators? We developed a rigorous interview process, and then eight individuals came for a weekend to our home office in Colorado. These eight underwent a two day training with founder Matt Parker and chief investigative trainer Bill*, a retired military member with years of undercover work in India.*

Bill’s team had told us that they needed help. They were constantly given more cases of trafficking and pedophilia to work with local police, and they needed fresh investigators, more “boots on the ground.”

And eight individuals in this community were able to step up. Paying for their own airfare, both to the training and to the field, these volunteers came ready to give 4 weeks or more annually to the work of finding sex slaves and supporting the on-ground team.

And two of them, a married couple, just finished their first deployment last week. This couple spent two weeks working alongside Bill and his team. They were able to gather surveillance on a suspected criminal, participate in identifying underage sex workers, and even worked a sting operation with local police partners.

“I want to go back. We’re not finished there yet,” the husband said when we asked him if he wanted to return to India to continue to help in the future.

One of the longtime investigators said of this couple after the two week on-the-ground training:

“They’ve both shown us that our selection process works well and gets us the right kind of character that we look for in our investigators. I know it’s been quite an eye opening experience for them both and they’ve both had to step way outside their personal comfort zones during the live training . . .  we’ve been impressed by them and their efforts.”

- Grant*, Investigator in India

Justice in the hands of the ordinaryAnd these two investigators? They are not what you might typically expect. One manages a warehouse, while the other works as an accountant. They have children and live in a “normal” American city. They are “ordinary” like the rest of us, but, when faced with the realities of trafficking, they refused to walk away.

And, so, they filled out paperwork and got FBI background checks. They endured uncomfortable interviews and covered their own travel expenses. They gave up vacation time, and they invested both money and emotion in a practical, supportive venue to those on the front lines.

And it worked. They were helpful. The field teams were encouraged. More evidence was gathered.


And the army of the ordinary people standing for justice, continues to grow.


From that first training session in January of 2014, our hope is to deploy five of those individuals to the field in the upcoming year. Two are actually planning on serving field teams for an entire year, beginning in May.


If you are interested in joining our team of volunteer investigators, check out our Careers Page. We are planning to host another training event in the Fall of 2014 or next January 2015 here in Colorado. Please be aware that we are selective in the interview process (for obvious reasons), and that volunteer operatives are expected to cover (or raise) all travel expenses.

*As always, names and locations are often changed throughout our communications to protect the security of operations and teams. You can check out our media policy here

letters to frontline investigators

Bekah emailed us at the office several months ago. She worked with students in a faith community and wanted to connect her church with the cause of bringing freedom to the modern day slave, and she wrote us to see how she could help. We gave her some ideas, she quickly joined the Exodus Army as a powerful advocate.

In addition to raising funds through a Christmas campaign at her church, she also invited the students she works with to write letters of encouragement to undercover investigators. And while it may seem a small thing, pen and paper and a message, it was anything but that. Here is an example:

letters to investigators


It’s because of students like those in Bekah’s community, and as a result of Bekah’s own advocacy and leadership, we’ll be handing over a stack of mail to our undercover teams in May. We will have the privilege of delivering messages from teenagers in the West directly to men who are actively working to rescue other teenagers halfway around the globe, trapped as sex slaves. Men that seldom get thanked and rarely recognized.

Will you join Bekah’s group? Consider taking time yourself or rallying your own community to write letters of thanks to the frontlines. Check out the details and video here:

—> Letters to the Frontlines.


And a huge thank you to the community at First Trinity Lutheran Church in NY for leading the way in delivering hope to the those in the trenches. You guys are continued proof that we all have a role to play in this fight for justice. 


* A note about these letters. The Exodus Road is a secular nonprofit, and many of the supported investigators are from a variety of religious backgrounds. And though this was a Christian church group that wrote these cards, religious language was greatly limited out of respect for the investigators themselves. We love that Bekah and her group of teens understood and followed this request.


Life in the Sex Industry

Only woman and children who have experienced life inside the sex industry can relate.  There is a certain soul damage, an abusive oppression that comes from a life in prostitution.

Katie Hansen is a friend and volunteer artist at The Exodus Road.  Katie understands life inside sex trade. As a young homeless woman in the throws of addiction, Katie spent a season of her life on the streets as a prostitute. Now, as a woman who walks in freedom and full recovery, Katie’s story is a powerful testament to the possibilities of life rescue, even in the worst of circumstances. You can see more of Katie’s inspiring real life story in a short film HERE.

Cling to the Rock

Recently, Katie stopped by The Exodus Road office as a part of her west coast Cling to the Rock Tour.  (Read her blog and follow her, HERE). Since Katie donated her “Lilly” rocks as an incentive for the Keep the Rocks in the Jar campaign, we were happy to have her create more “Freedom Rocks” and do some interview time with Laura Parker (VP and Director of Communications at The Exodus Road).

Take a minute to hear why Katie was drawn to offer her rock art as a way to advocate for victims trafficked in sex trade.  And find out how you can invest with your own personal gifts by volunteering … just like Katie.

Really.  Take a minute. Watch this video.

Moved to Volunteer?

If you are moved to invest your time and unique gifts to The Exodus Road, please go visit our Volunteer Page.  We’ve set up a process for you.  Go fill out our intake survey and learn more about what it means to empower rescue.  Why?  Because we really do believe that justice is in the hands of the ordinary.  Join us.


 Behind the Scenes |

Many thanks to volunteer Isaac Leigh for his contribution of video and edit work on this piece.




The Exodus Road is a coalition and our two heartbeats are empowerment and collaboration. We believe firmly that this global fight for freedom needs quality organizations and individuals to partner with one another–not work in competition or against each other.

This is why we are so thrilled to announce a project this month called, “Watch Out, Freedom’s Coming.” We are working with an amazing organization in Cambodia called Sak Saum, an empowerment organization working with vulnerable men and women. The following is a brief description of their work:

Located in Phnom Penh and the Saang district of Cambodia, Sak Saum is a ministry dedicated to the rescue, restoration, transformation and rehabilitation of vulnerable and exploited women and men.

Sak Saum is pioneering a model of self-sustaining ministry. From the beginning, our goal has been to create a nurturing, empowering, restorative program which facilitates vocational training in sewing, excellent products, and community development. We believe in the union of powerful, life-changing outreach with effective, excellent business.

Our work is supported through the sale of our products around the world. Sak Saum’s business reaches over 30 states in America as well as Australia, Japan, Germany, England and more.

We facilitate 12 girls in the full-time program each year. We also employ 50+ men and women through our Vocational Training Center (VTC). The VTC creates economic development, skill development, educational development and other opportunities to families in the Saang district.

- Sak Saum About Page

Beyond providing at-risk individuals with viable employment, Sak Saum believes in a holistic approach to the artisans in their program, offering chances for complete restoration to participants–particularly those whom have been hurt by sexual abuse.  They write,

Our desire is to see people become whole and life-giving in their roles as daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, friends, mothers and fathers. This transformation is key to Cambodia’s future, otherwise generational cycles of trafficking and abuse will continue.

Sak Saum Daily Life and What Wholistic Care Looks Like


freedom wrap watch

We love Sak Saum’s heartbeat and philosophy, and we believe they are changing the course of Cambodia’s future, and thankfully, Sak Saum feels similarly about the work of The Exodus Road. Both organizations see the desperate need for all aspects of the fight for freedom– from prevention (Sak Saum) to rescue (The Exodus Road) to after-care (Sak Saum). And, we all believe that in helping each other, we keep victims in the center of the fight, where they should always, always be.

With that in mind, the leaders of Sak Saum want to invest in the rescue work of The Exodus Road by funding at least one raid through the sale of the above leather wrap watches (sold for $23- shipping included). For every Freedom Watch sold in the month of August, Sak Saum will donate $10 to The Exodus Road. With 150 sold, we can fully fund one raid for girls in India or SE Asia.

Each watch is purchased from a Cambodian businesswoman with a longstanding relationship with Sak Saum and will help this local woman find a safer and more successful future. Essentially, from every angle this project is a win–a practical picture of partnerships that accomplish more, when working together. 

Help us? Stop by the Sak Saum website to purchase your watch, which will be shipped directly to you, and then remember that every time you wear it, you invested in freedom.



The number one question we get as we talk about the work of investigations and rescues is a logical one. You’ve asked us time and again:

“How Can I Help? What Can I DO?”

And this is the question, I think, that haunts most of us. We long to make a difference in the world that is human trafficking, and we want to see sex slaves freed. Yet the obstacles loom large, and they primarily involve the reality that the majority of us physically can’t do the actual work of investigation and rescue– particularly in the areas of the world where sexual slavery is rampant.

And we’ve racked our minds about this for six months, because we live the tension, too. And while we do our best to bring people to the front lines of the rescue efforts we’re involved in through social media and communications, we wanted to develop a program where people who couldn’t go physically could actually hire someone to kick down a door on their behalf.

Enter the Search and Rescue Program.

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This week we are launching a program that we think will effectively answer the question of how you can personally fuel and empower literal rescue. Essentially, we’re inviting you onto a real-life investigative team. 

From our experience, it takes about $35 for a night for one of our investigators to engage in local surveillance. Since we already have teams on the ground and since most of our teams are volunteers, we are able to fund investigations with a fairly lean financial model. If you’d like to join a team, you will be “hiring” one of our investigators to go literally look for children and victims on your behalf in some of the darkest corners of the globe. Investigators will then take that intel to local police partners and will develop cases and raids from that initial intelligence.

The search fuels the rescue. And by investing in our teams, you would be putting boots on the ground, sending eyes to look for the enslaved

Currently, we have four designated teams that we’d like to empower. Each team has a code name (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta) and a brief description of their area of focus. You can find the team names and descriptions here. When you choose a team to sponsor for $35/monthly, you’ll have access to their field intelligence (though, as always, for safety, some details may be changed). You’ll get live updates as to the ways your team, specifically, is engaging in investigations, raids, and rescue. We’ll be sending you newsletters, incentives and even ways for you to connect and support your field team on a more personal level.

It’s the closest thing to the front lines we can get you. And it’s the most direct way we can find to give everyone the opportunity to fight for rescue.

Interested in Joining the Rescue Movement?

Stop by our new Search and Rescue Program landing page. You might want to check out our Search and Rescue FAQ page, as well. Read over the teams available for sponsorship and see which connects most to you. Follow the links to adopt your team, and we’ll be mailing you a welcome packet with information about your investigators and several small thank you items from our home office here in Colorado.

And then moving forward, every time you see a rescue shared or an update given from the field connected with your team name, you’ll know that you were a valuable part of that success.

We had a field investigator say to us the other day,

“Tell me how many kids you want to rescue, and if I have the resources, I think our team could make that happen.” – Exodus Road Coalition Partner

And this statement from a team that has rescued 150 victims of sex slavery in the last month alone because of their commitment to justice and the funding we were able to provide them. (This is our Bravo Team, actually.)

If you’ve been asking the question, “What Can I Do?” Perhaps this could be your answer. Check out the Search and Rescue program, please tell your friends, and consider joining the (literal) rescue movement. 

Reshma was only 12 years old when she was rescued from a filthy brothel in a red Light district in Pune. You can imagine how thrilled we were when she declared, “Thank you brothers for rescuing me from this terrible life, now I know I have someone that cares for me.”Exodus Road Coalition Partner James, of Indian Rescue Mission

Hope is an undercurrent we can’t lose in this fight for freedom. It’s that quality, that dream, which drives brave men to enter dark places on behalf of a child, and it’s the word spoken over a girl like Reshma, when she is given the freedom to walk out of a dirty brothel.

Hope is new sunrises after the darkest nights.

And even in the face of 27 million slaves trapped in the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, hope can still rise and be made a reality, as long as people are willing to invest in it. People like the investigative teams, donors, support staff, bloggers. People that are choosing to continue battling for freedom, even when logic says that perhaps we should just give up– the question poised by our founder Matt Parker in the video released this past week:


One such person investing in hope with the tools at her disposal is the lovely Lisa Leonard. Lisa and her jewelry company have graciously donated a hand stamped pewter necklace to the community here at The Exodus Road. Fittingly, the center charm is stamped with the following quote:

Hope is the thing with feathers.

The necklace also has a freshwater pearl and hand stamped feather charm, as well. It’s a gorgeous necklace that serves as a reminder that there is always, always hope.



leatherbraceletThis week, in addition to Lisa’s necklace (retail value of nearly $50), we’re also giving away two leather bracelets (unisex) stamped with the logo of The Exodus Road ($15 dollar value each). These high quality leather bracelets can be worn by men or women. We’re also giving away five sets of rubber bracelets (think the yellow “Live Strong” bracelets), stamped with the term “Rescue is Coming.” Each set will contain one black and one teal bracelet.

We had a supporter several weeks ago say to us, “The only reason I still care about trafficking is that you won’t let me forget about it. I see your facebook feeds, and I’m reminded of the problem.” We understand that hope for girls like Reshma in large part lies with the rest of us not forgetting her and those in similar situations.

And, so, to enter this week’s giveaway, we’re asking that you simply connect or share The Exodus Road online. You can like The Exodus Road on facebook, follow or share us on twitter (@theExodusRoad), or share the giveaway on facebook or pinterest. We’d be honored if you would specifically ask your own network of friends to follow us on Facebook or twitter, as well. We believe that hope lies in not forgetting, and we’d love to share that hope with you, our community of abolitionists.

To enter this week’s giveaway, simply click on the rafflecopter giveaway below. Entries will close on Tuesday, June 25th, and will be announced on June 26th. And after you enter here, be sure to stop by Lisa Leonard Online to browse through the rest of her inspirational jewelry. Each piece speaks a story there.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

“Are you feeling Felty?” he asks a group of The Class 17 students of Valley Teen Leadership and their parents. Laughter fills the room when he follows with, “Sorry, it’s just a family inside joke.”

John Felty

John Felty, a sophomore at Perry High School in Gilbert, AZ explains to the group how he set in motion the process of The Exodus Road applying and eventually being awarded an almost $4,000 grant from The Class 17 students of Valley Teen Leadership. A grant that will go directly toward helping 8 victims recently rescued from sexual slavery  who are currently being held in government facilities, awaiting repatriation. Without the funding necessary to pay social workers, lawyers and professional advocates, these victims run the risk of ending up right back into the hands of traffickers again once they are released.

He responds humbly when I inquire about his involvement with the grant process,

“I am just a small puzzle piece in the bigger picture.”

After John heard Matt Parker, Founder and CEO of The Exodus Road, speak at a youth event, he knew he had to do something. “I knew that Valley Teen Leadership had a grant opportunity for a non-profit organization, so I waited after the event to talk to Matt personally…he was really excited so he gave me his email address and that’s when we started emailing each other.” When I ask John what made him choose to take action on behalf of The Exodus Road as opposed to another organization, he responds, “I was just so shocked that this is going on. After I heard Matt speak and I did some additional research on my own, I couldn’t believe that sex trafficking is actually a really big issue.”

But John isn’t exactly in the dark when it comes to really big issues. He has gone on two mission trips; one to Compton, CA and another most recently during his spring break to Haiti. When I ask him about his experience in Haiti, I could tell his time there still affects him immensely. “It was really shocking. One night we were driving off the main road to get lumber and wire to build pews for a church we were building and the stuff we saw…it was bad. It’s hard to even talk about,” he explains.

The more questions I ask John, the more I begin to see a pattern emerging. A pattern that tells me when John learns of a problem or sees an opportunity to help an organization or a group of people, instead of looking the other way, he makes the choice to take action; to actually do something about it. He could choose to do nothing. After all, he is a teenager, an avid mountain bike racer, a student, a member of a youth group at his church as well as a member of Class 17 of Valley Teen Leadership. One could argue that is “enough.” But not for John. When I ask him what he would say to other young people that feel like they couldn’t possibly make a difference in such a worldwide problem as sex trafficking, he pulls out a white folded piece of paper from his wallet.

“Have you heard The Starfish Story?” he asks, “I’ll read it to you.”

“One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, ‘What are you doing?’ The youth replied, ‘Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.’ ‘Son,’ the man said, ‘don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!’ After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, ‘I made a difference for that one.’”1

All of us were born to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Our hearts will remain restless until we choose to answer the call on our lives. To give of ourselves, our time and our efforts; to rise up and fight for those who are not able to fight for themselves. Nelson Mandela once said,

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

John doesn’t wear a cape under his plaid Hurley shirt.

He doesn’t leap tall buildings.

He didn’t walk into the Barnes and Noble for our interview in a kilt with his face painted like Mel Gibson’s character in Braveheart shouting, “FREEEEEDOM!”

John Felty is an everyday teenager who chooses to answer the call to do extraordinary things…

And so can you.


Article written by Amy Garcia. Amy is a Social Media Content Writer for The Exodus Road. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two children.

1. Original story, by Loren Eisley