saconnects, Volume 8, Number 4, 2022

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VOL. 8 NO. 4, 2022

A man and his family survive being labor trafficked.

A health care professional talks about ‘eating God’s foods.’

A New Jersey restaurant owner and The Salvation Army work together.

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SHADOWS Anti–Human Trafficking, a social justice ministry

The Salvation Army’s Missing Persons program is

Reuniting families one at a time. If you have a family member that’s missing, we may be able to help. Calll (800) 315-7699, or email This is a family reconciliation/reunification service. The Salvation Army is unable to conduct searches under the following conditions: persons missing less than 3 months, adoption cases, persons under 18 years of age, inheritance or estate searches, legal matters, or genealogical searches.





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A New American Dream

The Children’s Learning Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts offers childcare and much more. Plus: Preparing your child for preschool or daycare.

Harold D’Souza and his family survived being labor trafficked in Ohio. Today, Harold works as an advocate to raise awareness for others who have lived through the same experience.

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Spiritual Life Development Discover one woman’s amazing social justice journey as a minister, activist, and mentor to human trafficking survivors. page 28

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People Motherhood has taught Lilybeth Otero lessons about God’s love and ministry. page 7

Faith in Action The Salvation Army’s Philadelphia Temple hopes to open a community center that will draw kids away from gun violence. page 10

History Read how The Salvation Army challenged cultural norms that supported sexual trafficking in the 1900s, when its leaders helped raise the legal age of consent. page 14



Alex struggled in a pit of despair before she connected to The Salvation Army Pathway of Hope program in Oil City, Pa.

When a healthcare professional fell seriously ill, her recovery set her on a mission to educate parents and children about eating healthy foods.

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Thrift Store Finds

Book Review

Back–to–school clothes, backpacks, and more are waiting for kids at a Salvation Army thrift store near you!

Kathy Harris is a Christian mystery book writer who offers a unique twist to the human trafficking narrative. page 31

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Gus Sleiman A New Jersey entrepreneur gives back to the community he loves. page 32

Cover: iStock/Oleg Elkov

COVER STORY The fight against sexual trafficking requires a support network, multiple programs, and dedicated people. page 16



SUNDAY • SEPTEMBER 25, 2022 International Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking If you or someone you know needs help, call


To learn more about how The Salvation Army fights human trafficking, and how you can help, scan the code.


FOUNDER William Booth GENERAL Brian Peddle TERRITORIAL LEADERS Commissioner William A. Bamford III Commissioner G. Lorraine Bamford CHIEF SECRETARY Colonel Philip J. Maxwell DIRECTOR OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS Joseph Pritchard EDITOR IN CHIEF / DIRECTOR OF PUBLICATIONS Warren L. Maye MANAGING EDITOR Robert Mitchell EDITOR / HISPANIC CORRESPONDENT Hugo Bravo ART DIRECTOR Reginald Raines PUBLICATION CONTENT MANAGER AND DESIGNER Lea La Notte Greene GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Dave Hulteen Jr., Keri Johnson, Joe Marino, Mabel Zorzano

Stuck in traffic


THE SALVATION ARMY MISSION STATEMENT The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

Member since 2015 Award winner 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021

SACONNECTS is published by The Salvation Army USA’s Eastern Territory. Bulk rate is $12.00 per issue for 25–100 copies. Subscriptions are available. Write to: SACONNECTS, The Salvation Army, 440 West Nyack Road, West Nyack, NY 10994–1739. Vol. 8, No. 4, 2022. Printed in USA. Postmaster: Send all address changes to: SACONNECTS, 440 West Nyack Road, West Nyack, NY 10994–1739. SACONNECTS accepts advertising. Copyright ©2022 by The Salvation Army, USA Eastern Territory. Articles may be reprinted only with written permission. All scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV) unless indicated otherwise. | @saconnects

WARREN L. MAYE Editor in Chief

Recently on a sweltering day in San Antonio, Texas, someone found a semi–tractor trailer truck abandoned along a highway. Although it looked like a legitimate delivery vehicle, inside authorities discovered the bodies of at least 53 people. Some were said to be younger than 18. The incident is being called the deadliest human smuggling case in modern U.S. history. Experts say that such crimes can quickly turn into human trafficking cases. Although individuals trafficked for labor and sex represent a global problem, it is also prevalent in most communities in the United States. Fortunately, there are dedicated agencies and individuals who are committed to fight this scourge on society and to help save lives. This issue of SACONNECTS magazine focuses on some of those courageous people who are working for The Salvation Army. You’ll discover how in New York City, members of The Salvation Army P.E.A.R.L. Essence ministry are on the streets and reaching out to people caught up in this billion–dollar industry. These volunteers, employees, and officers are helping to turn lives around, one person at a time. You’ll also read a personal testimony from a man whose family was labor trafficked for years in America’s heartland. He eventually found a way out, even before laws were on the books to support his struggle. Today, he advises U.S. presidents. From a historical perspective, you’ll learn how the Army’s involvement in anti–human trafficking began years ago in London, England, when Salvationists engineered an ingenious, but dangerous ruse that spotlighted the problem. Their effort resulted in changing the law and society’s moral compass on child labor and sex trafficking. You’ll be reminded by a Christian mystery writer how the truth can be stranger than fiction. Her latest book explores human trafficking from a novel perspective. I pray that you and yours will never be stuck in this kind of traffic. But keep your eyes open; your next–door neighbor might be among those who are.


Love Beyond

Surging Prices Food pantries. Warm meals. Sack lunches.

The goal of the Salvation Army’s Love Beyond campaign is to increase public awareness of our year-round services. We love beyond hunger, homelessness, destruction, fear, loss, addiction, loneliness, despair, overdue bills and so much more. We love beyond the circumstances of those we serve, seeing and valuing each person.



In “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the Beatles’ 1966 song, is John Lennon’s nostalgic reference to a Salvation Army orphanage called Strawberry Fields in Woolton, England. Lennon is said to have played with childhood friends in the trees behind the orphanage when he was a boy. The facility closed in 2005 but reopened in late 2019.



Management guru Peter Drucker called The Salvation Army

“… by far the most effective organization in the U.S.” — Forbes magazine

Read more about the Salvation Army’s anti–human trafficking work on page 16.

Did you know The Salvation Army holds worship services every Sunday at a location near you? Find one and join us this week!

The Salvation Army operates several domestic violence shelters nationwide, where abused

In providing its programs and services, The Salvation Army is committed to accommodating all people in need without unlawful discrimination or harassment

women and children can get a fresh start in life, safely and confidentially. If you

based on age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, disability,

or someone you know is in

citizenship, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other

need of help, contact us.

characteristic, in accordance with our capacity to help.

Scan this code to find Salvation Army locations and services in your area.




Front and center for families by HUGO BRAVO

The Salvation Army’s childcare ministry in Massachusetts began in 1917. Back then, it was primarily for families in the community that had the greatest need. “The Salvation Army in Boston took care of the Irish immigrants who came here to work,” says Jeffrey Bailey, director of social services for the Massachusetts Salvation Army. “Well–to–do establishments in Boston wanted nothing to do with those folks and their children. So, while the parents worked nights or days, The Salvation Army offered daycare for those families, at no cost.” The Children’s Learning Center (CLC) in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester is a continuation of that work established over a hundred years ago. The daycare center accepts children as young as three months old and has summer camp and after-school activities for children up to 13. Outreach to their families include meals during the holidays and a backpack donation event with Boston’s TD Garden in August. The CLC hosts martial arts classes, Boy and Girl Scouts, tutoring, sports programs, and more. Above all, CLC teachers and staff are reliable, trusted participants in the lives of children and their families. “When we open at 7:30 a.m., there are parents outside who have been waiting for almost an hour,” says Sandra Burdette, program director at the CLC. “Many of the parents are essential workers who arrive early but can’t make the 5:30 p.m., pick-up time.” For those parents, Burdette sometimes stays in the building with their children until the parents arrive. The CLC is designed to blend in with the surrounding community, with a Salvation Army shield appearing only in the center’s lobby. So unlike other Salvation Army buildings, they do not offer food pantries, help with utilities, rent assistance, or lunch programs for the public. But, CLC staff does connect students’ families to local Army


corps for those same types of services. “The CLC is based 100 percent on the care of children and serving the needs of their families,” says Bailey. “Childcare is the underpinning of our economic structure,” says Lonnie Schroeder, contract manager at the CLC. “Without readily available childcare, a large majority of the U.S. work force stays home. In 2020, a lot of mothers lost their jobs because they took days off to be with their children when daycare centers closed.” The Army’s role in childcare has evolved and changed with time. Today, the Children’s Learning Center is the it’s oldest childcare facility in Massachusetts. They have succeeded and grown while other similar centers in Boston have closed. “We do what we know how to do best, and that’s care for families first and earn their trust. Then, we add little, extra things that make a real difference in people’s lives,” says Bailey. “I believe that childcare is one of the things that The Salvation Army does best.” “When a child runs into my arms and is happy to see me again, it’s a moment that makes me want to keep coming back to work every day,” says Burdette. “We take every child in, even if they have behavior issues, because some places won’t take them,” says Schroeder. “For those children, we’ll bring in outside services at no additional cost to the family. Some children need more help than others, but every one of them is a treasure, and their parents need all that we can give them.”

Preparing your child for daycare or preschool Don’t overprepare. Avoid talking about daycare in May or June if your little one is starting in September. Gradually mentioning it a week or two before their first day won’t overwhelm or make them feel anxious. Visit the daycare. If possible, bring your child to meet their teachers and see their classroom before their first day. Let them tour the location where they will eat, play, and use the restroom. Afterwards, ask them what their favorite thing about the classroom is, and what part they might not have liked. Work on routines. Start a schedule of waking up on time, getting dressed, and eating before daycare. Develop a nighttime routine as well, so there is a sense of normalcy and reassurance throughout the day. Ask about comfort items. Some daycares allow your child to bring a favorite blanket or stuffed toy to ease them into a new place. It doesn’t have to be a soft, cuddly item either. Sending a favorite book to be read to the class is a great way to make your child feel at home. Encourage independence. Don’t be surprised to see your child develop an independent streak once they get used to preschool. Now is the time to introduce new, age–appropriate tasks to them, such as picking up their toys after playtime or trying to dress themselves.


My irreplaceable role Interview by HUGO BRAVO

Captain Lilybeth Otero, pastor at The Salvation Army in Albany, N.Y., talks about what motherhood taught her regarding God’s love for us; how worship music is in her blood; and why in ministry, she should never feel “lonely at the top.”

I was 17 years old when my parents enrolled in The Salvation Army College for Officer Training (CFOT) in 2006. Ten years later, I was commissioned as an officer myself. I have lived, worked, and studied at the CFOT. When I visit, it feels like I’m coming home. Having lived there in my teens, I feel a deep connection with children of officers, cadets, and pastors. Those kids are in a unique situation; they can sometimes feel unheard and have a deep sense of wanting to belong and be part of something bigger than themselves.

I feel closest to the Lord when I am leading worship music. I pretend that there’s no one else in the room, and I am singing directly to God. But I also know that I have the honor of bringing listeners into His presence through music. That’s also a special feeling. My family’s history in worship music goes back to my great–grandmother. She lived in the hills of the Dominican Republic. She walked to the homes of her friends and neighbors and played worship music for them on an accordion.

Digital art is a creative outlet for me. I design lettering inspired by Scripture and the lyrics of Christian music. When I hear or read something that stands out, I turn it into art. I’ve hosted “Prayer through Painting” workshops at women’s camp, where artists find their own memorable words and turn them into art projects. When I received an iPad as a gift, I used it to create digital art and post it online. It was a way to bring my ministry into the modern age, which is something we should all do with our unique ministries.

Motherhood is my role in life in which I’m irreplaceable. I have learned about the love and patience of the Lord by being a mom. For example, sometimes my daughter argues and refuses to listen to me, even though I know what’s best for her. Out of love, I let her do some things her own way, and when it doesn’t turn out like she wants, she comes to my arms for help and comfort. When that happens, I think, Is this how God looks at us when we defy Him and try to do things our own way, fail, and then go running back to Him?

People say that it can be lonely at the top. Leading a church can sometimes make me feel that way as well. But while in deep prayer, I once heard the Lord say to me, “The moment that someone says they feel lonely in their role as a leader, is the moment that they forget that I am there with them.” This realization awakened my mind. God is our greatest companion, and the work will never feel lonely if we’re at work for Him. We must never forget the One who calls us to our roles and shows us the way. There are many times in ministry when we may feel helpless and disappointed, but those are the exact times that we need to step back, be still, and remember that we are always in the Lord’s presence.





After school The Salvation Army Kids’ Café began at the Manchester, N.H., Citadel in 1994 as a place where 80–100 children and teens could find a warm meal each evening. The program has grown over the years to an attendance of around 130, four nights a week. After the meal, everyone takes part in structured recreational activities, from video games to art to hands–on games. Kids’ Club also gives children and teens a chance to interact with caring adults, who provide a place for them to learn and grow with the support of others. For more about this program, visit and click on “magazine.”


This is a story about two pastors’ deep commitment to create a safe haven for the men, women, and children of North Philadelphia. by ROBERT MITCHELL


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wo elementary school–aged children strolled home from school one sun– splashed spring day when they got the scare of their lives. They saw a passenger in a moving car point a handgun out a window. Such sights seem so common in troubled North Philadelphia. Lieutenant Chris Brown, pastor of a nearby Salvation Army church known as the Philadelphia Temple, soon got a call from the children’s frantic grandmother. She begged him to get the kids into the church’s after–school Learning Zone program, one of the few places in the neighborhood believed to be a safe haven. Lieutenant Tara Brown, Chris’s wife and partner in ministry says of the handgun incident, “Of course, the children were terrified. We were like, ‘This is not OK.’ They’re in elementary school.” Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love,” but in recent years the homicide rate for certain neighborhoods tells a different story. Midway through

2022, gun violence and murders continued to plague those areas after a record 559 homicides in 2021—the most since 1960. “The amount of gun violence is ridiculous,” Chris said, noting that four or five people have been murdered on a corner near his church. “A lot of the shooters are younger people, so my goal would be to get to them before the streets get them. A lot of these guys don’t have any family and they don’t have any friends and they get into gangs. They really have no alternatives. The kids literally have nothing to do. We see the effects of that.”

Building bridges The Salvation Army got those frightened elementary school children into the Learning Zone and is partnering with other community groups to reopen a long-shuttered community center. Doing so could make a huge difference. Before becoming Salvation Army officers, the Browns helped open a community center in Canton, Ohio.

“We are just trying to provide a place that has open doors and a safe, fun environment for the kids,” Tara says. “That way the kids can come and build skills and interact with one another while the parents can be at work and not worry if their kids make it home OK. The parents will have a place where they know their kids are being loved and taken care of and fed.” With a poverty rate of almost 25 percent in 2019, Philadelphia is the “poorest big city in America,” Chris said. While recreation centers have historically been an integral part of the city’s culture, Brown was told by community leaders upon arriving in Philadelphia last year, that 90 percent of the centers have closed in recent years. Gangs, drugs, and violence fill the vacuum. “A lot of the kids we see, their brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts and cousins—have been killed,” Chris said. “They really don’t have a lot of family or friends left. You also see a lot of people moving away from Philadelphia because it’s so violent.”

Gentrification is another issue in this multi–cultural area, where rich and poor live side–by–side. Brown said low–income housing is being pushed out so developers can build something else, such as high–priced luxury apartments. The Divine Lorraine Hotel next to the church is one example. The hotel once housed homeless and poor people but is now high–end housing for the rich. Meanwhile, a nearby low–income area is teeming with children who live in danger.

Emerging solutions Stephanie Evans, the director of the church’s after-school Learning Zone program, said the area is still recovering from COVID–19. Mental health issues are also rampant. The rising cost of food, gas, utilities, and rent have exacerbated an already difficult situation. “Young men are frustrated and don’t have enough money to care for their families,” Evans said. They’re angry. They feel like the world is against them.” In March, The Salvation Army participated in “Unity in the Community,” an event sponsored by the local Black Male Community Council. The Philadelphia

Temple hosted some of the festivities, which included music, African dance and drums, and breakout sessions on conflict resolution, community activism, and violence reduction. The Black Male Community Council has discussed bringing music, mentorship, martial arts, and other programming to a new community center. “We’re trying to see which programs are best suited for our community and our kids and what they would be interested in doing,” Tara said. Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal attended “Unity in the Community” and offered to send some of her deputies to The Salvation Army after-school program. The class would teach police academy basics to students in grades 9–12 and they would go straight into law enforcement after graduation without attending college. “Our hope is we can partner with The Salvation Army and create an initiative to help with a lot of the violence going on in the city,” said Deputy Sheriff Jihad Ahmed, who was one of six officers attending the event. Ahmed said he would like to see more cooperation between the community and law enforcement.

The area is still recovering from COVID-19. The rising cost of food, gas, utilities, and rent have exacerbated an already difficult situation.

Building character With the need so urgent, the Browns hope to reopen the community center “as soon as possible,” probably sometime this year. “There are some things that we’re kind of doing already,” Brown said. “I’ve been doing open gyms myself once or twice a week when I can. I can’t be there all day and I can’t be there every day.” Brown said The Salvation Army has applied for grants and hopes to hear something soon. He would like the community center to look something like the one he helped open in Canton. “If we’re able to get this grant, we’ll be able to hire some staff and then we can open it,” Brown said. “I would like to see a full community center. I want it to be open every evening and have something going on. I want the kids to have something to do. Even if they’re just coming to play board games. They’re safe for an hour. They’re off the streets.” Right now, the church’s Learning Zone enrolls 32 students who come daily after school and stay until 6 or 7 p.m. The students are fed and learn character-building and conflict resolution skills. Many of them go on to college and return to work as staff. “We have a great impact on improving behavior,” Evans said. “Over the years I’ve been here, this has been a safe haven.” Evans said that a 12–year–old student who lives in the neighborhood’s low-income housing has seen three shootings. The Learning Zone staff continues to build into his life. “He sees it,” Evans said. “He knows it. He’s trying to survive and fit in.”

Despite the dangers and challenges, Evans said she loves her work and believes the community center will be a huge step toward the area’s healing. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous help because the outlet of that gym is the key to a lot of it,” she said. “They love playing basketball. They love being in a safe


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Snippets of Jesus

space. Even if it’s not basketball, there are other activities. I’ve heard a lot of parents say, ‘Thank you for being here.’ The staff genuinely cares. This building should be open and should never close. People talk about The Salvation Army all the time in this community. “I believe in the mission of The Salvation Army because it’s unbiased. It says ‘come as you are’—and means it. I’ve seen people come in here at their lowest and The Salvation Army has built them up.” While researching the neighborhood, the Browns found that it is one of the least– churched areas of the city. Chris said it appears that about 90 percent of the neighborhood is Muslim, though not all are practicing. Tara said she sends the message that “everyone is welcome.” Last year, the Browns got parental permission to take the Learning Zone students, including the Muslim ones, to see Jesus Theater at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Philadelphia. Some of the students became Christians that day. “We’re just trying to love them as Jesus

would do and accept them and give them a place where we can pour into them,” she said. “Our Learning Zone staff pours into them, they get snippets of Jesus. We don’t want them to feel like they can’t be there because of their background. Whether they agree or not, they’re hearing about Jesus and absorbing what we are telling them.”

Being the light Evans, who practiced Islam for seven years before becoming an ordained Baptist minister, said everyone from The Salvation Army shows Muslims “Christian love.” Over the 20 years she has been with the Learning Zone, she says the Christian and Muslim students have never clashed. “We don’t force you to be a Christian, we show,” Evans explained. “We’re examples of Christians and display Christ-like character.” Chris, who witnessed to one Muslim man, saw him come to church and believes he became a Christian before he was gunned down. “Some Muslims will never step foot in

my chapel, and I have to be OK with that,” Chris said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t minister, build relationships, show the love of Christ, and have conversations about our faith. “They may not hear my preaching, which means my lifestyle has to ‘preach.’ We know that the opportunities to talk about Jesus and bring salvation to this neighborhood will come.” When the Browns prayed they would one day come to Philadelphia as Salvation Army pastors, it wasn’t just because Chris is a fan of the NFL’s Eagles; they saw opportunities for ministry. “There’s a lot of opportunity for love and acceptance,” Chris says. “These folks are hungry for an alternative to what they see every day on the streets. That gives us an opportunity to be ‘the light.’”


Raising the age of consent by WARREN L. MAYE

The Salvation Army’s global influence has caused many pivitoal moments in history. One example transformed the way 19th century London and the world viewed sex trafficking.


he law, as it stood in the early 1880s, said that a young woman of 13 was legally competent to consent to her own seduction. Girls under the age of eight were not allowed to give evidence against people who had abused them, as it was thought that they were too young to understand the oath required in a court of law. One day, Josephine Butler, a campaigner for women’s rights, wrote a letter to Florence Booth, the wife of Bramwell Booth, the Salvation Army’s Chief of the Staff, concerning the sale of girls into prostitution. Such letters and other correspondence relating to the topic, including letters written by Catherine Booth (wife of Army founder William Booth) to Queen Victoria are archived at the Salvation Army’s International Heritage Centre in London. Florence Booth, as pioneer leader of the Army’s Women’s Social Work, had gained an insight into the lives of girls working as prostitutes. Through this work, the practice of trafficking girls to be used for immoral purposes, both in Britain and overseas, came to the attention of The Salvation Army.

 To acquire an understanding, Bramwell Booth walked the streets of London to see the problem for himself. He took note of the desperate situations in which many of the girls found themselves. What he saw prompted him to speak with W. T. Stead, a young editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. Stead, 26, was an admirer of The Salvation Army and was horrified


to think that girls were being bought and sold. He investigated the claims made by The Salvation Army and published his findings in the Pall Mall Gazette, July 6–10, 1885. The articles appeared under the title “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon,” The writings played a major role in securing popular support to raise the age of consent. But, a vital part of the plan involved the activists staging the “abduc-

“ I felt as though I must go and walk the streets and besiege the dens where these hellish iniquities are going on. To keep quiet seemed like being a traitor to humanity.” —Catherine Booth

tion” of 13–year–old Eliza Armstrong as a case in point. Rebecca Jarrett, a recently converted ex–brothel–keeper, used contacts from her time as a prostitute to fabricate the Armstrong “abduction.” The case was published in Stead’s Pall Mall Gazette, which received much support from readers. The ensuing public outrage

against prostitution eventually led to the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act on August 14, 1885. The Act successfully raised the age of consent from 13 to 16 years. News of the decision spread all the way to the United States and to other countries overseas. However, the abduction ploy also led to a court case against this relatively young cohort: Stead, Jarrett, Bramwell Booth, and Florence Booth. “The Old Bailey,” a law court known as the central criminal court for serious crimes, was the venue for their trial that began on October 23, 1885. After all had been said and done, Bramwell and Florence Booth were found innocent; but Stead was sentenced to three months in Holloway Jail, even though the jury had recommended mercy. Jarrett, who had played a major role in the plot, along with Louisa Mourez, a midwife involved in Armstrong’s “abduction,” received the longest sentences of all—six months in Millbank Prison. Following Jarrett’s release in April 1886, The Salvation Army cared for her until her death in 1928. In the long term, the trial helped the Army gain recognition and enabled it to further its social work objectives in Britain and overseas. Among the material relating to the case stored in the archives of the International Heritage Centre, is a document entitled “The Truth about the Armstrong Case and The Salvation Army,” which includes W. T. Stead’s defense, as well as biographical information and personal letters written by Jarrett. These fragile documents can only be observed by researchers who visit the Heritage Centre because photocopies are prohibited. Nonetheless, their impact redefined societal “norms” for many years to come and throughout the world.

Volume 8 Number 4, 2022

More about the age of consent (L–r): Florence Booth, Bramwell Booth, W. T. Stead, Josephine Butler, and Catherine Booth.

The age of consent is the age at which a person is legally competent to consent to sexual acts in any country and is thus the minimum age of a person with whom another person is legally permitted to engage in sexual activity. The legal age of consent varies around the world. In some countries, there is no age of consent and individuals are required to be married to legally engage in sexual relations. In the United States, legal age of consent ranges from 16 to 18 and is set by each state’s legislature. However, the federal age is 18, and is applicable under certain circumstances. In some states there exists the “Romeo and Juliet” law, which is an exception to that state’s particular age of consent law when a minor and the person involved is not more than a given number of years older, generally four or less. — excerpted from United Nations,

Read an in–depth account of the Eliza Armstrong trial Find it on Amazon.



Hope, pearls, and



photo by Ryan Love

The fight against sexual trafficking requires a network of support and multiple programs.


nder the elevated train in a North Philadelphia neighborhood known for violent crime, drug dealing, and street prostitution, the first floor of a small row house serves as a refuge. Women who experience exploitation and sex trafficking can have a meal or snack, take a shower, change into clean clothes, seek help from a social worker, enjoy art and yoga classes, and relax on the couch and watch Netflix. “We’re small but we’re mighty,” says Heather LaRocca, LCSW, director of the New Day to Stop Trafficking program for The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division. In a neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., where street prostitution and the threat of violence are at one of the highest rates in the state, a Salvation Army van arrives one night a month. A dozen or so volunteers and a couple of staff members venture out to greet the women and sometimes others who are entangled in this street life. The staffers give them canvas tote bags that contain a muffin or sandwich, gloves, scarfs, and information about Salvation Army support services. In Western Pennsylvania, a staff of three Salvation Army employees continue to build a support network to meet the needs of their trafficked clients. In three years, they’ve acquired


about 350 partners. These effor ts are among the Eastern Territory’s 15 multi–faceted anti–human trafficking programs, which are part of 41 such Salvation Army programs across the country. Together they served a total of 3,620 people in 2020.

The Salvation Army’s mission

It is estimated that human trafficking is a

$150 billion

criminal enterprise worldwide, with

40.3 million people targeted at any given time.

Helping these survivors is very much in keeping with the Salvation Army’s mission, says Major Tawny Cowen–Zanders, MSNMP, CFRE, and divisional secretary for Greater Philadelphia. “We work with them to help them see how very precious they are. We don’t see them as the world sees them. We see them as who they are, children of God.” She said this can only be done by “addressing the hope issue, helping them feel and believe and hope for something better.” The barriers to reaching survivors are many. Most have experienced trauma from an early age, and many have substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders and are experiencing homelessness. Reaching out to them is important because they are far less likely to seek help than other crime victims, says Arielle Curry, anti–human trafficking coordinator for the Eastern Territory. “We are working to train all departments in the trauma–informed model known as The Sanctuary Model,” Curry said, emphasizing the importance of avoiding words such as rescue, save, hooker, and addict. “We try to use person–first language. Instead of saying ‘a homeless person’ we would say ‘a person experiencing homelessness.’” Since the 1800s, The Salvation Army in England has been involved in anti–human trafficking efforts. But for the most part, efforts in the United States didn’t begin in earnest until more than a century later. According to the International Labor Organization, it is estimated that human trafficking is a $150 billion criminal enterprise worldwide, with 40.3 million people experiencing this victimization at any time.

Standing together for change In Philadelphia, the Salvation Army’s anti–trafficking approach is four–part: the New Day Drop– In Center, New Day Home, Anti–Trafficking Task Force, and Police Assisted Diversion. Support for clients is built around the belief that they are the experts of their own lives. “We are working alongside them,” LaRocca says. “We’re not telling them what they need. They’re


not going to make lasting change unless they’re the ones driving the bus. We hear their story and what goals they want to set. We build a relationship.” Philadelphia's involvement began in 2010 when the city started exploring anti–trafficking work. The Salvation Army and other organizations were part of the discussions. The New Day Drop–In Center was born as a collaborative effort; the Army took it over in 2014. Close to 60 people come each day now, down from more than 100 before the pandemic. In addition to being a welcoming haven in a rough neighborhood, diverse services—legal, youth, and immigration—are provided through outside partnerships. To honor the lives of all who enter, New Day also keeps track of the lives that have been lost. “The women who come in feel so alone,” Cowen–Zanders says. “They know if something happens to them on the street there will be a place where they will be remembered.” The New Day Home opened in February 2017 as a residence for survivors of sex or labor trafficking. Stays are for one to three years and include: earning a GED if needed; vocational training; trauma, and trafficking–informed treatment; activities for behavioral health; and daily skills acquisition–building, such as basic cooking and housekeeping. Many of the people who move into the New Day Home are experiencing a safe, caring residence for the first time in their lives. A new residence will open in late October, if the renovation is on track, that will replace the current one, doubling the number of beds from 8 to 16. The Police Assisted Diversion program sprang out of a Philadelphia Police Department effort to channel people arrested for drug offenses and petty crime into support programs rather than have them enter the criminal justice system. In 2016 they asked The Salvation Army to try a similar approach for people picked up for prostitution. In 2019 this collaborative effort became a New Day program. The Anti–Human Trafficking Task Force was launched to combat human trafficking with a collaborative approach of federal and local law enforcement agencies and multiple social service organizations.

Flying a red flag Last year, New Day served 1,169 trafficking survivors. The four programs have a total staff of about 35, with eight to 10 volunteers, only a handful

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Staff at the Philadelphia New Day Women's Drop–In Center participate in a Red Flag Meeting to work through a recent traumatic event.

now compared to the 20 to 30 pre–COVID–19. To keep themselves from burning out, they follow the Sanctuary Model, trauma–informed care that works to understand how trauma affects clients as well as the staff and organization. This involves using tools such as Red Flag Meetings, which are scheduled shortly after a traumatic event, such as an overdose, to work together through what has happened. Leaders check on everyone to make sure they have a self–care plan to help eliminate the need to repair damage later. “We as leaders have to genuinely care about the staff,” LaRocca says. “We’re on a journey together.” The Salvation Army’s anti–trafficking program is one of the largest in the city, but few people know about it, she says. “People know the visuals, like the red kettle and the thrift stores. They get one thing in their mind.” The Salvation Army’s Western Pennsylvania Division, which encompasses 28 counties, had occasionally been asked by law enforcement to help find food or shelter for the trafficking survivors they encountered. As requests grew, the division applied for and received a federal grant in 2018 to start the LIGHT Project to develop a program of comprehensive services, for survivors of human trafficking. “We’ve grown a lot quicker and faster than we thought but, unfortunately, the need is great,” said Sarah Medina, MSW, LSW, Anti–Human Trafficking Director for Western Pennsylvania.

The need is great Since launching out of the division’s main office in West Pittsburgh in 2019, this vast collaboration of community–based partnerships has helped 42 survivors. Through the partnerships, they receive therapy, legal help for civil, criminal or

In 2021 The Salvation Army supported

1,054 survivors photo by Ryan Love

in exiting their trafficking situations.



Through community–based partnerships, survivors can have tattoos covered and made into new designs. Watch the Salvation Army's new documentary, "HOPE: Stories of Survival," available on Amazon and coming soon to iTunes and Google Play.


immigration matters, as well as material help of hygiene products, new clothes, and housing from The Salvation Army. Requests from law enforcement to help survivors are met 24/7. “Our clients have so many needs,” Medina says. “If a new need comes up, we’ll find a partner.” The latest of these is a tattoo parlor that will cover up tattoos related to trafficking. The LIGHT Project also has an educational component that has trained 3,000 people about human trafficking red flags. If a client can’t get to the office, a staff member will go to see that person. Medina said she recently drove two hours to Erie after a call from law enforcement. Since she wasn’t using a Salvation Army car, she sent the woman to a safe place to stay in an Uber and then met her there with personal products and clothes. “We’re looking for the success with each client’s story. It looks so different with each one.”

A global problem The Greater New York Division (GNY) has also been growing its anti–trafficking efforts, which began modestly in the 1980s with one officer ministering to people involved in street prostitution in Times Square. It wasn’t until 2018 that GNY began researching services being offered to women at high risk of human trafficking. Focusing on the fastest growing hotspots in the northeast, they zeroed in on illicit massage businesses in parts of Brooklyn. “The fact is that human trafficking is happening in New York City as it is across the country and world,” said Director Jennifer L. Groff of the Corporate & Community Engagement Department in Greater New York. “These efforts are long overdue.” Groff’s commitment was sparked in 2017 while she was in graduate school researching and writing a paper about human trafficking and survivors.

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She developed relationships with people working in the field. Realizing “this is where the unmet needs were” and wanting to create awareness in the division, she began working with Social Justice Secretary Major Susan M. Wittenberg to create the first program in New York.

The value of P.E.A.R.L. Essence P.E.A.R.L. Essence, standing for Purposed, Empowered, Appreciated, Respected and Loved, launched in January 2018 to minister to women working in illicit massage parlors. These businesses were made up largely of women emigrating from China who had been defrauded into believing they would have a legitimate job as a masseuse. The barriers keeping them from leaving are hard to overcome such as poverty, the need for shelter, language differences, no work authorization, and fear of deportation. Between 6 and 12 volunteers, along with a couple staff members, set out on foot with a list of the parlors, bleak boarded–up buildings with blackened windows. They offered small gifts and a list of Salvation Army services in the city. They also brought cookies for the owners to encourage them to allow the team entrance to meet the women. At first, the women were extremely guarded. But P.E.A.R.L. Essence is “a seed–planting mission” and the team persisted. By the fifth outreach, five Mandarin–speaking volunteers had joined. One young woman, who looked about 16 and had always strongly resisted the team’s efforts, smiled, and told them her name. “It was a beautiful moment of progress in her,” Groff said. “Doors began to open.” In 2019 the Army's anti–trafficking effort expanded to include monthly late night/early morning visits to East New York. Arriving in a Salvation Army van, the team of about 20 go out in threes between 11 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., knowing they are being watched by pimps who “don’t like anyone distracting their business plan for the night,” Groff says. “They take many safety precautions, frequently in collaboration with law enforcement, to ensure their team as well as the people with whom they are speaking remain safe.” In encounters, that last only about a minute, the volunteers carefully approach the women— about 20 by the end of the night—most of whom are between 25 and 35, with smiles and questions about how they are. In time, the women “were joyful to see us,” Groff says. “They liked our attention. We


know we are making a difference for those women. “Their situation is dire. The Salvation Army’s programs are about helping people in destitute poverty.” In December 2019 P.E.A.R.L. Essence began offering a seven–day emergency stay program where women who want to leave prostitution receive three meals a day, clothing, a private place to meet with their social worker and respite so they can “get on their feet while community partners help them find long–term housing.” P.E.A.R.L. Essence is different from other human trafficking programs in the city, Groff says, because it restores choice to the women. “We’re just building trust over time. They are used to people objectifying them and using them for their bodies. We have an interest in them as a person. It’s powerful.”

Launching ‘HOPE’ In September 2021, the Eastern Territorial Headquarters Communications Department launched its production entitled “HOPE: Stories of Survival,” a full–length documentary about the day– to–day lives of survivors after their trauma recovery. The film, recently nominated for a New York Emmy Award, demonstrates how they managed to overcome fear and exploitation to emerge as beacons of hope for other people who face similar circumstances. The documentary also led to a closer collaboration with law enforcement to ensure the safety of the Army’s volunteer teams. Philadelphia’s Cowen–Zanders includes a tour of the rough, violent neighborhoods where exploitation regularly happens when she is introducing a new board member or donor to the work of The Salvation Army. As she says, people associate pictures of cute children in day care or the comforting environment of a shelter with the Army’s work, not the reality of street prostitution. “This isn’t pretty, but it’s precious. These women are precious to Jesus. We hold this work in our hands like a precious jewel. We are honored to be there.”

Retta Blaney has won nine journalism awards and is the author of Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors, which features interviews with Kristin Chenoweth, Ann Dowd, Edward Herrmann, Liam Neeson, Phylicia Rashad, Vanessa Williams, and many more. You can find it on

Potential indicators of human– trafficking: › I s under 18 and is involved in commercial sex › Is under 18 and dating a much older, abusive or controlling partner › Has visible signs of abuse (bruises, cuts, marks) › Exhibits behaviors of fear, anxiety, depression › Shows evidence of controlling relationships › Lack of awareness of city or state where currently located › Is reluctant to explain a tattoo › Is not in control of own money or identification › Has new clothing, possessions without means to purchase items › Accompanied by a “translator” who answers for the individual › Owes a large debt — SA Justice Anti–Human Trafficking Rapid Response.



A New American Dream A human trafficking survivor becomes a voice for the voiceless


or Harold D’Souza, the opportunity to come to the United States from his home country of India was like being awarded a ticket to heaven. “In 2003, when I told my friends and family that I would be going to the U.S., they said I was going to swarg, or paradise. They called me God’s chosen,” says Harold. Harold really did feel like “God’s chosen.” As a boy, Harold’s father was a farmer who wanted all his children to have a good education. Harold had more than exceeded those wishes, earning various degrees in human resources and labor, as well as a master’s in marketing. He was married to Dancy, and they had two sons, Bradly, and Rohan. At 37 years old, Harold also had a job as a manager for an electronics company. In India, Harold had received an offer to work as a manager in Ohio. The man who made the proposal said he had secured Harold an H–1B Visa, a special kind of visa that allows foreign nationals with special skills to work in the U.S. He assured Harold that he would earn substantially more in the United States than he could back home. “I came to the United States on four things: trust, faith, a promise, and to live my American Dream. But my wife perfectly summed up what later happened—we were shown the moon, but given the dust,” says Harold. There would be no high-salary job waiting for Harold in Ohio. Instead, he and Dancy would be forced to work long hours in a restaurant, for no pay, while living in a


small apartment that lacked furniture and beds for their sons. For almost two years, the couple and their children would be degraded, threatened, and abused by the man who had promised the moon. “I felt like a failure. I had failed as a parent, a provider, a protector, and as a person. For many years I could not talk about what we had gone through,” says Harold. Today, Harold is the president of Eyes Open International, a non–profit organization focused on the education, protection, and empowerment of victims of labor trafficking. Through his organization, he has met with fellow advocates, governors, and U.S. Presidents. Actor Martin Sheen, whose own parents immigrated from Europe to Ohio in the 1930s, has talked to Harold about doing a documentary on him and other victims of labor trafficking. “I always say that in life, survivors are poor starters but strong finishers. I am grateful now to share my journey and how I turned all these terrible obstacles around with purpose, power, and prayer.”

The trafficker’s techniques When Harold and his family arrived in Ohio, the man who had promised to fulfill his American Dream was there to greet him. He asked Harold if he had any cash on him; Harold said he had $1,000. “He said to me, ‘Harold, you cannot carry that much cash on you in America. It’s not safe!’ I agreed to give him my money and all our documentation,” says Harold. “Looking

back on it, that was the first red flag. I wasn’t realizing that my trafficker was working to manipulate me, trick me, and track me.” Harold’s path followed all the steps and techniques that human traffickers use to control their victims and create fear in them. “First, the trafficker pays for your lodging, which is usually right above or very close to the place they want you to work. In labor trafficking, these are mostly restaurants, motels, salons, farms, and convenience stores,” says Harold. The trafficker refuses to pay a salary, and reminds the victims that they have no way to manage their earnings. “They will say, ‘Why would I give you a check? Where would you cash it?’ Instead, they promise to pay you when you return to your country,” says Harold. “That’s when they have you in their grip, and you never see that money.” “Labor traffickers use certain words and phrases that can be especially scary to foreign nationals,” says Harold. “These phrases keep them from fighting for their freedom. They say, ‘I will have you arrested, put in jail, put in handcuffs, or deported. “My trafficker never called me by my name. He would only say ‘Hey, illegal.’ What happens to your mind, body, and soul when you are called an illegal? You see yourself as the criminal, not the victim,” says Harold. Harold came to believe that he would never escape his situation. He remembers one night telling Dancy that he could see himself dying at the hands of his trafficker. As they talked, their youngest son Rohan

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Left to right: Bradly, Rohan, Dancy, and Harold D’Souza

played in the corner, facing a wall, but he had been listening to Harold talking about death. “Rohan then came to me and said, ‘Father, if you die, what will happen to me? Who will help me with my schoolwork?’ It was like hearing God talk to me. I knew then that if I died, my wife and sons would die too. That motivated me to live and to fight.”

Harold and Dancy did not understand the concept of human trafficking or labor abuse, but they did know that not getting paid for the work they were doing was wrong. In 2004, Dancy confronted the trafficker in the kitchen of the restaurant and demanded that he pay the couple back wages. “He said that he was setting aside $2,000 a month and would give it to us ‘at a better time’. If we didn’t like it, he would call immigration and have us arrested,” says Harold. The chef in the restaurant had overheard the conversation. Having been in a similar situation for unpaid wages with a boss in the past, he knew where to go to get help. After the restaurant closed for the day, the chef secretly drove Harold and Dancy to the district’s federal Department of Labor. Even though the D’Souzas had no personal identification, they were still allowed to enter and state their case. An employee sat with them for two hours, taking notes as the couple explained their circumstances. “He looked shocked as he listened to us,” remembers Harold. A case was opened to get back wages. However, it was never officially treated as a trafficking incident, as there were no labor trafficking laws in Ohio at the time. “So many people offered to help me leave the state to get away, but I refused. I learned that a victim leaving the state benefits the trafficker, because upon leaving, that case is closed,” explains Harold. “I had to stay and fight, because I knew what he was doing was wrong.” Upon being served notice, the trafficker sold his restaurant and kicked Harold and his family out of their apartment. He brought in his lawyer to threaten Harold personally. “He tried to intimidate me for fifteen


image courtey of D’Souza family

Staying to fight

‘ ‘

Rohan then came to me and said, ‘Father, if

you die, what will happen to me? Who will help me with my schoolwork?’ It was like hearing God talk to me. I knew then that if I died, my wife and sons would die too. That motivated me to live and to fight.”

minutes, saying that he could take the weekend off and have me arrested by Monday. I told him that I just wanted his client to pay me my wages,” said Harold. “What wages? You don’t even know how much it is! Is it $1,000 or $2,000?” the lawyer snapped. Harold couldn’t tell if the lawyer was trying to mock him, or that he legitimately did not know what his client had been doing. After six months, Harold won his case, though Dancy’s case had to be handled separately, on account of their different visas. Due to the lack of labor trafficking laws in Ohio at the time, Harold’s trafficker was never prosecuted. “He went bankrupt due to all the

charges,” explains Harold. “I did not understand how a man with a big house could go bankrupt. There were so many aspects of American life that had been shielded from me. For example, I was scared to go to the police to tell them I had been threatened. In India, you do not go to the police and expect them to help you. But the policeman who talked to me was so kind and understanding. I was touched by his humanity.” “I was also advised to go to counseling. Back home, when you go to counseling, you are being put away and never coming out. But here, I recommend counseling to every trafficking victim I meet.” Even after finding employment and getting his family completely removed from

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their past situation, it took Harold almost 12 years before he could truly feel free from his bondage. He says that victims who do not receive support or compassion never leave their own personal prison, even in freedom. “Trauma from human trafficking has no expiration date. If a survivor commits suicide to escape their own pain, it is not a true suicide. It’s a murder. That person has been killed by the trafficker, even years later,” says Harold.

Empowered again “Your status, degrees, education, or nationality have no say in whether you become a victim of labor or sex trafficking,” says Harold. “When I talk to other victims, I tell them that I, Harold D’Souza, am a common man, a failure, and a sinner. I want them to hear my story and see that, if I can go from darkness to light, then they can have hope for themselves too.” The Salvation Army in Cincinnati helped provide the D’Souzas with long– term support and care. They also promote Harold’s role as a survivor and an outreach partner by finding him opportunities and engagements where he can share his story. “The Salvation Army learned about my life and the mistakes I made, and they never once judged me,” says Harold. “They follow the words of Mother Teresa, who said, ‘If you judge people, you have no time to love them.’ They walked with me as one does with a child, always taking baby steps and picking me up if I fell. Eventually, I laughed again, and I felt empowered again. They know that every survivor is a person who has hopes, dreams, and talent.” In 2015, President Barack Obama appointed Harold to the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, a position he holds to this day. Four years later, he returned to the White House to meet President Donald Trump and his administration to discuss strategies to combat human trafficking. “Everyone has the power to fight for justice. People told me that nothing would ever happen to traffickers like mine. But in 2012, Ohio passed a law that would punish


labor traffickers. I don’t believe in the word ‘impossible’ anymore,” says Harold.

Paradise found Harold D’Souza has a new American dream; that through his advocacy work for Eyes Open International, he can be a voice for the voiceless who suffer as he once did. He knows that to truly take on the fight against labor trafficking, one must look farther than one’s own city or state. “The word international in Eyes Open International is there because America is the final destination for victims coming from source countries such as Mexico, India, Pakistan, and South Africa,” says Harold. Harold’s trafficker had convinced him

that because he was a brown–skinned man, Americans would hate him. But Harold says that if it had not been for the kindness of the American people, he would have never found freedom. “It takes an entire village to raise a child. In my case, it took an entire village to save a family. That village includes police, the government, and faith–based organizations like The Salvation Army,” says Harold. When Harold returns to visit India, he’s sometimes asked if America is still a paradise for “God’s chosen.” “I say ‘yes, it is a paradise and it is a powerful country,’” says Harold. “I still believe that, even after what happened to me, because I survived. God had a plan for me here.”

A larger perspective Though labor trafficking makes up the largest number of human trafficking cases worldwide, it can still be hard to identify exactly what it looks like. It can impact U.S. citizens as well as immigrants, and most of the time it impacts men who are perceived by society as immune to being victims. “Even with training, our brains are wired to look for trafficking victims in a specific way and demographic,” says Erin Meyer, an anti–human trafficking program manager for The Salvation Army in Cincinnati, Ohio. “The targeting involved in labor trafficking is more subtle than other forms of trafficking,” says Meyer. “For example, places like brothels cater to buyers. Massage parlors advertise on the internet and with big, glowing signs outside their doors. It’s in your face. But labor trafficking is insular. Finding it requires detective work and strong cooperation with law enforcement.” “In labor trafficking, a person might be allowed to go to the hospital if sick or injured, but that’s it. They’re not having constant run–ins with police, because it is not technically a crime to work for someone in their home or farm. Situations like Harold D’Souza’s are even harder to spot. No one is going into the kitchen of their local restaurant to look for people who are working there against their will,” says Meyer. Advocates for a solution to labor trafficking debate whether the definition should be broadened to include the recruitment of young people into street gangs, and even the exploitation of people incarcerated in prisons. Says Meyer: “What those two things have in common with labor trafficking is that in both cases, all your decisions are made for you by someone else, and you are not allowed to leave on your own free will.”



She is an overcomer by STEPHANIE GODWARD

Alex struggled in a pit of despair before she connected to The Salvation Army Pathway of Hope (POH) program in Oil City, Pa. She was fed up, overworked, bitter, and full of resentment. Alex, 28, is a mom of three boys. She has a habit of taking everything on herself. She works two jobs to make ends meet because her husband is unemployed. She desperately needed a support system and tools so she could to take a step back, manage her stress more effectively, prioritize her budget, and gain control of her life. “I didn’t know what to do and I was just in over my head,” she said. “Some people literally need a ‘pathway of hope’ to see that they matter.” The Salvation Army’s POH program helps families in need to balance their expenses. The program also helps pay essential bills for clients in crisis and bring about the desired outcome—financial security and self–sufficiency One–on–one counseling, goal setting and tracking, budget guidance, referrals, and access to a network of community resources is how POH creates opportunities for people to gain financial stability and independence. This is exactly what Alex and her family needed to regain their footing. Alex set and achieved family goals with her husband, Justin, and their children. Six years ago, Alex’s father had given her a house that was in need of exensive repairs. POH provided a new washing machine for the family, emergency plumbing, and sewage repairs. “It really gave me that hope to not fall back into despair,” Alex said. Major Laura Duesenberry has given Alex spiritual counsel, while POH Director Molly Minman, provided Alex with the support she needed. Minman said that Alex is the hardest working person she’s ever met. “Molly helped me to pull myself back to reality,” Alex said. “We set real, achievable goals. The first one we accomplished was


getting my son enrolled in a good, structured cyber school. He has a 94 percent average right now, and just got his third report card of all As and Bs. I couldn’t be happier.” Other goals include renovating a bedroom for her son, which is now in process; maintaining financial stability through budgeting, planning, and paying off debts; and getting her husband the support he needs to find and maintain employment. “I was spinning in circles inside of my own head while trying to take all of this on, and I couldn’t be who my family needed me to be at all,” she said. Molly related to Alex as a mom who is simply trying to balance work, home, and life as a wife. “I have never seen someone take on so much. I think for everything she has going on, she handles it with grace,” Molly said with tears in her eyes. “She is so capable, and I immediately knew she had gone through so much. It seemed like she was in survival mode. Now, I feel that in the past year and a half, she has gained a lot of confidence. I am so proud of the progress she has made.” Alex was quick to respond, “It’s not my grace, it’s God’s grace. I just really believe that. That is my motivation and I credit my progress to Him.” POH has empowered Alex with the hope she needs to persevere through life’s challenges. “It’s a drive I have now to move forward, knowing we can move forward, and that we have what we need to move forward. We just have to use it, to be productive,” Alex said. She remains grateful to the Salvation Army donors and staff who have been a blessing in her life. “The Salvation Army has literally clothed me, fed me, encouraged me, and inspired me; every good thing you can think of. The Army has grown my faith, and grown me as a person, period,” she said.

For more information on Pathway of Hope, visit or in the Western Pennsylvania Division.


Back to school! You may think of big box stores when it comes to back–to–school shopping, but thrifting supplies, clothing, and dorm accessories isn’t just being budget friendly—your kids get a chance to learn about smart and sustainable shopping, while discovering their own style and unique finds.


A DESK for the dorm room or a place to do homework (ugh). Purchased for $60. Don’t forget to shed some light on that homework too. This lamp was purchased for $7.50.

First day of school outfit? Solved! Clothing and shoe items ranged in price from $1.99 to $12.99.




iStock (kids)

Find your new backpack, maybe even a retro lunch bag, and a case to hold your pens and pencils. These items were all purchased for less than $15 each.


$9.75 $14.99


Go to to locate a Salvation Army thrift store near you.





Mission Possible: Anti–Human Trafficking A social justice ministry by MAJOR A. A. MARGARETA IVARSSON

A tri–fold adventure has impacted my social–justice journey; being a female leader with two passports (Sweden/USA), serving in lay and ordained ministry as a Salvationist influenced by Scandinavian Ecumenism and Wesleyan love, and accompanied by degrees in music, ministry, and spiritual formation. Most recently, my journey has touched the margins of society in New York City through P.E.A.R.L. Essence Outreach, an effort of The Salvation Army that focuses on illicit massage parlors and strip clubs where women and girls are often exploited for sex. Our mission is to offer first–step services to empower women who are highly vulnerable to trafficking because of extreme poverty, trauma, immigration status, and other social issues. T h rou g h t he e y e s of P.E.A.R.L. Essence Outreach,


we learn to serve out of our experienced faith. We come face–to–face with trafficked survivors, who often define themselves as lost causes by default. Nonetheless, we convey that they are the crown of God’s creation; “Purposed, Empowered, Appreciated, Respected, and Loved” (P.E.A.R.L.). Surprisingly, they often already know that God loves them. They typically offer up a “God Bless you” before we part company. The ultimate invitation to lived theology is through

personal and corporate transformation in the “real” world. We educate ourselves and debrief our efforts together with volunteers and ministers in training at the Salvation Army’s College for Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y. In this space of grace, our inherited bias meets its antidote in the call to welcome others as sent by God with something to teach us. In these moments, we surrender to practicing the ways of Jesus, who had no time for those who rejected His initial invitation, while He commands us to go out and find those people who would respond positively (Matthew 22:1–14). Our talk becomes a credible walk, and worthy of our intellectual and spiritual efforts. Many people aspire to a seat at the table of power during meetings about anti–human trafficking. Few are willing to

sacrifice time spent receiving training in this discipline and give up a night’s sleep to hand out warm gloves, offer the ministry of presence, and share Kingdom hope where traffickers have their heyday. Occasionally, a survivor may reject a small gift or a word of appreciation due to a feeling of unworthiness. This interaction sometimes triggers tears of sadness among volunteers. Why? Because somewhere deep inside of us we have all had moments when we’ve defined ourselves as something other than beloved children of God. Our hurts and wounds are wrapped up in the fact that “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together” said Bishop Desmond Tutu. Human beings share in the common journey as survivors of personal trauma.

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Anti–Human Trafficking spiritual exercise: the spiritual discipline of presence If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1, NLT)

Being present with God ❚ Find a place where you can be still or move around physically undisturbed. Take a few deep breaths, gradually slowing down your mind and heart as you welcome just being present with God. ❚ If you feel the need, create a physical or mental ‘parking lot,’ writing down things you need to deal with later. Leave your parking lot in God’s care. ❚B e kind to yourself if you become distracted. Acknowledge every thought, and release it back to God. Continue to breathe in the presence of God’s love and light.

Being present with others ❚A cknowledge your experience of God’s Love in your distant and recent pasts. ❚W rite down words or draw a picture symbolizing these events. Thank God for them. What will happen next regarding the Salvation Army’s mission to affect an anti-human trafficking response? As we move between direct outreach and online meetings, I ask myself; • W ill we get the balance and dynamics right between theology, doctrine, and orthopraxy? • Will we hide behind our laptops and seek theoretical solutions to a world in desperate need of personal ministry? • W ill we search our souls for God’s will, obey the call to stand up against the evil one, and bravely challenge a corrupt industry that continues to benefit the offenders? • Will we be The Salvation Army for the sake of Jesus Christ and the good news of the Gospel? Our individual and collective responses will determine our future. Will you join the fight?


Follow P.E.A.R.L Essence on Facebook.

❚H ow is God’s love realized in how you love self, family, and friends? ❚ T hank God for good and hard times. Thank God for forgiveness and restoration in personal relationships. Ask God for forgiveness where you have fallen short of loving well. Receive God’s forgiveness, mercy, and peace.

Being present in Anti–Human Trafficking ministry ❚A s God’s Love stirs your heart, how would you be able to share love with someone outside of your immediate circle of self, family, and friends? ❚H ow do you feel about this article and other information about Anti–Human Trafficking? ❚ Ask God to shine a light on personal bias that may be helping or hindering you in considering Anti–Human Trafficking ministry. Receive God’s gracious revelation.

Major A. A. Margareta Ivarsson is the Spiritual Life Development & Social Justice Secretary for The Salvation Army Greater N.Y. Division.

❚W here in your neighborhood and sphere of influence might hidden trafficking take place? How could your family or local church share God’s love with trafficked survivors? ❚ S hare your experience from this Anti–Human Trafficking spiritual exercise with a trusted friend. Discern if or how your respective stories intersect. What are the promptings of The Holy Spirit? How would you respond? 29


‘Eat God’s Food’


When a healthcare professional who is also a mother fell seriously ill, the road to recovery changed her outlook on life and set her on a mission to educate parents and their children on the virtues of eating healthier foods.

obesity rate has increased by 26 percent since 2008. Today, experts are officially calling it a disease. Research also shows that nearly 1 in 4 children are overweight or have obesity, which puts them at risk for poor health. It can lead to type 2 diabetes, asthma, anxiety, and depression. If it continues into adulthood, it can lead to other serious and chronic diseases.

Imagine: you’re walking along the warm sands of a crowded beach on a sunny, summer day. As far as you can see are people lounging in their bathing suits; all slim, trim, and fit. Today, that scenario sounds like a dream, but during the 1950s, it was the norm for most Americans. In those days, backyard gardening was also a national pastime; it was commonplace to see neighbors out there on their hands and knees, getting soil under their fingernails while planting fruit and vegetables for their family. However, with the advent of “fast” and processed foods also came a new phenomenon called obesity—the condition of being grossly overweight but seriously malnourished at the same time. As of 2020, the U.S. adult obesity rate stood at 42.4 percent. It was the first time the national rate had passed the 40 percent mark and further evidence of the country’s obesity crisis. The national adult

Recovery and discovery Susan U. Neal, RN, MBA, MHS, wants to eradicate this epidemic by educating children and their parents on how to develop wholesome eating habits through her book, Eat God’s Food: A Kid’s Guide to Healthy Eating. Throughout this illustrated guide, Neal teaches children to drink water, and read food labels. She also gives instruction on how to avoid sugary beverages, products made with white flour, and other prepackaged foods. Ten years ago, Neal suffered an abscessed tooth that caused 10 medical diagnosis and two surgeries. “For 49 years I had been healthy. But then one day, I could barely get out of bed,” she remembers. “I had multiple medical doctors, I’m an RN, and I have a master’s in health science. So, I also used my knowledge and education to look at what could be going on. It took over a year to heal my body.” From that ordeal, God gave Neal a vision to help others. “The things that happened made me passionate about trying to help people heal their bodies. So, I’m on a mission to help them improve their health and reach their optimal weight.” Neal, who worked at the Mayo Clinic as an executive in Jacksonville, Fla., had also been a stay–at–home mom to her three children. After her recovery, she started a new routine that included eating organic vegetables and fruits that she grew in her own backyard in Pensacola, Fla. “I now have a fruit orchard because the fruit orchard is easier to grow,” she said. “From May through the first frost, usually in December, I have fruit every month. I go outside, pick them, and eat them for breakfast. These fruits are from God, and they contain natural sugars and fibers. When I eat them, the fiber absorbs that sugar, so it does not raise my blood sugar level.” Neal advises everyone to follow her example. “So, eat some strawberries, raspberries, and green apples. Those are all low–sugar fruits; they’re our ‘desserts.’”

Setting a good example





Neal believes that setting an example for our children is key. “Do kids model adult behavior? Are we eating nutritious food? Do they see us walk around the block and get a little bit of exercise? Do they see us hike on the weekend? Do they see us go to the gym? If we are taking care of our bodies, our children will model it naturally,” she says.

Volume 8 Number 4, 2022


“ Deadly Commitment” “For example, when I packed my kids’ lunches, I would always pack a fruit and a vegetable. When they asked for the gummy fruit roll up, which was popular a decade ago, I’d say, ‘Honey, I’m not going to give you the roll up, because it’s fake. I’m going to give you real slices of apple.” “Today, food can last on grocery store shelves for months without going bad because there’s nothing nutritious in it. Food manufacturers strip most foods of their nutrients. So, I tell people to eat God’s foods. I say, ‘look at your plate. Does it resemble what comes out of a garden or from a ranch? If you have a steak, that’s fine. If you have a baked potato, that’s fine. But if you have something like chicken but has been shredded and formed into oval, then that is processed food and is not healthy. Or if you have a cracker that’s been colored and shaped into a square, you can be sure that there’s no nutrients in that.” Eat God’s Food has sections on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and meat. Each section ends with a “Let’s Cook!” activity that may also include drawing the food items. “I had one grandmother who took her children to the grocery store so they could identify the different vegetables God gave us,” remembers Neal. “I ask, ‘how many vegetables have you to eat?’ ‘What vegetable do you want to eat next?’ I also have a little recipe for them to prepare with their parents. I use a game that requires the kids to match a picture of a nut or a seed.”

A family that eats together … Neal says the learning process is a tool to achieve a bigger strategy, which is to help children to bond with their parents. “They go on field trips to the grocery store. They learn how to shop intelligently.” Neal says that, to get the child to buy into the process, parents must involve them. “You ask, ‘What vegetable would you like to pick out to have for dinner this week?’ After they pick it out, then have them help cook it. Yes, because if they picked it out and they’re cooking it, they’re going to want everybody to eat it.”


Book one in a series by Kathy Harris by WARREN L. MAYE

When Kathy Harris was a girl, she wanted to write mystery books and be in the music business. Today, her dreams have come true. Her most recent novel delves deep into the dark corners of sex trafficking in the heart of Nashville, Tenn., America’s country music hub, and Harris’s home for the past 40 years. Deadly Commitment is the title of Book One of “The Deadly Secrets” novel series created by Harris, who is a Christian author. “From the minute I wrote the first scene of Deadly Commitment, I had several options, and I was convinced that it had to be about sex trafficking,” Harris said. “Trafficking takes place in literally every county in the United States and in every ZIP code in the state of Tennessee. “Statistically, in Tennessee and probably everywhere, most trafficked people are under 25. Unfortunately, a lot of them are children,” says Harris. “This is probably a plot breaker, but the girl in this book who is in college, fits that description. But she’s also the upper end of that age range. I could not, I could not write a book about a child who was being trafficked. I want my books to be inspiring, but that kind of trafficking exists.” Harris’s research led her on a road of discovery where she encountered many people who have dedicated their time to the fight against sex trafficking. “At the same time, I can tell you that Tennessee is in a strong fight against sex trafficking. There’s a lot of organizations here that are working together. I found a lot of people online. For example, I interviewed a woman who had been trafficked, and I was inspired.” Harris also researched the problem through church organizations. She volunteered at her local church with an organization called The Next Door, which

helps women who have been dependent on drugs or alcohol. “A lot of them have been in prison and organizations like The Next Door are their last hope. They inspired me so much and became a good part of the story.” Harris wants to raise her readers’ awareness of the problem. “I hope that they will realize it exists more than they thought it did. I hope that they will realize that the child down the street may not have a good home. I want them to know that there are things that contribute to the problem right where they live. “The kids exposed to poverty, homelessness, foster care, a history of childhood sexual abuse, mental illness, and substance abuse are most at risk, but it can also happen in the most expensive communities. “So, if you’re aware, you can see a child who looks like they could be at risk, even in your own family. Monitor your children’s Internet usage because a lot of kids are trafficked that way. Just be vigilant. I think that’s what I’m trying to do. Besides entertain, I want people to read this and realize it can happen in your family. It could happen in your neighborhood.”




At 17 years old, Gus Sleiman received advice that he follows to this day: “never close the door behind you.” As the owner of Barca City Café & Bar and Evelyn’s Restaurant in New Brunswick, N.J., Gus Sleiman’s door is always open to his employees, a mix of New Brunswick’s Spanish–speaking residents, and students from nearby Rutgers University. Some of them see restaurant ownership in their future too, and Sleiman is happy to be a mentor and share his experiences. As a volunteer and board member of The Salvation Army New Brunswick Corps, Sleiman sees the Army as an open door to the community it serves. Leaders and workers there inspire members of the community to also open their doors to others. “I never want to close a door in anyone’s face just so I can live my own life,” says Sleiman. “I would rather leave my door wide open, so others can grow, just as I did.” In 1989, Sleiman’s family, Catholic Maronites from modern Lebanon, immigrated to the United States to escape the Lebanese Civil War, a 15–year conflict with an estimated 120,000 deaths and the displacement of close to a million people. The family eventually settled in New Brunwick, N.J. Sleiman’s father, an experienced entrepreneur, opened a restaurant in their new town. But Sleiman’s first interaction with The Salvation Army came a few days after 9/11 in New York City, where he attended the City University of New York. He and a friend were walking through the city, looking for ways they could help. “We came across a busy section around 6th Avenue and 14th Street, and we asked a man in a Salvation Army uniform if there was anything we could do,” says Sleiman. “He checked our IDs, fitted us for hard hats, and put us to work. We sorted, wrapped, and moved pallets of food and water. We worked with The Salvation Army for two weeks straight.” Years later, when Sleiman had taken over the family restaurant, he was invited to attend a meeting of Salvation Army board members in New Brunswick. There, he met local business leaders and residents who shared the same passion for helping their communities as Sleiman did. Sleiman was also impressed by the talent and dedication of the church leaders who took the responsibility of being the local face of The Salvation Army. Today, Sleiman is chair of the advisory board at the New Brunswick Corps. Although he enjoys the planning and strategizing that comes with his position, he looks forward to seeing the results and meeting the people affected by the board’s decisions. “Fighting food insecurity is my passion,” Sleiman says. “As a board, we volunteer by serving meals to children at the corps and at The Salvation Army summer camps. Some days, I will even go to the corps, knock on the door, and just ask if I can help in the pantry,” says Sleiman. “The easiest thing to do in non–profit work is to sign a check,


whether it’s for $10 or $1,000. But when you give your time and share your expertise, you get to see the real impact. You become involved in the change that you want to see in your community,” says Sleiman. Hispanics make up about 45 percent of New Brunswick’s residents. Many of them are first-generation immigrants like Sleiman. “In getting to know the Latino community of the city, I realized how many things we have in common, such as preserving our cultures, a strong family structure, and a shared love of Christ,” says Sleiman. “But we also share the hardships of being an immigrant. Though my time was in the 1980s, my struggle is still like that of someone who came here in the 2000s. Even today, seeing what is happening in Ukraine is like reliving my childhood.” “But the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran once said that ‘out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, and that the most massive characters are seared with scars.’ Our hardships should not destroy our lives, but instead be step stones to the life we truly want.” The New Brunswick Salvation Army has validated Sleiman’s own work and purpose, showing him how he can keep a door open to “doing the most good.” Most importantly, the Army has helped nurture his faith and personal connection with the Lord. “I have gone from being persecuted for being a Christian in Lebanon, to volunteering for The Salvation Army, a faith–based organization where I can proudly help people in the name of Christ,” says Sleiman. “That was God perfectly orchestrating my life; He knew it was my destiny to be here.”

Volume 8 Number 4, 2022

Overdose from FENTANYL is now the leading cause of DEATH in the U.S. among * adults 18–45. Drug use has never been more risky. We’re here to help.

Call 800-728-7825 or visit SAREHAB.ORG If you or someone you know needs help, contact us. The stakes are too high. The Salvation Army provides help and hope through faith–based residential programs to those seeking purpose, meaning, and solutions. *Families Against Fentanyl (2022, March 3)




2022 NEW YORK EMMY AWARD NOMINEE Documentary Cultural




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