A story of two who escaped a magazine crew in Denver
I got a phone call Monday afternoon, June 4 of this year. The voice on the other end was of Pastor Bob Blevins in Pocomoke, MD. He had gotten my name and cell number from our District headquarters; they had told him that I could help with his problem. The problem? A victim of human trafficking named Shannon was in Denver and wanted to go home. She had called her mother back in Maryland and she turned to Pastor Blevins, the only resource she knew to turn.
Pastor Blevins gave me a description of Shannon: tall, slim, 18 year old girl, and had a tattoo on the left side of her neck. She was supposedly at the bus station where she and a friend slept outside on the sidewalk Sunday night. I left the comfort of my home (actually reading in my hammock) and went to the bus station, but no Shannon.
I walked the 16th Street Mall from one end to the other looking for this girl I had never talked to or met. She was a statistic, another victim of the scam called a magazine crew. * But she was a daughter of a very worried mother who loved her; Shannon was worth rescuing!
I walked along Broadway Street where many of the street youth hung out. Walking up to choruses of “Sox!” or “Doyle!” I began telling a few of them what I was doing out on a Monday afternoon, that I was looking for this girl who was in trouble and needed to be found. Krazy said that she thought she had seen her, but didn’t know for sure.
Another youth, named JA, said that he would help put the word out. JA is a junkie, addicted to heroin and barely hanging on, but willing to help find this girl, a stranger from another state. Out on the street, a stranger is often taken in and watched over. Many of the youth said they would keep an eye out for her.
I was playing phone tag with the pastor, who was talking to Shannon’s mom on a borrowed cell phone; the leader of the magazine crew had stolen Shannon’s cell phone. The leaders of the crew use verbal and physical intimidation, along with physical and sexual abuse to get the workers in line. Shannon fortunately had not been subjected to the abuse.
I headed back to the bus station and found her along with her friend David, who also left the crew. They were shaken, but no worse for the wear. They told me that some of the leaders of the crew had come to the station and surrounded them to intimidate them into coming back. The crew didn’t want them to leave because Shannon and David were money in their pockets. Remember the whole deal is a scam to make money off unsuspecting youth selling a false product. They would have to recruit and “train” others if they left, but when these people saw me, they figured the kids were not stranded and left them alone.
I got them bus tickets back to Maryland, got them something to eat and a place to stay for the night (their bus left at 7:15 on Tuesday night). The next morning I took them to Sox Place for a while and then they went over to the bus station to wait for their bus.
When I took them over to the bus station, I took some time to speak with them about their lives and how they didn’t have to live under the curse of no father, but could, with God’s help, live a life that was different. I told them they were special and that I was blessed to have met them, thankful that God had let me be part of their lives. I then prayed for them and over them; that was really special!
Shannon is back safe with her mother and family. David is tagging along, hoping to find his way in this life! Thank you for your support that allows us to be part of the rescue of two very wonderful teenagers who had stumbled into a trap. Thank you for standing with us so we can stand with the fatherless and those that are at risk.
*Magazine crews recruit young people with enticing ads such as, “Travel the country and earn as much as $[some ridiculous amount of money] per day!” The crew then sends them somewhere far from home to sell magazines door-to-door. When pay day rolls around, they don’t get a dime. The claim is that the young person didn’t make enough in sales to cover the cost of the hotel, food, travel, and training, thus being in debt to the company. The truth is that they will never make enough to get out of debt, and they are often threatened, beaten, and molested to force them stay with the crew.