WARNER ROBINS -- In late 2013, Cynthia Smith and her husband, Chris, were driving back into Middle Georgia after a trip to Atlanta, where they were part of an outreach to help trafficked women being prostituted on the city’s streets.
Driving into Macon, Smith said she prayed, “OK Lord, where are the women here? How can we help them, too?”
A year later, near the beginning of 2015, Smith and a growing number of volunteers across the midstate have assisted with 12 local rescues -- meaning they’ve helped women involved in prostitution go from their situation to a temporary safe house program in Atlanta then on to longer-term restoration programs.
Smith said they’ve ministered to 75 women in area jails, particularly the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center and Jail, but also the Peach County Jail and Pulaski State Prison.
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She said they’ve regularly visited areas of Warner Robins and Macon where prostitution is suspected in order to share the gospel and offer compassion and help to those seeking to get out of a lifestyle of sexual servitude.
“Our first little meeting of volunteers was at the end of 2013, and the first thing we did was in early in 2014,” she said. “It was with the chapel at the Pilot Truck Stop on I-75 to educate truck drivers about human trafficking and get them to help spot and report. There were a couple dozen people involved with that. It’s kind of mind blowing how things have progressed.”
Smith said the past 15 months have been filled with training, outreach, prayer and organizing the new ministry.
“We aligned with Out of Darkness Atlanta and became Out of Darkness Middle Georgia,” she said. “They’re a ministry of the Atlanta Dream Center and have been really helpful. We’re now basically the Middle Georgia chapter of that ministry.”
A hallmark of Out of Darkness is Princess Night. That’s when volunteers give roses, cards and gift bags to women on the streets.
They also offer rescue.
“When I first started talking to people, they were saying there wasn’t really prostitution here, especially not street prostitution,” Smith said. “It’s true that trafficking is taking on new business models like massage parlors and online contact, but women are still out there on the streets. We’ve met them. Our goal is to serve and adapt to whatever best meets the need.”
Smith said Out of Darkness’ theme is to reach, rescue and restore. Reach involves Princess Nights, jail ministry, nightclub visits, adopt-a-block programs where visits are made to high-risk areas during the day, truck stop ministry and more.
Rescue involves Out of Darkness volunteers transporting women to one of two Atlanta safe houses after personal contact or a call to the group’s hotline number.
Restoration involves a stay at the safe houses where women get rest, medical and dental care and initial counseling and help getting into a long-term care program. Out of Darkness pays for all of this, including footing the bill for the long-term program.
Smith said it comes to about $7,600 a year per girl.
“We have a goal to see a safe house established in Middle Georgia,” she said. “Someone typically volunteers to rent Out of Darkness an appropriate house for very little, then we provide staff.”
Smith said the goal is nearly impossible, but not impossible for God. She said from day one, God has provided donors who’ve given roses and gift bag items for Princess Nights, books and Bibles to hand out, and other needed items.
Now that Out of Darkness hopes to establish a safe house, and raise a $2,000-a-month budget for normal, ongoing needs, she believes he will do it.
“I’m just someone concerned about human trafficking who started doing something,” Smith said. “I wasn’t trained for this or really prepared for it, but it’s clear it’s something God wanted to do and he’s put together some great people to do it. We’d love to talk to others who’d like to donate a little or a lot, one time or regularly, but we also are looking for volunteers. We have women in jails asking us to come but we don’t have people to go. We have monthly opportunities for outreach. We have a prayer team. I believe God’s going to meet all these needs. We sure can’t do it on our own.”
Smith said the group also is happy to provide speakers for churches, civic groups and others wishing to find out more about stopping human sex trafficking.
She said Out of Darkness Middle Georgia holds informational meetings in Warner Robins at 5:30 p.m. on the first Monday of each odd month at Bare Bulb Coffee. They do the same at Taste and See Coffee in Macon on even months.
“It’s really a work across Middle Georgia,” Smith said. “I’m from Dexter. We have leadership team members from Warner Robins and Byron and our prayer group meets in Centerville. We have volunteers from Robins Air Force Base, too. We’re all just people doing what we can and watching God do the rest.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.