MWP co-founders, Dr. Milton and Kimberly Smith, were missionaries in the Iberian Peninsula when they first discovered human trafficking in 2002. The discovery changed their lives. They spent the following two years learning everything they could about human trafficking. Their hands-on education came from the streets, sewers, desert and jungle as well as books and governmental reports. Their most transformational education came from spending time with victims of trafficking and those most vulnerable to it.
Having their hearts broken where God’s breaks for the oppressed and never able to view the world in quite the same way, Milton and Kimberly committed themselves and Make Way Partners to finding practical ways to protect those most vulnerable and who had the fewest resources for help.
“How do you decide what to do, where to go and when to do it?
On a daily basis we are approached by people, churches and organizations asking us to partner with them in their fight against human trafficking. While most of them are good people doing good work, we know we cannot and are not meant to be the answer for all of them. The basis for how we grow has come through the leadership of our co-founder Dr. Milton Smith. There are three primary indicators we look for as we pray for God’s direction in how to answer these requests:
1. We go where women & children are at highest risk of human trafficking, forced prostitution and other forms of modern-day oppression.
2. We go where little to no other help is available because it is considered either “too” dangerous, “too” expensive or “too” remote for most people to go.
The location in question must have strong, godly and trustworthy indigenous leadership who independently, verbally and practically utilize their God-given skills, experiences and resources to fulfill their calling to the work of Make Way Partners, of caring for the least of these. Every member of our network answers the unique issues they face among their own tribe, culture or country in an appropriate and effective manner. We never “plant” a work, a church or even an orphanage. Instead, we look for where, how and through whom God is moving and planting seeds. Through time and testing we humbly ask Him if and how we should use the resources He has given us to nurture, tend and protect the seeds of calling already alive in an area and people.
If we see God bringing the three pieces of ministry location criteria, indigenous leadership and partnerships together, it is a strong indicator that He is at work in this potential partnership. We respond next by seeking direction as to how He would have us engage.
When Kimberly first went to Sudan, she went knowing it was home to the most ravenous slave trade, genocide and persecution in the world. She remembered what Milton had taught her through scripture, “There is nowhere we can go where God is not already present and working and even in lands where the most vile and evil men seem to reign, God always has His remnant of faithful people.”
The way we approach partnerships, such as our first with James Lual Atak on the border of Darfur, is to examine what each side brings to the partnership. Primarily, MWP brings funding, education, manpower and accountability structures. Our indigenous leaders bring something we, as an organization foreign to the locations we are committed to serve, are prevented from learning and possessing: a heart seared by the suffering of their people causing them to weep and work in the cracks of God’s broken heart.
In nature, the bright and beautiful lilies we see unfold in early spring are the result of a seed having been planted long before. That seed underwent much testing through the cold winter and drew constant nourishment from the rich soil in which it lay. So it is with our indigenous leaders who are now blooming. God planted a calling in their hearts years ago. Life blew brutally cold winds upon them for many years teaching them to stand against the wind. When MWP meets them we watch and test their beauty and strength. God’s grace allows us to add a little food and a drop of water. Slowly by slowly in testing, waiting and watching the bud finally unfolds and God brings His seed to full bloom revealing a strong and well equipped leader among his own people.
Each year the evidence we see of new partnerships is the result of much time on the ground, investigating, relationship building, staff and board discussion and prayer. Slowly by slowly building long-term relationships with solid accountability structures.
Learn more about our Anti-Trafficking Network in Sudan!