A conversation with Brooke Gassert can go anywhere — she keeps you on your toes, in the best of ways. She’s electric, on fire for God, and encouraging. Our most recent topic of conversation: her most recent mission trip to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
This October, Mosaic sent a team of 11 of people to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, volunteering with Agape International Missions, which began its work in Cambodia in 2006. AIM focuses on eradicating the reality of sexual and work trafficking in Cambodia, which is infamous for being one of the countries where human trafficking is most prevalent in day to day life. International Justice Mission (IJM) calls this, “the ugliest, most preventable man-made disaster on the globe today.”
“Our goal is to defeat child sex trafficking. We will fight until we’re victorious,” says Don Brewster, founder, on AIM’s website. “We need as many soldiers as we can get.
In recent years, Mosaic Global Partners Brandon and Natasha Butler have decided to call Cambodia home, and have dedicated their lives to fighting this monster of sexual exploitation. There, they run a school for rescued girls, providing education and work to lift them out of a cycle of poverty and trafficking. Recently, they’ve opened a Cambodian hotline in China — for girls offered work in “beer gardens” — a front for sexual trafficking used to trap young East-Asian guest workers.
There is a silver lining to this darkness, and it comes in the form of slow, simple diligence. While the country was once the “poster country” for sexual trafficking in the early 2000’s, the resilience of the church in Cambodia has finally showed incredible results. From IJM:
“A 2015 prevalence study conducted by IJM finds that the prevalence of minors in the commercial sex trade in the three largest commercial sex markets in the country – Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville – has dropped to 2.2% with minors 15 years and younger making up just 0.1% of the sex industry. This represents a 73% reduction in the presence of minors in just three years since IJM conducted its last prevalence study in 2012.”
Cambodia is proof that change doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow and steady process, that through Jesus, will always bring fruit in time.
“It’s easy to use the ‘you’re bringing the light of Jesus to Cambodia’, because we like to think we are the Jesus. But you’re not. God goes before you and behind you; He was always there,” Brooke said.
It’s a common misconception. We think that Jesus can’t “find” these people on His own. In our minds, He needs someone to take Him there, and in this ideal world, we receive a lot of the credit. In reality, Brooke expresses, it’s a different scenario altogether. We as a church are invited to take part in a beautiful role of sharing the Gospel. But Jesus goes before us, in all things.
And that’s the beautiful thing. You’re covered — in and out.
Nadine Bascombe, another member of the recent Cambodia trip, reiterates the tried and true: you feel most moved while worshiping with your family in Christ around the world. Whether it’s a Bible study or a song, there’s an undeniable connection that binds the whole world to a common thread in Christ.
Brooke has been to Cambodia twice in the last two years, and once prayerfully considered making it her home long-term. But this isn’t a story just about Cambodia, or missions to the rest of the world. This is also about here and now.
For us, it’s easy to believe that international mission trips are our way of proving our dedication and love for Christ. We’re willing to give up one, two, or three weeks of our time in order to pour into something else. As Brooke and I agreed, it’s so simple to believe that you do your best work for Jesus when you’re knee-deep in a developing country’s poorest areas.
Although Cambodia continues to struggle with human trafficking, there is opportunity here as well. According to Law Street Media, Florida is home to two of the top 20 cities in the U.S.A. for human trafficking.
It’s true, there’s spiritual darkness in all of the world, not just those countries we pray for that seem worlds away. And there is opportunity for change in every place — you don’t need three planes and two long layovers to make a difference in a hurting community.
Brooke and I have both realized that our future plans for long-term global missions have been met with a “not now” from God. But there is work here, and work in all the world, so we’ll continue on here with a full heart.
(For more information on the progress made in Cambodia, please visit: https://www.ijm.org/content/cambodia-decade-progress-made-fight-end-child-sex-trafficking)