Photos courtesy Walk4Freedom via Facebook
“Sometimes putting one foot in front of another is a lot harder than it sounds.”
That’s especially true for 14-year-old Lindsey Yoder who is walking 15 miles a day along the dusty back roads of Illinois—from her home in Arthur to Nashville, Tennessee—in a quest to raise awareness about human trafficking. She hopes to complete the trek in four weeks.
It might be said that the journey began in Springfield in November 2015, when young Yoder attended AWSOM, the Illinois Baptist Women’s annual event for teen girls. “Human trafficking was the focus,” her mother, Regina, said, “and that fueled her interest in the issue.” When a movie about the international sale and trade of vulnerable young women was shown near her town, Lindsey knew she was ready to make a difference.
“My heart was broken at the thought of all the girls who are in this horrible situation, and I asked God specifically to tell me how I can help,” the teen said in an interview from the road with the Illinois Baptist. “Priceless” is a 2016 film about a man who realizes the young women he’s being paid to drive cross country are actually being sold into the sex trade.
About 57,000 people in the U.S. are victims of human trafficking. According to Shared Hope International, “the common age a child enters sex trafficking is 14-16, when they’re too young and naïve to realize what’s happening.” Most victims are girls, but boys are trafficked and sold to pimps as well.
Lindsey is walking to Tennessee because Nashville is the U.S. home of Hope for Justice, an organization that works internationally to stop human trafficking through its offices in Cambodia, England, and Norway. Her eventual goal is to raise enough money to support 30 rescue operations–$195,000.
Why not do a car wash or some other typical student ministry fundraiser? “Because God asked me to walk, so I’m doing it out of obedience. It wasn’t my idea. My faith was the main reason I decided to do step out and do this event that is bigger than me.”
“God has her attention,” said Carmen Halsey, director of IBSA’s Women’s Missions. “She sees the people through his eyes. Lindsey’s not just sitting in a pew. She’s put feet to the vision—literally!”
Lindsey’s biggest challenge walking so far has been the unusually early summer heat. The bugs are are a problem too, but “I’d rather have the heat than the bugs,” she said.
Awesome family project
As a homeschooling family, the Yoders lead a missional lifestyle. Last year Lindsey went to Honduras on what she called a “class field trip” with her grandfather. She has travelled to Haiti with her mother and sister to work in an orphanage. And she wants to become a teacher in India, working as a full-time missionary.
For this trip, her family is, again, all in. “My mom planned all the routes, and we took two pilot trips to make sure all the roads are safe for walking. My dad is at home working hard at his job and is super supportive of my walk. My three older brothers each drove all the way from Ohio to walk the first two miles with me. My younger siblings are along for the ride, even though they’d rather be home. They haven’t bit each other’s heads off yet.”
And the support extends to her church family. “My church has been incredibly supportive…even more than I expected,” Lindsey said of Arthur Southern Baptist Church. “My youth group sold candy bars in the Walmart parking lot to help cover expenses for lodging and gas as we travel. Our church also gave me funds to cover more of our expenses.”
Lindsey started her walk after the May 28 Sunday morning service where several in the congregation gathered to lay on hands and pray for her. When it was time to start the walk, “about 80 people joined me for the first two miles of the walk,” she said. “It was so fun to be supported and surrounded by the people in my church.”
And her request of fellow Baptists in Illinois? “I really need people praying that I can see this through to the end, for those who have no voice and need to be set free.”
Editor’s note: Lindsey’s made it to Nashville, Tennessee. She will reach the 300-mile mark and celebrate at Bicentennial Park at 2 p.m. (eastern) Saturday, June 24. Follow her on Facebook and learn how you can donate.