Photo and story by Michael Cleverley
During the summer of 2022, Abbie Bowman returned to South Asia where she grew up. She visited red-light districts, an area where high amounts of human trafficking take place, and spoke to the women and children forced into prostitution there.
“That is when I started praying about what that looked like for me to be involved in human trafficking, what I could do to stop it,” Bowman said.
Bowman saw the effects of human trafficking on the streets. She first became aware of human trafficking at a young age but didn’t get a strong understanding until around high school, when she started doing her own research. The more Bowman learned about human trafficking the more passionate she became about stopping it.
“I was so angry that there wasn’t a way to end it,” she said. “And that it seemed like no one was doing anything about it. And it was just happening in plain sight.”-
She continued to do more research through listening to podcasts and going to websites of anti-trafficking organizations. During her research she came across the International Justice Mission’s website and learned about their mission and rescue work. By this time, Bowman had already started her social work degree at Cedarville University with the goal of being involved in rescuing people from human trafficking. She joined IJM and later became president of the campus chapter.
As she spent time talking to trafficked people during her return trip to South Asia, Bowman’s plans shifted. Many of these women may never get rescued and for some there’s no desire to be rescued. These conversations caused Bowman to reconsider her role to focus more on bringing the gospel to these women.
“I realized that as a foreigner in South Asia, even if I were to have a social work degree, there’s not a whole lot that I could do, or that I felt like the Lord was calling me to do,” she said. “And so that is why I ended up switching my major to Biblical Studies.”
Offering trafficked people the opportunity to obtain spiritual freedom is just as important as giving them physical freedom.
“Unless they hear the hope of the gospel, this is as good as their lives are going to get where they’re trapped, enslaved,” she said.
This hasn’t dampened her passion for the people of South Asia or fighting human trafficking.
“I hope,” she said, “to still be involved in human trafficking restoration and hopefully counseling in the future with my Bible degree.”