March, 2024 Monthly Reflection

Alliance to End Human Trafficking: March Reflection

Bridget Bearss, RSCJ


Jim Burg is a very successful business leader in Southeast Michigan, but I knew him as the father of two amazing young children at the Michigan school where I served as Head of School. Jim and I often found ourselves at the same tables, but not those where a topic like human trafficking was on the agenda. Little did I know that his story would become the instrument of transformation, for me. I did not arrive at our meeting in 2015 to experience conversion, but rather to seek his advice on business while he sought mine on raising his two daughters. And so began my journey into the sometimes hidden world of human trafficking.

Wrapped in my own challenges as a school administrator, I tried to bring an open mind and heart to the conversations that came my way, recognizing that relationships are the real-life curriculum. Somehow, our discussion about this young couple’s own children deepened into one about children and adults of all ages, backgrounds, experiences, and dreams who were being held hostage in a system of harm. In the next few minutes my invitation to this work of ending human trafficking opened through the experience of a trucking company.

Jim Burg began telling me the life journey that led him to start a trucking company whose values were not only economic, but one that was also committed to stopping the violence of human trafficking. Jim described for me the training he did with his drivers to recognize the signs of trafficking, as well as the necessary steps in response. Over time, he included hotline numbers on the back of his trucks and expanded his corporate commitment, citing the words of scripture, “faith, without works, is dead.” (James 2:14)

I thought I understood the root causes of human trafficking, but now I listened to the experience. It was not a book or an article or a documentary that cracked open my heart, but the commitment of an unlikely partner in this ministry of resurrection. Within the next few minutes, I listened to “stories of the road’ describing those met along the highways, hidden away behind cargo, with their own human dignity negotiated as a commodity. I listened and knew that in my role as an educator, a new piece of learning had to be added to our ever-burgeoning curriculum, and I needed to respond to the call to act.

I invite you to join me in this journey of learning, advocacy and response that is a Gospel imperative for each of us. Human Trafficking is in our midst. Without awareness, knowledge and commitment, we can support the stream of labor trafficking and consume products that are produced outside the fair trade agreements. Without open eyes and hearts, we can walk past those who are denied the necessities of human dignity. With awareness comes the responsibility for personal accountability and the invitation to join in advocacy to end human trafficking.

I invite you to join the advocacy initiatives supported by the Alliance to End Human Trafficking, as well as participating in the ongoing work to educate our communities both locally and federally. Support those local organizations that raise awareness in your local communities. Within your local community, there are safehouses that need support, and educational resources that need to reach the eyes, ears and hearts of those who are in positions to advocate. Following the Alliance to End Human Trafficking initiatives will provide resources, educational tools and ways to advocate for policies, legislation and personal action that can stop this cycle of violence and harm.

I wasn’t expecting a conversation on a winter morning in Michigan to set me on an unexpected pathway, but I suspect this is how the Spirit of God works in our midst. When we are invited, and allow ourselves to “Let it Change You” then the next small step is revealed. Each of us has a part to play if we are willing to be the instruments of building the Kingdom in our midst. I continue to be a learner in this ministry of advocacy and transformative awareness. I am not an expert, but I am doing my best to “make the next right choice” in this journey that requires each of us to do what we can, where we are in the midst of the people with whom we live and work.

And, never underestimate what might happen when you think you are in the drivers seat, and discover that you are, instead, the learner. Thank you, Jim Burg and all of those who advocate on behalf of those who experience violence and harm this day.