Bethel students visit Atlanta, Ga. on a mission trip during spring break in 2011.

During Spring Break, I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Ga. on a mission trip with a team of 20 Bethel students and one professor. We worked with the Salvation Army in the inner-city. While we were there, we received training and attended morning seminars where we listened to testimonies about how others became passionate about working in the city.

On Sunday night, half of our group went on the “Canteen Ministry” through the Salvation Army. We loaded up a vehicle equipped with a kitchen and a window. That’s where we served a hot meal and hot chocolate to the homeless.

This was my first time encountering the destitute and downtrodden in Atlanta. As the week went on, I discovered it was not uncommon to see these individuals living under nearby bridges or prostitutes on the side of the road. At this point in the trip, God began awakening my heart to the brokenness that thrives in Atlanta; before, I didn’t believe that this existed in the United States. But this was just the beginning for me.

On Monday, we split into two different groups. One group spent time in the mornings working in the Salvation Army food and clothing pantries, as well as working in an empty local home, preparing it for a homeless family to move in. My group, however, spent time at an apartment complex where we cleaned, primed and painted the hallways of several buildings. It was here where I realized how prevalent the gang activity was in Atlanta. We painted over graffiti in one hallway, and the very next day, the walls were already tagged with gang symbols. They wanted us to know that the building was claimed as their territory.

Brink with little girl from Vacation Bible School.

In the afternoons throughout the week, my team set up and ran a Vacation Bible School in the apartment complex that we were painting, which was mostly a Latino community. Each day, we played games, made a craft, had a snack, and told the kids a Bible story. By the end of the week, seven children made the choice to ask Jesus into their heart. I built relationships with several kids over the course of the week, even though I barely knew any Spanish.

The final thing that became real to me was the human labor and sex trafficking that occurs. While watching a video about child trafficking, God broke my heart for this cause. There are more than 500 individuals trafficked every day in Atlanta alone and they have nobody to stand up for them! Once again, my ignorance astounded me! These men, women, and children do not have people to stand up for them.

That’s when I decided to stand up. I am choosing to encourage others to stand up. Atlanta clearly has a place in my heart, so I will be returning for the month of May on a human trafficking internship with the Salvation Army.