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story.lead_photo.caption CALLED TO ACTION: Matt Osborne, senior vice president of Operation Underground Railroad, shared with a capacity crowd at the 29th annual Garland County Leadership Prayer Breakfast Tuesday how through his faith he left a career with the federal government to serve with a nonprofit working to end human trafficking globally.

A day at the office for Matt Osborne often consists of sitting face-to-face with some of the most evil of human beings in an effort to rescue victims of human trafficking around the world.

Osborne, senior vice president of Operation Underground Railroad, said in his presentation at the 29th annual Garland County Leadership Prayer Breakfast Tuesday that his faith in Jesus Christ and protecting God's children enables him to make an impact across the globe.

"I was indeed blessed with an exciting career as an intelligence officer and a U.S. diplomat and for me that was the absolute perfect job, and yet I left that perfect job for what I believe the Lord was calling me to do," he said. "It's sort of a daunting thing isn't it to say, 'If you will use me, Lord, here I am,' because we have no idea what he's going to ask us to do. I know so many of you do that and do that on a daily basis. I think if we do that, we can be confident that either we are exactly where he needs us and wants us for his purposes, or if not that if we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, that he will help get us to where he wants us."

Osborne said when reading Christ's teachings, he tries, as many do, to the best of his ability to take to heart and follow these instructions.

"When his words are captured more than once on the same topic, I think, 'OK, this is probably pretty important,'" he said. "And when he is quoted on a particular issue three different times in three of the four gospels, you better know that this is something we all need to heed. From the book of Matthew, 'But who so shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.'"

This call to action is recorded also in the books of Mark and Luke, he said.

"To find out how much a millstone weighs, I went to the supreme intellectual authority of our time, Google, and discovered that it can weigh up to 3,300 pounds," he said. "And make no mistake about it, those human traffickers, those pimps, pedophiles and sex buyers who are purchasing and selling other human beings are indeed offending these little ones of the Lord."

The organization, he said, works to remind people that slavery did not end with President Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, and "although it is hard to believe, by almost every estimate there are more men, women and children today in some form of bondage than at any time in human history."

"Today, by most estimates, there are between 22 and 35 million people in either forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation, and UNICEF estimates the number of children -- those under the age of 18 -- between 2 and 5 million," Osborne said.

"If you ask me what the numbers are, I have no idea, but what I can tell you is with Operation Underground Railroad I have led a total of 15 rescue operations in eight different countries and in every situation, it's the same. A group of operators comes in and the traffickers see our faces. Unfortunately, it's the faces of all of the men sitting in this room because unfortunately, it's Americans, Canadians, Western Europeans that are perpetrating this, and the traffickers see it and they think money. They think 'Well, I know why these people are here,' or 'I know what they might be interested in.'"

Osborne said when completing an operation, his organization works hard not to provoke these traffickers, instead gaining their trust. Using only high definition cameras and undercover microphones, they capture high-quality evidence to then turn over to the proper authorities of the countries they are working in. Oftentimes, he said, law enforcement will ask them to help as undercover operatives to ensure the arrests can be made and that victims can be returned to safety.

"Not only are the traffickers arrested, but we're arrested as well because we're still behind enemy lines, we're still in enemy territory and we can't let the traffickers know that this was a set up until we're safely to the embassy, or to the airport, or home," he said.

Child protective services of that country then comes in during the operation to immediately talk with victims and survivors. The goal is always to get victims back to their parents, but in many situations that's not the case because their own parents are the ones who sold them into slavery, they are orphans, or because organized crime is active in their environment and they cannot return them safely. The organization in those cases gets victims into vetted rehabilitation programs and safe houses, and into their vibrant aftercare program.

In its four years, OUR has partnered with law enforcement in the U.S. and around the globe to rescue almost 1,600 victims of trafficking, with almost half of them minors. They have assisted in the arrest of nearly 800 traffickers, pimps and pedophiles.

"This is not prostitution, this is human trafficking," he said. "This is not the Julia Roberts character in 'Pretty Woman' who just chose this as the way to make her living. These are victims. They're not there on their own accord and they're being forced into this servitude.

"We need to call it what it is -- human slavery. We need to be willing to face evil, but yes, we also need to have faith that in the end the Lord's side will prevail. It's been promised in the scriptures and we know that and can take heart in that."

Mayor Pat McCabe presented Osborne with the Descendant of DeSoto award, which directs recipients to spread the word of Hot Springs National Park across the country and the world.

Local on 10/03/2018

Print Headline: Faith drives speaker to end human trafficking

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