How do you end global slavery? You could write letters to your senator, quit buying from irresponsible corporations, donate some money to an organization … or you could do what Stephanie Fisk did, and go for a bicycle ride.
Although outlawed more than a century ago in the United States, the slave trade industry is still flourishing around the world, with total revenues estimated at $30 billion a year. In March, Fisk and three friends rode their bikes on a 450-mile journey from Phoenix, Ariz., to the Grand Canyon and back to raise awareness of human trafficking.
Fisk, 26, a native of Milford, Iowa, grew up in a farming community with her parents and sister. After graduating from Wartburg College with a degree in biology, she founded a nonprofit and went on a yearlong mission trip around the world, where she was exposed to the existence of modern slavery.
While in Southeast Asia, her heart broke over the injustices of forced prostitution and child labor. “It shocked me to find out that an estimated 27 million slaves exist in the world today in the form of sex slaves, domestic laborers and child soldiers,” she says. “But it changed me and ignited a fire deep within my spirit when I sat across from Benz, a Thai women who was forced to sell her body in the red-light district in Bangkok. For me, the statistic could be forgotten, but Benz would stay with me forever.”
Returning from her trip, Fisk was anxious to connect with others who were equally passionate about abolition and networked with anti-slavery organizations to launch a publicity campaign. She also orchestrated a nationwide conference call so people could listen to activists and pray for the end of slavery.
“While the bike ride would physically catch people’s attention, we needed an outlet that could involve people spiritually and intellectually,” she says.
The group traveled up through Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where they spent two days hiking the 18-mile Tanner Trail before heading back. Along the route, they were met by cheering individuals and journalists.
For Fisk, it doesn’t just end there. She continues to raise awareness through her blog, speaking engagements and networking with other organizations. In July, she led a mission trip around the world, spending three months in Southeast Asia and three months in Eastern Europe—two “hot spots” of human trafficking. Her goal? To continue to meet people and tell their stories.
“I will never forget their eyes,” Fisk says of the people she has met. “They are no longer the nameless and faceless. Their stories are etched on my heart and into my mind. As people become more aware and numbers become names, I believe the Church will stand up and become the Body of Jesus here on earth. Through prayer, light will overtake evil and captives will be set free.