Posted 2/08/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Karmen Lawrence, a 20-year-old native of Watford City, has spent the last six months of her life on an overseas journey, familiarizing herself with the global human trafficking industry and the victims it creates.
The human trafficking industry, otherwise known as modern-day slavery, steals dignity and worth from people and replaces it with shame.
Karmen has been working with an organization called White Dove, in Cambodia, to bring healing and restore value to trafficking victims. This effort has not only kindled Karmen’s love for people, but it has helped steer the passion Karmen has had since she was a child.
Karmen, the daughter of Dave and Mary Lawrence and the youngest of nine children, spent a lot of time around her family growing up.
“We would go on trips to see family and I always enjoyed being in different places,” states Karmen. “When I was little, I loved studying encyclopedias and books about other countries.”
For Karmen, that love of travel turned into a heart for people around the world, and eventually grew into a passion for missions.
After graduating from school in 2008, Karmen stayed in Watford City for the next two years working and taking online courses from Williston State College.
In August of 2009, Karmen spent two weeks serving amongst different orphanages in China, an experience that only deepened Karmen’s passion for people.
Soon after, she heard about a six-month Discipleship Training Program through Youth With A Mission (YWAM) called Discipleship Training School (DTS), that prepares students for overseas missions. Karmen decided it was for her.
In July of 2011, having been accepted into the DTS program, Karmen put her studies on hold to follow her heart and traveled to Germany, where she spent 12 weeks in class.
“They taught and prepared us for what we would face on the mission field,” states Karmen.
The DTS that she attended in Germany was affiliated with Not For Sale, a non-profit organization that seeks to end human trafficking, enlisting Karmen in an ongoing abolitionist movement.
Once Karmen completed her lecture phase, she was then sent to Cambodia to work with White Dove.
“Cambodia has a huge problem with human trafficking,” states Karmen. “Specifically, child trafficking.”
Karmen describes working with 18- to 30-year-old Cambodian women who were often sold into the industry by their parents.
“These are really poor families that sell their kids into the sex trade because they need money, yet once they become involved, their families and society no longer value them,” Karmen states. “So they are basically throwing their children away.”
Karmen’s DTS ended in December of 2011, bringing her back home with a broken heart and a desire to do more.
Now, having been home for roughly two months, Karmen will go out again, this time for a year.
“I love that I grew up in North Dakota and I love that I will always be rooted here,” states Karmen, knowing that the love of her homeland will help keep her grounded as she goes out into the world once again.
This time, Karmen will return to Germany, but from there she is not quite sure where she will be assigned.
“They could send me to Cambodia again, or Ethiopia,” states Karmen.
Either way, she is excited for the opportunity to go out into the world and make a difference.
Human trafficking is a crime against humanity in which individuals are recruited, transported and harboured all around the world, even in the United States, through force or coercion for the purpose of exploitation.
According to the Not For Sale web site, there are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, which is more than at any other point in human history.
It is an industry that affects men and women of all ages, even children as young as four and grosses over $5 billion every year.
Lawrence is slated to depart on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, and will be gone for a year, during which time she will continue the work she began with YWAM and Not For Sale to help heal victims of the global trafficking industry.