“Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

– 1 Timonthy 4:12

Photo courtesy of Newburgh UMC

Elizabeth Clark (center) raises funds by selling hand-made items at local grocery store.

NEWBURGH, Ind. – In the spring of 2008, the youth pastor of Newburgh United Methodist Church took a small group of high school girls to an event called Acquire the Fire. Little did she know the fire that would be acquired.

The young women heard and saw a report about human trafficking in Thailand, young girls sold into sexual slavery. The small group of youth were deeply moved to do something about it.

When they returned home, Elizabeth Clark, then a junior at Castle High School began to pray and research. She shared the goal of raising $12,000 in a year to redeem at least 12 girls from their horrible bondage. Her peers were excited; her parents and pastors took deep breaths and reminded themselves that they had always encouraged the youth to dream big dreams and set big holy audacious goals, but this seemed a bit too audacious.

Clark, and her peers could sense the caution and concern in the adults which made them even more determined to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 4:12, “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

One of the primary volunteers moved to Mexico City with her family, but Clark, persevered. She enlisted more and more of her peers in the church and at school and Team HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) was born. The youth asked for donations from the church, made jewelry and other handmade items to sell at a local grocery store, hosted a Christian rock concert and flea markets in the church’s new gym – each time shining the light of truth on the practice of sex trafficking of young girls.

Clark graduated from high school in June 2009 and is now a freshman at the University of Evansville. When she graduated, she and her church celebrated that a total of $12, 435 had been raised and sent.

As she reminded her church and her parents, she’d just been operating on what they had taught her – that with God all things are possible.