Denver couple fights human trafficking
NCF givers’ faith journey takes them from Cambodia to Hollywood
Laurie Bolthouse has seen the faces of human trafficking–faces that would, as she put it, “wreck her life,” in a good way.
Seated across from her at dinner one night in Cambodia were six girls, “one so young, she needed help cutting her meat,” Laurie said. The girls had been rescued days earlier from a child-sex trafficking ring.
The Bolthouses and their three young daughters had traveled to Cambodia for a medical mission, at the time Bill was still a physician.
A laugh breaks hearts
God opens doors man cannot. And, Bill and Laurie Bolthouse aren’t your average citizens. The Denver couple has a God-driven passion for eradicating human trafficking, a role they feel obligated to fulfill as Christians.
“God is about freeing the poor and oppressed and setting captives free,” Bill said. “The Bible is full of that. This is kingdom work, and all who follow Christ should be about seeing this through.”
“During the dinner, one of the six girls laughed,” Laurie said, “and I felt God pull back a veil.” Instantly, the issue of human trafficking became all too human for Laurie. It had a face, a name, and a beautiful laugh.
“I was undone,” Laurie said. “I kept it together through dinner, but as soon as we crossed the threshold to our hotel room, my daughters and I broke, crying out to God in a puddle of tears.”
They asked God to help them do more than provide a meal. And he did.
Awaking the 70 percent
That was 2007. Since then, the Bolthouses, led by the Holy Spirit, have been on a mission to create awareness of and eradicate human trafficking.
Their faith journey has included producing a feature motion picture, depicting the child-sex trafficking industry and the people fighting to end it. “Trade of Innocents,” released in 2013, starred Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino and Dermot Mulroney. The feature film was seen around the world.
“On any issue, there is usually 15 percent of people trying to do good and 15 percent who are bent on evil. That leaves 70 percent in the middle who don’t know what to think or are apathetic,” Bill said. “The movie is meant to stir up the 70 percent of people who would rather ignore human trafficking.”
Some may simply feel paralyzed by the overwhelming need, thinking how could one person make a difference in ending a worldwide, multibillion-dollar criminal industry?
“I go back to the value of the one, the value and love God has for a single individual,” Laurie said. “The amount you give doesn’t matter to him. It’s having ears to hear and hearts to feel.”
In our own backyards
The trafficking of minors and adults is a global issue as we easily see the exploitation of foreign adult women in the 9,000 illicit day spas across the U.S., dispelling the myth that human trafficking is an “overseas” problem. To the contrary, it is a very real problem in the U.S., as evidenced by the February 2019 Florida day spa raid and subsequent arrests of 45 suspects.
“Citizens have every right to call their local police, sheriff or vice squad to request their neighborhood massage parlor be investigated for prostitution and trafficking rings,” Laurie said.
Now retired, Bill’s full-time job is philanthropy. “About 25 percent of our giving goes to end human trafficking,” Bill said. Most of the organizations are distinctly Christian and funded through the Bolthouses’ Giving Fund at the National Christian Foundation.
“At first, we found NCF to be a good way to give anonymously,” Bill said. “Now we are discovering it is a great way to keep track of giving. It takes me several weeks of tracking down receipts each year if we give directly to charities.”
NCF givers who want to give to this cause will find a “human trafficking” category on the “cause” dropdown menu when they search for a charity from their Giving Fund page.
The Bolthouses support organizations that work in the various areas of human trafficking: investigations, advocacy and aftercare. Some organization they support are IJM, Polaris and Restore NYC, where Laurie is on the board of directors.
“Try to have an impact locally, nationally and internationally to make sure you are casting a wide net,” Bill said. “Get to know the key people, and educate yourself on the charity’s statistics and stories.”
He adds, “Find ways to interface with vulnerable people by volunteering where you live. This will keep your heart soft and sensitive to how God wants to move in and through you to bring the kingdom.”