A Baptist women's ministry leader said a prayer initiative set for June 24 couldn't have come at a more opportune time.
Kelly King, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma women's specialist, said when she and a task force group planned the “Stop Trafficking in Oklahoma Through Prayer” initiative, known as S.T.O.P., they had no idea the event would take place about the same time the Oklahoma City Thunder would be battling for an NBA championship.
This week, King said she learned that large sports events such as the NBA Finals are prime opportunities for human trafficking. King said Mark Elam, director of the nonprofit organization called Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans (O.A.T.H.), told her many traffickers are drawn to such events because they typically draw large crowds of people and thus a chance to make a lot of money.
King said through S.T.O.P., Baptist congregations are being urged to set aside time June 24, a Sunday, to pray collectively about human trafficking and exploitation.
“We know the first step on any issue is education and awareness,” she said.
That the prayer initiative will occur as the NBA Finals may near its conclusion (Game 6, if needed, is set for June 24 in Oklahoma City) is appropriate because of Elam's information about the trafficking that can come along with the event, King said.
“It's hard to measure something like that,” she said. “We just know that a lot of times prostitutes will be brought in, and many of them will be minors.”
Thursday, Elam said O.A.T.H. is a coalition of Oklahoma agencies working to combat human trafficking. He said he had about a dozen volunteers near the Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City during Game 1 of the NBA Finals Tuesday. He said he had about 15 for Game 2 on Thursday, and the group planned to go out again if the finals return to Oklahoma City for Game 6.
He said the volunteers keep an eye out for anyone, particularly young girls, who may be exploited. Elam said the volunteers distribute literature that tells a victim of human trafficking where to go for help or how to call for help.
“It's our state's largest sporting event in our history because this is a national game for a national title. Even when OU played for a national title, they never played here,” he said.