Emily Van Gent is a Junior Communication Studies major at Central College in Pella, Iowa. She is the founder of a campus organization called Central College Students Against Human Trafficking. This is a student lead organization that spreads awareness regarding the injustices of modern day slavery that we see today. Emily’s pursuit of justice and overall devotion to Kingdom work has been inspiring to many. She is one of the most passionate and zealous people you will ever meet. Find out about what she’s been up to!
How did you first become aware of modern day slavery (or human trafficking)?
My first semester freshman year of college, I had to do a research project about some sort of injustice in the world. I remembered a book I read in high school by Christine Caine in which she told the story of A21, an international anti-human trafficking organization, and decided to choose that as my injustice. I started reading and learning more and more about human trafficking and God placed a desire and passion in my heart. Once I found out about it, I knew I couldn’t just do nothing.
When and why did you decide to start a group on campus?
I started a group on campus at the end of that first semester my freshman year. Part of our research project was to give the students in our class specific ways they could get involved. So in part, I started the group to give students that opportunity to join something. Also, I just really wanted people to be aware of human trafficking; everything I read said that awareness is the first step.
What does your group do/have done?
We have put on 2 Walk For Freedoms in Pella, which are silent walks to raise awareness and funds to end human trafficking. Also, we have had a couple movie nights with some follow-up discussion, did photos and set up information tables on End it Day, had speakers on campus, we had a human trafficking simulation, and helped the Freedom House in Pella with some marketing. Next semester we are going to launch a campaign to train hotels/motels in our area that will enable them to recognize the signs of human trafficking.
How has God transformed you and met you while you’ve pursued justice?
God has completely transformed my heart towards justice. He has been so gracious in teaching me and shaping me. I used to not even have a clue about any injustices in the world. I also just had this totally skewed view of the Kingdom and who it is for. I have learned more about what the Gospel really is and that the Kingdom doesn’t have limitations; you don’t need qualifications to do Kingdom work.
What have you learned about oppression and injustice in our world?
It affects everyone, everywhere. I think it is easy to not care about things, or think we are detached from it. But injustice is here, it is all around us, and as ambassadors for the Kingdom we can’t ignore it. Oppression and injustice, those are demonic things, that have deep roots. We are not fighting flesh and blood here; this is the work of the enemy.
What have been some of the challenges of confronting such a daunting reality?
Learning about injustices kinda ruins your life in a way. All of sudden, it’s all you think about. It’s all you can see. It invades things you used to enjoy. It’s overwhelming and hard and sometimes it doesn’t seem like you are making a difference. Also, it’s lonely at times. It isn’t always “cool” to fight injustice and go against the norm. There are a lot of times when people around you just won’t get it.
What advice do you have for other people who are trying to advance the Kingdom of God?
- Stay close to Jesus. He is the reason for everything. It is easy to get caught up in the competition of the world. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the darkness. Jesus is the best friend you’ll have, the light in the dark, the peace in the storm, He is what keeps you going.
- Lead with dependency. The Holy Spirit is longing to release more abundance over your life. Take risks. Trust that He is who He says He is. Give Him all you have. Trust that He is the God of miracles that can do immeasurably more than you can.
- Stay humble. Go low, be small, and make His name big. Jesus deserves all the glory and praise, not us.
- Get with people. Share life with them. Pray wild prayers with them. Speak life to each other and remind each other of truth. We need community. There’s something so beautiful and so Kingdom-like when people come together and change the world.
What is your biggest dream in all of this? What are some things you’re doing now to see that dream realized?
Obviously, I want to see the end of human trafficking but ultimately, I long to see Jesus be glorified and the Kingdom come to earth. I long to see people learn about Jesus and give their lives to him, I long to see people grow in deeper relationships with their Maker and find their identity in Him. My biggest dream is that we would be a generation that continues to pursue social justice, but ultimately we would pursue Jesus first and that a longing for justice would spring out of that. I guess right now I am just trying to embody that myself, and encourage the people around me to do the same. By getting in the word, praying, having conversations with people and encouraging people to action.