Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
I serve on StreelightUSA's board where Hannah Burkle is the Executive Director at StreetLightUSA. In 2011 Hannah joined the anti-trafficking movement and worked for Rapha International speaking and bringing awareness to human trafficking nationally and internationally. She moved to Cambodia in 2013 and lived internationally for seven years as the Country Director for Rapha International. In her position, she oversaw two aftercare programs, two prevention centers, one special needs house, and one transitional home. Hannah believes ministry is a way of life, meant to be lived in service to Christ Jesus. Hannah is passionate about empowering leaders, staff, and the community at large, to “be a voice for the voiceless” through awareness, outreach, support, and advocacy opportunities. Her goal is to enrich the lives of each child God places in StreetlightUSA’s care, by helping each one find their voice, purpose, love, acceptance, and hope in Christ. Hannah will continue to build and maintain partnerships with churches, mental health and wellness centers, medical providers, government agencies, law enforcement, pastors, business owners, supporters, NGO’s, and donors. It is Hannah’s prayer that she and StreetlightUSA be a beacon of hope and unity in the valley and around the world for change by breaking the cycle of abuse as they walk alongside each child God has entrusted to them through their journey of healing.
Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/
CCV Missions: www.ccv.church/missions
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Larrie: [00:00:01] Welcome to another episode of Let's Go 360. Let's Go 360 is a podcast for listeners who want to know more about what God is doing around the world here, near and far. This podcast is sponsored by Christ Church of the Valley, also known as CCV. One Church with many locations across the Greater Phoenix area with plans to expand wherever God wants us to go. And as always, our show notes will have links to helpful information discussed in each podcast episode, along with a complete transcript of every episode. Check out all episodes on Let's Go 360.Org and be sure to check out CCV at CCV’s website at ccv.church. My name is Larrie Fraley. I'm your host and lead pastor of the local and global missions here at CCV. Today's episode is very close to my heart, so it's extra meaningful to me. In 2009, CCV asked me to identify a problem of injustice in our city, and of course, I accepted that challenge. Many people even now, were unaware of the events that we discovered. I wish we had time to share that journey, but I was horrified to learn that there were a shocking number of children being trafficked in our city. We had no choice but to act. Many churches in our valley, spearheaded by CCV, were instrumental in bringing Streetlight USA into existence. CCV is still a key supporter and I'm still on the board 13 years later. However, I have faith that God has sent a powerful super warrior to take this battle to the next level. Hannah Burkle is our guest today. And at Streetlight USA, she serves as the executive director.
Larrie: [00:01:53] She reminds me of a superhero out of some Avenger movie. Her superpowers were derived only from the Holy Spirit, who has outfitted her with the whole armor of God. And I know she has been taking her share of arrows from Satan himself. And that's what happens when you invade his backyard. In 2011, Hannah joined Anti Trafficking Movement and worked for Rapha International, speaking and bringing awareness to human trafficking nationally and internationally. She moved to Cambodia in 2013 and lived internationally for seven years as the country director for Rapha International. Her position she oversaw at two aftercare programs two prevention centers, one special needs house and one transitional home. Hannah believes ministry is a way of life meant to be lived out in service to Christ Jesus. Hannah is passionate about empowering leaders, staff and the community at large to be a voice for the voiceless through awareness, outreach, support and advocacy opportunities. Her goal is to enrich the lives of each child. God places at Streetlight USA's care by helping each one find their voice, purpose, love, acceptance and hope in Christ. And we'll continue to build and maintain partnerships with churches, mental health and wellness centers, medical providers, government agencies, law enforcement, pastors, business owners, supporters, NGOs and donors. I know from talking with Hannah that her prayer that she and Streetlight would become a beacon of hope. And the unity in the greater Phoenix area and around the world for a chance at breaking the cycle of abuse as they walk alongside each child God has entrusted them to do through their journey and healing. Hannah. Welcome to the show.
Hannah: [00:03:49] Thanks, Larrie. It's good to be here.
Larrie: [00:03:51] You know, before we dive in today, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hannah: [00:03:54] I've been in full time ministry since I was 19 years old, around 20, 23 years now. My family lives in Iowa, Wisconsin, in Sweden. We're very passionate about things all international. I'm passionate about combating injustice. I worked with Rapha International, as you shared for nine years, seven of those. I lived in Cambodia and I've been blessed to be introduced to CCVas well as you both through Rapha International and now the continued partnership with Street Light USA.
Larrie: [00:04:22] Well, here's the big question. So how how big of a problem is this?
Hannah: [00:04:26] Very big. As you've as you know, specifically around the world, it's quite the horror of knowing that this happens to young girls, to boys, to women and to men. We transitioned adolescent girls from trauma to triumph who are at risk and victimized by commercial sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Some are just the girls, you know. Some are homeless and never had hope. But every girl we believe is worth saving. At Street Light, we're combating the injustices of sex trafficking, and sexual exploitation in the lives of girls ages 13 to 17 through a trauma informed group, home and Behavioral Health Approach. We're working to bring these girls from trauma to triumph by empowering each girl and not allowing their past or trauma to define them. As COVID 19 brought schools and students online, sadly, traffickers joined them and increased minors being groomed and exploited through social media at Street Light. We often receive girls who have been groomed, meaning a perpetrator played on the vulnerabilities and innocence of teenage girls and posed as their boyfriend, buying them things, isolating them from friends or family, and then expected them to pay them back. Our staff are walking alongside each girl that walks through the gates of Streetlight from trauma that they experience to triumph and freedom. 14 years old is currently the average age of a teenage girl trafficked here in Arizona.
Larrie: [00:05:50] Well, I remember a little girl. I don't remember her name, but she was around, 12 or 13 at the time. And she had begun her trafficking experience when she was nine.
Hannah: [00:06:05] Hmm.
Larrie: [00:06:07] And so I think she's moved on now. But I know that she was at street life for a while and was being healed. So I know it's almost unimaginable for us to. To think about a nine year old who is being trafficked.
Hannah: [00:06:20] Mm hmm. Yeah, it's heartbreaking. The youngest I've worked with was for four, even overseas. And just so, just as you said, it is unimaginable what they've experienced.
Larrie: [00:06:29] Well, give us some ideas of maybe the tactics that you use. In other words, how are you fighting this?
Hannah: [00:06:35] So we offer a three tiered program. Lighted path at Street Light USA is a 24/7 residential program where we provide trauma informed care services to adolescent females that are at risk, suspected of or confirmed victims of child sexual exploitation. The program provides an emotionally and physically safe, therapeutic living environment with specialized and comprehensive support services that both encourage and empower holistic healing and thriving. We also offer what we call the Sanctuary at Street USA. It's a level two residential trauma healing facility for adolescent females who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation or who are at high risk of being sexually exploited. Trauma healing services include the treatment of co-occurring disorders and behaviors to include acute trauma symptoms, substance abuse, disruptive behaviors, interpersonal or attachment related challenges, anxiety, depression, even mood disorders. But all services are included within our cultural and diversity responsive paradigm. We're also blessed as a Christian nonprofit to offer pastoral care, so we're able to offer pastoral coaching and counseling sessions, support groups, church services, Bible studies, year round program activities including summer youth camp, individual counseling and family support sessions are also offered to Streetlight USA program residents and their families.
Larrie: [00:07:56] So how many girls have actually gone through Streetlight?
Hannah: [00:07:58] We have over 1300.
Larrie: [00:08:00] Wow, that's amazing. And you also have you mentioned level two. What can you explain the difference in levels?
Hannah: [00:08:11] Yes. So our first level is more group home oriented and it's a residential care facility. Our second level is both for its behavioral health. And so we're able to have therapists in different people on campus who work with them with their acute symptoms.
Larrie: [00:08:27] And how are you measuring success? How do you how do you determine whether it's been effective?
Hannah: [00:08:33] We measure success by the girls remaining in freedom and finding value in themselves, even finding their identity maybe for the first time or redefining themselves. We measure success by each girl and each day that they remain at Street light and off the streets.
Larrie: [00:08:48] And do you have maybe an example of a girl that has been or even her family that have been changed?
Hannah: [00:08:56] So recently I was talking with some of our education staff and they were sharing that a few of the girls have talked to them about what it looks like to be in their corner, and they actually listed both of these academic coordinators as people that they would say were in their corner. And even hearing that from them, we've been excited that one of our girls was just accepted into one of the major universities here in Arizona, and another one is interning with a very well renowned hospital this summer. So just even seeing them find their identity, what they're passionate about and moving forward has been a powerful transformation.
Larrie: [00:09:32] Now, do you work with the girl’s family at all?
Hannah: [00:09:34] We do. Sometimes it depends on the situation or if the family was involved.
Larrie: [00:09:39] And how about kids from out of state?
Hannah: [00:09:42] We've received a yes residence from our girls that come from out of state. And so we're grateful that we are partnering more and getting more referrals so that we can help nationwide as this is a problem all around the world and it's not something that everyone specializes in.
Larrie: [00:09:57] Now, do we also send girls from Phoenix to other states?
Hannah: [00:10:02] I believe that there are other places that are doing some of this work, but we haven't seen as many sent. But yes.
Larrie: [00:10:09] I know back when we were beginning, there was literally no place in the United States that had anything like Streetlight. There were there were organizations that were trying to help. Some were trying to rescue, but very few had a program to actually heal. Has that improved?
Hannah: [00:10:26] It's improving some. And we've even had them ask even some of our board members, different people, to come and even work with other states to help start different programs like Streetlight. But there's not as many as we would hope there would be.
Larrie: [00:10:41] What are some of your biggest challenges today?
Hannah: [00:10:44] We're experiencing the staffing crisis as the rest of the world is, and also each of our girl’s trauma can blind her from her safety and her value. The lies that the girls were told by their traffickers or how they were groomed by their traffickers often really rocks their identity and their value. And then even just the grooming that we're still seeing, that's happening through social media.
Larrie: [00:11:07] Yeah. I suppose the grooming process has changed as social media has become more a part of everyone's life. Yeah, I know. There was some grooming that took place online. There were grooming and there were actually websites that actually facilitated some of this sex trafficking. I remember there was a website called One Page or. Yeah, yeah. I can't remember exactly what it what the name of it was, but there was some we were involved in actually some hearings as they were trying to get this shut down and they were successful in shutting the entire website down. But it was amazing how this grooming took place because there were keywords when I did a couple of ride alongs, one of them was during the basketball season. We would go into a very well known hotel. I won't share where that's at, but the the officers and the detectives, one was one was with the FBI, the other was with Phoenix Vice would go to the bartender in the hotel and mention that they were looking for an escort that was barely legal. And at the time and it may be still true, barely legal was the code word that meant you were looking for a young child. Yeah. And the bartender literally handed us a phone number to call. And as I watch all of this unfold, the officers called the number. They met them in the room. I stayed in the car. And so this whole thing happened right before my eyes of what it was like of being actually trafficked in some of these well known basketball tournaments and other events that was going on. I'm hoping that has changed.
Hannah: [00:12:52] I would like to say it has, but it has not. Yeah, that's still common that there are code words, whether that's through different online chat rooms or different even restaurants. Other places are a front often for trafficking or a place that you can, like you said, come with a code word and they give you a phone number. And then even with, you know, Superbowl and different big sporting events, that often brings traffickers and trafficking victims into those areas.
Larrie: [00:13:23] How can our listeners actually help.
Hannah: [00:13:27] So they can become aware of what's going on. They can also, there's many things, even on our website, that give resources of ways that you can be aware of and even send in things to hotlines to share if you see something that you're concerned, that could be a possible trafficking situation or even sexual abuse. So we would say even to know the resources as well as to become an advocate and to then share so that more people are aware of what's happening.
Larrie: [00:13:57] What would you say we should not do?
Hannah: [00:14:00] I would say that you probably shouldn't approach the person, that you should really take the time to call the people that are trained to do the work.
Larrie: [00:14:08] Right. I know that's when I was involved in the ride alongs, the law enforcement officers And because this is such an emotional issue, you know, what you what you feel like you need to do is actually go down and rescue these girls. And the law enforcement encouraged us not to do that because many times there's already some sort of some sort of of sting or something that's in process. And so that you could interfere with that, not to mention the danger. But so what we should not do is actually go down and try to take action because men tend to want to do that. And women, too. But but men especially, it seems this seems to affect them a little bit more emotionally. They want to do something. And so there's you know, we have to be careful not to to do something that's going to harm the child. Right. So what's your biggest challenges right now?
Hannah: [00:15:02] So our challenges really are just even making sure that people are aware, but also that we can be a safe place. So even helping people to be aware of what's going on, but then also working to combat groomers in different things and working with the girls who have become blind to their safety and value.
Larrie: [00:15:22] Now, I know we have just had a service day at Street Light. I don't know how many were there. Seems like to me I remember a lot about 40 signed up. That's correct. And we we're involved in painting some homes. So there's some opportunities for people to serve at Streetlight, right?
Hannah: [00:15:38] Yeah, that's correct. And on our website, if they go to that at Streetlightusa.org they can actually look and see the different volunteer opportunities that we have.
Larrie: [00:15:47] Now, I want to worry. I want to want to worry. I want to warn our listeners that that process is not just make a call and go down and start serving. There's a process that we have to go through for security reasons, for the safety of the girls. So you will have to go through a process, background checks, all of that. So that takes time. So please be patient as you begin that process because it could take several weeks before you're actually able to go and serve. Yeah. Now I know since COVID you've learned a lot. You're doing some things different. You're actually fairly new on the job.
Hannah: [00:16:28] Yes, that's true. I've only been here since November with Streetlight.
Larrie: [00:16:32] Wow. And you're already making such an amazing difference. But now that you've had a chance to see what's going on, what do you see as opportunities and maybe some future goals or plans?
Hannah: [00:16:44] So we currently are doing a lot of hiring because one of our biggest things is making sure our behavioral health. We've been doing some restructuring, but getting that side back opened up. So that's our biggest goal for 2022, is getting that available and working with our referral resources and different things that we can be open and available for as many girls as the Lord intrusts in our care.
Larrie: [00:17:09] And so now CCV has supported you for a number of years now, 13 to be exact. Can you describe a time when you've maybe came in and helped you accomplish something significant that you were trying to do?
Hannah: [00:17:23] So even recently, as you shared, we've been working on painting the cottages on the outsides. And so, one that has been a huge blessing as we don't have the staffing that can do all of that or the time. And so even the times that Streetlight has or that CCV has come out to bless us, that is a huge blessing to the residents. It helps them to see the value that other people are placing on them in very tangible ways. That's been one we also do women make the difference and CCV has been a huge financial supporter of that. And so just the constant ongoing willingness to volunteer to care for the residents, but also the financial support.
Larrie: [00:18:03] Well, as we begin to wrap up here, what advice would you give our listeners regarding what we've talked about?
Hannah: [00:18:08] So I would encourage our listeners to educate yourself regarding sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. I would encourage our listeners who have children to add security to their social media, as well as monitor who your children are talking with online, as well as to help them know their value, their unconditional love and safety. I would also encourage our listeners to advocate and bring awareness to those in their sphere of influence in an effort to both prevent and protect girls, boys, women and children in our community. And we would ask that you also be praying for those on the front lines who are rescuing children and women and men from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Larrie: [00:18:44] And last, how can we pray for you?
Hannah: [00:18:46] Please be praying for our staff and myself, for our wisdom, the knowledge, the discernment and strength in the Lord. Please pray for the girls that walk through our gates, for their healing, their identity, the value to be rooted in God's unconditional love for them. And please be praying for the right staff to be hired all the time for our group home and the behavioral health side. And then I would just lastly ask that you would be praying just for the relationships that we have in the community with DCS and the police departments and different things, that we would be a light and a beacon of hope in the darkness. John 1:5 says The light shines in the darkness and the darkness is not overcome it. And we truly rest in that, that promise and that truth that Christ is with us and He is the foundation of what we're doing at Streetlight USA.
Larrie: [00:19:31] Well Hannah, we so much appreciate you and what you're doing and your ministry and we will continue to pray for you. So thanks for being on the show.
Hannah: [00:19:39] Thank you.
Larrie: [00:19:41] Well, as we wrap up today's show, thank you for listening. You can follow us on your favorite podcast app. Leave us a five star review if you like what you've heard today. That way more people can hear what God is doing around the world. Also, you can follow us on our website at. Letsgo360.org. You can also check out CCV.church. Thanks again for joining us as we talk with those who are living out the Great Commission inspired by the Great Commandments so that we all might stand someday with the great multitudes before the throne of God, when the mission of God is complete. May God bless you as we go and send those here near and far.