On this episode, we are with Wade Landers and Roger Twitchell from Blackbox International.
Blackbox seeks to bring healing to boys rescued out of sex trafficking through holistic aftercare.
Wade Landers and his wife Beth celebrate 27 years of marriage this year. They have been blessed with 8 children and two son-in-laws. They currently reside in Carl Junction, MO. Wade has served on the faculty at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri for the past 18 years. He currently teaches in the Intercultural Studies, Biblical Justice, and Organizational Leadership majors, as well as serves as the Program Director for both the Biblical Justice and Organizational Leadership programs. Early in his career he served in Haiti working with a school and a church plant. Since those days has traveled in over eighty countries representing various mission ministries. He, along with his wife, are the founders of Blackbox International, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing aftercare for boys rescued out of sex-trafficking for the past 12 years. In 2013 he co-founded the organization, Global Research Team, which is dedicated to providing quality research with missiological insight. Wade has served on several non-profit profit boards (CIY, TRAIN International, Lifted Up International, etc.). Wade has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical literature from Ozark Christian College, a master’s degree in Intercultural Studies from Biola University and is currently a PhD Candidate at Biola.
Roger Twitchell and his wife, Elaine, have been married for 30 years. They spent nine years in Honduras with a multi-national church-planting team. They also served in Costa Rica for 10 years in a similar role. They now live in Joplin, MO. For the past 11 years, Roger has served with Blackbox, both as a volunteer and now as a part-time employee. Roger and Elaine spend the other part of their time providing missionary care for several families. They have two daughters and two granddaughters, ages 7 and 5.
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’s 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 letsgo360.org and be sure to check out CCV at CCV’s website. ccv.church. My name is Larrie Fraley and I'm your host and lead pastor of the local and global missions here at CCV. Well, I am so honored today to have with us Wade Landers, Roger Twitchell, both very good friends of mine. And we've been supporting Blackbox for a number of years now. And they're here with us today to talk about Blackbox. It's a faith based international organization that's Christ centered. It's dedicated to holistic rehabilitating of boys and young men who have been historically sex trafficked. For boys rescued from sex trafficking, Blackbox provides a vital aftercare to help them discover healing from their past, joy and the present and purpose for their future. Blackbox will heal these boys from the pain and confusion they have experienced and one day grow into men who will change the world. Roger, Wade. Welcome to the show.
Wade: [00:01:55] Thanks, Larrie.
Roger: [00:01:56] Thank you, Larrie. Good to be here.
Larrie: [00:01:58] So I just. So we're so eager to get started here. I could go in through. And in fact, I'm looking at it right now, this this long bio of both of these guys. But I know either one of them could care less whether I introduced them or not. But I can just let you know they are long term missiologists who have been who have committed their lives to the great commission and they have so much experience in the field. But right now at this season, these guys are focused on Blackbox. Wade is the founder and Roger is the vice president who heads up leading care for the Blackbox staff. So, guys, let's just get started. How long have you been doing this?
: [00:02:43] Well, Larrie Blackbox formed on January 1st, 2010, so a little before that. But so we're in a 13th year here of trying to work with this issue. Roger came in a little bit after that started helping us, especially when we were surveying around the world where to, where to start and open our first after care home.
Roger: [00:03:04] Yeah. So I've been involved with Blackbox a little over ten years, probably closer to 11 years.
Larrie: [00:03:14] And so what part of the world are you operating in right now?
Wade: [00:03:18] So currently we have been operating an aftercare home in the Dominican Republic. We opened that home and work about eight years ago, and then we're in the middle of opening a home in Haiti. In fact, Lord willing, I'll be there flying there this weekend. And we're at the place where we're actually ready to commence the physical building of the campus. And then we've got some things that are going on here in the US much, much more about awareness and advocacy and some training of local law enforcement, if that's where we are right now.
Larrie: [00:03:54] Now, both of you are no strangers to the ministry, and so we need to know a little bit about yourself. So, Wade, why don't you go first? Tell us about yourself, your family.
Wade: [00:04:03] Sure, Larrie. My wife and I, Beth, we've been married for over 27 years, have eight children, which keeps things pretty exciting, pretty busy. My youngest is ten, and so I still spend a lot of time playing Legos. Kind of a shocking amount, if we're honest. I teach here at Ozark Christian College here in Joplin, Missouri, have been in my 19th year of teaching. And man, love my family, love, love teaching here at Ozark, love helping lead with Blackbox and in this ministry and get to work with a great team. It's just kind of kind of living the dream, really.
Larrie: [00:04:40] Yeah. So you did here, right. Eight children. So that means there's ten of them. And so that's enough to outfit two basketball teams. The thing you need to know about Wade is, you know, I get around and a lot of times I get to missions, conferences and other churches and Wade's name comes up and it's usually like, Oh, do you know Wade Landers? And it's like, Oh yeah, he was my professor.
Wade: [00:05:04] I've been teaching a long time.
Larrie: [00:05:06] He's been around. Roger, what about you?
Roger: [00:05:08] Yeah, I was just going to say Wade may have enough people to outfit two basketball teams, but I think that would be a bad idea. It needs to stick to teaching. I have been married over 30 years. My wife Elaine and I were married in 1991, went to language school and right after that and have served in Central America for a number of years. We have two daughters. They are both married and we are very blessed to have two granddaughters as well.
Larrie: [00:05:40] So let's get right to it. What is Blackbox?
Wade: [00:05:45] Blackbox International specifically exists to address the issue of boys and young men that were formerly sex trafficked. Our main focus is to provide the piece called aftercare. A boy or a young man is brought out of that situation, where do they go? Especially understanding for many of them that it's significant trauma issues and may not have immediate safe places to be when they're coming out of that. And so we created an aftercare program with a holistic approach. We address educational needs, legal, needs. We have a counselor on staff, so they're able to get weekly counseling, sports therapy, you name it, holistically approaching it, and also specifically spiritually, our boys in the Dominican Republic are active in their church, in their youth group. And for those who are who are interested in even taking those steps of faith, they're able to do that because any aspect of a person physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, we're trying to give space for these boys to come in and find healing.
Larrie: [00:06:58] And so you're dealing specifically with boys now. You know, Wade, that this is this is close to my heart as CCV was involved in starting an organization called Street Light, and we've had them on the show. And so but it specifically targets girls. And most people who think about sex trafficking, they think about just girls. And so the boys, most people don't even think about it for a number of reasons. Number one, it's like there's a certain ick factor, I'll call it, that's kind of associated with boys. And so but you have cut through that. And so but it's not just that there's a few boys involved in this. There's a significant percentage of kids being sex trafficked, that's boys, correct?
Wade: [00:07:49] Right. You know, data is difficult in this issue. We use a fairly conservative number of about 400,000 boys a year around the world, in the commercial sex industry, we know that number is low. Some new data that's beginning to come out says the percentages may be much higher than we thought. More prevalent than we thought. And but the number is still overwhelming, even in its most conservative state.
Larrie: [00:08:16] Mm hmm. I know, I know. I've read some articles like the Department of Justice, for instance. They did a study a few years ago that showed that boys actually make up about 36% of the kids being trafficked. And now there's this new statistic coming out of of three different types. So you've got the boys being trafficked, you've got the girls being trafficked, and then you have the transgenders. Now, that seems to be in this category of children being trafficked. Yeah. So. So, Wade, how did you get involved with Blackbox?
Wade: [00:08:56] You know, with different things that I work and do ministry with. It puts me traveling quite a bit. And I had a season for about a year where I was taking teams into different countries in Asia, specifically Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. And for about a year, everywhere that I would go, we would run into this issue and and seeing boys being sold. I really never thought about it or even consider that that took place. Came back to interact with Stephanie Freed, who many of you may know runs Rapha House and asked her honestly, what I asked her was, who's working with this so I could financially help them? And she just kind of laughed at me and said, Yeah, people really aren't working with this yet and man, just a burden. So my wife and I prayed a lot and prayed for if we're to do it, God would provide people an opportunity and kind of took a leap of faith there and stepped out and decided to do something.
Larrie: [00:10:04] Well, there are hundreds of boys that are glad that you did. Roger, how did you get involved?
Roger: [00:10:11] My wife and I were serving in Costa Rica at the time and the Blackbox board determined that they would do survey work in six countries. All of those countries are Spanish speaking, and so Wade contacted me and asked if I would host them in Costa Rica to come do survey work there. I told him I'd be happy to have him come to my house and drink coffee, but I'd lived there eight years and had never seen trafficking of boys, so he was wasting his time. And he laughed and came and my eyes were opened. And then I just had the privilege of being able to help Blackbox and do the survey work in the other five countries. And gosh, at the end, how do you how do you see that and not do anything? So I think Wade knew that. And he wrote me into it.
Larrie: [00:11:13] Yep. Yep. You get trapped, right? I know the feeling. And, you know, I can relate because, you know, working with Streetlight and with the girls, it was one of those things where when we were trying to decide whether we should get involved with the sex trafficking of minors, most of us believed that it just wasn't going on in Phoenix. So, you know, it wasn't that significant. And then, of course, with going on a couple of ride alongs with the vice squad and the FBI, we realized that this was a significant problem happening right in our own back yard. And then I got trapped. It's like how now now that I know what's going on and know that I can make a difference to not do something. It felt like an act of disobedience almost.
Roger: [00:12:03] Yeah.
Larrie: [00:12:04] So yeah. Now I think I know the answer to this question, but I know in working with the girls on this, there was not literally less than three places in the United States where girls that are under 18 who are trafficked could go to get any kind of help with aftercare. And not only that, those places that did exist were not Christ centered organizations. So I'm assuming that that's even true for the for the boys in this case, right?
Wade: [00:12:39] Yeah, Larrie, you know, having worked in this for several over a decade now and trying to really interact with others that are specifically focused on boys and then when you narrow down to like aftercare that works with them for however long they need, not just like a drop in center for an hour or once a week, they're really it's single digits. Yeah, globally. Yeah.
Larrie: [00:13:06] We both know that that the really only true healing that can take place, whether it's boys or girls, is through Christ. And so, so glad you guys stepped up and answered the call. How did you decide where to go?
Wade: [00:13:22] We did some research around the world. Where are the hot spots? Asia, definitely. There's a hotspot in Asia. Some of those countries I mentioned earlier, honestly, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, that's a that's a pretty big hot spot. But when we really dug into the data, another place that's a hot spot and was actually expanding significantly was Central America in the Caribbean, a lot of European tourists in particular shifting. And we've found that boys in commercial sex trafficking are often impacted where there's large tourist and they call it a sex tourism spot. And so we ended up landing in that region. And then out of that region, we looked at the trafficking in persons report that the US State Department puts out to determine where they're seeing significant issues. We looked at our own connections where our healthy churches and teams begin to survey in those countries until we determine the best one to go into and to start with, which ended up being in the Dominican Republic.
Larrie: [00:14:24] Can either of you describe what how does it manifest itself? In other words, how do the customers, so to speak, actually have this engagement with one of these boys?
Wade: [00:14:42] Yeah. So it can come in so many different ways. In the Dominican Republic, it could be boys that are available to purchase on a beach, and there's just groups of hotels or resorts or all inclusive resorts, and that's there as well. We've had several boys that have been brought out of that by the sex tourism police, kind of trying to stop that. It can happen in the cities, in the parks. Is a big, big place for that is that that they're available. It's a little different with boys than girls. Often boys are not in brothels. It's not a place you go to, but much more, they are made available for those who are interested. Sometimes it's family members who are selling them, even in neighborhoods, often out of financial need or addictions. So it can come from different angles.
Larrie: [00:15:42] Right. And so where do you find the boys? How do you get them into Blackbox? I mean, you're not out there busting down doors and.
Wade: [00:15:53] We don’t. Yeah. You know, honestly, aftercare is such a big piece to focus on. It takes all our attentions. We like to operate legally in every country with what we do. We're a recognized home with the social services in the Dominican Republic. Every boy that's ever been placed with us works through that system as well. We obey all local laws in that. And so we actually work within their system where they're bringing boys out, usually through their police, and then it comes into their social service program. And then they know that what we have is available and then they match us up.
Larrie: [00:16:34] So it's very similar to what happens here in the US, the, customers, so to speak, or sometimes we refer to them as John's here in the in the US. Who are they? What's a typical what's a profile of one of these guys?
Roger: [00:16:54] We have seen with our own eyes personally, it's older white men, probably anywhere from 55 up. Could be single or married. But those are the types of men that that we have seen. Can you add anything to that Wade?
Wade: [00:17:16] The Dominican Republic in particular receives millions of tourists in every year, and 80% of those tourists have been coming from Europe. Now, those numbers were pre-COVID. Obviously, as it's opening back up, we're seeing the tourists come back. And so there is definitely a prevalence of honestly, older Caucasian men, as Roger described.
Larrie: [00:17:37] Yeah. And so as these different events that take place that would attract these tourists, I'm assuming it's just like the US here if there's a, you know, basketball tournament that attracts a lot of people from out of state. Then you see a rise in this type of trafficking going on, correct?
Wade: [00:18:03] Yeah. And we certainly have seen that in the D.R., where people are coming for vacation. And while they are on vacation, there are a lot of activities they want to be involved in. I remember one person said I was planning my vacation. I realized I wanted to go deep sea fishing and and definitely want to stay at an all inclusive resort. And while I'm here, I'm also expecting to engage in this sexual activity. Yeah, hard to understand, honestly.
Larrie: [00:18:32]Yeah, How many Blackbox workers do you have on the ground?
Wade: [00:18:36] So currently, right now, our team in the Dominican Republic is all Dominican. There are 17 staff members working in our home. Obviously we do 24 seven, 365 days a year care. And so we have to have shifts that are able to be there all night, through the day. We work in multiples. We never have time where one staff's there with all the boys by themselves. So it's a pretty good team, actually, an amazing team. All believers and man, incredible gifted, gifted people.
Larrie: [00:19:09] For sure. What's it like for the boys in the home?
Wade: [00:19:16] It's rowdy. Then the home will do up to 12 boys. And, you know, our average age in the home is 12. And so that sort of gives you some insight into it. They're very involved. They're at school. They're in lots of sports, lots of sports. I mean, they're there in youth group, counseling, they've got chores. You know, they keep them pretty busy, pretty full life to really engage. We try to keep them connected to any family member that can and hopefully even eventually get to be back with family when that's good. But pretty full life.
Larrie: [00:19:53] So your, I know your strategy is to involve the local church. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Wade: [00:20:00] Yeah. I really want to talk about the church that we're partnering with in the city where the house is. You know, we're really good about protecting everybody's names and locations. But this church, they look at these boys and I know for a fact that the leaders and the pastor in particular looks at them and sees Ephesians 2:10, Good works were prepared in advance for these boys to do, and they're still there regardless of their past. And so they invest in them. They're doing Bible studies and take them to camp and and interacting with them, hanging out with them. I mean, I just I couldn't be more thrilled with how that church that we're partnering with there seriously is the church and are treating these boys like honestly, they're going to be men of God.
Larrie: [00:20:47] Yeah.
Wade: [00:20:49] That's what we want.
Larrie: [00:20:50] Now, I know Blackbox is expanding outside the D.R., right?
Wade: [00:20:54] Right. Yes. We are going into Haiti next. We have purchased land. We have the building plans are done. The teams are in place ready on the ground. The Haitian teams that we're going to be working with to actually build, make the bricks and build the buildings. And and I think I mentioned earlier, I'm there this weekend and it's kind of a super exciting time. We're greenlighting the final site plan. We have had some amazing partners, CCV being one of them, that have come alongside and have provided the funding for us to buy the land, build all the buildings at once for the entire campus, and furnish them as well as start hiring in Haiti, probably be about 18, 19 staff people being hired over the next six months.
Larrie: [00:21:43] Well, well, so as we wrap up here, how can our CCV listeners become involved?
Wade: [00:21:51] Love it. One, here's what I want to say to you, CCV. You're already involved as a church. And so I want to say thank you. You have been a generous church and an encouraging church. Oh, my goodness. Really take good care of us. Pray. Please, pray. That is that is the biggest piece that we do. Learn. You can check out our website. You can check out others. Just learn about the issue. You have local opportunities to get involved. You can get involved financially. There's times that teams from CCV even come down to visit us. If that happens, join a team. But man, start with prayer. We need as much as we can possibly get.
Larrie: [00:22:29] And where can they find out more about all of this?
Wade: [00:22:32] Now for Blackbox, it's our website, Blackboxinternational.org You can also follow us on social media, Facebook and Twitter to try to keep up with real time stuff. You can sign up for our newsletter that gets emailed out. You can do that on our website as well.
Larrie: [00:22:48] Yeah, so far our listeners we'll be sharing include all of those links in our show notes and just know that this is kind of a family affair for Wade. Kayla, his daughter, is actually involved in a lot of this marketing and she is like top notch marketer and so she just does a great job with all of your media stuff. Guys, I just want to thank you for joining us today and we really look forward to doing this again. And I actually look forward to maybe getting down there and touring with you and Roger someday.
Roger: [00:23:20] We look forward to that, too. That'd be great, Larrie.
Wade: [00:23:22] Yeah. Thanks so much.
Larrie: [00:23:23] Well, thanks for joining us.
Roger: [00:23:25] Thank you.
Larrie: [00:23:27] Well, as we wrap up today's show, we want to thank you for listening. You can follow us on your favorite podcast app and leave us a five- star review if you like what you've heard today and want to hear more. That way more people can hear about what God is doing around the world. Also, you can follow us on our website at www.letsgo360.org. You can also check out CCV at CCV’s website. Ccv.church. Thanks for joining us. And as we talk with those living out the great commission inspired by the Great Commandments so that we might stand before the great multitudes, before the throne, when the mission of God is complete. May God bless you as we go and send those here near and far.