Ken Krogue: Hello everybody. Ken Krogue here and Thom Harrison with EternalCore podcast and video cast. We’re doing some of both. We’ve got Jessica Mass from Operation Underground Railroad. She’s in charge of the aftercare program. She’s the one that gets to go in and work with the kids now. Thom’s had a chance to work fairly closely with Jessica for about the last year or so. We’ve been so thrilled, but thanks for joining us today.
Jessica Mass: It’s wonderful to be here.
Ken Krogue: We’re so excited and, you know, these two have got a lot more background to discuss here than I do. I’m sort of the, I guess the MC and the entrepreneur who just asks the practical questions, the day-to-day ones. But, I’ll just jump in for a minute. How long have you been involved with Operation Underground Railroad, and how did you get this kind of experience? This is amazing.
Jessica Mass: I’ve been with OUR for about three years, a little over three years now. It’s been a wonderful three years.
Ken Krogue: And those three years probably feel like 10 years, don’t they?
Jessica Mass: Sometimes it feels really short. Then, other times you look back at just the things, and it feels like a really long time.
Thom Harrison: Some of our audience will not understand what OUR is. Could you just give us a little definition of what OUR is and what it does?
Jessica Mass: Yes. So we help rescue kids from human trafficking. We partner with local law enforcements and governments and help do the rescue side of a child that’s been trafficked.
Thom Harrison: And they do an amazing job.
Ken Krogue: And you’re in like 15 countries, I understand.
Jessica Mass: 20
Ken Krogue: 20 countries. Whoa. So it’s like 15 last week, it feels like it.
Jessica Mass: Right. Yeah. So there’s been a lot of growth in the last five years that we’ve existed. The aftercare side is what I focus on. And that is so I… And OUR does a great job, but really saying the rescue doesn’t start until the aftercare starts. Because, the rescue is one aspect and it’s so important. If a child’s not rescued, they can’t do aftercare. Then, once aftercare starts, it’s a long-term journey with lots of challenges. There’s no fast food drive thru that just makes everything better. So it’s really that idea of how do we, after someone’s rescued, walk through life with them. That idea of your family for life and making that part of the aftercare; meaning we’re going to help support you with mental health therapy, with your education, vocational training. What does that look like to build a social network and family when what they knew before was abuse, and being sold, and being told that they’re worthless, and that their only value was to be a sex slave? When you go from that, the aftercare side has many different aspects. So that’s what my focus is on the aftercare side.
Thom Harrison: We’ve had quite a few people, Jessica, ask me, “Why don’t you just send them back to their families? What about their moms and dads? Sometimes I’ve had to say to them, “The sad issue is sometimes it was their mothers or fathers who sold them into this process or got them involved.” So this is not just an issue of rescuing and sending them back to a safe family, because the majority of these kids, they don’t have a safe family. They never have. Would you agree with that or am I mistaken in that?
Jessica Mass: Absolutely. I definitely agree with that. In trafficking, in general, it’s usually caused by the breakdown of the family, poverty, or lack of education. But, the breakdown of the family includes often their parents being the ones that have sold them or an uncle or a grandparent or somebody that’s been involved in that. Not always, and best-case scenario, they have a family that’s a healthy place for them to go back to. And they can be reintegrated in that way. Whenever possible, that’s what we try to help support, but that’s not always the case. The first little girl I worked with was six months old when she was sold by her mom and dad here in the United States, six months. And that’s a story that I’ve heard from different boys and girls around the world. So, I wish that it was always an awesome, wonderful family, but that’s just not always the case.
Thom Harrison: So many of these individuals that are rescued from sex slave trafficking or trafficking, the first individuals that they might have ever met in their life, who really care for them or are concerned about future or even see them as a child of God or a human being, are the aftercare team. So, what a huge responsibility, but what a wonderful opportunity to let them know that not everyone is just going to be using you as an object. But, we see you as an individual, and that’s a whole different approach for these individuals. Often, for the first time, the first face they see is Jessica’s face.
Ken Krogue: And that’s a blessing.
Thom Harrison: And they realize there really are people out there, or at least it appears, that there is someone out there who cares about me more than just what they can sell me for or do to me. That’s amazing.
Ken Krogue: Thank you for the wonderful work you’re doing for all of us. We’re all trying to get behind you guys. I don’t know if you realize how many people keep you in our prayers and focus. So yeah, it’s hard, to even not get emotional. But Jessica, thank you. I mean you’ve seen some hard things.
Thom Harrison: What got you interested in this? What started your trek into this direction of moving into the position that you now hold with Operation Underground Railroad?
Jessica Mass: A very long journey.
Thom Harrison: Please can you share a little of that?
Jessica Mass: So, it first started when I was 13, and I grew up in the Midwest on a farm. And then I got the opportunity to go and do a church missions trip when I was 13 to Brooklyn, New York. We went inside the projects, and where everything was happening from gangs and people being sold for sexual services and everything you could imagine. I remember seeing someone get mugged there. And that impact that it has when you’re 13 years old, and you really believe that your life can make a difference. And you see the impact that God has on all these different people, and you know that it’s bigger than you. So, as a 13 year old, if you believe you can make a difference, and you know that it’s bigger than you. It’s not about you, it’s about the power of God really coming in and transforming someone’s life. It changes your whole worldview. So that was my experience. When I was 13, I was like, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Jessica Mass: So right after high school, I moved to Florida. I got to work in the inner city down there for a little bit. I worked in Chicago in one of the most challenging projects in United States history, in Cabrini green, and working with kids there and working with a lot of sexual abuse. And then that’s kind of been my journey continuously is working specifically with youth that have been through sexual abuse. Everything from being a foster parent for kids that were trafficked in the United States for a couple of years. And having about 25 kids live with me throughout that time. Only two to three at a time.
Ken Krogue: I was going to say.
Jessica Mass: Not all at once. So there was being a foster parent. There was, I lived in Africa training people, medical professionals, on how to identify trafficking. I had my own business for a few years helping people that had been through extreme sexual abuse that had dual diagnosis. That would then need to be reintegrated back into community. So how do you rebuild a life after you’ve been through trafficking, severe sexual abuse, all kinds of different sources from that? So how do you reintegrate back into the community? Then, when I moved back from Africa is when I started with Operation Underground Railroad.
Thom Harrison: Now, one of your educational experiences is in Biblical studies, right?
Jessica Mass: That’s correct.
Thom Harrison: Can you share at all how that assisted you in this role as the aftercare coordinator?
Jessica Mass: Yeah. So I had always wanted to have a deep understanding of scripture. I think, for me personally, my belief is that there’s nothing I can do to transform someone’s life, like the power of God. So as I was studying scripture, and as I was studying just the different ways that God’s worked throughout history, I feel like it’s increased my faith to say, “If he’s done it before, he can do it again.” Because, he says that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. So, I know that that’s the God that I serve. And I’ve seen it personally, time and time again, where someone will go through the deepest pit of hell. And they’ll come out and they’ll say, “If it wasn’t for the grace of God stepping into my life, I wouldn’t be here.” We had a recent experience with a girl that she was trafficked from Africa to the Middle East. She shared with me right before she was rescued; she wanted to commit suicide that night.
Jessica Mass: She was like, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. It’s too painful.” And she said, “God, please give me the strength to just go one more day and to escape tomorrow.” And she tried to find a rope to end her life, and she couldn’t find one. Her story from her words are, “I couldn’t find a rope to hang myself, and I knew, in that moment, that God would never leave me. And that he would help give me the faith and the strength to continue to go.” She was rescued the next day. And actually, just last week, this is fast-forwarding a lot, but last week she graduated from being trained as an educational teacher. So she’s helping with daycare and with kindergarten.
Ken Krogue: That’s beautiful.
Jessica Mass: So there’s the faith aspect, but my training specifically, that gives me that foundation to walk with her in her faith. I think that survivors of trafficking give me faith all the time when I’ve been discouraged. They’ve helped encourage me because they say that God’s a good God and that he’s faithful. And when you hear things like that from people that have been through the worst of the worst, you really say, “If they can say that, then I have got to figure out how to continue to walk out.”
Ken Krogue: I get hit. I’m not exaggerating. In the last month, I’ve been asked seven times, how do I help with OUR? How do I get involved? You know, everybody from people who want to do marketing, to want to go on the jumps, who want to work with the kids. But you’re actually doing it, you know. What do we say to people who come up to us? And we’re just on the outskirts a little bit helping with the social media and with a little bit of consulting on the aftercare. But, what do we tell people who say, “I want to get involved.”
Jessica Mass: Everyone can do something. That’s our first line is everyone can do something. There are all different kinds of things, whether that’s you’re doing street outreach. There’s teams here in Utah. There’s teams all over the United States and internationally.
Ken Krogue: So volunteer chapters that raise money, that raise awareness. Okay. So, they can get involved with the chapters?
Jessica Mass: Yes. And they can volunteer at different shelters. They can volunteer at different places where maybe that person hasn’t even had the opportunity to say I’m being trafficked, or I have been trafficked. So get involved in places where they’ve gone through a lot of things. There’s lots of different nonprofits that people can get involved with. And then know what they bring to the table. So whenever somebody says, “I want to volunteer. I want to get involved in aftercare,” and I’m like, “Okay, well what would you like to do?” And they say, “I’ll do anything.” That’s awesome, beautiful heart. But, “Tell me what you want to do. Do you want to help with education? Do you want to help with mental health services? Do you want to help with whatever aspect, vocational training.” Maybe somebody knows how to make bracelets and they want to train somebody else on how to do that, how to make an income for them. So, there’s many different ways. I would say to the volunteer, “Know what you bring to the table and know how you feel like you can have an impact.”
Thom Harrison: Last month, I had a call from a Midwest state. And the individual, who has a great deal to do with this area of the country said, “Two years ago our major problem was opiate addiction and now their major problem is trafficking.” Because these individuals were severely involved in opioid addiction. And then they couldn’t maintain their habit any longer. So what happened is then individuals started trafficking them so they could maintain their addiction. So the opiate addiction in this Midwest community has now moved as their number one problem being trafficking. So I think a lot of people think this is happening in Guatemala and Haiti and in Venezuela and Mexico. No, it’s happening right here. It’s happening in the United States. And the problem is becoming great. So this is not just something that’s happening out there. It’s happening right here in some of our own communities.
Ken Krogue: Tell us some of the numbers. I mean how big of a problem is it?
Jessica Mass: The numbers, you’ll hear all different kinds of numbers, but one of the consistent ones is that two point 5 million children are being trafficked currently today. And you take a number like that, and then you say, the United States is between 100,000 and 300,000 is the typical numbers that are given. Those are just people that we know about. Those are numbers that are estimated based on our knowledge. There are so many children and adults that are being trafficked that no one knows about. So those are the numbers, but I would say that they are far greater than those numbers.
Ken Krogue: Wow. So walk us through the life of an individual that comes under your care. What’s the process that you’re trying to accomplish to a system? What does it look like? Tell us how that comes about.
Jessica Mass: So, we work in 20 countries and so there’s a lot of different stories. But, what a typical story might look like, that we would hope that every survivor would have would be… I can give an example. So we did a rescue operation. There was a girl that was rescued, and from that point, she shared that she had two children. She had a two year old and a six month old. And she said to me, “Because I am a single mom, nobody will ever love me. Nobody will ever want me. I will never have a job, because I have no education.” So, at that point you’re working on lots of different things. You’re helping her know that she has value and worth. So how do you address that? You help install those. “You do have abilities. Everybody has abilities. Every human comes with something that they’re able to do and a passion inside them.” So we connected her with a vocational training program that spoke not just the skills into her but it spoke truth into her.
Jessica Mass: So she started to see her identity wasn’t what she thought it was. It’s that she is beautiful. She’s wonderful. She is uniquely made in who she is. And she went through that business course, and she graduated about two months ago. And she is now… She’s thriving. But, it took vocational training because she wasn’t able to go back to school. If she was able to go back to a formal education, we would have helped her with that, but she wasn’t. That wasn’t her desire or her situation. So she did vocational training. She also, we helped her with getting babysitting for her children. And then helping her start a business. Then, it doesn’t stop there though. Mentoring afterwards, whether they need a micro financing type of loan. So we work on collaboration. I think OUR does an amazing job at saying, “We can’t do this by ourselves. We all need each other and when we put down our pride, and we put down who gets credit for it, and those things don’t matter, we’re truly able to come around someone and love them and support them.” And I think that’s when hope really comes.
Ken Krogue: That’s Beautiful. You know, I was adopted when I was 11 days old. I know that with Tim Ballard, for example, adoption was an option for a couple of children that have been rescued and orphanages. You know, we work with several groups that are building orphanages in Mexico, in Haiti. And you’ve got a lot on your plate, because I think you’re juggling working with the aftercare issues, but also coordinating with some of these other options aren’t you? If someone says, “Hey, I want to bring some kids home to live with me.” I mean, what are some of the ways that…. Is that even possible for people to look into that?
Jessica Mass: Yes. Every country is different, because whether you can adopt from that country or not. Sometimes it’s just in country adoptions. Sometimes they’re open to international adoptions. But, I would say for people that are thinking about it, pursue it, look into every possibility, spend a lot of time thinking and praying about it. And I also think that what has happened here in America is that people often forget that we have orphans here in America. We have people that would be in aftercare here in America, and they’re in our foster care system. We have 500,000 kids. Half a million children are in foster care in the United States today. There’s lots of them that need homes. Sometimes they get overlooked, because they don’t have that orphan term on them, but they need a home. They need somebody to say, “I love you, I support you.” And, like I said, the kids that lived with me when I was a foster parent, many of them had been trafficked. So if somebody wants to…sometimes people come to me and they say,” I want to adopt or I want to start a safe home.” And one of the options is to become a foster parent. You can change children’s lives by teaching them on what a family is, what that looks like, the love and support. That really does have a huge impact.
Ken Krogue: That was beautiful. When I first met you, and we started talking about this option of you retiring from your practice and expanding to assist with some of these things. You said something I’ll never forget. You said, “Ken, the care of an individual that’s really going to heal has got to include a foundation on faith of God. Do you guys mind just talking about that a little bit? I just thought, wow. And as you said, “If it doesn’t, then I’m not really gonna be helpful because the only long-term healing I really see is when they finally let the light into their life a little bit.” I never forgot that. And you both have brought it up constantly, but maybe talk a bit more about how that actually works as a structure in the healing process.
Thom Harrison: Jessica and I have had the opportunity of working with a guy that we both know quite well. I won’t go into much detail about her personal experience. However, she was trafficked starting about the age 14. Then, taken from her country and moved into the United States and trafficked for a good long time, about eight years. And when I first met her, she was 20, but she acted like she was 13 or 14.
Ken Krogue: Wow.
Thom Harrison: Because she had never been able to go to school. She had never been able to really move. She was stuck in that early adolescent structure, and a lot of individuals thought, “Well, you know, that’s probably who she is.” But now, to see her and to see…. she’ll be celebrating her 22nd birthday and the progress she has made is amazing.
Thom Harrison: Now we have a person that, if you met today, she’s an adult. She wants to work as an advocate in this area. And her vocabulary is changed and she was learning to speak an entirely different language. She has turned herself. She said, “The only thing consistent in my life during my trafficking was I knew there was a gun. I just knew it. It was ingrained in me.” And all these individuals who, I mean sometimes she would be involved with more than 18 John’s, or people who had purchased her within one day period. And she said, “I would,” we call it professionally dissociation, where she would move out of herself and just kind of leave her body there for them to do what they wanted. But then, she would in her head think about God or think about some other process, and the change in her is profound.
Thom Harrison: To see the change in just a year and a half time. It’s amazing to see that difference. And you know, Jessica gets to see that over and over and over again. And I’ve seen that in my limited experience. I’ve worked a little bit more with those who go out and enter. Those who are the ones that are rescuing the ones. I’ve worked more with them, but still the transformation is amazing. And the God-centered or the God-centric process is such an aid in moving these people forward. In helping them find themselves and find a new path and something to hold on which is consistent. So I personally cannot do it without that God-centric approach. I don’t know where to start. Even people who don’t believe, I interact with them because I believe. And sometimes our faith kind of rubs off would you not say? You know our belief. And then they start wondering, what makes you different or what causes you to feel this way or what gives you this hope? And then, that opens that piece of letting them understand that they have that same structure inside of themselves. That’s my experience. What’s yours, Jessica?
Jessica Mass: Yes. To sum it up, yes. But it would…. I think that hope comes from feeling what real love is and pure love and perfect love, which come from God. And when they feel that, it changes something. And that power, it’s not something that I have, like you said. It’s not something that I could give.
Thom Harrison: Well people feel it.
Jessica Mass: I think people feel people’s spirits.
Thom Harrison: They know it’s a part of you, because you manifest that in everything you do Jessica. You manifest in everything you do and say, that love of a higher power, that love of God. At least that’s my experience with you.
Jessica Mass: I think, yes. God definitely changes who we are. And I think it’s a humbling statement to talk about where you’re saying, “I’m a follower of God,” where you know your own flaws, and yet you see that God still uses you as well. And I think that that’s part of the aspect as far as when I’m working with survivors within my profession. I say this is when I had questions. This is when I didn’t know where God was, and this is how I got through it. And this is what God did in the midst of my pain and suffering and that’s relatable. So I think there’s that aspect to where, if I’m willing to be vulnerable to an extent, then they feel like they can be vulnerable. The worst thing is when we feel like we have to come and be perfect.
Thom Harrison: And healing takes place in that vulnerability. Without that vulnerability, there is no healing. And when we show that vulnerability in us and model that vulnerability, it’s amazing to see what happens. A transformation takes place. Because I believe that’s when God reaches down and takes that vulnerability and scoops it up and says, “You are my daughter, you are my son.” And somehow they understand that at some amazing internal level, and they move forward in healing.
Ken Krogue: Does it get too hard sometimes? I mean you’re wading into some challenging situations.
Thom Harrison: She goes to places that I would be afraid to even imagine myself. We’ve had a few of those discussions.
Jessica Mass: By the grace of God. Sometimes, it is really hard. And one of the aftercare directors that I was talking with, she lives in Thailand. She’s an American that’s lived in Thailand for many years. She said, “You sign up to have your heart broken again and again, and to have God put it together again and again.” And if you know that going into it… And because people typically take two paths, either deal with a lot of pain and suffering and they put up walls. And they don’t want to feel anything. So then it all becomes very clinical. Or you say, I’m going to be fully present with each person, fully present with each survivor and their story. I’m going to walk this with you. And when you choose to be present, you also choose to have your heart broken. So sometimes it’s really hard.
Ken Krogue: What part makes you cry now? You’ve seen a lot. Where do you feel it? What situations make it challenging?
Jessica Mass: There’s definitely situations that I still weep over. There are some situations that I think you don’t have as much of an emotional reaction because you’ve worked with that certain person for a while. So you say, all right, where are we going now? But, some of the stories that just still make me weep would be, knowing about a victim that’s still in the situation when I see her face. When I know her story, and I know that her rescue is about to come. There’s times that make me just break. When I hear about somebody that did something to someone else, and they knew what they were doing was wrong. And they intentionally hurt them. And it’s someone that I know. So, for example, a survivor that was 15, and she was living on this side of the world in the Caribbean. And her dad, after she had been rescued, tried to go after her and tried to hurt her. And just things like that. There was a girl that was back in her home and doing really well. And she’s in a safe home, but somebody broke into their home. They shot her in the arm, and she lived through it. But those things break your heart. When you know that person. And so those are some of the things that just still continuously break my heart.
Thom Harrison: One thing that really breaks me is the perpetrators.
Ken Krogue: Yeah. That’s a side you don’t think of as much.
Thom Harrison: Because these are all children of God too. Many of them lived through hell. But they have become so cold from the things of this world that some of them, when you look at them, there’s no light there anymore. They are dark. Their eyes are dark. Their speech is dark. Their intent is dark. And to see no humanity left just breaks your heart. To realize how far we can fall. How profound we can move into this abyss and become animal and not care about anyone. To not care about anyone, that breaks my heart. Because the majority of the human traffickers can come from, you know, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, you know. And come from the United States and come from Europe and come from Canada and where we should know different. And how cold and how bleak people’s lives become. If we could just convince the United States, all the individuals that do this type of trafficking to cease, OUR wouldn’t have to exist. You know, we are the engine that keeps it going. And to me, that’s what causes the most bitter tears. To realize we are doing this to these people, and we are perpetuating it. And if we would just get the vision and stop, it would cease.
Ken Krogue: You know, the original Underground Railroad had its success, and public awareness finally brought it to the surface. And that’s why we’re doing this today, to assist you in your mission. That’s now our mission. And, you know, we’ve talked about two and a half million kids. That means there’s a lot more young adults and adults going through this. And you know, sad to say, there’s not enough navy seals and the Special Forces people to go in and rescue all of them. But they might hear this.
Thom Harrison: And babies and preschools.
Ken Krogue: Yeah. So many will be listening. I understood that this young lady that YouTube worked with heard a little bit about OUR, and actually helped rescue herself. That’s a victory. So what would you tell them? What would you tell some of the people who are struggling in situations that might even hear this? How do we give them some hope and some maybe some coping skills? Because you work with those that you do rescue. We might rescue a few today who listened. What would you tell them? What do they do?
Jessica Mass:First, please don’t give up hope. I’ve heard it from so many that they’re on the border of giving up. So, from my heart, please don’t give up hope. There is hope. There is healing. Fight for it. We will fight with you and don’t give up hope.
Thom Harrison: Because we’re coming.
Jessica Mass: We’re Coming. Someone is coming. And God sees you and don’t give up hope.
Ken Krogue: Yeah, God’s after the little ones first isn’t he?
Jessica Mass: His love is so much greater than any human could ever imagine. And he he’s the real rescuer. And the other things is I would say, reach out to those people that you trust. Find somebody you trust. If you don’t know anyone, there’s a lot of people that have given up on the system and on law enforcement. Find somebody in law enforcement. Or, find somebody that’s in a nonprofit or find somebody in a local church. Wherever you feel the most comfortable and the most safe. Where you’re willing to say, I’m not going to give up on myself. Keep fighting for yourself, because you are worth it, and your value is limitless. So I would say don’t give up hope. Find someone that you feel like you can trust and find someone that will walk through it with you. And just know that there are people that care. There’s a whole army of people out there that are praying for the one. I can just speak from OUR’s heart, is that we just care about the one. That if OUR was created just for one person, it would all be worth it.
Thom Harrison: I’ve heard victims say, “I thought that the helping and healing was for everyone but me. That I would never be touched.” And so she prayed for her fellow sisters that were involved in this, but she never imagined that it could be her. Don’t give up on you. Realize that you are worth it and you can be helped. You are not the exception. That there are organizations that are out there looking for you, and you will be found. Don’t give up, and you can be rescued from this and your life can turn around. I’ve seen it over and over again. Your life can be turned around. You are loved and you can be helped.
Ken Krogue: That’s beautiful. You know, we’ve had Tim Ballard in that chair. We’ve been on a week with Tim, and we’ve been on site with him. He said something I’ll never forget, and it was back to what you were saying a minute ago. He said, “Ken, a lot of these people we capture, the perpetrators” he said, “They thank us for stopping them.” I thought whoa. They say, “Thank you for stopping me from getting me out of this, my own hell.” So I think the only one big enough is God to help make that happen. But Jessica, thank you for all you do. Thank you for being with us here. Or on March 29th and 30th at the Little America hotel is the EternalCore conference. Jessica is going to be speaking. A couple of your colleagues will be joining you, sharing a little bit more of some of the coping strategies, some of the aftercare, ways you can get involved. Tim Ballard is going to be one of our keynotes and some of his team. So again, thanks for all your great work. Anything else you’d like to add before we end for the day?
Jessica Mass: One last thing I would say is to the audience of those saying, “what can I do to help” would be ascribe unsurpassable love and worth to everyone you come in contact with today. When you look people in the eyes, you never know if it’s that person that’s going to need help, support. So do everything you can to ascribe that unsurpassable value and worth to each individual, because they’re made in the image of God. And God loves them. We don’t need to know anything else about that person. That’s the stranger on the street. That’s the person in the grocery store. That’s the person in our own home. Do everything you can to ascribe that love to them and the worth that they have.
Thom Harrison: Jessica Mass understands that and lives by that. I’ve worked with her now for a year, and every time I’m around her, that’s what I get. So she does not only preach that, but she lives that. So thank you so much for coming and chatting with us. Appreciate you.
Jessica Mass: It’s a blessing to be here. Thank you guys.
Ken Krogue: Thanks everybody.