I wish I could go to this year’s JuST Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, next month. Somehow it never seems to be the right timing for me to attend!
“JuST” stands for Shared Hope International’s efforts to combat “juvenile sex trafficking” in the United Stated and around the world. The yearly conference aims to bring together those involved in sex trafficking investigations, prosecutions and support services with the goal of learning from each other and moving forward in a multi-disciplinary approach.
This year I had signed up to go, however, I had to cancel plans due to job changes. But I’ll never forget the woman I spoke to on the phone when making reservations at the Gaylord Center. When she found out what event I was attending, she told me how a stranger had once offered to “buy” her five-year old nephew, who apparently was a very handsome little boy. Luckily, the youngster was saved and protected by his mother, and he was never put at risk.
I don’t know the extent of the situation she described or all of the details, but it made me think about how this issue is so prevalent — even when casually talking to a complete stranger across the country. At the end of our conversation, the woman commended Shared Hope for all of the work they do to help fight this horrific crime.
I’m sure attending the conference would renew my own sense of hope on this challenging and complex issue and help me learn so much more about it.
But for now, I’ll just remember the nephew of a kind-hearted hotel reservationist. And that’s inspiration enough for me to keep fighting.