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Nonprofit seeks to prevent sex trafficking

When Hixson residents Chad and Leslie Neal Segraves founded nonprofit organization 10/40 Connections in May 2000, they sought to equip believers in Jesus Christ with information and skills, empower at-risk children and fight injustice in what they refer to as the “10/40 Window.”

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Hixson residents Leslie Neal and Chad Segraves are working in the countries that have not yet heard about Jesus Christ, including India and Nepal, where they are trying to decrease the number of women victimized by sex trafficking.

Religious scholars have identified the area between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude, the 10/40 Window, as an area in which 95 percent of people who have never heard of Christianity live. It encompasses more than 60 countries and spreads across north Africa, the Middle East, India, China and parts of Indonesia.

“I had a love for the 10/40 Window and the American church, and we wanted to bridge a connection between the American church and what God wanted to do in the 10/40 Window,” said 10/40 Connections Executive Director Leslie Neal Segraves on why she and her husband, who serves as the organization’s international ministries director, decided to start the nonprofit.

She said the 501(c)(3) is interdenominational and works with a variety of local partner churches including Journey Church in Hixson as well as Signal Mountain Presbyterian, Silverdale Baptist, Tyner United Methodist and New Beginnings Church.

Their method of ministry is holistic in the sense that it helps to meet a range of needs from spiritual to economic to emotional, said Neal Segraves. They lead two- and five-week mission trips to nations in the 10/40 Window that may involve different types of work from anti-trafficking to trekking in the Himalayas.

“All ministries lead to placement of house churches,” Neal Seagraves said, explaining that the organization equips new believers with the knowledge of Christ to spread in their community by holding church in their homes. “We’re not trying to build buildings.”

The organization currently has eight projects in the works, though the main initiative being working on is TraffickStop, the prevention of human sex trafficking between India and Nepal.

TraffickStop is attempting to decrease the number of girls trafficked from Nepal to India through the 18-19 porous borders, or borders in which people can cross from country to country without showing a passport.

Surveillance centers have been established by 10/40 Connections at seven of these borders, where employees of the organization try to identify girls who are victims of trafficking and offer assistance if necessary.

“In the past year, 1,000 women have been rescued at the surveillance centers,” said Neal Segraves.

When a woman is rescued from trafficking, her situation is assessed by the 10/40 employee through a series of questions, and if it is determined she can return home with honor, she is sent home. If the situation is more traumatic, she is sent to a recovery home.

Currently, 10/40 Connections and its Nepali partners operate two recovery homes with 30 beds each, and women typically remain in the homes for six to nine months.

“Our goal is to start another in order to supply at least 30 more beds,” Neal Segraves said.

Women in the recovery homes are offered counseling, dance and art therapy and job training skills to help them recover emotionally and build a better life for themselves. Since some girls rescued are as young as 12, some choose to go back to school, said Neal Segraves.

She said one girl who was rescued who is now 17 has started three churches and opened her own tailoring shop where she now employs other women.

“We don’t see these girls as victims, we see them as made in the image of God, and God has a place and purpose for their lives,” said Neal Segraves. “We help them to become all God wants them to be. They are the future, the hope and the voices for their country.”

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