Josh Holm, junior theology major and president of the Free the Captives club at Azusa Pacific University, took a 2 1/2-week mission trip to Thailand during Christmas break in order to help fight human trafficking.

Free the Captives is a student-led club on campus that advocates against slavery locally and raises awareness on an international level as well. Holm started the club three years ago, and it has grown each year. Free the Captives offers students the chance to learn about and stand up for social injustices.

Allies Against Slavery, an organization dedicated to creating solutions to human trafficking and slavery, states that “human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs when one person exerts control over another person in order to exploit them economically. In this scenario, the victim is controlled through manipulation, violence, or the threat of violence and cannot walk away.”

Human trafficking can target anyone at any age, and can be divided into two categories: labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Southeast Asia is a major hub for human trafficking, with Thailand always being a big player in the market.

“Josh is incredibly driven. He uses the story God has given Him to pursue those on the margins,” senior psychology major Micah Morris said. “I know Josh is going to be a world changer in the area of human trafficking, beginning with his work here at APU.”

Holm partnered with another service club at APU, My Rescue, which consists of business majors. Both clubs served together in ministry and had the opportunity to help to the people of Thailand. Their mission was to evangelize and create a short film in order to bring it back to school to raise awareness and inspire others to get involved. Producers anticipate the video will be released this semester.

“This was a trip where we went to the red light districts in Thailand, and we wanted to create two things: a program and a short film to get educated about human trafficking in Thailand,” Holm explained. “Every day, we would go on night outreaches and go into bars where we would rent prostitutes who worked there, and would talk with them and tell them about Jesus and ask them about their lives.”

During the trip, Holm was able to establish connections with local groups and organizations that were doing the same ministry. This mission was as much about gaining contacts and opening doors for students to return to Thailand in the future as it was helping put an end to human trafficking.

“Ninety-eight percent of the country [Thailand] is Buddhist, and so a country that lacks in Christianity or even hearing about the message of God is hard to present a lifestyle or a message of hope when that has been so absent from the country,” Holm said. “When talking to these girls that work in the bars, when you ask them what they wanted to do in life, it’s almost as if it doesn’t register with them because no one in their life has ever asked them that. … it is so different from American culture.”

If you’re interested in learning more about human and sex trafficking or other social justice issues, Free the Captives Club leaders meet Saturday nights and club members meet once a month.

“I have become more educated and more passionate about the issue, and it’s such a spiritual issue as well. I love the spiritual growth that has happened here at APU because I would have never been ready for an experience like that [Thailand] without it,” Holm said.