In 1987 the daughter of ELCA pastor Alvin Erickson and his wife, Ina, was a victim of sex trafficking. All the preconditioning factors were there, her father said.
After serving as a missionary in Papua New Guinea, Erickson’s next call was to a small North Dakota town. There his sixth-grade daughter was molested by a neighbor. In high school, after the family had relocated to Minneapolis, she received frequent phone calls from a guy who was harassing her and seeking to set up sex parties. In college she was a victim of date rape. Another time she tried to help a runaway girl who turned out to be very controlling. This got her into a situation where she became pregnant, her father said.
His daughter decided to give her baby up for adoption, which took a long time. After the adoption was finalized, a former prison inmate she had met at a Christian gathering introduced her to a man from Detroit. When this man saw how vulnerable she was, he called a buddy back in Detroit who was a sex trafficker, and she became their victim. This was spring 1987. Erickson’s daughter was 21.
“God has provided the tools for prevention to happen.”
The details are numerous and sordid.
In February 2020, one month after Ina died, Erickson’s daughter died in an apartment fire.
“Looking back, she was vulnerable to a schemer, an amateur being had by a professional,” Erickson said. “She was not prepared. We had not prepared her. So the choices she made were orchestrated by a schemer setting her up to be exploited. She had no idea what she was getting into before it was too late. The consequences for the family have been horrendous.”
One positive outcome, he said, is that his other children have done much to help their kids be prepared for the many kinds of subtle, sophisticated evil they will confront.
Erickson and his wife attended a support group for three years where they found other parents, sisters and brothers who had experienced the same pain and loss brought on by traffickers. In 1990, hoping to keep children safe, that group decided to start an organization to publicly address what they realized was occurring.
The group began in 1990 as Speaking Truths on Prostitution, later became Alliance for Speaking Truths on Prostitution and finally, in the early 2000s, became the nonprofit ministry Adults Saving Kids. It seeks to train parents and grandparents in churches to fulfill the three major biblical callings these family leaders have to pass their faith on in a way that will prepare their offspring and sustain future generations; to pray for their offspring every day and to enroll their congregations in praying for the total membership every day; and to wise up the young by equipping them with tools and the armor of God so they can stand against evil schemers and not be entrapped in harmful activities.
“I realized that most parents and grandparents are going to be caught off guard and unprepared, like our family was,” said Erickson, director of Adults Saving Kids. “Like myself, most people only wake up to what is going on when something bad has happened, and then they start asking themselves questions. It is too late.
“I realized that most parents and grandparents are going to be caught off guard and unprepared, like our family was.”
“So we are working with prevention, at the top of the cliff, so harmful and misery-making situations do not have to take place. We all need to be prepared and prepare our kids while we still can. God has provided the tools for prevention to happen.”
Adults Saving Kids is designed for all parents and grandparents who have offspring of any age. People are learning about the nonprofit primarily through churches the group has contacted, its newsletters and some synods. Other groups have contacted Erickson when they are looking for something about parents or trafficking and have found the Adults Saving Kids website.
Congregational leaders may visit the website and find curriculum that launched this year (scroll down to courses, click and find the curriculum on the left). The first course trains parents and grandparents to recognize their challenging callings as ministers in their family. For each lesson there is written material including discussion questions, a PowerPoint presentation, a leader’s guide, supplementary material and a questionnaire as homework leading to the next lesson. A layperson can lead this.
Parents Arise was born out of Adults Saving Kids. By using that additional name, the nonprofit sought to wake up parents and yes, grandparents, to what they needed to see and do.
“It became apparent that parents within these churches were not responding to the need to have their children be wiser, less vulnerable and better prepared for the treacherous people and dangerous situations they would encounter,” Erickson said. “So we intentionally focused on the vital role they had in preparing their offspring for discipleship in the world they would encounter.
“By training their family leaders, they will discover they can address many dark dangers affecting adults and children and what conversations can take place before a child actually encounters such people or situations.”