This is post 1 of 4 highlighting the stories of staff members at Exodus Cry, a sex trafficking ministry based in Grandview, MO.
It was 2006, and Morgan Perry was in Thailand, one of 27 countries she visited while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in mass media through YWAM’s University of the Nations.
On this particular day, Morgan was in the red light district with her outreach team, and they found a young woman on the side of the street who had been drugged and repeatedly raped.
“We need to call an anti-trafficking organization,” one of Morgan’s team members said.
That was the first time Morgan had heard the term “trafficking.”
As she later came to learn, sex trafficking involves “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, or obtaining a person for a commercial sex act through use of force, fraud, or coercion” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). More than 4 million people globally are victims of sex trafficking and sex slavery every year.
Throughout the rest of her time with the University of the Nations, Morgan heard many stories of victims who had been trafficked, and she also had the opportunity to work at a restoration home for trafficked children.
“I couldn’t get the stories out of my mind,” she said. Empathy and the desire to help came naturally to her. As a child, she struggled with chronic stomach pain for nine years, an experience that helped her relate to suffering and walk in other people’s shoes. Additionally, she was no stranger to sexual abuse – six out of nine women in her family had been raped, sexually abused, or molested.
So, when she returned to the U.S., she decided to do something about trafficking by collaborating with several other people to write an educational book about the issue. During her research for that book, she learned about the problem of sex trafficking in the U.S.
“At that point, it was completely under-reported and under-researched,” she explained.
After realizing this, she began talking to Congressmen and Congresswomen, members of the FBI, and other people of influence, asking whether it would be helpful for someone to make a documentary on the topic. Everyone she talked with jumped on board, so for the next three years, Morgan worked on filming and producing the documentary Sex+Money: A National Search For Human Worth.
When she and her team began the project, there were less than 50 beds in safe homes for the 100,000 – 300,000 children who were trafficked every year. Three years later, after they had completed the film and finished a 50 state distribution tour, there were approximately 480 beds, and that number has continued to grow.
After the tour for her first documentary finished in 2013, Morgan joined the team at Exodus Cry, an organization committed to abolishing sex slavery and restoring the victims of sex trafficking. Morgan works as a Producer in the Film Department and continues to make documentaries.
Exodus Cry is best known for their 25 time award-winning documentary, Nefarious, which continues in the same vein as Sex+Money by exposing the problem of sex trafficking and educating people on how to stop it. Her most recent film with the crew at Exodus Cry, Nefarious II (working title), goes deeper by exposing the demand side of prostitution and sex trafficking. The film works to answer the question, “What kind of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?”
Developing Nefarious II involved shooting 500 hours of footage for a 90-minute documentary. When they began the project, Morgan was concerned they wouldn’t be able to find enough interviewees who were willing to talk about the issue at hand: pornography and its effect on the sex trade. But as the project progressed, it became clear this was something God wanted them to confront and expose.
“We now have so much footage we don’t know what to do with it. That was just a miracle,” she said.
Working at Exodus Cry has been a good fit for Morgan because of the ministry’s dual goals of educating people about the problem of sex trafficking and helping to restore those who have been trafficked. The education aspect has allowed her to use her skills and background as a creative filmmaker, while the restoration aspect has provided her with encouragement through stories of breakthrough and healing.
“When you think of a $150 billion industry annually around the world and think how many people that must involve who are being exploited…and how sex trafficking makes up $99 billion of that, it gets overwhelming,” she said.
But through her work, she has met traffickers who have found God and walked away from the industry and buyers who have realized a girl was trafficked and didn’t want to be involved anymore. She has seen people who have been completely healed of their pornography addictions and women with terrible backgrounds who are now married mothers doing their dream jobs.
“Where the world has said, ‘That’s not possible’…I’ve just seen what the Lord can do,” she said.
Because working in and around the issue of sex trafficking can be so hard and dark, Morgan has learned to guard her personal relationship with God. Early on in her ministry work, a mentor reminded her of Jesus’ commands to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“I had been stressing the second commandment lifestyle so much that I had overlooked the first,” Morgan explained. “Mother Teresa said it really well: ‘Work without love is slavery.’”
Since then, she has learned to prioritize prayer and worship and studying God’s word. She listens to worship music as often as possible, looking for the newest worship songs so that her times of worship are exciting rather than stagnant. She has learned the benefit of thankfulness and often ends a day by counting the things she is thankful for.
“[The Lord’s] heart for this issue is so much bigger than mine,” she said. “I’m probably like a million other people: it could have been any issue. It could have been the hunger issue or war zones, but it was the Lord who highlighted [sex trafficking] for me. It has always been his idea. When I burn out, or lack zeal, or start to look to my right or left too much, the only thing that keeps me going is when I put my eyes back up toward him.”