God was nothing new to Annelize (South Africa), but having been raised in a church that was “traditional and stiff”, Annelize found her friend’s church to be completely different. Children were invited and encouraged to take part in the service, which “introduced me to the accessibility of Christ and His love,” explained Annelize. “How even as children we can come into that relationship… That made a huge impact on my life.”
“The relationship [believers in the church] had with God and the realness of Jesus, that was something that drew me into that community very fast,” Annelize remembered. She gave her life to Jesus and, shortly after, her mother, sister and brother all followed suit.
Annelize continued building her relationship with Christ as she completed university, became a teacher, joined the police service and later studied as a management consultant for the police. Being in the police service “really challenged you on your beliefs and what you stand for so that I think was a time when I could really mature as a Christian,” Annelize said.
After getting married and becoming pregnant with her son, Annelize quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom and, a few years later had a daughter. “I ended up homeschooling my children, which I never thought I would do,” said Annelize. “I always say: ‘Never say never because God calls you out of those ‘nevers’.’”
While running cooking classes for homeschoolers, Annelize met a woman who was working with Freedom Challenge (FC), a ministry of OM that raises awareness about human trafficking and modern-day slavery. “I was totally oblivious to the fact that it existed,” Annelize admitted. Inspired, she offered to hold a cook-off to fundraise for the climb FC was organising up Mount Kilimanjaro.
As she hung her laundry up to dry one day, Annelize heard God tell her to join the climb. Annelize laughed, thinking: God, you are either desperate or you have an incredible sense of humour because I’m not a mountaineering, active kind of person.
But she did it. And the following year Annelize joined another group of women to reach the base camp of Mount Everest.
“I thought: OK, now, God, I understand. You want me to climb mountains; this is what I’m going to do,” said Annelize. Yet soon after God closed the door for Annelize to participate in a Swiss Alps climb and redirected her to the prayer team. “I think that’s when God really got ahold of my heart,” she explained. “That’s basically when everything changed. When I realised I must be part of God’s agenda, not He part of my agenda.”
From there, Traffic Wise (TW) was born. This training gives participants knowledge and awareness about trafficking as well as tools to help identify trafficking and prevent it from happening.
“I’ve always had a passion for the marginalised and oppressed — both women and children,” said Annelize. “So the ministry really resounded in my heart, there was just something about speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
The training has been held in various African countries, onboard Logos Hope, and in Eastern Europe. “There’s something that happens in the TW training,” Annelize said. “You can see people’s lives switched on. They’re understanding. It takes them from this situation where it’s overwhelming—40 million, how are we ever going to change that—into empowering them to understand that they can make a difference in their communities… even if it’s small.”
One woman who had previously been trafficked attended a TW training in Tanzania. “She was this scared, vulnerable young lady, and you could see there was no joy in her face,” Annelize remembered. At the training, the woman realised that she had a voice and could tell her story to prevent the same thing from happening to others. She then went on to share her experience on a news station in Dar es Salaam. “It was totally unexpected,” shared Annelize. “That has kind of happened three times where we had rescued victims walking this training and feeling empowered to go and do something. God removes that shame and guilt that they were carrying and they now have a voice.”
“I always tell people that if God can call a homeschool mom, who was happy doing her own thing, into an anti-trafficking ministry, you really know that God is the only one who can get the glory for it,” laughed Annelize.
“We all have a calling on our lives. And it does frighten you sometimes when you hear God’s voice and you understanding that this is what He wants you to do, but you feel so unequipped and unable to do anything about it. But I think that’s where the miraculous comes in, that’s where the godliness of what we do comes in. It’s something outside of ourselves. …God doesn’t want you to have all your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted, He basically just wants your ‘yes.’ And when He gets your yes, He’ll show you the rest of the way.”
In March the FC team flew to Hungary to hold a training but on the first day, the government announced that meetings of more than four people were banned. The training was switched to become an online training within the afternoon (no small feat) and continued. After dealing with changed and then cancelled flights on the way home, each team member spent 14 days in self-isolation because of their travels. Just as the two weeks ended, South Africa declared a lockdown. Fundraising challenges, training and events were cancelled but the team still meets on a weekly basis to pray, plan, and dream together. During this time they are updating and writing new training material, doing research and updating annual reports as well as using their social media platforms to engage with partners and to make people more aware of the realities of modern-day slavery.