By MADOLINE MARKHAM
David and Whitney Milton drove through a colonial square on a recent trip to Peru. The area was full of tourists by day but a different world at night. Women scantily clad in bikini tops and boots stood on street corners. Girls huddled together against the wall, terrified.
Whitney remembers seeing a 13 or 14-year-old girl in pigtails with tons of makeup on from her taxi window. “What is her story?” she wondered. “Who is taking care of her?”
“It was the first time I had seen it with my own eyes,” said David, who resigned from his position as a Spanish teacher at MBHS last year to pursue full-time missions work with his wife.
“Part of our calling is to go where there is no hope,” Whitney said.
The couple, who are members of Brookwood Baptist Church, is preparing to live in Peru to help fight human sex trafficking through Make Way Partners, a Birmingham-based nonprofit started in 2003 by Whitney’s parents. They hope to leave in February, but the exact timing will depend on fundraising.
The U.S. is a destination country for human trafficking; girls are sent here from countries like Peru. It is because of this that the Miltons plan to go to Peru, to the root of the pattern of evil.
“How much better would it be to prevent suffering in the first place?” David said.
In villages along the Amazon there, women approach parents and say they need children to work in their restaurants. They promise to care for the children and give them a better chance in life. The parents send their children off with well wishes only to never hear from them again.
It is this lack of understanding that the Miltons will seek to prevent through education. They will travel to these vulnerable villages that have little connection to the outside world and teach their leaders and their people what to watch out for.
Along the way, the Miltons hope to learn more about what is happening with trafficking in the country and find people who are doing this kind of work already. Make Way Partners is centered on partnering with local people who have been working to fight trafficking and empowering them to reach more people.
Ultimately, the Miltons hope to open shelters for victims of trafficking like the organization has done in Sudan, the Congo and Romania.
Whitney was 17 years old when her family stumbled on a brothel in Portugal and in a series of events fought to free them and ultimately others like them around the world through what became Make Way Partners.
“Then I began praying for those 19 kids in the brothel and for God to use my whole life to help kids under that oppression,” she said.
She continued to work for Make Way Partners after college but it wasn’t until she met David through a mutual friend at Brookwood Baptist in 2009 that she felt called to serve abroad.
“These are rough places,” she said. “I would have been limited in my work as a single.”
David had long been following a burden on his heart to do more to serve the poor. Fluent in Spanish like Whitney, he had been on short-term mission trips to Peru and Mexico.
Professionally he worked for a Hispanic community outreach program at St. Vincent’s and then taught Spanish 2 and 3 at Mountain Brook High School starting in 2009.
“Teaching was rewarding, especially when I worked with students one-on-one to teach them not just Spanish but also life lessons,” David said.
Still, he said something was amiss.
“It was like when you are cooking something and taste it, and there is a missing ingredient,” he said.
When he met Whitney, he learned about suffering and evil in the trafficking that Make Way Partners confronts. “Before I didn’t believe it really existed,” he said.
As the couple dated and began married life, they began to pray about serving as missionaries full time.
“Perhaps the ingredient is this?” David thought. “Perhaps it is something that I could not have done alone?”
And it turns out that ingredient was serving in Peru with Whitney.
Now there is little being done in Peru to fight human trafficking, and Make Way Partners has only been working there a year. Yet the innocent faces of the Peruvian children, the evil of traffickers and the corrupt societal system that accepts and even supports them are beckoning Whitney and David to the Amazon.
“It will be slow, but it will be worth it,” Whitney said.
To support Whitney and David Milton, visit makewaypartners.org and designate your gift for “Whitney and David.” With that designation, 100 percent of the money will go to their support and none to administrative costs.