Youth Pastor Jeff Fernandez and Student Ministries Resident Kayla Rose of The Bridge Church in Portage, Michigan, sat down with us to share about the incredible group of high school students who put on an adult prom at the church to partner with Destiny Rescue to rescue kids from sexual exploitation and human trafficking and help them stay free.
How it began
The Bridge community has collectively rescued 146 kids to date. This church is filled with passionate, driven, God-fearing people who have dedicated themselves to learning more about God’s heart for justice and taking action to rescue kids.
After the church hosted a Rescue Sunday and an auction fundraiser and rescued 71 kids this past winter, the high school students’ passion for the cause was also ignited.
Pastor Jeff shared that during the auction, they gathered the students to give them space to discuss and express what they were thinking and experiencing as they learned about child trafficking.
After asking the students their thoughts, Jeff shared that they were passionately angry—expressing their desire to stop the horrific evil themselves.
“They weren’t kidding about the hurt in their heart and the struggle they were having. It was very real,” Jeff shared. “And so we talked them down a ledge and said, ‘Let’s let Destiny Rescue do this; they’re already trained in that. If you are very serious about this and you really do want to do something along those lines, then in time, we can work with Destiny Rescue, and maybe you can go work for them too. But for right now, let’s figure out how we can support Destiny Rescue because they’re already doing this. They already have the system and know what they’re doing.’”
Jeff then sent the students into their life groups to brainstorm ideas. When they gathered back together to discuss the various ideas, one group of girls was ecstatic about what they came up with: an adult prom.
“They had worked it through pretty much that first night. They wanted to invite every adult we knew. They wanted food and dinner. They wanted this to be a real prom. They said, ‘We’ll charge money. This will get people in, and then we can save kids,’” Jeff stated.
Kayla worked with the students as they went full force into planning mode.
Students went to restaurants and caterers and asked for donations, letting them know they were putting on an adult prom to help rescue kids around the world from sex trafficking.
Jeff started to tear up as he shared about the student’s efforts.
People were like, ‘Who are you? How old are you? You want to do what?’ and then they just kept saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes.’ And we were blessed beyond what we could have dreamt.”
The kids were ecstatic as people continued to get on board, from food to donated decor to offering services for free.
The students then went to work transforming the church into a beautiful prom.
The students were ready to host and serve when the night finally came.
Roughly 140 adults attended to eat, dance, have fun, learn about child trafficking and exploitation and help rescue kids.
“It was electric,” Jeff stated. “At the start of it, the line was through the parking lot.”
As guests walked through the balloon-covered lobby, the church building transformed into a high school prom—attendees were blown away upon entry
What’s a prom without dancing?
The students created intentional fundraising opportunities, like having attendees donate to vote for the prom king and queen and this alone raised enough to rescue two children
After Destiny Rescue’s Director of Church Engagement, Chris Russell, shared from the stage they opened up the “donation wall” where people could take cards and scan the QR code to give or drop in a cash or check—raising $10,000 in 20 minutes.
In the end, the event raised $30,934.09—enough to rescue 20 kids.
The things we hadn’t even intended on, God just brought in abundance,” Jeff said.
We asked Jeff and Kayla how this experience impacted them personally.
Kayla shared that it was so cool to see the students take ownership of the event from start to finish. She said she helped them organize ideas here and there, but the students did 95% of the work.
“Last year in our high school ministry specifically, we were dealing with a lot of apathy and them just being stuck where they were and not wanting to grow in their faith or in relationship with each other…. And that is what really motivated this entire thing…. It was so cool to see and such an answer to prayer for all of us. ‘Wow, they are acting on their faith. Here’s some fruit coming from this year.’ It was cool to see something this big come from it.”
Jeff shared that he was personally impacted by watching the students come alive.
“Watching students grasp that we’re actually trying to have an effect on other kids around the world who are our age or younger and are caught in sex trafficking…. As they heard stories of kids being abused and in brothels, I think for some of our students, they thought, ‘What if that was me?’”
He went on to share how he believes the students grew in their walk with God.
The devil doesn’t want any of this to happen. He doesn’t want us raising money…. So the idea, the drive, the hope in it—all of it comes from Holy Spirit…. So watching our students come alive in Holy Spirit and what He’s doing and pushing and nudging and saying…. To watch our kids come alive in that? There aren’t words for that.”
We also asked them how this experience impacted their church as a whole.
Kayla shared that multiple people asked when the event would take place next year. She also said people were simply shocked by the result.
“When we announced how many girls we ended up rescuing and how much money we ended up raising, people were shocked,” Kayla said. “Our goal was 15 kids, and we ended up raising enough for 20. Once that got back to the church, they were like, ‘Woah, okay. This actually worked. These kids pulled it off. They did something really cool here.’”
Kayla also mentioned since The Bridge already had a working partnership with Destiny Rescue, it helped further seal and define the partnership and created momentum for wanting to do more with us to help more kids.
We asked Jeff and Kayla what advice they might have for anyone considering hosting an event like this to rescue kids.
Kayla shared on the logistical side of things:
- It doesn’t have to look exactly how we did it
- Get a really good team together
- Have one to two main point people
- Let students have most of the say; let them dream and take ownership
- Make sure they are involved the night of (such as cooking, serving, pouring water, etc.)
Pastor Jeff teared up as he shared his advice to never stop praying.
“Pray and don’t stop,” Jeff stated. “The King of the universe is the one who rescues these girls The King of the universe is the one who puts it in somebody’s heart to do a prom…. This isn’t a program or project that we, with human hands, can just do and it will be fine. This is born from Holy Spirit. And so, when I say pray, I mean pray all the time. Because He’s the one Who’s going to bring it…. He’s the One Who’s going to do it.”
On behalf of the King and 20 free children, thank you, students and The Bridge Church.
We praise God for your event that rescued kids and for your courage in acting on your faith and trusting the Lord to work through you. We know He has many more wonderful and powerful plans for your lives as you continue to walk by faith. You are an inspiration!
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
2 TIMOTHY 4:12
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