BRAVE: Mission trip moves local woman to action

Dwain Hebda
Pam Sims of Conway, associate director of PACE enrollment for military relations at Central Baptist College, is passionate about helping victims of human trafficking. She creates jewelry and home décor to help raise awareness and financial support for the mission. (Mike Kemp photos)

by Dwain Hebda

Two young German women, Danielle and Patty, had been enticed to meet an American by the promise of a care package. Their visitor was no ordinary tourist. Pam Sims had traveled halfway around the world from Conway, Ark., to reach out and talk to women such as these two, who worked in the brothels of the thriving sex industry in Stuttgart, Germany.

Sims was here not just to hand over trinkets, but to leave another gift behind, a message of freedom, both literal and spiritual. She offered hope and help to escape a life the duo likely didn’t choose in the first place. 

The encounter between the women was relatively brief – Sims doubts the prostitutes even used their real names – but it left an impact that three years and thousands of miles have yet to dull from her memory.

“Patty was very vivacious, very outgoing, I would say maybe in her late 20s or early 30s,” Sims said. “Danielle looked to be between 17 and 18, maybe 19, probably brand new to the industry, very shy, couldn’t look you in the face, head down, didn’t speak.

“When I left, I was just heartbroken. I thought ‘Here’s this young girl. Why is she here? How is her life going to be forever changed by what she’s being forced to do or however she got there?’ Women don’t just decide they’re going to do this for a living.”

Sex for sale is legal in Germany, but the shadier elements that keep the brothels stocked with women and girls – human trafficking – is not. Yet it is rampant, a crime that reaches every corner of the world and generates billions upon billions out of human suffering. 

Naturally, iron-clad statistics about such a problem are hard to come by but one group, the International Labour Organization, estimated nearly 25 million men, women and children were caught in forced labor worldwide in 2017. And, according to a United Nations report, better than half of trafficking victims are sexually exploited. 

Sims knew little about human trafficking until her church, New Life Church in Conway, organized a mission in partnership with the International Church of Stuttgart, Germany. Lana Packer, the pastor’s wife there, launched Kainos Ministry in the local red light district to help reach victims of human trafficking by bringing a message of hope into the brothels. 

“They were very careful about who they actually took into the brothels,” Sims said. “We went through some training on what human trafficking looks like and in particular, the sexual exploitation of women. Then once we were educated, some of us were allowed to go in.

Pam Sims has developed the acronym BRAVE – Beautiful, Ransomed, Adored, Victorious, Empowered – for her ministry.

“I guess because I was one of the more mature women on the team, I was allowed to go with them and meet the girls.” 

Coming face-to-face with potential trafficking victims brought the issue into laser-sharp focus for Sims and she returned home determined to put the experience into action. 

“When I got back, I thought, what can I do? I’m here, they’re there. What is something I can do to make a difference?” she said “I just felt led to do jewelry and I kind of laugh about it because I don’t know anything about making jewelry. Where do you start with that? I’d never done anything like that in my life. But I’m very creative and I just kind of delved into it and explored some different avenues.”

Armed with the acrostic BRAVE – Beautiful, Ransomed, Adored, Victorious, Empowered – Sims created a necklace featuring charms representing each of the letters. From there she came up with a bracelet and the floodgates opened. (She’s since branched into home décor items to support the ministry.) 

“Women love jewelry, but it was really more about the message,” she said. “If somebody buys a bracelet, we give a bracelet to a girl in Germany in the brothels. I am one person with limited finances, but that’s my prayer, my goal, to do that.” 

Sims did something similar on her mission trip, handing out rubber bracelets with messages on them including a Scripture verse and the acrostic for BRAVE. She saw firsthand how the gesture resonated with her audience. 

“I told them, ‘When you wear this, know that somebody is praying for you and that God loves you. He really sees you and He cares about you and your situation,” she said. “They saw that as a precious gift. Even the simplest little gifts meant so much to those girls.”

For more information, visit Brave Designs on Facebook (@pamsimsdesigns), email [email protected] or call 501.205.8807. Sims is also available as a speaker for groups, sharing what she’s learned about human trafficking and how the problem exists right here in Arkansas.