Luke and Susan Carter worship at Ustick Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho. Between them, they have a total of seven adult kids and 10 grands. In 2013, when both were retired and in their mid-60s, they answered the call to volunteer with a Christian non-government organization (NGO) in Southeast Asia. For 18 months they served in Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar, fighting against sex trafficking of underage girls. Now at home, they find joy in volunteering as mentors and befriending refugees resettling in their community. A gifted musician and singer, Luke can sometimes be spotted playing smooth jazz at a local eatery; Susan might be seen (fast-walking!) on the Boise Greenbelt, training for an upcoming race.
T4L: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with Theology for Life Magazine, Luke and Susan. Can you please tell us a bit about yourselves, including your call to enter the mission field in the fight against sex trafficking?
Luke Carter: I was raised in a Christian home in the Midwest. At the age of 17, I joined the US Marine Corps and served six years, including two 13-month tours of duty in Vietnam during that conflict.
In 1979, I began my career with the Internal Revenue Service, retiring in 2004 as Senior Manager of Compliance. After this retirement, in 2005 I joined Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids and worked for two years as senior manager overseeing the Homeless Veterans Program.
In 2007, I met my wife, Susan, and we married in 2008. Shortly thereafter, I was hired by the Idaho Attorney General’s office as an investigator for Medicaid Fraud in the Criminal Division. In 2012, I retired once again—this time from the State of Idaho. Then, in 2012, the Lord calleth!!!
Susan Carter: Well, considering that we are a couple fast-approaching the age of 69, I too will give a quick and brief summary of my life! I am a third-generation American of Japanese descent, born in Idaho and reared on a self-sustaining working farm. I married, completed an advanced degree in English Literature, and, with my (late) husband, raised two children—yes, in Idaho. I gave my life to Christ at the age of 37, was baptized in a river, and lived the normal American life thereafter. The Lord took my husband of 33 years to Heaven in 2001.
I think I had a deep, unspoken desire for foreign missions for many years, but was never able to ignite that spark, as my husband and I were on track to raise our family in the usual American way, heading towards a lifetime career and a retirement package at the end. So, it wasn’t until later in life—and my marriage to Luke—that the missions spark was ignited and the flame fed—hot enough to burn in both our hearts. As Luke says, in 2012 the Lord calleth!
T4L: Interesting! So, tell us about the missionary work you did in Southeast Asia for the Lord!
Luke and Susan Carter: In 2013 we were led to join the fight against sex trafficking of underage girls in Cambodia through a Christian non-government organization (NGO) whose mission and purpose is to rescue under-age girls from sexual exploitation and trafficking in Third-World countries. The work was undercover, and our weapons were…the full armor of God. Rescue is the first step; the second is shelter and care in a safe-house staffed with counselors, teachers, social workers, and vocational trainers. The girls typically stay in the program for two years, then are reintegrated back into society with a marketable skill and, in some cases, a small-business start-up that will support their family.
The heart of rescue lies in restoring a trafficked girl’s life to one of wholeness; the centerpiece of restoration is sharing the love of Christ. Most trafficked girls, by the time they arrived in our care, had been betrayed by a host of people whom, in an ideal world, children should be able to trust. Furthermore, their exposure to any semblance of religion is marked by syncretism, an amalgam of paganism, including witchcraft and sorcery, sometimes with a few Christian symbols thrown in. Trust and Hope are meaningless words; unconditional love an incomprehensible concept. For girls rescued from sex trafficking, 2 Corinthians 5:17 is their anchor verse: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
T4L: How heartbreaking! So, how is the Lord rescuing children in Southeast Asia from sex trafficking?
Luke Carter: The Lord used me to build a rescue team in Cambodia made up of six young Christian nationals who had a heart for the work. These young men cared deeply about the plight of their “sisters” and wanted to see them rescued from such darkness. Together, we would go into the darkness of the night to seek out the most vulnerable, build trusting relationships with them, and offer them a new way of life. Our hope and prayer was always that every girl who was rescued and eventually reintegrated would return to her family and village knowing Jesus Christ as her very personal Savior, and that she would never be forced to return to the same circumstances in which we had found her.
T4L: That’s wonderful news! What are some of the Christian organizations doing good Gospel work in Cambodia and Thailand in sex trafficking?
Luke and Susan Carter: In Cambodia and Thailand there are dozens—no, hundreds—of NGOs, both Christian and secular, doing work to help populations of people in these countries where their own governments are not positioned to help them. In our time spent in Cambodia and Thailand, two organizations stand out, as their leaders/founders are freedom fighters in every sense of the word: fierce in love and bold to proclaim the gospel of the one Redeemer who can truly set the enslaved free. These are Agape International, based in Cambodia, and Compass 31, based in Thailand.
T4L: Excellent! Well, we know that sex-trafficking is a growing issue, but just how serious is the problem?
Luke and Susan Carter: Worldwide, sex trafficking has become just one iteration of human trafficking, a billion-dollar-per-year global scourge which now numbers nearly 30 million people. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. In short, the demand is great and the supply is unlimited. While the majority of people who are sexually enslaved are women and girls, men and boys are often invisible victims whose plight is not always publicized.
T4L: So, how can the Church get involved and speak to the issue of sex-trafficking?
Luke and Susan Carter: Seek out credible organizations in this field of work. Study the statistics around this terrible activity, put ourselves in the shoes of the parents who are so poor they have to send their young daughters out to find work to help feed the family. Think about these little girls and think about our own daughters and granddaughters. Pray for this work, give to this work, and volunteer to do this work.
T4L: And what kinds of support do kids and adults who’ve experienced trafficking need?
Luke and Susan Carter: Advocate. Educate yourself, then speak out for the cause of innocence destroyed. Become a voice for those whose cries have been silenced. Volunteer. Charitable organizations are able to continue fighting because of volunteers: teachers (languages, 3 R’s, social skills, Christian living), social workers, counselors and business leaders are needed. Don’t let age hold you back, regardless of which end of the spectrum you may be on! If you love God and love people, you can be an instrument in His hands! Support. Give to those organizations and missionaries who are involved in the fight against human sex trafficking. Money is needed to cover many needs including basic living, educational materials, and evangelistic materials.
T4L: Wonderful suggestions on that. Alright, last question, do you believe there is a connection between sex-trafficking and pornography?
Luke and Susan Carter: There could be a connection. For sure it breeds demand for these kids. We’ve seen it with our own eyes: men from around the world parading down dark streets with two and three little girls in tow. It’s a disgusting picture of sin at its darkest. I imagine some of these men are or were married, and may have children—even grandchildren—of their own. Pornography’s ubiquitous existence in the dark reaches of the Internet makes sexual exploitation of children easy and keeps the perpetrators anonymous. Internet porn feeds insatiable appetites—an unending diet of desire that plays out on the streets of Third-World countries like Cambodia and Thailand…and First-World countries like the United States!
T4L: An unfortunate truth in this world we live in…Well, thank you so much for taking the time to let us interview you, Mr. and Mrs. Carter. Your work is greatly appreciated!