March 11, 2019│By Nathan Peterson, Urbana Missions
Like some of us, Natasha Paradeshi based her definition of global missions mainly on what she’d experienced firsthand through church and other ministries. “I didn’t truly understand how God can literally use any skills that we have for his glory,” she said. “In Urbana’s exhibit hall, it felt like a whole new world of opportunities to serve God had opened up to me. I no longer limited how he could use me.”
Natasha carried this fresh perspective with her as she participated in the Urbana 06 Poverty Track. During one of the sessions, a representative from International Justice Mission (IJM) showed footage of a raid they’d done in India to free victims of sex trafficking. She could barely see through her tears.
“I myself am Indian,” she said. “It made me incredibly emotional in a way that I hadn’t experienced before, and I could feel the Holy Spirit tugging at me in a way that was not going to let me go. I knew that if I ignored this feeling, it wasn’t going to go away.”
Natasha returned from Urbana 06 fueled by this newfound, God-given conviction. She volunteered with IJM while finishing her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas and then went on to pursue a master’s degree in Public Policy with a focus on human rights and justice. Applying to IJM and several other anti-trafficking organizations after graduation was the obvious next step.
But Natasha’s applications were declined. “I was a little disappointed, but I knew God had something different planned for me,” she said. “I knew with the field of anti-trafficking still being so young, that there had to be gaps, things that we’re not doing to serve survivors of human trafficking.”
While working at another anti-trafficking organization, Natasha and the rest of her team recognized one of these key gaps in Houston, Texas, which led to the founding of The Landing in 2016. It is one of only a handful of drop-in centers in the U.S. specifically working with survivors of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Compared to more traditional shelters, these drop-in centers are publicly accessible spaces that don’t require survivors to make any long-term commitments. They can literally “drop in” whenever. Offering everything from food, clothes, and a place to sleep for the day to case management, résumé help, and counseling, The Landing aims to holistically serve its clients.
The Landing has steadily grown since being founded. In their second year, they doubled the number of clients served from the previous year. Through The Landing, survivors are escaping the commercial sex industry, earning GEDs and certifications, finding jobs, and experiencing Christ’s love.
“To have a place like that to go to is very encouraging because God has not abandoned you,” one survivor said. “He loves you and would even put it on other people’s hearts to give you a hand when you need it the most.”
“God has used The Landing to be a light here in Houston,” Natasha said. “He’s used us to serve those who would not have been served otherwise. He’s bringing so many people through our doors.”
Summing up the message she received at Urbana, Natasha reflected, “This is where God has called me. Years later, I’m still in this ministry. I don’t know how it’s going to change throughout my life, but I know that I’ll be involved in this work till the day I die.”