- The Enterprise
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NTS Camp — Never the Same — proved to be a fitting name for an event that introduced the youth group at New Life Church in La Plata to the horrors and reality of human trafficking around the globe.
“Slavery is not something that is just in the past,” said Danielle Rovnak, 18, of Waldorf.
Bryan Sells, New Life’s youth pastor, along with some of the teens from the church’s RIOT youth group, attended NTS camp in summer 2011.
During the camp, Sells and some of the teens sat in on a seminar about human trafficking, the illegal practice of forcing humans, including children, into the sex trade or to provide free labor.
Once back home at the La Plata church, Sells proposed that the youth group take on the cause to raise money and awareness about human trafficking.
But how could youth do something to combat a practice that preys on them, Sells wondered.
They came up with We CAN Help and, using a decorated trash can to collect donations during services, the group has raised about $12,000 so far — which will go toward building a safe house in Zambia for women and girls who have escaped from traffickers, said RIOT member Josh Hilson.
Over the summer, the teens were invited to participate in Experience Night, during which youth group members were “taken” and experienced on a surface level what is was like to be trafficked, said Tina Hilson, Josh’s mom and wife of New Life pastor, the Rev. Mike Hilson.
Adults in the church played the part of traffickers and Sells said that the experience was so eye-opening some adults cried.
“It was really tough,” he said.
Meanwhile, the church has partnered with area businesses and groups including the Waldorf Jaycees, the Business Alliance of Charles County and Chick-fil-A to try to make positive changes in the world, Mike Hilson said.
The group decided to help World Hope International, a Christian relief organization, and Poetice International, a group that supports communities affected by poverty, illness and modern-day slavery.
A Nov. 9 benefit dinner at the Jaycees center will raise money for the groups, as well as provide an audience for an original song penned and performed by RIOT members.
A video Sells and the youth group filmed also will be shown.
The video will be available for viewing on YouTube and the song, “A Song I Heard,” will likely pop up on iTunes, with all proceeds going to Poetice and World Hope, Josh said.
The teens talked about it — maybe they could get together to write a song, inspired by Experience Night; Danielle had been writing songs since she was about 12.
“We talked about it,” Danielle said.
“It was all talk,” Josh said.
Until one day Danielle was tinkering on the piano, Josh sat down next to her and they wrote half the song right there.
“I played a couple of notes and three notes just sounded right,” Danielle said. “It was like, ‘Whoa.’”
Next the song title and lyric came to Danielle that she said was God-given.
“There’s a song I heard,” she said. “God gives you a part of [a song] to work with. I get chills thinking about it.”
Two days later she texted Josh the song’s chorus and they were on their way.
But it wasn’t too long before Josh and Danielle butted heads. He’s a country fan, she leans more toward coffeehouse folk stuff.
They were coming up with good stuff, only it was vastly different and neither one was willing to budge.
Enter fellow RIOT member and musician Alexa Bungato, 15, who was brought in to be a tie-breaker, a mediator and sounding board, allowing the song to move forward.
They recorded the song at the La Plata studio of Paul McMahon and filmed the video in La Plata and Roanoke, Va., where Sells is from.
Along with a performance of the song, the video will be shown at the Nov. 9 fundraiser, which will feature guest speakers and testimonials.