Setting Captives Free
Well, hi, my name is Anthony, I’m a passionate follower of Jesus the Messiah. I am a former atheist and have spent most of my life, 24 years with a hatred, just a deep hatred for God. And by His grace and His mercy, my eyes were opened. I had an encounter with Jesus Christ, saw Him on the cross, and I was transformed. And now, this is 12 years later, I have a beautiful wife, I have an amazing family. I’m a dad to three amazing children, and have the opportunity to run an organization that my wife and I founded called 611 Network that is born out of Isaiah 61:1, which says He came to set the captives free. But I’ll talk to you about what led to this point.
I was raised in an amazing home with parents who taught me right from wrong. They were good people, lots of good experiences and I feel incredibly blessed to have had the mom and dad that I had. But they both had bad experiences with church and had really walked away from the Lord. And so I was raised in more of an atheist home; it wasn’t forced down our throats. But it just, there was no talk of God in our home. And so what I found through that was, I did not have power to combat the forces of darkness that would come against me, starting around the age of 13, or 14. I lost an uncle to suicide and I realized that that was the time when I started using drugs and alcohol to cope with just the pain that was in my heart. I started to have a very low view of the value of life.
Through high school and on through college, I was an athlete. That was my, that was the idol that I worshiped. It was where I spent all of my time–playing basketball. I had a severe injury, to my shoulder, and I could not play anymore. And so that thing that sustained me was removed, and I went headfirst into full-blown addiction. That began with pills and other things to self medicate. And in that process, I just became a different person. By the mercy and by the grace of God, I graduated from college, but I was such a full-blown, functioning addict through college, and just completely lost. I did not know why I was here on this earth, and did not want to be here. And in fact, you know, I tell people, I was taking so many drugs hoping that one day I wouldn’t wake up, I didn’t want to commit suicide because of what had happened with my uncle. And I knew just the pain that that brought to a family. But I know that in my heart deep down, I didn’t want to be here.
Fast forward–just a little bit later, I had back-to-back DUIs and through that process lost my physical freedom. That was, you know, a time working for a professional sports organization. I lived in this big house, I had a Lexus, I drove this fancy car, I had everything I thought would bring me joy, the things that I thought would make me a man. And in a single day, I lost all that. I had hit really what I thought was, you know, rock bottom. And that began the season when that voice began to beckon me.
I can remember, it was August of 2007. And I just graduated from college and something in my spirit, something deep down inside, said “You need to go to church.” And I didn’t. I ignored it. And of course, God as gracious as He is, allows me to meet a gal through work who was a Christian who invited me to go to church. And so, of course, I said yes, so probably with all the wrong intentions, but that’s how good the Father is. I walked into a church and I’ll never forget, when I walked into that church with her that day, I remember probably praying one of my first real prayers, saying, “Hey, I’m so broken, I am so empty. Everything I have tried has failed me in trying to get free. It’s very, I’m willing to accept there must be a higher power at this point. Because this darkness is too intense. And there must be something else that can help me get out of this bondage I’m in.” And I said, “But I need, I needed help to believe how Jesus could be the only way.” And I’ll never forget, the pastor stood up that morning and said. “Today we’re going to talk about how Jesus is the only way to the Father.” And I knew that the Father was speaking to me. And so I left that church service and I went to the next one the following week, and I said, “All right, okay, I heard You. Jesus is the only way to the Father. But what about evil and suffering–the pain that’s in this world? Like what about evil and suffering?” The pastor of the church stood up and he said, “Today we’re going to talk about how God is good amidst evil and suffering.” And I literally almost fell face first on the floor and, and I literally had tears and, and I just listened. And he just unpacked beautifully the goodness and the mercy of God, the sovereignty of God, even amidst the greatest darkness that exists in the earth. And I felt Him speak over me, “You’re free, like I forgive you. That’s why My Son went to the cross. That’s why Jesus had to die so that I can separate your sin, as far as the east is from the west.” And so I gave my life to Jesus in the spring of 2008.
One of the most amazing stories that happened right after that was I still had to go do jail time for the DUIs. I’d been going to court and all those things at this time. And I remember walking to check into the jail, and I, and I prayed, I said, “God,” I said, “I’m scared of doing this, I’m scared, I’m going to have to sit in jail, but I need You to make Yourself known to me in this, I can’t go into this, in a cell alone.” And I went and checked in and it was into this room with you know, there’s 40-50 bunks in this room. When I go in there, and they assigned me to a bed and I go to that bed. And sitting on the bed that I’m assigned to is a study Bible of the book of Ephesians. And one of the first lines and it was talking about how Paul had written this from a Roman prison. It was so strong in my spirit, I heard Him say these words, and He said, “You are more free right now than you ever were on the outside.” And I just wept. I sat there and I knew He was going before me. That this was part of my journey, as painful as it was in that process, going to that, to that jail cell. That just firmly rooted me in Christ and I understood what true freedom was about. And I had this passion for freedom from that point forward. That was a passion of mine because I knew I was spiritually a slave for 24 years, and what it meant to be spiritually set free.
And so shortly thereafter, I had a really rough experience in the fall of 2008, where I had relapsed, cursed God, and got really angry. And basically, I think the enemy came full force to try to steal what God had done. And I ended up in a rehab facility. That was my ultimate low. The memories are a bit hazy from that 24-hour period. But I went into the room, the bedroom that I was in that night, and I laid face down on the floor, and this is where my memory really comes back to me. I laid face down on the floor and I cried and cried and screamed at the heavens, “God, I need you. Like, I’m so sorry.” I like just wept, and I felt the weight of my sin like, it was like boulders on me. And I’ll tell you, it was the guilt and the shame that caused me to continue to go back to the things, the drugs, the alcohol, all those things, there was guilt and shame from the things I had done in my life. And it was this vicious cycle. And I heard Him say to me, “Anthony, do you want these boulders removed?” And I said, “Yes, Lord, You know I want these removed and I can’t do it.” I’ll try to describe it. But I literally felt hands come down, reach down and lift these boulders off of my shoulders as I’m laying on the ground. And I stood up and I felt like I was physically forgiven. And I saw Jesus Christ, like I had this like, vision. I don’t know, it’s — again, I don’t know how to describe it. But I saw Jesus hanging on the cross and I saw the eyes like the eyes of the Father. And I heard, and I heard the Lord say, “This is why my Son went to the cross, because I wanted to breathe into you the breath of life.” And that was my, that was my sobriety day. That was the day that the Lord changed my life. Pornography fell away, within a month or two after that completely. So I’ve been 100% sober from pornography for almost 12 years now. The drugs were gone, the alcohol was gone. God just delivered me. And it was almost like I saw chains in the spirit when I was in that room and I felt this sword come down and it just separated them. And it just set me free again, I felt light on my feet. And I had a joy and a supernatural peace I can’t describe.
And so as somebody with with the testimony of having been a slave of, a slave for 24 years in a spiritual sense, when I discovered through a documentary a friend had given me about how an orphanage in Haiti was selling children for $10,000 to 15,000 a piece into the sex trade. Through that God said, “Anthony, this is your life’s mission.” I was wrecked with tears on what was happening to these kids. And I was like God, what do You want me to do? And He said, “I want you to reach out to organizations that are already fighting sex trafficking and ask them how you can help.” And so we started to fund rescues. I started calling and talking to all these different groups. There were safe houses and I was helping assist with, you know, funding those and things like that. I tried to volunteer and no doors would open for volunteering, and I was like “God, why are no doors opening for volunteering?”, And He said, “It’s because I don’t want you to volunteer at another organization. I want you to found one.” What He said to me was this, He said, “Human trafficking is the Goliath of our generation. And I will slay the Goliath of human trafficking. But when I do it, I will get the glory.” He said, “We will, you will slay the Goliath of human trafficking in the name of Jesus.” He said, “That’s what I want. I want you to build a network of Holy Spirit-led abolitionists, that you stand against the Goliath of human trafficking in the name of Jesus, and you will see it fall.” And so we set out and launched this organization two years ago.
God has done incredible things through the work. Isaiah 61:1 is the founding verse of the organization, 611 Network. If you’re familiar with that scripture, that is the scripture that Jesus quotes in the synagogue in Luke chapter four, when He stands up, and He reads from the Torah scroll. He reads from the scroll of Isaiah, opens chapter 61 and He says these words, He says, “The Spirit of Yahweh is upon Me, because Yahweh has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted and to set the captives free.”
So, so many people will focus on ending human trafficking. But what really needs to happen is people need to focus on building God’s temple and recognize who they are. They are living stones, and if they just do that, they can be part of the Freedom Movement. So that’s a charge that is, when God says to us, “you seek personal freedom in Christ, because that’s the best way you can get involved in combating the sex trade.” And we’re seeing it, we’re seeing men whose hearts are being transformed, who are turning away from being the ones, like myself, a perpetrator of somebody who did exploit women and children through things like pornography, becoming those who would become the Holy Spirit-led abolitionists now fighting the thing that they once fueled. And that is a testimony not at how good that man is, but how good the God is who can transform that man. That’s the power because God gets the glory not not me, not anybody else, not 611. It’s the God – Yahweh, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the visible image of the invisible God. He gets the glory.
The purpose of man on planet Earth is to reflect the image of God, to be the treasured possession of God. And so because of the Fall, there’s been a fracture, that image of God has been stolen. And it’s–there’s no issue on planet Earth, in my opinion, that highlights that more than the issue of child sex trafficking. God grieves over that. Even Jeffrey Epstein, who is probably one of the most prolific pedophiles in the history of the world. This man was so wounded and abused as a child himself, that he became the perpetrator. This is the story across pretty much I’d say, probably 100% of traffickers is they themselves were abused as children, or they looked at pornography. That was spoken in a documentary that a man who was leading the child sex trafficking task force for the government said when he would interview child sex traffickers, and ask them how did this begin, that they had the same story. I looked at pornography when I was 11, or 10, or whatever. And that led them down a path of perversion. Now I need to look at pornography with younger, 18 barely legal, now its children. Pornography does not always lead to child pornography. But it’s always the common…always the gateway drug.
What God wants to do is, He wants to take the woman who is working in pornography, and He wants to encounter her with the love of Jesus, in the supernatural grace of God and restore to her the image of God that has been broken by men, who had have not spoken her worth, and have not called forth over her: This is who you are, you are here to reflect God’s image. You are not here to be my servant, to fulfill some kind of satanic desire in myself for power, money, greed, control, all of that. Men have fueled this, and they have distorted the image of God.
But the good news is the scripture says, Jesus says, “I will restore all things in heaven and on earth.” That is what we are after. And that sounds like a mighty and high calling and it is. But God can do anything to anybody at any time. No one is too far gone. No trafficker’s too far gone. No survivor’s too far gone. No one has experienced too much complex trauma that the blood of Jesus cannot heal!