Delegates at a recent human trafficking conference in Port Elizabeth were told how the trafficking and sexual abuse of a young boy in the 1990s had contributed to the imminent launch of a new ministry in PE.
Gary Lewinson, founder and chairman of the anti-trafficking Vine of Judah Trust, said that his stepson was one of a group of children who were drugged and supplied to paedophiles over a period of several years by the traffickers who operated a daycare centre in Johannesburg.
He played a role in mentoring the boy through a difficult period and today his stepson is a well-adjusted young man.
“But I wanted to do something for him; I wanted there to somehow be a redemptive purpose in relation to what happened to him,” said Lewinson, in an interview. He was talking about his decision to launch Vine of Judah.
He said the conviction to start the ministry grew as he watched Christian television programmes featuring Christine Caine, Australian author and inspirational founder of the A21 Campaign against human trafficking.
About eight months ago he underwent major heart surgery performed by a top surgeon. He did not have to pay anything for the operation and he realised that he was experiencing God’s grace and favour.
Five months ago he had a “divine appointment” with Wayne Harrison, the new managing director of Boomtown Strategic Brand Agency. When Harrison heard about his proposed anti-human trafficking ministry he offered to sponsor the website development and other media requirements. Further divine appointments followed and the executive team “came together quite organically” , he said.
The executive trustees are Lewinson, Harrison, Barbara von Pfeil, administrator; Ayanda Kheswa, an attorney; Carol Batchelor, an auditor and partner in KPMG Eastern Cape; and Gladys Panda, founder of the Coega Door of Hope orphanage. Associates to the ministry are Dr Dave Pedersen, Senior Pastor of Fountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship; Major Margaret Stafford, National Cooordinator for Counter Trafficking (Salvation Army); and Pastor James Lottering of the Victim Support Centre Trust.
Lewinson said that the ministry will be built around the three prong approach to combating trafficking of protection, prevention and advocacy. Initially the focus will be on providing information to concerned parents, educators, churches and leaders through a resource-rich website and other media tools. The website was expected to launch by the end of October. There were also plans to host major fund-raising events and to use the arts in the cause of opposing trafficking. Eventually the goal was to start a safe house targeting young victims of trafficking.
Lewinson, whose parents were Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany says he rebelled against authority during his childhood and early adulthood and spent periods in reform school and prison. During a time of exile in Europe in the 80s and 90s he was exposed to crime and prostitution. Although he had been introduced to Christ during various stages of his life he did not become a committed follower until after he was arrested in a stolen car under the influence of crack cocaine in 1997. Since then he has worked in drug rehabilitation centres and completed a missionary course. He believes that through God’s grace he is able to use lessons from his past to further the Kingdom of God.
More information about Vine of Judah is available at the following contact numbers: Gary – 076 085 1602, Barbara – 082 852 4560, Office – 041 379 3601. The ministry email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.