In 2006, Leslie McNutt literally woke up to that inexplicable feeling that can only be described as “a God thing.” It is best-but-inadequately defined as the powerful, transformational, and transcendent experience of knowing you have been called to the mission field. I can tell you from personal knowledge, that after it happens, you’ll never be the same. In Leslie’s case, the country on her heart was India, and she made preparations to go on a short term mission trip. Up until that point, her plan had been to become an astronaut. She had no idea that the course of her life was about to be forever altered.
Backing up just a tad, Leslie fell head over heels for the love of her life, Adam, when she was 14 and he was 16. They met at Round Island Baptist Church in Athens. She graduated from Clements High in 2005, and Adam graduated from Athens High in 2003. They planned on the “normal” life of high-school-sweethearts-turned-newlyweds, but God had other ideas. Leslie did not go to India by herself, but told Adam that if he wanted to marry her, he had to go to India, because that’s where God had called her.
They married, and in 2007, just 8 months into their marriage, they boarded a plane and went to India for 5 months. When they came home, they began to prepare for putting everything on the line to go long term into harm’s way to preach the gospel, and minister to some of the most vulnerable souls on the planet.
In February of 2012, upon returning to India this time by herself, Leslie received education and training about what Adam says has now grown to the $32 billion annual global abomination known as human trafficking. According to UNICEF, it is estimated that there are 1.2 million people trapped in the sex slave trade. A further glimpse into the numbers says, (according to a 2011 U.S. State Department report,) that:
Up to 27 million adults and children are in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world. 98% of sex slaves and 80% of transnational victims are women and girls.
Adam may have “come into his stride” regarding ministering in India after Leslie did, but his passion to protect and restore is no less fierce. He was moved to tears on several occasions when talking about the victims while we spoke in their living room, and there was an unmistakable fire in his eyes. He describes what he saw and experienced as being like getting “punched in the gut.” Leslie, in discussing what happened to Adam, simply said, “Adam changed,” but clearly her two words spoke volumes. Together they founded Set Them Free International, which exists to end human sex trafficking, provide spiritual and physical safety, as well as job skills and training to the rescued in order to build a new life. Their mission statement and “why” comes from Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right. Seek justice. Defend the oppressed.”
The McNutts started a family, and it seemed that both kids found themselves in the cross-hairs of the evil one, as well as under the mighty and victorious hand of a delivering God. Gabriel nearly died in India when a poorly formed blood vessel ruptured, filled ¼ of his brain with blood, and he was not expected to survive. At best, if he lived, they said he would be severely disabled. A call for concerted prayer went out, he was released in 4 days, and the Indian doctor said in concession, “Your god healed him.” Catherine was diagnosed with autism, and they had to come back to the States to get her the care and therapy that she needed. Some of Catherine’s answer has come through a huge change in her diet, and she continues to improve almost daily. Since they have been back in the states, they have also had another child, Isaac, and would eventually like to adopt someone out of the foster care system, if that door opens.
Back in India, it wasn’t just the McNutt children who were “under attack.” Adam and Leslie uncovered an international child trafficking ring, and were, as they obliquely describe it, “put in danger due to the nature of the ministry.” They also discovered that other relief organizations were corrupt, embezzling funds, and actually helping the perpetrators. They had to go into hiding temporarily, and the story of their escape is thrilling to hear. They came home, regrouped, and found new ways to help. They partnered with Rahab’s Rope, an organization out of Georgia, and with them help to provide the support and infrastructure necessary to assist those who are “boots on the ground” serving in India.
They have a board whose members are in Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina, and who, when all the members are tallied, have more than 100 combined years of ministry amongst them. They have a solid business plan, and multiple layers of accountability. Adam is available to speak, and has several engagements in various churches scheduled for this summer.
There is a question that shows up on the “crawler” on their website, (the moving slide that gives you something to think about before it goes to the next one.) To me, it says it all: “What if she was your daughter? What would you do? What will you do?” And, they have what I call a “3 R” imperative, which also can be seen on their website, (www.setthemfreenow.org). It is, “Rescue, Redeem, Restore.”
If this is something with which you want to help, you can contact them through the website, Adam’s email, which is Adam@setthemfreenow.org, or at 256-614-4560. I can tell you, you will change lives, and perhaps just as importantly, you will be changed, forever.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner