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Helping Trafficked Victims Heal

Helping Trafficked Victims Heal

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As a youth, Detroit native Joe L. Malhoit set his sights on a career in law enforcement. But as he developed a closer relationship with the Lord while attending Fairlane Assembly of God in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, Malhoit felt a call to ministry at age 15 and switched gears on his planned vocation.

He went to North Central University, the Assemblies of God school in Minneapolis, where he met his future wife, Amy. After they both graduated with pastoral studies degrees, Joe went on staff at Evangel Chapel in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

A couple of years later, a former classmate from North Central opened a company in Minnetonka, Minnesota, called Opportunity Partners that operated a structured day program for brain injury survivors. The classmate offered Malhoit a position. As Malhoit helped clients regain life skills while working toward independent living, he also worked part time on staff at West Oaks Assembly of God in Minnetonka and pursued a master’s degree in psychology at St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis.

By the time he had spent four years with Opportunity Partners, Malhoit had become a father to daughters Elise and Emma, and needed a job that would better support his family.

He met all the hiring qualifications for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and soon began instruction at FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Thus began a 20-year livelihood as a special agent with the FBI, 18 of those years in the Minneapolis field office. During his tenure, Malhoit worked on cases involving domestic terrorism carried out by white supremacy groups, white-collar crime, and child prostitution.

“After four years, I became overwhelmed working child prostitution cases, as most people do,” Malhoit recalls.

His FBI duties also involved roles as a training coordinator, a crisis negotiator, and an employee systems coordinator who oversaw volunteer chaplains. With challenging assignments, a mandatory 10-hour days five days a week schedule, and being on call all the time, agents and support staff are ripe for emotional stress, Malhoit says.

“A lot of employees won’t talk to another agent, but they’ll talk to a chaplain,” says Malhoit, who remained as involved as possible in churches during his tenure as an agent. He and Amy also adopted a 12-year-old son, Arjun, from India in 2011.

After his retirement from the bureau in 2017, Malhoit embarked on a new phase of life: speaking to organizations about how to deal with trauma and how to stay safe from violence, including active shooters. But in the past year, COVID-19 has restricted such presentations, and Malhoit sought a new way to blend his passion of ministry and law enforcement.

He found the perfect match in F.R.E.E. International, the Assemblies of God-affiliated ministry helping human trafficking victims recover.

“After working child prostitution cases for four years, I developed a heart for these girls,” says Malhoit, 53. “We could help stabilize them long enough to survive a trial where their pimp would be prosecuted, but it didn’t last. They couldn’t return to a successful life because they were in so much pain.”

Now, Malhoit believes F.R.E.E. International provides the necessary solution: long-term God-centered care.

Malhoit, who is a therapist based in Stillwater, Minnesota, and his wife are new consultants for F.R.E.E. International. He has nothing but admiration for AG U.S. missionary Michael R. Bartel, who co-founded the ministry in 2007 with his wife, Denise.

“It’s hard to find groups that do this type of work well,” Malhoit says. “Not too many nonprofits interact effectively with law enforcement, or they get burned out because it’s so devastating.”

Bartel, who serves with Intercultural Ministries, likewise is grateful that F.R.E.E. International will benefit from Malhoit’s ministry and law enforcement backgrounds.

“He ran operations for the FBI specific to trafficking,” says Bartel, 51. “His skill set is high and he has a heart for restoration. Joe saw how girls need transformation and hope.”

Joe and Amy, who attend Watermark, an AG congregation in Stillwater, Minnesota, also both serve as volunteer chaplains with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.

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