Brianna Copeland is not just learning about global justice; she is actively participating in it. Her passion for justice in high school is what led her to The College at Southeastern.
Copeland, who is from Winston-Salem, N.C., is one of the founders of Save Our Sisters (SOS), an organization that advocates for social justice specifically in the area of sex trafficking.
Brianna Copeland, active in justice issues since high school, receives her degree from The College at Southeastern on May 11.
“The gospel isn’t just an idea. It has to affect your whole life,” said Copeland, who sees Jesus’ life and ministry as an inspiration to participate in justice on any level, which can open a door for the gospel that would otherwise be closed.
As a ninth grader in 2010, Copeland, her sister and four of her friends were burdened about injustice and wanted to make efforts to rescue girls caught in the evils of sex trafficking. Starting with a sleepover, it grew into a reality with the birth of SOS. The six of them were regularly asked to speak at churches to promote and fund their organization. In 2011, SOS partnered with Moldova Mission to support a safe house for girls coming out of sex trafficking as well as a separate space for orphans, which both opened in 2017.
“That was one of the most shaping things still to this day of who I am and who the Lord is making me to be,” Copeland said.
Copeland has seen how caring for people in their need can lead to helping others better understand the love of Christ. Natalia* is one example of this. A believer in Christ, Natalia was trafficked from her home country of Moldova to Russia. Natalia and another woman who had been trafficked tried to escape. While Natalia made it out, her friend was killed.
Even after coming out of something so traumatic, the Lord has redeemed Natalia’s situation. After escaping her captors, she found a local church through Moldova Mission and began going through personal counseling and discipleship with the organization to help heal the wounds of her past. Having experienced the healing love of Christ, she now plays a major role in counseling women who come out of sex trafficking through Moldova Mission.
“She doesn’t run from her past experience but instead engages others who have and are experiencing the same injustices,” Copeland said of Natalia.
When Copeland and her friends went their separate ways for college, SOS looked very different than it had in high school. Soon, Copeland realized that the organization that she had spent much of her life pursuing was only a part of what the Lord was teaching her in His greater plan for her life.
Copeland is learning that the Lord wants to broaden her experience with social justice even further by giving her other avenues to serve. Currently, Copeland and her husband Travis serve on the advisory board for Refugee Hope Partners, an organization that aids in refugee ministry at Cedar Point apartments in Raleigh, N.C.
“Things like that have been huge parts of my story since coming to college. It doesn’t just look like doing this one thing. It looks like being faithful in a lot of different areas,” Copeland said.
As she pursued a major in English and minor in justice and social ethics at Southeastern, she learned how to think more deeply about the problems facing society today.
“That’s hard work, and it’s really hard to teach something so intangible,” said Copeland, explaining that she appreciated the way her professors at Southeastern helped her learn how to form her own informed opinions on issues.
Copeland crossed the stage on May 11, received her diploma and will continue to fight for social justice while in Wake Forest just as she did from a young age.
During the graduation ceremony, Southeastern President Danny Akin quoted missionary John Keith Falconer saying, “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”
“It all boils down to what Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” said Copeland.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Pratt is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s news and information specialist.)