Monday, October 7, 2013

It's "Who" We Are

I haven't written a blog post for a few weeks because life kind of carried me away. I actually took a vacation and have also been helping my mom prepare for selling her place and moving closer to my sister and me. Besides that I've been working on a book, magazine and newspaper articles. Life, it can sure keep us busy.

But this morning, I watched a video that broke my heart. Once again I'm reminded that each Christian has a responsibility to make a difference. 

Praying with Transform LA board members Saturday morning reminded me once again of how critical it is for Christians to be transformed by God so they can do His work, His way. That's how we can best influence the world around us. Whether in Moldova or San Bernardino California, Christians need to reach out and care about those who need Jesus--from modern-day slaves to traffickers to those who use pornography and buy sex. Yet, I wonder if maybe too often, we're busy running after pleasure instead.

There's a lot of strategic planning that goes into a vacation, a party, a concert in a different city, a river trip. All those are great things. But they all take time and effort and money. So we can get relief from our day-to-day lives. Yet trafficking victims never get relief. Seven days a week, long hours each day their bodies are being sold. They are being beaten or raped. And, they wonder if anyone really cares.

Many people do things to help trafficking victims and those with a biblical worldview have the most to offer. Nonprofits like Forgotten Children reach out to girls to help them know why they are so valuable and that Jesus Christ, Almighty God Himself cares. (Be sure to watch the video on their web site.) Groups like Traffick Free Pomona work within their communities to educate, to reach girls at risk, to provide care for victims of this travesty and to introduce them to the God, who holds their futures in the palm of His hand..

At the same time, just meeting the needs of the victims will never stop the problem. Modern-day slavery continues to be nurtured in the incubators of our culture. Only by changing our self-absorbed, pleasure-seeking, sex-crazed culture can we begin to diminish the demand that will reduce the supply. Only by developing respect and value for each individual life from conception to grave can we begin to reduce the unthinkable treatment of children as commodities to be bought and sold. Only by being transformed ourselves can we hope to ever transform the world around us. And, only Jesus Christ can change us from the inside out to where we value people more than pleasure.

Christians from every sphere of society from churches to government to education to health care, to loving moms and dads and big brothers and sisters need to reach out to young girls and single moms so they have a place to turn when life gets hard. Boys and young men need to learn respect for themselves and for the girls they meet. This is where Transform LA's heart is: that each Christian would be so transformed that they reflect Jesus wherever they are--at work, at play, and even on vacation.

So I'm starting to think it may be time for this blog to broaden its focus more to the need for transformation than so much on the specifics of trafficking. If you have any suggestions, we'd love to hear what you think would help believers in Jesus Christ make it a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Courage to Take A Stand

Some people, like British Prime Minister, David Cameron, actually have the courage to stand up and fight for a better world, one where people are valued and children are taught self-respect. Recently Cameron spoke out about the minefield of pornography and the way it normalizes sexual violence against women. He so concerned about the way it impacts young people that he's putting sweeping measures in place to stop it.

A Norwegian billionaire is stepping up too. He owns a chain of Scandinavian hotels and despite the loss of revenue, Peter Stordalen, is determined to fight against the scourge of smut because it contributes to human trafficking. Seeing it as a social responsibility, this businessman is removing pay-per-view pornography channels and replacing them with contemporary art. His was also the first hotel chain to recognize the dangers of smoking and eliminate it. Now it's normal for public places to be smoke-free. 

A Princeton law professor and an Islamic scholar, Robert George and Hamza Usef, applaud Stordalen's efforts and have used them to challenge hotels in the U.S. to do the same. They said pornography is “degrading, dehumanizing and corrupting,” and it teaches young people to “settle for the cheap satisfactions of lust” instead of achieving a love that is “liberating and fulfilling.”

What a tremendous example these world leaders set for the rest of us. There's a multitude of ways we can fight human trafficking and they don't all have to involve monumental efforts. Even organizing a letter-writing campaign to hotel chains could make a difference. Or perhaps one letter might influence someone in a place of power.
One young woman, Jae Tracie, took a stand in a YouTube video*--exposing the low-self-esteem being cultivated by the lies that "twerking" ought to be learned. I neglected to save the link but when I tried to find it, I couldn't. All I could find were videos teaching everyone from teens to grandmas how to simulate, well enough said. How sad that the message media pours out on people of all ages, even children, is that they have to flaunt their bodies to be valued.How refreshing for Jae Tracie to take a stand to expose those lies and talk about integrity, purity, and self-respect. That's courage and deserves to be recognized. If anyone has that link, I'd be happy to post it.

Regardless, these three people are unafraid to dream of a better world, one where girls and women are not treated as sex objects. One where real love exists. Harriet Tubman once said: 
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience,and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world"
What's your dream? In business is there a way you can help change the climate to create a culture that promotes the value of people and genuine love? In government, is there a way you can set a standard that's higher and better for individuals? Using media, is there a way you can expose the lies and offer truth that improves lives?  What will you do to take a stand?

*The friend who posted the link on FB said it had been removed because it was inappropriate, but knowing the name of Jae Tracie, he found the link. When I went to check it, I had to click on it to proceed because it might have inappropriate content. Interesting that not one other twerking video had that same type of red flag. Truth--some people may not think it's appropriate.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saved by a Spoon

A few days ago, my favorite theologian, Theology Mom Krista Bontrager, sent me a link to an article about teen girls hiding spoons in their underwear hoping to be stopped by airport security in London. They wanted to be rescued before being forced into marriage in their South Asian ancestral homelands.

Knowing I've been involved with human trafficking issues, Krista wondered if this story is true. She's a stickler for "Truth" and I'm grateful that she's taught me how to think better, not just buy into everything I read or hear.

My take on this situation stems from common sense, not hard facts. The natural outworking of  worldviews other than Christianity is the treatment of women as possessions. Naturalism is survival of the fittest. Anyone who is stronger and tougher can force those who are weaker and more vulnerable to do what they want. In other religious ideologies, the value of baby girls is still so low that they are slaughtered in countries like China and India; only boys matter. When those baby boys grow up, they still want a wife. So using logic it only makes sense that the  tremendous shortage of female brides makes it inevitable that girls will be sold into forced marriages either by their parents or human traffickers. The more disdain for life as created by God, the more pain and suffering we experience.

That's why "Ideology" is one of the global challenges being addressed by Transform World and Transform LA. A biblical worldview is not optional for true Christians. If we genuinely believe in Jesus, we are to follow Him--the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is the Light of men.

Each Christian has their own area of responsibilities and giftedness, but all of us are called to think--to make sure we're offering "truth" instead of lies. We must show how we value each life no matter how different a person may be from us, by holding fast to sound doctrine and knowing it well enough to promote what's good, pure, healthy, and just.

As "Theology Mom," Krista challenges many Christians to think better. And, thinking better leads to behaving better. She's a person who's good to know when it comes to developing a biblical worldview and putting it into practice. If each Christian does their part, perhaps we put an could end the trafficking of young girls. What do you think?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Their only savior

A pimp. A child's only savior? Are you kidding me?

That's how a recent San Francisco Chronicle article describes the way young girls fall into the clutches of pimps:

"These pimps groom these children by gaining their trust, making them believe that their pimp can provide them a better life," Irizarry said. "Once these pimps feel they can manipulate and control these victims, they put them to work as prostitutes. These children believe pimps are their only savior and the only ones who can offer them a better life" (emphasis mine).

Counterfeit salvation? It's the work of the evil one. Lies from the very pit of hell designed to enslave children in a nightmare of selling their bodies, rape, torture, and quite often an early grave.

For genuine salvation; Christians know the answer. Of course, it's Jesus. The same God who created the universe, died on the cross that we might be set free from the schemes of the evil one.

When God talked to Job (chapter 38), He asked some questions that might be worth asking today when it comes to these human trafficking victims and the idea of pimps being their savior.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand. . . .
who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?
Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?" 
( emphasis mine.)

God made this Earth to sustain life--even more so it could thrive with joy. Our Creator loved us so much that He gave us a gorgeous planet and the intelligence to even soar above it into the bright blue yonder. With such intelligence wouldn't it make sense for His people to come up with a plan to eradicate modern-day slavery and protect the innocent from the clutches of the wicked?

Genesis 11:6 says: The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." (emphasis mine). If we speak the same language--hmm, imagine that. . . .

Because the the Tower of Babel was a prideful endeavor, God thwarted man's purpose. But in his book, Fast Living: How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty, Dr. Scott C. Todd describes: "our power to imagine, to aspire, to plan, to influence others, to love others, to work collectively, to take action, to build, to create, to harness the wind, to extract the chemical energies of earth, to shape the future--all on loan from God."

I can't help but believe that with a good purpose, the Creator would pour out His power in and through His people if they rose up in unity to abolish human trafficking. Doesn't it make sense that if the Creator gave us access to so much power that the living body of Christ ought to figure out ways to target at-risk kids and show them the real Savior? Are we not far more powerful than those already doing that with the counterfeit? What if every church developed a plan to gain the trust of the most vulnerable children desperately in need of love and embraced them in such ways that they couldn't help but see their real Savior?

Opal Singleton of Million Kids can help churches learn what to do. So can Rob & Colleen Myers of Plur Life Ministries. If we all work at abolishing modern-day slavery with one voice, nothing would be impossible. Especially not considering the power on loan from the Creator, not to mention the resurrection power of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. We'd love to see your thoughts and to have you join the discussion.

[photo courtesy of  Katie Martinez, c. 2013]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

From Apathetic to Empathetic

I wish every American Christian could have been at the event about slavery and human trafficking that I went to last week. Believe it or not, several parallels between North Korea and the United States became clear.

No doubt the torture and abuse of individuals in North Korea is unthinkable. We watched a short film that portrays conditions that may be worse than when Hitler terrorized Europe. The multitudes of people involved in this travesty is mind-boggling. At the same time each person is an individual, a person that God knew before he or she was born.

So is each trafficking victim in Montclair, California. There may not be the same staggering numbers, but there are individuals being tortured in equally horrific ways. I'd imagine rape feels the same in North Korea as it does in Montclair. The San Bernardino County's documentary on human trafficking described other abuses disgusting enough to make sleep at night difficult. In addition, I've heard accounts of the horrors related to labor-trafficking victims in Riverside County that equal the torment inflicted in N. Korea. In all these places, there is a similar disregard for human life and dignity. 

We don't want to think about such atrocities happening in our own neighborhoods, but they do.

Another common theme is that until ideology changes, the problems will continue. That's where every single Christian can make a difference. Contrary to a culture that supports the killing of defenseless individuals in the womb, each and every human life has intrinsic value and deserves respect--whatever their stage of development or address. Each person made in God's image also deserves others reflecting God's image to stand up for them.

Matthew 10:41-42 says: 

"Whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.

The only thing that makes us righteous is God's grace and mercy. Christ's blood is what covers our sins past, present, and future. If our goal is to go and make disciples, any one of these little ones may be or become one. That's not for us to judge. To be on the safe side, we need to treat each individual in need as though they could be Jesus.

He gave us a story in Matthew 25:34-36 that may drive home the eternal significance of this message.

"The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We will be judged one day. Did we turn a blind eye to one who Christ holds dear? Or did we do something--even offer a cup of cold water--some hint of kindness that displays value for human beings in the midst of their suffering.

That's what takes a society from being apathetic to empathetic. Stepping into the suffering of another and doing something about it. If enough people take up that challenge, it just might eliminate trafficking in North Korea and here.

The thought can be overwhelming for sure. But it needn't be. In The Message, Matthew 10:42 says: "This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice."

We don't have to take on a country or even an entire city. If enough of us help one person in one neighborhood, Christians can make a difference.That cup of cold water might be offered in the form of a prayer for a victim and his/her family. It might mean being a sounding board for an at-risk teen or giving a single mom some help with her job skills. Or maybe a church could adopt someone aging out of foster care. The best way to help a trafficking victim--is to do something before they become enslaved. 

Proverbs shows how the choice to get involved doesn't only impact someone in a far off country or in my own neighborhood. It also impacts each Christian who makes it, now and in the future (see also Matthew 25:41-45).

Proverbs 21:13, 14. Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard. 

Proverbs 21:15. It is a joy for the just to do justice.

The choice is our's to make.

An easy choice would be to share this blog on FB or Twitter. The Body of Christ working together can make the biggest difference of all. Also, please share your stories with us. They may give someone else a great idea and take that individual from apathetic to empathetic.