Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter and Modern-Day Slaves

Photo by Brad Shipcott
Have you wondered why this blog is called "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?" It's because of Easter.

The reality of Easter--a God who loved us enough to live, die, and rise again makes every day beautiful--no matter where a person lives or what her (or his) circumstances. Because Christ lives forevermore and helps us love our neighbors, hope rises like the sun.

That's what Transform LA is all about. Addressing the challenges of poverty, orphans, relationships, ideology, and human rights in every neighborhood--in every sphere of society. Whether you're a nurse, a Hollywood producer, a school teacher, an engineer, an entrepreneur, a writer, musician, construction worker--whatever your profession or calling--there's work to do that can transform our culture so human trafficking becomes unthinkable.. And, we're not big enough or smart enough to figure out how to do it all by ourselves. Only through the power of a risen Savior transforming each believer to be more like Jesus can we ever hope to abolish modern-day slavery. To think we can accomplish this by simply rescuing victims is like trying to put a band-aid on a growing cancer. We need the power of a God who raises the dead to new life.

In her guest blog for Ed Stetser, Carol Pipes, editor of Facts and Trends magazine, captured the essence of this message better than I possibly could, so I'll simply point you there. See "Love your Neighbor" and have a glorious Easter worshiping the one true living God.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Survival Sex, an Inconvenient Truth

Thursday mornings, I go to a step class. The aerobic exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins that make me feel good, but I come out of that class drenched in sweat. The first place I head when I get home is into the shower.

This morning if I'd gone about my normal routine, I'd have been in trouble, trouble that would have impacted much of my day. I'd have come home, jumped in the shower, and turned on the tap.--only to find, no water. And, there wouldn't be any until late this afternoon.

However, by discovering the truth about the water being turned off, I altered my choices in ways that solved the problem. Wednesday night, thankfully, a friend came over and handed me the flyer posted on my front door. The city was turning off the water at 8:00 a.m. and might not put it back on until 4:00 p.m. It was inconvenient, but because I knew what to expect, I made the necessary adjustments.

What's this have to do with human trafficking? Plenty, because it illustrates how we behave as we believe. Sometimes what we believe causes problems that can bring long-lasting and far-reaching consequences. A single mom I know had three young daughters. She'd grown up poor and believed a certain man offered her and her children financial security. Instead, the man threw their world into complete chaos. He had a violent temper. Even worse, he was a child molester. Though that was many decades ago, the depth of the trauma still impacts those involved.

In today's culture, too many young single moms didn't get a notice on their front door about casual sex. A lack of awareness makes them ripe for the lies of human traffickers. Without an education, these women are far too easily convinced that survival sex offers a way to make easy money to provide for their kids. In other words, they think it will keep the water flowing. Yet the truth is that survival sex shuts down lives as these women become trapped in modern-day slavery where most of their hard-earned money goes to their "boyfriends," and their children frequently wind up in foster care.

Beliefs can transform a life for the good, too. I was a poor single mom once and decided I was tired of hurting myself by trying to do things my way. So I exchanged what easily could have become a promiscuous lifestyle for the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

The truth caused living water to flow in and through my life making it better. I started learning and growing and becoming the person God intended. He orchestrated jobs that gave me a good income and eventually led to me working at home. The Bible taught me the skills I needed to find peace, comfort, joy, and security--whether I was single or married. It taught me that the One I needed above all else was Jesus Christ. Even so getting married for a second time made a tremendous financial difference.

The reality
Most poor children in the U.S. live in single parent homes. It's true that marriage is a key factor in preventing child poverty. Yet a poor marriage that doesn't function on biblical principles can be even worse than no marriage at all. I suppose that may be why Scripture permits divorce despite the damage it causes. Sometimes one person is violent or worse. It takes a healthy relationship between a man and a woman, the marriage covenant designed by our Creator, to provide children with the stability they need. In my second marriage I learned the value of faithfulness, consistency, gentleness, kindness, perseverance, unconditional love, and trust.

That's why biblical marriage is so important. Even though World Vision retracted their support of a government decision that undermines the authority of Scripture, the problems their original press release created will last for a long time. Blogger Rachel Held Evans demonstrates this reality in a heart-breaking way as she lashes out at evangelicals with various allegations. Unfortunately when believers try to oversimplify problems, they can get it wrong. Evangelicals aren't on trial when it comes to the millions they give to help poor children. And they have every reason to want to make sure their hard-earned money goes to organizations that support the systemic factors that contribute to a child's well-being. Healthy marriages and family dynamics will reduce poverty among children in the United States and elsewhere. And that's a very convenient truth for Christians to agree on.