Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Human Trafficking: Political Concerns

If Donald Trump actually captures the Republican presidential nomination, I will likely change my political party affiliation to Independent. The answer to the reasons why should be obvious--Trump's great disrespect for any one who dares disagree with him, his derogatory remarks about women, his complete lack of diplomacy skills, and his arrogance. I can't imagine the Republican party putting up with his nonsense much longer.

From my perspective, I believe this tycoon/gamer would even admit he'll do whatever it takes to win. His core values are disturbing, especially when it comes to the greedy cultural climate so conducive human trafficking. It takes a courageous leader with great insight and compassion to fight the foundational issues of modern-day slavery, whether at our country's borders or in our poorest neighborhoods.

The recent Planned Parenthood videos (along with their determination to abort human babies no matter how viable they are) demonstrate how far we've fallen as a society, a society that encourages throw-away girls and boys to be sold like commodities rather than put forth the efforts necessary to stop it. (Consider how many people read 50 Shades of Grey or saw the movie if you want to argue that point. There's no denying we've actually turned disgusting bondage sex into entertainment.)

More than ever we need a presidential candidate who can be trusted to genuinely value human life from conception to the grave. Trump said today he'd continue funding the "good" parts of Planned Parenthood . (Are there really any good parts? Through Obamacare don't all women have access to healthcare? And if I understand right, Planned Parenthood doesn't even perform mammograms.) Planned Parenthood kills viable babies (with no regard for the pain they feel) and then sells their body parts--this is not just fetal issue--human kidneys, livers, and so forth. What does that say about us as a people?  

Consider for a moment the implications of this disgusting violation of the most innocent victims. First and foremost how can girls, who are being trafficked at 10, 11, 12+ years of age be considered valuable, when a baby girl can be killed in a late-term abortion upon the whim of her mother? In addition, how can a little boy be considered precious when his body parts could have been sold prior to birth? Worst of all, if body parts can be trafficked by Planned Parenthood, then why shouldn't a poor person traffick those of their own children in this culture of greed? See where this logically leads? In all cases, it's the poor minorities who suffer the most. And, I don't believe that's something Donald Trump has any clue about.

That's why this election must be about core values, integrity, and ethics. Those values actually unite people in ways that will fight modern-day slavery because the rights of every human being should be respected regardless of their stage of life or status. Respect for every human being unites those of all ages, faiths, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups instead of dividing them. And that's what will create a climate where modern-day slavery becomes unthinkable.

How do I know? Because yesterday I met a treasured friend for lunch. Kristi and I see things through different perspectives. She's much younger, biracial, and tends toward being a liberal. I'm older, white, and tend to be more conservative. We met at a justice conference a couple of years ago where she likely cheered the speakers, and I was far more skeptical. Exercising caution we began exploring each others viewpoints. With respect for one another's ideas, we've explored such issues as poverty, the Iran nuclear deal, racial tension and so forth in ways that work toward solutions.

The current political leaders in both parties have worked toward dividing this country far more than uniting it. They are so busy castigating each other that nothing gets done. First and foremost, to fight trafficking we need to work together centered on an approach that values people--all people. That's one of the main things I'll look for in a presidential candidate. Who shows respect for others? Donald Trump's language is derogatory and divisive. So is Hilary Clinton's. To me, neither of them have the ability to change the social climate where human trafficking thrives. What do you think? Who will best keep your children and grandchildren safe? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Human Trafficking: Opening Up the Heavens of God's Faithfulness

Light of the World 2, Aaron Booth, c. Treasure State Photography
Yesterday, I had an all too familiar FB interaction with a young adult who said she hadn't been in church for years. Though she wants a relationship with Christ, she was dubious about actually going to church. Many individuals, of all ages are similarly disillusioned.

I thought about giving up church a few years ago, but only long enough to consider the reasons why. They weren't good enough. My problems stemmed from humanity's sinfulness. Though I may not like the behavior of some "Christians," that's no reason to disconnect from a body of believers who gathers together for worship, learning, accountability, communion, fellowship--and service.

Hebrews 10:21-25 reminds us all that:
since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a ]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
How others live out their faith isn't my business. It's God I live to please, and He wants me to be part of His Church. (Besides aren't those who truly love Jesus, the ones who should be taking the lead in church?) On Saturday morning, July 25th, that's what happened as CARE 18's Faith Initiative Against Trafficking brought many Christian leaders from different churches and nonprofits together at Purpose Church in Pomona.

Human trafficking and its underlying justice issues--poverty, orphans, the right to life and dignity, ideology, and broken relationships--became a catalyst that united different ethnicities, ages, socioeconomic groups, and denominations. Together we discussed solutions and formed partnerships that can break the chains of horrendous evil. And, in the process we free ourselves from a purposeless existence and self-absorbed lives as we attempt to bring about justice in an unjust world.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) has elevated man's wretchedness to new heights--blatant disregard for God and others has turned sex into lust for a commodity rather than the intimate relationship designed by God between a man and a woman. Greed--that's worth repeating-- GREED has turned precious young lives into disposable money-making machines that service one client after another, sometimes dozens in one night.

This past week I learned that pimps make up to $35,000 a week. The International Labor Organization reports that trafficking is a $150 billion criminal enterprise--more than the gross national product of some countries. The demand for children continues growing for those who are younger and younger. Recently I watched a big burly black police officer choke up as he described the youngest victim they'd rescued as being only 10 years old.

It's about the children, so many are at risk. A couple of days ago, an L.A. Times article, "No Room at the Inn for Innocence," by Joe Mozingo provided a snapshot of the conditions that make these kids eager to exchange the bondage of poverty and loneliness for the lies of a human trafficker. Yet Christ's love lives in His people and that love can break through slavery's bondage as believers get involved with the work of nonprofits like Royal Family Kids and iEmpathize. Organizations like these offer hope and escape from exploitation.

The Church was set apart in the heavenlies for God's good purposes. When those living in the light of Christ work together, the bondage of slavery can be broken. Every ONE Free, the host for the FIAT event encourages believers to "do one thing." What one thing will you do? What one thing can your church do?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Church Can Help Let Freedom Ring for Modern-Day Slaves

Sometimes our hearts yearn for a place where everyone can agree or at least be respectful in our differences.

And there is such a place in today's world--the place most every one really wants to celebrate freedom-- common ground where almost everyone can agree. Despite all the outrage being expressed on social media, there's still one thing almost every person regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation can agree upon and that's the importance of finding solutions to protect our kids--all kids, even those who are LGBT--from modern-day slavery. (Did you know that they are trafficked, too, and by some accounts are considered at especially high risk?)

No individual or group can fight this battle alone. It's a place where the Body of Christ can lead the way by coming together in unity to protect those most vulnerable, young people desperately looking for love. Where better to find it than among Christ-followers? And, that's what makes coalitions like CADE (Christians Actively Demolishing Exploitation) and FIAT (CARE 18's Faith Initiative Against Trafficking) so critically important. Both of these collaborative efforts in Southern California are made up of Christians determined to live lives of significance by loving their neighbors as Jesus loved us--beyond our differences, while dead in our sins. We got to know Him because He first loved us just the way we were.

When we consider young girls or boys being held in bondage: tortured, raped, and believing a trafficker's lies that they are worthless and no one cares--how can we not do something, even if it's just ONE thing? Yet too many churches don't make the time to edudcate their congregations about what's happening in their own community. Some believe they already have too much going on. It's precisely where there's lots happening that college-aged kids, youth volunteers, parents, and family ministries need to be aware of how they can help while doing what they do anyway. What they don't realize is that all it takes is a little education to bring awareness of trafficking into existing programs. (Did you know that health care workers encounter victims and so do teachers? But they know how to identify victims and what to do if they suspect someone being held in bondage, they can't help.) Doesn't the Church have a responsibility to do all they can to help those who can't help themselves. It's right here in the midst of this battle where we can most show respect for each other, hear each other, and learn from one another. By doing that the Church just might become known more for their love than for what they're against.

On July 25th there's a conversation taking place at Purpose Church in Pomona (formerly Pomona First Baptist). It will be an easy opportunity for believers to get up to speed on what's happening in our own neighborhoods. Every one is welcome at this quarterly meeting of the Faith Initiative Against Trafficking, a part of CARE 18. Every ONE Free (formerly Traffick Free Pomona) is even offering a free breakfast along with an HT101 training at 9:00 a.m. for those who need to learn the basics. For those already familiar with modern-day slavery, there will be a continental breakfast and time to network until 10:00 a.m. when three speakers will address how God's already at work in this fight. Then there will be workshops--one of the most exciting will be a focused conversation for men to discuss how men can come together to take a stand, decrease demand, and make a major difference.

Please, if you live in greater Los Angeles, regardless of which county, take time to increase your awareness and participate in fighting something we can all agree on--it's evil. You can register here

Though the official start time is 10:00 a.m., please come at 9:00 and join us for breakfast and either HT 101 or networking.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Human Trafficking: Calling all Men

I like men. Most women do. From our earliest memories, we crave our dad's attention, approval, and love. 

I don't doubt that my dad loved me, and I adored him. Still he was gone a lot. When I was in junior high, my parents divorced and time with my dad became all the more rare. Our infrequent visits were almost always shared with my four sisters and lots of other people.

For almost as long as I can remember, I dreamed of finding a man who really loved me, a man who could rescue me. I didn't know from what, but I craved the kind of attention Elvis Presley gave his girls in the movies. Then when I got in jr. high--real live boys. All the better if my parents didn't approve. At the time I wasn't too thrilled with the choices they made, so I determined to make different ones. All I wanted was a guy who would take care of me.  That's exactly what today's pimps are looking for.

When I think of the risky decisions I made in terms of today's world, it makes me shudder. One night my friends actually let me get in a car and drive off with several boys. I was under the mistaken impression that my friends knew those guys, but they didn't. Though it was a bit unnerving when I realized I was in a car full of strangers, back then it was all good fun and they treated me with respect. Because that's what boys did back then, for the most part.

That cultural norm also kept me safe when as a senior in high school I took my first drink. I gathered my closest guy friends because there was no doubt in my mind that any of them would take advantage of me and if anybody did get out of line someone else would set him straight. 

Not so, today. Songs from super stars like Usher make many girls think the only way to be appreciated by men is to use their bodies; if they don't there's something wrong with them. Young men, boys really, have Usher and Snoop Dog for role models. Football stars who beat their women and basketball stars accused of rape.

The only way the environment so conducive to human trafficking can change is for real men to stand in the gap and say "no more. This is no way to treat a lady."

And, that's what happening in Los Angeles County, thanks to CARE 18--an 18-month collaborative to fight human trafficking, because some men determined they were going to say "Enough. This has to stop." 

Hopefully this stand will spread across America. That's what will save girls at risk--girls who are being groomed by men who will exploit them and girls already in "the life" of prostitution--men with the courage to stand up and show boys how to treat girls with the respect they deserve. 

Please men, join this effort and help it spread. If you're not in this area, start something right where you are. So many young girls are counting on you--girls who need men to come to their rescue.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"The Justice Conference, Liberalism, Politics, Shane Claiborne and Bombs" Raises Questions

A video, "The Justice Conference, Liberalism, Politics, Shane Claiborne, and Bombs," recently posted on Ken Wytsma's blog  addresses concerns that he might be liberal--or that the Justice Conference promotes a liberal political agenda. Evidently analytics for his blog suggest that people are searching his name along with the word "liberal" and he wanted to clarify his position on the importance of "balance" when it comes to justice.

Because reviews of books and films are public--and Wytsma's video is public--it seems appropriate to make my comments equally available. At the same time TLA welcomes differing perspectives and would be happy to post them as long as they are respectful in tone. This is simply my perspective. In large measure my desire to open up this conversation is because I tend to agree with Wytsma that:
when you ask a political question, which is really a question about how as a community we're supposed to live, which is really a wisdom question, which is ultimately a justice question--the greater the conversation, the greater the good thinking, the greater the maturity, the greater the wisdom and ultimately, therefore, the greater the justice (4:00)
Approached the right way, conflicting views can educate Christians into a much broader perspective, and I appreciate Wytsma's desire to promote that. People who care about justice need to learn from one another. And for me, the video raises some important questions. I'm wondering:

1. why does Wytsma, who claims to be a conservative, use language that's almost certain to evoke negative feelings when talking about his Republican friends? For example, he claims they think "it's a good thing to have a big military," "where we can dictate terms" "Moral Majority . . . pro big defense spending . . . "Christian Political Action." "anti-abortion," "police everything," keep security." I'm especially curious why a conservative as savvy as Wytsma would use the term "anti-abortion," if he is indeed "pro-life" and wants to generate open discussion. Is his use of the term so he won't offend liberals? Then, what about the offense to those who support their views with Scriptures that show how God creates life in the womb?

2. could Wytsma's Republican friends be such poor communicators or are they so hard-hearted that they never express their deep concerns for the children being shot (or beheaded) by Isis or the women being raped and sold to Muslims as sex slaves, not to mention all the Yazidis being displaced from their homes by terrorists? Should terrorists be permitted free access so they can commit their atrocities on an unprecedented scale. Those are my conservative friends deepest concerns, and I pray that voice will one day be valued in the "conversation" at the Justice Conference.

3. why, if Wytsma is indeed a conservative does he switch to such positive emotive language when he talks about the views of his Democrat friends. Are they really the only ones concerned about:
leftover bombs in Cambodia, cluster bombs that you can't control, little flags flying off them so that little kids think they're toys, accidentally. Or land mines that when the conflict is over say for generations and the only people that really bear the brunt of it, ultimately in the long run are civilians.
It must have been heart-wrenchng for him to have:
been in Cambodia where you've got a whole group of guys poor as can be, playing makeshift instruments and begging because they've got missing limbs from land mines from back in the late seventies, unexploded mines and cluster bombs and you look at that and you go that guy is in the most destitute of positions.because as a child playing in the field a bomb detonated and took his life, literally. . . .  and the only difference between that kid and me is I live somewhere where bombs don't drop and land minds aren't put in the ground. So it's real easy for me to define bombs in terms of protecting my security because I never have to live with the other side of bombs.
That type of poverty breaks conservative hearts as much as those that pump liberal blood. I know it does because I have lived with the other side of war and wrestled with these complex issues. My younger sister could hear the bombs where she lived in Laos during the war. My dad went Missing in Action and eventually died in Viet Nam, Cambodia, or Laos--or maybe even Red China, we're still not sure. I was only 20 when war took my father. My nephew has lost many friends in Afghanistan and Iraq while trying to help those less fortunate. There's no doubt Wytsma and I can agree; war is hell.

All that begs the question:

4. why should this "discussion" be framed in terms of politics--conservative or liberal agendas? Why not frame the discussion for how a community is supposed to live in terms of Scripture? At the Evangelical Press Association convention in April, Dr. Vernard Gant used that framework on the topic of racial reconciliation. He'd make an excellent speaker for a justice conference based on biblical values. This African-American director of Urban School Services with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). talked about how the Bible brings unity. He reminded us that in John 17 unity was a key component of Christ's prayer for His body--the Church. If we want a balanced biblical view, wouldn't it be more conducive to start by bringing in speakers who value unity and promote it rather than those who generate emotional reactions that polarize people and marginalize those who don't agree?

5. If as Wytsma claims that the Justice Conference has an "incredibly balanced line up of speakers," I'd like to know who are the conservatives, and why is the liberal bias of some speakers so very clear and the conservative bias during the past two conferences has not been evident? Wytsma mentions Shane Claiborne as being liberal but neglects to mention that another keynote speaker, Dr. Cornel West, is also a well-known progressive liberal. Maybe Wytsma also neglected to mention the conservative speakers. If so, I'd sure like to know who they are. And, are they as likely to cause liberal Christians to walk out the door because of disagreement or an unwillingness to hear a differing viewpoint? Why not present some of the problems with liberal agendas--problems like forced abortions (human traffickers, governments, minorities) and the heartbreak, shame, and guilt they produce? Or the overwhelming majority of baby girls whose lives are not valued, and the problems of young men now needing wives in places like China? Traffickers are more than happy to supply the demand generated by such practices. Hopefully that issue will be addressed this year. I'd love to know if it is.

6. If this truly is a conversation presenting different views, why not clarify those views and allow time for a Q & A? Audiences can be quite perceptive and should be encouraged to think deeply as Wytsma recommends. Why is there no opportunity to challenge in a respectful way, some of the ideas being presented? It seems to me after attending the past two years, that the worldviews are not presented in a way that promotes dialogue but rather as ideological "truths" unsupported by Scripture.

These questions are challenging because, like Wytsma, I want the Justice Conference to promote dialogue and understanding. Differing views should be considered and discussed and people challenged to live according to their faith. I appreciate the way the Justice Conference has made me think much deeper about the problems and solutions related to systemic injustice. 

At the EPA convention, Dr. Gant recommended a scriptural context to heal the political divide--to use biblical wisdom to show communities how to live. To promote reconciliation, he referred to 1 Corinthians 1:11-13, where Paul wrote:
For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Christians are not to walk as conservatives or liberals--as "mere men"--we are to follow Jesus. A biblical justice conference must line up with Scripture and when it does, justice proponents will find agreement that leads to increasing unity. Yes, we may differ over interpretations but we'll value one another more than our opinions. Believers in Christ are to seek truth and love one another. By setting our minds on Christ we can discover and walk into the answers we're looking for, together.

If you want to add to the conversation, please leave a comment. Even if we disagree, we'll value your input.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fighting Human Trafficking is Not My Passion

When I die, I do not want anyone to say, "Oh she had such a passion for fighting human trafficking. She had such a passion for justice." That may be an admirable goal, but it's simply not mine. 

Rather I want people to say: "Oh, she had such a heart for Jesus--for people to know him and become more like him." My life's compass has been developed through a growing intimacy with my Savior. To know him better, I study and apply Scripture and try to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit instead of carrying out the desires of my flesh (see Galatians 5:16). 

One of the greatest compliments I've ever received was from a Christian leader in the justice movement. At a recent conference he asked: "You just go where the wind blows, don't you?"

I doubt he had any idea that my greatest material treasure is a Lladro figurine called "The Windblown Girl." When I was in my twenties, she symbolized the person I wanted to become. At the time, self-destructive choices blew my life around like a tumbleweed, and I longed for stability. Though gale force winds assail this young woman, she doesn't waver. Rather fragile flowers magnify her strength. The book she holds behind her back empowers her to stand firm on her convictions.

For me to live such a life necessitated a complete overhaul--one made possible by the God, whose Son left all the pleasures of heaven, coming to Earth to take my punishment on the cross. Instead of my sins leading to death, Christ's resurrection gave me the ability to live a new and better life.

That's what motivates me. Christ followers need to heed Paul's admonition in Romans 12:1-2:
to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul's letter goes on to say that just as our body has many members with different functions so does the body of Christ. That "since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly."

As I gave up seeking pleasure on my own terms and began to put God's ways ahead of my selfish desires, a set of gifts began emerging that started helping me do the right thing, even when it costs time and money. Those are a small sacrifice when it comes to pleasing the Guardian and Shepherd of my soul.

Loving Jesus has left me no choice but to get involved when I see injustice. Especially when it comes to young girls like I once was, girls who desperately need rescuing. It's impossible to shut my eyes and turn my back on evil, after God in his great mercy delivered me from it. 

That's why I do what I do. Because I love Jesus and it's clear in Scripture that we need to demonstrate compassion and love others as ourselves. To fight human trafficking, all I needed was to know how my gifts could make a difference. And, as opportunities arise to participate. It's simply a matter of being me and being involved. For some that means working with victims. Others work with technology, web design, mentoring or after-school programs. Health care workers identify victims and point them toward appropriate services. Law enforcement rescues girls and boys from pimps.

CARE 18 is an 18-month collaborative effort in Los Angeles County made up of people who work according to their areas of expertise. The people who started it are businessmen. They are currently exploring sites for a multi-service center, promoting an effort for men to take a stand against trafficking, working on legislation, and drawing the body of Christ together to function properly, learn from one another, and expand our reach. That's the good news. That's how God's people glorify him, so why wouldn't I want to be involved?

Maybe as a follower of Christ, you do too. And CARE 18 is a great place to start. On June 6th, there's going to be a free training where you can learn about the problems and find out how to make a difference just by being you. It's an effort filled with grace--as God's grace was extended to us, we extend his love, mercy, and compassion to others. There's nothing better than that.

We CARE Catalyst Training

Saturday, June 6, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Orthopaedic Institute for Children
403 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles
FREE training (lunch included) to equip you to be a champion 
against sex trafficking of youth  
Space is limited to the first 100 participants 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two Words that Could End Human Trafficking

Sometimes I hear Christian justice leaders boldly proclaim that "we're going to end human trafficking," and I wonder how realistic that perspective is. Imagine--no slavery. No girls or boys being prostituted. No men or women enslaved in labor trafficking. No Islamic extremists kidnapping girls and selling them to each other. No pimps. No johns. No gangs. No greed. No disregard for human life. Millions of people set free. Hmm, what could possibly bring about such a dramatic change to today's culture?

The Bible contains two words with the power to end that kind of evil: "God created." He created the world we live in. Each human life was created and deserves dignity and respect. Marriage was created and the covenant between a man and a woman was set forth with vows that were meant to be honored. Families were created as safe places where a spiritual inheritance was intended to be valued above all else.

Love, trust, faithfulness, security, and intimacy were infused into God's creation from the very beginning. Right behaviors have always mattered in discouraging bad ones. And that's certainly true in the fight against modern-day slavery, although I rarely hear Christian justice leaders talk among themselves about the righteousness that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet throughout Scripture those who honor God's creation and respect His authority are rewarded and kept safe. Those who ignore His Word suffer vile consequences--consequences that deeply impact innocent victims. Isn't that what we're seeing at work in our world today? Isn't the turning away from God at the heart of the modern-day slavery explosion? And, among the victims are society's most vulnerable--our children.

The Author of creation deliberately designed boundaries that would uphold His handiwork. At the same time, He gave us the authority to make decisions. He didn't make us slaves. Rather He gave us the freedom to obey Him or not. And it's disturbing that more often than not, Christians engaged in the battle for justice aren't talking about this rebellion as the root of the problems with injustice.

This past few weeks I've wrestled with the idea that some of the Christian leaders who claim we will end human trafficking also condone one of the most significant underlying causes--abortion. When the very right to life is disregarded, why shouldn't traffickers sell human bodies for profit? Doesn't injustice start with the value for life? My initial reaction to Christian universities and churches giving a platform to known abortion supporters such as Dr. Cornel West was, "How could they, especially without identifying the concerns?" I agree that Christians need to respectfully discuss different interpretations of Scripture. That's how we learn and grow. However, when biblical concerns are set aside "to make nice,"--well, according to Romans 1:18-23, that's how an unjust society forms. The kind of society that defends the right to  take the lives of innocent babies. The kind of society that deceives people into thinking porn is okay. The kind of society that increases demand for younger and younger girls that traffickers are all too happy to supply.

For Christian proponents of abortion--justice thought leaders--I want to ask: Does life only have value when it's wanted by the mother? So what happens when a mother doesn't want her baby or her 10-year-old daughter or 15-year old son become inconvenient? Is it any wonder that they become throw-away kids ripe for traffickers to pick?

Searching God's Word for something, anything I may have missed--I see absolutely nothing to support the position that a person can deliberately destroy a life because it's unwanted. Rather Genesis 1:27 sets up the value for human life from the beginning:
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Other verses like Psalm 139:13 and 14 reveal the value of every individual life from the moment of conception in a way that sets up the foundation for true biblical justice.
For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
According to Scripture God oversees each life as it's being formed, and that's enough. For Christians to argue about its worth or justify a different view doesn't seem to be an option. Isn't a person's value what these same Christian leaders explain to trafficking victims telling them how precious their lives are? How they matter to God and are made in His image? If they could be disposed of months or moments before birth, how then did they suddenly become valuable after leaving the womb? And how can that perspective possibly fit with the "biblical justice" movement? It doesn't.

Christians need to rise to a higher calling--one that transforms our own personal lives as well as the communities we live in.

Job understood equal value of all people as coming from the Lord and mentions it even in the context of slavery. In Job 31:13-15, he said:
If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves When they filed a complaint against me, . . . Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb?
Isaiah 44:24 affirms this view:
 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the Lord, am the maker of all things,
Jeremiah 1:5 makes clear that God's plans for individual lives are established before we are even born.
 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Have we (Christians) become so arrogant as to think that because a life made in the image of God is inconvenient, we can destroy it? Despite the Apostle Paul being a murderer and a Pharisee, he understood that the Lord's hand had been at work from the time he was in his mother's womb. In Galatians 1:15 he says:
But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb . . .
The sanctity of life has everything to do with ending modern-day slavery. When even Christians fighting human trafficking have bought into the cultural lies of a one-sided message that a human being made in the image of God can be destroyed; it shows a lack of regard for God's Word and His authority over His creation. And justice disintegrates into consequences like human trafficking. Without His power and righteousness, we're perpetuating the very thing we claim to be fighting.

It's Christianity that gives every child value, which as historian O.M. Bakke points out in When Children Became People, was not the case in ancient Greece and Rome. Back then children were considered "nonpersons." And if professors like Peter Singer have their way, that may be the case once again--especially when "Christian justice professors" promote Singer's right to teach his views on infanticide to young minds trying to find their way in the world. (Hmm, does this mean we should also teach these same young minds how to destroy themselves by becoming Islamic jihadists who steal women and sell them for sex?)

Scripture gives Christ followers a reality check that those fighting human trafficking need to heed if we want to experience His power in the fight against evil. No matter how young a pre-born baby is, that child still matters to God. No matter how disabled an infant child might be or who he or she is born to, that life matters from the time it was conceived and should be treated with dignity and respect--yes, even in the case of rape. (Would any Christian tell a child of rape that he or she is worthless because of the way she or he was conceived?)

South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-Rak humbly shows everyone Jesus as he cares for the most disabled infants, much as Mother Theresa inspired us all in the way she cared for the poor. And therein lies the message the world needs to fight modern-day slavery. That every life is of infinite value because each person was created in the image of God.

Free will mixed with the depravity of man and his rejection of God's image stamped onto every human life has given Satan a fertile playground for the evil of modern-day slavery. Extreme greed. Self-indulgence. Sexual impurity. Playing outside the boundaries God set to protect life. These choices destroy people and make them capable of great evil--the kind of evil that enslaves victims and tortures them. These are the issues true biblical justice is made of. The question is, when and how can the body of Christ work together to address them?

And, on that front there is some good news. That will be the topic of my next post.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cleaning Up Baltimore, Portland, New York, or LA

A friend of mine, who lives near Baltimore, posted on Facebook yesterday that news stations are not reporting on the coming together of people in the city of Baltimore to help clean it up.

Another friend posted a link to ten images you're not likely to see on television.  And, most powerful of all, a video of hundreds of faith leaders, led by a man in a wheelchair, risking their lives to bring a sense of calm and collaboration in the midst of the chaos.

This dramatic scenario reminded me of my recent interview with Kevin Palau (president of the Luis Palau Association, LPA). I also read Kevin's soon-to-be released book Unlikely: What Happens When We Set Aside Our Differences to Live Out the Gospel. The details of what happened in Portland, Oregon when churches got beyond the barriers of denomination, age, gender, race--and became the Church serving the city--were more than intriguing; they were inspiring. The movement began when a team from LPA went to the gay mayor and asked: "How can we serve the city?" The result has brought about tremendous change, not only in the city but in the perception of Christians. By pouring out their love on the school system, foster care system, in gang-infested neighborhoods, with the homeless, in health and wellness and human trafficking, they've become known for their servant hearts. Instead of being critical and judgmental, these Christ-followers learned to love their neighbors.

The Body of Christ faces the challenges of poverty, orphans, human rights, ideology, and broken relationships on a global scale--along with the challenges of evangelism and the celebration of who God is and LPA is addressing those, too, at its NY City Fest. Currently the LPA's City Serve and City Fest efforts are focused in the New York Metropolitan area. and after two years, they are already making a noticeable difference.

People have begun noticing a different in Los Angeles, too. And, surprisingly it was reported in yesterday's local newspaper, The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. While reporting on why LA is not experiencing riots like Baltimore, reporter Sarah Favot said that:
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell stood Monday evening with county and faith leaders and called for continued peace while warning against similar outbreaks here.
"Los Angeles is calm for a reason," McDonnell said at a news conference outside the Hall of Justice downtown. . . . "The L.A. Sheriff's Department has worked side by side with our police partners, faith leaders and the community as a whole to ensure that we know the pulse of  the community [emphasis mine]."
This collaborative effort involving Christian leaders in the community has been building in L.A. over time. A couple of months ago, I attended Together LA at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. (That's where Stevie Wonder and Denzel Washington worship.) Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians Christian leaders came together to find out more about getting past our differences and working toward the betterment of our communities. Like the LPA's effort in Portland or the current effort in Baltimore, L.A. government leaders have recognized that Christians offer a message of hope and light in the midst of injustice. Part of that recognition may have come about because of the powerful effort of Christians serving their communities by fighting human trafficking in a multitude of ways--after-school programs, working with foster care kids, supporting survivors, assisting the poor and on and on.

CARE 18's been leading this collaborative effort in L.A., and this past weekend, I spoke on a panel about how churches can join the fight against modern-day slavery. Christians from various walks of life came together at that event to learn best practices from each other. When we stop judging each other and start loving one another to work together in unity, so much more can be accomplished. Then we become known--not for what we're against--but for our love. And, the good news is that everyone can and should participate.

That gives us something worth celebrating--God's love is the source of our joy. For me this was the best part of the Together LA conference. Worshiping and praising our great God in unity was a little taste of heaven. That's the good news and there's nothing better than sharing it--both by our actions and by presenting the Gospel.If you're not already involved in your community--try it, you'll like it. If you are, I'd love to know about your efforts. Please click on "No Comments" to post a comment telling us what you're doing.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Justice: Picking Up Our Cross

Speaking of today's massacre of at least 147 Christians at Garissa University in Kenya, the student union vice president Collins Wetangula said: "If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot," he said. "With each blast of the gun, I thought I was going to die."

So how did the gunmen know which students were Christ's followers? In some way they must have stood out from the Muslims. Evidently they were easily identifiable. Perhaps the more courageous said: "I am a Christian" even knowing they'd be shot on the spot.

I can't help but wonder what America's Christians would do. Hopefully they, too, would be easily recognizable. I hope I'd be brave. Scripture tells Christ's followers to expect persecution like what we saw today in Kenya. There will be people who hate us because of our beliefs.

 In Matthew 7:13 Jesus challenges us to:
enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
Not everyone in the world believes in the Bible. To be a Christ follower means understanding the concept of sin and being humble enough to ask Jesus to save us, even from ourselves. That's why he came. That's why he died. And best of all, that's why he rose again and ascended into heaven. Now, he's our mediator, our high priest, the King of all kings. He came and died to usher those who believe in his atonement for their sins into his kingdom. God's justice required that sacrifice. His mercy and grace gave it for those willing to accept it. Yet today, as in the time of Christ, God's kingdom still looks different from what many people might expect.

Sometimes I wonder if the "justice" movement has forgotten what John 8:36 so clearly states:
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place [emphasis mine].
I wonder--do those fighting human trafficking think we can usher in God's kingdom the way people did during the time of Christ? That the Messiah will ride in and take his earthly throne, eliminating all of society's problems, bringing together people of all religions and uniting them in peace.

Unfortunately that's what often gets communicated by justice leaders and yet that doesn't jive with what we see in the Easter story. Sadly what we can expect is hatred that lashes out and kills like it did those Kenyan students. Without the personal transformation that Christ alone offers through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can expect sin to disregard human life and rights while cultivating the greed and arrogance that triumph over the weak and vulnerable.

In the midst of this reality, communication by some (perhaps many) Christians can still come across so hateful and condemning that some (perhaps many) believers don't even want to call themselves by that name.

I got challenged on this a few days ago by someone I greatly admire. When I started speaking about the "ideology" behind abortion and how that relates to human trafficking, I was challenged with questions that brought me up short: Why was I lumped in with those willing to "cast the first stones," though I'm all too aware that I am a sinner desperately in need of mercy and grace? How could I have been perceived as less than empathetic to those who have suffered, when I, too, have suffered some of life's deepest wounds?

These questions grieved my heart and made me think. Though I certainly hadn't intended it to, my comment about abortion must have sounded calloused because my colleague was thinking about the pressures on the women who have them. However, at that moment I was talking about ideas--ideas that have oppressed many women and held them in bondage to shame and guilt for many years. (See my article, p. 7, about Marcela Garcia and the effects of this ideology on Hispanic women.)

The reality of our disconnect makes me sad. Frequently Christians don't communicate well, even with one another. That makes identifying Christ's true followers extremely difficult. Rather than engage each other in fruitful dialogue, far too often we make assumptions. Or, maybe worse, we start off, as I did, in the wrong place or with gaps in thinking that easily lead people to jump to conclusions. With quick assessments, we open fire without giving each other a chance.

Maybe the cross we in the West most need to pick up is to believe the best about one another. To listen, ask questions, and learn more than we know. Thankfully my relationship with my colleague continues and hopefully we're both inclined to do that. To find God's justice (and he alone is just), maybe we need to spend more time at the foot of the cross in unity confessing our own short-comings. Then when we consider the resurrection (which those young Kenyan believers who died today are now experiencing), we'll get a glimpse of God's kingdom as it really is.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fighting Human Trafficking With Only A Few Minutes of Your Time

At the "Ensure Justice" conference, attendees were encouraged to commit to taking 10 minutes, 10 hours, or 10 days worth of time to fight human trafficking.

So much is happening for me this next few weeks that time for writing blog posts is going to be almost impossible to find. But it's worth taking 10 minutes today to highlight a couple of important resources.

The first is an article about celebrities recognizing and speaking out about the problems with porn. 5 Celebrities that Hate Porn on "Fight the New Drug" speaks volume. Especially if you liked 50 Shades of Grey and consider it harmless in the privacy of your own home--please read this excellent post.

The second is about a powerful abolitionist resource. If you've wanted to learn more about human trafficking but are short on time, podcasts can turn drive time into a valuable time of educating yourself. It's taken me awhile to start listening to The "Ending Human Trafficking"  podcast from the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University, and I'm sorry I didn't start much sooner. They are a treasure trove of information that is helping me realize how much I didn't know. Whether you've been an abolitionist for years or are just starting to learn about the problems, this free subscription can help you get informed and take a stand against human trafficking.

Maybe your 10 minutes could include reading the article, subscribing to the podcasts, and sharing this post with your friends so they'll be more informed. Even if that takes a little more than 10 minutes--it might rescue a victim and wouldn't that be worth it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Human Trafficking: The Silver Lining

Can you imagine trying to eat tacos without a mouth? Or do the hula without hips? Or sing opera without a throat? Sometimes that's how the Body of Christ tries to function because so many of us are too busy looking for feel-good experiences to get involved with the fight against evil. So the few who care enough about this battle to do something are left without crucial skill sets.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired . . . and the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,'  . . . on the contrary, it is much truer that the members of  the body which seem to be weaker are necessary (1 Cor. 12:17-22).
Every believer in every sphere of society is necessary to fight an evil as pervasive as human trafficking. Whatever skill set a person is equipped with (administrative, technological, artistic, mechanical, educational, hospitable etc.) can be employed for abolitionist efforts. And that doesn't necessary mean taking on additional responsibilities.

An Escalating Problem
Trafficking is on the increase throughout the world. The U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report in May 2014 stating that slavery and forced labor business generates $150 billion in profits a year, and $99 billion of that comes from sexual exploitation. That number is staggering.

At this rate, many of us are likely to either know or at least see someone ensnared in this travesty. What if your daughter was tricked into being a sex slave by a new boyfriend? Or went to a party with a new girlfriend and was gang raped, then sold as a commodity? What if your son responded to a job advertisement posted on a telephone pole, then disappeared enslaved to work 12-to-16 hours a day, seven days a week for little or no pay? Not one person should have to experience such trauma, yet many parents, youth pastors/pastors, and educators turn a blind eye to these problems and don't even know how to educate those most at risk.

Still, several events this past two months fuel my hope that the Body of Christ is rising up in Southern California to address the issues involved. In February, Slavery No More co-hosted a global forum that included a faith-based breakout session facilitated by the leaders of C.A.R.E. 18. This 18-month collaborative followed up with a meeting at L.A.'s Dream Center.

Coming Together
The Christian business people leading C.A.R.E. 18 are engaging people from all spheres of society to fight human trafficking throughout Los Angeles County. To date they've raised almost $1 million for this effort that involves Communication, Advocacy for victims, Recovery services, and Engagement. This group includes graphic designers, videographers, law enforcement, government officials, health-care workers, faith-based groups working with survivors, nonprofits, anyone who wants to abolish human trafficking.

On April 25th at 10:00 a.m. C.A.R.E. 18 is calling upon every church in L.A. County to participate in FIAT--a faith initiative to abolish trafficking. An appropriate name, fiat means "let it be done." This meeting will equip and connect existing ministries, as well as provide mentoring and support for those looking to get involved.

Though C.A.R.E. 18 started last August, it is an outworking of the ideas promoted by the "Together LA" conference held at West Angeles Church a little over a week ago. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Whites from different denominations came together to learn and partner with each other. This event was a little taste of heaven in terms of unity as the Body of Christ came together to work on issues such as the homelessness and poverty that contribute to human trafficking.

A few day's ago Vanguard's Global Center for Women and Justice hosted the "Ensure Justice" conference. Dr. Sandra Morgan and her team promoted collaboration and coordination to build capacity in a way that will conserve resources and expand expertise. Believers from a variety of churches, nonprofits, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, and other organizations as well as interested individuals and students were equipped in ways that will make a sustainable difference. (Future posts will include some specific details from this event and from Together LA.)

Though the events differed in their focus on the issues, one message remained constant: every believer is necessary in the battle against human trafficking. No one should be cut out of this picture. Too many children need help. Learning how to identify trafficking victims and where to report suspected activity is a good first step. Sharing in casual conversations what you learn with others is a good second step. And seeking God about how He'd use your area of expertise is a right thing to do. Suppose you are gifted at hospitality, maybe you (or your church) could host the showing of a film or bring in a speaker to raise awareness. If you know a single mom, you might offer to fix her car or help her with her yard. That kindness, without any expectation of help in return, may be all she needs to keep her from turning to survival sex under the tutelage of a trafficker who cunningly offers the same type of help and the potential to make "easy" money. Efforts like these shine a light in the darkness and turns it into a tremendous opportunity to reach out into your neighborhood and community to build relationships. Ultimately that's the way to win this battle--by being personally transformed in ways that transform our communities.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Isis and Human Trafficking

In the past couple of weeks I've attended three different human trafficking events. Besides the Slavery No More Global Forum on Human Trafficking, there was the Human Trafficking 101 meeting put on by Traffick Free Pomona. The other meeting was put on by C.A.R.E. 18, a collaborative effort to fight human trafficking in Los Angeles County.

This intense focus on human trafficking started me thinking about how different modern-day slavery is from the slave trade of yester-year when Blacks were torn away from their families and homeland and brought to the U.S. to work for wealthy plantation owners No doubt the inhumane treatment back then was every bit as bad as the inhumane treatment today. It was egregious and horrible and so very wrong. The main contributing factor to both of these travesties was/is greed. Still many indicators suggest that the ideology of today's problem is far more complex, therefore making human trafficking far more difficult to abolish.

Entertainment, How Can We Call It That?
During the Entertainment, Media, & the Arts Panel at the 2015 Global Forum, thought leaders discussed the desensitization of our culture. Lyrics from Usher's "Baby I Don't Mind" communicate a powerful message about what guys like him expect from their girls. Sounds more like a trafficker to me than one of the best-selling artists in American music history. And sweet Miley Cyrus of Disney fame now claims to promote feminism, but really what she's promoting is bondage to a cultural image of raunch that sets girls up for a more serious form of enslavement.

Perhaps even worse are the video games where traffickers meet gamers in chat rooms and groom them to become profitable chattel in the not-so-far-off future. Glamorizing prostitution and violence indoctrinates boys and girls alike into ideology that denigrates their worth as human beings and destroys their ability to be intimate. Rather fantasy takes precedence as it did in the movie "50 Shades of Grey." This sex industry sells fantasy--where a person becomes what another person wants them to be. And, if that's sick and degrading--so be it. The viewers I listened to on the radio clamored for more despite the psychological damage such films do. In the process intimacy--where one person wants to know the real you--is lost. And so is genuine romance.

So What's This Got to Do with Isis?
There's nothing fantasy-driven about radical Islam and how it takes the idea of human trafficking to new lows. Where the ideology exhibited by the entertainment industry is insidious, the exploitation of women and girls by Isis is overt, oppressive, and violent in the extreme. And it is self-sustaining--a source of income that along with oil smuggling exceeds $3 million a day. That's money being put toward the destruction of freedom for every breathing human being who disagrees with their ideology.

So in this war, more innocent children are continually being put at risk--children who probably never even watched Usher or Miley Cyrus. Brutally taken from their families young girls are being sold as so-called "brides" to the highest bidder--sometimes that may only be $10.00. It's reported that more than 39,000 children around the globe are forced into marriage every day. If Isis has its way, that number is sure to escalate. And, I wonder--do we care or have we become so desensitized by our entertainment that it no longer matters? Would we rather be entertained than get involved?

Where are those who unlike Miley Cyrus are true feminists--those who care about girls and women being treated with dignity and respect? Where are those who care about the ideological battles that rage? Whose side are you on? Shouldn't we all be on the side of today's children who face such an uncertain future? And if so, how can we not do something to give them a future filled with hope?

Groups like Traffick Free Pomona and C.A.R.E. 18 involve people from every walk of life: businessmen, attorneys, educators, nonprofits, law enforcement, filmmakers, musicians, and the list goes on and on. It's going to take everyone to protect the girls and boys at risk. They're all watching the entertainment and if Isis keeps moving forward with the speed it's been moving; radical Islam may also become more of a factor than we ever imagined. If there's not a group in your area, then one needs to be started and many are available to help with that effort.

Complacency is not an option. In the length of time it takes to watch a movie, your group might just do something that saves a child.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Human Trafficking, Rescuing Victims

Awareness. Prayer. 68 victims rescued. Nearly 600 pimps and would-be sex buyers arrested. Sometimes the news isn't all bad. Sometimes it brings hope.

And, that's the case today. ABC7 News in Denver reported on a nationwide sex sting where 570 arrests were made over a two-week period starting on January 15th and ending on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Los Angeles Times also reported on this 17-state collaborative effort to rescue girls forced into prostitution. The article said that: “Sex trafficking continues to destroy countless lives, and this broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that their 'hobby' is much more than a 'victimless' crime,”

The language has changed, and now maybe the tide will too. At one of  Traffick Free Pomona's 
first human trafficking "awareness nights," the police detectives still spoke of the girls being trafficked as though they were criminals. Now the police and the media have it right. The girls are "victims." The johns are "perpetrators" and their activity will be prosecuted. It goes without saying that those pimps who get convicted will go to jail or more likely prison for a very long time.

And you can make a difference. Police spokesman Sonny Jackson told the Denver Post when speaking about the arrests made in their area that:"we consider it a quality-of-life issue. ... It is usually complaint-driven, where people are complaining about activity in their neighborhood."

Do you know what's happening in your neighborhood? Or how to recognize a human trafficking victim? They are all around us and being informed is one way to make a difference.

If you've never been to a human trafficking event and live in the Inland Empire, please join Traffick Free Pomona this Thursday, Feb. 5th at 7:00 p.m. We're meeting at PFB Purpose Church, Room H104, 586 N. Main Street, Pomona, CA. Learn what is human trafficking? Where it's happening. And, how you can help abolish slavery.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Super Bowl and Human Trafficking

This past couple of weeks, people have sent me emails expressing concerns about the escalation of modern-day slavery during the Super Bowl. They've sent links to articles saying the Super Bowl is the largest trafficking event in the U.S. and links to other articles saying that this whole idea is an urban legend

I don't know what the right answer is about the Super Bowl. It makes sense to me that at an event as large as America's greatest football game--with thousands of people coming from out of town--traffickers might exploit the occasion. It also makes sense that if there is a huge escalation and law enforcement is aware of it, that we might see a corresponding escalation in the rate of arrests. Or perhaps the crime is too hidden and the demands on law enforcement too great to make much difference.
 Regardless I do know an important reality--that we live in a culture where many factors contribute to modern-day sex slavery, and we're all part of it, like it or not. Our behavior makes a difference. Ads like Carl's Jr au naturale cater to the hypersexualization of our society. (And, no I'm not going to link to it; suffice it to say that the ad was raunchy enough to be pulled from the Super Bowl line up by the Parents Television Council who deemed it "too hot" for television). When we buy their hamburgers, we support their advertising. Pornographic novels and movies like "Fifty Shades of Grey" are even worse because we make them bestsellers and box office hits. Many in our society have become so desensitized that we cater to our prurient interests despite a complete disregard for how these forms of entertainment degrade women and make young girls prone to becoming sex objects--ripe for traffickers to groom them into modern-day sex slaves. Only by boycotting such books and films and getting others to do the same will those who make them, stop.

There's no doubt in my mind that it's going to take a culture shift to change things. Groups like C.A.R.E. 18 have begun collaborating on how to eradicate sex trafficking and they are calling on people to step it up and get involved. As co-sponsors of the Global Human Trafficking Forum Saturday February 7th, C.A.R.E. employs a collaborative approach drawing together people from many different spheres of society to work together to eradicate trafficking. Maybe the more people become aware and get involved, the more ads like Carl's Jr's will become unacceptable and movies like "Fifty Shades of Grey" will be completely unthinkable. When people take these matters seriously and start boycotting those who pander to the degradation of women--maybe then things will change and modern-day slavery will become less lucrative for the thugs who promote it.

Until then, one of the most effective things we can do is pray to the God who can change peoples hearts and minds. Prayer Surge Now offers an opportunity to do that tomorrow morning especially focusing on the potential trafficking at the Super Bowl. Even if one girl is rescued as a result, wouldn't it be worth getting up early and spending a little time silently agreeing with the prayer leaders that human trafficking must be stopped?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Life Matters

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
Martin Luther King

For some of us this holiday (Martin Luther King Day) is a lazy day. We can sleep in, spend time catching up at home or visiting with friends. For others it's work as usual. 

For me, it's a work day and yet my work this past couple of weeks has been related to someone who has spent his life doing for others. He's a Korean pastor who takes care of "the least of these." While writing an article about his story, I was given the great privilege of attending a special screening of the film, The Dropbox. It's a documentary to be released nationwide on March 3-5 only. And, it's about the value of every life.

Not many of us could do what Pastor Lee Jong-rak in Seoul, South Korea does. He cares for "the least of these," disabled, disfigured babies abandoned by their mothers. But all of us can spend time doing something. 

January is not only National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, it also is the month designated to celebrate the sanctity of human life. In 1984, Ronald Reagan proclaimed the 3rd Sunday in January as National Sanctity of Life Sunday and some churches still honor that. As Christians we should all be aware of it and ask ourselves what do we do to promote the sanctity of human life. 

Pastor Lee's work demonstrates the value of each life in such ways that young girls at risk can see they are not throw-away kids, even if they might feel that way. If someone cares, if someone values broken lives, someone somewhere might value them. 

So Martin Luther King's question is for us all. What are we doing for others? People who can do nothing in return for us. Isn't that what Jesus did and aren't we supposed to reflect Him to a hurting world? Maybe today is the day to think about it and put together an action plan.

If you haven't ever attended a human trafficking-awareness event, you might find out what's happening in your area this month. For those in the Inland Empire, Traffick Free Pomona is showing "In Plain Sight" this Friday, January 23. Please join us for ideas about how you can make a difference in the lives of others.

Note: My article about Pastor Lee will appear in the spring issue of Life:Beautiful magazine available at Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, What You Should Know

Did you know that modern-day slavery may have increased as much as 30 percent in the past 7 years? With no reliable measuring stick, due to the dark nature of human trafficking, the statistic cited by most abolitionists for several years was that 27 million people were currently enslaved around the globe. Yet recently some nonprofits have revised that figure. According to Slavery No More the estimate has skyrocketed in the past 7 years to as many as 35 million. (Some abolitionists now use 30 million; others are more conservative. Regardless of the exact number--a horrendous problem appears to be escalating.) And, how can it not?

Did you know that to abolish human slavery necessitates doing far more than rescuing victims of commercial sexual exploitation or labor trafficking? Conditions are ripe for traffickers to blindside male and female victims who need jobs to work their way out of poverty. Young girls desperate for family relationships are also at high risk. Instant gratification, poverty, orphans/foster care, a hypersexualized culture, the lack of self-respect and human dignity predicated on the lack of value for life itself--all create a societal climate conducive to multiplying the demand. No matter how many are rescued until the underlying problems are effectively addressed, abolitionist efforts may be a bit like putting a band-aid on a spreading cancer. While each individual set free is of inestimable worth, the underlying causes for this disease must be eliminated before it can be cured.

Did you know that every sphere of society can make a tremendous difference in abolishing slavery. Government officials that prosecute those who perpetrate abuse on victims make it more difficult. Producers, directors, and actors refusing to hypersexualize onscreen roles make a difference. Educators teaching the importance of self-respect and the traps traffickers use to ensnare victims protect those at risk. Medical professionals, hotel and restaurant owners, business execs, and domestic service agents can all make a difference if they are willing to learn about the problems.

Did you know trafficking thrives in our communities; that So California is a global hub for human trafficking? Trafficking from Mexico up the I15 corridor to Ontario's truck stop and out to Las Vegas as well as through the ports of Los Angeles and LAX, place many trafficking victims and perpetrators among us. And if you live in Kentucky or Ohio or Nebraska; they live among you as well. A girl from a seemingly "safe" state, showed up on my best friend's porch--trafficked to So CA by someone she met on the Internet. No place in the U.S. is immune.

Did you know that some young women are recruited from electronic music festivals or even from wealthy neighborhoods? It may be our own daughters/sisters/nieces or sons/brothers/nephews involved. Yes, boys are trafficked as well as girls and that, too, may be on the rise.

Did you know that traffickers have value despite the criminal enterprise they are engaged in? On January 1, 1773, John Newton preached a New Year's message from 1 Chronicles 17:16-17 in his church at Olney, England. . . . He told his church to look back at God's goodness, look around at God's promises, and look forward to future usefulness." Afterward he introduced a poem he'd written that became one of the most beloved hymns ever, "Amazing Grace." Newton was once a human trafficker--until his life was transformed by Jesus Christ. If all of today's traffickers became Christians, who love and obey the Lord, modern-day slavery would cease. So it makes sense that one of the greatest solutions for eliminating human trafficking is evangelism--valuing those who do not know how to value themselves and helping them grow in a personal relationship with their Savior.

Did you know it's important to "look back at God's goodness" to you, and recognize how precious your freedom is, then look around at God's promises and look forward to future usefulness" in the prevention of modern-day slavery? To abolish modern-day slavery, there are as many needs and opportunities as there are individuals willing to get involved. And it's not difficult.

Following is a short-list of events for January/February that are a great way to start doing your part. (Please feel free to add others in the comments.) All you need to do is choose one (or more) and participate. You can even get involved with the first and second ones from the comfort of your own home, however attending an event and meeting others who care about ending modern-day slavery can increase your awareness and motivation. By standing shoulder-to-shoulder, we can start reducing the number of lives devastated by this travesty. Perhaps someone you love will be one of the potential victims saved.

Saturday 1/10, 4th Annual National Prayer Summit Intercessory-Abolition Movement for the Ending of Human Trafficking.  6-8 a.m. PST. Numerous speakers will inform participants about what's happening and guide them in prayer during this conference call. All you need to do is dial the phone number and input the access code at the link above--then mute your phone and pray silently with the abolitionist leaders.

Saturday 1/10  Pray for Freedom 3-5 p.m. PST. Only God has the answers and power necessary to eliminate modern-day slavery--to do beyond what we can think or imagine. Coming together as the Body of Christ to pray with believers across the nation for God's supernatural guidance, wisdom, intervention, provision, and power is why the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST) partnered with the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University to host this live prayer event. If you can't attend in person, you can check for a simulcast in your area.

Sunday 1/11 LA Freedom Walk  1:30-3:30 PST. Raise awareness and learn how to identify victims and who to call in a crisis. Meet others engaged in this battle.

Saturday 1/23 Screening of In Plain Sight, 7:00 p.m. PST. This documentary on trafficking in the U.S. features what's happening in six different cities in the U.S. A local survivor of sex trafficking will also be speaking. Put on by Traffick Free Pomona, the evening will offer hope and inspiration and ways to get involved. Purpose Church, Claremont, CA

Saturday 2/7 The 2015 Global Human Trafficking Conference in Beverly Hills presents the opportunity to learn from expert abolitionists about what's being done to fight modern-day slavery and how you can help. ("The South Asian Girl Next Door" offers a glimpse of the 2012 conference and the type of input expected from the 2015 event.)

Participating in an event this month is the right thing to do, however if you aren't so inclined, another way you could help fight human trafficking is to donate to a group battling this travesty. You might check out nonprofits like CADE, PLUR Life Ministries and Traffick Free Pomona . Each of these groups rely on donors to support their work. Or if you aren't in Southern California, start searching for nonprofits to assist abolitionist efforts in your own area. The responsibility of our own freedom makes this the least we can do.