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.