I must, as my dear friend did last week, share that this blog is not going to be a happy, feel good story. I feel terrible that this comes at you two weeks in a row, but I trust God completely as He directs my steps. Please read this blog to the end, sometimes we can get overwhelmed and want to turn away when we feel helpless. God never convicts us without leaving us with hope. I pray that this will shine a light into darkness and empower each of us to act in the power and freedom that we have as a body who has Christ in us. If you turn a flashlight on during the day, you cannot see its light. You must be in darkness for the light to shine and be effective. Please step into the darkness of slavery with me so that, as a body, we can shine a light that will bring redemption.
Did you know...?
There are 27 million slaves today worldwide. 50% of those are children, 80% are women.
Worldwide slavery is a $32,000,000,000.00 (that's billion) industry.
Over a million children are sold into slavery each year. That is 2,880 children around the world each day who are losing their innocence and hope. Broken down, that is one every thirty seconds. And...
17,500 people are trafficked in the United States annually.
This is an issue that is happening in our own back yard. For those of us who know of the atrocities of human trafficking, we usually don't realize that it hits so close to home. Have you ever driven in the area of Suger Creek and I85? Sex trafficking is right under our nose. We tend to stand back in judgement, hide our children's eyes. Or...look the other way. These girls and women are victims, just as much as the two-year old is in Ghana who is sold into the fishing industry by his parent. A twelve or fifteen-year old girl doesn't choose to sell her body, she is usually running away from an abusive situation when an offer of help comes in the way of sex for money.
Northside Baptist Church is divinely placed in a location that has made a heart for this particular trafficking a natural ministry. They are new to this, and trying to figure out how to help, but research has verified that help is not easy to give. There is a bondage or stronghold that is difficult to break through. A common scenario is this; young men will court (for lack of a better word) a young lady, even becoming close to her family. When he feels that she is secure in his 'true love' for her, he sets her up to make some money, if she loves him this is no big deal. She is working toward their future. If she is unwilling, there is often a gang-rape to break her spirit, then forced with a pimp. Often there is drug addiction to bring submission. Being "sold" to a bigger community is common. Please pray for Northside as they seek direction in how to best serve effectively in this area. They have a heart for these young victims and have several ideas ready to launch and many more that they are praying over for clarity in the logistics and details.
My goal is not to shock you. This is hard. We have Christ in us, so we can do hard. As one, we can accomplish good things, but as a body we can do great things. We can bring hope to the hopeless.
So what can we do?
1. First of all we can pray. We really do not realize the power we have in our freedom and privilege to meet our LORD before His throne. My son is in the Air Force so I'm kind of hung up on acronyms these days! Very helpful to understand clearly the duty ahead. I have one for prayer :)
P- petition. Go to God. Tell Him what has been laid on your heart. Trust His power and wisdom, His compassion for the orphans. Listen as He guides your heart and directs your steps. Maybe He will show you how to physically do something, maybe prayer is your only duty. (1 John 5:14,15)
R- reverence. Know who God is, in spending time in awe and worship, we are more able to rest in His power and faithfulness. Like I said, we can do hard because we know who God is. (Hebrews 12:28)
A- advocate. Imitate Christ, who advocates for us to The Father. Be the person who pleads with The One who is worthy of hearing your voice for the oppressed. (1 John2:1)
Y- yearn. For these children to be rescued. To know redemption, to know the freedom we have in Christ. For the day that all is made right. No more weeping, no hurt or pain; every tear is wiped away. (Revelation 21:4)
2. Educate yourself on the issue of child slavery. There is a lot of information out there. Most of the statistics I included came from enditmovement.com. That will lead you to many other sources.
3. Get involved. StoneBridge already is active in ending human trafficking through their support of severals ministries.
GHANA ROCK is a grass roots organization that puts on a benefit concert each year to raise funds and awareness to end child slavery in the fishing industry in Ghana, Africa. This is a very exciting effort in that it was started by a high school student who heard of the atrocities on Lake Volta and refused to do nothing. She put together a group of her high school friends and planned a concert because of Acts 16, knowing the power of worship and trusting God to break chains in Africa as a Body in Charlotte raised high the name of Jesus. She was right! To date Ghana Rock has raised around $100,000 and has participated in the rescue and care of 26 children from hopelessness to empowerment! Ghana Rock continues to be run by high school students who are planning a concert for May 17, 2013. You can attend or donate, or volunteer at the concert. I know personally that these kids covet your prayers!!! Please visit ghanarock.org to learn more.
MARIE VANDEVREDE is a StoneBridge member who spoke at church this week. She is going to Bulgaria in February to help in the efforts there to end the sex trafficking that is stealing the innocence of thousands of young girls. She is a 20 year old young woman who wants to live big for God. As she sought Him, He directed her steps. I know that she would covet your prayers, this is quite an assignment for this young American. She will grow in powerful ways as she empties herself to be filled by Her Maker as He uses her in building His Kingdom both in Bulgaria and here. The ministry is Daughters of Bulgaria through MTW. For more information on ways to help please visit www.mtwbg.com.
BRIDGE TO INDIA is a school in India that StoneBridge supports. It may seem strange for me to include a school in India on a blog about human trafficking, however, hear my logic on this one! When we support education for children in impoverished countries, we are being pro-active in stopping child slavery. The children at the StoneBridge school are being offered an opportunity to rise above their once hopeless situation as they learn of the saving love of Jesus. While this is not an advertised benefit of this ministry, many of these children fit the statistics of the children whose hopeless parents sell them for as little as $20. Please visit stonebridgecharlotte.com for more information.
A great way to help any of the above organizations would be to throw a dessert party using Neets Sweets as the provider of the desserts. Neets Sweets is an organization in Charlotte that provides aid to survivors of sex trafficking in practical ways. Please go to neetssweets.com for more information. I happen to know for certain that any of the Ghana Rock team or board members would be willing to attend a dessert party to answer questions on child slavery in Ghana!
There was a justice conference in Charlotte last week. One of the sessions talked about what a wife and mother in Charlotte could do to make a difference. There are seasons in our lives, but please know that you can always do something. I have covered some of them here and I will see how I can continue to put ideas and information out for all. Please contact me if you would like a more detailed list of ideas of how you can help.
I promised that I would leave you with encouragement if you would persevere to the end! My husband and I volunteer each year at Passion Conference in Atlanta, GA. It is a four day conference for young adults 18-25, most of which are college students. They challenge the kids to live big for God, to not settle into the American Christianity that can leave God small as we force Him into a box that suits our lifestyle. This year there were more than 60,000 students there. I can't share accurately what an inspiring and moving thing it was to be in a dome with 60,000 brothers and sisters wide open in their worship of the One Living God!
Anyway, one night we heard the story of Rachel. She was from another country, we have been asked to keep details vague in an effort to protect her. Rachel was from an abusive home and for her entire childhood she was told that she was a worthless nothing. She was often beat by her father, and was sexually abused by her uncle. When she was 12 she ran away from home. Of course, it wasn't long before she realized that the best (in her mind only) way to survive was to sell herself. She was of the belief that this was all that she was worth and that she deserved the pain and emptiness she felt. Soon Rachel was "owned" by a pimp who then sold her to a larger group in another city. She was working daily, often as many as three "jobs" each day. One day she was thrown into a van amidst much chaos, she was certain that this police van would take her to jail. When she exited the van, she found herself in a rescue house! She was cleaned, fed, and shown the love of Jesus through the love and care of His body! For the first time in her life Rachel knew that she was a treasure, that she was washed white as snow, and forgiven! Rachel was there that night in Atlanta. Her beautiful smile on that tiny 14 year old body filled the dome. The applause, shouts, and hallelujahs from the worshippers shook the place and was joyfully received in heaven (I'm certain!)!!! It reminded me of scripture.
That is why we should care. We are told that as we love Jesus, we are to love as He does. We cannot do nothing when children are suffering in such horrific ways. We can persevere in the strength of Christ Jesus to do big things. Please be challenged but also be hope filled. This is God's battle, it is already won. We just get the wonderful privilege of participating and the blessing of celebrating the victories along the way!
Blessings and much love,