Posts Categorized: Human Trafficking

FIGHT makes a difference in the Fight!

Posted by & filed under Human Trafficking.

Thank you for the awesome FIGHT Conference. Bridge Network benefited from attending and networking. We made lasting friendships, new collaborative partners, and overcame some personal fears as a team on the rope obstacle course! Just two weeks ago a wonderful couple that we met at the conference donated 5 computers. This was a direct result of calling on the hearts of individuals reaching out to help their fellow man…or child. Thank you!

Rosario Dowling, Bridge Network

FIGHT Conference Second Year — a Success!

Posted by & filed under General, Human Trafficking.

Fight Update Blog Graphic

Last week the second FIGHT Conference was held at Mount Hermon. 140 advocates, faculty, exhibitors, vendors and even some survivors were in attendance. Over 20 different anti-trafficking organizations and churches from California and states as far away as Massachusetts and Oklahoma were represented.

One of the highlights of the conference took place Saturday evening when we moved the general session to Victory Circle. The evening was even cool enough for us to have a campfire! Most of the attendees to the FIGHT Conference had never been to Mount Hermon before and we felt it only fitting to share this Mount Hermon tradition with them. They were inspired, not only by Eugene’s closing message but by the beauty and peace of the unique setting.

Continued from Email…

On Sunday we spent time in collective prayer, visiting stations set about the commons and following a prayer guide that canvased many important needs related to trafficking world-wide. Then we ended our time by celebrating communion and committing to one another that we will work together in the fight.

A resource center included about 12 organizations and vendors who offered information, services or merchandise for participants. This is an important part of the conference as it educates everyone about sources for needed help.

We were also pleased that many participants took advantage of recreational opportunities offered such as the Redwood Canopy Tour and sea-kayaking on the Monterey Bay. Many said that they had not been in the forest or in fresh air for a long time, and though they did not come expecting this to be something they would enjoy, they found that it ministered to their souls in ways that were life-giving and unexpected.

This year’s FIGHT Conference went beyond our expectations. We were able to provide that place of peace, set apart for these people to come away, get refreshed, meet others involved in the struggle and learn better ways to FIGHT this terrible battle.

Plans are already underway to offer this conference again in 2015. We’ll be moving the date to the fall (October 23-25) to better coordinate with other area anti-trafficking events. We’re humbled to have been used by God in this unique way to reach a group of people who desperately need what Mount Hermon has to offer; a place set apart to retreat and become refreshed and encouraged.

We’re thankful for the blessing of resources, expertise and manpower that we could contribute to this effort. We have been blessed to be a blessing to His Kingdom.

What others are saying about FIGHT:

Fight Update Blog Graphic 2

Thank you so much for the opportunity to teach our training program on Human Trafficking and Pornography at the FIGHT Conference. I was actually able to connect with a few of the survivors who were in attendance. I’ve been praying about a mentoring program and now because of what God did at this conference, I am connected to Fresno, Modesto, San Diego and the East Bay with girls and advocates who are able to send us more girls! I’m so thankful to the staff at Mount Hermon who have been so kind and cared so much about this issue. God bless you!

Jill Ranes, Out of Egypt

 

Thanks to the Mount Hermon team for all the amazing work each of you put in to host such an incredible weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We have returned home refreshed and inspired in many ways. We look forward to the planning process of FIGHT 2015!                                                                 

Betty Ann Boeving, Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition

 

 “Thank you for all of the hard work and energies in putting together this conference! There couldn’t have been a more peaceful place and I know that we have all been refreshed. Thank you for including Made For Them and the desire to bring a holistic conference.”

Andrea Shabaglian, Made For Them

 

“Thank you so much for including International Justice Mission in your FIGHT Conference. It was an honor and joy to be a part of it. The grounds set up the weekend for adventure and reflection and was a welcome change of scenery for us all. I know you poured so much into this weekend and hope the team at Mount Hermon has a sense of all our gratefulness and God’s delight.” 

Jocelyn White, International

What an amazing thing God will be doing with the connections and conversations that happened this weekend!   

Brian Wo, Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition

FOCUS! The key to the FIGHT

Posted by & filed under Human Trafficking.

(Today’s guest blogger is Erika Felix from Reality Church in Carpinteria, CA)

“Church, we are not called to be spectators of a broken world, but agents of the Gospel’s renewal in it.”—Reality Church, Renew Class Theme

The truth behind God’s heart for the vulnerable, broken, and oppressed was shared with our church body regularly through the Missio Christi  (Mission of Christ) sermon series taught by pastor Britt Merrick in 2009. This sermon series launched a class to further equip the church body to be hands and feet of Jesus in a hurting world, called Renew, which focused on addressing the crisis of human trafficking and poverty in our world. We heard from a variety of Christian organizations on the front lines serving, including International Justice Mission (IJM).

When the Renew class ended, several of us wanted to take what we learned to serve or own community, and the broader world. We were not sure how to do this. We started meeting, praying, and sharing ideas. The ideas were very diverse, and we were being hampered by a lack of clear direction. I had started following the work of IJM and learned of their Advocacy Day and Training, and went to Washington, DC in 2011.  That changed everything.

During that training, we learned about the power of advocacy, and visited our Congressional Representatives to advocate for the Reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA). The IJM leaders had clear things that our Renew group could do, such as the 100 postcard challenge, calling our local rep-resentatives on the 27th of every month (in honor of the then estimated 27 million slaves worldwide) and in-district meetings with our Congressional representative. This changed the course of our Renew ministry. Here was something tangible to do, costing nothing but our time, and something that could have profound affects on fighting slavery worldwide.

I came home from DC energized with direction and purpose. People really resonated with engaging in prayer and advocacy, and more joined our Renew meetings.  I developed friendships with people that I had never met before. For example, one friend I first met the day we visited Rep. Lois Capps office for an in-district meeting on the TVPRA. Last year, I went to this friend’s wedding!

Spurred on by the advocacy focus, we held our first Nehemiah Night, on the biblical basis for advocacy, in 2012. I learned about this resource by simply poking around the IJM website (they have a lot of amazing tools for mobilizing!). This was a success, and six months later we held a second one. I think because I kept downloading stuff from the IJM website, I was eventually contacted by their church mobilization team. That has led to a fruitful friendship between our church and IJM.

We continue to focus on prayer and advocacy, with monthly prayer meetings. We hungrily digest the many resources IJM has, including engaging in CA state advocacy efforts through the CA IJM Advocacy group, having a Just Church book club, and attending the Global Prayer Gathering.

God has led the Renew ministry into becoming a multi-church effort in our community. We partner with local ministries and our county’s Human Trafficking Taskforce to end slavery in our community. Through bi-weekly e-newsletters, we share about ways to pray, volunteer, and advocate.  We follow the work of IJM, as well as several other organizations on the frontlines serving. This has been quite a justice journey. We could never have imagined or planned this. But God has a vision to renew and restore, and it has been an adventure to partner with Him.

(The International Justice Mission is a participating sponsor in this year’s FIGHT Conference. For more information about the conference go here.)

How do we care for the trafficked survivor?

Posted by & filed under Human Trafficking.

(Today’s post is from Mark Kirchgestner, lead pastor at Dolores Park Covenant Church in San Francisco)

It was rather strange and unexpected. I had traveled to India to visit my International Justice Mission colleagues and on this particular day we were visiting four families who just 24 hours earlier had been suffering as slaves, forced to work 16 hours a day under the constant threat of violence. But what was I doing? Along with a couple of the younger boys, who so recently had been enslaved, we were sticking our tongues out to take a bunch of goofy-faced selfies.

I never would have guessed when I started out that morning to assist in the documentation of these newly emancipated families that the meaning and practice of “care” would involve a lot of laughter and selfies, but that is exactly what God had in store. In the same way I discovered that even more significant than the hand-tools we presented to the families, in order to find daily labor, was the generosity we would receive from them as they sat us under the shade in their only two folding chairs, in order to enjoy the coconuts they had just cut for us.

As we explore ways to raise awareness and resources for the FIGHT to eradicate human trafficking from our world we often come up short in our imagination of what it means to actually care for the survivor. Granted many of us don’t have much opportunity to directly serve the survivor, but what if we did?

What if we found ourselves face to face with that person who had suffered greatly? Are we prepared for what may be required?  Do we know how our assumptions of God, the world, and our ideas of “care,” are motivating us? Do we have a sense of what the trafficked survivor may need, and how that may be very different than what we may be prepared to offer? Do we know what God is asking of us?

I am always amazed when I think about Jesus’ ability to care for and attend to the needs of the individual. I often think of the man Jesus met in Mark 5. He had suffered greatly, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Did you ever notice that, in addition to his spiritual torment, he had actually been bound “hand and foot” in chains? Jesus knew how to address his many needs and his deep wounds and what he does is quite dramatic, especially in regard to the spiritual deliverance. But the more I have explored that story over the years the more I have come to love what happens next.

After the man is freed and has received loving care and attention from Jesus some locals come to see what happened. These people knew about the man who had suffered so greatly. Maybe some were the very people who had bound him hand and foot. Maybe they had rejected him or turned a blind eye. Or maybe they had simply been afraid of him. But when they came out they were amazed to see the man with Jesus, “sitting there, dressed and in his right mind.” I just love the holistic picture of the way Jesus cares for the suffering, which includes us all. What we see an example of holistic (spiritual, physical, emotional, relational) care. And not only this, but Jesus also knows that what the man needs next, when it comes to his “care,” is not to be made into a personal project. He does not cling to the man and neither does he allow the man to attach himself in some unhealthy way. He releases him and frees him to be restored more fully as he sends him back to his people to tell his story of deliverance.

Although selfies, hand-tools and coconuts don’t really compare to Jesus’ story, I found that it was a small step in my own journey of learning what it looks like to care for trafficking survivors. As we gather at FIGHT I hope we will have the opportunity to explore even further the importance of our motivation, theology, presence and prayer, so that when the time comes we are truly prepared to love and care as the hands and feet of Jesus.

(Mark is on the FIGHT faculty and will be speaking on the topic of training volunteers for aftercare for the survivor. For the complete list of seminars and to register, go here)

The Slow Process of Turning IDEAS into ACTIONS

Posted by & filed under Human Trafficking.

(Today’s post is by guest blogger Justin McRoberts. Justin is a songwriter, storyteller, teacher and an advocate for Justice. You can find him at justinmcroberts.com.)

The idea of picking up a well-hit ground ball and accurately firing it to first base doesn’t get a ball to first base. It’s the act of picking up the ball and firing it that does the job. Learning to do that well takes years of practice. It’s a very long process. And even then, perfect execution of that practice is hardly guaranteed. Ask Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

But just like there is a huge difference between the idea of playing shortstop and actually playing shortstop much less playing shortstop well, these ideas are ghosts until they are practiced… until they are embodied.

I wish Justice was swift in its arrival if not immediate. But that’s simply not been my experience. In fact, I’ve often noted that change that happens in a flash tends to last about as long. The work of (or toward) Justice, Equality, Fairness, etc. is often awe-inspiring, moving and thrilling. But at least as often it is also disappointing, paralyzing and heartbreaking, even if it’s just the pace of things that makes it so.

A decade ago, when I started partnering with Compassion International, I would tell people that more than 30,000 kids died every day from hunger-related causes. That was true then. But when I refer to that ratio today, I say that it’s closer to 18,000. That’s still (clearly) 18,000 kids too many, but it’s (also clearly) far better than 30,000 or even 40,000, which was the case through much of the 1990s.

If I’ve learned anything about the ostensibly “Spiritual” facet of human life, it’s that change happens at roughly the same rate in spiritual matters as it does in physical matters. It’s a slower process than any of us, and particularly the excitable among us, would like.

Dr. King is often quoted, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I think that beautiful line works in a different order as well.  “The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but it is long.”

Please…
Read bills and measures,
learn who your state and local candidates are,
and vote.
Please.

(Today’s blog post is by Justin McRoberts. Justin will be our worship leader at the upcoming FIGHT Conference, May 2-4. For more information on the conference or to register, go here.)

Asking the Critical Questions about Slavery

Posted by & filed under Human Trafficking.

(Today’s guest blogger is Eugene Cho. Eugene is the lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle. He is also the founder and director of One Day’s Wages, a movement to alleviate poverty worldwide. This post is excerpted from Eugene’s blog. You can read the post in it’s entirety here.)

Because I’ve been hearing some comments that have made me cringe a little, I’d like to humbly offer some random and quick thoughts – confessing that I don’t clearly know it all. (In fact, you should run away as fast as possible from anyone who advertises that they know it all.)

What I have learned is that doing justice work is important but it’s even more important that we do it with integrity, transparency, and dignity – rather than a skewed perspective to feed our own personal savior complexes.

Here is my list of critical questions we should ask about slavery:

1. Why our heart and motivation matters. For us as Christians, our theology matters. Meaning, what motivates, moves, and stirs us to do what we do matters. Simply put, our God is just and God loves justice. Justice is not an accessory God puts on and off like a trendy wardrobe. Justice reflects the character of God and thus, justice must reflect the people of God. Let’s not be afraid to ask the important questions of “Why” and “How” we engage all this important work. Anything less makes us vulnerable to being one-hit wonders rather than compelling us to the long, arduous, and tenacious marathon of justice.

2. Why we can’t reduce people into projects. Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources, there are anywhere from 27-30 million people in the world trapped in some form of forced labor and slavery.

Egregious. Painful. Reality.

God never intended people to be reduced into projects. If we forget this critical point and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor.

3. Why human trafficking is complex. To reduce human trafficking to simple terms, causes harmful consequences. While we can all agree that it is sinful, egregious, evil, and wrong…there are many nuances and complexities. It would serve all of us to grow deep in the awareness not just of the larger issues but the nuances and complexities of those issues.

To reduce the entire issue of human trafficking into one form is not helpful because the mission is to fight the entire injustice of slavery. And if that’s the commitment, we have to be prepared to engage a long battle across many fronts.

4. Why awareness matters. An X mark on the back of our hands isn’t going to eradicate slavery. Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy? But for those who are critical and even cynical about the #EndItMovement, I can’t think of any substantive actions that have ever occurred without a groundswell of awareness. Awareness, in itself, is action but we must make sure that it isn’t the totality of our action. Awareness though can lead to action. Awareness can lead to advocacy. Awareness can lead to generosity. Awareness can lead to mobilization.

5. Why our language and methodology matters. Let’s be honest. We often want to appear to be the liberators, the heroes, the saviors…If we’re not careful, we’ll fall into our Messianic or savior complex. This is still a growing edge for me (as I would assume it would be for others) but maintaining the human dignity of those living in oppression is absolutely critical. Some even more random thoughts:

a) Let’s be careful with the stories we share. Don’t fabricate. Don’t exploit those that we’re “helping” by using them beyond what should be ethical, dignified, etc.
b) Let’s be careful with the photos we take, distribute, and even lavish around on our merchandise. Let’s remember: These are human beings. Girls and boys. Women and men. Do we want photos of our kids on peoples’ t-shirts?

6. Why transparency matters. There’s something disgusting about engaging in the work of justice…unjustly. And this can especially happen when people fail to follow through on their commitment to transparency.

Please: Don’t fabricate. Don’t lie. Don’t make up stories to enhance more emotional tugging (translation: $).

Please: Make sure all your financials are front and center so it’s easily accessible and understandable.

Please: Don’t glamorize the work or beautify it. Anytime someone paints the work of justice – including human trafficking and development – as perfect, beautiful, and without challenges and complexities and mistakes…Run. And run fast. Something is not right.

7. Why we can’t forget the small on-the-ground NGOs and CBOs. The #EndItMovement has enormous momentum. It’s brilliant. It’s also encouraging to see numerous large and ginormous NGOs like IJM, Love146, World Relief, World Vision, Not For Sale, etc. as part of their “coalition.”

We should always celebration collaboration.

As we celebrate their work, it’s especially critical that we highlight the work of small NGOs and CBOs (community based organizations) that simply don’t get the attention. They may not have the budget or the celebrity endorsements…but their work is incredibly important, too. The truth is many of these larger NGOs actually work silently through some small CBOs/NGOs on the ground.

Let me pause for a moment here and say that if you represent one of these small orgs: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your commitment. Your tenacity. Your perseverance. Thank you.

This is one reason why One Days Wages and our Human Trafficking Fund attempts to work with smaller organizations that most folks have never heard of.

8. Why solutions are not in isolation. This is far too complex to discuss in a bullet point but much of the injustice in our world is not an isolation in itself. For example, you can’t talk about issues of poverty without issues of education.  Or water. Or access. Or gender inequality.

Such is the case with human trafficking and slavery and if this is the case, solutions aren’t in a vacuum by themselves.

Painful and true story: I met a guy once who reveled in “freeing” girls caught in sexual exploitation (especially in brothels).

It made for a great story and testimony and fundraising. The dark truth he encountered was that many of these girls were back in brothels or some form of exploitation because there was nothing for them to live into. But, he confessed he couldn’t share that part of the story because it would impact…fundraising.

As glamorous as it sounds to “rescue slaves”, we have to see the bigger picture about jobs, aftercare, economics, counseling, education, access to health care, cultural stigmatization … which explains why collaboration is so important.

Yes, doing justice work is important but it’s even more important that we do it with the integrity, transparency, dignity and self-examination that comes by asking the critical questions.

(Eugene Cho will be the keynote speaker at FIGHT. Eugene will share with us much more about his passion for Justice and what drives his will to FIGHT. For more information go to the FIGHT site here.)