12 Days of Social Justice: Day 9

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Trafficking Around the World

Read:

Exodus 6:6-9 “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”

The story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt may be the most well-known account in the Old Testament. The Israelites, enslaved in a foreign nation, are liberated through the miraculous hand of God. Through Moses, God reaffirms that He will give the promised land to the Israelites but “they [do] not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”

There is an estimated 21-36 million slaves around the world today. Millions of people who are horribly oppressed. Millions of people living with broken spirits in harsh slavery. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when faced with such numbers. With limited resources and training, what can the average person do to help?

Christ came as hope for the enslaved of the world. Matthew 1:23 states: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” Unique among religions, we serve a God who chose to be with His creation in human form. In this, Christ sets an example of presence. His presence was, and is, our hope.

As Christ’s followers we are called to carry and exhibit that same hope, in the form of our presence, to the ends of the earth. In time, the Holy Spirit leads each person to an understanding of what he or she should do individually but the first step is to bear witness to the conditions that lead to enslavement of others. In 2015, NCC will send three mission teams focused on slavery to India, Phoenix, and Thailand. Three opportunities to walk with and be present for others who were enslaved. Three chances to celebrate hope.

Examine:

1. What has enslaved you in the past or is currently enslaving you?

2. How has Jesus been hope in your life?

3. Who is the Holy Spirit calling you to be hope for?

Action/Apply:

1. Pray for the NCC short-term missions.

2. Join a short-term mission team. Visit www.aoneeight.org

Pray:

Jesus, I thank you for the hope you gifted to the world when you took human form. I thank you for your presence on Earth and in my life. I praise you for being fully God and fully man–able to empathize with every joy and pain we have. I ask forgiveness for the times I have been too self-absorbed or unwilling to walk alongside others in difficult circumstances. I pray the Spirit would change my heart to view the enslaved with the love that you view them with. I pray for courage to be present with others, both here and abroad. I pray that I would be able to convey your hope manifested in me to those I interact with. Amen.

12 Days of Social Justice: Day 8

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Read

As we read through the New Testament, we see the beginnings of a fractured world being mended together. In life Jesus drew all types to himself and through his death made the Lord accessible to all people.

“And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” Luke 10:29-36

Jesus challenges traditional Israelite worldviews by (1) teaching that a Samaritan, a member of an out-group and someone largely be regarded with ill-repute, could be a better neighbor and protector than a fellow Israelite; and, (2) asking his listeners to desire to associate themselves with that historic enemy of Israel.

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.  And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  And he said,“How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” Acts 8:26-31, 35-38

Here Philip, a disciple of Jesus, enthusiastically provides a witness to the Ethiopian Eunuch. Put off by neither his station in the Ethiopian court or his ethnic heritage, when asked Philip explains passages from the scriptures, shares the good news, and baptizes the Eunuch.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Revelations 7:9

In a vision John sees that the Lord will be surrounded and worshipped by people from “all tribes and peoples and languages” leading the reader to conclude that no special pedigree will be needed for entry into the heavenly kingdom. All will be welcome if they believe in the Lord Jesus as their savior.

As followers of Christ we are charged to grow in His likeness, to be loving, protecting, and encouraging of those that are not like us. We are called to be aware of and intentional about those around us, especially when the variables of difference and vulnerability collide.

So how does this relate to trafficking?

Trafficking is often linked to risk factors like poverty and no/low access to employment opportunities that help create stability. In the United States, those risk factors are also strongly correlated to non-caucasian ethnic groups and the results can be seen in the reported incidents of trafficking. Over ninety-eight percent of labor trafficking survivors and just under seventy-five percent of sex trafficking survivors are individuals of non-caucasian descent (NCVRW resource guide). These percentages are well over what they would be if cases of trafficking were proportionate to the racial disaggregation of the United states. “To combat this modern-day slavery, the trafficking cycle should recognize explicitly the connections between trafficking, migration, poverty, racism, gender and racial discrimination” (Bell, J., 2010). If we, as followers are going to demonstrate His love to all people, we need to consider joining the fight against the slavery affecting too many non-majority families and communities.

Examine

- How much do you go out of your way to interact with those outside of your cultural background?

- What does it look like for you to show support to those outside your cultural background? Is it verbal? Is it practical?

- Are you intentional about trying to learn more about the people who live near you that may be from a different cultural background?

- Does it make you uncomfortable to consider underlying racial injustice in recent court cases? in addressing the correlation to slavery?

Apply/Action

- Participate in a Second Saturday Serve at the Southeast Whitehouse in Anacostia.

- Go on one of the anti-trafficking A1:8 mission trips: Phoenix, India, and/or Thailand.

Prayer

Dear Lord, my father. You are a great father with children of every color and you desire us to love one another as brothers and sisters. It can be so easy to only treat those that look nearest to us with such love. Please forgive us. Lord teach me to see with your eyes. To look on my brothers and sisters with your eyes. Lord bless my feet that I would go where you send me. That I would be intentional about seeking new relationships with people that are not like me.

Lord bless my ears, so that I would hear the words and the hearts of those I interact with. My heart and mind act as a filter, which sometimes makes it difficult for me to understand those from a different background. Lord give me ears that hear and a heart that desires to hear more. Lord help me to grow more in your likeness and in your love.

Amen.

12 Days of Social Justice: Day 7

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Trafficking in the US

Read:

Luke 7:11-15

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

1 John 5:14-15

14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. 

For too many Americans, the issue of human trafficking is far removed from their daily lives—something that only happens in foreign countries or Hollywood movies. Tragically, this issue is far closer to home than many of us realize.

The federal government reports that as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into our country annually, and these estimates do not even capture the number of individuals trafficked within our borders each year.  Runaways are very vulnerable to trafficking. (2.8 million minors annually run from home) and one of three are picked up by pimps within 48 hours. With the rise of the Internet, the number of sex trafficking incidents in particular has exploded.

Perhaps most disturbing, some of the most at-risk Americans are children. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the average age for a girl to enter the commercial sex trade is just 12-14 years, and only 11-13 years for boys.

Children this young should be preparing for school dances, or cheering on their favorite sports teams. Yet some of these young victims are horrifically being forced to have sex as much as 25-48 times per day, according to research from the Polaris Project.

And while many Americans think this issue is relegated to normally high crime areas or inner cities, these crimes are actually occurring in communities and neighborhoods across the country. (Source, Congresswoman Diane Black represents Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District. She has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years and serves on the House Ways and Means and Budget Committees.)

Examine:

  1. Reflect on the information above regarding the fact that human trafficking is happening in your “backyard.” What are some thoughts and feelings that come to mind?
  2. In Luke, we read about one of the many stories where Jesus intervened to restore two lives. Which two lives did He restored? What do we learn from Jesus compassion for the mother? For her son?
  3. In 1 John we are reminded that we can approach God with confidence to ask anything according to His will. Are you approaching God with confidence that He intervenes, just like He did for the mother and son, in your community against the slavery and exploitation of those who are trafficked? If yes, write down your specific prayers so that you continue to be faithful in approaching Him. If no, write down what is preventing you from having this confidence to ask God to intervene?

Apply/Action:

  • Connect with a local organization that supports the efforts in your community to fight human trafficking. If you live in the DC area please consider connecting with NCC-ASE so they can share information on volunteer opportunities locally.
  • Watch the documentary Sex & Money: A National Search for Human Worth to learn more about domestic minor trafficking and the modern-day abolitionist movement fighting to stop it in the United States.
  • Be part of a service mission to partner with Streetlight USA this summer. Streetlight USA, located in Phoenix, Arizona, and works with rescued young women ages 12-18 who were victims of human trafficking in the US citizens.

Pray:

  • Pray for the women and men in the United States that are victims.
  • Pray for our government officials and law enforcement officers as they combat human trafficking in our borders.
  • Pray for the service providers in the United States that are caring day to day for the needs of victims.
  • Psalm 119: 33-40 over your heart and God’s leading for you on how to get involve and intervene today for the victims in your community.

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to your word.
38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
    so that you may be feared.
39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
    for your laws are good.
40 How I long for your precepts!
    In your righteousness preserve my life.

12 Days of Social Justice: Day 6

Day 6: Trafficking & Trauma 

image-5Read:

  • Survivors of trafficking often experience complex trauma that is akin to combining domestic violence, sexual assault/abuse, rape, kidnapping/captivity, physical abuse, and brainwashing. Each of these is individually traumatic, but when combined and interwoven together it creates something called “complex trauma” which can have profound effects on one’s life. Survivors must be cared for in a holistic, person-first manner. Their physical, survival needs (shelter/housing, food, clothing, healthcare) must be met before they can be in a place to receive therapy. To paint a picture of what survivors are dealing with Judith Herman, an expert on trauma, states in her book Trauma and Recovery (1997):
    • “People subjected to prolonged, repeated trauma develop an insidious progressive form of post-traumatic stress disorder that invades and erodes the personality. While the victim of a single acute trauma may feel after the event that she is “not herself,” the victim of chronic trauma may feel herself to be changed irrevocably, or she may lose the sense that she has any self at all. The worst fear of any traumatized person is that the moment of horror will recur, and this fear is realized in victims of chronic abuse. Not surprisingly, the repetition of trauma amplifies all the hyper-arousal symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronically traumatized people are continually hypervigilant, anxious, and agitated. The psychiatrist Elaine Hilberman describes the state of constant dread experienced by battered women: ‘Events even remotely connected with violence – sirens, thunder, a door slamming – elicited intense fear. There was chronic apprehension of imminent doom, of something terrible always about to happen. Any symbolic or actual sign of potential danger resulted in increased activity, agitation, pacing, screaming and crying. The women remained vigilant, unable to relax or sleep. Nightmares were universal, with undisguised themes of violence and danger.’ Chronically traumatized people no longer have any baseline state of physical calm or comfort. Over time, they perceive their bodies as having turned against them. They begin to complain, not only of insomnia and agitation, but also of numerous types of somatic symptoms. Tension headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, and abdominal, back, or pelvic pain are extremely common.” (page 86)

One phrase that is used to describe trauma is “neurons that fire together wire together,” meaning that this prolonged trauma begins to change the brain – who we are, what we do, everything. This can result in various mental illnesses, substance abuse, self injurious behaviors and suicidal thoughts. Leaving “the life” (an exploitative situation) is one of the first steps in the healing process.

  • Isaiah 61: 1-3 “1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

Examine:

  • Do I have any prejudices towards individuals with mental illness?
  • How does God feel about those who have gone through trauma?
  • What are ways that the church can love individuals who have gone through trauma or have a mental illness?

Apply/Action:

  • Educate yourself on trauma and the effects of trauma
    • Attend training by the amazing Bonnie Martin – hosted by NCC Spring 2015 (details coming soon! – check back on the NCC ASE Facebook page)
    • Check out these books:
      • “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman
      • “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog” by Dr. Bruce Perry (a great look at how trauma touches every part of life – told through various vignettes and case examples)
      • “Girls Like Us” by Rachel Lloyd

Pray:

  • Pray for God to open your eyes to those around you effected by trauma
  • Pray for change in societal stereotypes about those with mental illness

Pray for opportunities to show love to survivors of trauma (nearly everyone goes through something traumatic in life – it’s part of being human – pray that God would show you those already in your life that you can show love to, as well as new faces)

12 Days of Social Justice: Day 5

Trafficking and Poverty

Read: 1 Kings 17: 1-16

Elijah Fed by Ravens

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what theLord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

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Poverty is a major driver of the human trafficking industry. Those trapped in poverty are keen to obtain a better life for themselves and their families, and these vulnerable people are preyed on by unscrupulous people offering jobs, training, opportunities, remuneration and better life prospects.

There are a number of main ways that people initially become trafficked:

  1. Many women and children are kidnapped into slavery, some children are sold to traders by their parents,
  2. Some children are willingly sent with a trader by their parents, who have been promised that their children will receive a good education, an apprenticeship or a good job and good prospects or even just adequate food. Traders can often be well known locals or relatives, so the parents trust them.
  3. Some women are married, only to find that their marriage is a sham, and that their new husband has sold them into the sex industry.
  4. Some respond to job advertisements offering good pay for manual labour, only to find that they are imprisoned on arrival, subjected to vastly different employment contracts to what they had been led to believe, with no escape, and may be made to work for many years labouring for no pay at all;
  5. Many women apply to sham foreign job agencies or to study overseas, and go abroad willingly thinking they will receive education or have employment as a waitress or a nanny etc, only to find when they reach their destination that the reality is very different, and that they are imprisoned, raped and forced into the prostitution industry. (Excerpt from the Freedom Project http://www.thefreedomproject.org)

Examine:

  1. What can we learn from Elijah as he trusted God to provide for him and others?
  2. What do we learn from the readings about God’s ability to be our sole provider?
  3. In what creative ways did God provide for Elijah and the widow? How has He creatively provided for us?
  4. Reflect on ways in which poverty can trap an individual as a victim of human trafficking. Where you aware of all the number of ways in which an individual can become a victim?

Apply/Action:

Consider this Christmas purchasing some jewelry from JewelGirls, a program by Fair Girls. Former trafficked victims from our community come together each week to create unique jewelry while gaining access to therapy, new life skills, financial management skills, and pathways toward a future free of poverty and violence. 50% of proceeds go directly to the individual girl artist while the remaining 50% goes toward purchasing new supplies and materials to sustain her program. Visit the FAIR Girls JewelGirls Shop to purchase jewelry handcrafted by JewelGirls.

Prayer:                       

Pray each day for the ability to trust God like Elijah in being our sole provider for all our needs.

Pray God will show us ways in which we can be His hands and feet in the fight against poverty.

Pray God will reveal creative ways in which we can contribute to the work He is doing to restore the lives of trafficked victims today.

12 Days of Social Justice: Day 4

Day 4: Trafficking and Foster Care
image-3Read:
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” – Psalm 68:5

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

Queen Esther is one of the most prominent women in the Bible due to her courageous role in saving the Jewish people. She was also an orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai. What would have happened if Esther had been abandoned after her parents died? What if Mordecai had decided that taking in his young cousin would be too expensive or require too much responsibility? Would Esther have become queen? Would the Jews have had a champion to defend their existence?

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 67% of child trafficking victims were in the care of social services or foster care before running away. Like Esther, these children didn’t have parents who were able to take care of them. They were put into foster homes or left with extended family in shaky circumstances. Many kids ran away from homes to escape physical or sexual abuse only to find themselves trafficked into worse situations. In DC, there are 1,300 children in the foster care system.

DC127 is an organization working to reverse the foster care wait list in DC with the goal of having more families waiting to receive a child than children waiting for families. What would happen if 1,300 of DC’s most vulnerable children were placed in Godly homes? What if the Church agreed to nurture and raise the “fatherless” in this city? How could the next generation and our city be transformed? We may not know the answers to these questions now–but let’s try to find out!

Examine:

  • How literally do you take God’s command to “look after orphans”?
  • Where are the “fatherless” in your community?
  • How can you act as “Mordecai” in the life of someone else?

Apply/Action:

  • Visit DC127 to learn about and support their work. Everyone can do something!
Pray:

  • Pray for God to open your eyes to see the “fatherless.”
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will show you how to love God’s children.
  • Pray for families to foster and adopt children in our community who desperately need nurturing homes.

12 Days of Social Justice: Day 3

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Day 3: Trafficking and Homelessness 
Read:
In DC, when temperatures drop below freezing, the government provides emergency shelter for the homeless population–but only for those who are 18 and older. There is no mandate to provide emergency shelter for youth 12-17 and DC only has 10 dedicated beds for this age group.

Last year, Covenant House and Fordham University released a study entitled “Homelessness, Survival Sex, and Human Trafficking”, which surveyed a random sample of 173 homeless youth between 18-23 years old in New York. The study found that 1 in 4 youth had been trafficked or engaged in survival sex. Shelter was the largest commodity (48%) traded for sexual activity. Additionally, many in the “adult” homeless population are forced to engage in survival sex; many more have been sexually assaulted and raped.

There is an undeniable link between homelessness and sexual exploitation.

So how should we respond? With Biblical hospitality or philoxenia, which literally means “brotherly love of strangers.” Hospitality in first century Israel was a serious matter. Numerous examples in the Bible demonstrate how hosts opened their homes to guests–even at great inconvenience and risk. In 2015, NCC ASE is partnering with Friendship Place to find temporary housing for trafficking survivors. The initial pilot will aim to place five survivors in homes.

When Christ took human form to live among His creation, He didn’t do it because it was fun. He acted because it was necessary. This housing pilot is a new initiative and it will be difficult, uncomfortable, inconvenient–but it’s also necessary. Will you help us?

Examine:

  • What are your assumptions about the homeless population in your city?
  • In what ways have you recently demonstrated Biblical hospitality?
  • When was the last time God put you in an uncomfortable position to bring glory to His name and how did you respond?

Apply/Action:

Pray:

  • Pray for wisdom for NCC ASE and Friendship Place leadership as we set up the pilot project.
  • Pray for people to open up their homes to survivors.
  • Pray for opportunities to share and experience Christ’s love through Biblical hospitality.