12 Days of Social Justice: Day 12

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Read:
As we wrap up this series on social justice, I would like to leave you with this. You are not alone. Not only has God given you his Spirit, he has also given you his church. The oppression and injustice in this world can be overwhelming, and there are times we may feel burnt out, but remember that you are not called to fight this battle alone.   
Isaiah 61:1 NIV 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim 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.

Examine:
 
  • As you reflect on this past year and the facts that you have learned about trafficking and injustice through this series, how is God calling you to respond?
  • It is not your responsibility to right every wrong in this world, but it is important for you to speak out for those that are oppressed. How will you be a voice for those that are oppressed by traffickers?
Apply/Action:
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is an amazing resource provided by Polaris. Please consider saving the hotline number (1-888-373-7888) on your phone and using it to report tips, request training, and to connect with anti-trafficking services in your area. 
Pray:
Dear Lord, thank you for sending your son to die for me. Thank you for your strength, your love, and your patience. Without You, I would be overcome by this world and its trouble. I pray that you guide me to a place of renewal and that you would lead me to the places and people you want me to serve. Amen.

12 Days of Social Justice: Day 11

Read:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? Luke 18: 1-8
Seeking justice begins with seeking the God of justice (Bethany Hoang, director of IJM Institute for International Justice Mission). Perhaps one reason for this is that we don’t necessarily see justice the way God does. If gunman enters a classroom and opens fire, killing all the children and the teacher, doesn’t he deserve to die? Maybe so. In God’s system of justice, however, our gossip, envy, lust, and other ‘smaller sins’ are equal to that man’s murder. And they are all deserving of death (Romans 6:23). God indeed released his judgement upon our sin, yet we did not receive the wrath of that judgement. Jesus endured hell for us and in exchange offered us grace and mercy. That is how justice was served, the appropriation of our punishment for our rebellion on Himself.
How are we to begin seeking justice without first grasping this unfathomable act of love? As believers in Jesus we have access to the Creator of the universe, the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent One – the One who defines justice. This God desires that we model him in acting justly and defending the rights of the poor and needy. But what is perhaps more interesting is that he invites us into the conversation about justice. He desires for us to call on him, to seek him in prayer and fact, he says that this chosen ones who cry out to him day and night will receive justice – quickly! To connect with this God who radically defines justice and intercede on behalf of those who are suffering is to call down the Kingdom of God on earth.

Examine Questions:
What does biblical justice look like?
What role does prayer play as you seek justice?
How do you think you are viewing justice that may be different than how God sees it?
How are justice and worship connected in Scripture?
What do you think is the relevance of the sentence in the passage? “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
How do you grapple with the passage in Luke when sometimes we see people who cry out to God yet do not see their justice

Action:
We often think of prayer being passive and sometimes weak, especially in the urgent fight against human trafficking. However, Jesus shows us in Luke 18 the power of our prayers. Consider attending NCC ASE Prayer meetings. This group meets every other Thursday to pray over issues related to modern day slavery in D.C. For more information contact Tegan Hare at tegannicole@gmail.com.
Pick up Bethany Hoang’s Deepening the Soul for Justice. It’s a quick read that describes the foundation of prayer in the work of justice and gives practical steps to stay rooted and grounded as you seek justice.

Pray:
Father, I come before you in gratitude and humility. My heart is overflowing and overwhelmed by your great act of love, giving me life when my sinful nature is deserving of death. Your love for me is vast beyond all measure and abundantly greater than I can ever imagine. Teach me, God to demonstrate that love to others and to fight for justice, the way you do. Turn my heart to yours and help me to first seek you, to desire you above all. Teach me to pray. Show me how you long to hear from me, show me the magnitude of my prayers and how they move your heart. Remind me that I struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world. And, more importantly remind me that you are the One who came to rescue me so that I may call on your name to rescue others.

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12 Days of Social Justice: Day 10

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Trafficking in DC

Read:

We can easily become overwhelmed by harsh and seemingly sterile statistics. By providing the following information we do not want to cause any emotional disconnect or number blur. Pastor Perry Noble says, “Every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God.” By reading, learning and digesting these statistics we see trends and patterns that are happening in our very own city. These numbers equip us with knowledge on how to strategically address the issues and bring about change. While you read these do not let them be a distant concept – this is happening in our very own city: along K St. NW, in Columbia Heights, in Baltimore City, outside the Youth Service Center, just to name a few. Remember that there are individual stories, families and children behind each one. Let’s see some numbers:

  • In 2011, approximately 125 child victims of sex trafficking were identified by local NGOs and law enforcement in the D.C. area.
  • More than 50% of D.C. school children live in sing-headed (predominantly single-mother) households
  • 32% of D.C. children live below the poverty line, which is twice the national average (according to local service provider FAIR Girls).
  • The National Runaway Safeline estimates that 1.6 million children run away from home every year in the United States.
  • The average time it takes before a runaway is approached by a trafficker or solicitor is 48 hours, making runaway youth an extremely vulnerable group.
  • All of these factors show that children in the D.C. area are at a much higher and dangerous risk for being trafficked. D.C. is also one of the largest hubs of human trafficking in the United States due to it being the nation’s capital that draws both tourists and international leaders as well as being one of the largest cities on the east coast.

“Isn’t it noteworthy in the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus does not give a straightforward answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Surely he could have provided a catalog of those whom the scribe could love as himself as the law required. He does not. Instead, he tells a story. It is as if Jesus wanted among other things to point out that life is a bit more complex; it has too many ambivalences and ambiguities to allow always for a straightforward and simplistic answer.

This is a great mercy, because in times such as our own — times of change when many familiar landmarks have shifted or disappeared — people are bewildered; they hanker after unambiguous, straightforward answers. We appear to be scared of diversity in ethnicities, in religious faiths, in political and ideological points of view. We have an impatience with anything and anyone that suggests there might just be another perspective, another way of looking at the same thing, another answer worth exploring. There is a nostalgia for the security in the womb of a safe sameness, and so we shut out the stranger and the alien; we look for security in those who can provide answers that must be unassailable because no one is permitted to dissent, to question. There is a longing for the homogeneous and an allergy against the different, the other.
Now Jesus seems to say to the scribe, “Hey, life is more exhilarating as you try to work out the implications of your faith rather than living by rote, with ready-made second-hand answers, fitting an unchanging paradigm to a shifting, changing, perplexing, and yet fascinating world.” Our faith, our knowledge that God is in charge, must make us ready to take risks, to be venturesome and innovative; yes, to dare to walk where angels might fear to tread.” – Desmond Tutu, God Is Not A Christian

“Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us.”
― Desmond Tutu, God Has A Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time

Examine:

  • Do these statistics overwhelm, discourage or disengage you? Why?
  • How does God feel about these numbers?
  • What should the church do about them?
  • What risks is God nudging you to take to serve your neighbor?

Apply/Action:

  • Open Table: Open Table is a unique opportunity to be directly involved in the life of an individual who is coming out of trafficking or an individual who is living with HIV/AIDS. Essentially, you will be a part of a missional community that mentors an individual to help implement a customized life plan to empower them. With one hour a week you will assist in guiding the individual towards stability and independence. Tables generally meet once a week for 6 months and then at a lesser intensity as the work progresses. You don’t need to be an expert at anything – just the ability to use Google. For more information or to sign up contact Amanda Baker at acbaker330@gmail.com.

Pray:

  • Pray that God would make these numbers real and personable to us.
  • Pray that God would open our eyes to what is happening in our own communities, as painful as it may be.
  • Pray that we would learn what makes individuals vulnerable to traffickers and exploiters so that we may engage at all levels.
  • Pray that we would not be overwhelmed by the sadness and brokenness around us – let God show us that while we may not be able to do everything, we can still do something.
  • Pray that God would reveal what that something

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)