Sunday, May 17, 2015

Apocalyptic Compassion - The End Times for Human Trafficking

Our message at church recently was about Apocalyptic Compassion.  Our pastor talked about our fascination with post apocalyptic movies.  These movies all have the same dark plot where the End Times have come.  The world as we know it has been destroyed and is marked by violence and chaos.  In these movies, the people have learned to just live in the circumstances of their situation.  They have learned to accept that this is the way things are and do nothing to change it.

Sometimes I think we have this attitude toward the issue of Human Trafficking.  The problem is so bad what difference can we possibly make?  We think this issue to too big and runs too deep. We say, well it's not affecting me personally.  We think that there will always be a demand for sex, and a hunger for power and money.  How could possibly eliminate this issue?

But we need to change our mindset from "I can't" to "How Can I?"
If we can't envision the world without Human Trafficking then how can we ever expect it?

If we fall victim to a defeatist attitude we will do nothing. But if we expect that God will do something, then our perspective and actions will be different. We will be motivated to be active in the great work that God is accomplishing.

We are called to reach out to the lost, the hurting and the broken.  We are called to have compassion for them.

We can learn from Mary's example in John 12 where she uses an expensive perfume to anoint Jesus.   The story takes place 1 week before Jesus would die on the cross.  But Mary, knowing the End was near for Jesus did not despair and give up.  She chooses to use this time to pour out her heart to bless Jesus. She demonstrated apocalyptic compassion.

Isaiah 58:10 tells us that if we spend ourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then our light will rise in the darkness, and our night will become like the noonday.

Part of the reason these movies are so popular is that there is always a heroic restoration.  There is someone or some group who steps in to save the day.  To make things right.  To offer a new beginning.

We need to declare that this is the End Times for Human Trafficking! 

The world tells the victims "You don't matter." 

We can show them that they do!

We can reveal God's power to a hurting world. 

We can give them A New Beginning

Saturday, May 2, 2015

We Stand Together

Remember the children's game Red Rover?  There are two teams and each team links hands with their teammates. The two teams would stand facing one another and one team would call out,

"Red Rover, Red Rover, send Billy over"

If your name was the one called, your mission was to run at full speed and attempt to break through the human chain that opposed you.  If the chain was strong enough you would not be able to break through. 

Imagine what the game would be like if everyone lined up and stood next to each other, but did not link arms.  Each person just stood with their arms down to their side, doing their own thing.  Maybe the person chosen to run is bigger that you and you're afraid of getting hurt.  Perhaps you don't like the teammate next to you and don't want to hold their hand.  Maybe you've never won at this game before so why should now be any different?  How easy would it be for the other team to break through?

Obviously, this scenario wouldn't work.  The object of the game is to link arms, making you stronger, and making it as difficult as possible for someone to get through.   

This simple children's game is a great illustration of what needs to happen in the fight against human trafficking. I picture each person as an organization with their arms linked to another.  Each one with a different name; churches, non-profits, government agencies, businesses, law makers, after care programs, individuals - all standing together, arms linked in a united front saying NO! 

"We stand together and Pimps and Traffickers are no longer getting through!"

Ecclesiastes 4:12 New Living Translation (NLT) 
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. 

I love the NLT version of Ecclesiastes 4:12 because it says we can conquer.  It doesn't matter if the person coming towards us is bigger than us or if the traffickers have been the ones winning at this game for far too long.  We can create partnerships and work together and we can conquer!

We are actually beginning to see collaboration in the Chicago area.  Many organizations and churches are sharing resources and volunteers. It's a beautiful thing to see. 

No one person, organization or church can do it all.  We do what we can with how God has equipped us.  When we link arms and stand together, we create a barrier against the evil of human trafficking and together we can create change. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Power That Raised Christ From The Dead - Believe

These powerful words were recently spoken at a women's gathering and the sweet lady who wrote them gave me permission to share them with you.  The words resonated with me.
Come Awake.  Awaken to the needs around you and to a world begging to be seen.  
You have the power to breathe life into lungs that are weak.
Today, may you be reminded that the same power that raised Christ from the dead
is available to you! To empower you to live for Him!
The Power by Alexis Shipman 
After believing comes the healing
And the promise of a king
To grow roots that run deep.
 So come awake,

 Breathe of glory

Breathing life into lungs that are weak.

 Death brought to life by the power of majesty.
Marked, branded by the one
Forever scarred with the mark of the cross

The call
By his will, his choice, his desire

To live through the life of these sinners

 What does this mean for our sisters,
For our loved

 for a world begging to be seen?

 The power that raised flesh from the dead,

What does it mean?

That made white of something red,
Dwelling in me?
The power of the throne
Alive in this heart


We must believe
This gift

Our new identity
Death brought to life

Now alive

The power of a cross
The power of the thrones of heaven

To move the mountains of the earth

That raised up death from the grave

And created from dust

Building a foundation for us to stand up

For us to rise up
And move forward



 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realm.” 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Local Event: A Night of New Beginnings April 25th

In the Chicagoland area, an estimated 16,000 - 25,000 women and girls are victims of commercial sexual exploitation each year. Refuge For Women - Chicago plans to open in Chicagoland in July of this year to offer a new beginning to women who have been sexually exploited.  Their program provides a residential family setting for healing to take place.

You are invited to A Night of New Beginnings to learn more about the Refuge For Women program and their plans for the home here in the NW Suburbs.  The evening will feature several interactive experience stations to help you get a feel for the redemptive work that God is accomplishing in KY and will accomplish here in Chicago. 

You will also get to hear first hand how God is working in the lives of several soon-to-be graduates of the program in KY and experience a powerful performance by Allie, a talented musician and soon-to-be Refuge graduate.

For more information or to register please visit the event page Here

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Upcoming Book Discussions

Dancing With the Devil by Anny Donewald
April 18th at 10 am at Panera Bread in the Arboretum
100 W Higgins Rd, South Barrington, IL
A memoir of transformation from a high-end stripper and escort who hit rock-bottom, turned to God, and left teh sex trade to found Eve's Angels, a ministry reaching out to women in the sex industry. 

Read the book on your own and join us for a discussion.

“Dancing For The Devil is not just a pole-to-the-pulpit memoir, but a call to action about how the billion-dollar sex-for-sale industry in America is impacting our culture. Anny Donewald and her co-author Carrie Gerlach Cecil grippingly and beautifully illustrate how one woman went from a life of privilege to surviving the underbelly of the sex-industry and ultimately advocating God’s grace in places others don’t dare to venture.”

Nobody's Girl by Barbara Amaya
May 26th at 7pm at Willow Creek Church
220 Exchange Drive; Crystal Lake, IL

Nobody's Girl is a memoir of Barbara Amaya's story and how God rescued her from a life of sex trafficking and child and domestic abuse. 

Read the book on your own and join us for a discussion.

“Human Trafficking is actually a Human Tragedy. It is the responsibility of those who have triumphed over this tragedy to till the soil, water the soil, shine our light on the soil and watch Gods garden of overcomer’s grow strong roots and thrive! Barbara Amaya fulfills this responsibility in her book Nobody’s Girl.”
-Marian Hatcher, Project Manager, Human Trafficking Coordinator, Cook County Sheriff’s Office

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

An Unwavering Promise – An Open Letter to a Survivor (Guest Post)

Today I have a guest post from fellow abolitionist Shellie Morgan.  After hearing Barbara Amaya share her story of how God rescued her from a life of sex trafficking and child and domestic abuse, Shellie was prompted to write this beautiful and moving letter.  Here's what Shellie says about why she wrote the letter.

I have been volunteering with the anti-trafficking team at Willow Creek's South Barrington location for about 2 years. When someone emailed me about the opportunity to hear Barbara speak, it was a no-brainer and I registered for the event right away. 

There really are not adequate words to describe what it is like to hear a survivor share their story. Barbara's story of getting trafficked was heartbreaking, but her story of survival and reclaiming her life was moving and inspiring. Afterward, I had the opportunity to thank her for sharing her story and get a personal inscription from her in her book, Nobody's Girl. As I drove home, I found myself wishing I had said more, done more. If I could hit the "rewind" button I would have given her a standing ovation, and not just thanked her, but asked if she would mind me giving her a hug. I wanted to somehow express how greatly I appreciated her choice to share her story and know how much it touched me and how precious she is.The thoughts started flowing, and it felt like God poured the words out through me onto paper. An open letter seemed like the perfect way to tell Barbara what I wished I could have expressed that night . My hope and prayer is the letter not only touches Barbara, but other survivors - and that it will encourage everyone to join the fight to end this in our lifetime.
Dear Precious One,

Last night brought the privilege of hearing first hand your amazing story of not just survival, but redemption. Privilege, because you have chosen to share your heart, your journey, your traumas – intimate details with strangers, and trusting that it will be received with grace and love and mercy. Trusting that it will move those in the crowd listening to “be the change” as you so aptly wrote inside the cover of your book.

What a privilege indeed, when you have all the reason in the world to never trust again. After all, where were we when you were being abused as a young child? Where were we when you fled your home at age 12, hoping to escape the abuse? Where were we when the trafficker scooped you off the street, taking advantage of your naiveté and vulnerability? Where were we when he conditioned you into believing you were nothing but a commodity to be bought, sold and traded? Where were we when you were arrested – a child treated as a criminal instead of the victim you were – and shamed for “what you had done”. Where were we when you finally found your way out, but still didn’t know you were the victim? Where were we when your police record continued to haunt you as you rebuilt a new life? Where were we?

For all of the times we were not there for you – we are sorry, so very sorry. Please accept our humble apologies; please forgive us. We didn’t know then. But we know now, oh, we know now.

We know now that human trafficking exists, not just “over there”, but right HERE, right in our very backyards. We know now that traffickers prey on the young, the weak, and the vulnerable – that the average age of victims is between 11-14 years old. We know now that traffickers are master manipulators and controllers. We know now that in your vulnerability, you could not see past the lies they fed you – that you were nothing, that no one cared about you, that this was all you would ever be. We know now that you were trapped in a dark, evil world and it wasn’t your fault.

We know too, that you are beautiful and brave, with strength beyond measure. We know that God will bring life from the ashes - that He will redeem all of the pain, not one tear will be wasted. We know that God has a plan and a purpose for you. We know that we are called to never let you be forgotten ever again. We know we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in finding you, serving you, loving you, standing alongside you, cheering you on.

And so, we promise you – an unwavering promise made with unwavering faith – that we are here now. We will learn to recognize the signs of the vulnerable as well as the signs of trafficking. We will read books and blogs and websites that can teach us what to look for and what to do. We will pray and knit and bake and sew for outreach to the vulnerable and exploited. We will renovate homes to create safe houses. We will shop with purpose to support survivors who are rebuilding their lives. We will be your voice in social and legislative circles. We promise we will be the change.

Grace and peace,
Your Willow Family
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ “ Luke 15:3-6

“…suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ “ Luke 15:8-9 
 An Unwavering Promise - An Open Letter to a Survivor, was written by Shellie Morgan, and may not be used or reproduced by any means without written permission.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Leadership Qualities (Lessons from Nehemiah)

1.  Replenish
After traveling 800 miles to Jerusalem Nehemiah replenishes for 3 days.  He takes the time to recharge before setting out on the task before him.
Neh 2:11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days...  
Our vitality bucket must be full for leaders to lead well.

We need to have something in our vitality bucket to draw from. If we're on empty we tend to make bad decisions. 

What are the things that fill you up? What can you do to make sure you are at your best?

Besides being in God's word, what fills me up is a good book, a blanket and a comfy couch.  I recharge with alone time because I am an introvert.  For you it may be completely opposite. 

2.  Define Reality and Communicate it with others
We have to define the reality of the situation and what we are up against.  If not, we can be overly optimistic and fall into despair when that situation seems insurmountable.
Neh 2:17-18 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”  I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.  They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.”
We must also communicate to others what that reality is.  Change can not occur if others are unaware of the problem.

The reality of human trafficking is that there are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world.  It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.  There are more slaves today than any other time in history.

We must also remember not to let the reality of the situation allow us to become frozen.  Yes, the reality of trafficking seems insurmountable, but we serve a big God.

3.  Cast the Vision
Leadership is essentially about movement.  Moving people, staff, a ministry, etc from here to there. Always explain why we can't stay in the "here."
Neh 2:17 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.”
Here =   Israel is in ruins
There  = Let's start rebuilding

The "here" of human trafficking is that human beings are being used for a purpose in which they were not created.  Statistics show that only 1-2% of trafficking victims are ever rescued.  This is not OK.

We must raise awareness and bring this dark criminal industry into the light.  We must focus more attention on the men purchasing sex and hold them more accountable.  We must have better laws and stiffer penalties for the traffickers who are enslaving these women.  We must have more services and safe places for these women to heal.  We must change the mindset of our society to stop objectifying women.

4.  Motivate and Inspire
Recognize that God is in this!  Tell a story that shows how God is moving. 
Neh 2:18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.  They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.
Inspired people, inspire people.  They see it in you and become inspired.

5.  Include Everyone.  Work Together
Chapter 3 tells us how everyone was involved in the effort of rebuilding.  Similar to the Acts 2 church where everyone shared, spread the gospel, etc. for the glory of God.  Imagine the impact we could have on human trafficking if everyone was involved.  Everyone united in working together for the cause of Christ who does not desire for any of His children to be in slavery.
6.  Align peoples interest. 
Nehemiah set each group to work on the wall that was nearest to their own home. He had them take ownership by being responsible for a certain portion of the wall.  He aligned their passion with the vision. People are more apt to do good work and build a stronger wall if it is for the security of their own family.