Modern Day Slavery & What You Can Do

Modern Day Slavery & What You Can Do

It is estimated that there are 27 MILLION modern day slaves.

It exists in 167 countries….and yes, America, too.

It involves children. Every 1 in 5 victims is a child. Many of them involved in the cesspool of the sex trade.

That’s a HUGE problem.

It is such a large problem in fact that many people wonder if they can make a real difference. “What can lil’ ole me do when faced with such a staggering statistics?” we ask ourselves. It is overwhelming and for many of us we can barely wrap our minds around it.

But the truth remains–there are men, women and children being held against their will to work for little or no pay. They are mistreated, exploited and abused in ways unimaginable. They are people just like you and me. My “neighbor,” as the Bible calls them, and I’m commanded to love them as I love myself (Mark 12:31), which means I can’t turn my head and be silent.

When we don’t know what to do we often do nothing. I’m talking from experience here and I’m certainly not pointing any fingers. I am aware that someday soon, I will continue on with my regular every day life and forget that some people’s regular every day life is hell. I’ll forget about the millions, but they will not forget.

But today I want to do something in hopes that it lights a fire in my soul that has been complacent for far too long. That it reignites the love I have for people…all people…and that I can use my gift to help spread the world.

It was Edward Bulwer-Lytton who said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Today, I pick up my pen.

What can you do?

Get Involved

Freedom 4/24 is a non-profit organization based in Virginia. Their mission (as taken directly from their website) is:  to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of women and children around the world and to provide financial support to partner organizations dedicated to bringing freedom and doing justice. 

A good friend of mine, Tim Spaulding, is the President of the organization and his passion for concerning this injustice is inspiring. On Freedom 4/24’s staff page, he includes Elie Wiesel’s quote “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” Tim has chosen to take the side of freedom and lives his life committed to that mission.

There are a variety of ways you can serve Freedom 4/24, no matter where you live. Check out their website for more information.

Give

There are numerous non-profit organizations that you can donate money to, including: Freedom 4/24, International Justice Mission and Love146.

Spread the Word

If nothing else, help spread the word on social media. Use your voice and your podium (yes, we all have one thanks to FB, twitter and Instagram) and shed a light on this darkness.

Whatever you choose to do is fine. Just do something.

How will you love your neighbor caught in slavery today?

**Statistics on modern day slavery were found here.

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A Foundation That Withstands Questioning

A Foundation That Withstands Questioning

“It’s not tradition verses new, but about the foundation of your faith.”

The authoritative voice of the seasoned preacher declared and I scrambled to get a pen. Underneath the quote, I scribbled, “Then, God what is the foundation?”

If it’s not an old generation verse a new generation, then what is it?

If it’s not the conservatives verse the “liberals”, then what is it?

If it’s not denomination verse denomination, then what is it?

My eyes turned back to the preacher who had continued on and as if responding to me in dialogue and replied, “It’s Jesus. Jesus is our foundation.”

The past few years have been a journey full of questions and wonderment that I hadn’t anticipated. I was seeing God in unexpected places and then not feeling Him in places that I thought I should.

Up until then, I had been satisfied with the pretty picket fences I had built around my box-shaped house where I kept God. In there, He was safe, secure and controlled. If I do this, then God does that. Ignorantly, I participated in this manipulative game thinking I could force God’s hand if I just did all the right things. There I knew what to expect out of Him and that was a comforting feeling.

It looked like faith and even felt like faith.

But God isn’t tame.

He’s wild and that scares the hell out of me. Like the wind, I can’t anticipate where He’s coming from and I only know where He’s been because I’ve seen the effects of Him having been there. It seems like the only way to survive it…or Him rather…is to just go with it. But “going with the flow” leaves so many unanswered questions.

Yes, questions. My many, many questions. Questions that most of the time I’m afraid to admit to myself, let alone anyone else, because it seems “wrong” to question God. Not that I think God is insecure, that’s laughable, but because Christians can be when it comes to Him. Yet, there in my head and in my heart the questions beg me to wrestle and some days it feels like they’ve got me pinned.

Each day, I keep wrestling.

In the wrestling, some traditions (or traditional thought) that once seemed non-negotiable, now seem less important. These traditions have become, without me knowing it, idols in my life and God has begun dismantling them. My eyes have been set on them instead of Jesus, so as they fall and crumble, I have this feeling like my world is falling and crumbling around me.

Like the words from this old chorus* I begin to realize: “all the things I once held dear, built my life upon, all this world reveres and wants to own, all I once thought gain, I have counted loss, spent and worthless now, compared to this…knowing You Jesus.” For some of us, Christianity has been our world system and our pet beliefs have been our badge of honor and the things we fight for. Sadly, knowing and pursuing Jesus has taken some lesser priority or forgotten all together.

Our beliefs about Jesus should never overshadow simply knowing Him.

So, white picket fences and boxes meant to contain God may be leveled to the ground, but my Foundation remains. Jesus remains. There will be a rebuilding that takes place, but it will never look like it did before. Actually, I’m not sure what it will look like. I’m just going to continue pursuing Jesus knowing He’ll take care of me in the process.

Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:11

* All I Once Held Dear (Knowing You) by Graham Kendrick

The Awkward Challenges of Singleness

The Awkward Challenges of Singleness

Stores have been stocked with bags of conversation hearts and boxes filled with assorted chocolates in preparation for Valentine’s Day before we even had a chance to put our Christmas trees to the curb. More chocolate in stores…who am I to complain?

I have even less reason to complain the day after Valentine’s Day because chocolate goes on sale. Chocolate is good, but 50% off chocolate is even better!

Truth be told, as a single person, I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day. Or rather, I’m not against the idea of it. I’m a fan of romance and love having an excuse to tell those I care about that I love them in cute/cheesy/adorable cards. (Did I mention there’s chocolate involved in this holiday?!) I’m not opposed to love, if anything, I wish every day were Valentine’s Day. And no, not just because of the chocolate, but because I think love should be celebrated daily. Or if not celebrated, at least shared.

It’s not easy being single around Valentine’s Day though. There’s those “Every kiss begins with K” commercials and the increase of rose/flowers pictures on Facebook followed by the “I’ve got the best boyfriend/husband…” declarations. Like I said, I think love should be celebrated so keep the romantic posts coming. I didn’t want to be on Facebook this week, anyway.

The single life has some awkward challenges.

If you’re single, maybe you can relate. And if you’re not, well, maybe you can gain some perspective from this single lady.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a married friend of mine. We were catching up since we hadn’t seen one another in a few months. As we shared, I’d mentioned some different places I had gone or things I had done (nothing super exciting mind you) and my friend kept telling me how much they missed their singleness and how lucky I was to be single.

As a single person, this is ludicrous.

I get there are “perks” to singleness. Heck, I’ve written about them. (You can read that post here.) We aren’t woken up in the middle of the night by a kid who wet the bed and we don’t spend our entire paycheck on diapers. At any time, we can go wherever we want without having to consult another person. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with singleness and when life seems to be dictated by another human being (especially one that isn’t even old enough to read yet) I imagine you’d day dream about five minutes of quiet. Or at least the ability to go pee without a crowd.

My point is, I have no idea how to respond to a married friend when they tell me I’m lucky because I’m single or how “good” I have it. When they say that I want to respond with, “I hear you using the word lucky, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Then, there’s the “third wheel” scenario. Let me state this now– I am extremely thankful that I have married friends who invite me to things. They include me in their life even when that means I’m sandwiched between two booster seats. That’s love, people.

But it can get awkward. Like going out for dinner for example. If it’s a booth, do I let them sit next to one another while I sit across from them? Or, if it’s a table, do I sit between them– having one on either side of me? Then, there are times when you’re at a scenic area and they’d like to get pictures together, as a family, so you volunteer to take the picture. Afterwards, they ask if you want one, too (which is super thoughtful). I’m just glad that photo albums are basically obsolete with the increased popularity of digital prints and social media. I’d have albums full of pictures of me standing in front of various monuments. Like this one:

WH

Or this one:

twine

Yes, that’s me in front of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, KS. Be jealous. So jealous.

Most of the time though, I borrow one of my friends’ kids to be in the picture with me. I’ve got hundreds of pictures of me with other people’s children.

One of the most aggravating of the awkward challenges is when people will accuse you of being desperate because you want to be in a relationship. I was unaware that having a desire somehow automatically put you in the desperate category, but apparently some people think that is the case. With all of the other challenges, I can laugh-off the awkwardness. That’s nearly impossible with this one. Sometimes, instead of defending myself I let the comment linger in the bloated awkward silence. Other times, my sass comes out on full blast.

Similar to that one, is how someone can assume you’re flirting with them just because you’re both single. I understand that friendliness and flirtatiousness can sometimes be confused, but my friendliness is sometimes just friendliness. Seems to be a tad bit egotistical, to me, to think otherwise. Shockingly, I’m not attracted to every single guy. Just the flannel wearing bearded ones. 😉

I couldn’t end this without bringing up the awkwardness of unsolicited advice.

Try online dating!

He’ll show up when you least expect it.

Get a hobby! (Yes, someone did tell me this)

Make the first move.

The list goes on and on. I find it funny that most of this advice comes from married people. Married people who have in fact been married for a long time…longer than I’ve been alive. Even funnier is the fact that most of the time I’ve been single longer than they ever were. Not that I think I’m some kind of expert, by any means, but I do have some experience in this area. More than I’d like, that’s for sure!

Awkwardness is a part of life. My advice on all of it? Don’t let it hinder you from amazing relationships. As single people, we need married friends. They tend to make dinner every night and if you treat them right they might just invite you over every once in awhile. We need friends of the opposite sex. They teach us invaluable lessons on their gender giving us helpful insights on how their minds work.

I could add more to this wonderfully awkward list, but I’d like to hear from you. What challenges have you experienced as a single person or as a married person in dealing with single people? Let me know in the comments!

What Community Looks Like

What Community Looks Like

She shuffled to the front of the sanctuary with a sense of determination in her gaze even though it was clear she carried a heavy burden. Each step forward bringing her closer to unloading her weights and closer to the freedom she desired. Everyone sat in hushed silence patiently waiting for her to reach the summit. As she turned toward the congregation, we noticed her eyes were brimming with tears.

And in her words was a confession.

Before a crowd of friends and strangers she rent her heart open exposing an area where she needed help. I sat silently in shock– not because of the nature of her confession. The confession itself was something that most, if not all, of us could confess at one time or another. What caught me was her courage to admit she needed help.

She had no shame in her voice as she stood bare before us. Just a simple boldness.

As she spoke, people began to gather around her and I saw first hand what community was meant to look like and it was beautiful.

I’d been longing to see community in action. Not just in service projects, either. I think we sometimes confuse service with community. Community is much more than that. Does it involve that? Many times it does, but you can serve a stranger and never get to know them. Never know their story, their heart, their struggles.

Community is about relationships.

It’s about really listening. And not the type of listening that is more focused on formulating a response. We can get so caught up in wanting to “fix” someone or bring them comfort that we forget that sometimes the best thing we can do is just hear them out. Stop trying to solve problems and just listen. No need to search for the perfect cliche or some other over used nugget of wisdom. Just let them to share.

There’s this Asian restaurant in my town that I’ve been wanting to try so I invited a friend along so we could experience something new together. Any time you add food and friends you’ve got a recipe for an enjoyable evening. The Pad Thai and spring rolls were pretty great, too.

As we ate, we talked and I shared with her how I’ve thinking about the purpose of church (a post about this coming soon) and how I think community is or should be involved. It’s a topic I struggle with regularly and I’ve been wanting people’s insights and wisdom on the matter. She mentioned how we can’t just surround ourselves with others our own age or position in life.

Community is multi-generational.

I believe community needs to be diverse. No one grows when they surround themselves with people just like them. We need to hear stories from our older, wiser, more experienced community members because they’ve got a wealth of knowledge. Knowledge gained through years and lessons learned. We need to listen and learn from our teens who may not have years behind them, but can certainly have insights that we can glean truth from.

There’s this older couple I know. They’re both nearing the 90-year mark and within the past few years, I’ve made it a point to connect with them because they’ve been through 90 years worth of stuff. That’s an entire 60 more years worth of stuff than I’ve been through and they still love and follow Jesus. I’ve got a lot to learn from them.

On the other hand, I know this 14 year old girl. Actually, she’s my oldest niece. I wouldn’t say she’s your typical teenage girl by any means, but there are days I remind her that if I catch her talking to a boy that I won’t be afraid to kill him. She rolls her eyes at me when I say that– she has picked up some of my sass. I also see her amazing capacity for compassion, too. I’ve got a lot to learn from her.

The beautiful thing about community is that everyone is valuable and everyone is needed. No one should be excluded or looked down upon. No one should be called obsolete. Or insignificant.

We need community. We NEED it. And I’m grateful that I get to experience it–whether in the four walls of a church or in the corner of a quaint Asian restaurant. It is there within community that we can heal and mature…and be refined through relationships.

Leave a comment and let me know how you’ve seen community in action.