What will it take for us to engage in the fight against sexual exploitation? I would like to share with you four key areas that will empower us to make a difference.
The first is, Our View of Sex. Did you read this one? We need to look at our perceptions and be challenged to identify how culture has shaped our views and where our motivation comes to engage in the fight against sexual exploitation.
The second area is - Confronting Our Fears
In all good intentions, the phrase "do no harm" has been used to serve as a warning against those who will jump on the next great cause and try to make a difference with no knowledge or counsel. But this phrase can also be a weapon of fear. It has been meant to protect but in so doing, many have disengaged from the fight out of fear of their own inadequacies. May I take a moment to talk about the church? We have been a partner in awakening this fear when we relegate areas God has clearly called us to, to the professional realm. Please hear me that I am not against professionalism and education. These are absolutely necessary. What I am talking about is when we, the church, don’t address the issues that our culture is facing, such as poverty, abuse, pornography, drug addiction, broken families, and sexual exploitation to name a few. I heard it said by those who actively work in the foster care field, that it was never intended for the state to care for children. God has clearly called us to care for the orphan, to share our bread with the hungry, to bring the poor into our houses, to be their family. It is a challenge that many feel overwhelmed and inadequate to address. I am excited that there is a new wave of advocates in the church who are addressing this great need with wisdom.
It truly is an exciting time to be alive! We are beginning to see the awakening of the church to issues of brokenness in our culture. Within foster care, a bridge is being built between the agencies who have been entrusted with the care of these children and those who have a deep passion to embrace them into their hearts and lives. Within the past ten years we have seen an awakening against slavery and its forms through human trafficking. Because those who experience exploitation at the hands of their traffickers often carry immense trauma, we need to be aware of how our response can either harm or help. How can we have a healthy response to wisdom’s "do no harm"? Here are a few ideas:
Maintain Humility - Whether we are well educated in the area of trauma or recently becoming aware, our heart response is the key. What is our motivation for engaging in this work? Our hearts may beat for justice but we are not the ultimate rescuer; we may carry a deep compassion, but we are not the healer. As we choose to walk alongside others, our desire to affirm the dignity and resilience they carry speaks volumes. Surrounding ourselves with those whom we can be real with is also key. Galatians 6:1-6 is a great place to start for those who want to dive in more.
Become a Learner - Do you know a survivor personally? Learn from them, value them. I made the mistake awhile ago in my desire to see someone healed of trying to address some of their pain and it completely backfired in my face. Just be their friend. As they grow to trust you will be entrusted with areas and invited to speak into their lives. Always maintain integrity, seeing them as people, never re-exploiting them for your own personal gain or ministry advancement. Give them power to choose and have a voice.
Know Your Lane: What are you called to? What have you been trained in? Are you an educator, advocate, directly involved in outreach, part of an emergency response team, health care, or law enforcement? Value your expertise as well as the expertise of others while you bring what you have to the table. We all have a place to engage. If you don’t know where to start, begin by volunteering with various agencies in your community and initiatives through your church. Open your eyes and let God speak to you about where to be involved, then go at it with all your heart.
Collaborate: I was remembering the other day how the very first coalition meeting we hosted was in our community’s fair trade store. The goal of the coalition is to network to provide a web of services for victims and survivors. We now have representatives from several key agencies as well as various churches. Not one church, non-profit, or agency can adequately address human trafficking. We need each other. Maintaining respect and open communication will ensure that more victims in our areas are identified and receive the support they need.
Live Out Risk Filled Faith: Scrolling through Instagram while my daughter lay sleeping beside me, I came across a photo that sparked a very simple but profound thought. It is of a wonderful faith filled woman who lives in Africa with her husband, loving those in some of the worst brothels our world has seen through their ministry Pioneer 61. This picture showed her standing in front of a brothel she was renting out as room for prayer, where the women could encounter Jesus, the One who loves them and can give them a new life. Considering the best approach for outreach can be overwhelming. A thousand anxious ideas protest each one, it’s validity, our safety. I am so tired of over analyzing everything. On the couch, my heart struggled with this inner battle, and then calmed as I heard two words, “Do and Be.” Somehow I constantly feel like I am not doing enough or am not enough. To DO means that I take what I have and run with it. To BE reflects the restfulness of my spirit as I learn to let go of having all the answers and let God move through my inadequacies. It is living out who He has created and called me to be. James talks about faith without works being dead. We can have great ambitions and believe that He truly loves those who are trafficked and wants to set them free, but if we aren’t willing to step out and take a risk, all these great efforts of faith are fruitless. Faith is an invitation to take action with a community of like-minded individuals. This is my prayer right now, that God would put us in contact with those in our community who carry the same faith filled desire to take risks. I would love to explore more with you soon on what this can look like. Until then, I hope that this has provided you with greater motivation to engage.
It will take all of us offering our gifts, whether in the forefront or behind the scenes, to see human trafficking thwarted and redemptive life given to all.