Stop! Before you're tempted to close out this 'thought' because it's "too long" (which in our fast-paced society tends to be anything more than a paragraph or two) I would encourage you to read on. What is shared in this thought is VERY important -- both for you and many others around the world -- 27,000,000+ others to be exact. Believe me it will be worth you time; and all the more so if it moves you to do something in response to it.
It comes from a lady named Christine Caine, and is found in a book called, "Passion," edited by Louie Giglio, and containing articles by many authors including Francis Chan, John Piper, and others. Christine is the founder of the A21 Campaign, one of the largest non-profit
organizations in the world, dedicated to rescuing the victims of human trafficking (labor and sex slaves) in 12 countries. This article tells why she chose to get involved. It is impossible (if one has a heart) to read what she writes and not be moved. Please do.
"I found myself speaking at a conference in Greece around the time that a little girl named Madeline went missing in Portugal. Her picture was plastered across the TV, in airports, and in magazines. Interpol was searching for this little girl everywhere. I was, of course, very saddened by the disappearance of this little girl, but I didn't know her. I hadn't met her... Then I saw a second poster for another girl that was missing. This child was named Sophia -- the same name as my second daughter... Suddenly these missing children weren't numbers. They weren't posters and they weren't statistics. They were real -- someone's daughters. Someone's sisters and classmates. I stopped and began to wonder if that were MY Sophia on that poster, what would I do to find her? What wouldn't I give up to see her safe?
I later found out that these children were the alleged victims of human trafficking, something that at that time I didn't even know existed. I assumed that the slave trade was abolished with William Wilberforce, but I was wrong. On my watch, in my generation, the current state of slavery has been flourishing in the dark rooms of the world. With all our great Christian gatherings, our tremendous churches, our wealth of worship songs and resources, right now in the 21st century, there are more slaves on earth than ever before. It was incomprehensible to me. How could this be true? How could this happen in our day? Yet it's true. During our day, more people are being trafficked and sold for labor or sex than ever before in human history. This is unacceptable not merely from the standpoint of human rights; it's unacceptable from the standpoint of the teachings of Jesus...
With knowledge comes responsibility. We know the slave trade is alive and well right now. We know this, and because we do, we are responsible to do something about it... We might be tempted to equate compassion with getting sad watching a movie or hearing a story. That's not compassion; that's sentiment. Compassion isn't compassion until you are actually interrupted. It's not real until it inspires you to action. It was the action of the Good Samaritan, not his sentiment, that separated him from the others that walked by the beaten man on the side of the road... In our choice about whether to cross the road, we must begin by realizing that at one point or another, we were the one lying in the ditch and Jesus crossed the road for us.
I am a rescued person. I did not discover I was adopted until I was thirty-three years old. Though our parents never told us the truth, on a single day we discovered this family secret and the truth was jarring to say the least. Suddenly I didn't know who I was. I didn't know whether I was conceived in an adulterous affair or a one-night stand. I didn't know if I was the result of a rape or an underage pregnancy. But as the panic set in, the Lord reminded me I didn't have to know the specific facts to know who I am... I may not know who I was, but I know who I am; I have been rescued by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus walked across the road between heaven and earth so that I might cross the road for the sake of others. I was saved by grace that I might walk in the way Jesus did in the world. This is the plan of God -- to use rescued people to rescue people... Jesus has set us free so that we might set others free. He rescued us so that we might rise up, reach back, and rescue others... It could be any one of the twenty-seven million slaves in the world right now.
But that twenty-seven million must cease to be a number. Just like you and me, these people are living, breathing human beings created in the image of Almighty God, full of God-given destiny and God-given promise. The same Jesus who set me free can set them free, but how will they hear those words if we do not go tell them? How will they ever know the truth if we, together, don't raise our voices and declare that we will not allow this injustice to prevail? The Apostle Paul said that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), and we must take that declaration to the world.
Not long ago I was sitting at one of our shelters with Sonia, one of fourteen rescued victims. One of these young women, one that wasn't a statistic anymore, began telling me about how she was shipped to Istanbul in a container with sixty girls. During the trip, the oxygen tank broke, and when the crate was actually opened, thirty of the girls were dead. The ones left alive had no passports because the traffickers had taken them. They were locked in an apartment and raped several times a day by men wearing law-enforcement uniforms, so the girls would not trust the police. Then, they were put in a little rubber dingy to be taken from Istanbul to Athens through the Greek Islands. While en route, the traffickers were spotted by a coast guard patrol, and so they threw the girls overboard. Keep in mind that these girls were from villages and had barely seen running water, let alone been in a body of water to swim. Only five survived. Sonia was one of them.
She was eventually brought to our shelter when police raided a brothel in Athens. It was about that time in this unbelievable story that a Russian girl sitting near us (who had been rescued only one day before Sonia) began to ask me loudly in broken Greek: "Why did you come?" As best I could I began to tell her about how Jesus had rescued me and so I wanted to help her. I told her that God has a plan, a purpose, and a destiny for her life; that it didn't matter what she had gone through -- God was big enough to redeem her past. But it's what she said next that I'll never forget. As I was telling her this good news, she yelled back at me, "If what you are telling me about your God is true, then why didn't you come sooner?"
Why didn't I come sooner? Those words are haunting. What is so important in our temporal lives that will distract us from the eternal purpose God put us on earth for? What deserves more attention than the very people Jesus died for? Safety, comfort and security are NOT the goal of Christianity; freedom is. And because it is, we must rise together to declare that this will not happen on our watch. Not today. Not ever again."
I have heard many sermons on the Old Testament passages which speak of the "watchmen" posted on the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Men who scanned the roads and dark outlines of the surrounding terrain all day long, and all night long, watching for danger or any signs of the approach of invading armies. But Christine is right. As Christians we are to do more that simply watch out for threats to the people of God, or the Church. We are to watch out for evil and injustice wherever it occurs, and sound the alarm for other's outside "Jerusalem" who are being mistreated, abused, or are victims of the new forms of human labor or sex slavery. Many of these victims who are forced into labor or prostitution are children as young as 11 years old (some younger). The question is what are we doing to stop it? To use her words, "we must rise together (as the Church) and declare that this will not happen on our watch." We are placed on the walls to ensure such things do not go unnoticed or unaddressed.
The question facing the Church in every generation is: Will we speak up? Will we somehow get involved? Will we take the necessary risks and make the necessary sacrifices? Or will we turn a blind eye, and like the majority (at least here in the States), pretend it's not happening around us so we can continue to pursue the three gods of our culture -- "safety, comfort and security." If it were your 11, 12, or 13 year old daughter (or son) would you simply express your sad "sentiment" or would you be "moved by compassion" to do something to put an end to such evil -- even if your part is to rescue just one of the twenty-seven million slaves worldwide? God has placed you as watchmen on the walls -- will you allow such a thing to happen on your watch without lifting your voice, or pen, or hands to do something to stop it? As the old Christian hymn declares: "Rise Up Oh Church of God..." Will we? Will we think, "How sad..." or will we be, "moved by compassion..."
In the Bonds of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff