That is fantastic! How do you go about accomplishing that goal? Sometimes the topic may feel so big or politically charged that you are not sure how to take action, how to go from the idea to the actions. Here are a few things to consider…
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to share a short-term missions experience in a counter-cultural context with those closest to you?
How would your children, your siblings, your parents, or your spouse survive when some of the tight-knit control that defines our lives has been suddenly removed? Or when nothing really goes as planned, nothing you eat tastes “normal,” and no one is even speaking your language?
I’ve had the opportunity to find out what it’s really like to serve alongside my husband and children not once, but twice in a developing country with many differences – and similarities – to life as we know it. It’s extremely humbling, occasionally heartbreaking, absolutely hilarious, and overwhelmingly hopeful!
Imagine you bought yourself a new watch. It works so perfectly (and looks so good on your gorgeous wrist) that you decide to buy yourself a fancy shirt to go with it. Then, you talk yourself into buying a whole new outfit (because you have worked so hard recently and you deserve to treat yourself).
New shoes, fresh underwear, bling.
You look amazing.
And you feel amazing.
But while you’re out for a stroll around the lake (looking like a million bucks) you see a young girl drowning. You can tell that she’s exhausted… seconds from going under.
Tell me, what would you do?
Imagine getting tickets to see your favorite NFL team play.
You’ve invested your hard-earned money to buy the tickets, you arrive at the stadium, find your seats and anxiously await the moment when they’ll take the field for kick off. Excitement swells inside of you when they walk onto the field. They huddle up. You slide forward in your seat. Nothing happens. The only thing your beloved team does all night long is stand on the field in a huddle.*
Can you imagine your frustration level?
Did you ever wonder what God thinks when He sees His children sitting in church, worshipping His name, and reading their Bibles, but never doing anything with it?
You and I have full access to the playbook and the Coach, but do we get out of our holy huddle and put our skin in the game?
That’s what Imagine is all about.
We believe God was serious when He said, “Love your neighbor”.
We believe He left us here on earth to be His hands and feet.
We believe the world desperately needs followers of Jesus to live out His love.
Imagine: Living Out an Extraordinary Calling to Love
It’s not an ordinary conference. It’s something much larger. We believe that God wants to do something big in our city, our nation, and our world, and we invite you to pray with us.
In the remaining days leading up to the Imagine Conference, would you get in the game and pray with us?
1. Praise for the hundreds of individuals already registered to attend the conference and for the hundred plus speakers, volunteers, & exhibitors committing their time to the conference.
2. Pray that the Holy Spirit would fill the building and the hearts of each person attending with unity. Pray that He would speak one thing to each person and for them to obey. Pray that friendships and partnerships would grow that multiply the fruits of our efforts.
3. Pray that every pastor, leader, and individual already engaged in this front-lines love-your-neighbor work would be encouraged and equipped to continue in that to which the Lord has called them.
4. Pray for logistics, clarity and wisdom for every speaker presenting over the two days.
5. Pray that God would move on the hearts of every person He wants to be in attendance and make a way for them to be there.
6. Pray that all that happens over November 10th and 11th would bring glory to our Lord and King!
Thank you for joining with us! We can’t wait to see you on Friday!
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
James 5:16, NLT
*Illustration courtesy of Priscilla Shirer
**Registration for the Imagine Conference closes November 8, so don’t wait!
Erin Brothers, Co-Director, OrphanCare Ministry of North Way Christian Community
Her name is Nicole, and I met her.
She traveled all the way from California to my house. I wish I could say I’d invited her. She walked right up to my front door and knocked. “I can’t let you in,” I said. “I have so much going on, you know, with work, my husband, kids. I’m a mom; you understand.”
There was no response. She knocked again. “I guess you didn’t hear me; I can’t let you in. I have to send these emails and plan dinner. The house is a mess. Sorry! Not a good time.” Nothing. Then came more knocking, soft and polite. “Wow, you again.” I was getting annoyed. “Honestly? I haven’t worked out yet today, or had my quiet time, or showered for that matter,” I said. “Can you please come back when I’ve met all their needs plus my own, wrapped up these projects, gotten myself organized, and my kids are in school all day?”
I opened the door a crack and walked away because I thought she’d left. Then she was standing in my living room. “My name is Nicole,” she said. She had long brown hair and was extremely attractive—she looked like she could have been about my age but was probably younger. Her look was on trend, and she had a welcoming smile. “Hi, Nicole,” I said, and I resumed working.
“When I was 18 years old, I was addicted to drugs and dancing at a club to make ends meet,” she began. “I met a guy, and he offered to help me get clean.”
That was the beginning of her nightmare, as that man would eventually enslave and traffic her across the United States, forcing her to pick up other women off the street as they went.
I stopped what I was doing and listened as Nicole shared details I couldn’t even repeat about her seven-year ordeal, which included constant abuse, threats of violence, and two forced abortions. As she talked, I could hear my two daughters shrieking with laughter from their attic playroom, and I broke down and wept.
Because her name is Nicole, and I met her. And my world was rocked forever.
A Call to Action
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. There are more people in slavery today than at any other time in human history:
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year, according to the International Labour Organization.
In 2016, an estimated 1 out of 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 86% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran away.
While there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the United States, it probably reaches into the hundreds of thousands.
And here’s the kicker:
Only 1 percent of human trafficking victims are ever rescued.
That these statistics are overwhelming and disheartening is an understatement.
Impossible might be the best way to describe the prospect of even slowing the momentum of this massive, powerful, runaway freight train of darkness—let alone stopping it in its tracks.
Except for one thing.
As Christians, we serve the God who created every single man, woman, and child enslaved in trafficking today—who sees, and knows, and loves each and every one of them. The God for whom nothing is impossible, and who wants to remind us that what is impossible with man is possible with God (Luke 18:27, Matthew 19:26). The God who might be calling you to action. Just like he called Christine.
We Can’t Do it All, But We Can All Do Something
In 2007, Christine Caine—today an internationally known teacher, evangelist, activist, author, and speaker—was walking through the airport in Thessaloniki, Greece, when she noticed that littering the walls were handmade posters showing the faces of girls and women who had disappeared. She wondered how there could be so many people missing at the same time, until someone told her they were all victims of human trafficking.
Caine was incredulous. “I thought ‘Human trafficking? That doesn’t happen, that’s ridiculous.’ Then I went online and did some research, and I was stunned.” [“Abolishing Sex Slavery by Helping One Girl at a Time”]
Or as she would later put it: “My. World. Was. Rocked. Forever. … Life as I knew it before seeing the missing posters was over.” [“A Dream Come True”]
A year later in 2008, she and her husband, Nick, founded The A21 Campaign, an anti-human trafficking organization dedicated to abolishing injustice in the 21st century. A21’s comprehensive approach includes raising awareness, preventing future trafficking, taking legal action, and providing rehabilitation services to survivors.
With a stated mission to abolish slavery everywhere forever, A21 has 12 offices in 11 countries—all focused on aspects of its three-pronged solution: Reach, Rescue, Restore.
REACH THE VULNERABLE AND DISRUPT THE DEMAND.
RESCUE VICTIMS AND SEEK JUSTICE AGAINST THEIR CAPTORS.
RESTORE SURVIVORS AND EQUIP THEM TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY.
That first one, Reach. That’s where you and I come in: “Prevent slavery from ever happening by engaging people through events, student presentations, and education programs.”
Because chances are you’re feeling pretty unqualified right about now, seeing as how you’re not ready to go off and found an entire antislavery organization. Chances are you’re thinking something along the lines of
I’m too busy.
It’s too big an issue.
I can’t do it all.
But we can all do something.
“Often, I think, because we think, ‘I can’t do it all,’ we end up being paralyzed. So we do nothing,” says Caine. “But if we understand we can’t do everything but we all must do something, and we all find the one thing that we can do, then we’ll find that together we will all make such a huge difference and we’ll be able to put a stop to this.”
Putting a Stop to This: The Walk for Freedom
Remember my earlier encounter with Nicole? It was imagined, but her story isn’t, and it was what showed up in my living room that day. A few years later, on a warm May night at a church in suburban Pittsburgh, I was there as Nicole stood next to Christine Caine and shared her story live in front of an audience for the first time. You see, Nicole is alive, well, and free today because of A21. And now, she’s part of the fight.
On October 14, 2017, you can join me, Nicole, and tens of thousands of other 21st-century abolitionists in 600 cities and 50 countries around the world by participating in the fourth annual Walk For Freedom, A21’s global fundraising and awareness campaign. Designed to reflect A21’s heart for freedom and justice, it is ultimately designed to turn awareness into action.
Register now at a21.org/pittsburgh, or find the event closest to you by visiting walkforfreedom.org and entering your location. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram by searching “Walk for Freedom Pittsburgh 2017,” and invite others to walk with you.
Finally, join me at Imagine Conference! Learn directly from those who are on the front lines in the fight against human trafficking, and find out how to support and partner with local and national organizations like A21.
Together, as followers of Jesus, we can do something. Together, we can answer His call to live out love.
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life… Use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” GALATIANS 5:14
Written by Kelly Sjol
When she’s not being wife to a great guy, mom to two silly girls, or marketing consultant to universities and has free time (which is almost never), Kelly Sjol blogs at wearemadefree.com.