Wall-Breakers

The day’s light was just beginning to dim at the onset of a crisp, autumn evening.

The cool air made for perfect weather for a walk around the neighborhood. Children’s laughter echoed down the car-lined streets as friends gathered to play in the grass beyond the sidewalks. Some parents and other adults, recently returned from a day at work, trickled outside to share in the enjoyment of the beautiful evening.

As I strolled down the road, another gentleman was just reaching the sidewalk. We exchanged names and pleasantries and briefly talked about the nice weather, work, and family before our paths took us in different directions. I rounded the bend and squeezed to the side of the pathway to allow space for two young women, one of them pushing a baby stroller carrying a bright-eyed infant, to pass by on my left. They smiled warmly and said hello in passing.

I noticed one of my son’s friends playing soccer with some other boys from the neighborhood and stopped to greet him. I asked how school was going and listened as he told me about a recently acquired Pokémon card. His mom, a friend of our family, invited me in for tea, but I had to decline. I already had plans and couldn’t take her up on the offer this time. We said goodbye with the promise of getting our kids together to play sometime soon.

It is a wonderful neighborhood filled with loving families, friendly faces, energetic children, and joy in life.

But, how did you picture that neighborhood?

What did those faces look like in your mind’s eye? Where would you find this place? Who are the people who live there, what do they do for a living, and what is their background?

This brief story is an account of one evening walk that I had through a neighborhood in Pittsburgh. What I didn’t tell you is that the people I mentioned were from the Congo, Syria, and Nepal living in the United States as internationally displaced refugees. I did my best to paint a picture through my words, but they are not at all embellished or untrue in their description. This neighborhood is a welcoming and friendly place where I and my family love to spend time.

Is this what you would imagine as a description of a community largely comprised of diverse refugees?

These are our neighbors, and though they are typically very welcoming, hospitable, and generous, many of these people have never had an American friend or even had an American visit them in their home or apartment.

It’s not actually there, but you can almost see the wall that divides this neighborhood from the rest of the surrounding community.

Not long ago, I sensed the Lord speaking to me as He said,

people are building walls that are making it harder for others to get to Me.

My heart was broken at this thought! To the contrary, it is our responsibility to be wall-breakers, to bridge the gap, and to welcome our neighbors with Godly love and compassionate friendship.

Take a step out in faith and go for a walk…it’s amazing where God will lead you!


Adam Gebhart, Founder and Director Agapao Refugee Ministry

Share this with others!

Listening to God’s Heart for Justice

Brace yourself for a story of miraculous proportions…

On the night of Saturday, August 13, 2016, I attended a church that delivered a powerful message of biblical justice for the oppressed and how women are under attack from Satan. At the end of the service, without hint or preview, Facebook Private Messenger decided to reveal messages that were undelivered, dating back three years, one year, six months, and three months. I never saw this screen before or since on my smart phone. It quickly disappeared and I could not get it back. While recognizing some of the senders, I was suddenly concerned about conversations that others were attempting to have with me and that they probably thought I did not care.

Knowing that apps and websites can look drastically different on a mobile device versus a laptop, I logged-on when I got home. I was able to locate this hidden screen and discovered two dozen messages. Many were unimportant, but one clearly stood out. It was a response to a message that I sent six months prior, on a Facebook Page, in February 2016. The conversation was from Philadelphia-based Do What’s Wright Production Company, LLC. They had been filming a documentary throughout Pennsylvania focusing on statewide anti-human trafficking efforts and the history of abolitionism concerning slavery. I offered to help and asked how I could be involved should they come to Pittsburgh. At that time, I thought my message was either being ignored or forgotten, so I was disappointed.

As it turns out, the producer responded right away and accepted the assistance. However, now I am reading this for the first time, six months later. I responded with an apology for the half-year delay and tried to explain what seemed inexplicable. Since she also gave her email address in the message, I doubled my efforts to reach out. This documentary could easily have been in post-production by now and I feared that I might have missed an incredible opportunity.

However, two days later, the associate producer of ‘From Liberty to Captivity’ responded and assured that this was no coincidence. You see, just this week, the filmmakers were going to start calling contacts in Western PA to schedule appointments.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. A conversation that I initiated was lost for a period of six months, then it “just happened” to appear at a perfectly timed moment which was literally the best week possible.

The next miraculous occurrence: she described a major gap that they had regarding content. She said that they did not have anyone to report on outreach in the hospitality industry, as related to sex trafficking.

Wait a minute. For the past two years, I had led a hotel/motel ministry that brought awareness of warning signs and resources to take action for front desk staff and managers. The team had been to 130 hotels and motels from Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.

Furthermore, I had recently trained a church group of 6-10 in Philadelphia to mirror these outreach efforts.

Next, she referenced advocates in the Pittsburgh area that she was trying to reach without much success. One-by-one I began to close the gaps with my local network of faith-based, law enforcement, and clinical contacts. I was becoming somewhat of a consultant for the film.

If that is not enough evidence for you that this was a divine appointment, I suggested a regional event that should be of interest to them. The Imagine Conference focuses on the most vulnerable population of children that are at the highest risk of being trafficked; which is those that need mentored, sponsored, fostered, and adopted. The year before, I spoke during a segment representing the plague and battle of domestic minor sex trafficking. After I explained that the event would be held on October 22, 2016, she said that is THE WEEK that production was planning on relocating to Pittsburgh! Progress moved swiftly and with few obstacles, from filming locations to interviews of courageous survivors, former traffickers, and local advocates. Exactly what they were seeking is what I had been prepared to provide.

With continued collaboration, I was told that I no longer was going to be a subject interviewed for the film. Rather, I was being tapped to be Assistant Producer. (Perhaps, I edged myself out by finding way more interesting people than myself to interview, but who cares!)

To give a little more personal context: the year 2016 was extremely difficult. Within the first six months of the year, I grieved for the loss of two very close family members and experienced spousal job loss. Probably somewhere around early to mid-summer, I was longing for another sign from God that I was on the right path by fighting human trafficking, as I was starting to become a little stagnant. All I knew was, I had never felt as close to God as I did when I was deeply serving Him in this area. Defining moments have been instituting the hotel/motel ministry; lobbying for International Justice Mission on Capitol Hill; making an awareness video through my church; and speaking at the Imagine Conference before 400 attendees. I was ready for the next level.

The two Sundays after the second family death, I was at my home church and acutely engaged with the worship. Suddenly I heard God’s audible voice-as audible as it could be while in my head-say, “Trust me. You won’t believe what I have for you.” I literally heard this message and cannot even type it without tears. I had this divine experience on Sunday, July 31st and again on Sunday, August 7th. The following Saturday, August 13th the archived/lost Facebook Private Messenger messages popped-up, which guided me to the six-month old correspondence, and becoming Assistant Producer on ‘From Liberty to Captivity’. I do not tell this story to say – “Hey look at me!” Make no mistake; I am ecstatic as this marries my lifelong passion of film and compassion for victims/survivors of human trafficking.

I am telling this story as a real-life illustration of God’s perfect timing and divine intervention.

This is something beyond our understanding. If God knows all things, can be all places, and is all-powerful, He certainly can control something like our electronic devices. There is no way this is a coincidence, by happenstance, or irony. This can only be explained as the movement of God.

He has orchestrated this to the point of it being undeniable. He has been preparing this opportunity for years. I just had to learn to listen to God’s heart for justice.

You can too:

Register for the Imagine Conference

Learn more, and get involved in supporting “From Liberty to Captivity”

“Local Activist Battling Human Trafficking in PA”

Walk Her Home


Written by Gary Caldwell, Assistant Producer of ‘From Liberty to Captivity’ film

 

Share this with others!

Refugees in the Bible

The existence of refugees is nothing new.

Today, the refugee crisis in Syria continues to make headlines, but in 2003 it was over 2 million refugees fleeing the war in Iraq. In 1994, 2.5 million Sudanese fled the war in the Darfur region, and in the same year, over 2 million people left their homes to escape genocide in Rwanda. Around 2.7 million refugees escaped the Bosnian war in 1992, five million left Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in 1979, and the dictatorship of Idi Amin forced thousands of Asians from Uganda in 1972. During the late 1970’s over 3 million people fled from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos with around 1.3 million resettling in the United States. In 1948, the Arab-Israeli War resulted in around 5 million Palestinian refugees. Still, the single largest refugee crisis in world history occurred in 1945 during World War II as over 40 million Europeans fled their homes and countries. Well over a million more refugees resulted from World War I in 1914, 2 million Jews escaped persecution in Russia in 1881, and, in 1783, over 10 million Muhacirs fled persecution in their respective countries to settle in what is modern-day Turkey.

The list goes on and on, yet these are only some of the major refugee crises in the past 250 years!

So, let’s look at some of the earliest refugees in history, as recorded in the Bible. Adam and Eve were effectively refugees after their sin resulted in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Cain was similarly banished to wander the earth while Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob were at one point or another forced to live in different lands to escape famine. Moses and the Israelites fled from persecution in Egypt, Naomi fled from famine, David fled from Saul, and Elijah fled from King Ahab. The Israelites were displaced in exile to Assyria and then Babylon before Nehemiah began the return to Jerusalem. Ezra, Esther, Mordecai, Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all forced from their homelands for different reasons.

And then there is Jesus who was born in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth because of a government ordered census which required temporary displacement. Shortly after his birth, Jesus, along with Mary and Joseph, fled to Egypt to escape the murderous orders of Herod. Have you noticed the incredible notoriety of these Biblical refugees?

Not only does God care deeply for the refugees in the world, he uses them in tremendous ways. God also uses forced migration to further His kingdom and spread the gospel.

In Acts 8, persecution of the early Christians displaced them into different regions. The result of this was that,

“those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).

So, while I would never claim that God causes refugee crises, he surely uses refugees and the scattering of peoples to spread the gospel message and increase our faith in Him.

Beside all of this, we can consider ourselves Heavenly refugees. Ever since Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, mankind has lived apart from God’s manifest presence and the amazing homeland that was originally created for us. Jesus’ sacrifice offers the opportunity to restore that relationship and return us to an eternal life with him in Heaven. Though we remain here on Earth as a result of sinful exile, “our citizenship is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

Being considered spiritual refugees in a foreign land, unified in the belief that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3;26), we await the time when we will return home with our Heavenly Father.

God cares enough about our “refugee status” to redeem us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he cared about the many refugees in the Bible as he provided for them and used them in his plan, and he surely cares about the millions of refugees in the world today.

Register for the Imagine Conference


Adam Gebhart, founder and Director, Agapao Refugee Ministry

 

Share this with others!

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word!