By Rev. Dru McLeland, serving on the Compassion, Mercy and Justice Commission of the Central Conference


24,000 a year in Chicago alone, average age is 13…

These are images, events, numbers seared in my mind.   They have shocked me to the core of my being.  They have struck fear in me beyond what I thought possible.  They have made me angrier than I knew I could be.  The stories, statistics and startling images of human trafficking in the sex trade scandalize me.

All those years ago when Ruth Hill introduced the Break the Chains Initiative in the church I was attending, I felt overwhelmed with the enormity of the problem of human trafficking.  I began to ask God what I could do.  The problem is too huge, too evil, and too terrible.  But God (best two words ever!) reminded me that nothing is impossible with him, so I kept listening and seeking and taking the next step.

This past year I have seen God connect a whole church to a ministry that helps women transition from lives of sexual exploitation to lives of hope and healing.  Here’s the story.  I had the privilege of doing a pastoral internship at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Hinsdale, IL.  When the internship started, I met with six women who wanted to see the women’s ministry get involved with a justice ministry.   When we gathered, we didn’t expect that God would show us what that was right away and we entered into a discernment process.

Our discerning questions were:

  • Does it honor God?
  • Does it line up with Scripture?
  • Do other believers confirm it?
  • Does it produce good fruit?
  • Does God make it happen?

Over time we were led to get involved with helping women escape sexual exploitation in the sex trafficking trade and find new lives in Christ.  Groundwork had been done with a fundraiser a few years before, a college roommate who was starting a transitional housing ministry, and a mom’s friend who was working on a big dream.  We decided to partner with Naomi’s House.

Our plan:

  • Pray intentionally about the ministry.
  • Pursue the directors of Naomi’s House for more information about partnership.
  • Prepare the congregation by raising awareness through education and events.
  • Present the case to the congregation as a whole.
  • Pop the question for partnership.

We intentionally prayed together and separately for and about the ministry.  We met with Naomi’s House directors several times to create a partnership.  We presented the partnership possibility to the church leadership.  The directors of Naomi’s House came and spoke to the women of the church and we kept in contact.  To raise awareness and educate the congregation we offered a class using the Protect materials from Women’s Ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church.  We used a series of weekly communications with the congregation to promote the partnership.  We presented the partnership to many of the various Bible studies of the church.  Then we popped the question: Would the church make at least a two-year commitment to support Naomi’s House.  They said yes by raising funds to completely remodel and furnish two rooms in the house.  Naomi’s House will open in October offering hope and healing to eight women at a time.

This is not the only thing the church did.  One of the men in the church contacted Congressman Peter Roskam and asked him to come speak about human trafficking at the church.  The youth group sponsored an educational series for young women about human trafficking.  People are talking about what more they can do.  It is a great start!  The partnership honors God, lines up with scripture, other believers confirmed it by their support.  It has produced good fruit in the church already and we look forward to the work God will do in the lives of women at Naomi’s House.  God made it happen and will continue to make it happen.

It’s good to be scandalized by a huge problem.  But don’t stay there!

PRAY for those who are exploited.  Pray for the traffickers.  Pray for government officials.  Pray for ourselves. LEARN more about the issue.  Here are some links to learn more:

PARTNER with others.  Here are just a couple of ministries in the United States:

CONTACT your government officials.  They agree on this one issue.  Shared Hope International publishes reports on the actions states are taking to fight human trafficking. Congressman Roskam reminded his audience, “This interest in trafficking is NOT a hobby.  If you have the capacity to stick with this, you can make a difference.”  (At Covenant, Wed. Aug. 17, 2016).

BE SCANDALIZED.  Don’t stay there, ask God what to do, and see it through.

Are there other resources you could recommend?  Do you have stories of other churches who are stepping up?  We welcome you to share.

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