Human Trafficking Key Worship Focus for Many Churches

Post a Comment » Written on January 15th, 2009     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (January 15, 2009) – Evangelical Covenant churches around the country dedicated their worship services and other activities to observing National Human Trafficking Awareness Day this past Sunday.

Covenanters took quizzes, prayed, wrote letters, and even ice-skated to learn more about human trafficking and spread the news to others.

“We changed the order of service so we would not disturb reflection, prayer, and response of the congregation toward the end of the service,” says Dan Dungan, pastor of Creekside Covenant Church in Redmond, Washington. During the service, members turned over a card that had been handed them and followed instructions that directed them to act out things simulating servitude or being in charge of those who were being subservient.

Chains“An awareness quiz was then taken, and the family that admitted to the least correct answers was given a book on the topic,” Dungan says. “The sermon dealt with the history of slavery dating back to Genesis and becoming aware of the current situation in the world, in our nation, and in our neighborhood.”

According to the United Nations, more than 27 million people are enslaved around the world. Human trafficking is the third largest source of income for organized crime, generating an estimated $32 billion a year.

Dungan emphasized that the issue is as local as it is worldwide. “Three months to the day before our service, a federal grand jury in Seattle indicted a woman on charges of trafficking for services in spas and a restaurant in Kirkland, Bellevue, and SeaTac.”

Toward the end of the service and even afterward, people attended several stations positioned around the worship area. “One station was communion where we could remind ourselves again of God’s justice and mercy in freeing us,” Dungan says. “The other stations allowed us to contribute an offering to free slaves while putting an orange ribbon around our wrist for a week to remind us to continue to pray; looking at material to take home, including how to recognize possible trafficking, and a Covenant devotional on the topic; learning to be selective consumers and avoiding buying products involving slave labor; and writing letters to five government officials.”

“This is a very difficult subject, but I am moved that so many were willing to participate in this day.”

The Covenant Church of Easton in Easton, Connecticut, held an ice skating party after the service to raise funds and spread awareness. The church distributed brochures with information about the issue and raised money through the sale of hot chocolate for the Break the Chains initiative led by the denomination’s Department of Women Ministries.

During the service, three members shared stories of people who had been enslaved. Church members also wrote letters, but directed them to state officials to advocate for anti-human trafficking laws.

At River47 Covenant Church in Orange, California, a student from Fuller Theological Seminary addressed the congregation. The speaker, Julia Speck, also is an assistant to
Kurt Fredrickson, a Covenant minister and director of the Doctor of Ministry program at the school.

Speck’s passion for the issue is evidenced by the tattoo on her arm (accompanying photo) that reads, “Until the last lock breaks…” A podcast of the message is available on the church website.

The worship service at Glen Ellyn Covenant Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, was part of a six-week emphasis by the church, which is involving attendees of all ages. The junior and senior high groups are using a video-based curriculum and children K-5 have been engaging in activities to help them better understand the poor quality of life experienced by street children in India.

“By working together we can leverage our impact.”

Dungan says his staff at Creekside nearly decided to not dedicate the service to fighting human trafficking because they weren’t sure how to present it. He adds they also “were hesitant to delve into the topic.” A member of the congregation who had been involved with International Justice Mission advocated for the focus, however.

“Every one of the staff worked on this, and we went through a shock-and-awe phase to a degree, but ended up being extremely hopeful because of our God, our freedom, and the amount of work and attention being given by organizations, churches, and the government to eradicate the slavery and help restore those who are freed.” Dungan says.

Ruth Hill, executive minister of Women Ministries, says she understands why churches might shy away from the issue. “This is a very difficult subject, but I am moved that so many were willing to participate in this day. By working together we can leverage our impact.”

The Break the Chains initiative has raised more than $200,000 since its launch in February 2007 – click here to join the growing list of supporters with an online donation. The funds are being channeled through partnerships, including the Hindustani Covenant Church in India. Click here to access a variety of resources.

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