The students were inspired to tackle the issue of human slavery when they attended CHIC 2009 in Knoxville, Tennessee. There, they heard facts about the 27 million people enslaved worldwide and the 17,000 people brought to the United States as slaves annually.
They also listened intently to Boaz Johnson, professor of biblical and theological studies at North Park University, as he told his story of growing up in the slums of New Dehli, India, and of his friends being sold into slavery.
On a recent Sunday evening, Johnson spoke during an outreach event organized by the students, who wanted to educate and motivate their friends to action. Most of the students attend New Trier High School, one of the most prestigious public high schools in the country.
Youth Pastor Erik Strom showed the film “At the End of Slavery,” which was produced by International Justice Mission. Several tables of information and opportunities for taking action were set up around the room.
Tables included information about Free2Play, an outreach of the Not For Sale Campaign that gives athletes a chance to contribute financially to sports programs for rescued children; a computer where students could post Facebook status updates about human trafficking; a place for writing letters to elected officials (lower photo); and stories from the Evangelical Covenant Church anti-trafficking website and daily online news report. The top photo shows one participant signing up for the Break the Chains initiative sponsored by the Department of Women Ministries.
“The students were given an opportunity to write down a way in which they’re challenging themselves to think or act differently in light of all they had learned about slavery as it exists today,” says Strom. Those actions ranged from writing letters to government officials to developing a school project and purchasing fair trade products. Click here to see additional photos.
The youth group already had started working with Trade As One, an organization that encourages people to intentionally purchase goods not made by slaves and for which workers receive a fair wage. The teenagers sell fair trade coffee, tea and oil at the church on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
The group used money from their weekly offerings to purchase the first products for sale, Strom says. He noted that it was the students who initiated the idea for the outreach event and the fair trade table.
The teenagers were inspired by Johnson, but he says he was inspired by them as well. “I’m quite impressed with the work the students are doing,” he said after his evening with the group.