What Can the Church Do to Address Human Trafficking?

HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH RESPOND TO THOSE ENSLAVED TODAY?

“Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves.  Remove your evil deeds from My sight.  Stop doing evil.  Learn to do what is good.  Seek justice.  Rebuke the oppressor.  Defend the rights of the fatherless.  Plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:16-19).

The church cannot ignore the issue of human trafficking.  The church is called stand against evil, seek justice, care for the least of these, and rebuke the oppressor.  Our God calls us to speak out and to reach out.

AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST, HE CALLS US TO BE AGENTS OF JUSTICE AND TRUTH… OF LOVE AND GRACE.

What can the church do?

  • Care enough to get involved.
  • Begin paying attention and being aware of those that may be victims of human trafficking.
  • Avoid the temptation to blame the victims for their situations.
  • Be willing to reach out and offer a hand of help and hope to someone victimized by trafficking.  Offer unconditional love and remember that the chains of sin are not always broken quickly.
  • Realize that breaking the chains of trafficking will not come easy; it will require time, patience, and endurance.
  • Understand that not every situation will result in success, but through the power of God, victories are possible.
  • Address the issue of pornography honestly with your church from the pulpit and in small groups.
  • Begin men’s and women’s groups, where individuals can find a safe place to share their struggles and be freed from pornography’s hold through transparency, accountability, biblical study, and prayer.
  • Train church, children, and youth leaders to recognize the signs of abuse and trafficking vulnerability; and seek to increase awareness how perpetrators utilize extortion and weak areas to exploit the vulnerable.
  • Utilize MinistrySafe and their five-part system that provides a framework for sexual abuse prevention in your ministry areas.
  • Be cautious in allowing new members or new attendees to your church in serving in children’s or youth ministry.
  • Conduct Child Protection training for church, youth, and children’s leaders.
  • Develop child protection policies that build in safeguards.
  • Conduct background checks on youth and children’s leaders in the church before allowing them to serve.
  • Teach Biblical sexuality in appropriate settings to youth and adults.
  • Support or volunteer with a ministry that is working to free victims from trafficking.

The church can make a difference and free those chained by exploitation and evil.

“Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the power of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).

Taking Care of Your Heart

“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I have served in active ministry for the sake of my Lord for forty years, and in my role as Disaster Relief Director for the last decade.  Ministry is not for the faint of heart, weak, or timid.  Our calling often requires us to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Christ and others with long hours and stressful days.  This can wear on us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

I was reminded of this in May of 2017, when I began having some neck pain and numbness in my left arm.  When this continued for several days, I decided to call my cardiologist.   I was quickly scheduled for a heart catheterization, and the result was three stents placed in my coronary arteries.  I am thankful for God’s sufficient grace, and that I could catch this health problem before it caused more serious issues like a major heart attack or stroke.  God has reminded me afresh that I cannot serve him well if I do not take care of my own health.

I would encourage you as a minister to:

  1. Develop a regular discipline of exercise.  I have found a morning 30-minute exercise regimen to be best for me as I often lose control of my afternoons and evenings as ministry needs arise during the day.  Find a type of exercise that you enjoy and can maintain. For me, it is walking or riding a stationary bike.
  2. Maintain a healthy diet.  It is easy in ministry to eat on the “go” and to make less than healthy choices.  I am disciplining myself to watch my portion size, to eat more vegetables and fruits, and to watch my cholesterol and fats.  I thank God that eating healthier has increased my energy for His sake.
  3. Get Proper Rest.  We all need a good night sleep.  God recharges the body when we allow it to rest and trust the events of the day to Him.
  4. Take time to get away from ministry for brief periods and to allow God to restore you.  Unlike the Energizer Bunny, we will run down without some down times to relax.  Ministry can be demanding and stressful, even when things are going good.  Burnout and Compassion Fatigue are damaging to us and our families, and can be deadly to ministry.
  5. Rely on the strength of God’s Holy Spirit to help you begin and maintain good health practices.  If overeating is a weakness for you, then ask the Spirit to help you fight the urge to make unhealthy food choices.  If lack of exercise is your problem, then ask God to help you set your alarm and get up a few minutes earlier.

God has reminded me that I cannot minister effectively if I neglect my own physical, emotional, or spiritual health.  God cares about our bodies.  He gave them to us.  He wants us to do all we can to keep our bodies healthy and active for His sake for the days that He has appointed us.  Take care of yourself for your sake, but even deeper for His sake!

“For you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Embracing the Stranger Next Door

It was estimated that last year over 50 million people were displaced from their homes, with around 19.5 million forced to live as refugees. These people have been driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution, and disasters.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes. These are people just like you and me. These are people loved by God. And they are coming to our communities.  Every year refugees, students, and other internationals are coming to our communities.  They are becoming our neighbors.  God is bringing the nations to us, and the church has been called to take the Gospel to all peoples.

How can we embrace the nations and reach out to those from other cultures that God is bringing to our communities?

  • Smile and welcome them.  Grace and kindness work in any culture.
  • Open your eyes to those that God has brought to your community.  Take time to see the server at the restaurant, the cashier at the convenience store, the nurse at the hospital, the new person in your office, or the neighbor across the street who may look, dress, and speak a little different from you.
  • Consider adopting a refugee family through your small group or church family.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization Team can help you connect to families through partnering ministries.
  • Start a conversation.  It can be as simple as asking someone their name and where they are from.  Ask them about their family or homeland.  Inquire about religious beliefs in their country.
  • Be a good listener.  Seek to be a learner.  People tend to listen to others who really listen to them.
  • Pursue genuine friendship.  Many internationals would love a real friend in a new land.  You are called to share with folks in a relationship, not sell the Gospel.
  • Be an ambassador for Christ.  Let them see Christ in you.  A good ambassador knows when to talk and when to listen.
  • Practice hospitality.  Share your phone number if they need a friend’s help or guidance. Invite them over for tea or coffee.  Drive them to the doctor or help them at a grocery store.  Have them over for a meal at your home.
  • Pray for them.
  • Share your faith story.  Tell them what your life was like before Christ, how you came to Christ, and what Jesus means to your life now.  Try to work on being able to share this in two to four minutes.  Avoid church words like lost or saved, as unbelievers often do not understand the internal language of Christians.
  • Remember the goal is not to win debates, but to passionately share your faith.  Stand strong on what you believe in a loving manner.
  • Finally, be ready for the day when your new friend wants to know how they can have a relationship with God through Christ.  Be prepared to share in everyday language what sin is, who Jesus is, and what the Gospel is.

 “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

Studies indicate that those who are prepared for disasters have a greater chance of survival than those who are not prepared.

So how can your family be prepared for a disaster?

  1. Be Informed.  What are the most likely disasters that could occur in your community?  What are the best safety practices that our family should enact if disaster threats happen in our community?  What risks do they impose on my family?   How can I mitigate the risks?
  2. Make a Disaster Plan with your Family.  How will we respond in an emergency? Does everyone know what to do if a tornado siren is heard, if flash flooding is occurring, or what to do in an earthquake?   How will my family get to a safe area?  How will we get in touch after the disaster to ensure everyone is safe and accounted for, or where will we meet if phones or computers are not working? And remember, practice insures everyone understands how to implement the plan.
  3. Put Together an Emergency Kit.  An emergency kit should include:
  • 3-5-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
  • 3-5 days of ready-to-eat food supplies
  • a first aid kit
  • paper plates, cups, and utensils
  • toilet paper
  • garbage bags
  • flashlight with extra batteries
  • plastic bucket with tight lid
  • disinfectant
  • household bleach
  • battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • 3-5 days of cash
  • essential medications
  • non-electric can opener
  • pliers
  • duct tape
  • matches in waterproof container
  • aluminum foil
  • pencil and paper
  • signal flare
  • wrench to turn off gas and water
  • water hose for siphoning
  • candles
  • good, sturdy shoes
  • rain gear
  • blankets or sleeping bags
  • warm clothing
  • box for important papers
  • whistle for signaling

No one knows when a disaster will strike.  However, we can and should be prepared in the event a crisis happens. Being prepared, may save you and your loved ones.

One last note, even secular disaster entities concur that those with a spiritual foundation, survive better and recover in healthier ways during disaster events than those lacking a spiritual refuge.  So, the greatest way to be prepared for a disaster is to rest your life on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ!

“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12).

Being Prepared for a Flood

Flooding is the most frequent disaster that impacts Kentucky.  Kentucky averages about 56 flooding events a year with an average yearly loss of 30.4 million dollars.

Sometimes, floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs.  However, flash floods can occur within minutes and without any sign of rain.  Floods can happen anytime and anyplace.  Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.

How can you be ready?

  • Talk to your insurance agent and make sure that you have proper coverage, particularly if you live in an area prone to flooding.
  • Copy important documents.  Keep a copy at home but store additional copies in a secure place outside the home.
  • Take photos of your possessions and store them in a secure place with documents.
  • Have an emergency plan that includes best contact phone numbers and an evacuation plan.  Have an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, matches, batteries, candles, blankets, and a three-day supply of food and water.
  • Monitor weather warnings in your area and heed official instructions.
  • Always follow evacuation orders.
  • Seek higher ground.
  • Never walk or drive through a flooded area.  Turn around; don’t drown!  Six inches of water can cause control issues and stalling.  A foot of water will cause many cars to float.
  • Stay away from downed power lines or other electrical wires.
  • After a flood, check for structural damage before entering your home.  Remove wet and damaged contents and dispose of them properly.  Sanitize affected areas to prevent mold growth and contamination.  Mud and water from flooding can contain chemicals and raw sewage.

“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.” 
(Proverbs 27:12)

“Pulling Teeth” at Show and Tell

Perhaps you remember as I do, participating in “show and tell” as a child in elementary school. In case you’re not familiar with show and tell, it’s an informative presentation involving the demonstration of an object.  While the class may not always need the demonstration of the object to understand the information presented, together, they communicate much more effectively.

Jesus used show and tell as a means of sharing the gospel with those He encountered.  He demonstrated the Father’s love and preached the message of salvation.  He was always showing and telling, healing and preaching.   

1 John 3:18-19 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;”

The Scriptures emphasize the importance of using actions and deeds when sharing the gospel.  It doesn’t say stop using words altogether when sharing the gospel.  But it does say stop “just” using words.  In other words, show and tell the love of God.  One of God’s frustrations with His people is that we sometimes honor Him with our lips, but our hearts are often far from Him.

I witnessed a show and tell of the gospel in an effective way on a recent Saturday in Bowling Green when Rich Pond Baptist Church assisted Christ Fellowship Church in conducting a dental clinic. The Kentucky Baptist Convention partnered to provide training, dental supplies and use of the North American Mission Board’s mobile dental unit. Brent Fields, Minister of Missions and Outreach at Rich Pond shared that “this opportunity to meet physical needs served as a bridge for sharing the gospel”.

Preparation for the clinic began months in advance with training, enlistment of professionals and canvassing of the neighborhood.  On the day of the clinic, over 35 volunteers worked together to shepherd almost 100 refugees through registration and dental screening, cleaning and pulling teeth, filling cavities and ending pain.  While waiting to be treated, patients heard volunteers share stories of salvation and life transformation.  All day long it was a show and tell of the gospel.

The churches intentionally targeted a refugee population from Africa because of their desire to develop an on-going ministry to their new to Bowling Green friends.  Brent shared that he overheard one volunteer tell a patient from the Congo, “we do this because Christ loves us … and He loves you too!”  Every person coming to the clinic was part of a show and tell as they were shown love in a practical way and told about the gospel of Christ.  Brent also commented that “the dental clinic provided professionals an opportunity to use their skills to demonstrate the love of Christ”.

Churches of any size can show and tell the gospel in their own community and a dental clinic is not the only way to do it.  Other ways to show and tell include after school ministries with children, pregnancy care, small group ministry to recovering addicts or ex-offenders, food and clothing distributing, foster parenting or adoption, rent or utility assistance, parenting courses, home repair, ESL classes, tutoring, etc.  There is no limit to the many ways we can show and tell about the love of Christ.

We must open our mouths to fully express the gospel, but using only words doesn’t fully demonstrate His love. Live the gospel and share the gospel.  Words and deeds.  Lips and life.  Walk and talk. Show and tell!

Tornado Preparedness

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most destructive and violent weather events.  A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground.  The whirling wind of a tornado can reach wind speeds of 300 mph.  Most tornadoes move from Southwest to Northeast but can move in any direction.  They may strike quickly with little warning, and in a matter of seconds can cause devastation.  Because wind is not visible, you cannot always see a tornado.  Every year, around 60 people are killed by tornadoes, typically from flying debris.

Kentucky lies in Hoosier Alley and averages 21 tornado events per year.  Peak tornado season for Kentucky is from April through June, but tornadoes have struck in every month of the calendar year.

Tornado Signs:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roaring sound, like a freight train
  • Funnel cloud

Know the Terms:

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch – severe thunderstorms are possible in your area
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning – severe thunderstorms are occurring in your area
  • Tornado Watch – tornadoes are possible in your area
  • Tornado Warning – a tornado has been sighted or spotted by weather radar

Be Prepared:

  1. Preparedness increases our ability to survive disaster events.
  2. Develop a family disaster plan and discuss the plan.
  3. If a tornado watch is issued, remain alert, monitor weather, and be prepared to execute disaster plan.
  4. If your area is under tornado warning, you should seek safe shelter immediately.
  5. Avoid windows.
  6. Get as low as possible.  A basement or storm shelter is the safest place to be.
  7. If your home does not have a basement, seek a small interior windowless room, like a closet or interior hallway.  Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  8. Get under a sturdy table and/or cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body as best as you can with blankets, pillows, mattress, or heavy clothing.
  9. Do not open windows.
  10. Do not stay in a mobile home during a tornado.
  11. If you are in a long-span building (shopping malls, theaters, gymnasiums, airports), stay away from windows, and seek to get to the lowest level.  If there is no time to get to a lower level, try to get under a door-frame, table, desk if possible.  Remember to protect your head and neck.
  12. The worst place to be in a tornado is in a vehicle.  Always get out of the vehicle and seek the nearest sturdy shelter.  Do not try to flee from a tornado in your car, and never get under your vehicle.
  13. If you are outdoors, try to get to a sturdy structure for shelter. If you are unable to reach a safe place to shelter, lie down in a gully, ditch or low spot on the ground.  Protect your head and neck with your arms.  Avoid areas with trees.  Never shelter under or near vehicles.  Do not shelter under overpasses or bridges.  Find something to hang onto.  Be aware that lightning, flooding, and hail can accompany tornadoes.
  14. If you are trapped, do not panic.  Seek to attract attention to your location with loud noises or by calling for help on your cell phone.

“A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished.”   (Proverbs 22:3)

What the 2017 Hurricane Season Taught Us

The year 2017 will be remembered as one of the worst hurricane seasons in U.S. history. Three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) caused almost 370 billion dollars in damage, and it was only the second time in history for two Category-5 storms to make landfall at that intensity.  Two areas received over 60 inches of rain, one island was left almost uninhabitable, and September 2017 became the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.

This hyperactive hurricane season left thousands trying to recover, and stretched the capacities of every major disaster response entity.  What are the lessons to be learned from this active response season?

    • Disasters create opportunities for the church to demonstrate the love of God and to share the hope of Christ.  Closed doors open when we show up to offer His love in deed and in truth.
    • Partnerships are vital to effective response efforts.  Working in partnership increases effectiveness and broadens our ability to help more hurting people.  We can do more together than any of us can do alone.
    • Trained volunteers have the greatest impact in disaster response, and greatly increase response effectiveness.  The best way to help in times of disaster is to be trained and connected with a reputable disaster relief organization.  You can get connected and sign up for a 2018 Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief training by going to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr/ .
    • Untrained volunteers create challenges for effective response, but spontaneous volunteers are always going to show up in disaster events with extensive media coverage.  Though untrained volunteers often create response issues, they can fill a needed gap when channeled in a right direction.  God used Southern Baptist untrained volunteers from our churches in amazing ways in the midst of the suffering and devastation, but they were most effective when paired with trained Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.  Send Relief through the North American Mission Board gives us a vehicle to effectively utilize untrained volunteers effectively, if we develop a strategy from our lessons learned this hurricane season.
    • Disaster sites were overwhelmed with spontaneous loads of collected resources, such as used clothing, bottled water, and other resources.  Before collecting items for disaster victims, we should make sure items are needed and wanted.  We were reminded in 2017 that the best way to help those affected is by giving monetary donations, which enables those affected to both maintain their dignity and to purchase what they really need.
    • Recovery takes time for those affected.  Recovery often takes years for those affected from the loss of disasters.

    • Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the best ways to donate to those affected by disaster.  100% of every dollar given goes directly to meet the needs of those affected.
    • Southern Baptist Disaster Relief remains as one of the most effective disaster relief entities in the world.  Southern Baptist volunteers prepared more than 3 million meals, served over 90,000 days and witnessed more than 700 people profess faith in Christ as they ministered to hurricane survivors in 2017.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers brought help, healing, and hope to thousands of people affected by this extremely active hurricane season in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that we may not be unfruitful.”  (Titus 3:14)

Why Should My Church Partner in the Baptist Association?

Association is a term that defines how Baptist churches work together in partnership. Churches choose to be part of the local Baptist association and each determines how much participation and financial support they will invest. Many of today’s associations have stepped up to provide value and are leading member churches in revitalization, church planting, leadership development and missions. 

Churches partnering through the local association is sometimes overlooked. Yet, we know that partnership between churches is an important aspect of New Testament Christianity.  The apostle Paul and other New Testament leaders modeled partnership between churches.  While their context may have been different from ours today, the pattern of partnership is repeatable. God still provides uniquely gifted people to lead partnerships today.

In the past, churches partnered together – helping each other with doctrine and practice (Acts 8:14-25; Gal. 3), relocating leaders to strengthen other situations (Acts 11:19-23, 25-26, 12:25, 16:1-3), sending individuals and teams on short-term visits (Acts 11:27, 19:21-22; 1 Cor. 4:15-17; Phil. 2:19-29; 2 Tim. 1:18), sending money to help each other (Acts 11:28-30), and together advancing the gospel and church plants (Rom. 15:24; 2 Cor. 10:15-16).

Here are 5 reasons why your church should partner in the local association –

 

  1. Partnership Contributes to the Mission –

Our mission from Jesus is to take the gospel to our neighborhoods and the nations, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8). How could any local church do that alone? But if we partner with the association, every church can participate in local and world missions. Every church can pray for, give to and participate through the association towards church planting and missions. Together, our mission can be healthier, stronger, longer, and more sustainable.

2. Partnership encourages Maturity

No matter how educated or experienced your church leadership is, the local church will mature and strengthen when it receives challenge and encouragement from other church leaders, like those in the association. Churches working together in an association hold each other accountable to doctrine, practices, and outreach efforts.

3.  Partnership Is an Expression of Humility –

It honors Christ when we consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3) and seek ways to work together for the sake of the gospel.  A church is sadly mistaken if they pridefully believe they don’t need to partner with other churches involved in the same mission.

4.  Partnership Provides Synergy –

An association can help strengthen member churches and prop up weaknesses that may be slowing the work. Associations help maximize a church’s potential influence, providing a network through which the churches can influence more broadly than they could individually.

5. Partnership Provides Support –

Sometimes churches go through immensely challenging seasons. If a church loses a leader to burn out, sickness, or failure, she will find support and encouragement from other member churches because of their partnership in the association.

When Our World Is Shattered

Last week a quiet rural community was jolted awake by a school shooting that left scores of young people, adults, and families reeling.  Marshall County, Kentucky continues to grieve as they seek to recover from an almost unspeakable act of violence, that left two precious young people dead and eighteen others wounded or injured.  This was a tragic and horrible day for this community and for every family involved.

As the community tries to recover, things will normalize but will be forever different from how things were before.  “Different” in these type of tragedies is an understatement.  According to the National Center for PTSD, 77% or more who witness a school shooting may develop post-traumatic stress disorder.   PTSD is triggered by frightening or life-threatening events.  Symptoms include pervasive and disruptive anxiety, nightmares, sleep difficulties, flashbacks, aggression, emotional detachment, social withdrawal,  on-going emotional distress, and even physical pain symptoms.

These responses are often temporary and ease with time.  However some individuals may need psychological and spiritual counseling to be able recover and cope with PTSD.

What can we do to help those who have gone through and survived such a terror-filled event?

  1. Observe behavior of those affected.   Are they demonstrating symptoms of PTSD?  Are they demonstrating behavior that demonstrates they need help or support?
  2. Be there.  People often do not need wisdom or advice, they just need to know that they are not alone and someone cares.
  3. Acknowledge their pain and confusion.  Let them know that you understand that this is a painful, overwhelming, or hurtful time.  Assure them that they are having a normal reaction to an abnormal event.
  4. Intentionally listen.  Focus on the person.  Follow what the person is saying.  Be conscious of body language.  Maintain eye contact.  Be comfortable with periods of silence.  Fixate on what you can do, not what you cannot help with.   Listen more than you talk.
  5.  Actively offer comfort.  Be with them.  Listen to them.  Walk alongside them.  Shield them from further harm.  Help them discover resources to help.
  6. Promote calming.  It is OK to weep with those who are grieving, but remember that you are there for them and seek to focus on their needs not your own.  Seek to help them reestablish normal activities and routines, such as eating, sleeping, exercise, etc.
  7. Allow them to grieve and express their grief.  Grief takes time and most people pass through several stages of grief before ready to move on from the grief event.  Everyone grieves differently and will pass through grief on their own timetable.
  8. Hugs and appropriate physical touches can offer healing and comfort.
  9. Pray with those hurting.  Prayer connects people with God, who is the ultimate source of hope.  Do not underestimate the healing that God often gives through prayer.
  10. Do not try to answer the why questions or offer theology lessons on how God acts in certain events.  In the crisis, people need to know you care, not what you may or may not know.  Let God speak for Himself to the person.
  11. Offer spiritual help when appropriate.  Those with spiritual foundations recover from disaster events in more healthy and positive ways than those without spiritual roots.   Remember to share how God has helped you in crisis times, not seek to force your faith on those affected.  Be cautious in seeking to share Christ to those who have experienced emotional trauma, as we never want to wrongly manipulate vulnerable people.

“Lord, be merciful to us! We wait for you.
Give us strength each morning!
                         Deliver us when distress comes.”  (Isaiah 33:2)