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).

Unpacking Your Short-Term Mission Experience

After you’ve planned, prepared, implemented and returned from your mission trip, it’s time to unpack. Not just your suitcase, but the mission experience itself.  Follow-up is an important part of going on mission because it helps the participant to understand what they learned and how God can use it in their everyday life.   There are people needing a witness in our own neighborhood and unreached people in our local community.  Taking a mission trip to another state or even a foreign country should help us to be more comfortable sharing our faith and encourage us to be a Christian witness in our hometown. There are so many ways to impact our community and the area around our church using the same skills and resources we take overseas.  So, help your church members returning from their mission trip to unpack their experience and awaken within them the realization that the mission isn’t over.

Here are some suggestions for unpacking the mission experience that provide continued growth:     

  1. Talk about the ministry experience and ask how what they did there can be used here at home.
  2. Share journal entries, pictures and videos with the church.
  3. Have a time of testimony and “sharing” during a public worship service.
  4. Provide a safe environment for discussing what they learned about themselves (weaknesses, failures, disappointments) and what God is teaching them.
  5. Ask them what they learned about God?
  6. Share about the experience on social media with pictures and testimony of God’s activity.
  7. Challenge them to consider how the mission experience may be the beginning of a journey God has planned for them, leading to vocational ministry, missionary service, or involvement in local ministry.
  8. Help them to plan service initiatives at home that draw connections between their missions experience away and service at home.
  9. Encourage them to continue the spiritual disciplines practiced on the trip like prayer, devotions, Bible study and worship.
  10. Send letters or emails of thanks and encouragement to the host missionary. Share with them how God used the mission experience.
  11. Discuss what “next steps” they will take on their spiritual journey.
  12. Send a reminder email or letter to every participant 1 month after returning with a picture of the group on the mission trip with the words… “Don’t forget! God did great things and He isn’t finished with you.”

Unpacking the experience can be a tremendous blessing and serve as a reminder to what God did … and is still doing.

 

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).

How to Uniquely Involve the Uninvolved

Have you ever felt that only a small number of church members were doing the majority of the work?  It’s pretty common in churches, at least the ones I’ve been a part of, for us to depend upon the same few individuals to teach Sunday School, sing on the praise team, lead the men’s ministry, serve as deacons and coordinate the discipleship ministry.  When this happens, we are observing what is called the 80-20 rule or Pareto principle.

The Pareto principle, named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian mathematician and economist,  states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the inputs or causes.  What if we’re observing the 80-20 rule in our churches because we don’t provide opportunities for the uninvolved 80% to be involved in ministry that utilizes their gifting, skills and experience?  Ephesians 4 teaches that believers have been gifted and should be equipped for the work of the ministry.  Ephesians 2 reminds us that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  So, what if we’re not seeing more believers involved in ministry and missions because we’ve limited the ministry opportunities made available to them?

An example of this was recently seen when one of the international missionaries with whom we partner needed someone to come alongside them to help with the artificial insemination of dairy cattle on a Muslim island where a plaque had killed most all of the cattle population.   Several Kentucky farmers with the experience and knowledge stepped up to meet the need, and provided a Christian witness too! These farmers may not have volunteered to lead a VBS class or sing in the choir, but God had gifted them uniquely for “such a time as this”.

There are many unique missions opportunities that allow believers to find joy and fulfillment in serving because they’re using the talents and gifts God has equipped them with.  Christ followers want and need to serve – but not all are given the chance if ministry opportunities ONLY exist within a very narrow window of mission experiences.

Here are just a few of the many ways that Christ followers can use their passion, skills, talents and experience to be uniquely on mission.

  1. Athletes are needed to help with sports camps (football, basketball, archery, etc). 
  2. Help is needed with literacy classes or after school tutoring
  3. Farmers are needed to help with artificial insemination of cattle & crop production
  4. Business and leadership classes for professionals in other countries
  5. Cooking and food service help is needed in disaster relief work
  6. Business owners can help with the development of micro-businesses that provide income for indigenous church planters and missionaries
  7. Volunteers can learn how to install and repair wells that provide remote villages with fresh water
  8. Those with construction experience are needed to provide ramps or make repairs for the handicapped and elderly
  9. Plumbers and electricians have skills that can be utilized internationally or here at home as a witness
  10. Skilled chainsaw and heavy equipment operators are needed in disaster relief work
  11. Car mechanics could provide assistance to single mothers and the elderly
  12. Medical professionals can serve through clinics in remote villages or in areas of poverty here in the U.S.
  13. Small motor repair courses can be used as a ministry in many cities throughout the world
  14. Woodworking, leather or metal work may provide income for church planters in many places if they are trained and provided start-up resources
  15. Retirees have years of experience to offer and should prayerfully consider using their unique skills and gifts for an extended period of time
  16. Students should consider giving a month or a summer to serve in a mission opportunity related to their major or degree program

Every skill or talent can be used for God’s honor if we give it to Him through missions opportunities.  The next time you observe the Pareto principle happening in your church, let me challenge you to consider how a unique missions opportunity would involve that unengaged believer to use his passion, gifts and talents.

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)

How is your vision?

I have never had issues with my eyesight.  Well, until recently.  As I am now fully into my mid-40s, I am noticing that my vision is becoming a bit blurry.  Distances are not quite as clear as they once were.  I have yet to do anything about this new middle-age challenge.  Perhaps I should go to the eye doctor.  If I do, the doctor might prescribe me glasses, which would affirm my lack of clear vision.

Seeing clearly is important.  As Jesus traveled through cities and villages he saw people, and he felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).  How sad it would be for us to see and yet not see the needs of people all around us. Because Jesus saw the people (Matt 9:36a), he felt compassion for them.

In other words, Jesus seeing people first led him to have compassion.  Compassion has been defined as sympathetic pity for the distress of others with the desire to alleviate it (Merriam-Webster).  Believers cannot look on the hopelessness of others and not be moved—moved not only with compassion, but with the desire to bring hope.

The Missions Mobilization Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention exists to mobilize KBC churches for gospel impact.  We might say, to mobilize KBC churches to bring hope.  One of the ways we desire to help KBC churches see clearly is providing vision trips to various North American and international partnerships.  These vision trips are designed to expose KBC churches to the hopeless peoples and places throughout the world.

By seeing it, touching it, tasting it, hearing it and overall experiencing it, our prayer is that KBC churches will see the people, feel compassion for them, and do something gospel-centered to bring hope.  Making the most of a church’s time on a vision trip is crucial.

Be prayerful—With Paul, pray always.  Be in prayer as you travel from point A to point B. Pray as you walk and talk.  Pray as you hear from planters or missionaries. Pray as you return to your room.  The point…pray!  Ask the Lord to lead you in how He would have you partner in this place.

Be flexible—the time is short and filled with much to see and hear and experience.  Be prepared to spend long days with potentially shifting schedules.

Be attentive—take careful notes both on paper and in your head of planters/missionaries, stories, and situations that stand out to you.  What might speak to you now might be forgotten if you do not write it down and make note of why it impacted you.  Be observant of the area you are in (what is the community like, the people, the needs, etc.).  Take whatever notes necessary, so that you can make a prayerfully discerning decision about partnerships later with your leadership team.

Be interactive—this vision is meant to be an experience, not simply an informational dump load.  When able, talk with the planters/missionaries about the city, the needs, ways to be involved.  The point is to be engaged in the vision trip.

Be willing—to partner as the Lord leads you.  As David Platt suggests, bring a blank check (of your life) to the table and ask the Lord to fill in the amount.

So, do you have a clear vision for missions?  Learn more about KBC vision trips and partnerships at www.kybaptist.org/vision.

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)

“Hey, Come Over Here!”

As the Apostle Paul began his second missionary journey strengthening previously planted churches, he planned to travel northeast, toward modern day northern Turkey.  However, the Holy Spirit forbid him to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6).  In fact, the “Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” to go there (Acts 16:7).  Instead, they traveled west toward Europe under the Lord’s leading.  Why? Because Paul had a vision during the night of a man in Macedonia (present day Greece), saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).

So, immediately they concluded that the Lord was calling them to preach the gospel to them, and they went.  The first city they came to was Philippi.  Paul and his traveling companions went to the riverside outside of the city to find people who would be gathered there for prayer.  Women were there, and as Paul shared about Jesus, God opened the heart of an influential business woman named Lydia and she believed (Acts 16:14).  Paul and his team then shared with her whole family and they all believed and were baptized (Acts 16:15).

What an incredible start for this mission team as they were sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The gospel is shared for the first time on European soil and a house church is birthed.  Lest one think that things always go this well, the following events take a different turn for Paul and Silas.  As they continued to stay in Philippi for many more days a slave girl with a spirit of divination began following them.  She continually said, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17).

Paul finally has enough and casts the spirit out of this girl.  Her master sees that his form of profit is now gone and drags Paul and Silas before the authorities, accusing them of throwing the city into confusion by proclaiming unlawful customs (Acts 16:19-21).  The authorities beat them with rods and throw them into jail.  Things definitely have turned downward…or have they?

While in jail Paul and Silas sit shackled singing praises to God.  Around midnight an earthquake rocks the jail and all the prison doors and shackles are unfastened (Acts 16:25-26).  Fearing that the prisoners had escaped, the jailor intends to kill himself, but Paul cries out to him, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).  The jailor then asks the question of all questions—“Sirs, what must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:29)?  “Believe in the Lord Jesus,” Paul and Silas reply, “and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30).

Here are a several take-aways from this visit to Philippi.  First, gospel advancement relies upon the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Where do we go?  Just be faithful to go and trust God to lead you in where to go.  Second, gospel advancement involves engaging people where they are.  Go where people are gathered and engage them with the gospel.  Third, share the gospel and trust God to open hearts.  Ours is not the responsibility for results, but for faithfulness to share.  Fourth, gospel advancement often involves opposition.  Here is the bottom line, the devil does not like for us to advance the gospel.  Therefore, don’t be surprised when opposition arises; in fact, expect it.  Last, gospel advancement, amidst opposition, often leads to opportunities for God to do the unimaginable.  God can use demon possessed girls, earthquakes, and jail cells to change sinners’ lives.  If we will simply listen, we might hear the faint cry of someone “over there” saying, “Hey, come over here.  We need your help!”