submitted by Karen Campbell, UBA Guest EditorAdditional Statistics on Human Trafficking
Kingsland's StoryBy Omar C. Garcia, Missions Pastor
As a church, Kingsland Baptist is engaged in fighting for the rights of the oppressed: In our own community, in Africa, in South Asia where we support aftercare homes,and on to Cambodia where we just purchased 7.5 acres of land on which to build a women's center and facilities to care for kids at risk of being kidnapped and trafficked for sex and labor along the Cambodia-Thai border. Our journey into the justice arena is rooted in the basic, biblical, and motivating philosophy of our missions ministry -- summarized in two words - Go Beyond.
Go Beyond When I came to Katy 5 ½ years ago to serve as Kingsland's first missions pastor, I branded our missions ministry with the words "Go Beyond." I did so because in each of our lives a line marks the farthest we've ever been and the most we've ever done for God and His purposes. Everything on our side of that line is familiar, convenient, manageable, and comfortable. No big surprises, no daunting challenges, no uncharted territory. Crossing that line requires a commitment to venture to places we've never been, the willingness to engage people we've never met, and the courage to fight battles we've never fought. Only those with the courage to overcome their fears and who have the determination to persevere will dare to cross that line. All others will keep a safe distance away from it. I am committed to challenging and providing opportunities for the people of Kingsland to Go Beyond.
In the Fight At Kingsland we believe that one of God's greatest and most neglected passions is His concern for the oppressed, for those who have no voice, and for those who live in the unimaginable hells created by those who traffic in human flesh. We are actively engaged in the fight, we are mobilizing volunteers, and we are investing financial resources.
How We Started Five years ago, while visiting Nicaragua, I had my first up close and personal exposure to someone who was actively working to help women in prostitution make a new start. I felt then that the least I should do was to purchase large quantities of the items these women were making - the proceeds of which helped to keep them from selling themselves - and then selling those items here in the States while helping to raise awareness about their plight, and then to send them all the proceeds from the sale - essentially paying them two and three times the purchase price of each item.
Innocence Lost in Uganda A little more than two years ago while visiting our pregnancy help center in Uganda, I met a woman who had started an aftercare home for young girls rescued from the commercial sex trade. These girls -- who had been trafficked and forced to work in brothels -- ranged in age from 10 to 18 years old.
While in Uganda, I posted a blog entitled "Innocence Lost" in which I wrote about what I had learned. A man who works for a well-known justice organization in Washington DC, which I cannot name as per the security protocol that we have agreed to observe, contacted me and told me about their work overseas. I asked where they needed assistance and he told me about an aftercare home in South Asia that had lost their funding and would be shut down within two months. The majority of the girls they had rescued were in this home - and the home happened to be located in one of the countries I visit at least 4 to 5 times a year. So Kingsland took a bold step across the line and assumed responsibility for the welfare of the 150 young girls rescued and subsequently placed in this home by the courts.
Decision To SupportWhen considering how to raise the tens of thousands of dollars to support the home, my pastor, Alex Kennedy, and I discussed options. One option was to have an annual offering. But a second option seemed better. We chose to help our church family learn about justice and to take an active part in addressing the problem which fit perfectly into our purpose statement of loving God, loving people, and equipping the generations.
Taking OwnershipSo, we ordered house-shaped banks and asked each of our families to give up eating out once a week and then place the money they saved in their banks. We also asked our families to speak to their kids in age-appropriate ways about the plight of young girls and boys trapped in the dark world of human slavery. Within three months we had collected enough money to support the home for a year and a half - and the funds continue to come in every week in the form of pocket change in little red banks.
As our children -- those who represent hope for justice in the next generation -- are learning about justice and what they can do to help, they often stop by my office to give their birthday money, allowance, or monies they have earned. And, this past summer I took 50 graduating seniors and sponsors to serve at our home. The trip had such an impact that we have had a few of the students change their career paths to ones that will get them more directly engaged in the fight for justice.
Global to LocalThis past year we expanded our involvement in justice initiatives to include our own community. I met Natalie Shirley, co-founder of the international organization NightLight, http://nightlightinternational.com/ at a lunch meeting hosted by our mutual friend Lisa Blackard. Natalie helped us to get connected with Dennis Mark and Redeemed Ministries http://www.redeemedministries.com/ and also with Home of Hope Texas http://homeofhopetexas.com/.
- We recently refurbished and furnished Redeemed's aftercare home and have been mobilizing volunteers to do the same with a facility for Home of Hope.
- And, this past September we hosted our first Just Run for a Just Cause in Katy. We had 450 participants. The Houston Chronicle and the Katy Times newspapers covered the run and helped us to raise awareness. We will have our second run in September of this year and expand it to include a 10k option.
- Our Justice Ministry Team is working on a prayer initiative that we will launch soon to ask our people to pray for justice every time they drive on Interstate 10 - the major transportation corridor for sex traffickers in this country. We want to cover I-10 with so much prayer that the plans of the wicked who drive this route will be frustrated.
What Is NextMost recently, we purchased 7.5 acres of land in Cambodia where we are working with our partner there to build a women's center and then a facility to care for up to 1,000 boys and girls in the area who are at risk of being kidnapped and trafficked for sex and labor. I had a meeting two weeks ago with a couple in our church who is financing the women's center. They told me they are committed to underwriting the children's center as well. These examples are just some of the things that happen when you are willing to step across the line and get engaged in the kinds of initiatives that God is passionate about. We are seeing God move and work in some exciting ways.
So, in summary, what are the factors that led us to step across the line?
1. AwarenessOnce we became aware of the scope and magnitude of the problem we could not remain silent or unengaged. We keep this issue before our people because we want for them to be disturbed about what is happening. We believe that disturbed people can make a difference.
2. AffirmationThe support of our senior pastor was key to our entering the fight. Pastor Alex has challenged us to address the plight of widows and orphans, to fight for the rights of the pre-born, and to engage in the fight for justice. Pastor Alex regularly affirms what we are doing from the pulpit and encourages our folks to stay engaged in the fight.
3. Action We realize that we can't do everything but know that we can do something to make a difference. If each of our churches will take ownership of even a small slice of the justice pie, then we can make a difference in this generation - a difference that will change the world for many of the 27 million people on the planet who are trapped in some kind of slavery today. We take what we are doing in this area so seriously that it is reflected in a big way on our calendar and in our budget.
4. MobilizationWe have worked both intentionally and strategically to give our people avenues for involvement. People in the pews want to do something to help but often do not know what they can do. We have identified and given our people a variety of avenues for involvement.
5. Education Our Justice Ministry has a merchandising team that helps to raise awareness by selling products made by the girls we support at women's venues and home awareness initiatives. Using the old Tupperware party paradigm, our women are invited to display and sell items in homes and to speak to those gathered about what is happening in the area of justice. They display and sell products at women's events around the community as a great way to educate family, friends, and neighbors about the plight of young girls caught in the web of sex trafficking all over the world.
6. PartnershipsWe also realize that we cannot do this alone but need to work in partnership and cooperation with others who are engaged in the fight for justice. We believe that together and with God's help we can and we will make a difference in our generation.
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