IJM

Raw Tears & Holy Fury: Confronting the reality of human trafficking

I wrote this article for The Good Book Company and thought I should repost it here:

Human Trafficking. I knew about it, or at least I thought I did. Certainly I knew that all over the world evil people do all kinds of vile things for profit and perverted pleasure. But in truth I had no real idea as to the true scale of it’s horror, or indeed its proximity. That was until I heard about Eva (not her real name).

Eva lived in Lithuania with her husband and children. They were happy, but they were poor. Desperate for money Eva responded to an advertisement offering work as a maid in a London hotel. To her joy she got the job. As she boarded the plane she was sad that she was going to be parted from her family, but she focussed on the money that she would soon be sending home to them.

Only that’s not how it worked out.

Upon landing in London Eva was met by a man who took her to a private location where her passport was taken from her and she was raped. In the week that followed she was sold as a prostitute and raped by over 40 men. The following weekend Eva was taken along with a group of other women to a house where a sex party was taking place. She pleaded with the other women to help her escape, but they seemed resigned to their plight. So trembling and terrified Eva climbed out of a bathroom window and fled through the streets. Mercifully she was discovered by the local police who took care of her, placed her in a safe house and ultimately got her home to her family.

There is much that shocked me about this story, but perhaps the most shocking part is where she was rescued from. The house where she was being held captive was Blackwood—a small town in the valleys of South Wales. In the space of a week Eva had been trafficked from Lithuania to the South Wales Valleys. She had been exploited, humiliated and suffered horrific abuse.

This real-life story (relayed to me by the detective who handled her case) literally wrecked me! Indeed it propelled me onto a gut-wrenching, faith-stretching journey of discovery. It is a journey that, as I have been confronted by the brutal realities of human trafficking, has been marked by raw tears and holy fury.

  • How can we not be moved when we discover that more than 45 MILLION people live as slaves today? (The number rises each year!)
  • How can it not blow our minds that human trafficking is a criminal industry that now generates upwards of $150 BILLION annually?
  • How could our hearts not be crushed when we learn that it in some countries it is cheaper to buy sex with a child than it is to purchase a bottle of beer?

Essentially human trafficking is the exploitation of the vulnerable by the powerful for financial gain, and while sexual exploitation is often what springs to mind when we think of human trafficking, it is by no means the full picture. Other forms of trafficking include forced labour, criminal exploitation, domestic servitude and even organ harvesting. Victims include women, children and men from every nation in the world. Human trafficking is truly shocking in both its nature and its scale and, while ignorance is blissful, once our eyes have been opened inaction is NOT an option for the follower of Jesus. I like how the great British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, put it:

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

 

And if Mr Wilberforce can’t stir us into action, perhaps the Holy Bible can:

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6 v 8)

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?”

(Isaiah 58 v 6)

The mission of Jesus was unquestionably one of rescuing slaves from the tyranny of sin. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! (Psalm 107 v 2). He was sold to the cross for 30 pieces of silver in order to set the captives free. Let that sink in! So as the liberated people of Jesus, what can we do hold out hope and freedom for the trafficked? Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Get on your knees - Human trafficking is WAY too big an issue for us to do anything about alone. Prayer humbly acknowledges our weakness and inability to do anything without God. However, prayer also demonstrates faith that God can give us the power to both rescue the oppressed and rage against the oppressor. Psalm 10 is a great place to start praying from!
  2. Raise your voice - tweet, blog, rant and tell others about trafficking and by doing so, shine light into the darkness.
  3. Give your cash - there are some AMAZING ministries that are on the frontline of the fight against human trafficking. IJMExodus CryEnd It Movement and AIM to name a few. However, there may well be churches and ministries in your own community that you could support.
  4. Mobilise your church - Cherish women, nurture children, protect the vulnerable and train men to live holy, upright lives. Bang the drum for justice. Pray that God would help you to be a community that offers grace, healing and hope for the oppressed, whilst also maintaining that the gospel is only power and hope for the oppressor.

Lord Jesus, grant us the grace, wisdom and courage that we need to rage against the injustice of human trafficking. May the oppressed be set free and may the oppressor be brought to justice and brought to repentance. For your glory. Amen.

Dai Hankey is a pastor, author of A Man’s Greatest Challenge and leader of Red Community—a gospel-centred charity that is passionately, prayerfully, creatively combating human trafficking in Wales, UK. Learn more about Eva’s story in this video, which is part of their Red Alertawareness raising resource.

2016 - the year in review

Well 2016 is almost over and WHAT a year it has been for Red Community. Here are 6 stand out moments from the year:

RED ALERT

Thanks to a hugely generous £10,000 award from Gwent Police, coupled with the film-making skills of 2V Studios, we were delighted to launch the multimedia awareness raising resource, Red Alert, in March. The whole Red Alert suite is now available for free on our website. Furthermore, we have enough DVDs to make the resource available in every school and college in Wales. The films have already been used in schools and church events across Wales and we are delighted that a Schools Impact Worker, Abi, has volunteered to take Red Alert into High Schools in Cardiff.

REDEMPTION CONFERENCE

In June we hosted our inaugural annual conference in Cardiff. Redemption Conference was a wonderful event, marked by unity, worship and passion to continue standing against human trafficking and modern slavery in Wales. We were served by a wide range of contributors representing ministries such as IJM, Safe From Slavery, Cymru Against Human Trafficking, Liberty and Red Community. You can check out the conference highlights reel below. Details for Redemption 2017 will be released in due course. 

CYCLING WALES FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING

In August a small team of us travelled to Holyhead to begin a 4 day journey from north to south Wales. The purpose? To raise awareness about human trafficking and raise financial support for IJM and AIM. The awareness raising took the form of 3 evening events that we organised en route in Barmouth, Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff. The fund-raising involved online giving and collections. Incredibly we were able to raise £5,000. We thank God for blessing us with great banter and brotherhood and for keeping us safe as we travelled. Plans are currently being discussed for another ride in 2017.

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FREEDOM DAY

In October we were honoured to be invited to host a Freedom Day event at the iconic Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay. The event proceeded by a Walk For Freedom (conjunction with A21), followed by a series of street dramas (organised by Red trustee, Ruth). The main event was a series of short presentations inside the Pierhead by representatives from Cardiff Council, Liberty, Red Community and a medical student seeking to raise awareness about trafficking amongst medical students in Cardiff. We were very grateful to AM Dai Lloyd for his help in organising Freedom Day. We hope to host similar events in the near future.

CHARITABLE STATUS AND BANK ACCOUNT

October also saw one of the most important milestones in the Red Community adventure thus far - after a great deal of effort and prayer we were finally granted charitable status by the Charity Commission. We currently have 6 trustees each of whom brings unique quality, passion and perspective to the team and we are extremely excited for what the next stage of driving this charity forwards. Our charity number is: 1169756. October was also the month that we opened a Red Community bank account.

EMBRACE

In November we were delighted to launch Embrace - a project that equips the church to support survivors of trafficking and slavery through sponsorship, befriending and hosting. You can read more about Embrace here. We are particularly grateful to the delegates at this year's Word Alive event whose generosity has enabled us to employ our Embrace project coordinator, Lauren.

That's all folks! A huge and sincere thank you to all who have supported, encouraged and prayed for the ministry of Red Community over the last 12 months. Please do continue to stand with us as we step into 2017 with the continued vision of extending gospel hope to those in chains, both locally and globally.

We Stood4Freedom

Guest post by Jason Bushell of IJM following their Stand4Freedom in Cardiff earlier this month: IMG_1732Hundreds engaged; lives we hope have been IMPACTED.

Setting up at 8am Friday morning, we stood through the gorgeous sun-filled day we had prayed for until Saturday morning, ripped open with a lightning storm, a majestic display of power from on High.

With a prime location alongside St John’s Church, there was no let-up in people-flow, from 9.30am till 4.30am as the nightclubs let out their last clients. Our message grew stronger as the night wore on as people were somewhat taken aback at our persistence. And yet we all knew that a ONE-day sacrifice on our part was the absolute minimum we could offer for the millions for whom the sleepless, dark nightmare never ends. We stood for them and in obedience to our Father whose heart breaks for them.

We feel so privileged to have worked with this group of students – mainly girls - from Cardiff University who have a huge heart for God and for people, to see how they all approached everybody with a happy face asking for donations and with so much passion and wisdom, how they shared why they were there and what donation was for. We gave so many hugs and kisses to strangers and we met an amazing gentleman who felt compassion for us and bought us all KFC in the wee hours!

My wife was amazing as she constantly watched over the girls, not resting once during the entire ‘marathon’! I know I certainly began to feel my age as the hours wore on but what a joy! As my wife commented later, “The whole experience for me has been a huge blessing to see that even when the people during the night were really drunk, they had an amazing heart for the issue with human-trafficking and slavery and they were very kind to give so much.”

We all continued to draw our strength for the One who sent us, the ever-faithful One, the Name above all names!

We are so thankful to friends who came to support us: to Ben Ricketts for his beautiful guitar-playing, Gavin Davies from Woodville Baptist for his passion for the cause, Hannah Preece-Davies for her visit along with other street pastors, Marie-Alice Umuhoza from Highfields for her stoic support, our friend Sara Gomez Estrella for her love and drinks and to faithful IJM volunteer, Robin Davies who did two massive stints with us. We also thank all those who sustained us in prayer – we really felt the effects!

And so… we stayed through the magnificent storm, all of us all squeezed together under the gazebo, trying to keep warm and dry praying, singing ‘Oceans’ and sharing experiences, really precious moments…

We left our spot in a deserted Cardiff street at 7:30am, a bit disappointed because we didn't complete the 24 hours and extremely tired but at the same time JOY-FILLED for what we had done.

Our prayer is that God will grow the seeds He sowed in, and through us.

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3:7