Today, our church did our annual “U COUNT Campaign Spotlight,” an opportunity to focus on human trafficking. We heard a short sermon from our pastor, then we were told about all that U COUNT has accomplished in the past 13 years. This year’s theme was, “Let There Be Light.”
Human trafficking is much more prevalent than we have ever seen before. We would like to think that it only happens in third world countries, far away from our own neighborhoods… but unfortunately, that is not the reality of the situation. Continue reading
Hey friends. I hope you all are doing well! Today, as you might already know, is Saint Patrick’s Day.
Oddly enough, I didn’t know it was Saint Patrick’s Day until I came to my computer to start writing this blog, and saw the Google Doodle for today. As I clicked on the Google Doodle, I found information on Saint Patrick that many people do not know—information with a striking similarity to that of the Chibok girls.
As you all probably know, the Chibok school girls were kidnapped from their boarding school during the time that they were going to take their exams. These teenage girls, anywhere from probably 15-18 years of age, had their physical freedom taken away from them; 112 still remain in captivity, today.
Well, contrary to what many people commonly think about St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland was actually not Irish at all—in fact, he was British. But, at the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders, where he lived for six years. As History.com puts it, “During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.”1
When one strips away the mythology and fame of Saint Patrick, he was simply a young man who was ripped away from his family, undergoing extreme hardship in a land he had never been in, before. But, it seems that this seemingly barren, horrible part of his life served a huge purpose. History.com goes on to say that “It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.” According to St. Patrick’s writings, St. Patrick stated that God gave him two visions: one to leave Ireland after being there for 6 years, and then, later, one to return to Ireland to do Catholic missional work there as a priest.1
This man, having lived through much terror, heartbreak, and confusion, was used by Christ to bring the Gospel to the mainly pagan nation of Ireland (many say that it was St. Patrick who used a three-leaf clover to describe and explain the trinity to those He shared the Gospel with—something we as people still hang on to today as a “good-luck” charm). Christ exchanged even the worst of St. Patrick’s ashes for beauty: sharing the Gospel, and seeing people become saved.
There are both striking and obvious similarities between the life of St. Patrick and the countless number of people who are taken captive every single day (including, of course, the Chibok girls). These innocent people do not deserve what has happened to them; the great suffering they have undergone seems to be too much to bear.
But, even throughout all the suffering and heartache, could it be that this pain has a purpose?
And do we believe that Jesus can, somehow, in His own ways and timing, exchange our ashes for beauty?
This was the idea I was thinking of when sitting in church this past Wednesday, during a midweek service. I jotted down some notes from the sermon, here they are:
“’I [God] will trade your ashes for beauty.’
You’re not the only one waiting for beauty.
I will bring good out of this—trust Me.”
Friends, what is the pain, the heartache, the hardship that you or your loved ones are facing, right now? I can’t help but imagine the pain, frustration, fear, despair, and helplessness these kidnapped young women and their families feel, being kept apart, and not knowing where the ones they love most are.
Joseph suffered through it. And today, on St. Patrick’s Day, I have learned that St. Patrick, too, was stolen like property.
But, through it all, Jesus was faithful. And as the watching world looks upon the Chibok girls, it is my confident Hope that Jesus is (and will be) faithful in His every promise concerning these beautiful young women.
Christ did bring beauty from ashes. And this is what He yearns to do, for you.
So, this is my encouragement for you, friend: wait for the beauty. Ask Jesus to fill you afresh with the Holy Spirit, whose fruit includes patience; ask Him to help you to “wait upon Him.” There are a huge number of blessings and promises concerning waiting on Jesus’ work in your life . I exhort you to read, receive, and cling to them like the air you breathe.
Most of all, ask Him to fill you with Joy in His Presence, as you realize He is always with you; ask Him to show you the beauty that is already all around you, and rooted in who He is.
Jesus will come through, my friend. Rest in this promise, and wait for the beauty.
“He’ll bind up the broken-hearted/
Oh He will, yes He will/
He’ll set captives free from darkness, Oh He will, oh He will/
He’ll breathe hope into the hopeless, help a restless soul be still/
Oh-ohh, oh-ohh, He will, He will.”2
(“Oh He Will,” by Ellie Holcomb: Watch the video, here)
This post is dedicated to those who were kidnapped in Oyo state, Nigeria. Please pray for their soon return.
Do you know Jesus?
Jesus has done all that is needed for us to have eternal life with Him, enjoying and celebrating a personal, transforming relationship with Jesus. Learn more about this amazing, Joy-bringing God, and how you can have a personal relationship with Him, here.
Please pray for (get your prayer sheet here):
- The soon return of the Chibok school girls. May there be a breakthrough, and a pouring out of these people from Boko Haram captivity.
- The soon return of the Dapchi girls. May they not be forgotten!!!
- The family members and loved ones of these women.
- Those currently in sex and human trafficking; that they would be freed, in Jesus’ Name!
- Jesus to comfort and show Himself faithful to these people, who are watching and waiting for Him. Pray they would trust Him and His timing.
Thank you for your prayers!!!
“When ‘grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ,’ a long awaited revolution of the heart began to set religious captives free. Fearful bondage motivated by guilt was replaced with a fresh motivation to follow Him in truth simply out of a deep devotion and delight. Rather than focusing on the accomplishments of the flesh, He spoke of the heart.”
(The Grace Awakening by Charles R. Swindoll, Chapter 1: Grace: It’s Really Amazing!)
In this day and age, human trafficking is not something that only happens in far-off, “crooked third world countries” (as if the US was any less crooked). With stories such as this one coming out yesterday, talking about a woman in Texas who was drugged, kidnapped, and shackled to a bed so that she could be a cleaning slave, reality becomes painfully obvious: human trafficking is prevalent everywhere.
Today, as January– Human Trafficking Prevention & Awareness Month– is coming to an end, I encourage you to 1) Realize and receive God’s grace and freedom for your lives; and 2) pray for those still in physical bondage, like the woman in Texas. Most importantly, please pray against people’s spiritual bondage, to dead, works-based religion. To help give you ways to pray, you can pray for some of the top countries with Human Trafficking problems: Thailand, Spain, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Guatemala, among many others.
To learn more about how you can help end Human Trafficking, visit “The U COUNT Campaign”‘s website.
Do you know Jesus?
Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” Whether or not you believe that you are a slave to something, the Truth is that Jesus died to set us free.
Learn more about Jesus– and what He came to free you from– here.
Today I learned much in church, and because of both its importance and its relevance, I would be remiss if I did not mention it on this blog!
Today, I learned that January is Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month, and January 11th was National Human Trafficking Day (something I wish I would have known earlier!). Human trafficking is not only a tragedy and a horror; it is something that deeply grieves and angers the heart of God. Proverbs 22:22-23 says, “Don’t rob the poor just because you can, or exploit the needy in court. 23 For the Lord is their defender. He will ruin anyone who ruins them” (NIV).
If Jesus’ heart is so against oppressing people and exploiting the vulnerable, those who do such things– in “small” ways and in “big” ways– will be held accountable for their actions before Christ, saved or not (source). To fight this blight on humanity, a nonprofit named “The U COUNT Campaign,” started by a group of Christians in 2007, was started– to remove men, women and children from human trafficking, and to help them thrive as free people in their societies.
Now, eleven years later, “The U COUNT Campaign” (“U COUNT”) has worked as partners with many international and US Domestic projects and initiatives to bring Human Trafficking to an end.
Internationally, “U COUNT” has built safe houses and “reintegration apartments” to help men, women and children who have been sucked into Human Trafficking to leave Human Trafficking. As these men and women– both within the US and outside of it– reintegrate into society, “U COUNT” also gives victims a viable means to survive without turning back to Human Trafficking (you can learn more about their international partnerships here.)
Using the “Marketplace,” men, women and children are taught to sew and create jewelry. When they are done with different projects, “U COUNT” sells those products via a direct trade model, both online and in person through events in the form of pop-up shops. These products are also sold at Timberline Church’s bookstore in Fort
Most of all, the Gospel is preached in these many avenues of aid for trafficked people, to show them the Freedom found in knowing Jesus Christ personally! As for money, 100% of donations go to these various projects, because private donors pay for “U COUNT”‘s operational costs. Please consider buying from “U COUNT”‘s marketplace, or donating to this amazing campaign against human trafficking!
As said before, abuse of any kind, especially the kind of sexual degradation and trauma that occurs in most of human trafficking, is grievous to Christ’s heart. As a blog committed to praying for the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, as well as all victims of Boko Haram, Please be praying for everyone involved in human trafficking– including and especially the Chibok girls, and those victims of captivity and bondage (find specific ways you can pray for human trafficking at “U COUNT”‘s prayer page.)
What people who propagate human trafficking do is insidious and evil, in every way; and I in no way want to lessen what SO many innocent people have been through.
Yet, Jesus desires to see all men come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)– even people as evil as those oppressing others. As you pray for Justice to be served, please pray for their salvation, as well, if you can; and if these people become saved, please pray that they would completely repent of all of their actions. For, “‘…vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Thank you for reading, supporting, and praying. You are all very loved and appreciated!
To learn more about “U COUNT,” watch this video: https://vimeo.com/196495293
Do you know Jesus?
Countless people all over the world are in bondage. But, every person, whether physically a slave or a free man, is a slave to sin (Romans 6). Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” But, the end of Romans 3:23 says, “…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” No matter where you are, where you have been, or what you have done, God does not expect you to “get your act together” and then come to Him. Jesus wants you to come to Him, however you are.
You cannot earn your salvation, contrary to what the religions of the world say. Only Jesus Christ can save you from your sins. Stop relentlessly striving for something God offers you for free. Repent, and turn to God for forgiveness, today (Acts 3:19).
To learn more about Jesus, and His amazing gift of Salvation, Grace, Forgiveness, and Freedom, click here!