Freedom

Freedom
By: Cecilia Lopez
10/23/17

 Photo by: Laura Rangel

Photo by: Laura Rangel

The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action, liberation from slavery or restraint- or from the power of another.

When we think of freedom we often categorize the word within our nation's history. In a time we do not know, and have yet to realize. Our minds just cannot think of a time in our generation, in our precious country, when a group of people where sold as property, kept in conditions that were less than par, and without any choice to make on their own accord.
What if I told you that there are more people enslaved today, than ever before in world history?

 Photo By: Laura Rangel

Photo By: Laura Rangel

What if I told you that these enslaved people are among us, each and every day?
According to A21.org there are millions of slaves in the world today. More than ever before in human history, and only 1% of victims are ever rescued.
I'm sure that by now, you are a little confused and not real sure what I am talking about. Let me explain because these are the statistics that shook me to my core. These are the statistics that were engraved in my mind and in my heart for months, before I decided to be a part of the solution. And like you, I was confused. I just couldn't understand, and sometimes I still struggle with these numbers.

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. It is considered to rank among the top three in biggest organized crimes in the world. Up there with drugs and weapons.

In 2015, I joined a Walk for Freedom in Killeen, TX. Four hours from San Antonio, where I reside. A21 is a global organization in the fight against human trafficking internationally. They have twelve offices around the world, two in the U.S. As part of spreading awareness on this issue, they have a global event called a Walk for Freedom. It happens all over the world, on the same day. For a period of twenty-four hours there is a new walk starting every five mins somewhere around the world. It's a very powerful, and moving event. My first experience with this walk was in Killeen. There was nothing closer to San Antonio. I couldn't understand that.

 Photo By: Laura Rangel

Photo By: Laura Rangel

I drove the four hours in anticipation to join with abolitionists at this walk and make a difference. Not really knowing what to expect. As I drove home, I was so impressed with the young lady who hosted the walk. She was a senior in high school. The school she attended required a major project before graduation. She mentioned her classmates were putting on walks for breast cancer, and other types of events. She'd met Christine Caine, the founder of A21 a few summers before at a church camp where she was a guest speaker. She remembered being heart broken by what Christine described on the topic of human trafficking, and thought that the Walk for Freedom would be the perfect event she would host for her project. Impressed by her, and with some help from the Holy Spirit, I knew I was called to do the same in my city.

In 2016, without knowing how everything was going to play out, I decided I would not only host the Walk for Freedom in my city, but I would also start an A-Team [Abolitionist Team]. I met so many people who would become great friends, and help me accomplish this goal I had set out to do. There were some bumps in the road, but overall, we put on a wonderful event. We had a few shy of 300 participants. The impact on so many people was just overwhelming.At this point, we knew we had to do it again.

My goal of hosting a walk turned into creating a non-profit organization, becoming a part of AACAT [Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking], having many allies in this fight against trafficking, and being a part of the Super Bowl Justice Rally in 2017.
As a team, we set out to begin the planning for 2017 Walk for Freedom. From the onset, things were rough. Planning was not easy. There were many pieces that had become so difficult, so expensive, and so unexpected. We prayed throughout the year, that somehow everything would work out. As the day approached, things seem to fall into place. There were a few loose ends we had to prepare for. The day finally arrived and with anticipation, we gathered.

The morning started a little rough. There were a few things that transpired that added worry and weight on my heart. As the walk began, and there were things happening both during the walk and back at the park where we began, that were out of our control. I remember praying as I walked- ' Lord, cover this event with your peace. Settle my heart. Be here with us. Let your grace cover us.'
As we finished the walk, we had a live band playing worship music with songs geared toward freedom. My heart rejoiced, and I was quickly reminded that no matter what was transpiring all around, the goal of our event was being fulfilled.

As I met with several people after the event, including our guest speaker, when I heard someone say they thought there was a survivor walking this walk with us. My heart stopped for a second. At the moment, the only words I could think were: 'We did this for her! She was THE ONE!'
After I went home, those words just resonated in my mind and in my heart. I became undone. In the quietness of my time in prayer, I opened my heart and every tear that I'd held. Every worry I'd kept inside. Every fear I had. Were now soothed over by the realization of what had just occurred. That day our ONE was in the midst of our cause. The ONE we fight for. The ONE we pray for. The ONE we walk for.

 Photo By: Laura Rangel

Photo By: Laura Rangel

Today, we not only walked for the ONE. We walked WITH the ONE.

She was there.
I still get emotional telling that story. All of the trouble we went through all year, even the day of....had now made sense. We have a very real enemy who will stop at nothing to make sure we do not see anyone saved.  Today, we not only walked for the ONE. We walked WITH the ONE. Side by side, declaring that freedom rings, and Jesus saves. Today, our enemy didn't win. Freedom did. Freedom will always win- and we are here to make sure of it. We are modern-day abolitionists, Freedom Chasers.
 

Sources:
Definition of Freedom: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedomhttp://www.dictionary.com/browse/freedom
A21: http://www.a21.org/content/human-trafficking/gnjb89
Definition of Human Trafficking: https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html
 

Let's Get Our Hands Dirty, Church!

By: Harmony S. Vuy

Our world is experiencing a love drought of epidemic proportions these days. Elicit billboards with sexy imagery line the highways in anticipation of men wanting a pleasure break from their long and lonely drives. Women (and even girls) get caught up in the industry of temporary satisfaction in search of the seemingly elusive concept called love. They are on the receiving end of an unwanted demonstration of imposter love that reveals itself through association and expectation. Someone lied to them and led them to believe that they had to work for it. And the only thing that is going to stop their accidental pursuit of unhealthy love is a purposeful response of healthy love.
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“Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other;
let us show the truth by our actions.”
1 John 3:18
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Love by Association
Fifteen-year old Susie turns to Facebook when things get tough at home. She lives in a nice neighborhood and has everything she needs but her relationship with her parents isn’t what it used to be. Her dad never asks her how she’s doing when he picks her up from school. When she skips dinner to cry in her room over bad grades or last night’s argument with her best friend, he just assumes that’s what teenage girls do: they thrive on drama. He isn’t trying to ignore her. He just doesn’t know how to talk to her about her feelings so he leaves it be. And Susie feels neglected and sad. However, her new Facebook friend, John, does listen to her complain about school and friends. He messages her at just the right time of day, when she’s the most likely to be in her room trying to tune her parents out. And he promises her that he can give her what she wants as well as what she needs. He promises to love her the way she DESERVES to be loved. So she believes him. She turns from what she’s always known as safe and familiar to something new and exciting in a desperate attempt to feel loved and wanted. To feel heard. She associates his offer of fancy things and freedom from her house rules with childhood dreams of Prince Charming and fairy-tale endings. The season of romance is short, however. John lures her away from home with promises of forever but takes off the mask of protector and loving boyfriend when she leaves her safety net. Now she’s trapped in a strange place doing awful things for money that she never sees with men that are twice her age. She’s disgusted and ashamed but she can’t walk away now. What would her friends and family think? Why didn’t anyone tell her that love doesn’t look like dollar signs or feel like an obligation? Love that was once seen as picnics and roses is now seen as threats and debt. She’s trapped.
 
Love by Expectation
Tracy needs $500 to pay her past due rent this month. She’s waitressing at the diner close to school so she doesn’t have to waste gas on driving back and forth between shifts, but she’s still not saving enough to pay the bills. She can’t ask her mom for money because she’s also struggling to make ends meet herself. She always has. That’s why Tracy moved out as soon as she turned eighteen. She knew she had to make something of herself or else she would end up like her mom. Always dependent on someone else. But lately, her minimum wage paychecks weren’t cutting it and her grades were dropping as a result of agreeing to work longer shifts. Enter Buddy. One night after an extremely grueling 8-hour day, Buddy walks in and orders some french fries and a coke. He makes small talk with Tracy, trying to lighten her mood. He has a way with words that make her feel special somehow. Noticed. He knows she’s been slaving away at this place for months now. He says he wants to help her out and that he manages the strip club down the street. She’s too beautiful to be hiding behind an apron with ketchup stains on it all day. She could be working less and making more, Buddy says. After all, with her looks, guys will be falling in love with her at first glance. Her tips could be triple what she makes at the diner. Tracy feels a knot in the pit of her stomach as Buddy tells her how the guys at the club would drop hundreds of dollars a night on her. She hates to even consider it but she doesn’t know what else to do to make rent. She tells herself it’s only temporary. She’ll be graduating in a few years and then she can actually make money doing what she loves. This is just a necessary part of growing up she thinks to herself. We all have to sacrifice to make ends meet at some point, right? Her independent mindset brings expectations that she must fulfill. I mean, actresses sleep with movie directors all the time to get the part. This is just her way of paying her dues. Pay now, play later?
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“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3
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You may think that these scenarios are uncommon but, unfortunately, they’re not. The first situation represents Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and it is happening, on average, about 275 times a day right here in the United States. The typical age of a girl being trafficked is 12-14 years old. (Think Freedom Campaign)
The second situation represents fatherlessness which, according to the National Center for Fathering, “is the most significant family or social problem facing America.”
 
Why do girls like Susie and Tracy end up making the choices they do? The answers vary but one thread remains the same through them all: There’s always more to the story than what we see on the outside.
 
Church, we have to rise to the occasion before us. We must respond to these situations and those like them with heartfelt love and compassion. It’s not enough to just tell these women that we love them. That’s what the traffickers and clients do. We have to show them. And it has to be the all-in, messy, get our hands dirty, no matter the cost, kind of love. No judgement or condemnation for the paths they were on. If we, as Christ’s chosen representatives don’t step in, then who will? How can they ever hope to be healed without divine intervention? Aren’t we supposed to lead the way to the Healer? Rescue is not just a single act that takes place once to remove someone from a dangerous situation. It’s daily. It’s hard work. And these girls need to know that they’re worth it.

To get involved in the fight against human trafficking,
check out some of these amazing resources:
Polaris Project
A21 Campaign  
Liars and Posers