Last Thursday night we gathered around two empty bar stools and waited for them to be filled. The sounds of conversations and glasses clinking filled my ears and I sat anxiously waiting for the event to begin. The Exodus Road (http://www.theexodusroad.com/), based out of Colorado Springs, was hosting a night to give a louder voice to the work they are doing to prevent and end human trafficking. Exodus Road’s founder Matt Parker invited Jamie Wright “The Very Worst Missionary” (http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/) to share her story of going with them to South East Asia and getting to see firsthand the children that are bought and sold in brothels and karaoke bars across dark places of the world.
I’ve seen the documentaries, read the stories, and have read Jamie’s thoughts as she has shared them with her blogesphere, but regardless of how much information you know or how many times you’ve heard the stories, hearing the reality of a child sold as a sex slave is always jarring.
There is something in the human spirit that is shaken to life when you hear of a child caught in slavery, being shipped around like the last item you bought off of eBay. A righteous anger boils up and you feel it in your bones that inaction on your part means slavery and hopelessness on her part.
I sat and listened as they explained their process of investigating and extracting a girl once they have determined she has been trafficked. I listened as Jamie shared her struggle to understand what she had witnessed. I listened as Matt poured out his passion for these women and children. I listened as God began to speak amidst the voices of these ordinary people. As Matt and Jamie talked about the dark places of the world they said something I couldn’t shake:
Dark places exist because good people aren’t willing to go.
Ouch. That simple sentence punched my Christianity in the stomach and knocked the wind out of it. The more I chewed on that sentence the more I heard God speaking. The first question God asked of me was, “Where are the dark places of others’ lives I’m unwilling to go?”
Too often we, as North Americans, are swept up with words such as “rescue” and “save”, words which create unrealistic expectations for how much work will be required and words which give way to desiring quick fixes and overnight success. We love the idea of rescuing someone from his or her plight. We don’t love the idea of sticking with someone through his or her persistent mess. Our culture has trained us to expect applause-worthy statistics, quick and easy solutions, problems that can be solved with just enough money, and all of this with no follow up or aftercare. Who really wants the applause?
Giving hope to those without is not an overnight process. Sometimes, it even requires that we leave them in their darkness for a period of time in order to ensure we are doing things the right way.
But that’s not how we do things here in America! Problems should be resolved quickly and without us getting our hands too dirty. People should be pulled out of their troubles as soon as we learn of them and then their life will be golden. But if things get too messy or too complicated or too inconvenient, we should probably go because those are clear indicators that we’re not supposed to be doing that work anymore.
Want to know what else God was speaking to me?
Leaving at your convenience is a mark of immaturity and is evidence that the work you were doing was motivated from a place of self-gratification.
Double ouch. All of my selfishness and self-seeking ways no longer have a leg to stand on when the Creator of the Universe is the one rebuking me with these things. Talk about growing pains! Despite our humanity and our imperfections there is a redemptive point to all of this and I steal the slogan from Exodus Road: Justice is in the hands of the ordinary.
The greatest lie Satan can get us to believe is what we do doesn’t matter. Inaction is the work of darkness. Action is the work of light. What YOU do matters. It matters if you choose to engage that person despite knowing it will require a hard conversation. It matters that you answer the phone at 3am despite knowing it won’t be convenient. It matters that you choose to serve that person despite knowing you’ll never receive a “thank you” for it. It matters that you sacrifice your time, money, energy, etc., etc. for that one person. What you do matters. And it matters because people matter.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to wrap this piece up nice and neat for you, nor will there be a pretty bow at the end of this. Sometimes our work is messy and unfinished, much like that of working with people, because people are messy and will always be left unfinished. But despite this knowledge, it is our duty to step in and offer ourselves. It is our duty to do something.
So what can you do? What do you feel God is asking of you? Is there a specific person or action that comes to mind when you read these words? Then do it. My prayer for you dear friends is you would find the strength God gives to us when we don’t have the courage or strength to do the task ourselves. I pray you see God in the eyes of each person you cross paths with. I pray you desire hope for each person you intersect life with. Thank you for the light you are already shining and thank you for each time you choose to act on behalf of Jesus instead of yourself. Dear friend, you are loved, you are prayed for, and you have an important role to play in others’ lives, whether you realize it or not. Now go and shine light in the darkness.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:13-14
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.” – Philippians 2:3-7