Pray for Trafficking Victims: 7000 teammates

Elijah faced a crisis. People were turning away from God and worshipping idols, to the point that over 800 priests had been appointed to facilitate Baal and Asherah worship. And by facilitate, I mean killing children in the name of those gods. You probably remember the story of the Mt. Carmel showdown. All those false priests on one side and Elijah alone on the other, so many who represented injustice and violence with one lone champion of justice and mercy to oppose them. Elijah won the day on Mt. Carmel in dramatic fashion. What else can you say when God provides the pyrotechnics?
But those false priests had the favor of the king and queen, who were not pleased at all with Elijah’s victory. So just after God showed up in a spectacular way, Elijah had to run for his life and hide in a cave. He nearly despaired because he felt all alone. He thought the Carmel moment was an accurate picture of the whole thing, that the whole world had gone over to evil. How could such victories as Carmel be anything but fleeting in the face of so much turning away?
But Elijah was wrong in his thinking. He wasn’t alone at all. God was with him. And God let him know there were 7000 others who were also on Team Yahweh. Right after this, Elijah met Elisha, who became his friend, apprentice, and successor.
When confronting the massive problem that is human trafficking, it is easy to feel the same way Elijah felt in that cave. Alone and very small against the tide of evil. But none of us is alone in this fight. For one, working for justice always puts us on God’s side because justice is a prime concern for God. Showing mercy to those who have been harmed, who have been taken advantage of is as close to the heart of God as we can come. And like Elijah, there are actually other people who are also already on this team. One of the most important things we can do is to become aware of them and the work they are doing. So we can help them. So we can pray for them. So we can be encouraged to work and not give up.
Here are some organizations doing important work against human trafficking that have a scope broader than local. You can find helpful resources (like flyers you can print and give out/put up in public spaces). You can also pray for these folks.
A quick Google search will also turn up organizations in your area that are working to end human trafficking already. Here are some in the Raleigh-Durham area:
This is just a sample. You can easily find others. I encourage you to spend time this week getting to know the 7000 (or more, its a metaphorical number) teammates you have in this fight. And spend time praying for them. Everyone who joins in this effort is on Team God, Team Justice, Team Mercy. Let’s pull together and pull for each other and be encouraged by each other. It sure beats sitting alone in a cave and whining. Pray something like this:
Thank you, God, for everyone who has it on their heart to work to end modern day slavery. Thank you for all the people in my area and around the world working for justice, showing mercy, and offering protection to those who have been harmed, enslaved, or are in danger of such. Strengthen our hands, Lord. Give us the resources we need to do this work. Encourage us. Inspire us. Guide us. Unite us as a team. And pyrotechnics once in a while would be cool too. Thanks for being the God of justice and mercy. Make us into people of justice and mercy. People after your own heart.

Pray for Trafficking Victims: Homeless Kids

Onesimus (pronounced oh-ness-ih-muss) had a serious problem (besides his crazy name). He was a victim of human trafficking and a runaway kid. Onesimus ran away from his master Philemon and found himself in a precarious situation. It wasn’t safe to go back and it wasn’t safe anywhere else. He was a victim caught up in the pervasive and dreadful Roman slavery culture. But somehow, Onesimus wound up in the one safe place in all the empire – or more accurately with the one safe person. Paul was under house arrest in Rome. Maybe Onesimus heard about Paul’s confinement and remembered him as the man who came and established a new religious group at his master’s house. Maybe Paul spotted him in the passing crowd. We’re not told, but somehow Onesimus realized this Good News Paul was promoting was his rescue out of danger. Paul sent him back with a letter to his master Philemon and evidently it all worked out. We still have the letter (look just before Hebrews in the Bible) and tradition tells us Onesimus went on to become pastor of the Ephesus church. This is the work of the kingdom, providing safe haven, restoration, and a future for kids at risk.
And homeless kids are the most at risk kids there are. Studies show that 1/3 of kids who wind up alone and homeless will fall victim to human trafficking within as little as 48 hours. It’s hard to get statistics regarding homelessness because as Hugh Hollowell of Love Wins puts it, “homelessness is so transient, most homelessness data is based on one day snapshots, or ‘Point in Time’ counts.” And all we can count are people who access some form of assistance on that given day. The most recent snapshots indicates that on a given night in Wake County there are 225 homeless children and in Durham County there are 275 children. Some of these are with parents. Others are alone. But of course, the ones who get snatched up by traffickers don’t get counted since they are not accessing any assistance. The takeaway here is that there are kids in danger here where we live. (If you’re reading this somewhere outside the Triangle the same is likely true for you. A quick bit of googling will get you the numbers to prove it.)
There are many reasons kids wind up alone and homeless. Some have various kinds of trouble at home (such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse) and runaway. Others get kicked out by their parents or guardians. This is especially the case for gay and transgender kids, so much so that this accounts for 20% of all homeless kids. (And these parents are often financially stable and very ‘religious’ but I’m going to pass on the rant swimming in my head.) Another source is kids who age out of foster care. Half of these kids (that’s right 50%) wind up homeless. In Feb. 2013, Wake County had 171 kids in foster care who were 13 or older. Some percentage of those kids will age out of foster care and be released. In Sept. 2014, Durham County reported 31 kids had aged out of foster care in the previous 12 months. In general, the Wake County stats are about three times the Durham County stats (which tracks with their relative sizes). So, close to 124 kids a year age out of foster care in Wake and Durham, about 62 of these become homeless and 20 of those immediately become victims of human trafficking. Add that to runaways, kids kicked out by their parents for being gay or otherwise unacceptable to them, and kids the traffickers get to first. We could be talking about, what? 100 kids a year? In our area alone. So, yeah, this is a real thing and it really is happening right here in our little Mayberry. 
There are resources to help but trafficking victims often don’t know about them. If you ran into someone who showed signs of being a trafficking victim (this is what we prayed about last week, having eyes to see) or one of these at risk kids, would you know where to direct them? You could print out and keep on of these flyers handy (available in many languages). And you can prepare yourself ahead of time by praying that you can be like Paul – a safe harbor for these kids, a person who helps provide safety, restoration, and a future to kids in danger. Pray something like this:
“Lord, there are kids right here in my town who have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. They are homeless, alone, and in danger. Please keep them safe from evil. May they find shelter, food, safety, and a way out of their predicament. Let my path cross theirs, let us find each other as Paul and Onesimus did. Make me a safe harbor, a person who can help them find safety, restoration, and a future. I want to be an advocate for them like Paul was for Onesimus. I’m asking you to place this on my heart. Help me connect to those in my community already doing this work. Help me to see them. Give me the courage to step out and speak up. Use me and whatever means necessary to aid these kids, Lord, they are your very heart. Make them mine too.”