Friday, July 29, 2011

Sex Trafficking in Michigan?

Yep. How about right in your backyard? The reality is that happens right in Kalamazoo. So what do you know about sex trafficking? 

The Trafficking Protocol defines human trafficking as:
(a) [...] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring 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 labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
(b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;
(c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article;
(d) “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

This isn't a small problem. It's an epidemic. Four days ago mlive posted an article titled: 

Kalamazoo man charged in sex trafficking case involving minors near Chicago

In the article, the 'pimp' Delaney was reported driving three young women -- 16 year old, 17 year old, and one over 18 years old -- from Kalamazoo to Illinois to engage in prostitution. Delaney was taking them to a hotel bachelor party where the girls would engage in sexual acts for a fee of $150 to $300 per 'customer.' Little did Delaney know, the party was a 'sting operation' for authorities to nab him. They had apparently been tracking him since September. 

The article went on to describe how one of the girls was being used in commercial sex trafficking and was pregnant with Delaney's baby. 

The comment section below the article really intrigued me. Although some left comments about sex trafficking and how terrible it was, many of the comments if not all discussed the issue of abortion. Here is a sliver of one conversation: 

Commenter 1:
Isn't there a difference between "sex-trafficking" and willingly prostituting oneself for monetary gain? Are these young women being charged? As the story sounds, they were fully aware of what they were doing, so why is he the one to blame? They should all face charges on this case. And this situation, if anything, should be a reason for pro-choice, as the poor child born to a prostitute and her pimp is, most likely, not going to have the best life.
Commenter 2:

"And this situation, if anything, should be a reason for pro-choice, as the poor child born to a prostitute and her pimp is, most likely, not going to have the best life." I don't think the compassionate response in this situation is to kill the child. A better plan would be to let the child live, and let the child decide what they think about their life. That would be the pro-choice thing to do, rather than decide every child not born in a perfect life situation is better off dead.

I find it very interesting that Commenter 1 thought it was a pro-choice argument for the mother to abort her child because he/she would be born into an 'imperfect' life. Look around you! Our entire world is imperfect! Commenter 2 had it right; the pro-choice thing to do is to let the child live and make decisions on his or her own. If we based grounds for abortion on whether the child would be born into a 'perfect life situation' then there wouldn't be any children! People. Our world is completely IMPERFECT. 

Check out this comment: 
Commenter 3:
yea, what happened to "it is my body, i can do what I want with it"? they can murder their child but they can't rent out their body???
This a perfect example of an imperfect and contradictory world. When you allow something like abortion into your worldview or belief system, you are allowing a myriad of other self mutilating or self altering topics as well. Why wouldn't it make sense that if you are pro-abortion you are also pro-prostitution, pro-self mutilation, and even pro-self sacrifice? If you say it's a woman's choice, then shouldn't it also be her choice to engage in prostitution, and shouldn't it be her choice to self-mutilate her own body? After all, it is hers, isn't it? 
This is where the worldview breakdowns. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trials, Tribulation, Triumph?

I recently read an article by John Busacker called, Why You Need to Fail. In his article, John described how important it is for us to go through trials and testing because  "It is there that we learn what really matters and acquire the necessary humility to depend on God's great grace, rather than on our own inconsistent efforts."

When John was asked what the most important characteristic a leader should possess, his response was "She or he must have been broken—physically, spiritually, professionally, personally, relationally—and then gotten up, dusted themselves off and continued forward with the wisdom from that loss seared in both mind and heart. I would never follow a leader that is unbroken. He or she lacks the compassion and humility to lead others." 

It's funny how trials and tribulation help remind us how important it is to trust God. We are so quick to call God out when we are uncomfortable or angry, hurt or struggling. However, God never leaves us -- even when times are rough. It's in those times which we must cling to God all the more. And maybe that's the purpose of trials or testing: that we are broken to the point of letting go of all we know, in order for God to become number one in our lives. 

I know from experience that when God seems the furthest away, in trials and struggling, when I genuinely feel like giving up, it's in that moment that God Himself feels more real. 

This reminds me of Romans 5:

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

and James 1:

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Mark Batterson, the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., wrote:
"When I'm going through a tough time emotionally or relationally or spiritually, I figure I'm getting an education in those areas. When it gets really tough, I think of it as graduate work. Everyone and everything become part of my education. God redeems them and uses them to shape me into the person He wants me to become."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kalamazoo Air Zoo!

Well, it's almost that time of year...leaves turning colors, heat subsiding and welcoming cooler weather -- Michigan is so gorgeous in the fall! Wait a minute! WE'RE IN JULY!

So it turns out that's true; it's only mid July and we're talking about the fall dinner?! That's only because it's sure to be a wonderful and incredible event.

Last year, many of you can recall the beautiful setting at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. Well we're back there again this year! It's a great setting for conversation, families, and general exciting atmosphere.

We're so thankful for the Kalamazoo Air Zoo's participation and partnership with us during the event. They are wonderful hosts and gracious people. So I know we'll remind you about our 22nd Autumn Dinner again down the road, but we do it because we just cannot contain our excitement! Everyone is waiting in anticipation for the beautiful and memorable experience at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Life in Haiti: Tragedy Still Reigns

I just read an article by Roseann Dennery on Relevant Magazine's website: Haiti: 18 Months Later. She described the still tragic living conditions in Haiti, especially that of orphaned children. According to her statistics, there were 440,000 orphan children before the earthquake disaster in January, 2010. Since then, the orphan rate has only skyrocketed. 

Roseann describes the sadness and epic tragedy orphans are plagued with; their parents either do not have the means to provide for them -- physically or emotionally -- or they simply cannot cope with the responsibility of child rearing and therefore discharge the child to cramped orphanage. 

Although there are many orphanages in Haiti, there are not enough supplies to go around. Some orphanages, as Roseann explained, receive 5-10 phone calls or drop-ins a week from parents begging them to take their child/children. 

So what does this mean for us Christians here in the US? James 1:27 clearly lays it out:  "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." 

So how do we apply that to our daily lives? How can we make a difference in the incredible disaster of Haiti? 

God moves uniquely in each of our hearts when He calls us to take action. For some of us, it may be connecting with orphanages in Haiti and doing what you need to make resources available to them -- whether through a local Church, a giving business, or a partnering organization. For others, it may be taking a trip to Haiti and assisting where needed. For some still, it may be spreading the Truth about the Haitian people's needs and continuing struggle to survive, and making efforts to make teams to further raise funds for resources. There are so many many avenues and choices we can make or act on to make an impact and difference in Haiti. 

Now it's just time to move. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mike Long Coming Soon to Kzoo!

Wow! This year's fall dinner is sure to be the best one yet! We could not be more thrilled to have Mike Long coming to our fall banquet on October 13th. Mike is a gifted and passionate speaker, father, and man of God from Raleigh, North Carolina. He established his own abstinence education strategy to teach in public schools called "directive education."

Mike has spoken all across the country for thousands of parent/teen conferences, community programs, school assemblies and youth rallies nationwide. He also created a nationally acclaimed video tape series called "Everyone is NOT Doing It" and is one of the most persuasive abstinence education resources available today. He is also the author of 2 books, Teenagers: Everyone is NOT Doing It andParents: Everyone is NOT Doing It.

Mike also produced a 30 minute TV special on his "directive education" strategy as it relates to abstinence. The program has aired on major cable networks, as well as his 5-part abstinence education series "Sexually Speaking: Youth in Love" which airs on the INSP or Inspiration Network. Mike passionately shares the Truth in love.

Needless to say, we are so thrilled to have such a zealous and motivated speaker visit and share with us on Thursday, October 13th.We hope you will save that date and invite friends and family to join us! See you there!

Check out Mikes Bio here:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Day in the Town of Vicksburg

I just had a great time in the village of Vicksburg, MI! Great little town with a lot of personality. It's fun to be the newbie in a small town, building relationships with people who know all the ins and outs there are to know in a small town. Vicksburg is a great place to walk around and visit with townspeople and business owners. Everyone gave a "hello there" or a "good afternoon" while passing by. Overall, there was great company, great people, great relationships built. Thanks for welcoming me in Vicksburg! I'll see you soon again. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Power of Worry

Hey all, let's get real -- we all worry. Now, some of us worry more than others, however, whether we worry a little or a lot, we let the Devil take a foothold in our lives. It's not easy to fight our emotions especially when going through a traumatic or hard life event. But scripture tells us Jesus' s response to worry and anxiety:

And He said to His disciples, For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. 

Luke 12:22-32

I love this passage. It's like a warm, fuzzy, slap in the face. I think we often read or hear this passage, feel convicted, but brush it off saying, "Easier said than done, Jesus. It's too hard to put all my faith and trust in You. If I didn't worry I, then who's going to look out for all those things I worry about?!"

I think we often feel like if we don't do things ourselves they'll never get done. But Jesus didn't say, "Well, do the best you can to not worry, but if the job's not getting done and no one is taking care of you, then that might be a good sign you should try to make it on your own again, worrying all the way."

No. Jesus said do not worry about your life! He said not to worry about food or clothes -- for life is more important than food and the body more than clothes. He said to look at the ravens, he feeds them even though they themselves have nothing to eat! He said to look at the lilies of the field, he clothes them with more beauty and splendor than Solomon, even though they have nothing to clothe themselves with! Jesus said that God knows we need these things. He knows we desire to have food and clothing and many other needs in our life. But the best part is this: "But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."

God is not asking us to try and stop worrying, He is commanding us to stop. There is no room in "do not worry about your life" for our instinctual human nature to insert "try to not worry about your life." I don't know about you, but reading this passage made me realize I haven't even been trying.

Jesus even said "And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?"

Jesus knows it's bad physically and spiritually to worry. We take on too much sometimes; we try to multi-task too much to where we can't help but stress and become anxious. Don't let yourself get to that point.

Let's make it a priority this weekend and upcoming week to not worry or stress about anything. Now that seems like a really big deal and task -- but God commands it. The only way we can do it is through prayer and communion with God. He is our priority -- no one and nothing else.