More of the “C” Word

(Part 1)  Part 2  (Part 3)

… Yesterday I started to tell you a bit of my experience with “the church.”  (Read the post here.) As always, I want to share my heart, which includes the good, the bad and the ugly.  As I mentioned before, in the end I was very wounded by some people in the church I was attending while “coming out” about my trafficking situation.  Honestly, looking back you would have thought I’d told them that I was an alien from Jupiter… that’s how little they understood how to support me.   However, if you’d never before met an alien from Jupiter, if you thought that aliens only existed in Area 51, if you’d never read any books on little green monsters and had not seen visitors from Jupiter discussed recently in mainstream media, how would you know what to do with one?  As easy as it would be to blame this church (and all churches) for the lame way I was supported, my conscience wouldn’t rest easy if I did.  They simply were uneducated and untrained, just like most of society.

What a church should do best, even in spite of new challenges, is love someone well.  After I got out of my trafficking situation I moved and tried my best to start a new life.  It would take several posts to even attempt to tell you how incredibly difficult this process was.  Feeling very lost and alone I took a chance out of sheer desperation and reached out to another church for help.  I was slapped in the face by a congregation that obviously knew what this “loving well” stuff meant.  They didn’t have the perfect resources for me (there’s still so little out there for domestic minor sex trafficking survivors) but they paired me up with close matches and I found myself in the middle of a community of strangers who loved me as though I was family.  Individuals in my small group helped me cover court costs, a sweet and thankfully stubborn mentor rose up in my life, and I got a chance to bump into people who could relate to parts of my own brokenness.  They had even already heard of this alien from Jupiter called trafficking– aware of it happening both in our  own country and in others.  A ministry team had been formed a couple years prior and was full of people striving to educate themselves and the community about the issue of trafficking and strategically trying to provide solutions.

No faith community is perfect and mine’s certainly not.  It’s a bunch of human, imperfect people trying to make sense out of an imperfect world.  What I can say though is that I’ve never felt pressured to forgive before I was ready, and never to forget or downplay the harm that was done to me.  I’ve been challenged to work through my own wrong choices but not in a shameful way.  I’ve never felt judged by those who know my story either, and that is HUGE for a girl like me.  Most of all, I see this church loving broken people really, really well.

I’m sorry if this sounds like bragging, I’m just so freakin’ proud of this group of people.  I don’t blab all of this to say “look at us!”,  I say it to provide hope.  MANY of us have been burned by people in the church and have a right to be hurt and angry.  Nothing will get me hotter than a pastor pushing for a victim to forgive and forget or for someone in faith leadership acting like a know-it-all dictator with too much male dominate ego.  But I do want to give hope, that there are some congregations that will love you, as you are, where you are, through their own personal woundedness… which is all very important to the beat down girl I was.

Tomorrow’s post – a list of Do’s and Don’t for churches when it comes to loving a trafficking victim/survivor.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

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  1. I don’t go to church because of this issue. As long as I keep silent abut my past, they are fine but the minute I open up, I’m shunned. It’s always been like this and I just gave up. Now I’m raising my children out of the church but not out of God. I can’t tolerate religious “love” it’s not Godly love.

    • Wow Naja, do I understand what it feels like to be “shunned”… and I’m so sorry you’ve felt that. I love that you’ve been able to separate God from His people and recognize that just because they/we (people in the church) act like doofuses, it doesn’t make God evil. I too hate “religious” love… actually, I hate the word “religious” all together. :-/ I so hope that you would find a faith community to plug into at some point, but one that IS accepting and loving, without all the whispers and rumors that make us feel like we are scum. If I thought you were near me, I’d just say come to mine. 🙂 Instead, I’ll be praying that one day a group will rise up to support you in a way that actually does reflect Christ’s attitude– I know it can be SO hard to find, but beyond beneficial when you do.

  2. I appreciate your blog so much. I never realized that human trafficking was a reality in our country until about a year ago. As a pastor’s wife I have been wondering and praying about how our church could get involved and help. We are a long way from where we need to be but thank you for your honesty and openness and hopefully we will become a place where people who have been the victims of human trafficking can find Christ and healing and hope!

    • Bonnie – thanks so much for commenting! I love hearing about churches becoming more aware and wanting to help! You truly have one of the toughest roles as a pastor’s wife. Question 1) have you found other churches in your area that are interested in serving the trafficked community? Question 2) If not, I’d love to connect you with some so that you can draw on a little of their support/wisdom. Let me know and thanks for all you do.

      • I know there are a few churches in our city that are involved and have an outreach in this area, but none close to our location. Oklahoma has a wonderful organization called OATH, Oklahomans Against the Trafficking of Humans started by a pastor from Tulsa, Mark Elam, that is doing a great job of raising awareness. I have attended a couple of things they have sponsored – a conference and a training day equipping us to share information with others. They are faith based and work closely with law enforcement and social services to help those who are victims. But, the church in general isn’t as much a part of helping as I know they would like. It’s just hard to know where to begin, I guess. We live in an area that is a crossroads for human trafficking where three interstates intersect – 140, 144, and 135. We started a group in our church for teen moms called Teen MOPS and we have had up to close to 50 girls come sometimes. Some of their stories are really sad, and I have wondered if any of them are or have been victims of trafficking, or if they know of friends who are. A 19 yr old recent high school graduate from a town near where we live was brutally murdered by a gang involved in trafficking, and I keep thinking that someone from our group must have known her. I’d love to present my material to our girls sometime – so many of them definitely fit the profile of those targeted for this abuse. (I have presented my OATH power point to one Sunday School class, and a couple of people walked out – the information regarding child abuse was so heart wrenching. I’d love to present it to more groups at church, but I guess I am waiting for them to invite me!)
        I would appreciate any help or advice you have!

      • I’m so glad to hear that it sounds like you’re getting plugged into some great groups with church, social service and law enforcement blended. 🙂 You’re probably right that the girls in your Teen MOPS group have a pulse on the local trafficking world so what you’re doing there is a HUGE start. Can I make a few suggestions?

        1. Don’t wait on others to invite you – offer! Depending on your personality, I know this could be hard but go for it! If people don’t know about the problem, they won’t know to ask for education about it. 🙂 Sooner or later the awareness will grow and people may start inviting you but you’ll probably have to take the first step. It’s an “icky” topic, so people are shy.

        2. Your Teen MOPS group sounds like it’d be a good circle to a Renting Lacy book club with. Read it first yourself of course but then invite the girls to do so as well and walk through questions and discussion with them. It’s pretty simple and I think the group who wrote the book, Shared Hope International has some resources that can help you with that already. You educate these girls and they’ll only help you spread the word (or maybe find some healing themselves)… peers talk to peers!

        3. Do the same sort of book club with local ministry leaders… you could also just invite people over to watch a movie about Trafficking (there are several out there) and dinner with conversation. Don’t be afraid to start small – you don’t have to save the whole world in a day.

        4. Start your church on a prayer circle for what’s happening locally with trafficking. Contact those various groups you know about and ask them to forward you any prayer requests they have… from a specific girl needing help to funding being cut or better laws being passed. If your church can get involved in some serious prayer, they can catch a heart for the issue and eventually will want to help in other practical ways such as maybe doing a gift card drive for a local shelter or outreach center.

        Anyways, just some thoughts – I hope I didn’t overwhelm you there! 🙂

      • Thank you for your thoughtful and helpful reply!! I think reading the book Renting Lacy and starting a book club discussion group is a great idea. Most of our teen MOPS girls probably don’t know Christ, so I think this would be a good way to begin talking about spiritual things (beyond our devotions that we have every week) as well. I haven’t read the book and I plan to order it soon. I am in a small group that prays for things related to our church including how to begin a ministry regarding human trafficking, but we haven’t been very specific. I loved your idea about contacting groups working in this area and partnering with them in praying for specific individuals and situations!! I do need to step up and offer to present my power point material to our community/Sunday school groups. I can contact our discipleship pastor and offer to do so and see what he does with it. The one time I did present this material (where a couple of people walked out) the class ended on a very solemn note. No one really talked to me afterwards, but the first time I heard the presentation I felt the same way – just overwhelmed that this is really happening and what it truly is all about.
        Love and prayers and blessings to you and thank you.
        By the way, Mark Elam with OATH here in Oklahoma is going to be on Dr. Phil in March talking about human trafficking. I will try to let you know when I find out the date.

  3. You teach me with every post! Thank you for helping me learn to really listen, whether the truth hurts or not. I want to be a part of the true church 🙂

  1. The “C” Word « 9to20
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