Archive for November, 2012

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.     (Ezekiel 33:6).

My friends, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. I am afraid that today the church is guilty of a serious sin of omission – neglecting the serious problem of human trafficking.

One woman had a chance to expose just how rampant the problem was in one part of the world. The problem is everywhere, but her story serves as an example of the heinousness of the crime and what she bravely did about it. Kathryn Bolkovac has written a book about her experience entitled, The Whistleblower. There has also been a movie released with the same title, but I only recommend it with caution. More on that later.

In her autobiography, Kathryn Bolkovac relates that she was a U.N. peacekeeper who exposed the sex trafficking that was going on in Bosnia. She bravely confronted the persons who were responsible for the brutal trafficking of underage girls at the risk of her job and even her own life.

While in Bosnia, Kathryn was in charge of the U.N.’s gender affairs unit. As she began to work on cases of abuse against women she uncovered a vast underground sex trade. What was worse, the local police and U.N. staff including some of her own colleagues were involved. Some were taking advantage of the ease with which they could use the underage girls, some even buying their own girl for personal use.

Kathryn tries to expose this but soon realizes that she is not going to get any help. She pushes for an investigation and instead she loses her job. Eventually she is able to smuggle some documents out of the country and press a lawsuit against DynCorp for unlawful termination of her employment. She won, but received very little in compensation. And of course, her opportunities to continue to help the young girls who were kidnapped and forced into slavery were ended while she was fighting to expose the perpetrators.

The book exposes the depth of the trafficking problem along with many of the reasons why it is so hard to stop. Too many men at the top who enjoy illicit sex have the power to keep the business going.

The reason I am telling Kathryn’s story is to help make people aware of the problem. It is larger than many people suppose. Yes, it is even a big business here in the United States.

The first step to solving a problem is to admit that we have one. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand, especially those of us who are Christians. No matter where you live, trafficking is probably going on. Even if you live in the country you can be sure it is happening in the biggest city near you.

What can we do to help after we admit the extent of the problem? We should be  having serious conversations with our daughters and other girls about the dangers that exist today. Many girls get kidnapped when they are promised a job that doesn’t materialize. Others are promised “help” by seemingly sympathetic men when they have left home. We don’t live in a predominantly Christian culture anymore. It’s sad to say, but we need to train our girls to not trust anybody. We should help them learn about the problem through good books, movies, and testimonies.

Speaking of movies, here is a word on the side with a BIG caution. A movie was made last year about Kathryn’s experience with the same title, The Whistleblower. I do not think that the producers needed to have the amount of nudity that they did in the movie. Everyone can get the idea without it. I think that the purpose was to shock people into seeing the reality of what happens to girls who have been kidnapped.

The only reason to see the movie is that it truly explains how girls get lured into the clutches of the evil traffickers. It shows some scenarios about how they are caught, why they are trapped, why it is difficult for them to escape, and how brutal their captors are. The story is basically the same all around the world. Girls are either kidnapped outright or lured in with the promise of a job. The stories of the girls that are featured in the movie are gut-wrenching.

The Whistleblower DVD is not for the faint of heart. It is brutal. Men who have a problem with viewing sexually explicit material may want to skip this one for sure. I wish the producers would have, and certainly they could have, left out the “over the top” scenes. People have plenty good enough imaginations; they don’t need the actual graphic material.

I would really advise an alternative movie, Nefarious. You can get it at the present time by going to the website –  store.exoduscry.com where you can purchase it for $20 plus $2.95 first class shipping. This film is being shown in churches and many are waking up to the reality that human trafficking is a serious problem and that we are guilty of the sin of omission by ignoring the problem. The problem is not going away. We are complicit in the dehumanization and exploitation of women and children by keeping our heads in the sand. Though it exposes the vast underground sex industry, the film goes beyond the details of the huge business making billions of dollars catering to the demand for illicit sex by offering hope for change.

As Christians, we know that changed hearts are needed. While the film does not call itself an explicitly Christian film, it deals with material that we as Christians can all relate to. There are stories of women who have come out of trafficking and been restored to peace and strength.

Have you heard the ungodly argument that if only we would legalize prostitution, sex trafficking would decrease? This film shows the fallacy of believing that prostitution decreases sex trafficking. Trafficking actually increases.

The best way to end the trafficking is to end the demand for it. This is going to be the hardest part of the job. But we can at least start in our churches and Christian homes to train our boys that only sex inside of marriage is beautiful and good. When men start treating women with the respect that God expects them to, it will be a start to ending the problem.

Beyond that, we need tougher laws against trafficking. This also will be a tough job. In the first place, men enjoy this sin and are reluctant to do anything about it. Even if they don’t engage in it themselves, their attitude is usually wrong. Many believe that women are involved in these activities voluntarily. In Bosnia, the girls were referred to as “whores of war”. In other places these victims are viewed as prostitutes.

The girls that are being trafficked are victims. They do not choose to “make a living” as slaves. This crime should be punished with the harshest penalties. Christians should be leading the way to end this atrocity.

There is a way to help women who are resisting prostitution. Many organizations are trying in practical ways to help the survivors of trafficking. Consider purchasing your Christmas presents this year from:

www.delicatefortress.com — They bring “shopping with a purpose”. Each item you find in their store provides “dignity, livelihood and fair wages to female artisans all over the world.” They help women not have to relinquish or sell their children or themselves in order to allow for their survival.

freedomstones.ws – “Freedom Stones is committed to eliminating and preventing human trafficking through livelihood projects that transform and develop vulnerable communities.”

www.eternalthreads.com — “Eternal Threads is dedicated to improving the lives of women and children most at risk of extreme poverty, trafficking and other forms of exploitation by providing sustainable livelihoods through income generating projects.” You can purchase many beautiful items such as jewelry, totes, paper, and much more.

www.madebysurvivors.com — This is an international “nonprofit organization which employs and educates survivors of slavery and other human rights abuses, including many women and children living in extreme poverty.” They train women in professions that enable them to earn enough money to care for themselves. 100% of profits go to support rescue and aftercare.

www.empowermentstore.org  —  By buying products from their store you will be helping survivors become financially self-sufficient and able to start new lives.

stoptraffickfashion.com  — Stop Traffic Fashion sells clothing and accessories made by the survivors of human trafficking. Survivors who have been rescued from their captors make almost all of their accessories and receive income from STF sales.

If Jesus was walking among us today don’t you think He would be saddened by the treatment of women and children? Do you think He would be happy with His church for sitting around and doing very little about the inhumanity to women and children? Jesus went about doing good and helping the poor and destitute. As His followers we must do the same.

Not everyone is called to work full time in the area of human trafficking. Not many women will have the opportunity to be a whistleblower like Kathy Bolkovac. But we can all do something: Pray. Learn about the problem. Tell others about it. Find ways to help the survivors. Pray some more.



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But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you (Luke 12:31).

We all have times in our lives when we need help. Even organizations like the Church have occasionally faltered and are in need of reform. Most people think of the Great Reformation period in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as the time when the Church of Jesus Christ took a look at some of its practices and began to make much needed changes.

Actually for centuries before this God sent many men and women to call the Church to holiness. During the Middle Ages the Christians in the western part of Christendom and the Christians in the eastern part of Christendom could not agree on how the Holy Spirit fit in with the work of the Trinity. The disagreement went all the way back to the fourth century, but the two halves of the Church tried to keep unity for seven more centuries. Then in 1054 AD the tension came to a head with the Western pope and the Eastern patriarch excommunicating each other. This was really just a human power struggle and the Church has been split apart ever since. Not until the twentieth century did the Eastern patriarch and the Western pope try to speak to each other. This has been a black eye on the Church.

Another black eye for the Church came about in the fourteenth century when there were not one or two, but three popes at one time, all claiming to be the successor to Peter.

How did this happen? The crisis started in 1303 when haughty Pope Boniface VIII and the even haughtier King Philip of France clashed. Philip kidnapped Boniface, precipitating his death. His successor was poisoned after only eight months in office. The College of Cardinals took a year to try and decide between a French candidate and a Roman candidate, eventually bowing to King Philip and electing the Frenchman who was crowned Pope Clement V at Lyon. The Popes would now reside in France instead of Rome, eventually living in a magnificent palace in Avignon.

Now began the time known as the Babylonian Captivity. The Church would be rocked by unprecedented avarice, luxury, national jealousies, and the schism that resulted in three popes.

    Into this unholy mess stepped Catherine of Siena in 1376. She had come to Avignon to try and talk the current pope, Gregory XI, into returning to Rome where he belonged.

The tension in the air was palpable as the twenty-nine year old mystic came to talk to Gregory. The cardinals were afraid that she might upset their comfortable lifestyle. Why should they fear this young woman? Why should she have so much influence?

By this time Catherine had the respect of the people. She had the courage to do what she believed God had called her to. She had worked tirelessly to try and get the popes to reform.

Catherine was born in 1347, the twenty-fourth child of Giacomo and Lapa Benincasa. Giacomo was a prosperous dyer and they had a very large home. At age six, Catherine had a remarkable experience. On the way home from visiting a sister she had a vision of heaven. At age seven she took a vow to devote her life to Christ. She refused all of her mother’s marriage plans for her and devoted her life to solitude and prayer. At age sixteen she joined the third order of the Dominicans. There she spent all of her time praying and speaking to no one but her confessor.

After three years she left the cloister to become active in charitable works. At this time the dreaded Black Plague had been killing thousands of people. Catherine fearlessly nursed the sickest people. While administering to the needs of her patients she also gave them spiritual advice. Her personal charm and down home wisdom won many friends for her.

Her piety convinced many that she was truly a woman of God to follow. Of course, this made enemies for her too. Some thought of her as just a fanatic. Later, when she had some influence among the church leaders she would be accused of just being a political manipulator.

But Catherine had the ability to discern the state of a soul and she witnessed to many lost people and won many to Christ. People began to flock to her for advice.

These stories eventually got back to Avignon and the cardinals invited her to come for a visit, which they later regretted. They wanted to use her influence to be an envoy of the pope to Italy to convince the people there to support him. Catherine traveled to Pisa and Lucca to convince those cities not to join in Florence’s rebellion against the pope. While there however Catherine came to the conclusion that peace could only be had if the pope were to return to Rome.

And so when Catherine went back to Avignon in 1376 she went with the intention of convincing Gregory to stop being a coward and hiding in France, and to go back to Rome. Much to the consternation of the cardinals, he listened to her. He may have been having doubts, but she told him that she happened to know that he had made a secret vow to move the papacy back to the Holy City. This shook him to the center of his being. He had in fact made such a vow but he had never told anyone! How could Catherine know about this?

In three months time he was in Rome. Only a year and a half later he died. It was said that as he was dying he expressed regrets that he had ever listened to that “meddling woman”.

The next pope, Urban VI, was wicked and cruel and extremely difficult to deal with. The College of Cardinals in France claimed that he was invalid and elected another pope who tried to lead the Church from Avignon. Now there were two popes. (Fighting would go on until in 1409 when both popes would be declared illegitimate and a third pope would be elected. All three would try and control the reins of power until finally it would end in 1417 with the election of Pope Martin V.)

Catherine remained loyal to Urban VI. She “would not defy him,” she declared, if he were “the devil incarnate.” She did try to help him reform however earning the reputation of an uncompromising reformer who perfected the art of “kissing the pope’s feet while simultaneously twisting his arm.” She wrote him many sincere letters trying to persuade him to mend his ways, which he never did.

Catherine’s mystical experiences continued and in 1377 she began writing her famous “Dialogue” which she said were her conversations with God.

She never gave up on trying to reform the papacy and some say that she even worked herself to an early death because of it. She died at Rome on April 29, 1380, only thirty-three years old. In 1970 Pope Paul VI declared her, along with Teresa of Avila, the first two women “Doctors of the Church”.

The papal schism greatly weakened the prestige of the Western Church. Catherine’s work as an early reformer helped to pave the way for the Protestant Reformation a little over a century later.

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Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Romans 8:35,37).

Charlotte Digges, “Lottie”, Moon spent most of her life sacrificing all that she had for her love for the Chinese people. Truly she was one of the most Christ-like women who ever lived. Like Jesus her life reflected love, compassion, unselfishness, humility, kindness, service, and peacefulness.

After spending the last six weeks discussing the politics of our day I thought it was time for a good story of the life of a woman who showed us the way to live in accordance with our beliefs no matter how hard the times in which we live. After this election, we see that we have one of the most evil administrations in history. How can we face this? What shall we do? There is much that I have already tried to encourage women to do in the Pro-life movement especially, but overall on this blog-site I have also encouraged women to follow their calling from God. Throughout history, God is glorified when His saints just follow Him. Lottie Moon is an exemplary person for us to follow.

There is so much to tell about this remarkable woman that it is impossible to put in a short posting. I would like to recommend the book by Catherine B. Allen, “The New Lottie Moon Story”. The book was originally published in 1980 (same title) but updated with new information about China in the 1997 edition. It is very inspiring both for our personal lives and for an emphasis on missions. After all, our main job that Jesus gave us is to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Lottie answered the call to do this personally.

Lottie Moon was born in Virginia on December 12, 1840. She was named Charlotte Digges Moon after her grandmother, but everyone called her “Lottie.” She was very petite, less than five feet tall. This would turn out to be one of the ways that God used her in China. The children loved her there, perhaps because she seemed to fit in with them.

Lottie received her education as a teacher at Hollins College and Albemarle Female Institute and accepted an appointment as a Baptist missionary to China in 1873. .

There had been a brief romance in Lottie’s life. She could have married and lived in the United States. But the young man had changed his theology in a way that Lottie did not approve of. Anyway she said, “God had first claim on my life, and since the two conflicted, there could be no question about the result.” The most important thing for Lottie was that the Chinese people should know Jesus.

Lottie spent most of the next thirty-nine years in Tengchow and P’ingtu, China. She wore Chinese clothes and lived like the Chinese people. The Chinese people respected Lottie. Her selfless giving won many Chinese to Christ. She often had poor, suffering or sick women living with her in her own small house.

Lottie loved the Chinese people. She constantly made personal sacrifices to help the Chinese, giving them her own money for their needs. Though she went home to Virginia on several furloughs, as time went on she came to consider China her home.

There were over eighty villages within walking distance from Lottie’s home and she made it a point to visit every one of them every fall. This really should put to shame our modern ministers who complain about writing one sermon a week while sitting in their comfortable homes with their new cars in the driveway.

As was the custom in China, Lottie worked with the women and children. In that culture, men were separate from the women. Having grown up a Southern lady with respect for men as the leaders it was easy for her to fit in with this part of Chinese culture. She would bake cookies for the children who would then invite her to their homes. Lottie would be able to share the Gospel with their mothers. She also started Bible studies. Whenever Lottie visited one of the villages there would always be a crowd gathered waiting to hear her tell stories. When Lottie visited in the villages, the men would stand off to one side, within hearing, and pretend to be busy but they would be soaking up every word.

It is interesting to note that there were sometimes no male missionaries available to teach the men. The Chinese male converts were starved for teaching. Since women were not allowed to teach men, one way that this could be accommodated was that a curtain would be put up in the room where Lottie was teaching the women and girls. The men would sit on the other side and listen in.

It was also not unusual for men to come to the outside of her home and listen through a hole in the paper window. Gradually throughout her lifetime, Lottie would teach more and more groups including older boys, and eventually some men in mixed Bible studies.

While she lived in China, Lottie wrote letters to the Foreign Mission Board, begging for more missionaries. She was often alone or had very little help. They also reduced the amount of money they would send her whenever they had financial difficulties. This would eventually be an indirect cause of her death.

When the famine came in P’ingtu, she gave all that she had. She could not bear to see the Chinese women starving so she gave them her own food. She ate so little that she literally starved. She was very sick from malnutrition. A devoted missionary nurse, Miss Cynthia Miller, agreed with a local doctor that she needed to get her home to the US to see a doctor. But Lottie died on board a ship in the harbor at Kobe, Japan. She died on December 24, 1912. Lottie was 72 years old.

After her death, the Women’s Missions groups realized how important it was to support missionaries. Because she was so determined, Woman’s Missionary Union® collected the Christmas Offering to give to the Foreign Mission Board. At Annie Armstrong’s suggestion, the offering was named for Lottie Moon in 1919. Today it is called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® for International Missions.

What are you called to do? Do it with while “applying all diligence” (II Peter 1:5). We are not all called to go to a foreign country like Lottie Moon. We are not going to starve to death as Lottie did. But there is a different way that most of us are called. We are called to the really hard tasks of everyday living. Most of us are called to live right here and raise up the next generation for Christ – an equally important if not greater task requiring as much diligence as any missionary had to endure.

The times we live in are hard. We cannot be June Cleaver living in an idealistic situation. Let us be like Lottie Moon. The purpose of this blog is to encourage women to live courageously in our spiritually difficult times. Be careful to follow your Biblical calling. Prayerfully consider how to balance your time for yourself, your family, your community, and the world.

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