Trafficking Awareness Observance Offers Opportunities for Reflection, Action
By Carl Stagner
When the Trafficklight initiative was born nine years ago, familiarity among Church of God congregations and leaders concerning the disturbingly widespread problem of human trafficking was notably limited. Though the fight for freedom began more than a century ago, exemplified in the work of the visionary efforts of the Shelter in Cuttack, India, the proliferation of sexual exploitation remained while the spotlight on the scourge dimmed. Coalescing at just the right time in history, information, partnerships, leaders, and holy discontent bore fruit in the form of funds raised and steps taken to advance existing—and launch new—ministries on the front lines. January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month (January 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day), offering the Church of God movement opportunities to give God glory for collective accomplishments and take further action.
The 2014 Church of God Convention and General Assembly set the stage for several years of focused advocacy for anti-trafficking efforts, especially prevention and the rehabilitation of victims. Local churches held special services to share stories of projects and personnel within and beyond the Church of God movement actively addressing the issue. Offerings were taken to raise money for Church of God ministries at home and abroad identified as having existing trafficking-prevention or victim-assistance emphases or components. Creativity was on full display as Freedom Sunday observances marked the calendars of local congregations.
Two years into the fight, after an initial $714,000 was raised, Trafficklight 2.0 was announced to celebrate the generosity of the Church of God and update ongoing relationships with partner agencies continuing to fuel the fight for freedom. Intentional shifts of focus took engaged servants from phases inspiring awareness and involvement to a season of consistent partnership with those helping victims restore holistic health. Ongoing observance challenged the Church of God to not only offer assistance to the hurting, but also consider how consumerism, entertainment, and politics can contribute to the industry of sexual exploitation—even among those who sit in the pew Sunday after Sunday.
The fight against human trafficking may not be the central rallying cause across the Church of God movement today, but Church of God Ministries and congregations across the United States and Canada continue to stand against the evil, and continue to stand with the victims. Partners given a boost from Trafficklight funding during the active campaign remain committed to the work week in and week out—the Church of God is forever grateful for each one. Not only do these partners remain on the front lines, but also local pastors and churches engage in various aspects of the freedom fight throughout the year, especially during Trafficking Prevention Month.
Over the past few years up to the present day, Church of God leaders and congregations have collected more donations for local organizations battling trafficking. Some “wear blue” to spread awareness of human trafficking. Some are supporting ministries like Children of Promise, through which children in poverty are given the chance to grow up healthy, strong, and connected—far less likely to fall into the traps of trafficking. Some are choosing to observe a “Freedom Sunday” on any Sunday of the year that fits their schedules the best, screening contemporary films that educate viewers on the reality and dangers that lead to victimization. Most notably, based on the encouragement of Trafficklight into the future, churches choosing ongoing involvement are actively “pursuing honesty and accountability within churches, getting proactive in [the] effort to create cultures of purity in [individual and congregational] spheres of influence, [and] advancing the good work of ministry partners on the front lines of this work in the world.”
Visit www.chogtrafficklight.org to reflect on accomplishments of the Church of God movement in the fight for freedom—and perhaps inspire further engagement in the future—locally, nationally, and internationally. Visit www.polarisproject.org to broaden awareness of the issue and discover further opportunities for involvement.
Feature (top) photo by Tim Tebow Foundation (Adam Szarmack) on Unsplash.