Our world is broken.
In the United States, between 100,000 and 300,000 youth are vulnerable to human trafficking, and at least 60 percent of sexually trafficked youth come out of the foster care system. In Haiti, an estimated 300,000 children are sold or given to other families as domestic slaves called Restaveks. At any one time, the United Nations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation suspect as many as 750,000 people are online in search of child cybersex, and they are finding it in Manila, Philippines.
How do we respond to this evil?
We begin with worship. United with our brothers and sisters in faith, we lift our voices in songs, lament, and prayers to the God who sets captives free and brings hope and healing to broken communities. Worship forms and informs us, and then it empowers us to act. When the songs end and the benediction concludes, we move into the streets as a mighty Holy Spirit-empowered force of hope.
This is the purpose of Freedom Sunday. It’s not just a day — it’s a movement. It’s not just a program — it’s a catalytic community event.
Why is modern slavery the work of community? Because the evil being done to youth in the United States, Haiti, the Philippines and other corners of our world is a symptom of the brokenness in our communities. Families are fractured, neighborhoods are fragmented, systems are flawed. The discrimination, abuse, addiction, greed and violence in our communities create the conditions for slavery and other injustices to thrive. There is no easy “fix,” but a holistic community response can help bring healing to our broken relationships. All of us have contributions to make in this process.
Over the past seven years, Freedom Sunday has been catalytic. Churches have raised more than $800,000 for over 17 projects. These projects have helped protect International Child Care Ministries children in India, Thailand, the Philippines, Colombia and Ethiopia. Together, we’ve helped launch Eden’s Glory, a safe house for survivors of human trafficking, and have made steps toward opening a home for Roma girls in Bulgaria. We’ve raised funds for education, prevention and restoration throughout the United States, Central/Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. It’s been a lot of work, but there is so much more to come!
This year, you and your church have an opportunity to live out Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.”
You and your church can make a real difference for youth in foster care, for Haitians in slavery, and for children being trafficked into cybersex. Stand with ICCM, our partner Restavek Freedom and the Set Free Movement to help create new futures for the vulnerable, the wounded and the broken all around the world.
But human trafficking is everywhere. Yes, even in your town or city. It’s in our closets and cupboards. It’s around the corner and across the globe. All of us have work to do in our own community. All of us need to be involved in some way.
Contributing your gifts can have life-changing impact on others—and not only your financial gifts but your spiritual gifts as well. Freedom Sunday is a reminder to use whatever skills and resources we have to bring holistic freedom to our communities. That is why Freedom Sunday is for you, your family, your church and your community.
We are called to follow Jesus. Not just to dabble in doing good, but to be radically transformed and be a transforming presence in our broken world. This could be the “favorable year of the Lord” for your family and community, but only if we are on mission with Jesus.
As Jesus read in the synagogue from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).
The Spirit of the Lord is on us. We are not powerless. We are a powerful force for freedom, grace, joy, hope and healing. And it begins with worship, continues in worship, and is never ending worship.
Join us Sept. 24. Worship in the direction of freedom. Go to setfreemovement.com/events to register.
Kevin Austin is the director of the Set Free Movement and a Free Methodist missionary working to end modern-day slavery.