In rural Thailand, 20 tribal children who were living in extreme poverty are more resilient against human trafficking. Now that they reside at an International Child Care Ministries hostel, they can access education while receiving food, clothing and Christian care.
In Seattle, an estimated 70% of commercially sexually exploited youth spent time in foster care at some point. But dozens of at-risk girls in foster care are defying this statistic now that they have been connected to peers, mentors and community resources. These supports help keep them safe and encourage them to pursue promising futures.
Across the other side of the nation, there is now a home in Illinois where women who survived human trafficking can heal and flourish. These women, once coerced and forced to engage in dehumanizing acts, are now pursuing a relationship with the Lord, learning how to form trusting relationships, seeking higher education, and securing dignified employment.
And by the end of this year, as many as 10 Roma girls who were facing poverty, neglect and abuse will move into a home where they will live in a safe and secure family environment and have access to the educational and vocational tools they need to thrive.
If your church participated in Freedom Sunday in the past, you helped make all of this happen and more. Each of these critical anti-trafficking interventions were either launched or supported by the generosity of Free Methodist churches who gave offerings on Freedom Sunday. Over the past nine years, participants of Freedom Sunday have raised nearly $900,000, which has been invested in more than 20 projects like these to help reduce vulnerability to exploitation and create new futures.
Freedom Sunday is more than an event. It’s more than a day. It’s a movement of hope.
A Hopeful Response
On Sept. 29, churches all around the world will unite in solidarity for the annual observance of Freedom Sunday. With one impassioned voice, we will acknowledge the tragedy of human trafficking within the appropriate context of worship to catalyze a hope-filled response.
By gathering in the direction of freedom, we will declare together that all humans were created in God’s image, that nobody is to be used and abused for the purpose or profit of others. We will lament our brokenness and pray for healing, all in the context of community.
By worshipping in the direction of freedom, we will acknowledge that God is the one who is in control of all things. Through our singing, we will invite the Holy Spirit to bring hope and empowerment. Through our prayers, we will receive the strength to follow the mission of Jesus to proclaim good news to the poor, to set captives free, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).
By giving in the direction of freedom, we will be taking tangible action to seek justice for our sisters and brothers who are oppressed. Using the gifts with which God has blessed us, our offerings will bless others by helping to bring health, hope and healing in the brokenness.
This year, churches have the special opportunity to give toward a powerful, collaborative ministry caring for refugees who were abused by ISIS during civil war in Iraq. As many as 7,000 women from the Yazidi minority community were kidnapped, enslaved and brutally abused by ISIS fighters who used rape as a weapon. Today, an estimated 350,000 Yazidis live in persistent trauma and poverty in internal displacement camps in Northern Iraq. Torn from their homes, separated from their families, removed from their livelihoods, residents of these camps live in constant uncertainty and are vulnerable to being exploited for sex or labor, or recruited into fighting militias.
Together, the Set Free Movement, International Child Care Ministries, and SEED Livelihood are teaming up with Impact Middle East to build upon their existing efforts to share the grace and truth of Jesus and build the resilience of survivors and refugees in Northern Iraq in these ways:
- Holistic healing: The Set Free Movement will partner with mental health practitioners to care for and empower female survivors of human trafficking.
- Educational empowerment: ICCM will give children living in refugee camps access to education so they can grow into their full potential.
- Economic development: SEED will help refugees create long-term sustainable business ventures so they can be a blessing to their communities.
You can be part of this life-changing ministry. The generosity of your church on Freedom Sunday will build a financial foundation to help meet the spiritual, vocational, educational and mental health needs of survivors and refugees in Iraq.
Ultimately, we know God is the only one who brings healing to the brokenness. Jesus came to set all people free in every way — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. When we are led by the Spirit and come together as a united people of hope, the church can be an agent of change.
Although our world is broken, we are not powerless. And that’s what we declare and pursue on Freedom Sunday.
How Can I Engage My Church on Freedom Sunday?
- Register your church online at ch/fs2019 to receive a free start-up kit to plan your Freedom Sunday, including bulletin inserts, litany, talking points, multimedia resources, promotional materials and more.
- Stay connected. Follow @SetFreeMovement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates, join our Facebook event page at ch/fsfb and find out more on our website at fmchr.ch/sfmfs.
- Stand for freedom by wearing an ethically made Set Free Movement T-shirt (bydfault.com) on Freedom Sunday.
- Serve fair trade coffee on Freedom Sunday to encourage your church to responsibly steward its resources by supporting companies that do not use slave labor. When you order fair trade coffee from Camano Island (ch/cisf), the Set Free Movement receives 10% of your purchase.
- Learn more about why justice matters by doing a group study on “Urban Shalom” (ch/ushalom) or go to fmchr.ch/sfvideo for a video featuring Free Methodist pastors.
- Take up an offering to bless survivors and refugees in Northern Iraq. Offerings made be given online at ch/fsgive. Checks may also be made to the FMCUSA with “Freedom Sunday” in the memo line and sent to 770 N. High School Road, Indianapolis, IN 46214.
Kevin Austin, D.Min., is the director of the Set Free Movement and a Free Methodist missionary working to end modern-day slavery. Katie Bergman is the director of operations and communications for the Set Free Movement and the author of “When Justice Just Is” (whenjusticejustis.com). Austin and Bergman are the authors of “Urban Shalom: Restoring Hope and Justice to Communities Affected by Modern Slavery” (fmchr.ch/ushalom1