When “safe” no longer is…and possibly never was

Sunday, my family and I worshipped at an A.M.E. church in our new home city of Greenville, South Carolina. We’d been intrigued and slightly annoyed at the lack of diversity in all the congregations we’d been too. So we decided we wanted to try an A.M.E. church.

It wasn’t until I entered the sanctuary that I realized how much white privilege affects me.

Crossing the threshold to worship, I remembered that it was a white guy who shot A.M.E. members, after praying with them. In their own church. In the same state I was in.

And with all I’d thought about prior to attending a black church, I had not in the least considered that my presence may have set them on edge. I desperately wanted to reach out and let people know we weren’t like the white guy who’d traveled to Charleston. But bringing up the shooting seemed even dumber than not being aware that my presence might be scary for some.

I remembered the lessons my dad taught me about how to behave if pulled over by a policeman. So to help set people at ease, I intentionally tried to keep my empty hands visible during the service. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do an an A.M.E. church! But it was a conscious choice to keep my hands on the empty pew in front of me when I wasn’t clapping or taking notes during the sermon.

And I wondered how it must be for the pastor to see one white family in the sea of his congregation. Just three months after nine people he may well have known were shot in their own sanctuary. Nothing can be the same. There must be a new awareness. A new wariness.

And today, I pray for the teachers and professors around the nation that are approaching their classrooms. Rooms that were once unquestionably their sanctuary. Their domain. Where they taught students. But today are now potentially unsafe places full not of students but of possible threats.

Church on Sunday turned out to be a wonderful worship service with a gracious group of fellow believers. We received only hospitality, welcome, and hugs. It was great.

But I end this week realizing how random acts of violence affect all of us. And I mourn the increasing loss of “safe” spaces. That mourning almost seems silly when I realize the violence people around the world suffer on a daily basis and even those of differing races and backgrounds have suffered in my own country.

So I enter the prayers of those around the world and across millenia in saying:

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Amirah and the fight to end slavery in New England

Amirah Boston Logo
About a year ago, I started hearing about Amirah, Inc., a nonprofit seeking to set up a network of houses to help women who’ve survived human trafficking. A couple months later, my wife and I joined the board.

It’s so much fun to see how far we’ve come!

  • We have relationships with the most important anti-trafficking organizations in Boston including the FBI, the Department of Justice, and many groups that help survivors.
  • We’ve developed a program for women that has been vetted by trauma counselors, professionals, and other survivors.
  • We’ve grown our number of monthly donors to 44 people! These people are helping fund the costs of our first house.

And now we’ve even secured our first house!

Go to the Amirah blog to see the other accomplishments the team of staff and volunteers have accomplished. It’s been quite a year!

And if you think that slavery was extinct or that it was only an international problem, not a domestic one, there are lots of great books. One I just started reading is Somebody’s Daughter by Julian Sher.

You can also like us on Facebook (or make a donation) at https://www.facebook.com/AmirahBoston! And if you’re coming to Soulfest in August, stop by and say hi!

Out of the mouths of babes

Yesterday after church, Caleb looked at his electronic, handheld Connect Four game and said, “Dad, it seems like alot of my toys say ‘Made in China’ on them.”

I said, “Yes Cale, more and more of our things in the US are being purchased from China.”

Cale: “Well then, shouldn’t we be selling more and more stuff over there too?”

Talk about a proud father! He gets it!

So we had a little lesson on global economics:

  • how free enterprise involves getting goods for the least cost
  • but how in our global society, the least cost often is the product of slave labor or inhuman conditions. (I’m currently reading IJM’s Terrify No Moreabout the ongoing problems of bond slaves and human trafficking are.)
  • And how we should be carefully weighing the real cost of our purchases between dollars and cents and the values of freedom and dignity that we hold dear.

All this as we were driving into our local Wal-mart.

Ironic, no?

Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, Part 3

Over the last couple days, I’ve been looking at how was can work to end slavery. (See Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, Part 2 to catch up.)

Here are a few more ideas on how to work to end slavery:

We live in the richest nation on earth. There’s no excuse for every American to be giving more than 10% of their income to charity: tithing to their church and supporting other causes. God will ask us did with the wealth He trusted us with, whether we’d consider our current income wealth or not.

God freed us. Why would we not do anything in our power to free others?

This is why I’m so proud of people in our church like Janice Murray who’s leading an Addicts Victorious group, helping people get free of things that addict them. That’s actively fighting against slavery. And the affects of that group could have global impact!


Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, Part 2

Yesterday I suggested making a resolution to work to end slavery. That was the first in a 3-part look at this commitment and my wrestling with what to do about it.

Little did I know that January 11, 2008 was Human Trafficking Awareness Day!

And I know that it’s often US citizens that are creating the “demand” for this trade.

I have a huge problem with our government spraying drug crops in Latin America or twisting those governments to when it’s our own citizens buying the drugs. Trade is supply and demand. Trying to eradicate the supply is one way to stop the traffic. One that doesn’t cause us to confront our own demons as a country. We can just blame “them,” those guys over there.

But the truth is, if we Americans didn’t by drugs, the drug producers would eventually go out of business.

Same with the sex trafficking. If we were able to free people from the bondage of pornography and abuse, we might be doing our part to curb the demand.

This may be a place to start.


Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, Part 1

Even though it’s mid-January, I’m still hearing a lot about New Year Resolutions. So I thought I might offer one for your consideration: working to end slavery.


There are currently around 27 million slaves on the planet. That’s more than the twice the total number of slaves taken from Africa in the 300 to 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade.

27 million.

And I’m not refering to the kind of “slavery” we sort of joke about in our middle-class terminology, working for a hard boss or being up to our ears in consumer debt.

I’m talking about 27 million men, women, and children sold against their will into slavery with no hope of release. Men, women, and children forced into making rugs, rolling cigarrettes, making bricks. And more often that not being forced to have sex. “Rape for profit” as the International Justice Mission calls it.

Kids the age of all three of my kids: 2, 5, and 8. It’s sickening.

And I don’t really know what to do about it.

But God’s had my wife and I on a steep learning curve for the last few months. Human trafficking and sex trafficking books and articles keep finding their way to us.

What’s shocking is that slavery is so involved in so much of our normal life here in the USA. It’s even involved with much of the chocolate we eat.

I do know I can ask God to keep at me until I overcome my apparent indifference.

And I can support groups like International Justice Mission and others. (I’d love to figure out how my fundraising experience could be used to help them!)