Thursday, July 28, 2011


So I know that redemption isn't mine to give, achieve, etc.  And I know that reconciliation isn't something that can be forced.  And I am aware that my every impulse is to minister to and protect survivors of trafficking.  But just a question I'd like wiser minds than mine to mull over ... when is it our responsibility to minister to perpetrators of these crimes?  I absolutely believe that people convicted of trafficking in the lives of others need to be punished for it.  But.. then what?

A purely punitive justice system doesn't leave much room for the Holy Spirit (or whatever Divine Other one chooses to name), for redemption, for reclamation of humanity.  Some people will always be angry, violent, and cruel, whatever happens.   But others are reacting to a brokenness that was caused by circumstances beyond their control, or are living out the consequences of terrible choices in earlier days.  This in no way excuses their behavior or serves to justify it.  But it does beg the question.. how can we, as a faith community, help address the larger broken systems?  How can we most effectively live out our faith in the lives of those who suffer, and those who cause suffering to others?  How does this re-framing of justice potentially impact the way we minister and live in practical, day-to-day ways?  In short, where is God in in justice on this scale?


Sunday, July 24, 2011

St. Luke's in Holloway

After a week of amazing conversations with Anglicans, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, non-denoms, and people of any and all theological persuasion (or none at all), I feel like I'm making real headway in talking to total strangers about slavery and what we can be doing to stop it.  I am constantly humbled by the creative and passionate responses of people from all across the spectrum, and the support I keep finding replenished!  Thanks to one and all for the love and encouragement.

This morning, I sought church as a place of solace and comfort rather than a potential conversation partner in the challenging fight against trafficking.  I went to St. Luke's in Holloway, London (having already been intrigued after hearing Dave Tomlinson, their Vicar, lecture the week before).  It was phenomenal -- ancient space but with an eye on what the spirit is doing today.  Vibrant liturgy.  Diverse and affirming community.  Hymns that feel like slipping on an old, comfy hoodie (Be Thou My Vision), and revelatory interpretations (treating God's church as the fifth gospel and including a story of a member of the congregation's own life in with the Gospel reading).  I was touched by all the thoughtful participation in worship by lay leaders and clergy alike, and appreciated the stark honesty they seemed to have with one another.  Shouldn't church be a place where we feel confident we'll be loved, even if we bring our less-than-shiniest-selves?  I think part of living out the Christian story is knowing that we've all got stories - glorious and painful and dull and astounding -- and our lives are more complete when we share them.

Part of what left me the most touched was the deft handling of prayer this morning - prayer for the people of Norway in such sorrow and shock, and for those who feel so lost as to think such violence is a good idea.  Prayer for Amy Winehouse (no joke, they mentioned her in the prayers) and acknowledging the tragedy that is the loss of any young life, and the loss of talent, and prayers for all those who have to witness loved ones struggle with addiction.  Prayers for those who feel their love is unaccepted by the church, and prayers for those in the church who struggle to accept love in a variety of forms.  It was like all those things for which I sought solace and wisdom found their wording in the mouth of a stranger.  Church is pretty great like that.

WPC, I miss and love you all tremendously.  In the meantime, it's good to have found a church home away from home for the summer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Don't Take Any Risks

This is a direct quote from London's tube, which is fast becoming a second home to me.  It's on a placard about what to do in the case of emergency - staying put, waiting for authorities, etc.  This strikes me as completely legit advice and exactly what I plan to do should an emergency strike, but it made me giggle right out loud when I first read it out of context.  As if some supernatural, overbearing fairy godmother were issuing a shrill reminder -- Ok, you're here.  That's fine.  But don't take any risks!

And that's just nonsense.  The world isn't a safe place.  There are safer and riskier places to be, obviously, but by and large you never know what's going to happen.  You could be in Calcutta for months and be just fine (yep), and you can be back home in the suburbs and find yourself on the wrong end of a storm (hope everyone's got power back at home now!).  Life just isn't safe.  Neither is God.  And you can worry your years away trying to make life feel safe, but you'll only be frustrated, and you'll experience so much less.

Taking risks for the sake of taking risks is a little silly and juvenile.  But taking risks for the sake of doing what needs to be done?  That's called living.  Go do it in abundance.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Did you know that, as I sit writing this, two children are being trafficked every minute?  That slavery - with conditions as bad or worse as those we learned about in grade school from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade - exists and impacts the lives of millions across the globe?  It's in every major city across the planet and often happens in the quiet neighborhoods most of us inhabit.  It discriminates only on the basis of economy.  Who can be taken and no one will come for them?  Who can be made compliant?  Who can fetch the best price?  I know the temptation is strong to put these things out of our heads.  They are ugly truths and painful to consider.  But that pain is nothing compared to those who experience this horror as their reality.  It is for their right to basic human dignity that we must look at these facts and then determine that the perpetuation of modern day slavery is a truth we will no longer abide.  For things you can do to help fight trafficking, please send me an email ( for a list of resources, and / or go here:

Pass the word on to your friends and loved ones.  For the two -to -four kids enslaved while you read this post, and the millions more just like them, please join the abolitionist fight today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reconciliation and Blood Brothers

Reconciliation - taking the scattered, smashed pieces of God's creation and attempting to fit them back together.  Piece by broken piece, person by broken person.  Reconciliation is the foundation of all ministry - we are trying to reconcile ourselves, one another, the world back to the vision of God's intended world.  We are trying to soothe the discord of the violence, turmoil, and cruelty that we accept are just "part of life".

In his brilliant account of his experiences growing up Christian in 1940's Palestine, Father Elias Chacour writes of the wisdom of his seminary professor, Father Longere, who said:

  "If there is a problem somewhere, this is what happens.  Three people will try to do something concrete to settle the issue.  Ten people will give a lecture analyzing what the three are doing.  One hundred people will commend or condemn the ten for their lecture.  One thousand people will argue about the problem.  And one person -- only one -- will involve him (or her) self so deeply in the true solution that he (or she) is too busy to listen to any of it.... Now, which person are you?"

Where do you fit into the reconciliation of the world?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Little Truth About Mission Projects

It's mission trip time!  So you've packed your backpack with some or all of the essentials (depending on whether or not you're going to someplace where they are likely to sell what you need... or think you need).  You've said a temporary goodbye to family and friends.  You've sorted through the million hassles of plane tickets, train tickets, International health insurance, phone / email / some form of communication with the home land, vaccinations (less of this in London than Calcutta, obviously), and you're... ready?  Sure.  Why not?  But ready for what?

This is the second trip I've taken that I'd qualify as a short-term mission project -- longer than a month in a foreign country, largely of my own design and choosing, and the last one with a friend in tow to India, this one a bit more solo.  Both times, I've gone, full of hope, expectations (some realistic, some not), and conviction that I am where God wants me to be - serving vulnerable people, and bringing a microphone to the silenced.

Then...once the wheels are down and the butterflies are calmed ... reality sets in.  Never do I doubt that I am doing what I am meant to be doing.  It's just important to keep a good grasp on what a mission project is and is not.  A mission project is a chance to explore, to search, to learn, to ask big questions, and to try to contribute as best you can in a short stretch of time.  A mission project is not non-stop-ecstatic-life-altering-soul-fulfilling-Spirit-filled goodness.  A fair bit of it can be, but going in seeking that sort of ecstasy can only lead to disappointment.  I have learned (and am still learning) to appreciate the quieter, and yet no less meaningful parts of mission work.  This is an opportunity and a tremendous gift to learn about self and call to God's work, whatever form that may take.  It's a chance to sit in conversation with perfect strangers and walk away feeling like they've been a friend all along.

It is also frequently about maintenance, good self care, communication, and pushing yourself.  Rarely is it actually the big leap of getting on the plane that represents the hardest part.  Settling into life post-arrival and really digging into the missional life -- that's when the real work seems to begin.

With gratitude and a quiet, happy heart, tonight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Work Begins

While I'm massively enjoying the fun of exploring London on my own, and have spent a fair bit of time working on my own abolitionist project (I'm attempting to write a curriculum for churches to use when addressing human trafficking, particularly focusing on specific ways to approach it for youth groups, young adults, womens groups, etc.), today I began my role with London ACTS and Stop the Traffick.

I went to an excellent mini-festival called Envision which is all about giving young people opportunities to get involved in major issues.  One of the pivotal experiences of my childhood was having adults tell me that my ideas were good and had merit, and that I was capable of making a difference right then and there, not just when I got older.  I hope to pass that gift on to others.

  I spent the afternoon with two lovely new friends (who are also volunteers) talking to anyone and everyone about trafficking -- what it is, why it happens, and what they can do about it.  I must admit I've always been a bit intimidated by teenagers (even when I was one), probably for the very same reason that they are an excellent group to get involved in social justice issues.  Teenagers possess a level of energy, passion and commitment that few people retain into adulthood.  They believe things fervently and often act by jumping in with both feet.  Which is awesome.  A little daunting to an introvert (really, I am) like me, but awesome.  And these kids were no exception!  I'm sure I met quite a few soon to be abolitionists today and couldn't be more excited to be doing the work I'm doing here.  Thanks to all who have made and continue to make this possible!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

That's Why

These first few days in the UK are largely about settling in.  The two main contacts I have with Stop the Traffik are traveling this week, and while I have some independent abolitionist projects I'm attempting, my only official commitment this week is a brief awareness-raising deal on Thursday.  This is good because it gives me time to figure out my neighborhood, unpack, catch up on sleep, etc.  It's good AND bad because it gives me loads and loads of time to think.

One recurring thought (in part just because I'm explaining it to a whole new group of people) is why am I here?  Fear not, it's not in an existential crisis kind of way.  Just... why now?  Why this place?  And, particularly given the plethora of global crises from the AIDS epidemic to clean water initiatives to refugee care to choose from, why trafficking?

Well the why now part is pretty straight forward - I've had a lovely two year start at learning how I feel about working in churches (pretty fantastic), and wanted the opportunity to explore this other side of my call.  Why now?  Because the congregation I serve graciously afforded me the opportunity.  Because I had a brilliant crew of people basically handle fund-raising on my behalf.  Because I don't have a mortgage, spouse, kids, or even a dog and therefore am able to pick up and leave the country when I feel like it.

Why here?  Well, that was pretty much covered in an earlier post.  Here (London) had the best opportunities, seemed the best equipped to handle volunteers, and the lovely people seemed most enthusiastic about making use of my time and skills. 

But why trafficking?  That one's a little more complex.  I care passionately about a great many issues - those listed above and dozens more.  At the end of the day, I care about people.  My faith manifests in my determination that all people should be afforded basic human dignity (well, they should be afforded more than that, but let's start somewhere, shall we?).  It is also my belief that the use of a human being as slave labor, which often includes physical harm, torture, or rape alongside the severe psychological damage of being told they are worthless -- this is the gravest violation of basic human dignity.  It violates the humanity of the victim in obvious ways, but it also violates the humanity of those doing the trafficking.  They become something less than human as they strip someone else of their dignity and rights, and this dims the divine spark in both.  I believe we are called to radical humanization and radical love, and fighting trafficking through advocacy, legislation, rehabilitation, and reconciliation of the soul are my ways of (hopefully) expressing my experience of that call.   That's why.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


One of the great things about traveling internationally for anything longer than a quick holiday (look, I’m speaking British already!) is the sense of accomplishment – even in a country where there is no language barrier and the cultural differences are relatively minor.  Otherwise mundane tasks from your life near home become monumental occasions for celebration in a foreign land. 
Look!  I grocery shopped!  I have brought home food and will not, in fact, starve to death!  I figured out how to get a train ticket, get on the tube, and get to the opposite side of London!  And then wandered around with a massive bag and a happy/bedraggled/ sufficiently sympathetic look that strangers helped me carry my stuff up stairs and point me in the right direction!   None of these would be a big deal near Chicago, but when you’re far away from everyone who looks and feels like home, it matters that you feel whole, planted, and capable. 
All this to say that I have arrived!  The flight was smooth and thanks to the generosity of so many friends and strangers and family members, I am on my way to the work I so very much want to do.  I caught some strange looks for my in flight reading – trading off between Simon Pegg’s “Nerd Do Well” and “The Human Trafficking Assessment Tool” (the March 2009 Mexico edition), but strange looks aren’t foreign to me.
I’m living near a park and about a ten-minute walk from the nearest tube stop, so all should be well there.  Still meeting the various housemates and the set up is a quirky rehabbed warehouse, full of artists.  Post grocery shopping and a surprise visit with a dear Brit, it’s time to do some more reading, outline my plans for the first chapter of the anti-trafficking curriculum I’m writing, and sleep the jet lag away.