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Raleigh Sadler

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Supporting the Fight Against Human Trafficking

The following post is from Guest blogger, John Patrick. John lives and works in Chicago, Il. He is a friend as well as a monthly ministry partner. I firmly believe that his words and experience will inspire you:

"Several years ago I was waiting for a train near my office in downtown Chicago. As I stood, waiting in the cold, a young lady approached me. Her name was Sarah. Her natural demeanor seemed timid and reserved, but she pushed through all of that to speak to me. “Hey, you alone tonight?,” she asked. I was surprised by her forwardness and stumbled for an answer. “Nah, I have a lot of work to keep me company,” I quipped. She didn’t give up and a predictable “offer of services” was made. I told her I wasn’t interested in sex, but that I would buy her dinner if she would tell me her story. She agreed. For the next hour, over a paper plate of gyros and fries, she told me about her journey to the U.S. Sarah told me about life in her home country – the abuse, the privation, her desperate desire to leave. She told me about the day she was offered a job as a nanny in the U.S. for a wealthy family. Then, she explained how she had been tricked and that no such job was waiting for her in the U.S. Having no passport, money, home, or relationships she could either be deported and return to her past life of misery or work in prostitution. She chose the latter. I listened to her story and told her there is hope to escape this life of slavery. Eventually, the conversation shifted to the greater liberation offered in Jesus Christ through his gospel. She was torn between the fear of her “manager” and the hope of liberation. Sadly, she gave into fear. She left the restaurant and faded back into the darkness of a city too busy to notice her plight.

I know there are thousands of other people who share Sarah’s story. They are enslaved to the temporal cruelty of injustice and they are enslaved to the enduring shackles of sin. Having listened to Sarah’s story and knowing there are so many others like her the appropriate question for my family was not, “Why should we support Raleigh’s ministry.” The question for us is, “How can we not support his ministry.” We prayed about how much to give Raleigh and decided that our current lifestyle would not allow us to give what we wanted. So, we changed our lifestyle to free up more money. I don’t share this detail to highlight our generosity (we could do more). I share this detail to draw attention to the excesses we often enjoy that could be sacrificed for the good of other people. God has richly blessed our partnership with Raleigh by allowing us to see the fruit of our giving. Every time I read a story of conversion to Christ, liberation from slavery, or increased awareness I’m reminded of Sarah. Raleigh’s ministry reminds me that we are not giving money to a voiceless endeavor. We are partnering with Raleigh to lift high the name of Christ and to demand justice for people like Sarah."

Please note that Raleigh is not paid by any entity. He raises support through ministry partnership with different individuals and organization. Your prayer and financial partnership is needed and encouraged as Raleigh serves amongst the oppressed in NYC. Also, every gift that you give is tax deductible. If you would like to join the fight against exploitation by joining Raleigh's ministry support team, you can go to his website, www.raleighsadler.com or email him at raleigh.sadler@gmail.com.

 

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"The Only Thing Necessary"

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke’s words serve as a solemn reminder that we have a responsibility to be an advocate for those whose voice is not heard. As awareness of this injustice grows, we are realizing that the issue of human trafficking is more than a political, geographic or religious problem. Human trafficking affects everyone and is by definition a “human” problem. 

“Trafficking in Persons” take places when the vulnerabilities of one person are exploited by another for commercial gain. More specifically, this modern day slavery exists when people are coerced, forced, and/or manipulated to do commercial sex acts or labor services against their will. Whether they are forced to work as a truck stop prostitute, a “masseuse” at an asian massage parlor, a nanny for a wealthy family, a brick maker in India, or a worker on a fishing boat in Southeast Asia, they are victims of exploitation. This injustice is not limited to developing nations, however. Quite to the contrary, every nation is affected and impacted by this violation of human rights.

With only drug trafficking surpassing it, human trafficking has become the second largest and the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Approximately 27 million slaves are at work in the world today. Even in the US, many of them are enslaved in plain sight. As a matter of fact, the United States is second only to Germany as a top destination country for human trafficking.  

Already known for ethnic diversity, NYC is also gaining a reputation as a destination for victims of human trafficking. According to recent reports, “Queens, New York is emerging as an epicenter of human trafficking in the United States.” 

Along Roosevelt Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Queens, one will find illegitimate massage parlors, men passing out cards with the number of a local residential brothel, as well as vans serving as mobile bordellos. For this very reason, local church leaders and civic leaders from all over Queens gathered in the Corona neighborhood on August 24th to discover what they could do to help turn the tide. With the desire to bring awareness to human trafficking, “Let My People Go” served to inspire and equip local churches to be the answer to the ever-growing exploitation in Queens. The panel made up of NYC’s top Christian abolitionists dealt with how to identify and respond to human trafficking in a Gospel-centered manner. 

Testifying to witnessing prostitution within blocks of his church, the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Canaan, Juan Carlos Suero, told those in attendance that exploitation is a dangerous reality in his neighborhood. He continued to explain that he felt that his church was to be part of the solution.

As Pastor Juan Carlos recognized, God desires to use the local church to bring justice to the vulnerable. Jimmy Lee, the executive director of Restore NYC, an aftercare facility for foreign born victims, reminded those in attendance that “in every neighborhood where a woman is trafficked in NYC, there is a church that can be eyes and ears.” Lee reminded those listening that as they see red flags, they “can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1888-373-7888.”

Whether you live in Queens, NYC or Tulsa, Oklahoma, you must remember that before you can care for victims, you must first realize that they exist. Growing in our awareness is the first step toward bringing freedom to our communities. 

With that said, you do not have to wear a cape or have a Phd to be an advocate for the weak and vulnerable. God desires to use each of us. Though exploitation takes place everywhere, God is also sovereignly placing His church in every community in the world. The local church is God’s answer to the hurting all around us.  

Now as you read this article, you maybe be saying to yourself, “What can I do? This problem is too big. Why should I even try?” Edmund Burke, a member of the British Parliament in the late 1700s, who stood for the cause of the American Colonies understood the need for freedom, even when it was not popular or easy. He explained that “nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Regardless of your age or your occupation, you can do something. As you begin to be aware of the exploitation that takes place around you, you are in the perfect position to care for the weak and vulnerable. Remember that the only thing necessary for you to fight human trafficking is to be a disciple that shows your love for God by the way that you love others.

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Living in Light of the Good Samaritan: Giving Value to the Devalued

A placard in the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Manhattan.

A placard in the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Manhattan.

Recently, according to the Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness in New York City (NYC) has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s. As of March 2013, there was an all-time record of 50,700 homeless people living on the streets of NYC. If you walk more than a block in NYC, you will be confronted with this reality.

After preaching the parable of the Good Samaritan at the Gallery Church(click to listen to the message), I was headed to Harlem for dinner with my girlfriend, Liz. As we were walking up the stairs to exit the subway, I saw him; a nameless elderly man dressed in dirty clothes, begging for change. This isn't out of the norm to see at a subway stop. But for me, this time was different. I watched as people walked by and refused to acknowledge his existence. Yet, he persisted, "can I have a dollar for a sandwich?" I watched as each person actively chose to look down rather than to look up at the face of the man. Honestly, I have to confess that I also walked by. However, with each step, my feet felt heavier to the point that I could no longer continue. I now heard two voices. One was the faint, defeated voice of the man asking for change. The other voice was my own, reciting the remnants of that morning's sermon I had just preached: "don't be the levite, don't be the priest, who walked by and refused to love the man who was vulnerable."

Too many times, we dehumanize the very people that God loves and values. Tim Keller in his book, Generous Justice, explains that "Jesus taught that a lack of concern for the poor is not a minor lapse, but reveals that something is seriously wrong with one’s spiritual compass, the heart." His point is that a heart that is not bent towards grace and mercy is one that has not experienced true compassion. The mere fact that we choose to ignore the poor whom God values  points to a "heart" that doesn't value God.

Dehumanization, or the active refusal to give value to other humans, drives all forms of exploitation. This is especially seen in commercial sex trafficking and labor trafficking. A person is "dehumanized" when the "personhood" of the individual is stripped away and they are left as nothing but an objective commodity to be bought and sold. From the moment that we dehumanize our "neighbor," it is not a far leap to objectification and commodification.

In the Newsweek article, The John Next Door, the reader is invited into the mind of someone who buys sex. Leslie Bennetts, the author, explains that "the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them as men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation." In a related study, several "johns" were asked to comment on the women from whom they bought sexual services. One "john" explained that "she is just a biological object that charges for services." While another sex buyer said that "being with a prostitute is like having a cup of coffee, when you‘re done, you throw it out." Another man went as far to say that "the relationship has to stay superficial because they are a person and you're capable of getting to know them. But once you know them, it's a problem, because you can't objectify them anymore."

Unlike these "johns," the majority of us devalue other human beings unconsciously.  Whether we do it out of self protection, fear, or apathy, our response to those who are weak and vulnerable indicates where they rank in our value system. In the parable, Jesus did not investigate whether or not the reasons that the "priest and levite" walked by the dying man were valid; that was not His point. The issue was that regardless of their reasoning, they actively chose to walk away and not show compassion. They chose not to love their neighbor.

By giving this lesson in the form of a parable, Jesus challenges the reader to identify with the characters. He wants us to see our reflection as we see the lack of love of the priest and levite. He wants us to see our own neediness as we see the "man lying in the ditch." Unlike the "half dead" man, the Bible says that we are completely dead in our sins. In our sin and spiritual deadness, We are enemies of Christ. However, Christ did not leave us to die.  He didn't call to us in our deadness and say, "Now if you do this, then you will live." He spoke life into my death, when I could not love God and I could not love others. He didn't merely risk his life to help us, He freely gave it. Jesus Christ has fulfilled the character of the Good Samaritan. He came to us in our brokenness and rescued us by his grace. By his vicarious life, death, and resurrection in my place, He graciously saved me. There was nothing that I could to earn his favor.

As a response to his free grace, I am moved to act in compassion and trust God with the results. My response is to care for the vulnerable and to give graciously. Only as we reflect on the Gospel can we go from someone that desires self protection to someone that desires to protect others. The Gospel motivates us to see every person as someone whom God values, rather than merely a statistic. The Gospel empowers us to value those whom society rejects as those whom have been created in the image of God.

With that fact fresh in mind, I turned around and began talking with the man. Liz later told me that his face brightened up as I acknowledged him. I asked him what he needed and he told me that he just wanted a sandwich. So we quickly went to the local bodega and I told him to order whatever he wanted. As we talked, I began to notice a change in my own heart. This man, who I had originally chosen to ignore, had a name. Timothy, or "Dreads" as he liked to be called, told us about his life. He was so excited that we would stop to spend time with him that he invited us to swing by his shelter and ask for him anytime. He even gave us the phone number for his "brand new" prepaid phone. "What are you doing for the Fourth of July," Timothy asked. "Because a few other friends in the shelter and I are getting together to have a little bar-be-que, we would love for you to come and spend some time with us," he explained. After this invitation, I was moved as I realized that I now spoke to this man as if he were a member of my own family. Honestly by the end of the conversation, I could tell that the feeling was mutual and that we both valued one another.

People continually ask, "What should my first step be in fighting exploitation?" My answer is simple: return value back to those from whom you have taken it. Give value to those whom you have devalued.

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The Crux of Abolition Part 1

"Raleigh, what made you move to NYC? Why would you choose to work with Human trafficking abolition?" Believe it or not, I get this question all the time. If you are anything like me, you probably spend a good bit of time wondering what makes people tick, as well. You think to yourself, "why do they do what they do or why did they choose that particular career path over another possibly more logical choice?" Why would an 18th century English parliamentarian risk his political equity by seeking an end to the "socially accepted" slave trade in England? Why would a person leave a promising law career in NYC to work with a struggling non profit organization? What do you need to be properly motivated to live a life of justice?

To inspire NYC pastors to encourage their churches to fight human trafficking, we hosted a showing of the film "Sex and Money."

For the Christian, two motivations will stand head and shoulders above the rest; namely, the character of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From cover to cover, you can easily see the theme  of God working through his people to bring justice to the world especially to the orphan, the widow, the refugee, and the poor.  This group of four is mentioned repeatedly in scripture. God's love for the weak and vulnerable stems from his character. Of the many passages that speak of the justice of God, one text in particular speaks of God's heart for this population. In Deuteronomy 10:16-19, the reader discovers that because God is "the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe (all attributes of his character)... He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing." In verse 19, God pleas with his people to do the same. This passage is written in such a way that as the believer reflects on the character of God, he or she will be driven to respond in a similar fashion. Greg Beale explains this concept in his book, We Become What We Worship. His basic point is that “what people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” Ergo if we worship the God of justice, then we should naturally care for the things for which He cares, like the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and the poor. Jimmy Lee, the Executive Director of Restore NYC, reminded a group of pastors at an event called "Let My People Go, "that the scariest thing about human trafficking is that it's preying on the most vulnerable populations." These are those without a voice or an advocate. Through the light of scripture, we discover that though we may not actively care for the broken of society, God does. This love, grace, mercy, justice and overall goodness of God should be a motivation that drives all of his followers. Can this be said for you?

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"The Only Thing Necessary..."

...for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke's words serve as a solemn reminder that we have a responsibility to be an advocate for those without a voice. The issue of human trafficking is more than a political, regional or religious problem. Human trafficking is a "human" problem. We are all affected and impacted by this violation of human rights, whether we know it or not. Currently, approximately 27 million slaves are at work in the world today. "Trafficking in persons" is a $99 billion dollar industry as well as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.

According to Polarisproject.org, over 100,000 children are estimated to be introduced into the sex trade in the United States each year. In light of the previous statement, it is no wonder that the average age of entry into prostitution is between 12-14 years old. Whether they are born in the US or elsewhere, they are being bought sold on a daily basis. This happens in your cities and your neighborhoods.

Human trafficking which equates to modern day slavery exists when people are coerced, forced, and/or manipulated to do commercial sex acts or labor services against their will. Whether they serve as a prostitute at a truck stop, a "masseuse" as an asian massage parlor, a maid for a wealthy family, a brick maker in India, or are forced to work on fishing boats in Southeast Asia, they are victims of exploitation.

In the face of such a global evil, what can we do?

Raleigh Sadler moderating the panel of abolitionists

On April 27th, 2013, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion for pastors and church leaders which was aptly named "Let My People Go." The name of the event comes from the demand of Moses, God's spokesman, to Pharaoh who refused to release Israel from slavery. In a similar way, these pastors were challenged to stand and demand that those trapped in slavery today be set free. The goal was to equip these pastors and church leaders with the knowledge to equip their churches to fight human trafficking. The event featured three expert panelists, who are some of the top abolitionists in NYC; Jimmy Lee of Restore NYC, Diana Mao of Nomi Network, and Jonathan Walton of New York City Urban Project.

During this discussion, we wrestled with the nature of human trafficking and where is it found globally and locally. We also delved into where is slavery found in NYC, and how are we a part of the problem. Finally, we explored ways that the local church can be a positive force in the fight against the global slave trade.

In the next several articles, we will walk through several ways that Christians can practically fight human trafficking. We will learn that we don't have to wear a cape or have a Phd to be an advocate for the weak and vulnerable. As Christians we simply have to be disciples. Ultimately, true biblical discipleship fights trafficking. I will tease this out more in the articles to follow, but to put it succinctly, when we stand on the Gospel, we will naturally stand against injustice.

You may find this hard to believe. You may be struggling to read this article because your eyes keep rolling back in your head. You are saying to yourself, "What can I do? This problem is too big. Why should I even try?" Edmund Burke, who stood for the cause of the American colonies as a member of the British Parliament in the late 1700s, understood the need for freedom, even when it was not popular. He explained that "nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." Regardless of your age or your occupation, you can do something. Remember that the only thing necessary for us to fight human trafficking is our willingness to do something... no matter how small it may seem.

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