By Arthur Kelly and WPC Staff
Bold is…raising your voice to protect women and children from sex trafficking.
A woman spreading a sleeping bag on the cold concrete of an often wet sidewalk. The gaunt face of child, living on the streets, hungry for just about any kind of attention—but eagerly searching for something to fill an empty stomach. The blank stare of a young man or woman, walking the Avenue of Roses, just blocks away from the Warner Pacific campus, hoping to earn enough money from the sad men who buy their bodies so they won’t be beaten another night when they haven’t met their quota. Portland, Oregon, is a beautiful city that is plagued by these three sad faces. Warner Pacific students are boldly offering the hope of Christ.
They have asked the question, Where is the face of God here? Where is the imago dei? More boldly, they’ve asked, What is our godly response to such ungodly treatment of God’s children?
This story of boldness belongs to fifteen students, a couple of professors, and a staff person, all exploring biblical justice and social realities in a First-Year Learning Community (FYLC) titled “Faith, Justice, and Portland: Advocating for Social Change.” FYLCs at Warner Pacific are groups of twelve to fifteen students who work together in linked courses, which include learning activities that extend beyond the traditional campus setting. Using the city as their classroom, FYLCs explore topics relevant to Portland, immersing students in interdisciplinary, collaborative, hands-on learning. The students in this FYLC engaged many folks—those addressing justice issues, the victims of injustice, and the survivor-victors of injustice; and they engaged a cross section of human need—homelessness, hunger, and sex trafficking.
Throughout the fall semester, these students learned about the issue of the commercialized sexual exploitation of children in Portland and the massive impact that it has on our city. During the November 21, 2013, Warner Pacific College chapel, the students made a thought-provoking presentation about human trafficking found in Portland. (Listen to the audio recording.) At that time, they provided everyone in attendance the opportunity to be a force for positive change in our community by signing a petition in support of the budget amendment.
Then on December 2, 2013, these freshmen boldly let their voices be heard and took their cause all the way to the Portland City Council. Following testimony from Professor Stephanie Mathis, who spoke on behalf of the students, the council voted to amend the 2013–2014 city budget to include appropriations for funds to address human trafficking.
During the December 2 council meeting, Professor Stephanie Mathis presented a letter to the council on behalf of the FYLC students as well as the signed petition. Watch the presentation online at time marker 105:02.
All this from a learning community of students who are boldly embracing the mission of Warner Pacific College—“a Christ-centered, urban, liberal arts college dedicated to providing students from diverse backgrounds an education that prepares them to engage actively in a constantly changing world.”
Speak hope. Register for the Church of God Convention at www.chogconvention.org. The Church of God Convention is scheduled for June 23–26, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.