By Carl Stagner
What happens when you meet a global crisis with a heart for missions and a little bit of faith? If you attend Vancouver First Church of God in Vancouver, Washington, you already know you’ve got the ingredients for a miracle. Every Christmas, the congregation designates a special offering to a great cause. This Christmas, they chose to join the Church of God effort to combat the scourge of human trafficking. As a larger body of believers, the church wanted to set a goal higher for CHOG TraffickLight than the suggested $1,000. But after their goal of $10,000 was smashed, they knew they’d just witnessed an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit.
The goal was $10,000. Some feared they wouldn’t even hit that. “I think we were all blown away,” Don Doe, then pastor of Vancouver Church, explains. “Blown away” describes the congregation’s reaction quite well, for after the initial count was completed, more than $27,000 had come in. The final total was just released, revealing a whopping $44,400 raised to fight trafficking!
Cheers and vigorous applause accompanied the announcement of the initial $27,000 raised. Vancouver Church does have a long history of generous giving and support of missions around the world. Still, it’s not every week that Vancouver Church collects this much money in a special offering. The church’s history includes not only monetary support of missionaries but also participating in short-term mission trips and work camps. “It’s a global vision,” Don explains. “The church is bigger than the four walls here, and we’re trying to be on the forefront of reaching the world for Christ. It’s really been a part of our DNA.”
More and more churches are jumping on board with CHOG TraffickLight. They recognize the power of the Church of God movement’s uniting for a common purpose. They see the opportunity to do more than offer lip service. “It’s a huge need, and this area of the country [the Northwest] is certainly known for human trafficking,” Don explains. “CHOG TraffickLight hits a raw nerve, and this effort will do more than put a Band-Aid on the problem. For the Church of God to raise a million dollars, that would really put a dent in it.”
T. J. Samuelu, missions pastor at Vancouver Church, is excited about the chance to support such a good cause. Even at a time when normal church offerings were down, he explains, the church saw a need and did more than meet it. “I want us to be radically changed and reach those around us for Christ,” he reflects. To emphasize the personal impact of local and foreign service opportunities, he uses an illustration. “I usually close one eye and put my thumb right in front of the other,” he explains. “It’s almost all I can see, and I’m focusing on it. But extending my arm out, I still have the same thumb, but it looks different—it’s now only 10 percent of what I see. Service gives us that change of perspective.”
Don, whose daughter Randee has developed trafficking prevention curriculum for several years, is encouraged by CHOG TraffickLight. He sees a renewed vitality and bright future for the Church of God. “I think with new direction at Church of God Ministries and the new vision, I’m all in. A lot of us have been waiting for a cause, a vision, a dream—what can we do better together. I’m sold on the whole idea that there’s something we can do bigger and better than we could ever do individually. I think our church’s response in giving was a response to that idea.”
Extend your church’s reach around the world. Sign up for Freedom Sunday, February 22, 2015. For free resources and more information on the Church of God fight against human trafficking, visit www.CHOGTraffickLight.org/FreedomSunday.