By Carl Stagner
Just one year has passed since we committed to the cause of freedom for those caught up in the web of human trafficking. Today the Church of God is celebrating more than half a million dollars raised. At Church of God Convention 2015, we looked back at where we started and how far we’ve come, and marveled: God has blessed the efforts of his people. While CHOG TraffickLight has certainly made a difference in the fight for freedom—through awareness, prevention, and ministry to the enslaved—something else is happening, something easily overlooked. The Church of God is seeing its congregations and ministry organizations come together around a single cause, with Jesus at the center.
“I was overwhelmed by our time to share at the convention,” Abby Knowles of CHOG TraffickLight recalls. “The stories of our ministry partners floor me every time. The darkness that exists literally takes my breath away, and I’m so, so grateful to be a part of brining light to these places.” One incredible story recently came to light. This story stretches back to Freedom Sunday, but its impact can still be felt today.
Jodi Poorman attended CHOG Convention 2014 in Oklahoma City. Like many who packed the seats in the Crossings sanctuary last year, this Franklin, Pennsylvania, worship minister felt the tug of the Holy Spirit to do something about the widespread evil of human trafficking. She began to wonder if her home church, Fox Street Church of God, could play a role in the fight for freedom. She dreamed of her modest-sized congregation, of just less than one hundred persons, giving $1,000, or even $2,000. Was it possible? She wasn’t sure, but, hearing the challenge of the Spirit-led speakers at the convention, she determine to be bold and find out.
God loves to do the supernatural when the natural seems impossible. “I mentioned CHOG TraffickLight to our church,” Jodi recalls, “and when I went to our property and finance team with my passionate plea—thinking that if I told them I was crazy enough to think that we could give $2,000, that just maybe $1,000 would seem easier to agree to—they shocked me with their response. They immediately and unanimously agreed to send $1,000 right away.” Insisting that Jodi challenge the congregation to also give and attempt another $1,000, the board had enthusiastically jumped on board with CHOG TraffickLight. “This truly exceeded my expectations,” Jodi remembers.
Freedom Sunday lay ahead several months. It was shaping up to be an opportunity for every church to get involved in the fight against trafficking. The Church of God knew meaningful progress could not be made in isolation, but with the combined efforts of Church of God congregations across the country and around the world, we really could make a difference. Jodi wanted to be a part of that difference, and she worked tirelessly to share stories and statistics to encourage the church’s involvement. Then, a surprise took her breath away.
“A gentlemen from the congregation approached me to talk about the raising of funds,” she explains. “He shared that he and his wife wanted to anonymously offer a $1,000 matching challenge to the congregation. They would match up to $1,000 personally if the church would give $1,000 collectively.” Then a brutal winter storm wreaked havoc on much of the Midwest and Eastern states, forcing churches to cancel services on the final week before Freedom Sunday. Even when Freedom Sunday came, the weather kept attendance down. But God loves to do the supernatural when the natural seems impossible.
“We showed our video, made our presentation, and took the offering,” Jodi explains. “We assured people they could still give the following week due to the weather issues. Imagine my joy at discovering we had collected $1,793!”
Of course, Fox Street Church of God had to take up another offering the following week for those who had been snowbound. “You can only imagine my astonished joy when the giving just on that day was $1,028!” she exclaims. “I was in disbelief…”
$1,000 sent immediately after the convention. $1,793 collected on Freedom Sunday. $1,028 collected the week after. $1,000 matching funds. A total of $4,821 given by this modest-sized congregation to CHOG TraffickLight! But God loves to do the supernatural when the natural seems impossible.
To top it all off, Jodi had shared with her father (who pastors another church, and had not been able to attend the convention) about CHOG TraffickLight shortly after the 2014 gathering. His congregation also ended up giving a generous $2,000. Later, Jodi learned that her passion for the subject was observed in her SHAPE group meetings, causing another pastor to change his perspective on the issue and lead his church to participate in Freedom Sunday.
“I’m glad I decided to be bold and follow the leading of the Spirit,” Jodi reflects. “This was not my usual activity. And God saw fit to do what only he can do, and bless it beyond my tiny little faith. It sounds a lot like Ephesians 3:20–21 in action, and I am so thoroughly humbled and blessed by the experience.”
As the Church of God moves into Year Two of the CHOG TraffickLight initiative, anticipation for how the Spirit will move is mounting. “Our major focus moving into this next year is to tell the stories of our ministry partners and the effects of our church’s contributions,” Abby Knowles explains. “It is making a difference, and we want you to hear how! Also, we hope to see more of our folks taking part in training and special events hosted by our ministry partners and others working in this fight. We want to see participation for Freedom Sunday 2016 take over our churches. There are so many ways your community can get involved. Please stay in touch at www.CHOGTraffickLight.org as we roll out a fresh website and new resources. Lastly, we are hoping to host our first roundtable next summer for folks doing this work to come together and learn from one another. Stay tuned!”