By Carl Stagner
Though Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday this year, chocolates and paper hearts were not the focus of thousands of congregations across North America. For the Church of God and several other faith groups, February 14, 2016, was about something bigger, something bolder. While the culture celebrated romantic love, God’s people celebrated God’s unconditional love for the least of these, including victims of human trafficking around the world. As ambassadors of God’s love, believers gathered to not only worship the Lord on Freedom Sunday, but also to raise awareness and funds for ministries entrenched in the fight for freedom. While Freedom Sunday stories continue to come in, initial reports reveal yet another groundswell of determination to reclaim what hell has stolen.
To communicate God’s unconditional love at work through his people, Jones Chapel Church of God in Meridian, Mississippi, came up with a creative way to communicate why our financial support is so crucial. Lynn Anderson and her husband had coordinated the church’s Freedom Sunday service last year, and they were honored to do so again this year. A variety of actors, from the youth pastor to the head usher, presented an original skit to portray both the sickening devaluing of human life and the vitality of organizations that deal directly with victims of trafficking. During the presentation, music played, and a slideshow presentation displayed statistics about human trafficking. Watch the raw video footage of the skit at https://vimeo.com/155536942.
In Franklin, Pennsylvania, churchgoers braved winter’s onslaught to take a stand against trafficking. Last year, the Fox Street Church of God raised an unprecedented amount for CHOG TraffickLight, and this year they’ve already collected more than $1,600—in spite of the brutally cold temperatures. One giving couple made the intentional decision to forego their usual Valentine’s Day gifts to each other, and instead donated that money to the cause for freedom. Pastor Jodi Poorman reflects, “The hearts of our congregation have definitely been moved by the issue of human trafficking and a desire to turn the tide! I’m just thrilled to be a part of this movement-wide stand against wickedness. We must shine the light of Jesus into the darkness!”
Addressing one of the major roots of sex trafficking, Pastor Neil Oldham chose to speak to Cypress Street Church of God of West Monroe, Louisiana, about pornography. “The idea that pornography is a private, personal issue is a lie,” he explains. “It warps people, it’s warping our society, and it is fueling human trafficking. It drives human trafficking because trafficked girls and boys are used to make it. But it also drives human trafficking because it creates the demand for sex trafficking. Therefore, a click to view pornography is also a click to support human trafficking.” As a result of the way the congregation has been mobilized through participating in efforts like Freedom Sunday, Pastor Neil made the following observation: “It was a powerful day in the life of our church. I have prayed for God to do something amazing at Cypress Street Church of God, but these days, I’m more excited about what God is doing through Cypress Street. We are changing the world for Jesus!”
Though Freedom Sunday 2016 may be over, the life-changing ministries of CHOG TraffickLight continue. Keep praying, keep supporting, keep sending in your stories. Stay tuned for a more complete report of God’s hand at work on Freedom Sunday 2016!
Submit your Freedom Sunday 2016 story at www.CHOGTraffickLight.org.