By Carl Stagner
The youth group at New Horizons Community Church of God in Jackson, Michigan, just flexed its generosity muscle. Every February they hold a fundraiser to support youth activities throughout the year. With the help of their parents and other church volunteers, the youth prepare a banquet, guests from the church and community dine on fine food, and donations are encouraged. But this year, the issue of human trafficking has been on the hearts and minds of the students. Why should they revel in their revenue when girls are being trafficked in their own communities? This year, the teens boldly decided that their annual fundraiser shouldn’t be for themselves.
Jackson, Michigan, is situated along the busy I-94 corridor that connects Chicago and Detroit. It’s known as one of the worst stretches of human trafficking in the country. Knowing their proximity to such unspeakable evil was just one motivation for the New Horizons youth to designate all proceeds from their annual fundraiser to CHOG TraffickLight. As the conversation across the Church of God movement has gravitated toward anti-trafficking efforts, New Horizons has also ramped up their efforts to spread awareness.
“I made the church aware of it back when the Church of God initiative was first started,” Jerry Lyon, lead pastor explains. “Since that time, there’s been more emphasis through a presentation by Dr. Bonita Laudeman, and at an annual convention that we do with leadership training. One of our young adults began working with International Justice Mission. When I told our students that she would be working with IJM, they said they had also learned about human trafficking in school.” All around them, the topic was turning to trafficking. It was time to do something. They would direct all of the proceeds from the annual fundraising dinner to a cause that would promote freedom from trafficking.
The annual dinner included a program that communicated the purpose behind the new fundraising goal. They would shoot for $1,000 and be a part of the 1,000 X $1,000 campaign with CHOG TraffickLight. The students took care of all of the setup and programming. Many also participated in a dramatic presentation accompanied by the Casting Crowns hit song, “Set Me Free.” A special guest shared her personal story of being trafficked, but also rescued. The twenty-five-year-old had been trafficked right out of high school and shared a gripping account that opened the eyes of all who listened. Jerry comments, “She was set free physically, emotionally, and spiritually because there were those who love the Lord and want to see the end of this human indignity. So we personalized our message. If this could happen to her, it could happen to me. We decided that we would do whatever we can, because of Christ, to keep this from happening to anyone else. If it saves even one, it’s worth it.”
At the end of the evening, the New Horizons youth group raised in excess of $2,000—more than double their goal.
Don’t sit on the sidelines. Join the fight for freedom at www.CHOGTraffickLight.org. Thank you.