One of my favorite scenes from a movie this year comes from Logan, the darkly dystopian X-Men road movie. Regarding a family in need of help on the side of the road, Logan (played by Hugh Jackman) says to Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, “Someone will come along.”

“Someone has come along,” replies Xavier.

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I’ve thought about this scene often during the last month. Our organization is currently experiencing the growing pains that come from the transition from friendraising to fundraising. When I left Northpark Church to take over at Central Valley Justice Coalition, I relied on the support of people I’d known for a long time to help make the transition and raise the support necessary. Jessica, Kelly and Melissa had done the same before I got here.

At this point, we are now in need of people who will come along, basically out of nowhere. People who see the dire situation of human trafficking and don’t turn away. People who will step up for the cause and take a leap of faith on the people who are running point for the battle.

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I’ve had a number of people tell me that they would rather not know about the realities of human trafficking in our valley. Ignorance of the situation allowed them to have a naive comfort in the midst of the struggle and pain of others. I don’t think this is because they don’t have a heart. I think it’s because they feel like nothing can be done in the face of such overwhelming evil and exploitation.

But it isn’t true. Something can be done! And someone has come along. You are here now, reading this blog entry. What’s next?

Join our team and partner with us to prevent human trafficking in the Central Valley. Sign up to pray. Get involved as a volunteer. Pray, Give, Act.

Ryan Townsend, executive director.

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The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

[Author’s note: I originally wrote this piece about the Charleston church shooting last year, but in light of recent events I am adapting it for use in the aftermath of yesterday’s terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium.]

Even as we grieve the horrific violence last year in Charleston and now in Brussels, a perusal of the homepage of our local newspaper, the Fresno Bee,  shows multiple shootings and a murdered woman’s remains found buried on farmland.

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As a Christian, I understand that the role of believers is to emulate Jesus and to come alongside those who suffer, those who mourn.

However, even before the facts are confirmed, before the victim’s names are released, before we have any chance to sort through the wreckage of tragedy and violence, my fear is that people of faith are lining up to be on the “winning” side.

I think this is wrong and a misrepresentation of the way of the cross.

The good news of the Gospel is not about winning or being right about gun control, hate crimes, American politics or the pathology of violent criminals.

The good news of the Gospel is not about assigning blame or piecing together infallible arguments. The good news of the Gospel is not about defending a position against an onslaught of bad news.

When tragedy strikes, many of us ask the very human question “Where is God?”

We wonder how a loving, generous God could allow evil to seemingly triumph.

Answers to this question don’t come easily. They are ancient and mysterious questions that humans have been grappling with for thousands of years.

Perhaps an easier question to answer is: Where is God not?

God is not sitting behind a CEO-sized executive desk going “See, I told you so. If the church members were armed this maniac could have been stopped.”

God is not preparing his comments to be broadcast globally so he can rally support behind his cause.

God is not with the winners.

In God’s love economy, or kingdom, he is with those who have lost. He comforts those who mourn, he joins in the suffering of those who suffer.

And he calls us to do the same.

Now, during Holy Week, as we confront a global reality of tragic violence in Belgium, Mali, Ivory Coast, Turkey, Syria and at home, let us remember that Jesus came to save us from sin and death. He lived and died humbly, without posturing, scheming, torturing or killing.

May that same God have mercy on us all.

Revelation 7:17
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Lydia Dawson is a student at Fresno State and our new intern. This is her first blog for us.

Graffiti librationThe word freedom is one that I have heard many times since I began interning here at CVJC, and it now seems to be stuck in my head.

This is the word that has permeated my prayers recently, and I am finding great power in that word. Freedom is what we are working for, in the world of human trafficking, and in our own lives as well; freedom from fear, from sin, or from insecurities.

But I have never had to worry about my own physical freedom. Growing up without fear of anyone is a huge gift, which many do not get to experience.

Since starting with Central Valley Justice Coalition in January, I have learned that human trafficking is much more prevalent and destructive than I ever thought. It is huge and global, but also local and personal.

Someone needs to do something, to bring freedom to these people who are deprived of that basic human right, but what can one person do?

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One person can do a great deal! In all the trafficking stories I have heard or read, a single person plays an instrumental role.

The victim is not ultimately rescued by an organization, a church, or a government agency, but by one person who will not stop until the victim is free. I am learning that we cannot all wait until someone does something.

We cannot hope that new legislation will fix all of society’s problems, or that any one organization will eradicate all trafficking. In order to see an end to trafficking, lots of people will need to be involved.

I am free; my lifestyle is centered on that fact.

I go about my day as someone who has choices, and as someone who is loved. It is easy to forget that there are those who are not free; but it is the harsh truth.

There are young children being exploited all over the world, people are treated as if they are not even human, and many people live in slavery, not knowing that anyone loves them or cares about them. That is not how I want this world to be.

I understand that as a single person I may not ever have a huge impact, but that should never stop me from trying to make things better.20160123_000928849_iOS

I have noticed that movements need a lot of people. We may not all be the leader, we probably won’t all devote our lives to preventing trafficking, and we may not even have much hope; but we need to be active and present, speaking about trafficking and doing what we can to stop and prevent it.

A movement needs an ambitious leader, and a grand vision; but it will not gain momentum unless there are people to support and grow it.

I have learned that there is a great deal of small things that a single person can do, and now it is my duty to go and do them!

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I found this image online last week as I was looking for something to show my gratitude to the hundreds of people who are participating in Freedom Sunday this month.  Though it may not be Fresno, I felt it accurately reflects the love we have for our city and the people in it.

Thank you for partnering with us.

 

In sharing with churches about Human Trafficking in Fresno, I’m drawn to the incident in Luke 7 where Jesus is anointed by the woman. It’s such a beautiful display of love for her savior after realizing how much debt had been paid… a proclamation of freedom and an act of true love! (Read it here.) To know your debt has been paid is the most freeing experience of all! Nothing can hold you back anymore! Think of a time when you were forgiven, when your life was spared, when grace overcame and all you could do was say “Thank You Jesus”…

 

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She poured out her most valuable possession and risked being criticized by those around her because she had the FREEDOM that only Christ can bring to LOVE him more than anything…

Jesus says,  “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 

Oh to be the “sinful woman” at Jesus feet. To understand how much has been forgiven and how free I really am because of God’s great love for us… oh to have that repeated throughout our city streets and churches and brothels and night clubs in Fresno… in the hearts of men and women on the streets… among the trafficked and the saved…

 

May you know the freedom of forgiveness today and understand how much you are truly loved. 

–Kelly Mitchinson, CVJC Staff

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 Last week I spoke to a 15 year old young woman at Juvenile Hall. She had recently been committed to serve 60 days. Just in time for the holidays, I thought sadly. As if reading my mind, she responded sincerely “I know this is for a reason.  Last time I was here, I  gained so much.” God had used her undivided attention to help her reflect and move forward. Our prayers are that this time, it changes her course for good.  

Over the holidays please remember those who cannot be with their families or who do not have safe places to celebrate. We know and believe God can and will meet all of us; no matter what our life circumstances may be. What a better time for Christ to enter our lives and remind us that the gospel comes in unexpected packages and is found bringing redemption in unexpected places. Let’s continue to believe for the miraculous this season!

 

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Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

~ The Central Valley Justice Coalition