Some ten years ago, on the campus of Fresno First Baptist Church, a movement began. It was fueled, at first, by a not-yet-informed yet determined passion. We started to see things on the streets and in our neighborhoods with new eyes.

We started listening to stories of real women and men whose lives had taken unforeseen turns.

We saw the pain in the eyes of those who felt they had no options.

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We prayed. We asked questions, often of ourselves. We researched, listened, and asked more questions. We gathered others, and the movement continued to grow.
On 1.1.11 we launched. From the beginning, Fresno First Baptist Church has been integral to our work. Many people have supported us through prayer, giving, advocating and volunteering. Each Pastor that has led FFBC has taken on the charge of calling the Church in the Valley to fight for freedom.

We really can’t express our gratitude for the gifts and grace given to us by this community. From Pastor Willie Nolte and Pastor Bryan Hitch when we first began to our current champions Pastor Manny Collazo and Brooke Ortiz, we truly could not have done it without you! And we will keep doing it with you. This tribute comes with deep sincerity as we now look to the future.173013_10150150548721145_2814810_o

So it is a bittersweet time but we are looking to a future filled with possibilities! As a team, we have prayed for over a year about the potential of moving. We are thankful that our partners at Fresno First and Aspen Public School are growing and there is a shortage of space!

We know we leave them well-trained and equipped to continue as a light and beacon of hope to the people in the neighborhood around 1400 E Saginaw. Now, God has a whole new neighborhood for us to influence less than 2 miles away.

We moved into our new space February 1, 2018. We are grateful for the partnership with Aplos Software who is renting their facility to us.

We couldn’t be more thrilled about this new chapter that is just beginning. Will you help write it?

Sometimes people wonder why we, the Justice Coalition, get involved in advocacy in addition to education/direct service. There are many reasons behind our involvement in advocating for change relating to preventing human trafficking. For the sake of not going too far into tl;dr territory, here are the most important reasons.

  1. Scripture calls us to use our voices for those whose voices cannot be heard. Proverbs 31:8 (NIV) says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”  Further, we see that God’s eyes are turned towards those who are oppressed.Psalms: 34: 15 – 18 (NIV) emphasizes that “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”vlcsnap-2016-10-31-15h49m25s319
  2. Systemic oppression requires systemic change. Helping one person at a time is vital work but it won’t prevent someone else from being exploited in the future. One reason why traffickers have thrived is that our laws have been slow to change in order to reflect new realities. New legislation is needed to confront evolving criminal activities that enslave the vulnerable.IMG_0136
  3. In our system, elected officials are supposed to be accountable to the people who voted them into office. I get it, a lot of us don’t want to rely on the government to solve all of our problems. I hope that we all are doing something personally, individually to fight the evil of human trafficking. However, we need more than just individuals to combat modern-day slavery. Cartels and gangs are organized, powerful forces for evil. We need local, state and federal governments to get equally committed to fighting for justice. The reality is that we can’t solve this problem without the government, faith community, businesses, schools and community benefit organizations working together!Coalition-Group-Photo

Advocacy usually involves getting government, business, schools, or some other large institution (also known as Goliath) to correct an unfair or harmful situation affecting people in the community (also known as David, and friends). The situation may be resolved through persuasion, by forcing Goliath to buckle under pressure, by compromise, or through political or legal action. – Prue Breitrose

Learn more from the Community Tool Box, a resource from the University of Kansas

 

This week we got to celebrate our country’s Independence Day as we have each and every year since our founding. America is a place that is built on the idea of equality and freedom for all. Though we outlawed slavery over 200 years ago, it still persists in our own country. According to new 2016 data from the Global Slavery Index, there are an estimated 45.8 million people in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries.

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According to those same numbers, there are nearly 58,000 people caught in modern day slavery in the United States today. California leads the nation in cases reported by state (Polaris Project) with over 1,300 incidences of human trafficking last year, almost double any other state!

Our faith (and our basic humanity) demands a response to this grave injustice. While we enjoy pool parties, barbecues, and fireworks, there are tens of thousands of people who aren’t just missing out on the American Dream, they are missing out on basic human rights.

So, what can one person do to respond to human trafficking in our country and the world beyond? A whole lot, it turns out! You can join us by becoming a monthly partner. We just completed a 50/50 Challenge Drive where we fell short of our goal of 50 new donors but added 31. We will continue to push for more monthly supporters as it enables us to do the crucial work of preventing people from being exploited as slaves!

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You can get educated in one of our HT 101, 201 or Boots on the Ground Training courses. These classes will give you the information and tools you need to become a freedom fighter!

You can get involved in a mentoring program, like Project Stealth or CASA Fresno/Madera. You can join us in praying for the end of slavery.

Whatever you choose to do, DO SOMETHING! There’s no reason to sit on the sidelines. Together, we can make a difference! Contact us at 559.227.8001 if you have any questions at all.

Ryan Townsend, executive director

 

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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World Refugee day

“Our responses to refugees must be grounded in our shared values of responsibility sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights and in international refugee law, including the principle of non-refoulement.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Exploitation preys on vulnerability. I see it in the faces of the victims and survivors of human trafficking who come through our office in Fresno, CA. Some of them have been refugees, many have been U.S. citizens. But the struggle is the same, whether we are talking about the risks to foster youth at home or the large numbers of displaced people who are at-risk of being trafficked.

Our faith, actually, just our basic humanity, demands that we speak up and defend those who are vulnerable to exploitation. Will you join us today in prayer but also in action, on behalf of those whose voices are being drowned out by the evil of slavery and violence?

Today’s global observance of WRD comes at a crucial time after a record-breaking 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes by the end of 2015, according to a report released by the United Nations on Monday. (source: USA Today)

Ryan Townsend, Executive Director.