31 Days: Day 10 – Human Trafficking Outreach

My eyes were first opened to the reality of human trafficking (sex slavery, modern slavery) when I attended a conference in Atlanta. A copy of  “The White Umbrella” was given to everyone in attendance. For the next several weeks I read a chapter every day in carpool line and it broke my heart. It scared me and it made me overwhelmingly aware of the reality of human trafficking all around us, not just in other countries. My eyes were beginning to open. This video also had an impact on my tiny glimpse of seeing more into human trafficking.

Trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms, including: forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children. However boys are not excluded and this man’s story is sad but incredibly powerful.

So what’s one to do when this seems like such a HUGE issue and it takes more than just you or me to do something about it in terms of making a difference. I think the first thing we can do is to educate ourselves on these hard topics. And it won’t be easy. It’s hard to read “The White Umbrella” and other articles of human trafficking. Reading about the pain of others, especially kids, rips a Mama’s heart out and you can’t help but think of your own children. The easy thing is to turn our heads, close our ears and let someone else read that stuff. Let the non-profits deal with it. But these people – the marginalized, the victims of abuse, the abandoned are at the very heart of Jesus. So when we take time to read these true stories we are reading about people who are precious and dear to Jesus. We are stepping into his heart for people.

But just reading and understanding what’s going on in the world of human trafficking isn’t enough to make a difference. We must take the next step and pray for these children. To take them to our God who sees and knows everything. Who cares. Who listens. We can spend a lot of time dwelling on how and why He could let this happen or we can trust He is who He says He is. He is faithful and good and all knowing. Of course we don’t understand why these things happen other than it’s a devastating part of living in a fallen world with sin. Or we can trust that our God loves and cares for each one of these victims. We don’t know their names but we can take them to the One who does. Prayer makes a difference. If you can pray you can make a difference.

After education ourselves and praying for the victims of human trafficking we may see that the Holy Spirit is calling us to go further in involvement. At that point we can look into organizations and ministries in our area that help with rescuing children, women and men out of modern slavery. You can give financially or you can volunteer to help.

I love what Atlanta Dream Center is doing on the weekends through “Princess Night”. Also the author of The White Umbrella has put feet to her prayers and burden through Wellspring Living. These are both places in the Atlanta area and they function on both paid staff and volunteers. I have a few friends who go onto the streets of downtown Atlanta on the weekends to tell prostitutes that Jesus loves them and there’s a way out of their industry (slavery) if they’re ready. They work with Wellspring and are trained before going out so they are cautious and fully aware of safety measures. They have a team of people praying for both safety and for God to rescue women out of slavery on these nights of outreach.

This article made my heart smile although I was uncomfortable with some of it too and I think that exposes my own still struggling legalistic heart.

So yeah, I can talk about the neat & tidy outreach like visiting the elderly, mentoring, and spontaneous giving and those things are important but getting involved in something like human trafficking is truly serving in the trenches. It involves risk and being uncomfortable. It’s not neat and tidy by any means. “Risky and in the trenches” doesn’t mean it’s any greater of any outreach. Because outreach is sending a message to others that Jesus fully loves and he is enough. You can do that while sharing and showing that message to a prostitute as much as you can with a 90 year old toothless granny or your neighbor next door. The Holy Spirit is our guide and as we pray and ask him to show us outreach opportunities he will open our eyes and help us along the way.

Father, you are our Revealer. You expose the deep dark things that are hidden. Today we pray for those that are being held in captive and have become accustomed to a way of life they think they can never leave. Rescue them Abba Father. Send someone to share a message of hope. To show a different way. To provide everything they need to leave. Give those girls the courage and faith to step out and trust the ones trying to help them. Reveal, rescue and redeem these victims O Lord. In your powerful name I ask these things, Amen.

 

 

31 Days: Day 8 – Mentoring Students

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Mentoring students at a school is an incredible way to reach out in our communities. And it’s really quite easy to do. Mentoring is simply coming alongside someone for the purpose of encouraging and teaching. It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert or trained teacher to mentor someone. Just a willing heart to spend consistent time with someone and to love them.

Many schools are open to mentoring or at least have a lunch buddy program where you can sit with a child who needs an little extra help for whatever reason. School counselors know the kids that need encouragement and can easily identify a student who could use a mentor or lunch buddy.

How do I become a mentor or lunch buddy? 

Go in person to a local school and make an appointment with the school counselor or principal. Ask if they have any type of a program that welcomes mentors or lunch buddies. Find out what it takes to get involved.

What makes a good mentor?

Someone who shows up. Someone who asks good questions. Someone who listens. Someone who is willing to share from their own life experiences. Someone who prays for their student.

What are good questions to ask my student?

  • What was the best part of your week?
  • What was the worst part of your week?
  • What did you have for dinner last night?
  • If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
  • Tell me what you think makes a good friend.
  • What do you like about yourself?
  • If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?

What are things to avoid in mentoring?

  • Bringing goodies and treats – make it very seldom.
  • Saying anything negative about their family
  • Asking too many personal questions – you’re not a counselor but a friend.
  • Being by yourself with the student – always be in a public place like lunchroom, library, etc.
  • Being inconsistent in your visits for long periods of time.

As you pray for and get to know your student you will see specific needs and areas to talk about. Go into your time with one thing you’d like to talk about. It could be dealing with bullies, doing homework, attitude, obedience, safety, honesty, etc. You might not always get there but it will help you be strategic with your time. It’s okay to not “accomplish” anything in your time because just being there sends a powerful message. But it’s also good to have goals and ideas of things you want to teach your student. Stay in the lines of character and integrity issues. Talking about Jesus dying for your student’s sins will end your mentoring career real fast. If you take your lunch with you tell your student you’re going to bow your head and pray for your lunch. If he or she asks questions then feel free to answer them. The purpose of this particular outreach is not to openly share your faith but to  openly share your love which is fueled by your faith. It’s not a waste just because you can’t whip out your Bible and share the Gospel. Trust God with where He takes your mentoring relationship and how he might open future doors to share more specifically the amazing good news you want to share with your student.

 

 

31 Days: Day 6 – Visiting the Elderly

We underestimate the power of a simple visit and a handmade card for a shut-in. Whether at a nursing home or someone’s house a face to face visit with your children can make all the difference to a lonely soul. There’s something special about a young crayon-sketched heart and a cross with the words “God loves you and so do I”.

If we start our kids out young learning to love and respect our older generation then they will have learned an almost lost art.

Nursing homes are open to young visitors. Just show up – having cards with you helps with conversation and allows your kids to warm up to the elderly. We carry a basket of cards with us and go room to room handing them out. Usually there’s a large activity room or area where people will gather and you could always hand out cards there as well if you’re uncomfortable going room to room. It’s not weird to knock on a door and simply say, “Excuse me….just wanted to say hello and give you a little something.” It doesn’t have to be a long visit or a deep conversation unless God takes it there.

So yeah, google search a nursing home in your area if you don’t know of one and take your kids there to give out card and hugs. I promise you it will make a person’s day and it teaches your children at a young age they are not too young to reach out themselves.

Tomorrow I’ll share how one of these attempted card & hug visits didn’t go as I planned but how God taught me a lot about myself and others through outreach.

 

31 Days: Day 5 – 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Church Outreach

Church outreach is so important because people need to know about our Jesus and how he can change lives. If all we do is stay huddled in our awesome Bible teaching churches and keep to our cozy small groups then we’ll have a hard time accomplishing the great commission. We must get out into our communities and reach people where they are. This means we set aside some things we’re used to or accustomed to for the purpose of welcoming all kinds of people.

Remembering where we came from will help us tremendously in reaching out to unchurched or unbelieving friends. We are all born into this world with the same exact need for Jesus. As believers we came to Christ in just as much desperate need as our coworker, friend, neighbor, or family member who needs Jesus. As we approach and engage our communities with this thought it will help us reserve judgement and allow us to see people with eyes of grace instead of condemnation and arrogance.

5 Do’s and Don’ts of Church Outreach:

  1. Do hold back the church lingo and Christianese. They don’t know it and they don’t care about the 6 points of Calvinism or the hypostatic union. Save that convo for your apologetics class.
  2. Do discipline yourself to not sit with all your besties at the next church cookout. Sit with someone you’ve never met before and get to know them.
  3.  Don’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians.
  4. Don’t freak out when someone drops the f-bomb or other inappropriate words in your conversation. Do know outreach will be messy and uncomfortable at times.
  5. Don’t expect your community to come to your church for everything. Take your church to your community for some things. Of course it’s easier to have everyone come to us but if we can reach more people by going to them let’s do it on some occasions. It’s worth the extra work.

31 Days: Day 3 – A prime outreach for young moms

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31 Days of Outreach – Day 3

If you’re a young Mom you know the stage well when you have littles clinging to your knees and slobbering on your shoulder. You wouldn’t trade it for the world yet you feel limited when it comes to outreach and serving your community. You hear your preacher talking about the upcoming outreach event at church and your first thought is, “I hope there’s childcare because there’s no way I can do that otherwise.”

There might be a temptation to think we have our hands tied for a period of time when our children are small. We can’t minister or serve with kids in tow. But in actuality young Moms have an incredible chance to share their faith out loud. Christian young Moms have an incredibly unique platform. Don’t swallow the lie that you are limited in your ability to share Christ and serve others because you have small children.

So how in the world do I get involved in outreach when I have a napping baby, a temper-tantrum- throwing toddler and a preschooler? I can’t set that aside to go tell someone about Jesus especially since I just yelled at my kid for spilling the cheerios for the 1000th time today.

That’s the beauty of outreach. You don’t “put it on” for a set time period. You don’t set aside your kids to go “minister” to others. It’s in your heart and an attitude focus you start your day with.

So when you take your kids to the park for that quick sanity break and you’re swinging your toddler be aware of the other Mom who is at the bottom of the slide ready to catch her child. Also notice the other Mom swinging her baby.

That’s where outreach starts. When we have the eyes to see other people around us.

And then ask God for opportunities for conversation to start. Not every conversation will get to the deep and spiritual – because as soon as you casually mention something about God the kids will start throwing rocks at each other or the baby will have a stink bomb blow out like never before and you quickly get diverted. For real. It happens. But keep doing what you’re doing because you know eventually there will be open doors for more conversations because you trust God will do this.

With these thoughts in mind a friend and I started a community playgroup that God used to draw women back into community with his people. This wasn’t a church playgroup but a community playgroup. Our purpose was to gather Moms with kids every other Tuesday for a morning of fun and play. We started this playgroup with the purpose and intent of outreach. We wanted to have opportunities to share Christ with others. Moms in general have a connection – our kids go through similar  ages and stages and we just get each other. So it’s a beautiful platform to use to share Jesus with others.

Starting a community playgroup is easy and cheap. It will grow and you will see God work as you pray and seek Him to guide you.

Check back tomorrow for specific,  practical ideas for starting a Community Playgroup.

 

 

 

 

31 Days: Day 2 – Why outreach is important

Day 2

Why is reaching outside the walls of church so important these days?

It’s because inviting people cold turkey to Sunday morning church isn’t working like it used to.

Gasp! You’re the preacher’s wife and you don’t think inviting people to church is effective? Like your man is the preacher dude and all.

I know. And he’s a mighty fine preacher too. Like I actually  understand what he says and everything. And if I can track with this preacher anyone can. He’s awesome.

Hearing God’s word taught is so important and crucial to our spiritual growth. I’m not in any way minimizing the preaching of God’s word. At all.

And don’t get me wrong, I still invite people to church. I’m a huge advocate of church and I’d be crazy not to tell people about something I love so much. But with that said I believe that most of our in depth, real life conversations with unbelieving friends, co-workers and neighbors will happen outside of the church walls. They’ll happen around the break room table, at the park, on your front porch and many times when and where you least expect it.

And this is why being ready to reach out is so important. It will take the church within the walls being the church outside the walls to connect dots, have real conversations with people and see life change.

What’s interesting though is that many times God uses outreach to bring people in to the church. Once a connection or relationship is built through a natural, Spirit-led conversation with a friend, co-worker or neighbor they usually end up wanting to come to church with you.

But that’s not the end goal of outreach. Sharing the love of Christ is. Sometimes it ends up in that person coming to your church. Many times it doesn’t. Being Kingdom minded means we are okay with sharing and leaving the results up to God.

 

31 Days of Outreach Ideas

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Day 1

Day 2 – Why Outreach is so Important

Day 3: A Prime Outreach for Young Moms

Day 4 – Starting a Community Playgroup

Day 5 – 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Outreach

Day 6 – Visiting the Elderly

Day 7 – When outreach doesn’t go like you expected

Day 8 – Mentoring Students

Day 9 – When the Mundane turns Divine

Day 10 – Human Trafficking Outreach

Day 11 – Reaching out in church

Day 12 – Love your Neighbor without being Weird

Day 13 – I got a “C” on my outreach opportunity at Sam’s Club

Day 14 – Come to My Table – God’s Hospitality & Yours

Day 15 – Urban Ministry

Day 16 – The Ministry of Presence

Day 17 – Use your talents to reach out

Day 18 – Pastoral lingo can start rumors if not careful

Day 19 – A Community Prayer Project

Day 20 – A Halloween Outreach

Day 21 – Just Walk Across the Room/ Bill Hybels

Day 22 – Francis Chan: Rethinking Outreach

Day 23 – Comforting others as a means of outreach

Day 24 – 5 Practical ways to comforting others

Day 25 – Day 25 and I’m about to die – somebody reach out to me!!!!!

Day 26 – Taking care of the needy

Day 27 – Margaret Feinberg shares 5 things to never say to someone with cancer

Day 28 – How Outreach Can Provide the Breakthrough We All Need

Day 29 – The Lady Behind the Counter

Day 30 – Discernment in Outreach

Day 31 – At the End of the Day

I said I’d never do a 30 day in a row posting series ever again after crashing and burning three years ago – so much so that I quit my blog on a whim and then regretted it. I quickly learned I can’t not write. It’s just in me. I love it and even though I have a lot to learn in honing my skill I pray I can communicate effectively in the meantime.

So I’ve been challenged to write for the entire month of October every day on a specific topic.

I’ve chosen Outreach.

One of my greatest passions and desire is to serve alongside my church family, outside the walls of church, loving and serving our community. Being the church outside the church. I’m still learning a lot about this myself and it’s so interesting that God has some stuff to say about it in his word. There are also some excellent resources out there about serving others in our community. I’m learning so much from these resources but what I’m learning most is that we just have to get out there and do it. If wait until “we’re ready” we’ll never do it.

God has allowed me to be a part of some neat outreach opportunities – both large and small. Ones that are event based and require months of planning and some that are spontaneous and require a readiness of heart.  I’d love nothing more than to share some of these thoughts and ideas in this space with the hopes that someone might be inspired to go and serve their community in a similar way.

Some of the ideas I share will be ones that the Holy Spirt put on our hearts as our church. Other ideas will be ones the Holy Spirit led us to through other churches. Who cares where it started right? We’re okay with plagiarism in the church when we’re Kingdom minded.

So jump on board and see if there might be an idea or thought tucked away in these 30 days that might strike a chord with you. If you’ve got some ideas and thoughts please share in the comments. I would love to hear what other people are doing in their communities as well.