KOH2RVA: Day 254

YosselinPray for the people of Oklahoma today, friends. The headline of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reads: “Massive Tornado Pummels Oklahoma.” The sub-heads carry the grim news that at least 51 people are dead and more than 140 injured; that a school was devastated and children, some dead, were pulled from the debris; that it was a powerful storm—a half-mile wide—packing 200 mph winds.

It’s that image of children being pulled from the debris of a school that gets me. There’s something about their innocence and vulnerability that makes that scene especially tragic. And even though I don’t believe this tornado was God’s judgment on the people of Oklahoma I still want to know why:

Why do children have to suffer?

I was asking that question on Sunday afternoon as I watched a documentary about modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Often it is children, some of them very young, who are the victims of traders and traffickers. Little boys forced to work in rock quarries or make bricks day after day in India. Little girls prostituted in brothels in Cambodia and hotel rooms in Richmond. It’s their faces that break your heart.

There is no joy there.

On the table in front of me on Sunday was the face of a boy from Africa. He was up for “adoption” through Compassion International. And even though I might never meet this boy face to face Compassion International assures me that for a little more than a dollar a day he can receive food, clothing, shelter, and education. In other words, he can be rescued from a life of suffering.

I already sponsor a child through Compassion (Yosselin, from Mexico, in the picture above), but on Sunday I thought about sponsoring at least one more. I like what Tony Campolo says, that “every Christian should have a kid’s picture on their refrigerator.” If we did that—all two billion of us around the globe who call ourselves Christians—it would make a difference. And beyond that we could support the work of the International Justice Mission abroad and the Richmond Justice Initiative here at home, both organizations working to set children free from slavery and the sex trade.

There’s not much we can do about tornadoes, but we can do something about this. We can do our best to bring people to justice who trade and traffic in human flesh, and we can give children a chance to live a different kind of life. Our efforts may not make a difference to all the children in the world, but as I look at Yosselin’s picture, above, I’m hoping they will make a difference to her.

KOH2RVA: Day 85

Bake and Take2I went to Richmond’s First Baptist Church yesterday for the International Missions Prayer Breakfast, and to hear missionary Ann Lovell speak about her ministry among women working in the sex trade in Thailand. What I loved about her presentation was the simplicity of it: how one thing simply led to another and then another.

It started when she began to drive through the red-light district in Chiang Mai and pray that the brothels and massage parlors there would be closed down, but then her heart was broken by the plight of the women themselves, and she began to feel led to talk to them and pray with them. She found a brave friend or two to go with her and soon she was striking up conversations with prostitutes on the streets, asking them about their lives, and offering the possibility of another kind of life altogether—the abundant life found in Jesus.

The work has been slow, the results have been small, and yet you could see the joy on her face, you could hear it in her voice, as she talked about the lives that have been changed dramatically through her efforts and the help of the Holy Spirit.

When I came out of the Dining Hall I bumped into seven or eight of our members coming out of the Adams Room pushing a cart full of cookies. It was the “Bake and Take” group, which is exactly what it sounds like: a group of people who bake cookies and then take them to nearby homes in a little bag they hang on the doorknob with a friendly message from First Baptist Church inside. It’s not really evangelism; just a “sweet” way of loving our neighbors.

And as I walked across the parking lot to my car I saw Rick and Kim Peters unloading the food they had cooked for our homeless neighbors the night before, getting ready to serve it up for lunch in our Community Missions suite on the basement level. If you haven’t seen the video about their ministry you should see it now by clicking HERE.

I drove away from First Baptist yesterday thinking I had been in a beehive of mission activity, from learning about this ministry in Thailand, to loving our neighbors here in the Fan, to feeding the hungry and homeless among us, First Baptist was busy!

And I couldn’t have been prouder.

This year-long, every-member mission trip is gaining momentum, and there are some days, like yesterday, when the Kingdom comes as God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.