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Monday, May 19, 2014

.Connecting the Dots.

Our church is working through a series on justice, and what God has to say about it, and what that means for us as followers of Jesus. Our hearts became open, as a family, to the Spirit's leading and conviction in this area a few years back, but this is the first time that we have been given the privilege of sitting under leadership and wrestling with this subject inside of a faith community. And it's pretty wild. There are well over 2,000 verses in the Bible that touch on justice. In Hebrew the word justice and righteousness are translations of the same word. Somehow many of us have missed that! Justice and righteousness mean "to make right", and we have all been invited to partner with God in this.  So many followers of Jesus squirm at the idea of "social justice" , and it has become a controversial issue inside of Christianity - another issue in which we can separate over and judge one another. I am afraid that we have forgotten or ignored that the gospel of Jesus addresses the whole man - not just the spiritual man. Look at the life and posture of Jesus, He was constantly addressing the needs of the whole person - yes, the heart - the spiritual, but think of how many times he also addressed the physical needs as well. Jesus fed the hungry, He healed the sick, He stood up for the rights of women, He defended the oppressed, He loved the outcasts and the sinners. He engaged the whole person and their needs time after time - the heart, soul, mind, and body. We are supposed to imitate Jesus. That is what we have been called to do. So we are wrestling through this as a faith community, and I am so thankful to be doing so.

Last night our church hosted an opportunity for us to watch the movie Nefarious: Merchant of Souls

This was a documentary that exposed the very real truth about sex trafficking. While slavery is something that Jim and I have had our eyes opened to in the past few years, and have changed some of our purchasing and spending habits, so as not to add to the slavery pandemic, this movie still took my breath away. I don't think I can ever "get used to" this kind of injustice. I pray that I can't.

But it also connected dots.

I was watching the movie last night with tears streaming down my cheeks, thinking that we had to do something and feeling that familiar guilt begin to creep into my heart - because I am such a bleeding heart and cannot ignore this stuff. It changes me and moves me to action, which can be so good, but can also be so exhausting. So, as I was sitting there, with mascara smeared under my eyes, and feeling a bit panicky wondering how we could tackle this issue of sex trafficking, as well as what God has called us to with street boys in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, God sweetly and gently breathed grace over me and connected the dots.

Justice issues are all intertwined. I think I understood that better than ever before after last night. Jim and I, and our non-profit, Mercy Branch Inc., have some big dreams for Ethiopia, and for the street kids there. The dreams are expansive and God-sized, and we are placing all of our confidence in God and partnering with Him in these dreams. Yes, we have been called to street boys - our hearts are for these specific children. We are em-burdened with a passion to see them grow into godly men and leaders and fathers and change their country - bringing justice to it - setting things right. But last night, I realized how our calling to these boys is part of a much bigger, broader story that God is writing - because again - justice issues are all intertwined. Many boys end up on the streets of Addis because they were stolen from the countryside and forced into labor. After years of abuse and labor, many of these boys, eventually find themselves abandoned to the streets. Other boys are forced onto the street for other reasons - sometimes by their families who are trapped in desperate poverty. The family forces the boy onto the street to work and bring back income to the family. Some boys are prostituted (most girls are). Sexual abuse and exploitation of these boys is a growing problem in Addis Ababa, because of their living situation. Street children are the primary victims of sexual assault in Addis Ababa. The magnitude and gravity of sexual assault on boys is increasing in the city at a frightening rate.

Part of Mercy Branch's dreams are to find at-risk families - families that are very close to pushing their children onto the street - and empower them to be able to sustainably meet their needs, disciple them into a relationship with Jesus, and foster a whole, healthy family relationship. This is street child prevention, and it is vital.  Another aspect is discipling street children back into their families, and when that is not possible discipling them into domestic adoption. Our hopes and dreams is that families can be preserved and that men can be discipled into godly leaders, husbands, and daddies who fight for justice - who understand the value of family and seek for wholeness in family. If more godly men stood up for this in Ethiopia, than the number of children in that country that are sex trafficked would drastically decrease, because the number of street children would drastically decrease. A country of godly men, who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God could radically change a culture. But is starts small -with one generation - with a few families and a few boys. So, that is where we begin, knowing that God is the One Who connects the dots and fills in the gaps - He is the One setting things right, and we are humbled and so thankful to be invited to partner with Him in this.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
Luke 4:18-19

To learn more about partnering with Mercy Branch Inc. in bringing justice to Ethiopia, please visit our website here.


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