By: Robin Stark
I first learned about Ascent 121 when my church hosted a viewing of the movie “In Plain Sight.” That night, I learned about human trafficking in Indianapolis and what God is calling Ascent 121 to do for trafficked children in our city.
My burden for trafficked people
My awareness of human trafficking began while listening to a radio program about a woman who was helping trafficked women in Europe. While listening to her interview, I felt God pulling my heartstrings. However, this particular story was about the trafficking in Europe, and I wasn’t sure how I could possibly help because human trafficking was “over there” (which in my mind was where trafficking happened). But, I’ll never forget what one of the women said to her rescuer:
“Why did it take you so long?”
My heart was broken.
A local church is inspired to help
Then, some months later, a new pastor who had a real heart for trafficked people came to our church. What did his arrival mean for our church and how were we going to help stop human trafficking?
Then, the evening of “In Plain Sight”came and I was introduced to Ascent 121 and its Chief Executive Officer, Megan McGuire. I was blessed to have coffee with Megan and learn a little more about the organization’s mission and what some of their needs were. God tugged my heartstrings a little more.
Soon after, God moved within our congregation and our church did a 10 week series called “Centered”. Part of our “Centered” experience was to choose, as a group, a service project. What are the chances that a group of 17 people could unanimously agree to go on a prayer journey for Ascent 121? Coincidence? I think not! God was definitely speaking!
The Prayer Journey
On a cold Saturday morning, two car loads of us headed down to the office of Ascent 121 not really knowing what a “prayer journey” for trafficked children in Indianapolis was going to look like. None of us was in any way prepared for the powerful effect that day would have on us.
The prayer journey took us on a trip around an urban area of Indianapolis to places where a “typical” trafficked child would be in the course of his or her life. The first realization that we all came to was that we would have to change our definition of what “trafficked” meant. This is not a term for something that happens in Europe or Africa or some other distant land. This is something that is happening in our cities, in our schools, and (dare I say it) to someone’s family sitting down the row from us in church. It is happening here and it is happening now. It is happening to the most vulnerable in our communities. It is happening next door. It is happening to our children.
I don’t want to give away all the details of the prayer journey because I want you to experience it for yourself. I want you to be affected. I want you to see and feel the roller coaster of emotions that will overwhelm you on the prayer journey. Because after you experience it, you will be changed. And after you are changed, I want you to DO something.
God can use ALL of us to help these children in plight. The first thing is to SAY OUT LOUD that our children are being exploited. I have heard the following words over and over this past year, and they reverberate in my heart:
“What we hide, we keep. What we reveal, can be healed.”
We need to tell the story of what is happening to our children. To God’s children. To children who are imprinted with the image of God.
The importance of community
The other thing I’ve come to know is that we do not sin in isolation. You may think that this is too big, it doesn’t affect you, there’s nothing you can do. But Isaiah 58 keeps coming to me. God was speaking to the nation of Israel and is now speaking to His Church about how they can be healed:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen, to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your ow flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.” Isaiah 58:6-11
What I hear God saying is that we can’t be healed as an individual, as a Church, as a nation, if we don’t fight for the vulnerable in our midst. We don’t sin in isolation and we can’t be healed in isolation either.
If not us, Lord, then who?
“Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me.” William Wilberforce
Robin Stark is a lifelong resident of Indianapolis. She works in the financial services industry and is a career agent with Semler Financial Services. Robin is married to Gregg Stark. They have four children and four grandchildren. Robin has been a participant in Ascent 121’s Prayer Journey and is a blog writer for the organization.