Turning the calendar today to see that today is #WorldRefugeeDay and the Farmer and I have humbling and exciting upcoming news to share in that regard — all of us TogEsther rising up for such time as now, right where we are, to make a mark — Christ’s mark. Turn the calendar page today too — to realize that right today there are more than 45 million people enslaved right now. Slavery is a plague that has festered and even grown, to the point where there are now more slaves – human beings, owned and brutalized by other human beings – living in our world today than ever before. Right where we are right now, for such a time as now — we can make a mark that frees the oppressed and the enslaved. Gary Haugen was chief investigator for the Rwanda genocide and now leads the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization – International Justice Mission – and they’ve been fighting slavery for nearly two decades. His vision for IJM began when he was standing in the mass graves of Rwanda; his instinct was to ask God, ‘where were you in the midst of this horrific violence, neighbor wielding machete against neighbor?’ But he quickly realized the question isn’t “where was God?” The question is, “where were God’s people? Where was the church?” As Gary and his team lead the charge to eradicate slavery in our world today, this is the question he puts before us today — Where are God’s people? Will the church lead the way? It’s a joy to welcome Gary Haugen to the farm’s front porch today.
Slavery today looks like a little girl named Mien, locked in the back room of a brothel, owned as property for paying customers to rape.
Slavery today looks like a man named Boola, trapped in a brick factory with hundreds of other men, women, and children facing the daily brutality of their owner.
Slavery today looks like human traffickers throwing their heads back in laughter at the prosperity of their trade and the power they wield.
Slave owners, human traffickers – they wake up today and every day focused and relentless in their abuse and exploitation.
But they will only prosper in their trade if they continue to get away with the crimes they’re committing.
And, for the first time – ever in human history, forces are aligning to make sure they don’t get away with slavery anymore.
For the first time in history, slavery is illegal everywhere.
Up until recently, however, those laws were not enforced.
But we are now proving that when those laws are well enforced, slavery cannot survive.
When slave owners are held accountable, slavery goes away. For the first time in the long story of mankind – there is a generation alive on the planet that is capable of seeing slavery truly swept into the dustbin of history.
But in a fallen world, again and again, governing authorities charged with enforcing the law and protecting the vulnerable fail to do their God given duty and they do not restrain evil.
In response, as we’ve seen throughout the arc of history, what does God do? God raises up the prophetic voice of his people – to go to the Pharaohs, to go to the kings, to the parliaments, to the presidents of the earth and demand that they use their God-given power to let the oppressed go free.
And maybe this time, in regard, to slavery – the God of history is preparing to do so for the last time.
The people of God cannot raise their prophetic voice if they are themselves asleep.
And so we believe, in this singular moment of history, it is time to awake the slumbering giant of the church again.
In recent years, there have been rumblings in our church pews and ministry conferences about slavery and human trafficking – but on the whole, the vast people of God have not reawakened from their 19th century slumber.
The vast majority of people still believe slavery is a thing of the past.
What if — you who are uniquely placed within your own church simply, lovingly, awoke your church to the prophetic call to end slavery?
Of course, this is all the more powerful if we all do it together and if we do on a day and a place where sometimes Christians are sleepiest – like Sunday, in church – and to do it this September!
Now the church is a giant … and it’s asleep – so this won’t be easy.
But what I know is this: millions of everyday Christians have done this before in other eras. And we want to give you everything you need.
My team at IJM and I have prepared Freedom Sunday materials for your church to help with everything from crafting the sermon message, creating multimedia and worship experiences, putting up signs – you name it.
Jesus has rescued each and every one of us, and as we follow Him in this world, He’s beckoning us to join His work of rescue.
By His power, we are going to wake up the church with Freedom Sunday in September until the sleepiest day and the sleepiest place has become the most wide-awake day and the most wide-awake place – and the people of God are out of bed.
As long as there are millions of people for whom Christ died who are in slavery, there is going to be a Freedom Sunday.
As Frederick Douglass preached on Fourth of July over a hundred sixty years ago, “Let the people of God array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds.”
That day did not fully come for Frederick Douglas in his day –
but by the grace of God, for the first time in history, it may come in ours.
But until it does, we’re not going away, until all are free.
Gary Haugen is CEO and founder of International Justice Mission. Gary has been recognized by the U.S. State Department as a Trafficking in Persons “Hero” – the highest honor given by the U.S. government for anti-slavery leadership. He is the author of several books, including Good News About Injustice (Intervarsity Press) and, most recently, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence (Oxford University Press).
IJM has prepared Freedom Sunday materials for your church to help with everything from crafting the sermon message, creating multimedia and worship experiences, putting up signs – you name it. Let’s please start the conversation at your church about dedicating one Sunday to Freedom – and to do it together with other churches on September 25th.