On advocacy, legislature, and prayer

One of the focal missions of our advocacy team has been meeting and building relationships with our state legislators.  Members of our team have visited with representatives from both Tarrant and Parker County at their local offices, and we also had the chance to visit the Capitol in Austin last year and meet some folks while the legislature was in session.  (Did you know? The Texas legislative session runs from January-May every other year.  2016 is an “off” year, although many special committees and such are working in the meantime.)  We do this for a few reasons: first, we want to – surprise! – advocate for others.  The whole idea of advocacy is to speak up for those whose voices are shut out, so what better way than to bring their causes before people who have the power and influence to affect change on their behalf?  We also want to hear from them about laws that might be coming up for a vote, learn about their stances on particular issues, and consider new perspectives.  Finally, we want to PRAY!  We pray for and with our representatives.  We know their job is not an easy one, and we are certainly not the only voices they are hearing nor the only opinions that matter.  Praying reminds us, and them, that God is with us to guide and grant wisdom.

Ferrell Foster, another of our friends at the Christian Life Commission, recently wrote this wonderful piece about praying for our leaders (Praying For Political Leaders Makes A Difference).  We hope you’ll take a look and commit to praying for all our elected officials and candidates with a sense of humility and unity.



Fearless in the Fight

Looks like we took a little summer break from the blog!  Our team is getting ready to gear up for some fresh new advocacy work in our community, and we thought this article from our friend Kathryn Freeman was a great encouragement.  Kathryn is part of the Christian Life Commission, an arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas that does fantastic work on advocacy and ministry in our state.  If you were with us on Advocacy Day at Ash Creek this spring, you will remember Kathryn and others that spoke to us from the CLC team.  Please click over to read Fearless in the Fight!

Advocacy Day


No one would argue that the world today is filled with evil, suffering, and brokenness.  Every community bears its own scars from our fallen world, whether they come in the form of poverty, lack of clean water, slavery, human trafficking, drugs, violence, oppression, racism, abuse, lack of education, homelessness, corruption, mental illness, or a thousand others.  The common thread among them is a sense of powerlessness.  Helplessness.  Voicelessness.  Who hears their cries for help?  Who is there in their time of need?

That’s where the church comes in, with advocacy.  What is advocacy, you ask?  Stephen Reeves says: “The most basic definition is to speak out on behalf of another, to take their concerns as your own and use your voice to help change that problem or situation. While this can certainly be accomplished by seeking a change in public policy at the local, state or federal level, it can also be done on an individual basis through non-policy means.  ..[W]e start by advocating for and with those we come into contact in our churches, communities and mission work. When we encounter needs or injustice, we should feel empowered to speak out to help change those situations however we can.  We should pay particular attention to those who have little voice or representation in the political process whether that be at the city, county, state or national level.”

Our advocacy team at church has been committed to understanding advocacy and in this process, we have been well instructed by the Christian Life Commission (CLC), an arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  The CLC develops positions, based upon scripture, regarding issues that currently affect the poor and the vulnerable.  This could be anything from immigration to gambling to education.  They then work in two ways to advocate:  1 – They utilize their relationships with state representatives to ask for legislation to benefit those in need; and 2 – They extend their hands in ministry, through programs like the Hunger Offering, Literacy ConneXus, and the ISAAC Project (which ministers to immigrants).

You might be thinking, “That’s great! I’m so glad other people are doing that.”  But lest you think this is a job for a select few, allow me to boldly claim that we are ALL called to advocacy.  As Christ is our advocate – “…if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”  1 John 2:1-2 – so are we called to be His ambassadors and imitators to the world.  You may not be called to go to Austin or Washington to speak to a senator, but there are ways for each of us to be involved in this important work of advocacy in our right-now lives.

We have an exciting opportunity coming up on February 21 at Ash Creek called “Advocacy Day”.  The team at the CLC is being so gracious to come and share their work with us and to help us understand how we each can be advocates right here in our community.  They will be walking us through Micah 6:8, which says, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  We don’t want you to miss it.


What We Can Do

By Emily Harden
This post originally appeared on Emily’s blog at mypiouseyes.blogspot.com

Earlier this year, our church hosted an officer from the Human Trafficking Task Force in our area.  During the Q&A, someone asked “what can we do as a community?” and I think we all felt a little deflated when the answer came.  “Not much.  Education and awareness.  Support the shelters that take in victims.  I wish there was more.”  Well, if you know me, you know that got my wheels spinning!  I came home and started jotting things down, and I wanted to share what I came up with, especially for my friends that were at the session and may also have left feeling a little bit helpless.

1.  While human trafficking abroad is often a tangled web of debt, deceit, kidnapping, and often parents selling their own children, human trafficking on the domestic front looks a little different.  (Not that those things don’t happen here, but it doesn’t seem to be the norm.)  Traffickers/pimps prey upon vulnerable people, and runaways are especially susceptible to being trapped, tricked, or forced into prostitution.  There is also a connection to foster care:  this is just one statistic I found, but in 2012, but over 50% of trafficking victims in California were or had been in the foster care system.  So what can we do?  Know your kids’ friends, and know your friends’ kids.  Be a safe place for them.  Encourage your children to reach out to and befriend the kids with tough home lives.  Know that that may be messy, and you may have kids in your home who are needy and rough around the edges, but be a place of love and acceptance and belonging for them.  If they have a place to land when things get bad at home, they may be less likely to be persuaded or coerced into prostitution.

1b.  Consider foster care or foster care support.  The system needs more loving families who will invest in these children, love them, and hopefully keep them away from bad outcomes like abuse, trafficking, homelessness, and drug abuse.  If you’re not quite ready to be a foster parent, consider going through training at an agency like Arrow to do respite care, where you regularly take in children overnight or for the weekend to give foster families a time of rest.

2.  Know your neighbors.  Trafficking depends on secrecy, and our tendency as a culture to hunker down in our own homes allows traffickers to hide in plain sight.  Be the weirdo that takes banana bread and introduces yourself to your neighbors, even though you’ve all lived there for years.  Learn their names.  Get to know their stories.  If you see something suspicious, call law enforcement.  This site has a great summary of red flags to watch for to identify sex or labor trafficking.

2b.  Notice people.  What could happen if we really saw the woman who is polishing our nails or the man bussing our tables, instead of viewing them as just another person in the background?  Look at them, speak to them, and value them as dearly loved children of God.  Again, if something seems suspicious, alert law enforcement.

3.  Support local organizations that are already fighting human trafficking.  If you are local to me, here are a handful of organizations (if not, just search online.. odds are there is a place where you can plug in):

Mosaic Family Services
Safe Haven
ACH Child and Family Services
Rescue Her

You could donate to any of these organizations, or look on their website for volunteer needs.  Each one does something a little different, from sheltering victims to street outreach to education and awareness.

4.  Shop fair trade/ethically made products.  I’ve written about this before (here, here and here) but pay attention to what you buy and where it came from.  It requires a lot more time and energy, but it’s worth it to avoid the exploitation of people.

5.  Change your perspective, then share it.  This is probably not something you’d think of, but the culture has to change, and that can start with us.  A few shifts to make between your own two ears:

–  What is a prostitute?  Is she someone who enjoys having sex for money?  Our officer last night estimated that 80% of the prostitutes he sees are forced or coerced into the industry in some way, be it physical abuse, financial dependence, threats against her or her family, or something else.  Change your view: a prostitute is more often than not a victim who needs prayers and rescue.  Why does this matter?  For one thing, I have to believe that at least some men pay for sex because in their minds she is okay with it.  I HAVE to believe that if at least some men knew the realities of what is happening to those girls, they would stop buying sex.  And prostitution/trafficking simply cannot survive without buyers.

– What is a pimp?  I’ll admit to enjoying me some rap music on occasion, but I wince now whenever I hear lyrics about pimps.  Would we still sing along with those songs if you replaced the word pimp with trafficker?  It is NOT cool to be a pimp, it is not something to aspire to or glorify.  Don’t go along with it, and be brave enough to correct people that do.

– Know that pornography plays a part.  (This article explains some of the connections between porn and trafficking.)  Statistics are varied, but studies suggest that at least 50% of Christian men and 10-20% of Christian women regularly view pornography.  You may think that what you look at in the privacy of your own home doesn’t hurt anyone, but that is just not true.  Beyond the moral implications of porn generally, there is really no way to know that the pornography you consume is free from exploitation.  So, stop watching it (if you can’t, seek help) and speak out against it.  Also on this note, talk to your kids early and often about the dangers of pornography.  It’s a scary subject to tackle, but I’ve read that the average age of first exposure to internet porn is 11-12.  Yeah, we’ve got to talk to them about it.

6.  Support anti-human trafficking legislation.  Write your representatives and tell them that this issue matters to you.  Keep an eye/ear out for upcoming legislation in this area, and encourage your representatives to vote for it.  Polaris Project has a great section on the state of current laws and what is being proposed.

7.  Pray.  The thing that struck me the most last night is how difficult it is to get a victim to “outcry” – to admit that she is being abused or trafficked.  It’s even more difficult to get her to testify against her trafficker and even more difficult to get her into a good aftercare/restoration program.  Pray for their strength and courage, and for their complete healing.  Pray for law enforcement, for the organizations that fight trafficking, and even for the traffickers and buyers.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a starting place.  I would love to hear ideas that God may have planted in your heart as well!


A Christian Advocacy Team?

By Ralph Massey

Lord, when did we see you hungry…”

Are you blessed? Do you have much or little? Are you happy with life or do you struggle? We know that life at its best will still include difficulty. The Scriptures make that perfectly clear.  For some of us life’s difficulties and struggles are greater than for others. That’s why in the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, Jesus affirmed those who provided help to others struggling with hunger, shelter, loneliness, desertion, or sickness; and He condemned those who ignored their needy brothers and sisters.

The Christian Advocacy Team of Ash Creek Baptist Church seeks be a voice for and a support to “the least of these, MY brothers and sisters” with whom Jesus chooses to identify himself. These include the have-nots, the hungry, the abandoned, the enslaved, the addicted, the afflicted, the shunned, and the victimized.

Our mission has three parts:

  • First, to educate ourselves and the Ash Creek congregation on issues that effect the most vulnerable and helpless in our society. These include but are not limited to payday loans, human trafficking, public education, hunger, foster care and those with special needs.
  • Second, to develop relationships with governmental representative and public servants that will result in dialogue that brings about positive laws and policies affecting the most vulnerable and powerless.
  • Third, to initiate actions which support new and existing work in various area of concern. In some cases this could result in the creation of new ministry teams addressing specific needs.

As you consider a Ministry Team for the coming year we invite you to consider the Christian Advocacy Team. We are a work in progress. Just a few of the things we hope to do next year include providing a seminar to introduce ways that our church can assist with foster care needs; hosting Gus Reyes, the Director of the Christian Life Commission of Texas Baptists, and perhaps some to his staff for a Sunday at Ash Creek; and meeting with the State Representatives and Senators who represent our legislative districts.

Come join us as we learn about, speak up for, and assist the least of these.