Human Trafficking in Atlanta


This video, a CNN segment from 2010, is twelve minutes long, and if you don't have time, I'd encourage you to watching through the 4:30 mark.

If you can't do that, here are the lowlights:

-- Women and girls as young as 14 are lured from Mexico under false pretenses and smuggled into the United States

-- Once in Atlanta, they were held in houses with barred windows and locks on the outsides of their doors

-- A Mexican woman who was lured to Atlanta by her boyfriend was forced to "serve" (be raped by) fifty or sixty men in a day.

-- When young girls -- as young as 14 -- could no longer mentally or physically take the abuse, they were "treated" with marijuana or cocaine so they could keep working

-- A social worker who works primarily with women who have been sexually exploited says the greatest challenge she faces is helping women recognize and admit that they are victims

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The Story of an Atlanta Sex Trafficking Survivor

[youtube=http://youtu.be/6O1Pj3xpq5E] From the description: "Katrina Owens, sex trafficking survivor and peer advocate for sexually exploited children, gives her perspective on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), how she got out, and what the public should know about the young victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

To learn more about child sex trafficking in Atlanta and how to stop it, please visit http://publicsquareatlanta.org.

This video was produced by Kimberly Johnson and Jason Parker for Public Square Atlanta."

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Getting to Know the Women of Project Safe, Part II

We are incredibly excited to partner with a local non-profit group, Project Safe Inc., as part of this year’s Easter Offering. Project Safe works to end domestic violence through crisis intervention, ongoing supportive services, prevention and education, and systems change advocacy. Last week we introduced you to several women in our church work or intern with Project Safe. This week, I asked them to talk more about domestic violence and how to recognize it. This is some of what they shared. What are some things readers should know when about domestic violence? 

Sarah Penfold: Domestic violence is a silent killer. It affects women, men, and children of EVERY race, religion, culture, ethnic background, etc (as both victim and perpetrator), which challenges the stereotype that this is solely a women's issue. Domestic violence has no boundaries. It's a prevalent issue that few talk about and few rally behind; even fewer find the safety to work through their associated pain. It makes people uncomfortable.

Many who identify as a victim of domestic violence suffer this abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to love them the most. This can lead to deep inward shame, isolation, fear, distorted view of self, unjustified guilt, and other immobilizing factors.

Hannah Parker: A statistic that surprised me is that one in four women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.  It’s not just the poor, or homeless, or addicts -- it’s our neighbors, teachers, family, and friends.

Samantha Schwalenberg: Domestic Violence is related to sex trafficking, substance abuse, homelessness, rape, murder, child molestation, child abuse, child sexual abuse. 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence. The only problem is, some victims DO NOT EVEN KNOW that they are victims.

Sarah: These jarring statistics evoke the questions, "Why are they with their abusers? Why don't they get out?" Three categories help identify core issues but merely scratch the surface when it comes to unpacking the complexities of these relationships:

  • Financial:
    • Where do I start if I have nothing -- no savings, education, job skills?
    • How will I provide for myself or my children?
  • Fear of the Unknown:
    • What will life be like without the abusive partner? (It's easy to believe that it is normal when it's all you've ever known.)
    • Who will love me?
    • Who will help me? (Some abusers isolate victims from their outside support system of family and friends.)
  • Distorted Views of Self Worth:
    • I deserve this.
    • I was made to withstand this "love."
    • I can't make it without this relationship.
    • I am weak.
    • I am worthless.

What are some basic signs of domestic violence and how can family members, friends, or coworkers act on them?

Hannah: PSI identifies that early warning signs of domestic violence are  quick involvement, jealousy, possessiveness, isolation from friends and family, a desire to control most situations, and changes in the victim’s habits, friends or behavior (to avoid angry confrontation).

Samantha: A big sign is when someone begins to isolate themselves from you. If you have a friend/family member who used to be SUPER close to you, but now tends to ignore your calls and texts, fails to show up to events, and begins to pull away, you may have someone who is an abusive relationship. Isolation is a huge sign. Sometimes when a relationship is going way too fast, it is a sign of an abusive relationship. Abusers like CONTROL, they like absolute control and try to get it really fast. Possessiveness is a huge sign as well, when a partner is really jealous, it can be a sign of an abusive relationship.

If a group (like a church or a community group) recognized the needs of victims of domestic violence and wanted to help do something about it, what would their next step be?

Hannah: I would highly recommend they call Project Safe if they were in a position where they felt like they or someone they knew was in danger. We have a 24 hour hotline that can be used by anyone needing help, or seeking information. The hotline number is (706) 543-333. We also have a teen texting line: (706) 765-8019 or email teensbreakingsilence@gmail.com.

Samantha: Donating money, time, extra clothes, furniture, shoes, services, books, and such to your local Domestic Violence organization. We all need to work together to fight domestic violence!

Sarah:  Call our Project Safe's business line and ask to speak to the volunteer coordinator, April Byrne. The number is 706.549.0922. She can set groups up with different volunteer opportunities and ways you can help us in the fight to end domestic violence.

For individuals who have a heart for women and children affected by domestic violence and interest/skills in blogging, story telling, and social entrepreneurship please email noreturnnation@gmail.com.

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Our Rio team left this morning. Pray for their travel and transition into their work. Pray for our UGA students and Clarke Co. families as they head out on Spring Break.

Pray for Sunday. God is unusually kind to us on Sundays when our family is scattered across the globe. Show up early and let's have an amazing morning together.

Pray for the next two sermons as I preach on marriage. Every marriage begins with a date and a dream. Men, my dream is that you'd spend the rest of your life dating your wife. More on that this Sunday...

Pray for all of us as we lose an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time. My free pastoral advice is to go to bed an hour earlier...

Pray. Because the God of the universe is our Father who loves to take care of his children.

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Bring on the Pain

Frank McKinley likes to spend his time reading, writing, drinking coffee, and taking photographs. He and his family have been members of Christ Community over ten years and in three locations. If you'd like to read more, his blog is http://frank-speakingfrankly.blogspot.com/
Last week I went to the doctor because I thought I was going to die.
I prayed for God to make it all go away. 
He said, "Son, not just yet." 
When you don't have insurance, going to the doctor is the last resort. But when it hurts, you want to know why.  So as I waited to see someone who could tell me I really didn't have cancer, I thought the emotional pain might bury me first. 
You know it's not a perfect world. Sin has ruined everything. Try as you will, you know you've failed to obey the Ten Commandments. You lied to protect yourself as a kid. You lie to others when they ask how you're doing. You've stolen time from your employer when you've been idle at work. 
If that's not bad enough, sin has ruined your health. You can exercise until you're a hundred years old. You can avoid the vices of smoking, drinking, saturated fats, and aspartame. But you are still going to die.
That's the reward sin gives you. It's your birthright.
When pain confronts you, you tend to think life is unfair. That's good, because it is. God told us that we would have trouble (John 16:33). But in the same sentence he also tells us to be glad. 
There are three reasons. Jesus understands your pain. He went through your pain. Finally, He overcame your pain. 
Jesus understands your pain because he has walked in your shoes. When he became a man, he subjected himself to all the pains you experience. When he was beaten, he bled. When his friend Lazarus died, he wept. When he fasted in the wilderness for forty days, he got hungry. 
Jesus went through your pain by suffering and dying. 
Because Jesus didn't stay dead, he overcame your pain. Because he lives, one day everything sad will be untrue and everything that is broken will be restored. 
Believe Jesus loves you in your pain. It may hurt now. But he hasn't abandoned you. He knows how you feel. Remember this. Just as Jesus's death was temporary, your pain will be too. Because he overcame your pain, you'll get through it. And he will be with you all the way. 
Oh, by the way, I don't have cancer, at least for now. 
I do have joy. 
So can you.  
Will you trust Jesus when it hurts? 

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Spring Forward

This Sunday --- Or, should we say, this Saturday night --- is Daylight Savings Time.

Move your clocks forward one hour!

Here's a humorous take on Daylight Savings Time since, lets be honest, we don't like it that much...


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bw96oBPvIfQ?rel=0&w=853&h=480]

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Getting to Know the Women of Project Safe, Part I

[vimeo 60798720 w=792 h=446] We are incredibly excited to partner with a local non-profit group, Project Safe Inc., as part of this year’s Easter Offering. Project Safe works to end domestic violence through crisis intervention, ongoing supportive services, prevention and education, and systems change advocacy. Several women in our church work or intern with Project Safe; I asked them to tell a story about how they were challenged to face up to the reality of domestic violence, or a way they had seen God blessing people through their work at Project Safe. This is (some!) of what they shared.

Sarah Penfold

I am the community & legal advocate so when people need legal protection from their abusive partners, I go to court with them and file the orders. I also lead a support group for survivors and provide case management.

I had been working with a client for months whose husband tried to kill her then kill himself.  My client suffered serious injuries and had several surgeries from that incident. Her husband is facing several felony charges. After working with her for several months, I learned that my client had begun talking to her abusive husband and was considering getting back together with him. She has left multiple times over the course of their 25+ year marriage and it broke my heart to know she was even considering going back to him.

Knowing that about her challenged me in so many ways personally and professionally. I wanted to do anything in my power to show her that she is worth more than she knows and that if she goes back, she may not have another chance to leave because her husband may kill her. After I got off the phone with her and found that out, I just cried. The reality for her then was that the unknown of life without her husband is scarier than life with him. I kept having to remind myself that the Lord is sovereign and that even though I have no idea what will happen to this client or if she will decide to go back, the Lord knows and he cares for her deeply. It's been a month or so since that conversation with my client, and she has decided not to go back to her husband.

Samantha Scwalenberg

At Project Safe I am a Night and Weekend Staff member. I work directly with our hotline, shelter, and residents. Most of my shifts will be from 9PM-8AM, 9PM-9AM, or during the day on the weekends. During the days, we usually have 4-6 people in the shelter at a time, taking care of the needs of the shelter and such, but at night we are to take on all of the responsibility of the residents and the prospective clients that call the hotline in need of emergency shelter, outreach services (Sarah Penfold), referrals, or whatever else may come about. I would say we work the closest with our resident clients, as we spend a lot more of our time with our clients from intake to the time that they exit the shelter.

One night, a resident came to me with tears streaming down her face. She wanted to talk with me about what had happened. I took her to the office and asked her to tell me what was wrong. Her son was killed a couple years back, she might have cancer, she has no money to her name, her family would not speak to her because of the abuse she had endured, and her husband had put a price on her head.

Something in my heart told me to pray with her. I had never asked a stranger to pray with me before, and was not going to start now. I tried to ignore the voice, but as she continued to speak, I could not avoid it. Before I realized what I was saying, I had asked her if she wanted to pray with me. She looked at me and said, “Yes, please.” I held her hands and prayed for her with her. When I opened my eyes, she was looking at  me. She had told me that no one had prayed for her before . . . and that she could not describe how good it made it her feel. She said she had never felt “loved” and that praying with me, that was all she could feel. I said, “Jesus has a way of making you feel that way.” She smiled, and exited the office.

She ended up not having cancer. Her husband was not released, and Project Safe, Inc. had set up counseling for her. She told me that she felt like, “God was listening.”

I was so encouraged. THE POWER OF PRAYER!

Hannah Parker

I am a Social Work intern at Project Safe. The past semester I spent all of my time at the shelter, assisting with case management  (which really just means helping the residents with whatever they are working on,  and helping with communication between staff and residents). I answered the business line, assisted in coordinating volunteers, and answered  our 24 hour domestic violence crisis hotline.

Something that really hit me when hard in my time with PSI was when a girl came into the shelter that was my age, and a student at UGA. I had even had a class with her abuser . . . that was when it really clicked with me that it can happen to anyone.

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Verge Conference

Building relationships around each other is a huge part of our culture as a church and a strategic tool for reaching our city. One simple way of being able to do both is happening this weekend. James and Lyndie Miller are opening their home up Friday & Saturday night for the Verge Conference Simulcast.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWz048RwAAg]

They were thinking they would open it up to anyone who wanted to come on Friday night (session starts at 8) and throughout the day on Saturday.

There are some extended breaks between the sessions and people have the freedom to stick around and eat together during the breaks and discuss the material or take off when they need to.

They were also thinking it would be good to limit it to 15 spots. They will have food for people during the day on Saturday and for dinner on Saturday night with the option of walking down somewhere for lunch.

Here is a schedule of all the Main Session Talks - (Times are in CST) -

Friday, March 1

9:00am-11:00am – Main Session 1 | The Priority of Disciple Making: There Is No Plan B

1:30pm-3:30pm – Main Session 2 | Patterns & Practices of Disciple Making: Missional People & Missional Communities

7:00pm-9:00pm – Main Session 3 | The Content of Disciple Making: Getting To The Heart Of It All

Saturday, March 2

9:00am-11:00am – Main Session 4 | Culture And Disciple Making: Building Bridges and Removing Barriers

1:30pm-3:30pm – Main Session 5 | The Process of Disciple Making: 8 Non-Negotiable Steps To Making and Multiplying Disciples

6:00pm-8:00pm – Main Session 6 | Living The Future Church: The Context of Disciple Making

If you would like to attend & hang out with the Miller family, please email James at miller.jamesmurray@gmail.com.

Remember Only 15 spots are available.

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