19 July 2010

Redeemable

Something happened when outreach pastor Brad Pellish of Phoenix heard International Justice Mission (IJM) founder Gary Haugen speak. While getting an email about child rape and watching a documentary called Branded (not about tattoos), all within ten days, he was forced to rethink his entire ministry. The church couldn't make a huge financial impact then. So Pellish started with his local vice squad officers.
When the cops picked up underage girls working the streets, the girls were typically hungry. (Though they might have cash on hand, they didn't dare risk their pimp's wrath by spending their earnings on food.) So the vice cops paid out of pocket for burgers or tacos. "We decided that needed to end," Pellish reports. "We did a gift card drive and had over $3,000 in cards come in." Vice Officer Chris Bray, a 20+ year veteran of the Phoenix PD, was shocked. No church group had ever done anything like that before.
In 2005 teaching pastor Brian Wells read Haugen's Good News About Injustice with his teaching team during a summer recharge. Wells says Good News challenged him.
"It really messed with me," he admits. "I came back from that experience and met with some of our leaders at Crossroads. And I said, 'You know, I just want to confess, I've been preaching an incomplete Gospel.'"
Crossroads leadership felt God was saying something to the church through Wells. When he indicated a desire to meet with Haugen in Washington, they sent him off with a $25,000 check to IJM.
Since 2006, the church has invested over half a million dollars in helping IJM's various aftercare partners to provide quality residential counseling and vocational rehabilitation for children and women rescued from sex trafficking in Mumbai, India.
Andrew Peters heads Crossroads' justice work, and thinks the church's deep commitment in Mumbai stems from congregants' ability to "really identify" with these girls. "Not that we've been raped hundreds of times, but from the standpoint that we've felt written off—we've been told we're not redeemable."
Churches can fight traffick. And yes. We are all redeemable. Even you.

Jesus in Mumbai