Preview of the JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 Issue
Confronting the horrors of human trafficking
Presbyterians step up efforts to end a global scourge that often occurs close to home.
by Krin Van Tatenhove
You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know. —William Wilberforce
Joe grew up in the Dorchester district of Boston, where unemployment, crime, and poverty made everyday life a challenge. None of us choose our families of origin, and the forces within Joe’s home were corrosive. His father sexually and physically abused him before vanishing. Both his grandmother and mother engaged in prostitution. A constant supply of drugs and alcohol fueled this furnace of family dysfunction.
By the time he reached adolescence, Joe found it hard to relate healthily to anyone, especially role models. He longed to fill the vacuum left by his absent father.
Joe was a prime target. An older “friend” began to “groom” him, buying him expensive gifts, taking him to dinner and sporting events. Eventually that man made sexual advances, and Joe was immediately introduced to a shadowy network of predators.
Joe is a victim of human trafficking, a criminal world in which victims are forced to work without freedom to leave. His name has been changed here to protect his privacy.Continue reading
Presbyterian World Mission takes on human trafficking.
By Tammy Warren
Shona, 21, will be a nurse soon. That wouldn’t be the case, however, if her father had sold her as a domestic servant at age 10.
Her father’s plans, born out of poverty and desperation, would have been successful if Shona’s mother hadn’t reached out to the Church of North India, a global partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The church intervened, protected Shona, and helped the family subsist.
“Her mother is very happy now,” says Sushma Ramswami, communications secretary for CNI and a 2015 International Peacemaker with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “Shona is looking forward to finishing her courses, so she can get her degree.”
Though it is illegal in every country, an estimated 21 million people are victims of forced labor and sexual servitude worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations. Many, but not all, of those people have been trafficked.Continue reading
We’re a part of this
Each of us contributes to a culture that buys and sells other people.
by Patrick David Heery
Most of us know the story in Genesis of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery. We have imagined the thud when his body slammed into packed soil, at the bottom of a pit. We have imagined the shock of betrayal, the bruises on his body, now stripped of clothing, the feeling of disbelief and doom as he lay there looking up at a distant sun. We’re never told how far he fell; we only know that the earthen walls of his cage were too tall for this son of Jacob to climb.
We have imagined also the cold sensation of silver in his brothers’ hands, a tidy profit from an unwanted sibling, cast into the nets of Midianite traders.
It’s a familiar enough story, and we like that it gets a happy ending: Joseph, the slave turned governor, who feeds Egypt, forgives his brothers, and saves his family.
It’s a story that tells us God can work good out of evil, that life can get better, and that our dignity is shaped by God, not by those who would abuse and degrade us. In this story, the shame belongs to Joseph’s brothers, not to Joseph, and in a world that criminalizes the victim, that is a story worth telling.
Of course, not all stories have happy endings. And Joseph himself endured violence and incarceration—and might have struggled with trauma the rest of his life.Continue reading
THE Once and Future Church
What happens when we lose our superpower?
Superheroes, the church, and faith when it’s hard to believe
by David R. Collins
When I was a kid, I had a little cubby at a comic book shop where the store owners put the comics I requested so that I could buy them faster. Yes, I was that cool. Now I content myself with watching superhero movies with my kids.
There is one superhero story that has been told in just about every comic book series, and it’s probably my favorite. It’s the story of what a hero does when he loses his powers. It’s happened to all the heroes. Superman is especially susceptible to the problem, what with all that Kryptonite lying around. But no matter the hero, the story always follows the same arc.
In Act 1, the hero somehow loses his or her powers. In Act 2, the hero has an identity crisis about the loss, but then realizes that he or she still has a job to do. (After all, the villains don’t stop causing trouble just because the hero is weak.) And so, through grit, determination, creative problem solving, and sometimes a little deception, the hero finds a way to win, even without powers. And then, in the next issue, the superpowers return, and things are back to normal.
This is a story that the church really needs to hear.Continue reading
New worshiping communities start with mission
by Angie Andriot and Deborah Coe
Recent interviews have revealed that worshiping communities tend to begin with a mission emphasis rather than a worship emphasis. In fact, they tend to see mission and evangelism as forms of worship. They strive to instill the Holy Spirit in as many hearts as possible by (1) offering time and energy in service to improving God’s kingdom on Earth, (2) communing in fellowship with those who have not yet been brought to grace, and (3) showing appreciation for all God has provided.Continue reading
Asked to dance
When people with disabilities were asked to help lead worship, the results were transformative.
By Sue Montgomery
As the team leader for the General Assembly Disability Consultants, I was asked to lead a workshop for people living with disabilities.
I was more than happy to help. Workshops like these are very much the work of Presbyterians for Disability Concerns, a network of the Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association that empowers the church to better affirm, support, and advocate for the gifts, rights, and responsibilities of persons with disabilities in the total life of the church.Continue reading
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A beautiful series of daily Lenten reflections, paired with a short, ancient form of praise and petition called a breath prayer, to explore what holiness means for Christians today.
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This special issue is a must-read for everyone who wants to better understand young adults and engage them in worship, education, and service.
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What Presbyterians Believe 2
Volume 2 of Presbyterians Today’s new special issue and guidebook—What Presbyterians Believe 2—brings you even more of our most popular articles all about Presbyterian beliefs, worship, and practice.