God's timing has always been an amazing mystery to me. Whether it has been the timing of a job, the gift of finding a husband, or preparing my heart for ministry, I love the way He goes before me and puts things in motion.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had read the book "Starving Jesus" this summer and wondered how God was going to use that in my life and in my ministry. After today, I think I'm beginning to get a glimpse of where God is taking not only me, but Christian women in Oklahoma and in our nation.
Two weeks ago I sat with Diane Daniels from national WMU and we talked about the national emphasis that will begin in 2010. It's not an easy subject, but it's very real. The subject is human trafficking and human exploitation. Last week I met Debra Epps, the Site Coordinator for a new Christian Women's Job Corp in Muskogee. They will be mentoring women who are struggling for hope in the midst of many issues. Today I was privileged to sit among a group of women who make my ministry look wimpy. It was an FBI task force that is working in conjunction with Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans (OATH). Many of these women work with the justice system, the Salvation Army, United Way and the YWCA. There was one church represented and I was the only representative from a faith based organization.
I don't think it's a coincidence that all three of these conversations happened within two weeks. I believe God is orchestrating something much bigger.
The reality of domestic human trafficking is shocking. Let me share a few statistics with you:
1. Oklahoma is number one in the nation of women per capita who are in prison.
2. Seventy five percent of the women in our prisons have experienced abuse.
3. Oklahoma is number four in the nation of women being murdered by men.
4. Oklahoma is number one in child abuse. This leads to teenage pregnancies, teen prostitution and a myriad of other issues.
5. Currently the FBI has 100 open cases of child abuse in the Oklahoma City area.
6. Eighty (80) percent of human trafficking cases involve teenage girls.
7. It is estimated that there are at least 100,000 children in the United States who are being trafficked. (some estimates put this number at 300,000)
8. The average age for a girl to be involved in teen prostitution is between 12-14 years of age.
Mark Elam, the Director for OATH, shared a national video with all of us that gave us a short picture of what is happening. Can I tell you how my heart sank when the first image was shot at a truck stop right here in Oklahoma City? That's right--Oklahoma City! Because of our interstate crossroads of I-40 and I-35, our metro area is ripe for human trafficking and teen prostitution.
While this is a difficult subject and it is so complex, I have to tell you that I literally felt ill at my stomach during this meeting. What I heard was that there are no easy answers and there is little education. People just don't know what is happening.
So what are we supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? How do I encourage women to embrace and echo God's heart for the world and challenge them to get their feet dirty?
First, we need to educate women in our state about this issue. You can bet that you are going to hear much more from me on this subject and enlightening women to what is happening in our state. I plan to invite Mark to our next state leadership team and begin the process of helping women understand this issue. We must not be silent any more!
Second, as women of faith, we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we must look for practical ways to meet the needs. Whether it's housing for victims, Celebrate Recovery programs, life skills education or even self defense classes, women in the church must pray about how they can be the hands and feet of Christ.
Third, I'm grateful for what is already happening in our state. Dayspring Villa in Tulsa, House of Healing in Oklahoma City, Christian Women's Job Corps, Free at Last ministries, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Hope Pregnancy Centers and many others are already in the fight. Will you support them with your prayers? Will you financially support these ministries? Will you be a volunteer? If you need help connecting, contact our office. There's opportunities for you and your women's group to get involved.