"All 0f us sitting here in this auditorium today have won the lottery of life," pastor Bill Hybels said in a service at Willow Creek Community Church Sunday. "Now, the question is, how do we discharge the responsibility that comes with it?"
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was the guest speaker at Sunday's church service, and had some incredibly poignant things to say to us as a congregation about the writing of "Half the Sky," his novel profiling many of the faces of sex trafficking around the world.
"It's one thing to clean up these issues happening around the world, but what people don't realize is that it's necessary to deal with it here at home, too," Kristof said during Sunday's service.
A recent article in Today's Chicago Woman shed light on the current state of sex trafficking in the city of Chicago. As writer Daniel P. Smith writes in his article, "more than 6,000 at-risk children are trafficked each year in Cook County; in metropolitan Chicago, an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in the commercial sex trade annually."
It's one thing to recognize this as fact, and a whole other thing to do something about it.
Willow Creek's annual "Celebration of Hope" brought the congregation together to recognize international justice efforts around the world by bringing in guest speakers like Kristof and international performing groups like Destiny Africa (see my previous blog post on this appearance) in addition to taking offerings dedicated to raising money for justice causes both domestically and worldwide. This sermon series and church movement was extremely rewarding to be a part of, but now that the series is over, we are left with the question: what now? International Justice Mission and A21 are global organizations with efforts of freedom occurring daily, and Chicago's "Operation Little Girl Lost" and the "Illinois Safe Children Act" passed in August 2010 have changed the way law enforcement is dealing with this issue for the better.
There are thousands of organizations to donate to around the world, and numerous efforts occurring in Chicago. As Kristof said, "This issue will be eradicated on an individual level - everything changes when you put a face to the issue." So, keep your eyes open in the Chicago community on how to best give your heart away to those in need of love and life - Scripture promises that when we give ourselves away, it's a two-way street that will give us, and the people we help, life.
Check out some links on how you can, and how others have already started to give themselves away, below - this is obviously an evolving issue, so any tips on other organizations to donate time or money to would be awesome. Let's start a dialogue!
"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25