Freedom and Justice

FBI Human Trafficking Bust

I stumbled upon a Fox News story where Ray Bogan reported on a recent FBI human trafficking bust.

The most tragic was in Denver, where a family friend offered to sell two sisters to an undercover agent in Denver. For a mere $600. One sister was only five years old, and the other…a three-month old infant.

The FBI called the sting Operation Cross County XI. Agents across the nation freed 84 victims and arrested 120 traffickers. The average age of those rescued was a mere 15 years old.

Great job, FBI!

You can read about the story here.

Freedom and Justice

North Korean Workers in China Produce American Foods/Products

Unfortunately, a recent investigation by the Associated Press (AP) revealed that workers from North Korea are being held in China, with roughly seventy percent of their wages funding the North Korean regime. These workers, AP found, are not allowed privacy and must stay in factory dormitories.

N.Korean Workers Prepare Seafood For US Stores
AP News/Oct. 4

The story, released on 10/5/17 by the AP and written by Tim Sullivan, Hyung-Jin Kim and Martha Mendoza, states that the investigation revealed seafood products made by workers held in what could be called “modern-day slavery.” These products were subsequently sent to the United States.

According to AP News, consumers buying salmon products from ALDI or Walmart “may inadvertently have subsidized the North Korean government as it builds its nuclear weapons program.”

A follow-up story on the K-Love news page reports that ALDI and Walmart representatives say “they are committed to human rights and fair labor practices, and expect the same from their business partners.” Walmart has already addressed the problem, although the actions taken were not revealed.

I suspect ALDI will also quickly do all they can to ensure their suppliers are not using slave labor, or companies that fortify the North Korean regime. ALDI has already shown a commitment to fair trade. Choceur, an ALDI store brand chocolate, carries the “UTZ Certified Cacao” label, and is a tasty fair-trade chocolate bar. I enjoy an occasional milk chocolate with almonds bar immensely.

My new “favorite” candy bar – fair trade!

In addition to seafood, North Korean workers were found producing clothing and wood flooring in China. While these products likely made their way to the United States, specific shipments were not traced at this time.

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From AP News: “In this Sept. 2, 2017, photo, North Korean workers walk into the Hong Chao Zhi Yi garment factory after visiting a street market in the city of Hunchun in northeastern China’s Jilin province. Roughly 3,000 North Koreans are believed to work in Hunchun, a far northeast Chinese industrial hub just a few miles from the borders of both North Korea and Russia. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)”

 

You can read the full AP News story here.

The follow-up story, courtesy of K-Love, is here.

Freedom and Justice

100th child rescued in Ghana

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source: International Justice Mission (IJM)

International Justice Mission announced recently that the organization has rescued the 100th child to date in 2017 from labor trafficking in Ghana. Two boys were rescued from the fishing industry on Lake Volta, where they will no longer be victims of trafficking.

The Ghana Police Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) is also starting to investigate their own cases, indicating a trend reversal in the acceptance of child slaves as suspects are prosecuted.

You can read the entire story here. Thank you, IJM Ghana team, for all your hard work! My prayers are with you.

source: International Justice Mission (IJM)
Points to Ponder

Football and the Flag – My Thoughts

There’s been a lot of controversy these days over sports players who refuse to stand during the National Anthem. Some condemn them. Others applaud them.

Me? I can sort of see both sides.

I mean, yes, the flag is important and we should respect it. But are they burning the flag? Stepping on it? What determines the level of acceptable disrespect? When does it become disrespect over quiet protest?

I don’t know the answers, and it hurts my brain to figure it out.

Frankly, I think it comes down to a matter of the heart. I believe God sees their hearts, and He knows the intent behind the actions. We only see the surface; God sees much deeper.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. ~ 1 Samuel 16:7b (NIV84)

What bothers me more than the flag and football is the comparison I can’t help but make concerning Christians and their Bibles.

We treat the flag with great respect because it represents our country: our freedom, our right to speak and worship freely, and so many other privileges of living in America. By tradition, we don’t let it touch the ground. We put nothing on top of it. We hold it close to our hearts when carrying it, lest we drop it. We salute it and hold it in honor.

We do these things willingly, because we understand the importance of what our flag means.

But Christians, what about our Bibles?

Yesterday at church, a man was looking for a Bible a family member had accidentally left at church. He rummaged through an entire drawer of lost Bibles, and commented, “Man, it’s a shame that this many people don’t seem to care that their Bible is missing.”

Another Bible has sat in the same place for over a month; we left it there, hoping the owner would discover it. Nope. Not yet.

I’ve seen Bibles on the floor. I’ve seen Bibles tossed on the ground without a second thought, or thrown into the backseat of cars and covered over with stuff.

Once I even saw a teenager stand on his Bible. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t trying to literally stand on the promises of God.

I’ve seen any number of things stacked on top of Bibles.

Other books.

Car keys.

Cell phones.

Coffee cups.

But – Christians – what if…

What if we treated our Bibles even better than we treat the flag?

What if we didn’t let them touch the ground? What if we put nothing on top of them? What if we held them close to our hearts when carrying them, lest we dropped them? What if we saluted them and held them (and their Author) in honor?

What if we remembered that the Bible isn’t just a symbol of our freedom, but the very Word of God?

What if we cherished our Bibles – and the words in them – and learned to live by them?

Maybe, just maybe, if we did that, the world would notice.

And change would happen.

Then we might not be talking about football and the flag.

Points to Ponder

Shine A Light On Slavery

Today – February 25 – is Shine a Light on Slavery Day.

hand

The red X is confirmation of my desire to do my part to End It.

You can learn about the End It Movement here.

Bringing attention to modern day slavery won’t necessarily put an end to human trafficking, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. As more people become aware of the warning signs of sexual exploitation and begin to demand products made without forced or bonded labor, more of those held captive will be set free.

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Psalm 10:16-18.

For more information about some of the growing number of organizations currently fighting human trafficking, check out these sites:

The Polaris Project – www.polarisproject.org

International Justice Mission – www.ijm.org

R3 The Movement – www.r3themovement.org

51 South Foundation – www.51south.org

Called2rescue – www.called2rescue.org

Express Missions International – www.expressmissions.com

Advocates for Freedom – www.advocatesforfreedom.org

 

To learn more about human trafficking, start with these sites:

2015 Trafficking in Persons Report (US State Department)

Recognize the Signs of Trafficking (Polaris Project)

Training for Medical and Dental Professionals (CMDA)

Tennessee Human Trafficking Report (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

End It

I’m in it to END IT.

Will you join me?

Get in the Word, Points to Ponder

The Christmas Story

In honor of the Reason for the Christmas Season, tonight’s blog post will tell the age-old story, which is better by far than any story I could tell. The crime story will continue on Saturday.

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In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Christmas 1

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.

Christmas 9

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

Christmas 4

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Christmas 5

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Christmas 3

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

Christmas 6

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Christmas 2

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,

and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Christmas 8

Luke 2:1-20 New International Version (©1984)

Points to Ponder

In Memory

Tonight I was going to post chapter two of the story, but it seems more appropriate to pay tribute to my friend who went to meet Jesus face to face today. Brenda Hughes was a gracious lady who had a great sense of humor and a ready smile. She made us laugh. She will be missed. I haven’t always known her well, and I think I missed out on a gem of a friend by not knowing her better.

My favorite story involving Brenda was from 2009. I went on a girls’ get-away cruise with Brenda and five other friends.

dinner

As we were going through security to get on board the ship, about half of us went on through without any problems. We realized there was a problem behind us, but we were forced on through the line and had to wait at the end to find out what happened.

It turned out that somehow a steak knife from the set in Brenda’s kitchen had ended up in her knitting bag.

She had no idea how it got there.

But security took it.

It was supposedly a dangerous weapon that was not allowed on the ship.

The delay was caused by them searching her bag, incredulous that there could possibly be something as random as a steak knife in a bag full of yarn and knitting needles. She had told them she had no weapons, which made it worse. They finally seemed to concede that she really was clueless about the knife’s presence.

So…we finally all get on board the ship, sans Brenda’s knife, and decide to get some dinner.

Brenda ordered steak.

They brought her a steak knife.

brenda

For some reason, our server couldn’t figure out why we found that to be so funny.

We laughed until we cried.

Brenda had that effect on us.

So, tonight my heart is sad. My prayers are lifting for her family and dearest of friends. I know they can hardly imagine life without her. God sees them and He will comfort them. I’m very thankful that Brenda knew Jesus and had accepted Him as Savior. Her family can look forward to a joyful reunion in heaven one day.

For now, I’ll just look forward to seeing Brenda again one day in God’s kingdom. I can imagine her there skipping down the streets of gold, laughing and making others laugh, too.

Heaven became a little bit brighter today.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15 (NIV84)

Rest in peace, Brenda.

spa random group dinner10 dinner7 dinner6

Points to Ponder

My Brother

I have one brother. No sisters. David might strangle me, but this post is all about him.

Why? It’s his birthday.birthday

For the record, and I know you’re wondering . . .                                                             David is almost exactly 4 years older than me.

So yeah. If you haven’t done the math already, I just turned 47.

Since it’s getting late in the Eastern time zone and his birthday is already over where he lives, I’ll go ahead and just leave you with some pictures. Where I come from in the Central time zone, he still has roughly a half hour, but whatever.

Here he is as a little thing.

Davy older horse

And here’s a few family pictures. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

photo10photo2 photo8

I know, we were rockin’ some of those hairstyles!

But the main thing about my brother?

He has an amazing talent for art. He did these for me a few years ago, all by computer.

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crucified05

Breathtaking, aren’t they? Can you imagine drawing this sort of thing with a computer mouse? I can’t. This was when he first started doing computer animations, too. He’s gotten even better at it over the years, but these are still my favorites.

Happy birthday, bro! I hope it’s been a great one. It was good to see you on your birthday for once. Let’s try that again next year.

Love ya!

My God

Thanksgiving

As I type this, I am riding along in the car as Rich drives us from Memphis to Chattanooga. I am sitting in the back seat because the car is kind of small, and have you seen my son’s long legs? There’s no way Mark could comfortably squeeze his almost 6’3” frame back here.

But I don’t mind. I’m not even being a backseat driver.

Rich has a book on tape playing so I’m free to daydream and reminisce. I’ve been thinking about past Thanksgivings. Most of my childhood years we went to my grandparent’s house. I had to sit at the kid’s table in the kitchen. I remember one year when I was not content to be sitting at a table with my brother and cousin. I thought boys were sooo boring, so I sat there, wishing that I could sit at the grown-up table so I could hear the adult conversations. You could ask my parents, but I’m pretty sure that I freely shared my not-so-thankful attitude.

Now, as I look out into the passing darkness and gaze up at a gorgeous full moon, my heart overflows with thankfulness. I cannot help but count my blessings.

My family will be together this year, with all of my kids in one place. I feel compelled to whisper a prayer for friends whose children will not be coming home this year, some due to job commitments, others due to family rifts or even death. My heart breaks for them. I pray that God meets them where they are and wraps His arms around them.

I will also get to visit with my parents this year. I have friends who have said goodbye to parents this year. I pray that God wraps His arms around them, too, and comforts them as a Father.

Then there is the high school classmate who just lost her husband. And the friends who have lost siblings. I have friends who have recently gotten bad news about their health.

As wonderful as the season is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is a lonely and painful time for way too many people. So as we usher in another Thanksgiving tomorrow and begin the countdown until Christmas, I hope that you are one of the ones who can enter the season joyfully surrounded by loved ones, and that you can join me in praying for those not as fortunate.

If you are one who is hurting, and sorrow crowds in close to you this year, please know that I am praying for you. I may not know your need. God does. He sees your tears. He knows your pain. I cannot pretend to know the journey you must walk. I will not attempt to placate your hurt with further words. Just know that I’m praying for you.