August 19, 2019 | Read more »
Coming into this experience, I had one solidified goal in mind: to actually do something about human trafficking. In the sermon I gave at the beginning of my time at Underwood, I asked, “What do you do?” It was through a weekly discussion on the issue of human trafficking that I hoped to serve as a guide to answer this question. I presented the issue of human trafficking as a result of desperation, and a solid core of congregants participated faithfully. The conversation started by informing the group about the forms human trafficking can take around the world and within the community, and spanned all the way to coming up with creative ways to address different sources of desperation through partnership and by a means of their own creation. I can't wait to see where they go from here.
In our first session, we had a guest, Jarrett Luckett, from ExploitNoMore, a local aftercare facility. Jarrett really helped guide our discussion and paint a really clear picture as to the forms human trafficking can take, specifically highlighting the Milwaukee area. It was an incredibly informative session that served as the foundation for the rest of our sessions. Every week, we were given homework. After introducing the issue of human trafficking and explaining its relationship to desperation, our homework the first week was to seek out and identify sources of desperation. Poverty, Hunger, Under/Unemployment, Lack of Childcare, Lack of Education, just to name a few.
Our second session had several newcomers. With so many new faces, we did a pretty in-depth recapitulation of our first session to get everyone on the same page. From there, we collected the sources of desperation that we had identified over the previous week. As many people in attendance hadn’t been assigned the homework, I shared the story of my friend who went through the prison system and highlighted how incarceration is a source of desperation to get the conversation started. This discussion led to the introduction of resources, as well as our homework for the week: to seek out and identify resources (community and personal). A tremendous list was returned the following week, with a wide range from personal resources such as volunteer time or specific skills to community resources like 211, The Boys and Girls Club, shelters and pantries, and advocacy programs.
Our third session was the most exciting. We had a guest for this session as well, Kate Knowlton, a local family lawyer. It was here that we collected our resources, with Kate chiming in to help the group find other groups with whom to partner. Kate was as much a cheerleader as a resource herself. Already, I could see the wheels turning in the group and seeing how they could connect the dots to have a real impact. It was clear to me at this time, that this was no longer my discussion to lead. For my final guiding thoughts, I shared the words that have impacted my life. They are attributed to Frederick Buechner, and I paraphrase them as follows, “God’s desire for your life lies at the crossroads of your talents and your passions, directed towards the world’s needs.” From this, our final week of homework was assigned: what do you like to do?
Our fourth and final session was a creative brainstorm, drawing the connections between community resources, sources of desperation, and the things the group identified as fun things to do. It was pretty exciting and pretty overwhelming all at the same time. But the group has a great mix of personalities and individual skills. I have complete faith that I led them to a place where they can own this conversation and make something of this.
Going forward, they’ll need the help of the congregation. They’re taking on an important task, to address desperation in Milwaukee in a way that is meaningful and empowering. They’ll need your prayers, they’ll need your wisdom, and they’ll need your trust.