Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Short Term Missionaries Impact Human Trafficking

This is an article I wrote for the CalvaryBlog.

"When I got back, I knew one thing and one thing only: God didn't want me to settle back into my life. God called us to be extraordinary in an ordinary life."
---Juan Guevara

Juan Guevara recently returned from Cartagena, Colombia, along with a short-term team of missionary volunteers from Calvary. The team prepared for a ministry itinerary that was packed. Here’s an overview of the ministry they did and the people they served:

  • Vacation Bible school and meal outreach for local children
  • Pre-construction site clearing for an orphanage
  • Downtown movie night evangelistic outreach
  • Ministry to incarcerated women in prison
  • Ministry to nursing home residents
  • Community trash pickup
  • Street evangelism among prostitutes

Eyes opened

The team was light hearted as they deplaned and went through customs in Cartagena. A giant sign behind uniformed customs agents caught everyone’s attention as they moved through the line. As the sign’s message was translated from Spanish to English, each team member began to get serious. "Our children are not a tourism destination," the sign said.

“This is for real,” Guevara said. "It hits us. We’re here for a mission." It was a sobering reminder to the team that they are called as Jesus’ ambassadors of healing, good news and righteousness.

Cartagena, Colombia, is a popular sexual tourism destination. Prostitution is rampant. Two of the teams’ major goals were to minister to prostitutes and to intervene in the lives of at risk children to prevent them from turning to prostitution or becoming victims of human trafficking. To achieve this, Calvary Chapel Outreach established a partnership with two groups working in Cartagena: Gifts of Mercy and Colombia Grace Foundation. Gifts of Mercy is a school started by a Colombian professional woman on a mission to impact the world she influences for Jesus Christ. Colombia Grace Foundation started when two young families moved from small town life in Oregon to the Colombia’s mean streets to rescue orphans from a life of abuse and exploitation.

The team cleared the site where Gifts of Mercy will construct a new school. Some forty kids tagged along with the team wherever they went and helped clean. The short-term missionaries used the limited time they had disciple the kids. They did their best to leave a lasting impact on everyone they came in contact with.

Isla Tierrabomba

The impoverished Isla Tierrabomba was one ministry destination. No running water exists on the island. Many of the houses look adequate but are really just empty shells constructed by drug cartels to store their product. Many families resort to the prostitution of their children to feed themselves. Residents of the island are cut of from Cartagena and cannot even afford boat fare to travel to work in the city.

Ministry happened on Tierrabomba as the team put together Vacation Bible School and fed the kids. “So many kids were there that we thought we didn’t have enough food for the kids,” said Guevara. “We kept splitting portions of chicken and rice and watched the food go further than we ever thought it would. It was like the Lord did a ‘loaves and fishes’ thing.”

Ministry to Prostitutes

Evidence of sexual tourism was everywhere. As the team shared a meal at an outside pizza restaurant, they observed the activity buzzing around a nearby nightclub. “It was a beehive for prostitution,” said Guevara. “We planned a night out to witness to the prostitutes.” They met Martina, the daughter of a pastor now working as a prostitute.

“How much do you need to make tonight to go home to feed your babies?” Guevara asked one girl. “Do you want to go home?” Some girls took the money and ministry offered and went home for the night. Some didn’t.

"God loves you and we're going to try to stop this..."

Juan Guevara reflected on the lasting impact this trip had on him. There are two things that he encourages us at Calvary Chapel to do:

check markBe aware that human trafficking is happening right here in our own community. “Keep your eyes open,” he said.

check markGo on a mission trip. "We're all called to go on a mission trip."

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