HUMAN TRAFFICKING

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed.  (Psalm 10:12)

“Human trafficking is a modern-day slave trade. It violates human rights and exploits innocent people” ( Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, president, sixty-first session, U.N. General Assembly.)

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

 The pastor on Sunday, May11th, Rev. Jim Neumann, called for the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church in Saginaw to be engaged in learning more about the 32 billion dollar industry of HUMAN TRAFFICKING.  In light of all recent news about the teenage girls taken in Nigeria, we are called to be aware of the fact this is also an issue for those of us who live in this country and in Michigan.

Over the last decade, numerous human trafficking cases have been prosecuted in Michigan. The court dockets detail the horror stories: Children being sold for sex at truck stops, servants held in captivity and forced to clean for free, and women forced into the sex industry, forfeiting their earnings.[1]   

And this story in this same publication illustrates how close to home this this situation has become:

Jean Claude Toviave, a former University of Michigan janitor and part-time tennis instructor, is federally charged with trying to pass off four African immigrants as his own children, giving them fake names and birth dates to sneak them over in 2006. Documents accuse him of abusing them for years in his Ypsilanti home, which he got through Habitat for Humanity, and forcing them to do housework.

 

His so-called children told authorities they were deprived of food and beaten with broom handles, a plunger, electrical cords and an ice scraper when they didn’t finish chores or homework. They detailed the years of abuse in journals, which police confiscated, and said Toviave threatened them if they tried to leave.

 

The “children” weren’t a big secret. Prosecutors say he enrolled the three youngest — 21, 20 and 15 — in a public middle school.

 

 The students reported the abuse to counselors, triggering an investigation.

 

Toviave, 42, was arrested in May and is behind bars on human trafficking and forced labor charges.

 

What can we do?   We can study and learn all we can about this issue!   We prayerfully discern what we can do as advocates/activists for change.  I would also suggest sharing the stories we hear.  We must pray!   

For those in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) family, I would also commend to your study and reflection numeroius resources—many provided by Presbyterian Women .[2]

Prayer:[3]   Pray Psalm 10 in light of the plight of the millions of modern day slaves.

 

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2 In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor– let them be caught in the schemes they have devised. 3 For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart, those greedy for gain curse and renounce the LORD. 4 In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”; all their thoughts are, “There is no God.” 5 Their ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of their sight; as for their foes, they scoff at them. 6 They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved; throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.” 7 Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under their tongues are mischief and iniquity. 8 They sit in ambush in the villages; in hiding places they murder the innocent. Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; 9 they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert; they lurk that they may seize the poor; they seize the poor and drag them off in their net. 10 They stoop, they crouch, and the helpless fall by their might. 11 They think in their heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” 12 Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed. 13 Why do the wicked renounce God, and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”? 14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers; seek out their wickedness until you find none. 16 The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land. 17 O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear 18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

[1] http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2012-01-22-us-human-trafficking_N.htm

[2] http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/theologyandworship/human-trafficking/

[3]   Ibid

 

Mother’s Day Sermon: “Keeper of the Springs” by Peter Marshall

Bound and Nurtured in God's Love

MOTHER’S DAY SERMON — based on “KEEPER OF THE SPRINGS” By Peter Marshall

MAY 09, 2010 

I shared this sermon with the congregation on Mother’s Day following the wedding of our daughter, Emily Susan.  This sermon is dedicated to her mother and my wife, Nancy Cundiff. Nancy.

 

Psalm 139:  1-6, 17

The Inescapable God

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

O Lord, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it.

 

How weighty to me are your thoughts…

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My Active Health — Nurse Coaching

PCUSA clergy friends:  I have grown over this past year to appreciate the “Nurse Coach” program provided by the Board of Pensions.  I visit with my coach every six to eight weeks.  No charge!  Confidential!  We set goals in each visit designed to improve my health.  I receive wonderful counsel for follow-up visits with local doctors.  If part of the pension plan, I strong recommend this program!   www.myactivehealth.com

 

Mother’s Day Sermon: “Keeper of the Springs” by Peter Marshall

MOTHER’S DAY SERMON — based on “KEEPER OF THE SPRINGS” By Peter Marshall

MAY 09, 2010 

I shared this sermon with the congregation on Mother’s Day following the wedding of our daughter, Emily Susan.  This sermon is dedicated to her mother and my wife, Nancy Cundiff. Nancy.

 

Psalm 139:  1-6, 17

The Inescapable God

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

O Lord, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it.

 

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

 

I Corinthians 13

The Gift of Love

 

A friend of Emily’s who came to her wedding in San Francisco from here in Saginaw, Sarah Hussle Starkweather, read the scripture from I Corinthians you just heard.

 

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

SERMON 

MARCH 20TH IS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE DAYS OF MY LIFE!  This was the day I took the arm of Emily, looked her in the eyes, kissed her on the cheek, and gave her to my soon-to-be new Son-in-law Ken – as they became ONE in marriage…and ONE with Christ!  I still get a bit choked up with this!

Some Personal Reflections…..

 1.  How can I give my daughter away?   I can’t give away what isn’t mine to start with.  Emily has always belonged to God.  Nancy and I have been entrusted the care of Emily. We have passed on to Ken and Emily their mutual responsibility to care for each other as they grow together in their marriage.  In the larger scheme of things, confirmed through baptism, we belong to God.  Yet it is hard to let go of those we truly love.

In recent weeks we sent to God’s glory two loved ones:  Jim Morford and Burt Neumeyer.  It’s hard to let go of a someone who has been a soul-mate for so many years, in the case of Burt, over 63 years.  Jim and Billy were married just about as long.  Some of you as parents are letting go of your children as they graduate from High School or College or move on to new things – in new places – in their own way!  In and throughout life, we belong to God….and God holds us with the same love a mother and father feel for a child….or a child feels for a parent…..a husband and wife experience with each other.

2.  A second reflection:   During the reception at Emily and Ken’s wedding, the beautiful San Francisco sky-line in the background, a man and his wife came up to me and said the service had meaning for them as they thought about their wedding vows…..made some years earlier.  (I think this person was Ken’s former boss and an avid fan of the California 49er’s.)  In thinking about this, I learned anew the value of having a public ceremony and reception….not only to celebrate with Emily and Ken their marriage….but celebrating the bonds God nurtures in all relationships when we gather for these events….AND REMEMBERING WE ALL BELONG TO GOD…..

3.  At third reflection:  All of us, young and old, wherever we are in our journey through life….we are called to be “Keepers of the Springs of Life”.  This happens to be the title of the late Peter Marshall’s little story I want to share with you now.[1]

There was a little village that grew up at the foot of a mountain range—a peaceful place with fresh breezes, an ample radiance of flowers, and (most important) fresh water which tumbled down the mountain streams, splashed over waterfalls, and sparkled into the sunlight of the valley where all the streams finally joined forces and bubbled joyously into the town.

 

The people love this beautiful stream that flowed through their town, with its pure water that one could see right through the smooth stones that formed the riverbed and the fish that fought their way upstream.  Children played with their toy sailboats by its banks, millwheels were turned by its force, in the heat of the summer the people drank long and deep from its pure water, never having to fear a thing, and by its farmers’ fields were irrigated.

 

High up in the mountain, there was an employee of the village, a happy hermit who lived in the forest and earned his living as the “KEEPER OF THE SPRINGS”.  It was his job to tend the pools and the springs that formed the source of this sparkling little stream.  This KEEPER OF THE SPRINGS would patrol the hills and wherever he found a spring or a pool, he would clean the silt from its surface, scrape away the fallen leaves, sift out all foreign matter that might decompose in the water, so the spring would tumble down the mountainside cold and pure.  He took his job seriously, for each day as he set about his task he would think of the townsfolk down below….the children, the babies, the mothers and fathers, the animals who depended upon that clear, pure water for their well-being.

 

But the City Council was a group of hard-boiled pragmatists who one year scanned the civic budget and questioned the need for this KEEPER OF THE SPRINGS.  “Why should we pay for this freeloader to watch our water?  We never see him.  Surely he is not necessary to our town’s life.”  So the City Council voted to dispense with this “unnecessary cost” and the man was forced to look elsewhere for his livelihood.

 

Well, soon the silt began to pile up around the mountain springs.  Decaying branches and leaves fell into the pools and decomposed, filling the pure spring waters with cloudy debris.  The streams didn’t seem to sparkle as much as they tumbled down the mountainside; the fish were now seen dimly through a cloud of foreign matter.  And finally, the City Council admitted its mistake, re-convened, and sent out a search for that KEEP{ER OF THE SPRINGS to come back and restore their polluted stream to its prior glory.[2] 

Today is Mother’s Day.  Our first task is to give thanks to God for these KEEPERS OF THE SPRINGS – for these women who gave us life, who reared us, who by example or by instruction instilled within us their enduring values and parental wisdom that has helped us live in this complicated world.  Yes, we pay tribute to those KEEPERS OF THE SPRINGS, our mothers – strong ladies — who labor without glory behind the scenes, with little praise or acclamation they sorely deserve.  

A key question for all of us – women and men alike:  Of what Springs am I a Keeper?”   What young, impressionable persons are in our charge?  When children are baptized, what commitment do we all make to nurture children in faith in Jesus Christ?  What responsibility has God placed on each of us to care for the children in this community — in passing on the ‘legacy of faith’ that us brought us to this time and place in this church and community?

Grandparents and Great Grandparents ask:  Am I going to help nurture growth of young minds through the sharing of some of my wealth of knowledge and insight?  What a great time, the senior years, to share stories, pictures, insights to help new generations grow in faith?   I know it’s asking a lot, but if some of our seniors would volunteer to assist our ChurchSchool teachers on Sunday mornings….this would be an enriching experience for ALL!

Young Adults ask:  Will I listen to the “Keeper of the Springs”? It is so easy to succumb to peer pressure when it comes to things we get involved with that are less that wholesome or healthy.  It is so easy to escaping into a world of VIDEO GAMES or TEXTING instead of nurturing face-to-face communications with parents and grandparents….friends and neighbors.  So many young people don’t feel they need the “community of the church” or that they can get “religion” off the INTERNET!   So much is lost when young people miss the opportunity to be, socially-connected, members of the living Body of Christ….in community, together, face-to-face!  (To be honest, a lot of older people are missing what it means to be part of Christ’s community as well! 

IN THE CONTEXT OF CHURCH, ARE WE NOT ALL, YOUNG AND OLD, KEEPERS OF THE SPRINGS OF LIFE?  IN THE CONTEXT OF COMMUNITY, ARE WE NOT OUR NEIGHBOR’S KEEPER?  Or will we live in an “I/ME” world where all I have to worry about is MY next pay check or pension check; a full pantry;  a nice home;  a new car; descent insurance….that’s all “I/WE” need or want.  Am I going to live my life taking from the world what I can get letting others have what is left over?  In the context of today’s scripture, are we going to consider what it means to be KEEPERS OF THE WEALTH OF BLESSNGS GOD HAS ENTRUSTED OUR CARE? 

So what does God want us to carry away this morning from this message?   I would suggest we look at the SPRINGS/THE VALUES/THE FAITH WE NURTURE AND KEEP AND IMPART TO THOSE AROUND US….daughters and sons and nieces and nephews and grandchildren and great-grandchildren…and neighbors and co-workers and co-students – and accept God’s challenge to expand our circle of friends and neighbors….to the hungry, the homeless, the orphans, the poor, the helpless, the mentally ill, he imprisoned, the lonely —  the forgotten children of God who desperately need what we can give them, collectively, as KEEPERS OF THE SPRINGS OF LIFE?  

I now want to read to you a portion of a letter written by a young mother, Micaela Solano, who is working in partnership with Saginaw Habitat for Humanity in acquiring a new home for her family….bit of background from this rather long letter….[3] 

April 30:  To say Macaela has had a rough life is an understatement.  She grew up in a single parent home coming from a family of 14 – surrounded by violence, drugs and abuse – living in abandoned houses, hotels, parks….all the money her mother had went to buy alcohol and gambling.   

At the age of five she was influenced by a pastor, a “Keeper of the Springs”, Ulysses Garcia, telling her for the first time about God.  At the age of 14 she became pregnant had her first son.  Moving to California she became part the California’s Foster Care System…learning some positive things about how to be a good parent……moving back to Michigan….this is where I pick up with Macaela’s own words:

There was a point in the last few years that I knew I needed something better for myself and the future of my children.  ….I was looking for something more.  I didn’t want to live off the system the rest of my life.  I moved to Linton Street….during my time there my house got burglarized, my vehicle got stolen and my dog murdered.  But I knew things were going to get better….”

Things got better for Macaela with full-time work as a Certified Nursing Assistant and now volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to construct her own home. She says and I quote:

I found my purpose.  I don’t regret anything that my children and I have been through.  I know who I am and I know what I want to do now……I am my family’s greatest cheer leader and tell myself every day:  I can do it.  I will do it.  I did do it.

She is now working to “engrave God on the hearts of her children”.  She is a “Keeper of the Springs” of life entrusted her care.

ARE WE GOING TO RE-COMMIT OURSELVES, THIS MOTHER’S DAY, TO BECOME THE KEEPERS OF THE SPRINGS OF LIFE?    

 

IN WHAT WAYS CAN WE GROW IN CARING FOR THE SPRINGS OF LIFE ENTRUSTED OUR CARE?  THINK ABOUT THIS.  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  WHAT CAN WE DO BETTER?  IN CARING FOR THE SPRINGS OF LIFE ENTRUSTED OUR CARE.

CAN WE SAY, WITH MACAELA:

I CAN DO IT!

I WILL DO IT!

I DID DO IT?”

 

 

AMEN

 

 

[1]   I first saw this story in a sermon by Rev. David Handley, May 9, 1982.  I then preached on this theme again on May 12, 1991. 

[2]   Mr. Jones Meets the Master, Peter Marshall, pg 147-148 

[3]  Habitat for Humanity promotional letter sent out April 30 from Paul Warriner, Executive Director of Saginaw Habitat for Humanity.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETING IN DETROIT: LASER FOCUS ON UNITY

Bound and Nurtured in God's Love

 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETING IN DETROIT:  LASER FOCUS ON UNITY

 

As elected commissioners are preparing to come together in Detroit (June 14-21) to become the “voice” of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we know that there will be several issues up for debate.  I am assuming the issue of same-gender marriage will be among the most contentious of issues on the docket.  As in the past, commissioners will debate this and many other issues with conviction and passion.  As in the past, a variety of diverse opinions will be brought forward that are faithful to our reformed tradition.  These opinions will be thoughtful and faithful to various interpretations of scripture, confessions, and the constitution of the church.  That is why I invite all who read this blog to read and be guided in prayer by our Book of Order (Constitution) that says:

 

The General Assembly is the council of the whole…

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MINISTRY TOOLS IN WORKING WITH URBAN CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Keywords in my ministry at the Warren Ave. Presbyterian Church are connected with the same two concepts described by Chip Hardwick in his recent blog—COLLABORATING AND INNOVATING.  http://www.pcusa.org/blogs/comings-and-goings/2014/5/5/collaborating-and-innovating

As a former pastor of this small congregation with a huge building, a gigantic heart for the well-being of inner city children and plenty of sacred space to share with the community, the Session opened the doors to the Women of Colors Inc. for office and classroom use.  The Session also opened the church Gym and adjoining kitchen and classrooms for the Mark Neumeier Youth Center—an after-school / summer youth camp for as many as 60 neighborhood children .  

What made these decisions unique:

1.  Innovative vision in giving rent-free space to two organizations providing  programming and advocacy for the well-being of community children—programming aligned with the mission priorities of the church.

2.  Collaborative partnership with established organizations that had specialized expertise in running programs for children—more expertise than members of this small congregation with a huge building!

While I am no longer pastor of this Saginaw church, I truly believe this congregation is blessed with leadership willing to think “outside the box” in doing innovative/collaborative ministries. 

To end with three excellent questions Chip Hardwick asks in his blog: 

First, what are innovations which are currently going on in society and in the church which can help congregations to thrive?  Second, what are the basics of change management which will help church leaders to navigate congregational preferences and politics to implement the innovations?  Finally, what are the habits of the mind which help congregational leaders develop innovations on their own?”

May God continue to enrich and bless us in the work we do as church leaders!