Have you ever found yourself in a moment where God had so orchestrated every aspect of your experience that it became a profound milestone in your life? I'm not talking about an experience like the Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus...hearing the audible voice of God. However, not unlike that experience of the apostle, it was a moment that created a new awareness for you, or opened a door, or changed the course of your life. One of those moments for me occurred in January 2010.
That cold January day, I found my self sitting in the midst of 21,000 college students and workers, at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. I had taken a group of college students from our campus ministry at Arkansas Tech University to Passion Conference...a gathering of students from 37 countries and all across the United States, along with ministry leaders, speakers, and musicians. This gathering was for the purpose of challenging the next generation of world changers...to make an impact upon our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The conference was an amazing experience as we were challenged by speakers to embrace the gospel, live out our faith in real ways and to give ourselves to make a difference in a dark world that desperately needs the light of Jesus Christ. The messages were inspired by the Holy Spirit and there were many, on the last day of the conference, who stood as a testimony to how the Spirit had worked in their lives...some, to accept Christ as Savior, others who had wounds healed, and still others who's eyes were opened to the need for a generation to bring the love and good news of Jesus Christ to the world. In amazement, I saw this group respond to a challenge to give financially with $668,000 to fund 12 global causes (a couple in attendance matched this giving to total $1.3M)! That's college students giving over half a million dollars! Wow! What a move of the Spirit upon their hearts.
A Time of Awakening
These causes included things such as digging wells and sponsoring children in developing countries, building an education center for the Dalit people in India, sending men to seminary in Muslim countries and rescuing women from human trafficking. And that...that last thing...human trafficking...that grabbed my attention.
Woven throughout the three days of the conference was a series of video clips that followed a particular young woman's story. The videos chronicled her situation of living in poverty. Her family told of their desperate need and the promise that came from people from the city, that their daughter could go and work for a family there, doing domestic work, so that she could send money back to support them with food and other necessities. However, as the story unfolded, they lost contact with her and, to their horror, heard stories that she may have been taken into a sex slave trade industry. As these vignettes continued throughout the conference, information about the proliferation and immensity of human trafficking was shared...helping us to understand just how enormous this tragic situation is and what has to be done to combat it around the world...even right here at home. As these series of video presentations came to a climax on the third day of the conference, it was revealed that this particular young woman had been rescued from her captors and, in that moment, she was introduced to the gathering, standing in person on the stage. You can imagine the response of the conference attendees as they erupted in applause and celebration...even now, as I write this, my eyes fill with tears at the memory of that moment. And at that moment, something else happened...I began to ask myself (maybe it was the voice of the Spirit asking)..."What if that were my daughter? Or my wife? Or any other of the women I know personally in my life? What would I do to go and find them and rescue them?" I immediately realized that I would stop at nothing to do whatever was in my power to find them and bring them to safety. That was my awakening!
Awakening Leads to Seeking
It was at that moment that I began to ask, "What can I do?" I wanted to know how I could make a difference. I prayed for God to show me His plan...open doors...give me opportunities.
Fast-forward two years. In the two intervening years, I never lost sight of this thing God had placed in my heart...I educated myself, I had conversations, I contacted people and organizations who were doing the work of fighting against human trafficking. Then, my opportunity to go to the Philippines in 2012, as part of a humanitarian aid team, opened the process of making connections and giving me experiences in developing countries. I was being exposed to life in the culture of Southeast Asia, where much of the world's trafficking takes place. This would eventually lead to the opportunity to go to Thailand and be involved in researching the need, searching for actual evidence of human trafficking and consulting with one of the leaders of an organization that is rescuing, educating, and bringing to justice, the perpetrators. I had the opportunity to assist a daycare that provides childcare for mothers who are in aftercare and to consult with two foster care missionaries who care for children who are rescued from trafficking situations. It was only a scratch of the surface, but it was a way for me to be involved and to use my experience to highlight and promote the need. Putting a spotlight on support and action to reach those who are enslaved and feel hopeless. Below, you can see a video that I did to share some of what I had learned and what we can do to make a difference (the email address at the end is no longer valid).
Social Justice is at the Heart of the Father
As followers of Christ, who are seeking to pursue our purpose daily, we find that what is at the core of the Father's heart becomes the core of our heart...it is a process, and we must be willing to let Him do the work of transforming our hearts and shaping them to look like the heart of Christ.
This past year (2020) has been a challenging year...a worldwide pandemic, social isolation, fear of health crises, racial tension, political unrest, public vitriol and division. There is no shortage of needs when it comes to caring for the hurting, advocating for the oppressed and disenfranchised, and speaking against injustice. These needs are as old as humanity and they have always been at the heart of God's plan for all people. His heart and mission is the redemption of all, through the message of his gospel.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
A part of this mission to redeem all who will come to Him, is His concern for justice and care for the hurting.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
As people who are seeking to live out our purpose in this life and for our world, that purpose will have at the heart of it, the passion for people to know the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and for them to experience the love of a God who knows where they are and desires to administer healing and hope to their situation. Let's ask ourselves, how does my purpose incorporate and live out that core mission of the Father?
A Process of Being a Purposeful Change Agent
When it comes to the idea of social justice and caring for, and doing something about, injustices and oppression in our world, I have been thinking through the process that is involved...at least how I am experiencing it. When things came to a head with the death of George Floyd and the focus on many other similar situations...there are many other names I could list, like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery...I began a process to understand, respond and be intentional as a person who wants to live my life with purpose. I will share with you, my process and, perhaps, it will be a catalyst for others to consider the same path of growth and purpose as well. I have developed a graphic that helps to describe this process that I am pursuing. The pyramid suggests two things about the process.
This is foundational to the process. We can't hope to make any real difference, if we don't start here. I realized very quickly as I was pondering the issues of social justice, that I have to look at my own heart and thinking first. I had to face the perspectives, prejudices, blind spots and ways that I had abdicated my responsibility to advocate for change. I needed to listen to those who were suffering. I needed to re-examine what I viewed as normal and consider whether I was seeing through eyes of reality, or through a perspective that was skewed or tainted by years of injustice and was accepted as the way it should be. I needed to be educated and I needed to be honest with myself. This isn't a pleasant process, but it is a necessary one. Frankly, it is one that continues.
This is where interactional change begins to take place. While I was experiencing internal change in the first step, this is where I would begin to make a difference through the relationships of influence that I have. Through conversations with my family members, friends, and people of color, I began to speak words that confronted ingrained racism, made myself vulnerable to listen and learn, and speak some small measure of healing to those who have experienced oppression and prejudice themselves...whether in overt ways, or in their identification with those who were very public victims. Because of the love of God in my life, I want to express that love to others in real and concrete ways. That will continue to be a process.
This is the step where we move into the realm of advocating for change in our culture. Whether it is through social media, public protest, or influencing political leaders, at this step we begin to take measures to speak for those who experience injustice. For instance, in the issue of human trafficking; communicating the need, supporting the organizations that address the need, and partnering with those who are on the forefront of the effort to make change, are all ways that we engage in social advocacy. A life of purpose looks for ways to make a difference through the avenues that we are afforded in our culture.
Frankly, this is the level at which many people may not have the opportunity to effect change in the world. We are not all pastors, politicians or social media influencers. However, if God gives us a platform with a public voice, our purpose calls us to speak the heart of the mission to the world: God wants to redeem every person and He wants that redemption to include the demolition of that which oppresses, kills, marginalizes or discounts the value of even one life...from the womb to the tomb. If God chooses to give you that platform, be a voice of love, truth and healing to a world that uses people as stepping stones for success, wealth and power.
What did the prophet Micah tells us in his message from God?
That is a great description of a person who is pursuing their God-given purpose 365 days a year.
What was an awakening moment for you? What organizations have you partnered with to make a difference in supporting justice and healing? Have you had conversations with people about your response to the needs of those who are voiceless? Share in the comments below...we are excited to hear your thoughts!
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!