**This is the first guest blog in a series of posts by the 2018 JuST Faith Summit speakers. Check back for new posts highlighting the critical topics that will be featured at this year’s Faith Summit. Join us, June 20-22 at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, for this exciting Summit. Visit this link to see the full agenda and lineup of speakers.
When you’ve been purchased like some toy on a store shelf, hearing or reading that “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price”, is not such good news. Scriptures such as that one were a stumbling block for me in my healing journey. You might be thinking that there aren’t that many verses like that, but you would be wrong.
Everyone likes Psalm 23, right? “He makes me lie down in green pastures”? No thank you. My pastor taught on that verse in October of 2011, comparing it to being a child going to bed at night with no worries – secure in the knowledge that mom and dad were in charge and would keep them safe. He couldn’t understand why that verse made me angry and hurt – until I told him that as a child, going to bed at night was the most dangerous part of my day.
That was Pastor Josh’s “aha” moment. He had never realized how certain scriptures looked, seen through a survivor’s eyes. Thus began a long process of my identifying problem verses to my pastors Josh Causey and Megan Kelly, and them contextualizing, discussing, explaining, rewording, and forever changing how I saw the Word. Exchanging truth for lies, that’s what it’s all about, right? I believe that juvenile sex trafficking is the enemy’s number one weapon in this world. It’s widely known that the best lie is one which contains a little truth. What better way could there be to undermine God than taking love, family, gender, and sex, twisting them into a gross caricature of the Kingdom, and using them as weapons against vulnerable children? And the crown jewel in the enemy’s arsenal? Twisting the meaning of scriptures into fiery darts.
“Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” is no joke. I believe that a deep relationship with Christ is the only path to true healing for survivors. When I first arrived at Living Hope Fellowship, I had been out of the industry and “functional” for ten years. I wasn’t healed, though, and I certainly didn’t have abundant life. The only reason I even went to church was so my daughter would grow up alongside church people and so belong and be accepted as I never could be (I thought). Like many survivors, I had a warped view of the Gospel. I thought the Father was angry at me and wanted to crush me, but as long as I believed in Jesus, then Jesus would protect me from Him and I would get to go to Heaven when I died. Working through Josh and Megan, Jesus brought the scriptures alive for me and I truly began to heal and live as a branch connected to the true vine.
Together, we wrote a guide for you to take back to your church. This guide will equip ministers and advocates to look at scripture through the lens of trafficking and apply sound, spirit-led interpretation in a way that brings life and healing to survivors.
I didn’t ask what these verses meant because I was afraid of the answers. People at church would tell me that God loved me, but those people didn’t know the things I had done. Even as they got to know about my story, they still didn’t know all the stuff. Trust doesn’t come easy to survivors, and it certainly doesn’t come quickly. I was at Living Hope for roughly four years before I trusted Josh with my doubts and my questions. We want to put the truth into survivors’ hands in a non-threatening format. We will be giving the guide out free of charge, along with permission to copy and distribute it as long as you do so in its entirety and do not make any changes to it.
We cannot possibly identify all of the scriptures that hit survivors in a hurtful way, but we want to equip ministers and advocates to go after the hard questions. No two survivors’ stories are the same and we want church members and leaders to be able to see scripture through the lens of trafficking and apply sound, Spirit-led interpretation in a way that brings life and healing to survivors. We also want to equip survivors with the skills and resources to do their own sound, biblical research whenever a verse hits them weird. We want everyone to know that there is no scripture that is contrary to the character of God.
The Word has such power to heal and deepen relationship with Christ. Psalm 23 has become my favorite Psalm, but it took going deeper. On the surface, God allowed me to be placed in a family where I was surrounded by abuse and pain. Where was my green pasture – my “good”? I think the green pasture is not analogous to circumstance, that God is working hard to ensure that I have what is best for me, which is God working in my life to mold my character to be Christ-like. It is God using all that was meant for evil in my life to shape my passion against injustice and my love for the oppressed – to make my heart like his. And a heart like His is the ultimate good and the greenest of pastures.
It is beyond wretched that the enemy would use God’s own words to harm His children. We can take this weapon out of his hand for good.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now
- PRAY! Always the first action.
- Get involved with local efforts to fight trafficking .
- Come to the JuST Faith Summit and get equipped!
By Deb Haltom, Survivor Advocate, Living Hope Fellowship