By Sharon Mager
SILVER SPRING, Md—Immigration and human trafficking were the subjects of a “Called to Care-Our Biblical Mandate” conference on June 28 at Viers Mill Baptist Church, sponsored by Embrace Silver Spring and the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network/BCMD.
According to Ron Blankenship, Montgomery Baptist Association’s director of missions, there are more language people groups in Silver Spring than perhaps any other city of its size in America. With the blessings of that rich cultural diversity come the challenges of immigration and trafficking issues.
The immigration issue affects the human trafficking situation, stressed Cecil Mahendran, MBA director of ministers’ fellowship, who heard about the issue at a retreat at Skycroft Conference Center and said his eyes were opened. Manhedran, who helped coordinate this year’s conference, said vulnerable immigrants can easily become victims of the insidious trafficking practice but they’re afraid to go to the authorities for fear of being deported.
Nathan Mile Lundgren, a new site specialist with World Relief, an organization committed to empowering churches in the areas of anti-trafficking initiatives, immigrant legal services and refugee resettlement, agrees with Mahendran.
Lundgren said immigrants that are here are uniquely vulnerable. “They don’t know what their rights are. It’s easier to coerce them.
“The other component is that some people are coerced into coming here with false promises of work,” Lundgren said. Then, they are intimidated by telling them they can’t go to the authorities, or even threatening to injure their families back home if they don’t cooperate.
“Nobody is talking about it openly,” Mahendran said. “It’s going on in our own back yard.”
According to the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAST) website, there are more slaves worldwide than at any other time in history.
Prevention is the key, FAST Alliance Coordinator Mandy Porter, said. “Churches already have the platform for prevention.” Porter said churches can partner with community organizations such as local Parent Teacher Associations at schools to teach children how to prevent being lured into trafficking situations. They can also teach adults how to recognize the signs of trafficking victims as well as provide healing and rehabilitation for victims.
“We need to get the information into the schools to protect our kids before they become exploited,” Porter emphasized.
Margaret Gooden, who works with youth at Trinity Baptist Church, Hyattsville, said that’s why she attended—to help teach trafficking prevention.
“Young people need to be aware, and I want to learn more and be able to forewarn them,” Gooden said.
FAST encourages churches to commit to pray for God to provide opportunities and wisdom in dealing with the issue of human trafficking; to support existing organizations through funds and volunteering; to become educated and to learn when and how to report potential sex trafficking situations.
The organization has Bible study curriculum aimed at educating pre-teens, and their families about the issue of human trafficking as well as adult awareness studies, and Bible study material. The organization also offers an “Engage Together” church “toolkit” with an abundance of resources.
Natasha Lester, management and program analyst for the Department of Homeland Security office of Citizenship/Immigration Services, shared the general sometimes overwhelming challenges immigrants face and provided attendees packages of information with resources for churches that want to minister to immigrants. Many of those materials can be downloaded or ordered at the Citizenship Resource Center site. Lester encouraged churches to offer English as Second Language classes and citizenship preparatory classes.
Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network /BCMD’s Wendy Mindte, missionary for ministry evangelism, told attendees “English as a Second Language” classes are incredible opportunities to open doors for immigrant ministry.” Churches are welcome to contact Mindte for more information, WMindte@bcmd.org.
Throughout the conference the theme was helping the vulnerable, ministering in the name of Jesus, loving and sharing the Gospel of Jesus. It’s a Biblical mandate.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute,” Proverbs 31:8.