Christianity urged to fight trafficking
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Nov 15, 2013 | 1122 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER CHURCH OF GOD General Overseer Mark Williams, center, attended General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church Dr. Jo Anne Lyon’s presentation at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary Thursday afternoon. From left are Dr. Cheryl Bridges-Johns, PTS professor of discipleship and Christian formation; Lyon; Williams; Sandra Kay Williams; and Dr. Sang-Ehil Han, PTS vice president for academics and professor of theology and spirituality.
Dust swirled around the feet of Dr. Jo Anne Lyon and her companions. On each side of the long road were one-room structures. White plastic chairs lined the front of the wooden shacks.

From porches peered out the faces of children for sale.

Lyon, the general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church and former CEO of World Hope International, said she and her companions did not have a word for what they were seeing. Terms like “modern day slavery” and “human trafficking” were not popularized at that point in 1996.

The small traveling party continued their journey down the road. Lyon began snapping photos of the children. At one point, a pimp attempted to take the camera from Lyon.

“We kept walking. The more we walked and the more we looked, the more our hearts broke,” Lyon shared during a luncheon at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary Thursday afternoon. “We were face to face with evil.” 

All four finally decided to stop and pray.

“Three old ladies and a tired missionary,” Lyon recalled. “That is a weak group.”

She said they presented themselves to the Lord and said while they had no help or resources, they were willing to give themselves to make a change.

Years later, Lyon still recalls the prayer. She still sees the faces of the children. And she still fights to overcome evil through the combination of justice and holiness.

She said she believes God is calling Christians with the intent of eradicating human trafficking, begging systems, modern-day slavery and body harvesting.

“I believe at this time in history, and with [these particular issues] that God is calling people to intervene,” Lyon said. “It cannot happen without the transforming power of God.”

Media coverage began to alert the public to the inhumanities being faced by children in other countries in the years following Lyon’s return from Cambodia. The United Nations began applying definitions and words to the injustices. Lyon continued her work through her position in World Hope International.

She also continued to see the devastation of, as she described it, “evil.”

One such evil is the selling of children’s body parts on the black market in places like Liberia.

“As we moved across the country, we saw children dead there, strewn across the bush with missing body parts,” Lyon said. “... These (body parts) were for rich people who can buy a kidney or buy an eye on the black market at the expense of an unknown, poor, probably orphaned Liberian child.”

Assessment centers have since been placed throughout countries with these issues by World Hope and other organizations. Many who enter have seen the horrors life can have. Lyon explained those with the darkest past are also discovering the brightest future.

One such story was about a young boy who was kidnapped and sold into a begging ring. He was forced to beg for money. His legs were broken when his handlers believed it would increase his earnings.

Eventually the boy was placed in jail and later rescued by an organization. Lyon met him and he offered to show her the pictures of his life. The first one was dark and grim.

He then showed her a picture of his life once he entered the center.

“It was a beautiful picture. It had flowers and all kinds of colors,” Lyon said. “And these words I have never been able to get away from. He wrote across the top of the page, ‘Jesus Loves Me.’”

Continued Lyon, “And I thought to myself, he knows about Jesus’ love far more than I will ever know.”

She reminded her audience the same acts are being conducted in the United States.

“It is estimated there are 250,000 children sold in this country,” Lyon said. “...They found 50 men from Mexico working in southern Virginia on a farm as slaves. I don’t mean they were migrant workers. I mean they were brought in the back of a truck and they were working as slaves.”

Church of God General Overseer Mark Williams weighed in on the topic following Lyon’s presentation.

He said he heard recently on the news there had been 100 cases of human trafficking in Hamilton County. Fifty percent of the cases dealt with minors.

Williams assured Lyon the Church of God was on the same page when it came to the issues she discussed.

Added Williams, “We may be late to the table, but we are at the table now. Whatever we can do, we are committed to doing it.”

Lyon laid out the atrocities she saw, but left her audience with hope.

She said she had returned years later to the same dusty Cambodian road she had traversed in ’96.

“I couldn’t believe it. The structures are no longer there. Those porches are no longer there. Those children are no longer there,” Lyon said. “The children were playing in the streets like normal children and the most vile brothel that was in that area is now a church.”