The Sweetest Thing...
Having been rescued by David and Erica (you'd know them if you came to Dallas. They're the ones driving the small car) I shared The Trusts amazing Anti-Trafficking connect group material (had I mentioned that before, the 6 sessions of justice theology, slavery awareness and opportunities for response which will soon be available for you to us in your Connect Group?) with them via email. And as a result on the following day, Saturday, being the main day of the conference I was still in contact with them. We have a name, and a criminal offence, for this in the U.K. It's called harassment. But I'd work on the basis that a) they weren't aware of this and b) they would just think of me endearingly as an eccentric Englishman. The relevance of this will shortly become apparent.
Meanwhile Calum and I had arrived at the Dr Pepper Arena, and parked up. I always 'park up' and firmly believe that anyone who just 'parks' should attend compulsory English classes. Jo, for some reason I can't fathom, disagrees with me. Anyway, just to say that Texans being the jolly thoughtful people they are have created massive parking lots, sort of everywhere, so that the trucks have somewhere to go when they are not on the roads. As an aside I saw a really smart Tesla showroom in a shopping mall, between H&M and Zara, but I'm not sure they'll sell many Teslas here for two reasons. One, they don't make trucks and two they don't use petrol.
Where was I? Oh yes back in the arena with the 5,000 supporters of, and workers for, freedom for the 45,000,000 people currently in slavery in the world. Today. Whilst I write this, while you read it. Flesh and blood, heart and bone, fears hopes, aspirations and emotions. Just like me and you. It's just that they were born in a different place and didn't have the same protection of family, friends and law enforcement, the same access to justice that we have. That's why it was so good to hear success stories. Stories of liberation and of transformation. Transformation of an individual life like Elisabeth* who, in desperately wanting to support her little brother, was tricked into being trafficked into a brothel in the Philippines when she was only 12. We listened to her story from her own mouth, and through her tears and ours. She finished with a statement of defiance, of faith and of hope and 5,000 people stood to their feet in applause for this brave young girl who refused to be a victim. We heard of transformation of systems as a national police chief, in full uniform, including peaked cap and epaulettes, shared of his passion for justice and his personal involvement in rescuing boys from fishing boats, and the constant risk of death by drowning, on lake Ghana. Much to celebrate. Much to do.
Calum gave his apologies as he had to head off to play his violin at a wedding. ‘Don't worry about me, I'll be fine!’ I said, this time with a little more confidence than previously and headed into a breakout session on ‘Advocacy and the Arts’ which was an absolute gem. ‘Don't edit yourself’ was the sage advice from the singer/songwriter Sara Groves, to those us who want to use our creativity to advocate for justice. I therefore blame Sara for all typos, spelling mistakes and grammar errors (except for ‘parking up’ which is not an error) in this blog! Seriously, she was encouraging us to speak out what is in the heart and letting that achieve its goal rather than looking to the goal and trying to create for that. Wise advice, for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
I corresponded with David again to arrange to show him ‘Sajil’s Story’, the booklet produced by STN Trust and based on the story of a trafficked girl I met in Mumbai. It's this booklet that we hope to get distributed to the villages around Kolkata through our friend Ben Francis in the hope of educating young girls and their families of the dangers of being trafficked into brothers on the promises of jobs in the city. If we can stop just one girl suffering the abuse, the and the emotional and physical pain then it will be worth distributing thousands.
David and Erica were just heading off with their church team to get a bite to eat at Norma’s diner. Would I like to join them? Indeed I would. How could I not go to Norma’s??!! They warmly included me in their ‘family’ and it was a joy to eat fried pickles with them, share a passion for justice and also get in some good plugs for Alpha! It also, by chance and coincidence, gave me the opportunity to ask David and Erica if they happened to be going back into Dallas later and as it happened they were! And yes, they'd be very happy to give me a lift!
I looked up to see ‘Life is short, eat dessert first’ blazoned above David and Erica (they are in the right in the photo!). How true. Or put another way ‘Life is short, try to make it full of sweet moments!’ Listening to stories of freedom and justice had certainly done that, as had meeting David and Erica and their friends from Austin Ridge Church. But more than these, knowing that God has called us to set the captives free, to make the bitter sweet for many, is sweetness itself.