Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., takes to heart Exodus 3. The members of this dynamic church believe that just as God heard the cry of His children when they were slaves in Egypt, He has heard the cry of children who are victims of human trafficking today. And just as Moses was called by God to rescue the children of Israel, Calvary Chapel feels that same call to help rescue trafficked children.
Recently, Cherie Rayburn for Compassion Magazine caught up with Outreach Pastor Chet Lowe to learn about the heart of Calvary Chapel for this cause, as well as the role Compassion sponsorship plays in the church’s strategy for protecting children from this terrible “business."
PASTOR CHET, WHY IS THE PREVENTION OF CHILD TRAFFICKING SUCH A PERSONAL PASSION FOR YOU?
It started for me 15 years ago. I was a missionary in Liberia during the civil war. Many of the rebel fighters were children who had been forced into becoming soldiers. As an EMT, I was able to build relationships and go into rebel camps to minister to these children. In collaboration with Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, 1,500 child soldiers who were sick and injured, or who just wanted out, were rescued.
In Liberia, I was shot at, put on trial — I was in the middle of hell. But nothing compares with the feeling I had when I was visiting a country where Compassion ministers and was approached by a 12-year-old girl who asked if I wanted to have sex with her. Her 14- or 15-year-old pimp was pushing her on me.
I was dumbfounded at the evil, the liquid darkness that surrounded that situation. And my heart was breaking because I knew that even though I didn’t accept the offer, some other man would.
THIS PAST SPRING YOUR CHURCH HELD A COMPASSION SUNDAY EVENT IN WHICH 1,300 CHILDREN WERE SPONSORED. HOW DOES SPONSORSHIP HELP COMBAT CHILD TRAFFICKING?
Poverty is the number-one cause for children being trafficked. I know one African family, for example, that was abandoned by the father. To survive, the oldest daughter became a prostitute and the two youngest children were given away. That’s what happens in developing countries when people are struggling to survive. Morality becomes skewed when you’re hungry. Calvary Chapel sees Compassion, the mission of which is to “release children from poverty in Jesus’ name,” as an effective prevention against poverty and, therefore, a prevention against trafficking.
WHY DO YOU THINK CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA SHOULD GET INVOLVED IN THIS CAUSE?
It’s a cause that reflects the heart of God, and it’s every Christian’s duty to grow into the heart of God. The problem of global trafficking is overwhelming, so we tackle it one child at a time. When the Lord provides us the opportunity to make a difference in one child’s life, we do it. Our church members sponsored 1,300 children. What if each church did the same thing? Just think of the impact the American church could have on trafficking prevention!
WHAT IS IT ABOUT COMPASSION'S MISSION THAT RESONATES WITH THE MISSION OF CALVARY CHAPEL?
It’s the fact that Compassion rescues children “in Jesus’ name.” That’s very important. You can rescue children from trafficking, but unless you fill the void of their hearts, it’s just a good work. Only the Church, preaching the gospel, can rescue — and also bring restoration and redemption — to children.
A personal example of that is my oldest son, one of three boys my wife and I adopted from Liberia. When we adopted him, he was 10 years old. He had been a child soldier since he was 5. He loved to fight and his M16 was like a toy.
When he was 17, he was invited to a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in New York. They really grilled him, saying that he must have psychological problems. Some said that he should be in prison for what he did.
But my son stood before that meeting and testified, “I have been completely redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”
Through Calvary Chapel’s connection with Compassion, we want to champion a movement to influence the American church to connect with the worldwide Church and the Holy Spirit in rescuing, restoring and redeeming children who have suffered the worst scars of the world. We know that in God’s economy, even the worst of scars can be turned into hope and strength to minister to others.