Podcast Episode 28, 56 min
Ending Human Trafficking, with Dr. Sandra Morgan (Ep 28)
In this episode we talk about how healthy churches are uniquely positioned to help prevent human trafficking

Sandra Morgan: Who are the single moms in your community? Help her and you will protect their children.

Karl Vaters: Hi, I'm Karl Vaters, and I'm a small church pastor, and welcome to Can This Work in a Small Church. My guest for this episode is Dr. Sandie Morgan. She's done a lot of things, but let me walk you through just a couple of them.

First of all, she's the co-author of the new book, Ending Human Trafficking. She's also the host of the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. She's the director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University, and for several years, she served by presidential appointment on the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking.

But I know her more as a friend and colleague, she and her husband, Jean. Jean is a former podcast guest; Episode 12 is when I interviewed him. She and her husband, Jean, pastor a local congregation, just a few miles from our congregation where I live, and I've known her for many years as someone who's very dependable, very passionate, very reliable, and really wise on this particular subject.

So in this episode, we talk about how the body of Christ is uniquely positioned to help prevent human trafficking. It is not as complicated as it sounds, but it is important and every single church can benefit by the information she gives us in this podcast. And don't forget to stick around when the interview is done. I'll come back with an overview of the content and an answer to the question: Can this work in a small church?

I want to welcome my guest today. It is really an honor to have her with you. Dr. Sandie Morgan, Thank you so much for being with us on the podcast today.

Sandra Morgan: I’m really honored to be with you, Karl. You and I have known each other a long time, and I have valued your voice in the public sector as well as in the church.

Karl Vaters: Oh, thank you so much. And you are Dr. Morgan. You deserve that title, you deserve to be addressed by that title, but we know each other well enough that I'm just going to call you Sandie, and you're just going to call me Karl.

Sandra Morgan: Sounds great.

Karl Vaters: That's how it’s been. We also know each other's spouses. Shelly worked at the same school that you are currently working at for many, many years, and Jean and I have known each other as pastors in adjoining towns. You in Huntington Beach…. Oh, you in Westminster and us in Fountain Valley, and we actually share a border between our towns and are actually very close. So there's a whole lot of history here. But the reason I had you on the podcast was because I knew for a while you were coming out with this book and it just recently came out, and I immediately got it and read it in just a couple of days because it's so good.

So you are the co-author of Ending Human Trafficking. It came out in March. Yeah, there we go. It came out in March on IVP, you're with IV Press Academic, I believe. IVP Academic as the publisher of it. Not that anybody cares because just look for ending human trafficking book anywhere you buy books, and you will find it.

You co-authored it with Shane Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim, and there’s so much that’s good in it. Here's my confession up front: I only read it because I know you. Because here I am, I do this stuff for small churches, I'm the pastor of a local church. It's not like I've got an interest in getting heavily involved. Obviously I'm concerned for - obviously we see a problem with human trafficking, but it's not the center of the work that I do, and so if it hadn't been for knowing you, I’d have looked at it and gone, Oh, I'm glad somebody wrote about that important subject but I'm not going to read it. But I'm so glad I did, and I want you on the podcast because I want other pastors to read it, because you don't need to be heavily involved, you don't need to have a department of anti-human trafficking in your church or anything like that, in order to get great benefit out of this book. So a big part of what we're going to talk about today is how every single church can be ready for it, can be prepared to help out in this area, especially in the area of prevention.

But before we get to the good stuff, or to the nice stuff.. I started reading it, I wasn't through the first page, and I actually tweeted, Wow, Sandie comes out swinging in this book, because right at the beginning, first page of the introduction, you said, This topic gave our taskforce one of its biggest challenges. A Texas police sergeant at my table leaned his chair back - when asked about what are the biggest problems - he said, Easy, the wacko church people. And your colleague looked at you because that Texas police sergeant didn't know that was you.

Sandra Morgan: That's right. That's right.

Karl Vaters: And so you then say, In the public square, when it comes to issues of human trafficking, churches and people of faith are often viewed as a problem. So let's start out with that. We are often viewed as a problem, including by this wonderful off-script comment of wacko church people. Why are we often perceived that way in the areas of anti-human travel?

Sandra Morgan: Well, and it’s a two-sided coin because let me just say from the get-go, churches are also highly valued in community engagement in lots of issues around vulnerable people, and human trafficking is included in that. However, at the same time, churches are very well-meaning, but they haven't done their homework, they don't understand roles that are defined in protocols, bureaucracy, if you will, but somebody is going to lose their job if they do what you ask them to, because God told you to. And I functioned as the administrator of a federal task force, Karl and I didn't put it in the book, but I was accused of persecuting my brothers and sisters, because I didn't let them go around corners and cut corners and do what they wanted to do, because they had an insider in a role that they thought could do that. So part of my motivation in writing this book is to help churches do well, present their message without compromising it, and making sure that they actually do bring benefit to the community. They don't take up law enforcement hours managing botched civil investigations, if you will, citizen savior people. And so the hope is that people won't be offended, but that they will take a moment and say, Oh yeah, maybe I'm one of those, and then dig in and find out how to be the other side of the coin that is so highly valid.

Karl Vaters: You start out that way, and I think it's important that you do because you immediately catch people's attention. But immediately - that's page one - and then by page three, you have in multiple times said, and then you continue to say through the book - in fact, I'm going to quote you here: “The body of Christ is uniquely positioned for the essential work of prevention.” So what is it about the body of Christ that positions us, especially… there are six P’s we'll talk about later - but prevention, particularly we are uniquely suited for. Why is that?

Sandra Morgan: Well, I believe that we're suited for prevention because we live in the community, we know when someone's becoming more marginalized, more vulnerable. I always challenge pastors, Do a six-block walk around your church. Find out if you've got single moms, if you have foster families that are struggling to continue to provide that family-based care… Sorry, losing my voice, so excited. But do that right where you are because the people at the 30,000 foot level, they have to use data to aggregate and figure out where are the hot spots. But you know that area, this is your place. And you're actually called to be salt and light. Light seeks out the dark places, salt preserves. And salt is a life-giving element in not just a philosophical sense or spiritual sense, but also in real life.

Karl Vaters: And when you say, Take a six block walk, I take that literally. And I think it's important to physically - not a drive, not a look at the map - but physically get your shoes on and walk slowly through the neighborhood for six blocks in either direction. When I go and I speak in small towns especially, I like to walk. It's just the only exercise that I don't hate doing, is getting out and walking. So especially in a new town, I love to just walk around. And there have been times when I've walked around a church just in the neighborhood, not because I'm trying to prove anything, just to get out and get some fresh air, and I'll come back and I'll ask the pastor about such and such happening in their neighborhood, and they have no idea it's happening in their neighborhood because they have a route to and from work. And that's all they see and they've lost… They've long since stopped seeing it because it's so common. And new eyes with an actual physical walk around the church sees things that they don't see. So we're talking about physically getting out and walking around so that we see and you and the book line out so many ways on all of the P’s, which we'll get to eventually, in addition to seeing what kind of issues there might be. But also you might find out that there's a shelter or that there's a food bank or that there's resources as well, that you are unaware of. And there's so much that you can gather by simply physically walking slowly through the neighborhood so that you're more aware of what's going on.

Sandra Morgan: Oh, and I would love to find out how many churches have a school in their six-block radius.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, we've got one. Our preschool… Daycare actually goes to the public school right behind us every single day and picks up kids and brings them over to our daycare, drops them off. We have a great relationship there. And because of that, we have awareness and a connection with them so that if we see a child that might be in crisis, it's not just our eyes on them, but we can talk to the teachers there, we can talk to the principal there. We can alert them to things; they can alert us to things. And the sharing of awareness is a huge part in setting up that - you talk about fences in the book a lot, about setting up this fence, this guard rail to make sure. Because the most important thing in any human trafficking is to prevent it to begin with.

Sandra Morgan: Exactly. I love and I so appreciate - big shout out to former ambassador, John Cotton Richmond, who wrote our foreword. And in the book we're calling especially churches not to go down to the bottom of the cliff where the broken bodies are. We have to go there, yes, but to literally climb up to the top of the cliff and build a fence so people don't fall over. And in the foreword, Ambassador Richmond calls us guides and sherpas that make that, scale the mountain with you. And that's what the real value of this book is. You're going to find the resources to figure out where the cliff is in your community, and what part of the fence you can add to keep people from falling off the cliff.

Karl Vaters: You open the book in the first chapter, or maybe even in the intro, you recount a story that many of us have preached on before, out of 2 Kings chapter 4, and the woman who collected all the jars and got all the oil, right? We all preach it from different standpoints. Those from a Pentecostal background talk about the oil of the Spirit, and others talk about it in different ways, but you laid it out in a way… When you first mentioned the story and that was about preventing human trafficking, I went, It's what? But then when you lay it out, it actually is. Could you walk us through, because I think this is a great way...

Sandra Morgan: I love that story. I love the Bible and especially Old Testament stories because every time I read them, I see another application. And when I first started working in anti-trafficking, I saw that story again and I thought, Oh my goodness, this is the first time that prevention happened because of the spiritual leadership in a community. The creditors were coming to take the widow’s two sons as slaves. And that scenario happens over and over and over again right now in 2022. Right now. And so the way that Elisha responded was like laying out a community development best practice manual for people, and it's only seven verses.

He started off by asking the widow what she had. And Karl, you know Gene and I lived in Greece for 10 years, and so when it says she has a flask of olive oil, I know that means she's got enough to fill her lamp to get home after dark one time. That's kinda like you and I carrying an extra AA battery for a flashlight. So I'm sure the tone of her voice when she answered was a little skeptical that, Yeah, I've got this flask of olive oil. That's all, I'm at the bottom. And then Elisha, because he's so in tune with God's plan, he doesn't fix it for her. And people, when you just fix it, it has to be fixed again next week or next month. And so he actually asked her what she has and then he tells her - so he’s starting from where she is - to go and collect all these empty jars.

And I'll tell you what. The modern church response to, Let's take up an offering, isn't reflected in that. How many churches say, Bring your empty jars, bring your empty jars. But they go out, the boys and mom, and collect all these empty jars. People are probably curious. But they've got an empty jar, and it doesn't cost them anything. And they're now engaged. Community engagement, that's part of the community development model. Now this is where, when someone asked me why I was doing anti-human trafficking work here, it's because I need to do this from my faith platform, because I know I can do all of these things and follow all of the best practices, but the real power is when God shows up.

So they closed the door. And being obedient to God's message, they start pouring from that little flask, and we all know every jar was filled. So God shows up and it's a miracle. But the people still have to do part of the work. And so now they go out and they sell olive oil, and in the context, if people want to look back at the historical context for a widow, becoming a business woman was one of the best ways forward. And so now she is able to take care of her son, she's an olive oil entrepreneur, and she doesn't come back next week and the next week, and next week. She is safe and established.

We didn't create a video, we didn’t put music to it and show it in church and turn those little boys into a project. In fact, in this Bible story, we don't even know their names. We don't even know their names. So I just want to call churches to find out who are the single moms in your community, and help her and you will protect their child.

Karl Vaters: That absolutely opened it up for me. I will preach that sermon with credit to you at some point, because there's so much in it, every step of the way, it shows a healthy way to prevent human trafficking. And it points out one of the big emphases in your book, is that quite often, when we think of human trafficking, first of all, we think of a stranger grabbing some kid from the street, which happens occasionally, but it is really, really, really rare. It is not the main way at all. Secondly, we tend to think of ending sexual human trafficking, which of course is horrific and it happens a lot, but more than that is the part that we typically don't think about, which is human trafficking for labor. Not sexual human trafficking, but labor human trafficking, which is much closer to the description in the Bible story you just mentioned, where a poor family goes into debt and sells their children to pay off that debt. As you have already said, this is really common still in the world today. So take a moment to talk about that. In fact, trafficking for labor is far more common a problem than sexual trafficking, isn’t it.

Sandra Morgan: It is. Labor trafficking is often very overlooked. And I didn't put it in the book, but I want to tell you, one of the reasons I'm really passionate about equipping the church to do this well is because the churches have taken on this issue in a very sensational way. Outsiders have observed and made remarks that our churches are a little voyeuristic and focused, and they've taken our interest in this in a very negative way. And when people working in anti-labor trafficking can't get the attention of the church, they want to know why we don't have the same value. What do we really mean when we say imago de? Does that only apply to a child? A little girl? That's the question. So labor trafficking, much bigger issue, and it is something every church can do something about.

Karl Vaters: Yeah. To really put a fine point on it, we've seen it before where if it's a little blonde white girl, the press goes crazy - as we should because this child is in crisis. But how often do we hear, But what about those who are older, those who are male, those who are of darker skin, those who speak a different language. The less they look like white English speaking America, the less concern we seem to have. And yet, like you said, imago dei applies to all genders, all ages, all ethnicities, all backgrounds, and God is just as concerned for all of them. And so should we be concerned about the person who looks like us, who is abducted? Yes, but we can't stop there. We have to be more concerned. And you used the term voyeuristic and it made me cringe a little, as it's supposed to. It comes across that way, doesn't it, when the only thing we seem to be concerned about is sexual trafficking, and we just wave our hand away when people talk about labor trafficking, they have the right to question us, don't they?

Sandra Morgan: Can I just throw in here. I'm creating some new documents because I get more requests these days, and I'm glad about that. But we have to be careful of how we use graphics around this. Pictures of people in chains and ropes and beat up. We're actually training our community to look for the most sensational, and that's a thing. Yes, we have identified cases like that, but that's not how most of them look. And if that's what you're looking for, you're going to miss the real point. Most trafficking victims, whether it's sex or labor, don't have a Liam Neeson…whatever.

Karl Vaters: Liam Neeson, He's got one of those names.

Sandra Morgan: Yeah, there. And so we've got to tell the real story. We have to be responsible. And I have had wonderful church leaders say to me, Well, I used that graphic because you're coming to speak, because it would get people's attention. And it's like, I don't want to be advertised using some highly sexualized images.

Karl Vaters: Yeah. I could not agree more. That's the image we tend to think of, that's the image that’s often used, but you say that's not how human trafficking typically comes across our path. So how does it more typically come across our path, so that we can recognize it when we see it?

Sandra Morgan: I had one survivor say because people are looking for that, they walked right by me. And this was a sex trafficking survivor, and she was compromised because she didn't have housing as she was aging out of child welfare services. And so she became really low hanging fruit for being recruited into sex trafficking, but she never was tied up or handcuffed. Her situation was more mental manipulation.

So there are three elements, force, fraud, and coercion to the economic crime of human trafficking. Trafficking is selling something that's not supposed to be sold - drugs, weapons, or people. So it's based in greed, and we know that from the Bible tells us the love of money is the root of much evil.

And so her situation is she's going to be someone who looks out of place, maybe, where she is, someone else is always checking in on her. She may be unable to speak up for herself. If you try to do your community outreach and hand her something, whatever, especially if you go down to where the track is or something like that, you may actually get her in trouble, so she doesn't want to talk to you because she's being watched. So if they're resistant, then maybe you need to just call the hotline - 888-3737-888 - so that someone with the resources can do a careful investigation that doesn't put the victim at risk.

Karl Vaters: Yeah. That's one of the things you do so well in the book too, is the things that I wasn't aware of. Little signs that if we watch for them, first of all, we can help with prevention, that we can see people who are vulnerable, people who are in debt, people who are new immigrants, people who are coming… who have escaped an abusive situation. And these people are actually highly vulnerable to being taken advantage of by people who might take their passports from them or appear to be rescuing and helping them but in fact, putting them in a new vulnerable situation. Whole bunches of the book are about, Take a look for these subtle signs that a person may not be in the place of being trafficked, but is very, very vulnerable to it. When we in the church can step in to - like in the Bible story we just talked about - to a vulnerable widow who's in debt, and can help them relieve them of the debt, can help change their oil occasionally, can simply be there as an emotional support so that they're not running to an abusive person from emotional support.

So many of the things that we naturally do as the church, or should naturally be doing as the church, that we're called to naturally do as the church. When we're actually being the church and stepping up in those ways, we will often prevent human trafficking that only God on His side of heaven will understand what might have happened to that person had we not been there to simply love and care for them and keep them out of a vulnerable place. A lot of what we do, we're preventing human trafficking at times, and we don't even realize we're doing it, simply by being the church God called us to be, isn't that right?

Sandra Morgan: Absolutely. And I think one of the hardest things for me to do to convince people to do prevention, is convince them that we're the best ones to do it because we don't care about the reward - or at least we're not supposed to care about the reward. Yeah. There is no glory in prevention. In fact, if you build that fence at the top of the cliff, there isn't going to be a daily report of 75 people didn't fall off the cliff.

Karl Vaters: Yep. And then we've got to be careful to realize without that daily report of people falling off the cliff, that doesn't mean you take the fence down. That means the fence is working, so keep it up. We got to keep vigilant.

Now a short break to talk about something else. If you like the content you're hearing, here are two things you can do for us. First, forward this podcast to a friend. Second, consider becoming a financial supporter through Patreon, Venmo, or PayPal. Just go to Karlvaters.com/support. For as little as $3 a month, you can help us put these resources into the hands of the ministries that need them the most. Our support link is in the show notes.

Absolutely. So there are actually six P’s. There are five that are typically used by human trafficking prevention agencies, but of course in the church, we've added a sixth P. Lay out the six P's for us, and then we'll talk through each of them. Just first of all, one word at a time, what are they?

Sandra Morgan: Partnership, prevention, protection, prosecution and policy, and then 6th P is prayer.

Karl Vaters: Okay. And the bulk of the book, will you walk us through what each of these are, why it matters and how we can participate in it? So let's just walk through them a sentence or two for each, just to give people kind of an understanding that we're not talking about a single event or a single approach. We're talking about a multifaceted approach that really is very thorough and very involved, but in fact, once you lay it out for us, it is so clear and understandable, it will not feel as overwhelming as it might feel when you first hear, Six different things we got to do. No, they actually coordinate real well. So let's walk through them. First of all, partnership, what are you talking about here?

Sandra Morgan: Okay. And here's the thing I'd like you to keep in your mind, Karl, is hang these on your understanding of salt and light. So partnership is just like in the story in Kings, you connect and engage and collaborate. So here's the widow and she's connected to the leadership in the community, Elisha, she's connected to her neighbors. And then in partnership, you all have a shared goal and you develop the expertise and resources in your community. When partnership showed up for the first time in our annual trafficking and persons report, it was literally defined by evaluating expertise and resources. And sometimes we don't look at our own expertise and do an assessment, we just start claiming things and saying, We're going to do this. And then the church doesn't look too good later when it isn't sustainable.

Karl Vaters: In partnership, real quick on that. So some of them are obvious, like the police department, local shelters, food banks, you mentioned earlier schools. That's not as obvious to most people that if we can be having a good relationship with our local schools that are also dealing with kids, then like in our preschool, our daycare, at our church, when we talk to other teachers, and to the principal there, we together can see things that each one of us on our own might have missed.

I'm also thinking, the local mom. There always seems to be a mom in every block or in every street who is like the house mom for all the kids in the street. And if we're aware of that, and if we have a relationship with her, she might see things that we're unaware of, and we might see things that she's unaware of.

We also need to be in partnership with agencies that are not faith-based. That’s one of the things that you talk about that I think is really important for us to understand. If we're only talking with faith-based people, there's a whole lot of people who simply don't connect in any way with churches, and they're going to be a whole bunch of people that will be missed out on. So how important is it to do that?

Sandra Morgan: I think it's really important to be present. Faithful presence, showing up in your community. And people say to me, Well, I don't have any, whatever. But if you're there, you're bringing salt and light to the table. So show up, be present, go to your community meetings. Not to wave a flag or a poster, but to find out what do they need. Ask questions, and then go back to your church and figure out what kind of expertise and resources do you have. Yes, you can see what the answers are, but you may not be the one to do that. And identifying your role is really important to protect the mission of your church. If you over commit, it doesn't go well.

Karl Vaters: And before we get to the next one, let me as a pastor to pastors, step on a toe or two. Take a look around and ask yourself, Who do we have in the church who's already involved, coaching at the local high school, who’s class mom at the elementary school. Maybe you're looking around and going, why can't they be more involved in the church, why are they so involved out there in the secular world and not involved in the church? Don't complain about it, partner with them in i,t because they have eyes and ears in a place that you as a pastor can't put your eyes and ears. You're not allowed to go as a pastor to the public high school and show up and preach, but you may have one of the dads in your church who's already volunteering at the local high school, on the football team, or a mom who's helping up the cheerleaders or whatever. Don't get upset that they're there, partner with them. Use their eyes and ears as a way of connecting with the neighbors that you've already got the assets, let's use them.

Sandra Morgan: And can I just tag onto that, that we sometimes think that when we do that, we have to say something, we have to have an agenda. And I would consider thinking not transactionally, but transformative, just being. And you've got in your assets at your church people who make cookies. Make cookies and once a week, you're the church that provides cookies for the youth shelter. You're the church that provides cookies for the afterschool. If you've got that dad who's a coach, you say, Okay, we're bringing all of the Gatorade and snacks for practice every Thursday. We're showing. So we support the people in our church to be vibrant in their communities. They're not doing it alone. They're part of the body.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, and we're a part of the life-giving presence that at bare minimum can help keep people from being vulnerable for human trafficking, and potentially even then be seen as a safe place to run to when somebody is in danger, because we're present at the football game, we're present at the PTA, we're present at the chamber of commerce, the community event or whatever. Being present is so important. So that's partnership.

Let's go now to prevention, which of course we've talked a lot about already how important it is, how the body of Christ is a big part of the prevention. Any part of that we haven't talked about yet?

Sandra Morgan: Well, I think prevention does address making sure your community is informed. On our little chart, it's inform, identify, intervene. And knowing how to do that for a church in safe ways. So you just mentioned identifying a kid, and the church is a safe place to run to. When they run to you, then what do you do? Who do you call?

Karl Vaters: Which is why partnership matters so much.

Sandra Morgan: Yes, you've got to have those social services. And let me tell you, I live in California, we have lots of child protection laws. Make sure your church is up-to-date on all of your church policies, because your first inclination is, I'm just going to take this kid home with me, and that may not be a very wise thing to do, and we can go into that another time. But I also really want to focus on what we've already talked about, that vulnerable populations are right there within six blocks. You don't need to go on a voluntourism mission team and walk the streets of Phnom pane. You can walk the six blocks around your church.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, absolutely. So that’s prevention. Let's go to the third P, protection.

Sandra Morgan: Protection. When people are recovered, there are a lot of protocols for a successful prosecution. There are lots of best practices that experts in social work, in healthcare, in victim case management are required to do by the anti-trafficking laws. We can be a support to that. Derek Marsh is my associate director here at the center, and he was the founder of our task force. And I still remember when I first met him, how he actually said to the community, as a law enforcement officer, We've got these tools, but we don't have all the tools that a victim needs. There's other knife, fork and spoon that you may be the one that has that. So be willing to show up with a backpack and the bare essentials for a recently recovered victim, and also be willing to just do a drive in your church to get gift cards so that brand new survivors can go shopping and buy their own personal things they need for every day, and choose themselves, not be dependent on other people. They get some personal agency. So empower that survivor's dignity, and think of it that you're helping them begin to recognize that they are created in the image of God and they have value.

Karl Vaters: I've got to give a shout out to our congregation because - it's well over 10 years ago, maybe 15 years ago now - that a couple of women in our congregation came to me to ask, we've got a local women's shelter that helps women and children who are coming out of abusive situations. It's a non-Christian agency, they do good work and they couldn't find a church that would help them because all the churches basically said, Well, if we can’t invite them to church or send a van to pick them up… And there's something about a van with a guy coming to pick up abused women and children that triggers people. And somehow the churches really close by didn't get that. And we just said, You know what… Basically it's orphans and widows, is what we're really talking about here to a large degree. Not technically, but I think biblically, they qualify. And we just said, We're just here to help them. And the Lord has given us an opportunity to reach out in that protection area. And aside from moments like this, where I get to talk to someone like you and mention it on a podcast, nobody even in the area basically really knows what we do because you can't advertise it. There are no Instagrammable pictures. You can't show where these people are. You can't do anything that would indicate where they are because you put them at risk. And so there is zero credit that gets forwarded. Our church has stepped up in extraordinary ways for over a dozen years now and done some amazing work in that. So a shout out to our folks at Cornerstone.

Sandra Morgan: Can I just say how excited that makes me, and it restores my faith that the church can step up in transformative ways without any credit. When you're getting something out of it, that is a transaction. And you are really close to the edge ethically, but we'll go there another day.

The fourth P is prosecution. And I want pastors to be really careful that they don't mess it up so we can't get restitution because they went and did their own investigation, they wired up. There are stories of citizen saviors across the nation, across the world. And there are some countries where there is the rule of laws not integrated, and I know those resources are really necessary. But for the everyday church, local pastor, small church pastor, please make sure that you are not the reason a case didn't go forward and the victim didn't get justice.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, this wouldn't be in there if it hadn't tragically happened in too many cases where in our desire to help, we simply are not knowledgeable enough, which is why the sheriff in Texas went, Those wacko Christians. Because he's probably dealt with cases that have fallen apart because well-meaning people have stepped in and instead of partnering with agencies who know how to do this, we step up, we try to do it ourselves, and in fact we end up messing it up, and people who should be prosecuted don't get prosecuted, and people who maybe should be put away, don't get put away because of that. And we actually create a greater risk because we're not willing to partner with others who know how to do this better than we do. So yeah, the prosecution, that's not our job. That's why the first one is partnership. We've got to have people who know how to do this better than us.

Sandra Morgan: And the fifth P is policy. And I think this is one of the biggest gaps in church leadership on this. We develop ministries without going back to look at what our church policy manual says. And if you don't have a church policy manual that is available to your volunteers, start one, because then when something doesn't go right, you have a way to go back and discipline, disciple, coach them so that that doesn't happen again.

Probably one of my biggest pet peeves is youth pastors who think they are above the law, and they are going to help this young girl that came and told them about their boyfriend. And then they break all the policies - because every church has child abuse protection policies…

Karl Vaters: Or should.

Sandra Morgan: Yeah, I hope they do. Their insurance companies will be really upset if they don't. But that youth pastor that says, I'm going to take her out for coffee, and by themselves in the car, all those things. Those are a recipe for actually creating more harm than good, not just for the victim, but also for your church. So policies are important to protect the mission of their church.

They also help you build capacity because now you've got some structure. And if you think about building - I love playing with blocks with the kids in the nursery, although not if they start throwing them - you can't build the next level, unless the first level is solid. And that's what policy will do in the anti-trafficking work of your local church.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, plus those who are predators, they're going to go to the path of least resistance. And if they can find churches that don't have proper policies set up and that's where the kids are, you can actually create an environment that is pro predator. The harder you make it, the less likely that you're going to end up being a venue in which it happens. And as much as we want to prevent it, the horror of being a place that actually open themselves up so that a predator could prey upon children, or in any way to instead of preventing human trafficking, we actually create an environment that abets it. I don't know how I could live with having done that. So policy is a big part of the fence that also protects the church too. And then we go to number six, which of course for the church is prayer.

Sandra Morgan: Amen. And prayer… In the foreword, Ambassador Richmond talks about a survivor and he was a DOJ prosecutor for over 10 years, prosecutor of the year nationally, and interviewing one of the survivors. She said to him, The only thing the traffickers couldn't take away from her, the only thing, was her ability to pray. And she prayed that God would give his people insights and strategies to help her. And I believe that prayer… And in the book, we give you some strategies for praying through all the P’s and thinking strategically about how we implement those things.

In the chapter, there is a section that my coauthor, Kim Yim, felt really compelled to include on conviction. And I really encourage people to read that section and begin not just to look at, Wow, what can I do, but look into our own hearts, ask ourselves when we are part of the problem. You mentioned widows and orphans earlier from James 1:27, and there's the second half of the verse we don't talk about very often. “Keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.” This is an economic crime, we started at the top of this interview, and greed is an element of this, and it is also an element of why we as wonderful Christians need to examine our own hearts. Am I buying slave-made products because they're cheap? And the irony, I had somebody who I challenged some of the stuff that they were buying for their church. It's pretty easy to get fair trade chocolate and fair trade coffee. And they said, Well, but I'm trying to save the church money. Is that stewardship, saving money? It's not about the money. It's about people being created in the image of God. So read the prayer chapter, pray that through. I actually am starting to recommend that people in churches that are really serious about this, use it as a book club. Read a chapter a week, do something, a Sunday school class guide, and walk through all eight chapters.

Karl Vaters: I fully agree with that. The subtitle of it is A Handbook of Strategies for the Church Today, and that really is what it is. It's a working handbook that you can refer to on a regular basis. And I want to dip back just for a second onto the idea of fair trade. People who come from a conservative, theological background, as both of us do - we are very conservative theologically - some of our friends within our circle, we cringe at the whole idea of things like fair trade because it sounds… They'll use a phrase like woke or whatever. No, we're not talking about... Here's the parallel I like to make. We will readily say, If we stopped using drugs, we could stop the drug trafficking from Columbia and Mexico immediately. The problem is that we are consuming drugs. And we can say that easily because I'm not on cocaine. I can act real self righteous about that. Meanwhile, I'm buying things that were grown and picked and sewn with slave labor. And obviously it's very complicated and there's a bunch of things we'll never know, but when we know it, we should avoid it and find an alternative. There are some things we don't know,I'm going to give everybody a pass on that. It's very complicated. But when you know it, seek an alternative.

Sandra Morgan: That's right. One of my favorite free apps is called Sweat and Toil. It doesn't have any of this fair trade language or any of that, which that has some other elements. In California, we passed the Supply Chain Transparency Act in 2010, and it's a more sustainable approach to labor trafficking. But the Sweat and Toil app is developed by the Department of Labor, and they are mandated to evaluate products coming into the U.S. and how they were made. And you download that on your phone, Android or Apple, and now when you're in the supermarket in January buying blueberries and you see they're from Argentina, you look that up and it shows you this tiny little hand that children are harvesting those. So maybe you don't need blueberries in January. And this becomes a wonderful opportunity to teach your children empathy for others. Because there's a market here that drives finding cheap or slave labor in Argentina to produce blueberries. We can learn more about that and just begin to be more aware.

Karl Vaters: The Sweat and Toil app. We will put a link to that in the show notes as well. Before we get to the lightning round, let's finish it up with… because we are talking predominantly to pastors and leaders in small churches. I think in some ways, small churches are uniquely suited for this. It may not seem that up front. If you're pastoring a small church, you're thinking of the complexity of all the policies you've got to put together. But on the prevention end of things, especially, we have a closer, direct relational connection with people who come to our church than the pastor of a mega church who by the size of the church, they simply physically can't know everybody. That's not a fault, that's just simply the nature of size. But for us, when we actually can, we can see a new person who comes in, we can see, and we can get to know them. And we can see the signs of vulnerability because of our direct relational access. Don't we have a real opportunity in small churches to do so?

Sandra Morgan: Like you said, there's wonderful resources available in megachurches, but when you talk to people in a mega church, they may not even know how many schools are within six blocks of all their campuses because they… But you do. And so there's something very personal, and we know from the ministry of Jesus, that being personal one-on-one has an impact on people that mass media just can't do.

Karl Vaters: And like I said earlier, often what we're doing is preventing things that don't take place, and so we're not even aware of it. By simply being the church, by knowing people, by being there for them, by helping people become less vulnerable to this, we are really doing some wonderful work, even if we don't recognize it.

Sandra Morgan: There's a great story from a church in Yuma, it's in the book. Somebody found out about what's going on, and so the pastor's wife called me and said, You have to come, I don't know why, but I think you have to come, because I think we're going to make a mistake. Somebody had a house available and they were going to open a place to house young girls. And so I went over and I went through a basic assessment process with them. And then we did what the Bible says to do, count the cost. So if you open this home, your fledgling church only has one van that you use for ministry, but you'll have to keep that as emergency transportation at the shelter. So we take it out of your youth ministry. You also have to have paid staff 24/7, so that comes out of your budget. So yeah, you're going to have to cut your regular staff. And then the best part was when I was doing interviews with people, and I discovered they had a sidewalk ministry where they went into very vulnerable neighborhoods and taught dance. The kids came out from everywhere. Well, if they lost the van, they couldn't do that. And they had kids in their youth group that came to the youth group because of those sidewalk dance outreach efforts. So we sometimes don't understand how to count the cost.

Karl Vaters: Very, very true. Such a serious and important subject. You outline it so well. As serious as that is, we're going to get to the lightning round to finish this thing. Are you ready for it?

Sandra Morgan: I’m ready.

Karl Vaters: First of all, what are the biggest changes you've seen in your field of ministry in the last few years, and how have you adapted to it?

Sandra Morgan: One of the biggest changes that I've seen is much more attention in the media to human trafficking. I used to go to churches and ask how many people know what human trafficking is, and probably the people that invited me and one other person. Now, all the hands go up.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, the awareness is really good.

So secondly, what free resource like an app or a website has helped you lately that you'd recommend for small church ministry?

Sandra Morgan: Endinghumantrafficking.org is my podcast. It's free, has experts, and I encourage you to listen in. It's something...We keep them to 30 minutes almost always. It's a good listen on a commute or a neighborhood walk while you're getting in your six blocks.

Karl Vaters: Fantastic. We'll put that in the show notes as well.

Next what's the best piece of ministry advice you've ever received?

Sandra Morgan: When my husband was a student here back when it was Southern California College, Pastor George O.Wood, who then became our Assemblies of God superintendent. He started a class for the spouses that didn't get to go to Bible school with their husbands. We were all women. And he took us through the book of Mark, and he said, Just bring a notepad and your Bible, that's all. And my husband was taking classes and he had four books for one class. So I was a little confused. And then Pastor Wood said to me, I want you to study the word with just the word and you and God first. And once you've done that, then you can read what other people think. That was the best ministry advice.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, absolutely. God's word with as few filters as possible is the best place to start. Absolutely.

The last question: What's the funniest or weirdest thing you've ever seen in church?

Sandra Morgan: I came back from being a missionary for 20 years, and I have to tell you, I still haven’t figured out the smoke and flashing lights in church.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, there's a lot of that and a lot of questions about it. So I hear you on that one. Hey, aside from obviously I really do recommend people to get your book. As you said even, earlier, use it in book clubs. You can go through it a chapter at a time. And take those who have special interest in your church to have them be your your team on this. Ending Human Trafficking, a great book. Aside from that, how can people reach out to you if they want to follow up on anything?

Sandra Morgan: Oh, you can reach out on gcwj.org. That's our website for the Global Center for Women and Justice, gcwf.org. And you can follow me, Sandie Morgan, S-A-N-D-I-E. Sandie Morgan on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I think on Instagram that was taken already, so I'm DR_SandieMorgan.

Karl Vaters: We'll make sure to put all those links in the show notes too. I really do encourage people to stay connected with what Sandie is doing here. Be aware of these issues. Pastors, go into II Kings 4 again, and take a look at that story from a human trafficking standpoint, it's a great place to begin, for your folks to begin to get a handle on it from a biblical standpoint. Sandie, thank you so much, first of all, for the extraordinary work you have done for many, many years. We will not know until we get to heaven, the impact and how many lives has touched, how many people have been rescued, how many people have been prevented from going into dangerous situations in the first place. And thank you for being with us on the podcast today.

Sandra Morgan: Thank you.

Karl Vaters: Sandie had so much great information about this difficult but important subject. I especially love two particular emphases that she made. First of all, that biblical story of Elisha and the widow out of II Kings 4, there is so much in that short little story, and it really is about preventing human trafficking.

It's about helping a widow so that she doesn't have to sell her boys into slavery. I never caught that before, but what a great place to begin to talk to your people about it as a pastor. Plus, you get sermon material out of it, and any time we can get that that's always a benefit. I really encourage you to take a close look at that. And buy the book because she really lays it out in more detail than she could in the podcast.

The other emphasis that I think is so important is that we need to be partnering with others. If we are partnering with other agencies and with other ministries, then there's an overlap that tightens the safety net that can really help us to protect vulnerable people.

So can this work in a small church? Can we even in small congregations be part of the safety net that protects people from falling into being vulnerable to human trafficking? Yes. As she told us, smaller congregations are actually especially well-suited for this, because we're boots on the ground. We have a direct relationship with people, we can see their vulnerabilities. We can spot those in trouble if we simply have the tools to know what to look for. It doesn't require extra money of us, it requires very little extra time for us to be aware of these issues so that we can be an essential element in this protecting fence that keeps people from falling off the cliff and keeping them safe.

This episode was produced by Veronica Beaver, and edited by Phil Vaters. Original theme music was written and performed by Jack Wilkins of Jackwilkinsmusic.com. The podcast logo was created by Solomon Joy of joyetic.com. Me, I'm Karl Vaters, and I'm a small church pastor.

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The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.

June 20, 2022

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