Back At It

Hi Church,

I’m looking forward to being together again this Sunday. Gathering in homes last week was rich, but entering back into the rhythm of corporate worship together for the final Sunday of Advent will be so good. See you at 10 a.m. at the PEC!

We’re also back at it this week with “Parish People and Places”, where an individual or institution in our parish is featured here. The hope with this feature is that we might grow in knowing our neighbors and neighborhood as a simple step toward us loving them more fully. With Advent’s emphasis upon our hunger for God’s kingdom of justice, today’s person and their work seem especially appropriate.

This week I had the privilege of speaking with John Nehme, the CEO of Allies Against Slavery, who many of you will know from Christ Church. For the past six years, John has been working in the arena of non-profits addressing human trafficking. The mission of Allies is to create slave-free cities where traffickers can’t function and where vulnerable populations are protected. To this end, John and his team work with a coalition of about 40 partners from law enforcement agencies, service providers, research entities, churches and more. The coalition works to share information and training regarding both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and helps support survivors. Allies’ work includes developing technological tools to help service providers know how to identify cases of trafficking, raising awareness and fostering studies of trafficking.

Allies was founded about six-and-a-half years ago in East Austin by a group of about 30 volunteers who realized trafficking was taking place here and wanted to make difference. For John, engagement with trafficking is informed by vision of God’s kingdom: a reign of right relationships and flourishing communities where dehumanization and exploitation do not take place. Additionally, he spoke of the Christian vision of humans bearing the image of God grounding his work with Allies.

Our Role

In this work the church has a role to play. John spoke about the need for the church in Austin to recognize that the issue of trafficking is proximate to us, taking place in our communities. He specifically mentioned the city’s Northeast, not far from where we worship on Sundays. Beyond awareness, John also encouraged us to be praying around this issue and for those ensnared in trafficking. He spoke of encountering the reality of evil in this work and the need for calling upon God in confronting it. Finally, he also encouraged us in the work of being built up as the family of God, and extending family to others, as a means of contributing to “active prevention.” In this way too the church might participate in God’s renewal of Austin.

John specifically asked us to pray for: favor for the work for Allies as they connect with stakeholders throughout the city; provision of resources; and the restoration and healing of survivors. Finally, he asked for prayer for him and his family. Let’s start there! 

In Christ,

Peter Coelho