Sunday, January 24, 2016

Know the signs of human trafficking

After my blog about human trafficking two weeks ago, people thanked me for enlightening them that human trafficking happens in our hometown of Dothan, Ala. One person said he was clueless and wouldn't know how to identify a victim or know what to do if he did.

So, this blog is to help answer those questions. The more we all know, the more we can all do to help end this injustice.

Human Trafficking is modern day slavery, and it is the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel another person to provide labor or commercial sex against their will.

Know the signs of human trafficking:
  • Have injuries or signs of physical abuse
  • Denied food, water, sleep, medical care, and freedom of movement
  • Drug addiction
  • Current runaway or signs of homelessness
  • Does not have identification   
  • Presence of older boy/girlfriend
  • Inexplicable appearance of expensive gifts, clothing, or other costly items
  • Withdrawal or lack of interest in previous activities
  • Pimps and traffickers will often "brand" their girls and boys with tattoos.
  • Seems disoriented and not know where he/ she is
  • Fearful of authority, especially law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact
This list is not all inclusive, but these are some of the key signs of spotting human trafficking victims.

How to Report Trafficking:
If you see a victim, or even suspect you see a victim, call 9-1-1. The Dothan Police Department has told us they would rather for people to call them and it turns out to be a false alarm than for people to do nothing and someone remains a victim of human trafficking.

You can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-3737-888.

Don't ignore this crime. Learn more about it and help. One person can save someone's life by simply making a phone call. If it was your daughter or son who was a victim of human trafficking, you would want someone to call and help them.

Click here to visit the Human Trafficking Awareness page on Love In Action's website to learn more.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Spending time with homeless changes lives - yours and theirs

LIA volunteer Tommy Swim takes time to talk with a homeless man
named Henry in Dothan, Alabama.

Taking time to talk with the homeless means everything to them. Too often they are ignored.

When people are ignored, their self esteem gets lower and lower until, over time, they believe they have no value and accept that living on the streets is as good as it gets.When our Love In Action volunteers show the homeless love and compassion by simply sitting down to listen to them and talk with them, the homeless realize they do matter. They discover, sometimes for the first time in their lives, someone really does care about them. They see, hear and experience the love of Jesus Christ in action.

I thank all of Team LIA for allowing the love of Jesus to flow through you in so many beautiful ways. Sometimes it's through a hug, a smile, a prayer, taking time to listen, or by showing up to volunteer. The homeless know you could be anywhere else, yet you chose to be there to help them.

It may be on Saturdays to wash their clothes or serve them a warm meal. It may be serving on Thursday evenings at the Samaritan Clinic. The simple fact is you are giving of your time to make a difference in somebody else's life. Thank you.

Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, "as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."

As we serve others, we are really serving Jesus. That's life changing once you let it soak in.

Taking time to spend with the homeless can be life changing. It was for me more than 16 years ago when I bet a homeless person for the first time. His name was Nathaniel, and we were on the streets of Atlanta.

I saw a man with no hope, just existing, but not living. Darkness filled his eyes; no light, no spark of hope. My heart started breaking. After 30-40 minutes of listening to and talking and praying with Nathaniel, he went his way and we went ours.

However, just before he disappeared in the dark Atlanta night, he turned around and yelled, "Thanks for not ignoring me." God used those words to completely break my heart. My life was forever changed, and I'm forever thankful.

Over the years, I've been blessed to meet many wonderful people the rest of society chooses to ignore, laugh at, and call a blight on society. They may be homeless, but they are God's children. He loves them just as much as He loves you and me.

As Matthew Barnett of the Los Angeles Dream Center said nearly 15 years ago, "Once you put yourself in another man's shoes you will never be the same."

Those words still ring as true today as they did then.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Traffickers love silence. And secrecy. They love the fact that most people would love to ignore this problem. But millions of victims are praying that you don’t. Sexual slavery is literally all around you at this very moment.

Red flags are everywhere, yet most of us don’t realize they are indeed red flags. If you see or suspect anything from this list (even though you might think it is minor), please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report what you saw. You could very well save someone’s life.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Love In Action recently held our big awareness event as Tajuan McCarty came to Dothan, Ala., to share her story and challenge a large crowd to do something to fight this horrible crime, which enslaves more than 21 million people worldwide.

I will be blogging more this month to help educate you about human trafficking. That's the key. We must educate ourselves about it, and then act on what we know. Don't turn your heads. Don't ignore it. Someone's son and daughter are being trafficked in your city. Pray it never happens to your children, and know the signs to protect your children and others.

Here are some tips on how to spot victims of human trafficking. Learn them and help us in this fight.

The individual in question:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as they please
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or is paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work.
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living conditions (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows. bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.

The individual in question:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up “law enforcement”
  • Avoids eye contact

The individual in question:

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture

The individual in question:

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (I.D. or Passport)
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records or bank account.
  • Is not allowed to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

The individual in question:

  • Claims of “just visiting” and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know which city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
**This list courtesy of Nita Belles. Author of In Our Backyard

For more information and tips, click here to visit our website.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

One person can make a difference

Most of us dream of making a difference in the world, but quickly come to our own conclusion that we can't really do much. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we were reminded of that in a powerful way Friday night.

Our dear friend and sister Tajuan McCarty shared her testimony Friday night at our "Breaking the Silence: A Voice of Freedom and Hope" event. Tajuan's life truly shows the love, mercy and grace of God. After a dysfunctional childhood, being sexually exploited through human trafficking, drug abuse and spending time in jail and prison, Jesus wrapped His loving arms around her and brought her out of the darkness into his marvelous light.

Tajuan said something Friday night that I'm going to quote often. Of course, I'll give her the credit. :-)
She said, "One person can make a difference. If you help one person, you've made a difference."

Jesus reached Tajuan through a woman she didn't know. Lisa Richardson was trying to reach out to prostitutes in Birmingham when Tajuan met her. Tajuan wasn't being exploited through human trafficking at that time, but she knew the life and what a person trapped in that life would need to hear and see to accept help. Lisa asked how she knew about that, and Tajuan told her she had been trafficked for sex in 48 states and in Canada and Mexico.

Instead of judging and condemning her, Lisa kept loving and encouraging Tajuan. Through her love and compassion, Tajuan surrendered to Jesus. Later she would open The WellHouse, a safe home for women escaping human trafficking. This ministry has helped thousands of women.

What if Lisa thought she couldn't do anything, because she didn't think she could reach prostitutes for Jesus? What if she decided she couldn't do anything to help Tajuan? Thankfully, Lisa trusted Jesus and allowed Him to work through her. Look at all of the lives she has touched by showing the love of Jesus to Tajuan.

Who reached you for Jesus? What if that person decided he or she couldn't do anything and gave up? Your life would be different, and your eternity definitely would not be as wonderful as it will be.

When I look back I think about all the people who had a positive influence on my life before I surrendered my life to Jesus. My parents, siblings, friends and some ministers definitely played big parts in leading me to Jesus. But there is one person in particular I often think about and thank God for him.

I was a teenager playing softball for my church. I was a very intense and aggressive competitor. No matter the sport, when I was on the field or court I wanted to win, and I'd rip your head off to do it. I had a short temper as well. One of my teammates was a man named Mike Alsop. I blew up at him several times. I look back and think he had every right to snap back and call me a young punk, among  other adjectives. But he didn't. He showed great patience with me.

Mike's treatment of me stuck with me, and still does. Instead of punching me, he showed the love of Jesus to me. I haven't seen nor talked with Mike since I was 18, but I still think of him and thank God for him.

What if Mike would have punched me or cussed me out? He didn't. He made a difference in my life that has stayed with me more than 30 years later.

Don't believe the lie that you can't make a difference. You can. You can make a difference in one person's life. Who knows, you may be the person God wants to work through to reach the next Tajuan or the next Billy Graham.

I promise one thing. Once you make a difference in one person's life, you will ask God to keep using you to touch other lives for His glory.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

High expectations for 2016

As the New Year begins many of us begin it with a fresh perspective and excitement. It's always good to reflect and establish goals. It's like a fresh start.

As we enter our 16th year of ministry at Love In Action International Ministries, I have great expectations about what God will do this year. It's not just because it's a new year, but it's a real expectation I have in my spirit.

The last two months of 2015 I spent a lot of time with God, uninterrupted by work or the normal distractions due to the major health issues I battled. Through it all God kept speaking into my spirit while healing me. He refocused me and put a fresh and greater fire in my heart to grow closer to Him and to be used by Him to lead the lost to Jesus.

There are things He's shown me about what He wants to accomplish in our hometown of Dothan, Ala., and in the other countries where LIA shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ - Philippines, Myanmar, Pakistan and Haiti. I will share more specifics in the weeks to come.

My prayer for 2016 is for all of us to grow closer to Jesus and that God will work through LIA to lead thousands, tens of thousands to Jesus this year. It will take all of us working together. God didn't call any of us to do this alone. It takes the Body of Christ working together, and that has always been a hallmark of LIA.

We need your continued prayers, financial support, volunteer time, and donation of items such as food and hygiene products. Together, God has done great things over the past 15 years. Together, God will do even bigger things in 2016.

Please share with others what God is doing through LIA. Share our LIA Updates, Facebook posts and blogs. Also, I am available to come talk to your church, civic groups, etc. Just contact me and we can schedule times and dates. My email address is Our phone number is 334-494-4995.

Thanks and God bless each of you. Happy New Year.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Beheaded for his faith in Jesus

I received very sad news tonight. A good brother from the Philippines contacted me to report that a Christian had been killed and beheaded in a city where we sponsor a pastor.

I am leaving names of people and of the cities out of this blog, because the factions doing the killing could somehow find this blog and take further action against our Christian brothers and sisters.

The killing happened last night, New Year's Eve, and it was carried out by radical Muslims. This murder, which is not uncommon in areas where radical Islamics live, is persecution of the worst form.

As you read this, ask yourself, would I proclaim to be a Christian in this area and others like it around the world? Here in the US it's easy to say we are Christians. There are light forms of persecution, but nothing like many face around the world. When they proclaim to follow Jesus, they really mean it, because it could very well mean their lives.

The church where one of our beloved indigenous brothers is pastor gathered to celebrate the ending of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. They were going to eat together and then pray and worship Jesus.

When this one family arrived, the father told everyone he was going to walk to their nearby house and bring back the duck that would be dinner. He never returned. When they found him, he had been shot in the back, stabbed five times in the back, and beheaded. The killers carried him to a nearby cemetery and dropped him on the ground with a note that read, "We brought him here for easy burial."

One person witnessed the murder and now fears for his life. Justice as we know it usually doesn't happen in areas like this one, so those doing the killing will probably not see any jail time.

The man killed was once a Muslim and persecuted the church that he would later call his church. Though it was hard, the pastor witnessed to him, sharing the love of Jesus and telling him of the salvation that only comes from Jesus. This man surrendered his life to Jesus, and soon his entire family was following Jesus.

Where there is Islamic extremists, there is often a price to be paid for converting from Islam to Christianity. The lesser punishment is banishment from families and friends and treated like a third-rate citizen. The harshest is dying for your faith, or a family member is killed, or both.

My heart breaks. It's senseless, irrational, inhumane, evil. I have friends who don't believe as I do. Some are Muslim, Buddhist, and other religions. Some don't believe in anything. It's never once entered my mind to persecute or hate them. I love them and I pray for them, and yes, I have humbly shared Jesus with them. I would consider myself a bad friend if I didn't. Even more important, I wouldn't be a true follower of Jesus if I didn't share the Gospel with them.

What happened in the Philippines was pure evil, men being used by the devil to intimidate other Christians in that area.

I'm asking you to join with me to pray for the family and everyone at the small church. God knows all of their names. I'm also asking you to join me in praying for the killers. They need Jesus just like you and me. Remember, Saul persecuted the church, even giving the OK to kill Christians, such as Stephen. But, Jesus changed his heart. Saul became Paul and he ended up writing close to three quarters of the New Testament.

The man who died was once with those who persecuted the church. Now, he is with Jesus. If he could speak to us, he would say it was worth it. His family, though, is hurting. They celebrate the fact their father, husband, brother is in Heaven, but they hurt and miss him.

So, would you live for Jesus in this town, even if it meant being killed? I hope we can all answer yes, because Jesus is worth it. He thought we were all worth dying for on the cross.

Thank you for your prayers.