Concern for justice is a quality dear to the heart of God, and one Multiply Vineyard wants to see reproduced in the DNA of every single Vineyard church plant. As we partner with the Vineyard Justice Network (VJN), we’ll be periodically bringing you stories of how God captured VJN leaders’ hearts for justice. Here’s Steven Hamilton’s story:
I first encountered the interconnectivity [of justice] when I was doing some research on migration crises from countries like Cuba or Haiti to the U.S. I was researching mass migration and looking at the typical “triggers” that people point to (e.g. natural disasters like hurricanes, or civil unrest) that cause people to make certain choices. I quickly realized things like natural disasters and civil unrest were only triggers because there were other issues placing these people in desperate situations. In a situation like that, a natural disaster or civil unrest was the final trigger that propelled them to leave their homes for something—anything—else.
The desperate situations and issues before the final trigger include poor health and immense poverty. The fact is, most victims of human trafficking were already living with the consequences of the environmental and economic crisis prior to being lured into that life. As I continued to dig further in my research, I found it was indeed an environmental factor that had set off so many people’s treks down this treacherous pathway into the vile clutches of human traffickers and of those who prey upon the weak.
But the dots were connecting for me: I saw illegal immigration and human trafficking connecting to the situation of extreme poverty, which in turn was rooted in an environmental crisis. As I was talking to my boss at that time about my research, I said, “If we could get to work on the root ‘push’ issues of poverty and environmental crisis, while still working on the ‘pull’ issues of sexual dysfunction and deviation in the U.S.—if we could do something about them, these ‘homeland security issues’ might evaporate!” He looked up at me and said, “Steven, please, we’re not the church; we’re just the government.”
Unfortunately, the church today is a place where the broken run from. In truth, the church should be the safest place for the broken to run to. This fact grieves me so, because I know it to be a fact. I have sat and given permission to survivors of trafficking to speak their minds and tell God the lamentations of their hearts. And do you know what I hear? They complain and lament to God that His people have failed them. I have been part of that problem and I lament that too.
How many poor are in your local church? Do those trapped in prostitution find a safe place without condemnation in your fellowship?
Excerpted from the 2012 Vineyard USA article introducing VJN: http://www.vineyardusa.org/site/task-forces/VJN/introducing-vineyard-justice-network
Steven Hamilton is a spiritual director, community organizer and subversive catalyst for the Kingdom of God, seeking the Justice of the Kingdom as a disciple of Jesus. Embracing a holistic ministry of biblical justice, he has helped liberate and restore victims and survivors of human trafficking for over a decade.
He has worked in both public and private endeavours in this area, in various roles with the Department of Homeland Security, as Chair for Public Awareness for the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force and as a leader with Safe House of Hope. Steven is the founding leader of the Vineyard Urban Mission/Baltimore.