On June 7th, 2015 at 12:30pm, members of Christ Church gathered in their community center for a LATO presentation on human trafficking. After a brief introduction about the organization, an announcement was made that Pastor Susan and Pastor Mike would be available to meet if anyone felt a need for pastoral care at any point during the presentation. In Our Backyard: Keeping Our Children Safe from Human Trafficking, LATOs film about the traumatic effects of the commercial sexual exploitation of children was shown. When the movie ended, the room remained silent as the lights turned up.
There seemed to be an unspoken understanding about why we – LATO, the members of Christ Church and its senior pastors - were congregated at the community center, instead of outside enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was more than to address the usual questions: What is human trafficking? How it is happening here in the Philadelphia area? What is the confusion and what are misconceptions about human trafficking and the sex trade? The questions they asked me during the Q&A part of the program were thoughtful and informed. I was aware of being in a church community that was aware of its environment; aware of what was going on outside the walls of the oldest Presbyterian Church in the country situated in the historic pride of Philadelphia, Old City. It is a church that is aware of its close proximity to a world that everyone seems to be talking about, the world of human trafficking, but few know what they can do about it. They asked several times: “What can we do about it?” I explored the possibilities with them and then our time was up. They lingered, talking in small groups about what they had seen in the film, how deeply they were affected by it, who needed to see it and why, and what the next steps should look like.
Today, June 9, 2015, we took one of the next steps.