Today was one of those days
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Last week I attended a Christian business conference where one of the main speakers shared how he understood our purpose in life as establishing ‘Eden-like’ atmospheres (at Soul Action we talk about ‘space’ in the same way), space where people are aware of God’s presence and act accordingly – not unlike the garden of Eden (pre Genesis 3).
Today we met Carla
Today was one of those days, one of those days when all you can do is thank God for the gift of your vocation, thank Him for the incredible privilege of meeting so many creative and innovative individuals that are aware of God’s presence and who are trying to act in accordance of His will in obedience – today Rachel and I had coffee with Carla.
Today may have been the first time we’ve met Carla, but it’s not the first time we’ve heard her name; by way of explanation I’m going to have to repeat a story I’ve told many times which all started three years ago, this week.
Back in 2012, on October 17th to be exact, Soul Action began gathering individuals involved in Anti-Human Trafficking in response to several separate conversations over several months. Once again Soul Action responded to God’s call to, “…get people in the same room” on a day which also happened to be Anti-Human Trafficking Day!
At that first meeting in October 2012 God promised through prayer that something significant would emerge only as we continued to gather, share, pray and take the next steps – and it didn’t take long!
Back in 2009, the youth at NO’s (middle far right) church had been encouraged to actively explore whatever social justice issues they felt prompted by God to get involved in – what captivated them most was the issue of Human Trafficking. Redlight began working with women working on the streets and children in rural communities at risk of Trafficking.
By our first Anti-Human Trafficking gathering in October 2012, NO was already mentoring TS (middle centre), a church leader who, along with her husband TS, Soul Action had first met in 2011. TS was mobilising a team of staff and volunteers to minister to girls on the streets near her church. DR (middle left), who Soul Action’s PB (bottom left) met in 2011, was so struck by what TS shared at the October gathering that he asked TS if he could join her on the streets.
At the beginning of 2013 Soul Action’s co-founder and director RB (bottom centre) was contacted by CV, a Methodist Minister, who explained how Carla (CF) had begun making jewellery from seeds, twigs, etc. – things that people usually walk by, ignore or throw away. RB shared this with Soul Action’s CW (bottom right), and they both agreed that CF should meet RC (centre right) – who back in October had spoken about her frustration at not being able to find alternative sources of income for women who Redlight had helped to leave the streets. By February 2013’s gathering RC’s girls had started making Jewellery from things they were finding in the streets and parks in which they used to ‘work’ – literally restoring the beauty in fallen nature (top left). As we prayed together in February, RC shared how the girls were struggling to make enough jewellery due to a lack of suitable tools. In response, DR mobilised his church GU to purchase, pack and send tools – along with a handwritten letter and prayers (top centre and right).
Make a STAND
In the early part of 2013 I (PB) was approached – repeatedly – by friends at Soul Action/Survivor (UK) with a request to visit and film what was happening with Counter Human Trafficking in Durban. I initially said “No” – at least twice:
“Why would you want to fly 12,000 miles to make a film about people praying (silently)?”
As Soul Action/Survivor (UK) persisted, I felt I had no choice but to put their request to the Anti Human Trafficking group that was meeting monthly. They responded positively and easily put together a comprehensive schedule for the film crew. By July 2013 the film Make a STAND (below) had been shown to 30,000+ youth at Soul Survivor’s UK festivals and led to a 9,000+ signature petition that was handed to the UK government in Nov 2013. It would go on to influence the Modern Slavery Act 2015, designed to tackle slavery and consolidate previous offences relating to trafficking & slavery.
What is OUR stand?
“Modern-Day slavery is one of the greatest evils of our time and requires everyone to make a stand for freedom and fight for justice on behalf of the millions who are trapped. That is why I am introducing a Modern Slavery Bill and, with the help of young people like these, we will redouble our efforts to end slavery.
Thank you to the thousands of young people from Soul Action for ensuring that the voices of the enslaved are not lost.” The Rt. Hon Theresa May, Home Secretary (UK).
The Anti Human Trafficking Group met again in September to discern what the ‘STAND’ might mean for South Africa. Again God spoke about breakthrough emerging by meeting to pray – as He had at the group’s inception in October 2012. Since it was almost a year since the group began, one of the most encouraging things God said included:
“The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it” (2 Corinthians 8:10, MSG).
The Group discussed what had happened as a result of ‘simply’ meeting to pray (see above), and recalled some of God’s promises concerning what had yet to emerge, e.g. the church rediscovering its prophetic voice and a justice focused festival. It was felt His words “Speak life” should be shared with the wider Network; specifically whether or not our daily choices lead to freedom for others. Some people felt challenged about whether we were really prepared to have our hearts broken for what breaks God’s. There was a new invitation from God to, “Imagine a market.”
On the final Saturday in November 2013, Soul Action and Grace Umhlanga (GU) – the church that had supplied tools to the ladies who previously worked on the streets in 2013 – were delighted to be able to host a market with the specific aim of offering emerging business men and women the opportunity to sell their home-made, hand-made or crafted products to the general public in time for Christmas. For a number of years Soul Action’s founders Rachel and Phil Bowyer had felt that there was a need to provide a space where people from communities with low or no formal incomes could showcase their skills and talents – perhaps this was it! It was a fantastic morning, a real answer to prayer, with 100’s of people attending and some stall holders selling out within an hour!
Diane Fick was responsible for coordinating the initiative; she did a wonderful job. As a result DF decided to join the Soul Action team on a full-time basis to coordinate Markets in 2014 and 2015, plus explore the idea of gathering and training emerging entrepreneurs – this group still meets and is discerning a number of potential next steps!
A UK Market
On a tour of the UK to raise funds and awareness of Soul Action’s work in June 2013, Phil and Rachel Bowyer shared some of the story above as an illustration of what happens when, aware of God’s presence, we act according to His will in obedience. Sitting in the church congregation in Phil and Rachel’s birth-town was Ramona, the founder of Little Trove, a wholesale fair trade business with ambitions to work at grassroots level with artisan groups across Asia and Africa, offering design and business help to produce and sell items.
Inspired by the story of Anti Human Trafficking, Ramona approached Phil and Rachel, who then linked her to Redlight with the intention of stocking Jewellery, that, once fallen nature, is now being sold throughout the UK.
…the person, who – just like everyone else – played a crucial part in this amazing Eden-like journey of contemplative prayer and practical action, but who – up until this day in October 2015 – had been unaware of the full extent of her initial act of creativity and obedience.
What an absolute privilege it was to finally be able to meet Carla, and what a privilege it was for Rachel and I to be able to reveal to her what was previously unknown to her, but completely known by God, the providential source, initiator and final goal of mission (Tennent 2014:124).