Growing Awareness

God found a lot of different ways to raise my awareness of the problems of poverty and injustice. For one thing, I started hanging out with Mike King. He’s trying to do a new kind of youth ministry, so I hang out with him because I like to see how he’s training young people. One of the things he’s trying to do is help kids understand what’s going on in the world. He introduced me to the Something to Eat program, and when I read about human trafficking in the newspaper I asked him what he knew about the Not For Sale Campaign.

As I started learning about problems like hunger and slavery, I started reading more about them. And when I did that, the suffering of these people grabbed my heart.

Also, I have boys of my own now, and I’m feeling a strong fathering instinct. I’ll do whatever it takes to be sure they are fed. I feel this powerful sense of compassion, and I want to make sure my family is safe. So I really feel for the people that are trying to do whatever it takes and they still can’t feed their children. That would be devastating to me. Like I said, it grips my heart.

I used to wonder why teenagers are homeless. Are they running away? Then I spent time at a shelter for homeless youth, and I learned something shocking. Yes, some of them are runaways. But a lot of them have come out to their parents and said that they are gay, and their parents kicked them out. These kids are on the street because their parents want nothing to do with them, just because of their sexuality.

They get kicked out of their homes, and then they get trafficked. They get sent out as prostitutes, and they have go. If they don’t, they won’t eat. If they don’t, they could get killed. Something like 80% of the girls in one of the shelters I visited had been trafficked at one point in time, or had been raped, or had to have sex for money to live. They have no choice, they die.

How do you even make sense of that? This is not light! This is evil! There is something so wrong with this. I would never throw my son out on his own, saying, “Fend for yourself.” I wouldn’t do that because he would die! Even if these kids physically survive, they die inside. There’s a lot of restoration work to be done.

It’s so sad, and so confusing. It’s happening right here, in our own country. There’s not nearly enough love. There’s not even enough understanding of the concept of love. And I just don’t get that. I don’t understand where our thoughts and intentions are when it comes to love.

Maybe I used to understand. Or maybe I never really understood. Maybe there was a time when I could just ignore it, or shrug it off.

But now I’m not okay with any of it.

All of these things are hitting me because God is showing me. This is God’s concern! So the more I pray about it, and the more I ask Him to show me awareness, the more He responds. He is always showing me more.

And you know what? It doesn’t overwhelm me! It doesn’t make me say, “God, there’s no way I can ever help. This is too much.”

Actually, it stirs me. It stirs me to want to join or start a movement. I’m not saying I want to start an organization. I have one of those already. I want to start a movement. Think of what Martin Luther King, Jr. did. He caused a whole country to embrace his dream and say, “Whatever it takes, we need to create justice where there is injustice.”

I know King died for that. But the movement continued, because God is moving in the world, and stirring His children. He is stirring me. Is He stirring you?

See you Tuesday.

Why Should Christians Fight Human Trafficking?

I mentioned last time that in my early experience, suburban churches were slow to respond to social justice issues like human trafficking. But I have seen that change. Churches are increasingly getting involved.

The Church is called to make Jesus visible in the world, and we do this by doing what He did. We are the sons and daughters of the King, so we do battle for the Kingdom. We bring righteousness and justice. We bring mercy and truth!

I think this is why churches are increasingly starting up trafficking missions, along with hunger initiatives, water initiatives, mental health initiatives, homelessness initiatives, help for orphans, and help for refugees.

Bay Area churches tend to be more aware of trafficking issues because the Bay Area really has a problem with it. Also, the Not For Sale Campaign has been very successful in getting the word out, and is able to use its influence to mobilize people. Bay Area churches and their youth groups have started taking the initiative, talking about trafficking and working on solutions.

Churches increasingly have human trafficking missions, and these missions are really, really good. I’ve been invited into a lot of different churches in California, and I have really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with them, seeing what they are doing. It’s inspiring!

I used to have to go around and ask churches to get involved, but now a lot California churches come to me and say, “Hey, we’re trying to start a justice mission in our church. We’d really like to hear your views on human trafficking, because we really want to encourage our congregation to fight harder.” Near the end of my baseball career, I had so many invitations to speak that I had to turn some down. Awareness is definitely spreading! And now that I’m retired, I can accept more invitations to speak. I get to continue being part of this awesome work that God is doing.

But we’re still at a stage where churches are trying to educate their congregations. Churches are still trying to help people understand how important it is to fight trafficking. Some churches are still trying to get their elders to see how important this is.

I’m happy to see churches making the effort to launch these missions and gain some momentum. I really am! But if you think about it, they shouldn’t have to try.

Churches shouldn’t have to convince their congregations, or their elders, that fighting trafficking is important. It’s important! It should be obvious that believers are going to be in on the fight. Period. Slavery is not Jesus. If you are part of a church, or you are a pastor, then you should be part of freeing the captives. No question, no debate. Freeing the captives is Jesus.

I’m telling you, when the Church unites to do Jesus, everything is going to click. When the Church unites to reflect Jesus into the world, then we will be able to see Him. And that is when He will return. Don’t you want that? I know I do!

If we continue to narrow our focus to our own programs, our own suburbs, our own communities, then we’ll never unite. All we’ll end up saying is, “Hey, this is my church. Stay away.”

The unification of the church does not mean giving up our denominational identities. It just means that we should all be on the same page on certain issues: issues of righteousness and justice. These are the foundation of the throne of God!

See you Thursday.

Defining Success

I care about people. I love them. I love them because I love the God that created them. He’s the same God that created me. He’s the same God that saved my life! So of course I want to help Him save more lives.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. I want to achieve something not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I’m focused on those who don’t have food or clean water. I’m focused on orphans and victims of human trafficking. Imagine being hungry, or having a contaminated water supply. Imagine what happens to children who don’t have a parent to love them. Imagine what it’s like to be deprived of your freedom! These are the lives I want to help God save. This is my definition of success.

I’d love to see this approach to success take root in society. Go find a random person right now, anywhere you like, behind a desk or on a ball field or in a doctor’s office. Go anywhere you like. Ask them if they get up in the morning and set a goal to achieve something. They’ll probably say yes. But then ask them, do they do it in order to help provide for someone who does not have? Most people are going to say no, I don’t think that way when I set goals.

I’d like to see that change.

I think it starts with kids. When we approach kids with the idea of setting goals to help others, it turns out that they love it! I’ve seen it in my work with the Not For Sale campaign and the Something to Eat campaign. In those organizations, I see kids setting goals to achieve something just so they can help save a life. They say, “I guarantee you I can come up with fifteen cents to feed someone.” Or they say, “I guarantee you I can come up with five cents to help with Not For Sale. In fact, I can do chores and I’ll raise a dollar!” They follow through, too, because for them, helping people in need is a priority.

Involving young people in projects like these is the best way to transform society. We’re helping them see that they can live their entire lives as servant leaders. When they think of success as leadership through service, they get really motivated. They decide to be the best at what they do. They work hard to follow their dreams.

They also realize how big they can dream. Be a CEO! Be an entrepreneur! They’ll dream this big when we help them see how powerful it is to be the one to make the rules. One of those rules can be to devote a portion of their company’s revenues to building orphanages, or responding to a food crisis or a water crisis. Or they’ll find a way to put an end to slave labor in their industry.

Showing up to help a person or a community in need is holy. Servant leadership is holy. It really is. The effects are felt everywhere. People know they have been helped, so they want to do the same thing. They know that someone provided for them by setting goals and dreaming dreams. So now they set goals and dream dreams. Now they achieve for the sake of others. Now it goes global.

When we identify as servant leaders, we are motivated to excel in our jobs and our lives. We work harder for success when we know that our success can help God save lives.

It’s great to teach this to kids, but I really hope we can all learn to think this way.

See you Thursday.

Fighting for the Kingdom

Jesus knows our lives. Even when He walked among us, Jesus could see into 2014. He could see how bad the world would become. He could see how comfortable with sin our world would be. Sin is becoming just another part of life, and the prevailing attitude seems to be, “Hey, to each his own.” Jesus looks at this, and He says, “Man! The world needs a lot of forgiveness!”

Jesus knows that believers walking the earth today need a lot of hope and encouragement. And we need a lot of His wisdom!

We need wisdom even when we do something really obvious for His Kingdom, like fighting human trafficking. There are tons of groups out there fighting human trafficking. Tons of them! But Dave Batstone of Not For Sale has an approach that really speaks to me. Dave uses a lot of wisdom. Not only is he fighting human trafficking, but he’s using entrepreneurship to do it. He’s creating opportunities in work and in life for former victims, and saving potential victims from falling into trafficking networks.

People involved in fighting trafficking face a big question. Once you rescue slaves from traffickers, what are your next steps? Once you rescue children, what are you going to do? Do you have homes for them? What about the adults? Do you have jobs for them? Can you help them support themselves and their families? Can you help them rehabilitate, laugh again, thrive?

Too often, people don’t have an answer for that. All they can say is, “I don’t know! I just know I’m supposed to rescue them.” Well, yes you are, but it doesn’t make sense to do that without a plan. You need a strategy! You need goals and tactics! You need to take care that you don’t add to the harm already done to them.

We should have already learned this lesson. Remember when we used to pick a poor country and go down as a church? We’d say, “Oh, we’ll build this poor village a church. We’ll build them this, that, and the other. We’ll build them some homes!” And we did. And then we just left. So what happened? We built homes, churches, schools, clinics, and community centers. We built buildings for them, buildings they needed, but they had no way to take care of them. They had no money and they had no supplies. So after about three or four years, the buildings crumbled. In the end, the people we went to serve didn’t have buildings anymore. They had rubble. All we did was trash their village!

We threw ourselves into “helping” when we didn’t have a goal or a purpose. We had no strategy. We didn’t understand why we were doing something to help. We had no wisdom. Our thoughts ran no deeper than, “Oh, this is charity.” So we did the wrong things. And that’s why there are a lot of people now saying that charity is hurting people.

The Book of Proverbs speaks all the time about Lady Wisdom. Lady Wisdom says, “Do not deny me. Because if you deny me, the road you go down will lead to death.” And so I’ve been asking God lately to give me wisdom. There are so many things going on in the world today that don’t look right to me, even though people are saying it’s okay. I need wisdom to know how to handle it. I need wisdom to speak into people’s lives. Wisdom will show us how to fight for the Kingdom of God.

See you Thursday.

How to Fight for the Kingdom of God

Jesus knows our lives. Even when He walked among us, Jesus could see into 2013. He could see how bad the world would become. He could see how comfortable with sin our world would be. Sin is becoming just another part of life, and the prevailing attitude seems to be, “Hey, to each his own.” Jesus looks at this, and He says, “Man! The world needs a lot of forgiveness!

Jesus knows that believers walking the earth today need a lot of hope and encouragement. Continue reading

Free2Play on Facebook

In her comment on my last post, Cathy wrote, “Maybe some of us will be reminded to worship, and act, each time you come to the mound.”  Thank you Cathy!  I pray that some of you will remember to pray for me, and I have a wonderful way for you to act each time I come to the mound.  Join me in using my pitches to free slaves!  There’s a Free2Play app on Facebook designed to help us fight slavery together. Opening Day is right around the next corner! Let me show you how fun and easy this app is to use.

When you click this link to the app, you’ll see the following screen:

Free2PlayMain

If you like, you can explore the features of this page and watch my 2.5 minute video about Free2Play.

Then go ahead and click the large orange button that says, “Get Started!”  That takes you to this screen:

Free2PlayPage2

Check out that black box that says, “Let’s start a roster!”  All the instructions you will need are embedded in the app.  They will walk you through the simple steps you’ll take to get started.  Pick me for your roster!  I’ve pledged to donate $250.00 per strike out, and $250.00 per save or hold, to Free2Play.  Won’t you join me?  Pledge a dime or a dollar, and add it to my $250.00, and together we’ll free our neighbors in slavery.

You’re not restricted to choosing players who have pledged to Free2Play. You can draft any player to your team! Use your baseball smarts to build your roster, and challenge your friends to play with you. This is similar to fantasy baseball, it’s just as much fun, and it’s an awesome way to love Jesus, in the way of Matthew 25.

If you do choose players who have pledged, your pledge is added to theirs, and they are encouraged by your support. That’s something to think about!

Don’t be afraid to give a penny, if that’s what you want to do. Combined with my pledge, your penny has power! Your pledge encourages me to make my pitches! Just remember that your little bit, joined with everyone else’s little bit, becomes a lot. Together, we can do a lot of damage to slavers and to the trafficking industry.

Have fun with this, and let me know how your roster is doing.  See you Monday.