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Finding the dark places in paradise

France Mission Immersion Reflection

By Mark Snipes, Associate Coordinator

 

In March, during our first Mission Madness weekend in Waynesboro, our Camp Pastor, Barrett Owen, preached a sermon about Jesus’ exchange with the crowd concerning the woman caught in adultery. During this sermon, Barrett asked a simple, but profound question: “Where was the man?” The point Barrett was making was that the act of adultery involved two people but the crowd choose to exploit the woman, the one without power in that society, for political and religious gains.

“Why are you going on a Mission Trip to Strasbourg?” This question was one asked of me and other members of the 23-person team from Second Baptist Richmond traveling on a 10-day mission experience partnering with CBF Field Personnel Tiffne and Joel Whitley. Strasbourg, France is considered the unofficial “Capital of Europe,” housing the European Parliament and a major center of trade and culture. Strasbourg is a lovely city with amazing public transportation, a beautiful downtown center, fantastic food: the perfect recipe for a urban paradise!

During the first few days of the trip our team was introduced to the Whitley’s anti-Human Trafficking initiative “Ladies in Waiting.” While we didn’t work directly with the victims of Human Trafficking, we heard their stories, saw the places they are trafficked, prayed for them by name and gained a better understanding of a very complex issue. We prayed, we cried, and we reached out with our souls trying to see and value the spark of the divine within a group of women pushed into dark places. Even in the midst of paradise, powerful people prey on the powerless.

Exploitation is nothing new.  It happened in the days of Jesus and it is happening now. Even in the midst of paradise the powerful take advantage of the powerless and for this reason our group went to Strasbourg to join in what God is already doing there. Our mission in Strasbourg was clear: to help strengthen and widen the work of the Whitley’s, to partner with and encourage the churches working in France and to come back and tell others what we experienced.

 

I understand that in a traditional sense, a mission trip like this seems out of place. Our team did not build a well or help build houses or even work with people in developing countries. This trip was about relationships and partnerships. This trip was also about understanding the cycle of exploitation and considering what our role is helping those who are being taken advantage of. This trip was about finding the dark places in a place where they are hard to find, realizing the dark places exist in our very own Suburban paradise in Virginia.

During our final debriefing sessions, Tiffne Whitley said to our group “sometimes prayer means having difficult conversations with God.” For ten days, our team was challenged theologically to consider both how God works in a deeply broken world and what our role is in helping God redeem all things.  There are no easy answers here. Our hope is that our group continues to wrestle with the inconvenient truth that there are dark places in the world and that we have an obligation to shine light of Christ in the places where light is needed the most.

Please pray for those who are caught in the midst of Human Trafficking. May the peace of Christ be with them, give them hope and show them that there are those who care for them.  Each of these ladies has a name, a story, and my hope is, a bright future ahead.