Human Trafficking Awareness Sunday

So this past Sunday was the day to celebrate the baptism of Christ. But there’s another emphasis marked on the calendar. This past Sunday, Jan. 11 was designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Sunday. And that was where our focus was yesterday. Instead of a sermon, we read some victims’ stories and use a readers’ theater piece. So today’s post is the entire outline for the service yesterday – Scriptures, hymns, prayers, and readings.

*Just a note: While the hymns we sing use inclusive language, I couldn’t find recordings/videos online that included those inclusive lyrics. So while the videos and links embedded below speak of God in terms of “He,” “Him,” “Father,” etc., this isn’t an accurate representation of the language we use in our worship services.*

Human Trafficking bulletin cover

Welcome & Announcements


Letting God In: During this time, we invite you to prepare your heart and your mind for worship. We want you to be able to use this quiet time to settle your thoughts, set aside any distractions that may be troubling you, and focus your whole self on God. Open your heart, your mind, and your spirit, and let God into your life.

Centering Prayer: Hear a just cause, Holy One.
As you breathe in, pray, “Hear a just cause.”
As you breathe out, pray, “Holy One.”

* Gathering Hymn #588 (NCH) – Let Justice Flow like Streams

* Opening Praise
One: Across the Red Sea, God delivered a people from slavery into freedom.
Many: We are called to bring the message of freedom to all who are enslaved.
One: Across the River Jordan, God brought forth a people from wilderness into homeland.
Many: We are called to help others find their home in God.
One: Out of exile, God led the people from diaspora into community.
Many: We are called to lead our communities to be places of safety and welcome.
One: Out of hopelessness, God brought forth a Messiah.
Many: We are called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the world.
ALL: Let us worship and share this Good News with all.

* Opening Hymn #314 (NCH) – Community of Christ

* Joining in Prayer
Almighty God, Author of Life, we confess that we have been silent. We confess that we have closed our eyes and shut our ears. We don’t want to hear about human trafficking – about the stories of people torn from their homes, coerced out of their very lives, and sold into slavery. It’s painful. It’s shameful, and we don’t want to talk about it. But you have called us to be people of action and people of compassion, God. You have called us to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. And so we ask you to open our eyes to see the vulnerable and the victims among us. Open our ears so that we may hear their stories, understand where we need to speak out and act, and recognize where our inaction and silence have caused harm. And open our hearts, Great Savior, so that we can be moved to work for justice, to do our part in our communities, in our country and in our world. In the name of Jesus, the Messiah, who went to the cross innocent, but rose triumphant, we pray. Amen.

* God’s Promise of Grace: (pouring the water into the baptismal font) Friends, the waters of God bring renewal and grace to all people, refreshing the weary soul and making all things new. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are made a people loved and forgiven and freed. Alleluia! Amen.


Scripture reading – Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-9

Hearing the Voices of Those Seeking Justice

Victims’ Stories
from the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report

The names in these stories have been changed to protect people who have already been victimized beyond anything we can imagine. But the stories themselves are real. They are stories from around the globe – every continent. And these stories are just a small sampling … but they shed some light on the world of human trafficking – a light meant to open our eyes and our hearts to the plights of our brothers and sisters around the world.

Philippines/Saudi Arabia

Maria left her home for a job as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia – the opportunity for a fair wage and a safe workplace made the sacrifice of leaving her family and her life in the Philippines seem worth it. In reality, Marie spent her time in Saudi Arabia being sold from employer to employer – 11 in all. In the last home where she worked, she was beaten severely. After her stay in the hospital, she was sent home to the Philippines. She has never been paid for her months of work.


Trusting his recruiters, Myo believed he was leaving his home in Burma to work in a pineapple factory in Thailand. Yet, when he arrived, he was sold to a boat captain for the equivalent of approximately $430. He was held on the boat for 10 months, forced to work, and beaten regularly. On the rare occasion that the boat docked at port, the officers bribed local police to allow them to keep the fishermen on the boat rather than risking them escaping if they were allowed to set foot on shore. Myo was finally able to escape and sought refuge in a temple. He continues to struggle with deafness, having had his head and ear smashed into a block of ice on the fishing boat.

United States

When teenager Melissa ran away from home, she was quickly found by a man who promised to help, but was actually a pimp who intended to sexually exploit her. He used psychological manipulation and coercion to hold her in prostitution, and advertised her using online sales. Refusal to do what he said was met by beatings and threats. Despite her fear of being found and killed if she ran, Melissa one day managed to escape from a hotel room where he was keeping her. A patron at another hotel nearby helped her reach the police, who arrested her trafficker.


Needing to support their families, teenagers Dung and Chien dropped out of school and went to work as gold miners. The boys were forced to work underground around the clock, under constant surveillance, and controlled by threats. They were told they would not get paid until they had worked for six months. Racked with untreated malaria and malnourished, Dung and Chien organized an escape attempt with some of the other boys being held in the mines, only to be caught and beaten by the foreman. They were able to finally escape with the help of local villagers, who fed them as they hid from the bosses in the jungle. With the help of a local child support center, the boys are looking forward to being reunited with their families.

Mexico/United States

Flor Molina was a hard worker and a good seamstress, working two jobs in Mexico to support her three young children. When her sewing teacher told her about a sewing job in the United States, she thought it was a good opportunity. Once they arrived at the border, the woman who arranged their travel took Flor’s identification documents and clothes, “for safekeeping.” She and her teacher were taken to a sewing factory and immediately began working. Beaten and prohibited from leaving the factory, Flor began her days at 4:00 in the morning; she not only worked as a seamstress, but had to clean the factory after the other workers went home. After 40 days, she was allowed to leave to attend church, where she was able to get help. With the help of a local NGO, Flor was able to break free. Now, she is a leader in a U.S. national survivors’ caucus, and advocates for victims’ rights and supply chain transparency.

Readers’ Theater
from the PC(USA) Human Trafficking Liturgy

Liturgist: As we join together in this place of worship, others are enslaved, some to provide our comfort. Will we not look and listen?

Voice 1: I signed up to be a domestic worker in a foreign country where I could earn more in a year than I could in a lifetime in my country. But once there, my passport was taken. I had no time off. I was beaten almost daily, thrown down the stairs, and nearly choked to death. The hospital helped me escape when I tried to commit suicide.

All readers’ voices: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Voice 2: I was nine when my father sold me for the equivalent of 100 U.S. dollars to a lady who told me I was going to a special place to live in a big house with pretty things. I was excited. I’d never ridden on a bus or seen a car, and I was going to the big city. But when I got there, there was only a dark, dirty place. The lady told me what she wanted me to do, and I said no. Then a man came and beat me for three days. They didn’t feed me. I was hungry, and I wanted to go home. I prayed, but the lady said my parents aren’t heard. It turns out she was right. When I contracted AIDS a few years later, I was thrown out on the street. I died at 16.

All readers’ voices: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Voice 3: I was sold by my boyfriend of two years.

Voice 4: I was sold by my spouse.

Voice 5: I just went to a sleepover with a friend whose parent drugged me and sold me to be repeatedly gang raped. My parents found me before I was sold to a Texan for $300,000.

All readers’ voices: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Voice 6: The soldiers came and killed my family when I was 12. They found me shaking in a corner and gave me pills they said would make me feel better. They did, but they made me crazy, too. The soldiers took me and fed me and gave me more pills. They taught me how to kill people. I didn’t like doing this, but if I didn’t, they would kill me, like they did my friend who was hacked to death by a machete right before my eyes when he refused to rape and kill his own sister.

All readers’ voices: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Voice 7: I dig through the mud in riverbeds to find the ore for what you call smart phones and computers. Because I’m only 11, I can crawl through the tunnels to where the best ore can be found. The problem is, the tunnels collapse and kill people. But the soldiers with guns make us work and take what we find. Sometimes they pay us. Mostly, they let us live.

All readers’ voices: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Voice 3: I was only eight years old when my family sent me to work in a brick kiln. After ten years of hard labor, I moved to another kiln, accepting an advance of $150 to meet my immediate needs. But the owner inflated my debt through fraudulent fees and forced me into servitude to pay off an insurmountable debt, and I worked for fifteen more years before local officials intervened to obtain my freedom.

All readers’ voices: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Voice 1: I work 20 hours a day in Beverly Hills sewing clothes with labels that say “Made in the USA.” Sometimes I get a day off, and I can see my children.

Voice 2: I work 200 hours a week in a restaurant in Detroit in exchange for a cot I the basement. I don’t speak your language well, but I can’t talk to you if you try to engage me in friendly conversation because my boss is always watching. If I try to escape, I don’t know what will happen to me. So I don’t try.

Voice 3: I don’t go to school so I can pick cotton.

Voice 4: I’m forced to make bricks.

Voice 5: Weave rugs.

Voice 6: Work on farms.

Voice 7: Catch fish.

All readers’ voices: Don’t you see us? We’re everywhere. Don’t you care?

The following are to be said quickly by the different voices without pauses between voices:

Voice 1: We make your beds in hotels.

2: We serve your food in restaurants.

3: We sew your clothes.

4: We make your shoes.

5: We harvest your food.

6: We provide materials for your electronics.

7: We mine your diamonds,

3: your gold,

4: your silver,

5: your copper.

All readers’ voices: We’re everywhere. Don’t you see us? Don’t you care?

All readers’ voices: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.


Friends, I know these words are hard to hear. But things like these are not nearly as far removed from our lives as we’d like them to be. Do you enjoy shopping trips up to the Mall of America? Because that’s a prime spot for traffickers to pick up, sell, and swap victims. Rochester’s no better. These things are going on right in our backyard. But the good news is we are not helpless. There are things that we can do. In your bulletin this morning are 2 sheets. One is a human trafficking fact sheet. The other is a list of 20 ways you can help fight human trafficking.

Scripture reading – Matthew 5:1-16

Litany for Those Enslaved (based on the United Methodist Women’s Litany: An Affirmation of Faith)

One: We believe in God the Creator who hovered in love over the primal chaos and uttered creation into existence.

ALL: We believe that the magnificent signature of God can be seen in the diversity of life – every color, every race, every face.

One: We also believe in the revelatory signature of God in Jesus Christ who came to restore the image of God in every human being.

ALL: We believe that God offers peace to a broken humanity, and calls us to be God’s peacemakers, justice-seekers, and healers for a world in need.

One: We believe in Jesus the Christ who came to open our ears so that we may hear each other into community.

ALL: We believe in the Holy Spirit who leads us on into ever-new margins, as children of God.

Sing Kyrie Eleison

One: We believe in the Holy Spirit who opens our ears to the groaning of all God’s beautiful children who suffer – those who are oppressed and exploited and enslaved.

ALL: We believe in God who continually sends us out as living reminders of God’s grace, compassion, and heart for justice.

One: We believe in God’s yearning for shalom and God’s care for all God’s children across this wide, wide earth – all ages and races, all classes and creeds, all genders and sexual orientations.

ALL: We believe that God’s shalom is a call for the care of the whole, and God us calling us to be messengers of shalom.

One: For the sake of justice on earth,

ALL: For the sake of justice on earth.

Sing Kyrie Eleison

One: We believe in the life-giving streams flowing from the heart of God for the healing of our communities, the human family, and creation as a whole.

ALL: We believe in God’s vision of cosmic redemption – freedom for the captives, hope for the hopeless, compassion for those who have been victimized.

One We believe that today we can start living a shalom-filled life, and stand by God’s vision for all people.

ALL: We believe that today we can start living for the new heaven and the new earth that God envisions for us.

One: We believe that today we can start being peacemakers and justice-bringers for all God’s children, shining a light so that all may see the image of God in themselves and in the people around them.

ALL: We believe that today we can become caretakers of God’s beloved people – all God’s beloved people – because that is what God has called us to do: to love as God has loved us.

Sing Kyrie Eleison

ALL: In the name of the One who says, “Behold, I make all things new,” even Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Passing of the Peace

* Song of Peace: Let There Be Peace on Earth (back of NCH hymnal)

Prayers of the People – Around the sanctuary, you will find facts about human trafficking. Connecting these posters are chains representing the unjust captivity faced by our brothers and sisters around the world, around this country, even in our own backyards. Today, we will have an extended period of silent prayer before we move into our responsive prayer. I encourage you to move around the sanctuary, tearing off loops of the chains as your prayer for all those whose lives are and have been affected by human trafficking because prayer is truly one of the most powerful ways that we can help to break these chains of bondage and injustice.



Responsive Prayer (also from the PCUSA Human Trafficking Liturgy)

One: God of grace, break all the chains that hold your children in bondage, whether these be political, social, economic, ethnic, cultural, religious, familial, or personal. Lord, in your mercy,
ALL: Liberate.
One: Almighty God, you have shared your power for good with us. Judge those who abuse power. Grant your wisdom to all who have authority over others that they may lead in accord with your Way of shalom for all people. Lord, in your mercy,
ALL: Empower.
One: Holy God, you have called your people to embody Christ’s ministry here on earth. Help us, your church, be vigilant for those in need of your freedom and give us the courage to act as your agents of liberation. Lord, in your mercy,
ALL: Encourage.
One: God of compassion, there are others in bondage in so many other ways – suffering illness and pain in body, mind, and spirit – so we pray for your healing for those who are also on our hearts this day. {During the silence, lift up your prayer requests either silently or aloud.} Lord, in your mercy,
ALL: Heal.
One: God of grace, hear all of our prayers – those uttered and those that remain unspoken in the silent corners of our hearts. We lift them up to you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”



                * Hymn of Response #780 (NCH)
* Prayer of Dedication

* Hymn #332 (PH) – Live Into Hope


* Charge & Benediction: Friends, the prophet Micah instructs us to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. Justice … kindness … humility … grace … These are all things that God desires for each and every one of God’s children, and as God’s messengers, it is our challenge and our blessing to work for this in the world. **SO MAY THE GOD OF HOPE FILL YOU WITH ALL JOY AND PEACE IN BELIEVING, SO THAT YOU MAY ABOUND IN HOPE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.**

* Sending Hymn #2172 (Sing the Faith) – We Are Called (refrain only)