“The Superbowl is commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” (A21 Campaign) In light of this horrific plight on humanity and due to the fact that this is Superbowl weekend, Redeemed Girl asked our friend and board member, Leigh Kohler to share with us about her calling to eradicate human trafficking. All of us have heard the staggering statistics concerning sex slavery and perhaps you, too, are broken by the injustice, but often we feel inadequate to do anything about the problem. I’m thankful that Leigh’s story conveys how the Lord can use all of us in ordinary ways to do mighty things. -Marian Jordan Ellis
I don’t know about you, but one of the struggles in my life has been believing God could use me to have an impact for His Kingdom in a world so full of pain. For many years, I looked at the suffering and injustice in the world – human trafficking, poverty, child soldiers, war, disease and millions of orphans – and felt completely overwhelmed by the darkness and the complexity of the problems. Then, I would turn and look at myself and feel so frustrated because all I could see were my inadequacies. I wished, somehow, that I had more to offer God– a bigger intellect, more creativity, and know-how, etc. I also struggled with knowing where to even begin. So, for those of you who may be grappling with some of the same frustrations and questions, I am writing this today with you in mind.
What I want to pass down to you are a few lessons I’ve learned on my journey to discover my place in God’s story. I am not giving you a formula because no two people’s stories or callings are the same. I certainly don’t want to put God in a box; He often works in very mysterious ways. These are lessons tried and true because they are eternal truths mined from the treasure of God’s Word. These are lessons I’ve seen and witnessed in many that have gone before me. It’s my greatest hope and prayer that God would these simple, but important principles to encourage your heart, to point you in the right direction, and perhaps give you your next step in the journey.
Let me begin by telling you a little bit of my story. If you had told me five years ago that God would lead me into the work of fighting sex-trafficking, I’m sure I would have looked at you like a deer in the head lights. For one thing, I had not yet heard the term sex-trafficking or human-trafficking. I had no idea that there was a whole underground world of evil in which women, even tiny children, were being sold like property for sex and enduring the most horrific kind of terror and abuse.
I was a mom of three young kids, and my husband and I were teaching Bible Study at my church. I had carried in my heart a burden for injustice and suffering, but there were so many different kinds of injustices in the world and when I prayed about what God would have me to do, His response was always the same, abide in Me.
This is the first lesson I want to pass on to you – Abide. It’s a simple word, but understanding what it means and doing it will mean the difference between living a life of purpose and power through the Holy Spirit and walking around in circles trying to make things happen in our own power. We may do some good, but what we’re after is lasting fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit working in and through us.
In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” He goes on to say, a few verses later (vs. 16), “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain….”
What I want you to see is that we should never separate doing the work of justice from our relationship with Christ. The impact we have on the world, Jesus is telling us, is in direct correlation to our intimacy with Him.
That means that to tell God we want Him to use our lives to do good in the world and then to turn around and think it’s no big deal to sleep with our boyfriend, is living a contradiction. You might be saying, “So Leigh, are you saying God will only use us if we are perfect?” That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m talking about choosing to walk in a habitual sin that we know the Holy Spirit has been convicting us and choosing to let sin rule over us. The enemy cannot rob us of our salvation, but He can render us useless on this earth (See I Peter 1:3-11). We can have great moments of inspiration where we get fired up and are ready to change the world, but when Jesus called His disciples He simply said, “Follow Me.” And that’s what the Christian journey is about – saying Yes to Him over and over again.
Yes, I will follow you and forgive.
Yes, I will follow you and walk in your ways.
Yes, I will believe everything you say in your Word is right and true.
Yes, I will love everyone you put in my path.
Yes, I will follow you when it doesn’t look like I’m doing anything truly significant. Yes, because I love you and want to go with you whatever that means and whatever that looks like. When we blow it and sin, and we will because of our rotten flesh, we confess it and know we’ve been forgiven at the cross. At the cross we find forgiveness and power to live Godly lives.
With abiding always comes waiting and trusting. Can I tell you how hard waiting has been for me at times? I see a problem and I want to go fix it today, but God just doesn’t seem to be on my same timetable.
The second lesson I have learned and wanted to pass on to you is this; Be faithful where you are and let God develop in you the character needed to sustain the calling He has for your life.
In Scripture, we learn that the Christian life is a battle. Soldiers don’t go into battle without training and without being equipped. In the same way, God teaches us the important lessons of abiding, waiting, and trusting, to strengthen us and prepare us for what lies ahead. Ministry can look glamorous from afar but up close, in the day to day, it will take fortitude to press on and lay hold of all God is calling us to do. The great news is that when God is ready to move He doesn’t need help from anyone. I cannot tell you how many times I have cried my eyes out in amazement and disbelief at how God put me in the right place at the right time to do His will, usually without Me even knowing what was happening. I didn’t have to work to make it happen or know the right people. People do not call; God calls. Trust Him to get you where He wants you.
After God broke my heart over sex-trafficking, He first called me to prayer. Before He directed my steps in ministry, He called me to a season of prayer over the situation. From there He began to connect my life in very specific ways to work He wanted me to be a part of. Not long after that I was asked to go to a meeting with other believers from various churches in my city to pray and talk about rallying churches together to get engaged and mobilized in the work of freedom and restoration for women, men and children in our city. At that time, I had no idea that I would become one of the leaders of this vision that was birthed out of that meeting. We aim to unite the churches in our city to end trafficking together. Honestly, I’m totally in over my head, but that’s the journey of faith and there is nothing more thrilling. On the difficult days when the enemy is attacking and telling me I don’t have what it takes, I can look back and see that it was God who put me in this place and it’s not about me and what I can do, it’s about God and what He is able to do.
The third lesson I have learned is that prayer is foundational to all great movements of God. I mentioned earlier that when I was kicked in the gut with the horrors of sex-trafficking, the Lord led me and a group of friends to begin praying. That is when I truly started to see God directing my steps in supernatural ways. There is a short book that I came across early on in my journey called, “Deepening the Roots for Justice.” In the first line of the book, the author, Bethany Hoang, says it all: “Seeking justice does not begin at the door of a brothel. Seeking justice begins by seeking the God of justice.”
I have learned that prayer is the foundation of all God-sized activity and the thing that can never be replaced. Prayer seems so counterintuitive because we just want to get out there and do something, but prayer is where I strongly urge you to begin. John Bunyan once said, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Prayer is what brings the power of God into a situation.
I remember praying, Lord if you would just tell me where to go, I’ll go pick up a girl who needs help. Tell me what to do. And one day, while spending time in His Word, the Holy Spirit led me to Acts 12. Peter is in prison for the gospel and a group of believers met in a house to pray. In the night, an angel appeared in the prison and Peter’s chains fell to the ground and he walked right out of the prison. The principal God was showing me is that when we pray, God responds in miraculous ways. This fueled my passion for praying because I started believing and expecting that awesome things were happening in the spiritual realm and in our city and around the world because of the prayers of the saints. The book of James says the prayers of the righteous man (and woman) are powerful and effective. So if you don’t know where to begin, start praying with perseverance and faith!
The last lesson I want to pass down to you is something an older woman I admire so much, who is a missionary in Uganda, told me years ago. I was telling her about not knowing what I could possibly do to make a difference, and she looked me in the eyes and said, “God just asks for what’s in your hand. He doesn’t ask you for what’s in someone else’s hand. He just asks us for what’s in your hand.” Later, the Lord would remind me of the boy with the five loaves and two fish. There were thousands of hungry people sitting on a hillside who had been listening to Jesus’ every word. When Jesus saw the boy with the five loaves and two fish, He didn’t wring His hands and say, “Oh great. That’s all you have? What could I possibly do with just that?” No, our Lord took the bread and the fish, blessed it, and made it more than enough to satisfy a hungry crowd. So, don’t despise the seemingly small things because when you give Jesus all you have, He will make it enough to accomplish all He wants to accomplish through you in this hurting and needy world. Love and minister to the people right around you. Take the next step and trust Him to keep opening up the way before you. I’ve yet to get a five-year plan from God. He just keeps saying, Daughter, follow Me.
So, to sum it all up: Abide and enjoy intimacy with your Heavenly Father, who loves you so much. Be faithful, wait patiently, and let Him do a good and equipping work in you. Pray and never stop. Give Him all you have and just keep taking the next step. It’s a privilege and joy to call you my sisters in Christ and to know that we are redeemed girls who are on this journey together!
RGM Board Member, Friend, and RGI Teacher