Letter to the Media Regarding Story About the Drive-Thru Strip Club in Houston

To Whom It May Concern,  

My name is Leigh Kohler, and I serve as the President of the Freedom Church Alliance. The Freedom Church Alliance is a group of churches (29 and growing) in our beloved city of Houston, united to fight human trafficking. It is our aim to see our city transformed from a place that is known as a hub for human trafficking to a city where every woman, child and man is protected and valued.

In the past, your newspaper has covered the problem of human trafficking in our city, and we are grateful for the awareness you have raised. I am writing to you today out of grave concern and angst over your recent story about the drive-through strip club in Houston​.​ There was more to the story to report, and by not reporting this in a broader context, it likely promoted the club to some of your viewers. Law enforcement, survivors and others who have been actively engaged in anti-human trafficking efforts know firsthand the correlation between strip clubs and the problem of human trafficking. Your past reports have also conveyed this undeniable connection. We would have liked to see this included in your most recent story. 

We would request that you carefully consider the mixed signals that are sent by speaking against human trafficking and then promoting a drive-through strip club. Simply put, how you frame a story like this has significant consequences for young women and girls who are victims of this industry. Please join us in working to make our city a place where all women are treated with integrity rather than as​ objects. 

Thank you for your time and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.​ ​We understand these are difficult days. Thank you for your service to our city. Our prayers are with you.

Best Regards,

Leigh Kohler


The God of Justice

 

In light of the grievous killing of George Floyd and the discussions on racism and injustice happening in our culture, I wanted to share a piece I wrote a little over a year  ago on the justice of God. My hope is that you will be encouraged and inspired by how  great and holy our God is and how important it is that we continue to align with His heart of righteousness and justice.  We are His image bearers and what a tremendous opportunity we have to model our heavenly Father’s character to the world right now.

As the President of the Freedom Church Alliance, I want you to know that my desire is to be teachable and always eager to learn and grow. Thank you for  your partnership in the work of the Freedom Church Alliance. I believe there is still much ahead that God is preparing us for. By His grace I’m all in and I hope you will be too.

 

 

THE GOD OF JUSTICE 

 As Christians, we ought to pursue justice because we serve the God of justice. Years ago, I was attending the IJM Global Prayer Gathering in Washington D.C.  I was shocked and saddened to hear the story of a widow from Africa talk about relatives coming in after her husband’s funeral and encroaching upon the boundary lines of her property to steal it away. Day after day they threatened her. One day they cornered her children with machetes in hand and threatened their lives if they would not leave. She said this was common. People would take advantage of widows’ vulnerability and steal their homes and land, leaving them destitute and without the means to provide for their families. Her situation grew increasingly hopeless as she spoke of local authorities looking the other way and doing nothing to bring justice to her situation. It’s bad enough to have a crime committed against you, but when the rulers and authorities put in place to enforce laws refuse to lift a finger, what is one in a powerless position to do? 

Sometime later, I came across Proverbs 23:10-11, which says, 

“Don’t move an ancient boundary marker, and don’t encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong, and He will take up their case against you.” 

Before knowing this woman’s story, boundary markers and encroaching on fields didn’t have much meaning in my world. Suddenly, this verse had new meaning to me – it took my breath away. Never had I appreciated or loved the justice of God more.

One of the most devastating effects of sin is the horrible injustices that take place under the sun. We look back in history at events like the holocaust and the slave trade and we wonder how human beings could treat other human beings with such cruelty. Children are born into abusive homes where they are traumatized before they can even speak.  There are leaders in places in the world today who look away, and often even participate in, the selling of women and children for sex. There are millions of women all over the world today who are still victims of forced marriage, honor killings, and female mutilation. There are people falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit. The earth groans beneath the weight of sin and injustice. 

Our hope as Christians comes from the confident assurance we have that we serve a just God who is going to set all things right. A.W. Tozer once said, “Justice is not something God has, justice is something God is”. God’s justice flows from His holy nature. Man’s justice can become skewed and perverted because of sin, but God is not capable of any wrongdoing. The Bible says He weighs all things in the balance, and He always judges correctly. He rewards uprightness and He punishes sin. The world often scorns the notion of God being a judge. They want to picture him as a cuddly grandpa or nice guy who tolerates sin and looks the other way when we do something wrong. But if God did not punish sin, He would not be good. For example, if we saw on the news tonight that a child molester went before a judge and the judge gave him an innocent verdict and let him walk out the door with no punishment, we would be out of our minds with anger. We definitely would not say he was a good judge! Why? Because we are made in the image of God, and we have an innate sense of justice. We want life to be fair. We want evil to be punished and good to be rewarded. 

I  see this God-given sense of justice in my kids. When someone takes something out of one of their rooms without asking, or says something really hurtful, they run to me to tell me how they’ve been wronged. If I look at them, shrug my shoulders and say, “so what?” they would be outraged. They would question my love and concern for their well-being. Their understanding of my love for them is wrapped up in the knowledge that I am looking out for them and that I am here to protect them. I’m going to try to judge fairly between them and set things right the best I know how. Of course, I don’t always get it right. I don’t always see everything. I might even make the wrong judgment or be too strict or too lax in my punishment because of my own blind spots, sin or weakness. Solomon sought God’s wisdom so that He could rule and judge fairly among His people. We too need God’s wisdom to understand justice and get it right, because our Heavenly Father always gets it right. He sees every injustice. He sees when we’ve been wronged and when we’ve wronged someone else. 

The ultimate demonstration of God’s justice is displayed at the cross. Because God is a righteous and just God, the penalty for our sins had to be paid. There was no way around it. So, God in His mercy, sent His own sin to pay for our sin. He willingly and lovingly humbled Himself, came to this earth and suffered our punishment so that justice could be met. And all of those who put their faith in Jesus for salvation are no longer subject to the punishment of sin and death. Justice was met by our Savior.  

The enemy is always at work trying to cast a shadow over the goodness of God. He points to the evil and injustice in the world and the pain in our own stories and says, “It’s not fair. God’s not fair.” He calls into question the character of God, and says a good God would not allow the world to be so complex, so difficult, so deplete of equity and justice. Let’s not agree with our enemy or call into question God’s character. Instead, let’s declare like the Psalmist, The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him” (Ps. 92:15). There is justice that comes now, and for reasons only God understands, there are some things that will not be set right until He returns. Scripture says God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, but He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Nothing is escaping His notice. He is coming back, and the just Judge who reigns over all the earth will put an end to every injustice and make all things right. 

 As image-bearers of  Christ, as long as we live in this world, we are called to always be on the side of what is good, right and just according to  God’s  holy Word. The Bible is our guide as we navigate through the complexities of this life. The Holy Spirit is with us, guiding us and empowering us to carry out God’s justice in the world. The widow’s story that I spoke of earlier ended wonderfully!  She rejoiced as she spoke of God raising up workers from IJM who came to her aid to fight for justice for her and her children. The Church has always been God’s plan A for bringing His redemption to the world, and we must never lose sight of that. Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.”  May God empower us in these days to love Him, one another and those around us in a way that brings Him much glory!


Shine Your Light

Like many of you, I don’t want to go back to normal after this. I want God to refine me. I want God to refine the Alliance and to do whatever He wants to do in us and through us. One of the things I haven’t been able to get off my mind comes from Matthew 5:16. This scripture has always been the core motivation for me and my calling with the Alliance. Here are a few things I think are important for us to remember about the work of social justice, or as I prefer to call it, Biblical justice.

 

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

 

Matt. 5:16 is an important passage for those of us involved with justice and mercy ministries to treasure in our hearts. It speaks to what our deepest passion and greatest motivation ought to be. While we earnestly desire to meet temporal needs and solve physical problems, our supreme desire is for people to know and love God.

 

I have found that it’s easy to drift from this core value when we live in a society that embraces good works but wants people to keep their religious beliefs to themselves. In the nonprofit world it’s not always politically correct, or financially beneficial in some cases, to keep these priorities straight. It also might mean that you are not taken as seriously or praised by certain groups. But all believers at some point find themselves having to ask the question that Paul asked in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

 

I don’t think this means that we have to have a Christian symbol or Bible verse on everything we do. But it means that we keep straight in our minds and hearts what we’re doing and why. It means that we don’t give way to the philosophy of humanism that permeates the culture. It means that we understand that for people to thrive and flourish they need God-empowerment, not self-empowerment. 

 

As for the Freedom Church Alliance, we want to support everyone doing good, but our deepest levels of support will be behind ministries and organizations that share the priority of building the Kingdom of God and helping people physically and spiritually. This is because we care not just that people have a better life in the here and now, but that they are saved and live with God forever. 

 

May the body of Christ be bold and distinct in these days. May we love people enough to make it our highest aim for them to know our gracious and loving Savior Jesus Christ who can do more for them than any human - far more than they could ever ask, think or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

With Love,

 

Leigh


“The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Daniel 11:32

Last month, many of you joined us for a 21-day prayer and fasting journey. We did this because we wanted to dedicate the Alliance to the Lord, seek His face, and ask Him to use us mightily to do great works of justice and mercy in 2019. 

I woke up one morning, during the fast, with the words of Daniel 11:32 ringing in my head, “the people who know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Another translation puts it this way, “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” I was so excited and invigorated by this phrase and have been praying it over the Freedom Church Alliance ever since.

As I began to research this passage, I learned that this prophecy was fulfilled in part by the Maccabees, who were a small band of devoted God-followers, who attacked and defeated the forces of Antiochus Epiphanies over and over again. Antiochus was a God-hater who desecrated the holy temple of God. He even went so far as to sacrifice a pig to Zeus on the altar in the temple. The Maccabees took action leading to many victories, and their exploits became legendary.

But there is a principle here that goes beyond the prophetic fulfillment by the Maccabees. Throughout the Bible we see mighty exploits done by the people of God: 

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:32-34).

Daniel 11:32 teaches us that the knowledge of God combined with the strength that comes from God is the most powerful and enduring force against the evil in the world. As believers, when we see what is sacred to God desecrated all around us, we cannot just sit idly by. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said: A church that does not exist to reclaim heathenism, to fight evil, to destroy error, to put down falsehood, a church that does not exist to take the side of the poor, to denounce injustice and to hold up righteousness, is a church that has no right to be. Not for yourself, O church, do you exist, any more than Christ existed for Himself.

And so, may our fight against human trafficking and our zeal to see every soul set free be tied to the wonderful knowledge that our God is a strong Redeemer who fights for the vulnerable and the powerless. May we stand in awe of His wisdom and love the light and goodness that emanates from His holiness. May we love His Word and stand firm on His truth - declaring it boldly. May we listen and obey as He commands us to “Provide justice for the needy and fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the power of the wicked” (Ps. 82:3-4). May we be like the great heroes in the faith and walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Many have asked, “Why the Freedom Church Alliance?” My reply is, because The Church has a unique role to play in the fight against human trafficking and all of the many issues connected to it. There is a blessing and power that comes upon us as we unite and stand shoulder to shoulder. Individually it is up to each one of us to pray, abide and make war with our own sin. We cannot give the enemy a foothold. When the individual parts of the body are healthy, then the whole will be healthy. As we seek the Lord, He will show us, through His Spirit, how to use what’s in our hand (our gifts, talents, influence, resources) to strike a blow against this evil. 

Our courage in the face of incredible odds and the rising tide of wickedness will come from knowing our God intimately. Not just knowing about Him, but living in relationship with Him and experiencing Him in the day to day.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, “This is what the LORD says: The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength, the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth, But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me – that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things.” 

My prayer is that we continue in the unity of John 17 and press on in 2019 to be strong in the Lord (Eph. 6:10) and to make our aim to know God and make Him known. May God position YOU this year for mighty exploits. The good news is that we don’t have to figure out what to do on our own; our work is to abide and to just keep being faithful to take the next step. He leads us step by step. We just have to say “Yes, Lord. Whatever you have for me today Lord. I’m at your beck and call.” 

These are exciting days! I believe 2019 will be a year of many mighty exploits being done by God’s people for the Kingdom of God. I’m so grateful to be part of God’s family and His unfolding story in the world. I’m so glad we’re all in this together! 

With Lots of Love,

Leigh Kohler


When the Darkness Seems too Strong

This week many of us were completely outraged - first of all by the fact that robot brothels even exist in the world - and secondly that our city was being targeted as a host city for such a business. One day this week I called a friend for prayer because besides the robot brothel ordeal, I was confronted by two other very troublesome realities that are dark beyond belief. There was a heaviness in my soul. As we prayed, my friend reminded me of something very important that I want to pass along to someone else who may be feeling a bit hopeless by the condition of our culture.

In the fight against human trafficking, there is a temptation to get overly preoccupied with the darkness. I’m sure Satan enjoys the attention, and the subtle danger is that we begin to unconsciously ascribe too much power to the enemy and the dark forces at work in the world. John 1:5 says, “Light (Jesus) shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” This means that though sin is disastrous and has unleashed so much gloom and pain and perversion, it will not be triumphant. The darkness will never be able to snuff out or overtake the light. We are fighting from a place of victory. The enemy knows his ship is going down, and we are with Jesus on a rescue mission to get as many people off that ship as possible. Jesus stretched out his arms and let himself be nailed to a cross so that anyone and everyone who believes on His name will know what it means to be rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of His marvelous light.

My friend’s challenge to me was, for every minute I’m listening, reading or confronting the darkness in some way, I spend double the amount of time worshipping, praying, reading and meditating on the Word -  focusing my gaze on Jesus. 

It’s also important to remember that there is wisdom we need to apply in this battle. Scripture tells us to be, “shrewd as serpents, but innocent as doves(Matt. 10:16). We are also instructed to, take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them” (Eph. 5:11). This means there are issues The Church must face and discuss - like robot brothels, pornography, prostitution - and at the same time guard our hearts and minds so as not to have our hearts stained by the world (James 1:27). The enemy would love to take us out and render us useless and ineffective. This is another important reason for keeping our gaze on Jesus – so that we can know His will and walk in discernment as we go (Romans 12:1-2).

May God help us be immovable in our belief that we gain the victory as we set our gaze and affections on the might, the power, the goodness, the glory, the justice, the mercy, the love, the grace and the beauty of our God!  This is our protection from the enemy, this is where we find our confidence and courage, this is where the daily victories will be secured.

I have asked one thing from the LORD; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the LORD and seeking Him in His temple. For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent: He will set me high on a rock. Then my head will be high above my enemies who surround me.  – Psalm 27:4-5

Leigh Kohler

Executive Director


The Light of Truth in an Age of Darkness

Last spring I had the opportunity to attend and speak at a breakout session at the National Center for Sexual Exploitation Global Summit in Washington D.C.. Leaders from organizations all over the U.S. and the globe gathered to learn, collaborate and discuss strategies to put an end to all forms of sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking, prostitution and pornography are all heads of the same monster and are destroying lives.

I was particularly grieved to hear from one of the speakers about the date rape epidemic happening on college campuses. She gave several examples, from disturbing slogans on T-shirts and banners hanging from frat houses, to very specific stories of girls being raped while unconscious. In one particular instance, guys put special bracelets on girls as they came in the door of a frat party as a signal for their drinks to get spiked with a date rape drug so that they could have sex with them later while they were unconscious. While shocking and disturbing, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The perversions coming down the pipeline are nothing short of frightening and demonic.

When you look beneath the surface of this growing violence and abuse, you find that we are facing a porn epidemic that is unlike anything the world has ever seen. What’s more disturbing is how violent and perverted porn has become, and yet how widespread and accepted it is. We are only just beginning to see the effects of a generation that has grown up being assaulted and infused by the porn industry. Research shows that the average age a kid sees porn for the first time is 11. According to a survey by Covenant Eyes, 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18. Shame keeps many kids from saying anything, and as they keep watching and get in deeper and deeper, that destructive seed gets nurtured and grows into something very destructive. Kid on kid assault is increasing all over the world as kids act out on siblings or neighbors what they see in porn. Porn trains boys to see girls as sex objects rather than people to be valued and treated with honor and respect. And while not every person who looks at porn is going to act out in violence, what has become very apparent is that we are seeing the devastating effects of a pornified culture.

The Church must awake to the enemy’s schemes and sound the alarm so that we can take seriously the high calling we’ve been given to walk worthy of the calling we’ve received in Christ Jesus. The enemy is devouring hearts, but God is coming after them to redeem and restore. You and I must not lose sight of the spiritual battle we are in and the truth that Jesus is the solution to every evil in the world.

Perhaps some of the most lasting grief for me has come from watching even those so adamantly speak out against the effects of pornography, remain so blindly adherent to the philosophy that opens to door to its use. I can’t get out of my mind the tentacles of Satan’s teaching, his false philosophy, on “freedom”. This root is not being touched. Many who hate the porn industry, trafficking and other forms of exploitation, at the same time adhere to moral relativism. Many in academia applaud women standing up for their self-worth, while teaching students that there is no such thing as absolute truth and that right and wrong are subjective. The recklessness and danger of abandoning all logic and truth, blind to the connection between this philosophy and the evil and oppression in the world, is tragic. Underneath the reckless abandon is the false belief that moral relativism produces “freedom” for all. People believe that sexual “liberation” and the pursuit of pleasure at any expense leads to freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rom. 6:16. That pervasive lie, from the Father of lies, is unleashing all sorts of hell on earth.

It is a troubled history repeating itself. The book of Judges is the history of God’s people neglecting God’s Word and turning away from His commands to do what they want in the name of “freedom”. Judges 21:25 says, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” God kept sending judges like Deborah and Gideon to rescue His people from their enemies and lead them back to the Lord. But the downward spiral continues, and by the end of the book something grotesque happens (see Judges 19). The truth is that everyone doing what is right in their own eyes does not lead to greater freedom and happiness, it leads to the exploitation, destruction and oppression of people. Proverbs 12:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” In other words, not every path leads to God or to life. Lots of people are on the path of their truth, their choosing, but the Bible says if it’s not God’s path, in the end it will lead to death. This is weighty. There is too much at stake to embarrassed or afraid of speaking God’s truth in love. Souls are at stake, and lives are being crushed by the devastation of sin.

The Church has always been God’s plan A for redemption in the world. The Church has by no means been perfect. We are saints who were former sinners, who still have the capacity to be deceived and walk in the flesh. But it is important to understand that in the wake of The Church what you find are orphanages, hospitals, schools, freedom fighters and much more. This is because of the Spirit of God who indwells His people and fills them with love, compassion and a passion to see righteousness and justice fill the earth.

In the time of Rome, perversion and depravity was the norm. The Romans valued pleasure above all else, and they put no restrictions on their appetites. Excavated household items like bowls, cups and utensils, reveal drawings of all kind of sexual acts, many very obscene. Pedophilia was common. Nero had a young boy, named Sporus, castrated and then married him. This was not an uncommon practice in that day. Seriously, anything went, no matter how barbaric and grotesque, and sadly the women, men and children who were the sexual objects of the day, suffered immensely. When the Christians came along, they had entirely different values on sex and marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Paul told the believers, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God” (I Thess. 4:3-5). He also reminded them that their bodies were “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 6:19). Many of the early Christians were coming out of that lifestyle, which is why Paul talks so much about sexual immorality and the need to flee from it and pursue purity. The Holy Spirit lives in us and we’ve been called to walk in the light and in purity. We’ve been called to love one another and lift people up, not use them to get our desires met. As Christians, we believe that every women, man and child has inherent value and dignity because they are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

We must heed the warnings of the apostle Paul to not be deceived by the many false teachings and philosophies of the world. In America, as I’m sure elsewhere, we tend to bottle up things that are evil and package them as light. Scripture says the days are going to get darker before Jesus returns. We are not to put our hope in anything but the Lord. The enemy counterfeits everything God does. We must be committed to doing things God’s way, and to know God’s way we must be men and women of the Word, cherishing God’s every word and holding it close to our heart. He is leading the way to life and happiness, or as God puts it, to “love life and see good days” (1 Pet. 3:10).

The good news is that Scripture says that where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20). We have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to overcome sin. Many men (and women) who have been in bondage to porn and sexual immorality are walking in freedom. Men are telling their stories and encouraging others to walk in freedom. Bringing light into the darkness. It will take a commitment to fight and rigorously renew, re-train, the mind (Rom. 12:1-2), and it will take accountability (James 5:16). We cannot walk in real freedom alone. Let’s encourage each other to not grow weary doing good. Let’s keep fighting the good fight. Let’s keep encouraging one another to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1). Let’s continue to fight oppression and injustice with spiritual weapons like prayer, obedience, and grace. Let’s be a voice of truth is a world of lies. Light in an ever-darker world. May the Word of God, not empty philosophies, be the “lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path.”

You are so loved by God, and He wants you and I to walk in abundant life today. Let’s press on!


Men in Boats: A Response to #MeToo

Just a couple of months ago, our great city was turned upside down by the arrival of Hurricane Harvey. Time has passed, but the images and implications of Harvey are still with us and will perhaps be engrained in our minds forever. The images of fellow Houstonians, thousands of them, emerging from the floodwaters from rescue boats, trucks and helicopters were overwhelming. Harvey hit both rich and poor and impacted every stream of society.

On the Monday after Hurricane Harvey, I tore myself away from the news to take some much-needed time to pray for my city. My mind was filled with images of my husband, sons, first aid responders, and even the Cajun Navy! My heart grew tender thinking about them refusing to do nothing in the midst of danger, panic and fear. I had been watching with wide eyes and a full heart as good men (and women) were risking their own safety to rescue people stranded in flooding cars or hanging on to tree branches and street signs. People saw the damage and the needs, and immediately took action.

Our boys were becoming men right before our eyes, and we blessed them to go and help because the time and opportunity had come for them to take their place as good men in this city who – in that moment of truth – chose to do the right thing.

God used Hurricane Harvey to remind me, confirm in me, the truth that men were wired to defend and protect. This was the heart and soul of the City of Defenders campaign.  City of Defenders was launched by our Alliance at the beginning of 2016 as a response to the demand for sex trafficking and exploitation in our city and in cities around the world. It is a call to men to acknowledge that if systemic sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking are to ever end, more men, in all sectors of society, must rise up and use their spheres of influence to affect change.

What I did not see coming was another kind of devastating storm that had been brewing and was about to make landfall. Another “Harvey” emerged in the news, which led to unprecedented revelations of sexual abuse and harassment. The Harvey Weinstein story sparked the #metoo campaign on social media that suddenly provided a space for hundreds and thousands of women to gain the courage to speak up and tell their own stories of painful abuse. The act of sharing stories and realizing how many other women have had similar experiences was cathartic and powerful for many survivors. Yet in all likelihood, it barely scratched the surface. The reality is that there are masses of women and young girls and boys around the world who are silently drowning in sexual abuse and violence – and their voices are silent.

For many men, the revelation that their wives, their sisters, their mothers and their daughters and friends were victims of sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation was deeply shocking. There was a palpable sadness, with the question left hanging, “How did I not know?”  Likewise, you wouldn’t know it just from looking at the surface, but Houston, like every city in the world, is full of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking. There are women in our backyards being sold in brothels disguised as “massage parlors.” There are traffickers using social media to woo and manipulate high school girls right from under our noses. There is an epidemic of pornography addiction unlike anything the world has ever seen. Kid on kid violence has escalated because of the horrific violent pornographic scenes they are watching that they then act out. There are thousands of men buying sex off of backpage daily. Over a year ago, a father was arrested for selling his own four-year-old daughter off of Craigslist. The ad was titled, “Play with Daddy’s little girl.”  And while it is easy to point fingers at such extremes of moral deprivation – at that total stripping away of all dignity and respect – at what point, when it is no longer so extreme, do we tolerate it?  At what point do we become complicit?

The Church needs to be engaged and leading these conversations. Change must begin with us because the truth is that pornography addiction and the victimization of women is alive and well in the Church, and this should not be. Sexual sin is so grievous because it perverts what was meant to be good and makes it something damaging. It starts off in disguise, in what is deemed culturally acceptable. But somewhere along the way, courage becomes cowardice, sacrifice turns to selfishness, protection turns into oppression, and the consequences are spiritually and emotionally devastating – like the force of a relentless hurricane.

The goods news we find in scripture is that, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more” (Romans 5:20). Because of Christ, there is hope and there is healing. My prayer and hope for Houston is that in the aftermath of these storms we would do things differently and rebuild a better city – one without an underbelly. One with nothing to hide or be ashamed of. One where men are defenders and protectors of women and children, not just in boats, but in the way they refuse to participate in jokes or words that deny the intrinsic value of women, or tolerate women and little girls being made objects of lust and abuse in pornography.

Men of God have a unique and powerful opportunity in the world right now to rise up and speak out against what is happening.  In a Christ-exalted culture, the oppressed are defended and lifted up. Women are honored and treated with dignity. Let’s build a perpetual shelter of protection in our city that says we honor the women in our city, and it’s never okay to buy or sell a woman or child off the street or online; it’s never okay to talk about women and girls as sexual objects in the locker room; it’s never ok to stay silent when you know what just happened was wrong. This is about following hard after Jesus. It’s about our deepest moral values. It’s about those men who refuse to do nothing.

Thankfully, these men exist. But many more heroes are needed to aid the devastation that isn’t as obvious to see with the naked eye – or that we don’t want to see. We need a culture change, and this will mean letting change begin in our own hearts.  We need to let our grief and brokenness lead to repentance and a deep moral and spiritual revival throughout our nation.

This can begin here in Houston. It can start with us. Let us pray that our city will be known, not as a hub for strip clubs and sexual exploitation, but instead as a city where its men will brave a storm and launch a mission to rescue, help and protect the honor and dignity of every man, woman and child. More men of courage are needed at this hour!

Written by Leigh Kohler
Executive Director