When people used to talk to me about slavery, I always considered it to be a 19th century problem that had been fixed. William Wilberforce had surely all but eradicated it. It was merely a topic to be studied in a history class. For me, slavery was just not part of my 21st century world. But sometimes things are not so black and white. Into this naive and narrow-minded view of the world, God came like a gust of wind, muddling up all of my previous understandings to show me that my perspective of the world was very far from reality.
Just over a year ago I took part in Just Love, Glasgow’s Stand For Freedom in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM). We stood outside our university library for a full 24-hours during a cold and wet November to protest against modern-day slavery. I encountered the shocking fact that at that time there were an estimated 36 million slaves in our world – more than there have been before, even when it was a legal practice in the 19th century. In 2016, IJM now estimates that this figure has gone up, stating that they believe that there are a staggering 45 million people currently trapped in slavery right now. These people are subject to sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labour across the globe, from Thailand to Holland, from Greece to America, and even onto our very doorsteps.
Our Stand For Freedom was a mark in the sand in my walk with Jesus. I let the facts and stories that I had encountered dwell within me. I was not willing to let the issue of human slavery pass me by. Yet, I did not feel immediately moved by God into fierce action and campaigning.
I believe that Biblical calling works in a similar way. Sometimes it is not about immediate action but relies upon time spent in reflection. For me, calling is something that sits deep within my soul and is drawn out by God in beautifully mysterious and unexpected ways. I see my calling as being like a ball of tangled thread, which only God can gently unravel so that it may be used for His kingdom purposes. With this in mind, I settled into a period of waiting as I paused to see where this calling to challenge slavery would lead me next.
As the months passed by and I looked ahead to the summer, I was uncertain of where God wanted me to be and what He wanted me to do. I admit that I did countless Google searches, said countless prayers and had numerous conversations with friends and family about my lack of direction. Amidst all of these frantic actions I stumbled across the A21 website, advertising for a volunteer in their UK office. And this where the gentle unravelling began.
A21 are a global anti-trafficking charity who want to abolish slavery in the 21st century. They work across five different continents to prevent human trafficking and to protect survivors. In their UK office, based in London, they focus primarily on prevention and awareness where they seek to tell people about modern-day slavery and how it can be prevented. I can’t tell you much more other than the fact that I had a peaceful sense of assurance that this was where God was calling me to be and what he was wanting me to do over the summer.
And so I went. I followed God’s lead and His calling for me during those three months. I chaotically juggled my volunteering at A21 with various paid jobs and new surroundings. Out of calling flowed obedience, and out of obedience flowed a deep and profound joy. The three months, although challenging, were full of peace as I dwelt in the knowledge that I was pursuing what God had for me.
But the story does not end there. I still feel God calling me to challenge modern-day slavery and get others involved too. For this reason, I’ve gathered a few friends from my university (and beyond) to take part in Dressember, where we wear dresses for 31 days throughout December to advocate for the freedom of all people currently trapped in slavery. We believe that the simple act of wearing a dress can have global consequences.
The thread continues to be unravelled, slowly but surely. As I head towards the final stretch of my university life I do not know what the future holds. Yet, I believe calling is a lifelong, unfinished unravelling. It is not a completed action or a ticked box. It is messy and confusing at times. But God is bigger than all of this and, with this in mind, I trust that He will lead me for the rest of my life into the purposes that he has for me.
Words by Fiona Hollow