Month: June 2008

21 children rescued from child sex trafficking in America

News from today: FBI arrested 389 people involved in human trafficking and prostitution, after raids in 16 cities across the country. According to CNN, those involved in child trafficking are facing federal charges, which might end up in life sentences.

Innocence Lost National Initiative, till today rescued more than 400 kids and led to persecution of 308 persons. Last week they held the largest operation since 2005.

Finally someone is being serious about it. I wonder how many of the victims were from abroad.

click on the photo to go to the TRADE web site

If you want to see a recent movie about the subject, watch “Trade” Movie (free online). The story evolves around Eastern European and Mexican girls, human trafficked from Mexico to USA, humiliated, abused and treated like slaves.

Dethroning the prince

This evening, I took my daughter to a ballet and met up with Lou Engle and his wife, Threz, there. The ballet was performed by Dramatic Truth Ballet Theatre from Kansas City, MO. It was so powerful that we all cried. I shot footage of the performance to make a promo video for the school. When I’m finished editing it, I will put the clip on my blog. They will be touring in Europe later this summer.

Paying off a debt with a daughter

Poppy field in Afghanistan

Poppy cultivation is banned but the ban is difficult to enforce

The ban on poppy farming in Afghanistan may hamper the heroin trade but it also leaves farmers in poverty.

Kate Clark meets one who has had to negotiate the betrothal of his six-year-old daughter to pay a debt.

Jalalabad, near the junction of the Kabul and Kunar rivers, is a green city, shaded by citrus and pine trees. Farmers who live nearby on the well-watered land are weathering the government ban on opium poppy. Further away in the mountainous, outlying districts, the ban is hitting home hard.

Growing poverty

Three times since 2000, a ban on poppy growing has been enforced in Nangarhar province. Cultivation has always bounced back. But each time, the poorest farmers were left poorer and less able to cope. One man, Juma Khan [not his real name] has come down from his village in the mountains on the Pakistan border. Turbaned, with a white beard and a deeply lined face, he looks old enough to be a grandfather.

Selling his daughter

But he has just agreed to hand over his six-year-old daughter to pay off a debt. She is now engaged to the creditor’s son.

In a country without banks, opium is the standard way to get a loan. You borrow opium and pay back with opium.

While Juma Khan was growing poppies, he could pay off the interest on the debt, although never the capital. The ban means he is having to grow low-value wheat. This year, he will not even be able to feed his family. And because he is landless, his only asset is his female children.

He has already exchanged two daughters for debt and now the youngest has wiped off a further $2,000 worth, a huge amount of money in rural Afghanistan.

A father here gets paid by the family of the groom, so payment of money is normal at a marriage.

Heroin trade

The shame for Juma Khan is that he has been forced to marry off his daughter. Weaning Afghanistan off poppy cultivation must be good, you would think. Afghan opium, processed into heroin, causes the deaths of tens of thousands of people around the world each year. It is funding the Taleban insurgency and feeding government corruption. Afghans usually recognise that it is a haram crop, forbidden in Islam, but if your family is facing hunger, they say, even haram crops become acceptable.


Low risk crop

And here, the poppy has always been regarded as wonderful. In a high risk environment, it is a low risk crop. It suits the dry climate. And even when there is war, there is always a market for opium.

And if you grow poppies, you can always get credit. The farmers range from big landowners to subsistence peasants. The really big profits, though, go to the traffickers, the corrupt officials, and in the south, to the Taleban who take a religious tax on the harvest.

‘Better than aid’

Even so, there is a real trickle down of cash. Poppy is a labour intensive crop, so even landless labourers get some small share of the profits.

It is more effective than aid at reaching the poor, one development worker told me. This year in Nangarhar, growing poppies is not an option. In Juma Khan’s district, farmers have been arrested for breaking the ban. It has become very tough for many families.

Tribal threats

Some men spoke about joining the Taleban to make money, they pay their fighters $140 a month, or the Afghan National Army who pay rather less.

Many farmers literally do not know how they are going to feed their families. They are feeling angry and betrayed. They said the government had promised aid to help them through the ban, but they have received nothing. Some threatened to break the ban next year.

“Our tribe is the Khogiani,” said one farmer, “and we’re brave like lions, a big tribe, living on the border with Pakistan.” “The government should look after poor families,” he said. And they should watch out. Afghan kings have been brought down by the tribes of Nangarhar.

Poppy harvest in Afghanistan

Poppy growing is labour intensive providing work for the poor

But the man whose small daughter is now engaged, looks exhausted. His fighting days are long gone. He went into debt during the jihad against the invading Soviet army, 30 years ago. Since then, he has never managed to pay back the capital.

No shame

Did he not feel any shame, I asked, about marrying off his six-year-old? No, he said, the real shame would have been to have his creditors knocking at his door, embarrassing him in front of the village.

Your daughter, I persisted, how does she feel? “Oh, she’s happy to be solving her father’s problems,” he said.

From: BBC News

Hakani – a docudrama about infanticide

Tonight I viewed a docudrama called “Hakani” with it’s director and producer, David Cunningham. I instantly connected with his heart and passion regarding this issue of infanticide in Brazil. I pray that his work will cause people who view it to become abolitionist who take a stand and save thousands of children.

What is infanticide?

The popular expression used to refer to the murder of unwanted children, the term infanticide takes us back to a problem as old as humanity itself, registered all over the world throughout history.

Violence against children is a sad mark of modern society, registered in all social layers and in all around the world. In the case of indigenous children in Brazil, the added difficulty is that they cannot count on the same protection as other children, because culture is valued more than life and their voices are muffled out by the mantle of belief in unalterable and static cultures.

The following contains indigenous nudity and some disturbing images

This is the story of Hakani – whose name means “smile” – one of hundreds of children who are targeted for death each year amongst Brazil’s 200 plus indigenous tribes. Physical or mental handicaps, being born a twin or triplet or being born out of wedlock – all are considered valid reasons for taking a child’s life.

Forgive me, the Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to the Indians. The Constitution does not apply to the Indians. – Congressman Francisco Praciano (PT-AM)

Lakeland – Bentley controversy

I wanted to write about it for some time, but someone did it much better…

June 18, 2008

Pete Grieg wrote recently about the ‘Lakeland Revival’ or ‘Florida Outpouring Meetings’ being led by a 32 year-old, tattooed, Canadian called Todd Bentley and aired daily on GodTV. Thousands have attended since it all kicked off back in April in Lakeland, Florida; still more have checked out video-clips of the meetings on YouTube and other websites; and there are many thrilling reports of healing, salvation, and a deeper desire for God. Many of my friends have been to Lakeland and have been deeply impacted. We are joining with other churches in our city to hold special meetings, inspired by the events in Florida, in our church building here in Southampton, England, so I’m certainly excited. But I confess that I also have questions.

Of course, as with any such phenomenon, opinion is divided between those who denounce the meetings as dangerous, deceptive or distracting, and those who are sure that this is ‘it’ and are therefore joining the crowds of hungry pilgrims bound for Florida. Like a newborn baby, it’s too early to say what the true character of this new life will be, but inevitably more and more people are asking what we think…

The movement and the community

Perhaps the first thing to say is that, because the 24-7 movement really is a movement, our ability to give party-lines on anything is limited! At the heart of the movement, however, is an eclectic and diverse community with an international leadership team which seeks to bring guidance to the movement whilst giving lots of autonomy to national and local teams. We don’t have many positions or policies that are imposed from a central hub but seek to collectively hear God and move forward together, sometimes agreeing, sometimes holding different opinions but remaining committed to one another and the vision God has given us. So if you disagree with what I’m about to say, please don’t abandon the community or the conversation.

With the intensity of interest in this latest ‘rumour of revival’ we have been having various conversations across the leadership of the 24-7prayer community, between Boiler Rooms and in many prayer rooms around the world and we want to offer some perspectives and guidelines.

1. Is this a work of God?

John the Baptist was in prison and had a crisis of confidence in the so-called Messiah. He sent his disciples to check his half-cousin out. Jesus’ response was to invite them to look around, and report back to John what they saw – the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

Like John the Baptist, we may wonder whether the Lakeland Revival is the thing we have been praying for in our prayer rooms and waiting for in the desert.
Whether we like the style of Bentley’s ministry ethos or not, it does seem that there is evidence that God is at work. It is hard to verify all the testimonies of healings, miracles and salvation that are being broadcast daily, but even if it is just a small percentage of reports that are accurate (and we pray that it is more than this) then we are witnessing some amazing signs of God’s power at work. Every morning delegates attending the meetings in Florida are being sent out into the streets of Lakeland to preach the gospel and pray for the sick. 24-7 has always championed this model of taking the prayer out onto the streets, so it’s just wonderful to see this happening amongst people who could so easily ‘hide away’ in an excited Christian bubble.

Of course, Jesus warns us that although signs and wonders can be an evidence of his Kingdom coming, they are not a replacement for the greatest miracle of all which is a real relationship with him: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.” (Mat 7:22) In our hunger for miracles, let’s not put Todd Bentley on a pedestal, and let’s continually look for the most important impact of Lakeland on those who don’t know Jesus.

2. Christian TV, platforms and personalities

We bought into the vision of 24-7prayer – a nameless, faceless army of young people, free from materialism, utterly committed to the cause of Christ. Therefore, I suspect most of us have concerns about the style of what we are witnessing in Florida and would question some of the theology and practise of those involved. Many of us probably avoid Christian television and have an aversion to ministry-styles which appear personality-driven and platform-based. The whole approach may seem to fly in the face of the values we espouse such as authenticity (an absence of hype), creativity, friendship and fun, justice, common-sense and humility. Jesus did say that it is ‘the meek’ who will ‘inherit the earth’ (Mat 5:5), so let’s not abandon our convictions. We need these values more than ever in such a context. But let’s also remember that Jesus who was meek, relational, fun and authentic, also preached to vast crowds of hungry pilgrims, he did plenty of controversial miracles, and he always enjoyed jumping out of the religious boxes of anyone who thought they’d got Him taped.
What if God actually is choosing to use a brash, young, tattooed, pierced evangelist (with a chequered history) whose theology is questionable and who shouts a lot, to challenge us all to humble ourselves and believe for more? What if the couple who run GodTV and completely re-arranged their schedules in order to broadcast this ‘revival’, really did hear from God? What if God is bigger than our comfortable cultural norms and doesn’t mind some of the stuff that bothers us?

Of course, the role of GodTV in the spread of this phenomenon cannot be under-estimated, with a potential viewership of millions and wall-to-wall coverage. Although similar miracles (and actually greater ones) are happening all over the world, not just in Africa, China and parts of Latin America, but also in hotspots like Redding, California, these ‘revivals’ are not getting the same exposure. 24-7 prayer rooms often report the most amazing signs of the Kingdom, some of which find their way onto this website. And we must also recognise that works of mercy amongst the poor and the preaching of the gospel are also signs of the Kingdom. Jesus didn’t just list miracles in response to John the Baptist’s doubts; he also pointed out that the gospel was being preached ‘to the poor’! Let’s not get so focussed on what’s happening in Florida right now, that we lose sight of what’s happening in Burma, South-West China, Zimbabwe or even amongst our neighbours, over the same period of time.

Let’s resist the idea that this is an exclusive or ultimate ‘it’; that we will somehow miss out on God’s blessings if we don’t go to Lakeland, Florida. Something amazing seems to be beginning in Lakeland, and if you are so hungry for God that you undertake a pilgrimage to go there you will probably be blessed because God loves such hunger. But Lakeland doesn’t have a monopoly on God’s blessing.

I’ve heard some say, and have even said it myself, that we don’t get to hear about the miracles taking place in remote parts of Africa or Asia. But is it just possible that God, who chooses the foolish things to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27), may have ordained Lakeland and Todd Bentley to profile his power and provoke the cynical and ‘sophisticated’ western world?

3. Oh no, not again?

I am aware that, while this may be a new and exciting phenomenon for many in their teens and twenties, many people in their 30’s and 40’s have been a bit disillusioned by all the talk of revival in the mid to late 90s, with things like the Toronto blessing and Pensacola. I have to confess, I bought into it – I was believing for it. You can even hear me declare, ‘dare to believe that this is a generation to see massive revival’ on the Delirious? ‘Live And In The Can’ CD recorded around that time! But it didn’t happen as we thought it should. A number of my friends were so disappointed that they are no longer walking in the Way. Others gave up on church. Some just settled for safety. And now this comes along and it throws up all sorts of questions and all sorts of emotions are churned up again.

I do think we need to be wary of ‘revivalism’ – the sort of cycle of crusading, religious, hyper-intensity espoused by certain wings of Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism too. But whilst rejecting the hype of revivalism, we simply cannot surrender the underlying desire for revival itself.

4. Taking a lead

The word ‘revival’ is not a biblical word. However, we do find throughout the Scriptures times of renewal and restoration; times when the work of God was accelerated. Throughout church history we find similar patterns, seasons of divine grace that propelled the mission of the church forward. It does seem that from time to time God comes to faithful, committed saints to renew and empower them for the task in which they are engaged. The fact is that – without a sovereign acceleration of God’s purposes and an increased awareness of his presence at large – we will never see the church renewed and society transformed in the way we are praying. Business as usual simply won’t get the job done!
If this current ‘outpouring’ is for the whole church, and that includes us as the 24-7 community, then the God who loves diversity does not expect us all to copy what we see on GodTV but maybe, just maybe, we have to embrace it and find ways to enculturate in our settings? Maybe, just maybe, God wants us to believe Him together for a fresh outpouring of the miraculous in our prayer rooms and Boiler Room communities?

History will judge whether the outpouring in Lakeland was ‘merely’ a moment of religious revivalism with limited fruit, or whether it was a wider transformational gift to society. Let us pray that it is revival and not just revivalism, because we all need more hunger, more power and more faith. Above all, let’s remain humble and meek and open. That will guarantee God’s grace and our inheritance.

Let’s be discerning. There are bits to embrace and bits to discard (Matthew 13:30). Pressing in for more of God does not mean we endorse the methodology or embrace all aspects of the theology or the practises that we see. For instance, GodTV has been inviting viewers to email prayer-requests to an ‘upper room’ in Jerusalem where they will be laid on an ‘altar’. “I was horrified and deeply saddened,” writes the Bible teacher and network leader, Terry Virgo, “that Christians were being encouraged to do such a thing when the Scripture makes it clear that we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens on our behalf. An altar in Jerusalem is hardly relevant!”

And let’s remain focused. I am convinced that, as a movement, we must not be distracted from the vision and strategies that God has given us – the pursuit of transformation through prayer, mission and justice. Lakeland is perhaps best viewed – for the time being – as a prophetic sign for the church, provoking us all to greater hunger for God’s power and especially for His presence. Lakeland is perhaps not meant to be a lake in which we stay and swim, but rather a well, from which thousands are drawing refreshment along the way as they serve Jesus.

More than a decade ago, Professor Richard Lovelace made a helpful observation about the Great 18th century Awakening of Jonathan Edwards whose “final approach to the Great awakening was to subject it to the most rigorous critique, on the one hand, and to solicit extraordinary prayer for its advancement on the other. These,” he says, “are the strategies we need to follow today.” Let’s pray with all our hearts for the advancement of the Lakeland Revival, but let’s not kiss our brains (or our values) goodbye, in the process.

As a movement we must continue to pray, go to the forgotten places and be alongside the downtrodden and marginalised. And we pray that all we do is infused with much more of God’s presence and power.

Come on!


Billy Kennedy is the Team Leader at New Community Church in Southampton, England. Beyond Southampton Billy serves as friend and advisor to a variety of churches and Christian organisations including 24-7prayer, Pioneer Team and the Christian band, Delirious?. Billy married Caroline, who became a Christian at Community Church, in 1984 and they have three teenage children. David, Erin and Daniel. He plays golf regularly, holds a season ticket for Southampton Football Club, enjoys cooking and entertaining and would like to try his hand at a whole host of other things but time, money and energy always seem to work against him!

The Purity Covenant: Seven Personal Commitments

My fasting team (Holy Club) at IHOP have made a covenant requiring seven personal commitments to purity. Here they are. I would recommend you find a group of trusted friends that would wholly pursue going after purity together with you.

Confess your trespasses to one another…that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

 photo by___Q___

Commitment #1: I commit to refuse to participate in conversations that promote or joke about immorality. If I do speak in this way, I will confess to those I was conversing with that I sinned.

Commitment #2: For men and women: I commit to wear modest clothing that in no way promotes sensuality. I will “occasionally” ask a godly believer who does not dress the same way I do, if my clothing is too revealing (too tight, too short, etc.).

Commitment #3: I commit to confess each time I view pornography or have any sexual contact with someone (not my spouse) to the same trusted friend (who embraces this covenant).

I commit to register with the technology of choice that promotes the wisdom and safety of accountability whether or not I struggle with pornography.

Accountability Software: These programs track your internet activity and send an email to the accountability partner that you choose. If you uninstall the software it triggers a report to your partner. ($7.99 per month, if you enter the promo code: “accountability” you receive a 50% discount; (Free); (free); (free).

Web Filtering Software: Programs that block sexual content ($49.95); ($49.95); (For Mac’s); (39.95).

Commitment #4: I commit to hold any confession of my friend’s failure in strict confidentiality. If I do speak it to another then I commit to tell it to the one who confessed their sin to me. The one who breaks confidence should confess also to the one to whom he broke the confidence.

Commitment #5: If I “repeatedly” stumble in immorality, I will show the fruit of repentance by going with my friend to confess to the leadership and then accept the boundaries they give me.

Commitment #6: I commit to share with the leadership if my friend “repeatedly” stumbles in immorality. I will first tell my friend before sharing with a leader to convince him to go with me. I refuse to yield to “unsanctified mercy” that allows sin to increase in my friend’s life.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. If he will not hear, take with you one or two more…If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Commitment #7: For leaders: I commit to follow through on the process of bringing those who ‘continue’ in immorality to the appropriate discipline without offering “unsanctified mercy”.

Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all… (1 Timothy 5:20, NAS)

We will not bring public shame to anyone who repents. We hope to never expose one’s sin publicly. There are many levels of discipline that do not require personal exposure.

Above all things have fervent love…for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 )