Soul Talk Advent Series 2019: Words to Live a Life by
Guest Blogger: Joy Andrew
Hope in the Sorrow
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, stay here and keep watch with me." (Matthew 26:38)
Human trafficking and overwhelming sorrow do not immediately seem like Advent themes. But as I write this, news sites and my twitter feed are full of the news of 39 men, women and teenagers (the two youngest were 15-year-old boys) who died in a refrigerated lorry on their journey here to the UK. So much horror in that sentence. Those facts are overwhelming in themselves, even without any conjecture about why they felt a dangerous route to the UK was their best option in life and how others could be so broken as to try to make money from such desperation and vulnerability.
I am so grateful that there are verses in the Bible like this one. There’s a strange comfort in these verses, an acknowledgement that in the Christian life there will be sorrow and deep emotions. That God sending His son as a baby who would die on the cross means Jesus more than understands that sorrow that comes as we read about human trafficking.
I first learnt about human trafficking when I worked at Tearfund. In 2007 I had the chance to go on a work trip to Mumbai to visit Tearfund partner Oasis India and gather stories of girls who had been trafficked and some who had been rescued. Whilst in Mumbai, Oasis staff took us on a taxi ride along Falcon Road, the notorious centre of Mumbai’s extensive red light district. Building after building was a brothel, each subdivided into smaller rooms. So many women, many of them trafficked and trapped. It felt like heaven was shaking with God’s tears.
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow."
The stories I heard and the people I met broke me and inspired me – and have been the catalyst to helping to start an anti-trafficking group in Glasgow. Restore Glasgow ,is a group of Christians from a range of Glasgow churches who are affiliated to International Justice Mission.
"Stay here and keep watch..."
I don’t want to be found sleeping or looking the other way when I should have been keeping watch. Prayer is the focus of our monthly Restore meetings. We start with worship to remind ourselves that although human trafficking is horrific and perverse – the God, to whom we pray, is sovereign and holy. I love being able to pray with the others in Restore – our wee community of justice lovers.
Praying, and keeping watch with Jesus leads to action, and we engage practically to help support survivors of human trafficking. We have held two 'spot the signs' events to equip people to recognise and report signs of human trafficking in their communities and high streets. We are looking into licensing as a way of ensuring nail bars are slave free and we will be involved in educational events for teachers and are developing training so we can equip more people and organisations across Glasgow to spot and report the signs. As we keep watch and ask God to use what’s in our hands, He is answering in so many ways that we couldn’t have imagined.
What can I even say about that phrase?
What a privilege – to be asked to keep watch with Jesus!
Although it must have been frustrating for Jesus, I take some comfort from the disciples falling asleep when Jesus asked them to keep watch. We don't always get it right. Sometimes the task seems so huge. But, in this season of Advent, what a beautiful thing it is, and what a relief, to kneel in worship at the foot of the manger, knowing that this baby would take on our sorrows and our mistakes, along with the suffering of the world, and defeat it all in his death and resurrection. The writer of Oh Holy Night puts it better than I can:
“Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother And in His name all oppression shall cease.
“Fall on your knees; O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born”
Joy is a member of Parkhead Nazarene Church and helped found 'Restore Glasgow' in 2018. She works at Glasgow City Mission as a marketing and fundraising officer. She enjoys climbing mountains and running on muddy, hilly trails and dreams of being a dog owner.