Photo: Kevin Austin
We recently met up with Chance and Dee Dee Galloway, our partners in Bulgaria, to hear more about their holistic ministry. Below is an excerpt from our discussion with them about the link between church planting and intervening in human trafficking.
Dee Dee: I was recently at the Freedom Forum in Budapest, in a session where we were discussing the different approaches to addressing human trafficking—education, restoration, and so on. That’s when I threw up my hand and commented: “I think the first line of defense against human trafficking is church planting.”
The room went silent for a moment.
It may not seem intuitive, but it’s true. Having a healthy church and a healthy pastor who knows where the most vulnerable people in their community are—the people living in poverty, the kids who have been kicked out of their homes, the people who are targeted for forced prostitution or labor—that’s one of the best ways we can fight against human trafficking.
Photo: Kevin Austin
We need people like Pastor Lubcho [a local Roma pastor, pictured above]. He knows what it’s like to be kicked out of his home as a child, so he has a heart for children who don’t have somebody looking out for them. One of our worship leaders was once a kid living on the street that Pastor Lubcho took in—and now this man has a wife and kids and holds a leadership position in the church. That probably wouldn’t have happened without someone like Pastor Lubcho who is invested out in the community, who sees the brokenness and the needs, who gets to know the youth—especially the ones who are vulnerable—and responds with compassion.
Chance: In our church plants, the pastors go around their community once and twice a week to pray with people and find out what the needs are, where the hurt is, and how the church can come alongside them. To us, that’s preventing human trafficking.
Dee Dee: Part of our challenge is helping people understand how powerful church plants can be. Church plants aren’t always the first things people want to donate to—they often want to give more to a “project” or “program” than to a church plant. Projects and programs are great, but to me, raising up healthy leaders in these broken communities is the best way to change a community.
The strength of raising up a pastor or church leader to reach out into their own community is that they’re building trust and relationships—and that’s got to be the core of any kind of meaningful change. It comes down to relationships. It comes down to leaders who are willing to sit in the muck with people who are hurting, who are willing to listen and learn more about the problems that exist in their community, and who are then willing to engage with these problems.
Chance: That’s the heart of what we’re doing by church planting. We’re making disciples who are then working to set people free. Discipleship is central to our church planting model—that’s why we’ve gone on to start a discipleship school.
Dee Dee: And that’s why the nationals are going to reach the nationals far better than we as Americans can. We’re just there to help assist them in whatever makes sense to them, whether it’s discipleship training or accountability or oversight. They’re the ones at the frontlines—we’re just the support staff!