Raleigh Sadler says he's just a Florida boy who wears cardigans -- he has no business kicking down the door of a brothel.
"It's pretty much scientifically proven that guys who wear cardigans don't do that kind of thing," he joked.
But when God got hold of Sadler at a Passion conference in 2012, he had no doubt about a few things: human trafficking was, in fact, his problem, and even if he didn't kick down any doors, he had to do something.
"Before then, I remember people talking about human trafficking, and I couldn't have cared less. I'm not proud of that," he said. "I thought it was a Third World problem, and it didn't affect me."
And now Sadler, a North American Mission Board missionary (@raleighsadler) and college pastor at Gallery Church in New York City, calls himself an abolitionist.
It's a title he says every Christian should have.
"Our freedom in Christ should drive us to be agents of freedom for others," Sadler said. "People ask sometimes, 'Why are you so passionate about this?' and I ask, 'Why did Jesus help the weak and vulnerable? And why don't you?'"
He said his goal is to see churches not only be strong in sharing the Gospel but also strong in abolition, to help the weak and "shine light in the dark places."
That's why he organized a panel to talk to a crowd of 60 New York church leaders at Metropolitan New York Baptist Association on April 27, focusing on human trafficking as well as labor trafficking.
Panelists included "modern-day abolitionists" Jimmy Lee, executive director of Restore NYC; Diana Mao, co-founder of the Nomi Network; and Jonathan Walton, director of InterVarsity's NYCUP.
"It's a very important issue, and we feel like God is really doing something here," said George Russ, MNYBA executive director, noting that this was new territory for the association.
"I think our churches are community minded, but this is not the kind of community need associated with what our churches are currently doing," he said.
A greater awareness is needed, Russ said, along with a deeper commitment to "meet the real, raw needs of people."
"It takes a new set of eyes," he said, "to see and to be aware."
Angelina Eckbert of All Angels Church said she feels like she has that new set of eyes now.
Eckbert, a photographer, had an emotional experience photographing a family involved in trafficking and hasn't been the same since.
And during the lunch break of the panel discussion at MNYBA, she went on a guided prayer walk with a small group to some massage parlors operating in the shadows just blocks from the MNYBA building.
"To know these places were right here was amazing -- right under our noses," said Eckbert, who lives on the Upper West Side and passes these places every day. "The best thing I can do is to get my [photography] work out there artistically" to raise awareness, she said.
That's exactly the kind of response Sadler said he's praying for.
"Southern Baptists aren't historically known as people who fight slavery," Sadler said. "I want to see that changed, for Southern Baptist churches to rise up against injustice. I want to see them adopt a lifestyle of abolition."
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SOURCE: Baptist Press