What can and should we do about the evil of human trafficking? What is the church’s responsibility and what can the church do to help combat this worldwide phenomenon? We’ll discuss this with our guest, Talbot colleague Dr, Eddie Byun around his newly published and revised book on the subject — A Light In the Darkness.

Episode Transcript

Scott: What can and should we do about the evil of human trafficking? What is the church's responsibility? And what can the church do to help combat this worldwide phenomenon? We'll discuss this with our guest, our Talbot colleague, Dr. Eddie Byun, around his newly published and revised book on the subject, "A Light in the Darkness." I'm your host, Scott Rae.

Sean: And I'm your co-host, Sean McDowell.

Scott: This is a podcast from Think Biblically from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Eddie, thanks so much for being with us, taking time out from your role as professor of Christian ministry, is also director of our doctoral ministry program. You got a very full plate. So I appreciate you taking the time to be with us on this really important subject.

Eddie: Oh, thanks for having me. Yeah, I appreciate being here.

Scott: Yeah, so tell us, how did you become so passionate about this particular subject, not only to write a book on it and revise it, but also your own personal involvement in this issue?

Eddie: You know, God led me to this. It definitely wasn't something that I planned on. This was maybe like 13, 14 years ago, that he, this is while I was pastoring in South Korea. He opened my eyes to start to see a lot of areas of vulnerability and injustice in South Korea that was huge, but also that was not being addressed by anyone because of cultural reasons. You know, we were caring for the orphan crisis that was growing there, a lot of stateless children, but the one that got the most press was our anti-trafficking efforts. 'Cause currently in Korea, there's 1.2 million women and children who are forced into some level of sexual servitude. And not only that, you know, there's labor trafficking, there's a lot, but because there was such a huge population that were not being cared for, God led us as a church to begin caring for them. And through that, I also realized that culturally, because, you know, a lot of Asian cultures can be very shame-based, these were things that they never wanted to address, talk about, or especially bring out into the light and to the public. But God was leading me to that, and we started to experience a lot of fruits and favor from God in those early years.

Sean: What’s maybe just one or two instances or moments where you remember just seeing something, obviously not in perfect detail, where you just stopped and thought, holy cow, nobody's doing anything about this. We've got to step up and do what we can.

Eddie: Yeah, it really came from one, being aware of how widespread it was. And then when we started moving into some of these neighborhoods that had extremely large red light districts, and then began conversations with some of these women, we realized, oh my goodness, they are not here by their own volition. And when we, again, we started doing numbers and crunching and we realized, oh my goodness, it's well over a million, like hundreds of thousands of people who are forced into this. And so as we started doing these outreaches and building relationships with these women, especially, and these children, we realized, man, we could not ignore this. And so we started doing regular outreaches and made our presence known, as a church, into a lot of these areas within the city.

Scott: And you also just described in your book that you also got some pushback from folks in your church for your efforts of your church in this area. Why do you think that was the case? -

Eddie: Yeah, that surprised me a lot. The first couple of years, we experienced a lot of favor, a lot of fruitfulness, we were able to change laws. We had visits from the US Senate and Congress. CNN came and covered one of our church services. So there was a lot of favor in those first couple of years. And I think it was because God wanted to make it clear, I want you to keep going in this direction because after those two years, there was so much spiritual warfare, so much opposition. Because this is a multi-billion dollar industry and we started to disrupt it. And so that's when a lot of the roaches started to crawl out. We experienced, unfortunately, the corruption in government, law enforcement, and the judicial system. We got a lot of pushback and opposition there, but the area that you're bringing up that I did not expect was how uncomfortable it would make believers. We had pastors telling me, Eddie, why do you hate this country so much? If you hate it, leave. And I was like, what are you talking about?

Sean: Oh my goodness.

Eddie: And it was because they were saying, hey, we don't talk about these shameful things and we don't bring it out into the light. And obviously I was preaching on it. I was talking about it to CNN. There's a lot of public avenues that I was trying to bring awareness to this, to bring change. And they were so offended by this. And that's when I realized the cultural differences in terms of, for them, yeah, even if it's difficult, hard, shameful, you don't bring it out into the public.

There are certain things that you just keep hidden in the closet. And so for them, and even in the church, unfortunately, they saw this as something that was not related to church work. And, but for me- -

Scott: You had people tell you, just preach the gospel?

Eddie: Yeah, exactly. I even got an email from a pastor in the US who had church members from his church come to our church in Korea, says, "Pastor Eddie, I've never heard you preach, never visit your ministry, but based on what I'm hearing of all the stuff you're doing, I'm writing this email to call you to repentance."

Scott: Really?

Eddie: He was saying, go back to the real gospel. If you're gonna do this, start up an NGO and get out of church. But if you're gonna call yourself a pastor, quit what you're doing and go back to what the pastor is supposed to be doing. That really floored me. I did not expect that kind of pushback. But that's when I also realized, oh my goodness, there's a lot of people who have a very narrow view of what the gospel is supposed to look like within these types of communities. And so that was a real shocker for me.

Sean: What about experience with combating human trafficking? Like talk about your experience there, how widespread it is. What can we know and learn about that?

Eddie: Yeah, so my experience has been pretty broad. In general, there's usually three general categories of involvement. There would be the intervention, prevention, I'm sorry, intervention and the restoration. So I've been fortunate enough to be involved in all three phases. I'll share just briefly what I've done and then an interesting story that God kind of led me into. So, for the prevention, we've done a lot of prayer ministry. This really is warfare. This is such a deeply evil spiritual elements within our society. And so we really prioritize prayer. We create prayer guides. As a church, we've had extended seasons of prayer, 40, 50 days of prayer and fasting for this.

And also we've done prayer walks within different parts, especially around red light districts or areas that are known to have a lot of trafficking activity. God has called me to create tools, whether it's writing. I made a documentary on this issue called “Save My Seoul” and also created courses on biblical justice for past schools that I've been part of as well.

For the intervention, God led us to be a part of some interesting undercover operations where we've had hidden cameras and brought evidence to show that there were a lot of underage and a lot of illegal activity happening in some of these areas. And some, in terms of intervention, some areas where we were able to bring some people out of this arena in different parts of Asia.

And for the restoration, we're able to start Christ-centered aftercare centers, which weren't in Korea before, as well as in Cambodia. We've done some work in Thailand, as well as Cebu, Philippines.

Now, an interesting story I wanna share is after we did one of these outreaches in the red light districts, I think it was for Valentine's Day, we gave roses to these women and it was really well received. When I got home, God told me, Eddie, next time you do something like that, I want you to honor the pimps and the traffickers. And I was like, what? They don't deserve honors. Like, what are you talking about? I was talking back to God like, no way. And what he told me is, no, next time I want you to get their permission. So, I was like, okay, reluctantly.

And so I go to one of the areas that we did these outreaches and I asked the pimps, say, we wanna do this outreach again, can we have your permission? He goes, that's not my call, talk to my boss. So I talked to his boss, same reaction. That's not my call, talk to my boss. So what ended up happening is eventually they led me to have a meeting with the head pimp over all of South Korea.

Sean: Oh my goodness.

Eddie: Basically, it's like the head of the mafia or the country.

Scott: Wow.

Eddie: I was scared. He called me to his house at 10 p.m. I had so many people praying for me.

And I was like, if you do not hear from me by this time, this is where I am, bring the police, come and get me. And so I get to his house and in the living room, there's this huge family photo, he's in the middle. And it turns out that it wasn't a family photo. All of those people in that picture were, they were the pimps over the whole country, overseeing different parts of different cities.

And so, it was really mafia based, right?

Scott: Sort of like his family.

Eddie: Totally, yeah.

Scott: Yeah, wow.

Eddie: And so he calls me into his office and again, I'm like praying, I'm, like, really intimidated.

Eddie: I sit down and he goes, so I hear you want to do something and give something to my girls. And I'm like, yeah, it's like, show me what you want to give. So, I brought a sample care package, toiletries, stuffed animals, flowers, things like that. He goes, why do you want to do this? We just want to express love and care for these women who we're guessing maybe don't always receive that kind of care. And so he goes, I want to go with you to see. I was sure, yeah, of course.

So we do this outreach. We had hundreds of our church members come out. We prepared these gift packages, we give them out. And by the end of it, I have a meeting with the pimp again. He goes, I liked how the girls looked happy. Can you do this more often? I was like, oh yeah, we actually wanted to do this more often. And then this is the kicker. He goes, whenever you want to do this, let me know. I'll make sure the guys take care of you.

Sean: Wow.

Eddie: And so, in a peculiar turn of events, we had for a season the favor and the partnership of the head pimp over all of South Korea. And that's when I realized the wisdom of God in terms of why he was asking me to honor them. It was through that expression of grace and honor, even to him and his men, that we experienced a new level of favor for this type of outreach that we were doing.

Sean: That is incredible.

Scott: I feel like we could close in prayer right now.

Sean: That is a mic drop.

Scott: That is really amazing.

Sean: That is a mic drop moment.

Eddie: Yeah, yeah. I could tell, I mean, I have a lot of stories like that I could share with you guys.

Sean: Well, tell us another one. I mean, instead of going through our questions, I'm wanting to hear your stories.

Eddie: Oh, yeah, sure. So, in terms of the type of opposition that I was facing, when I first found out about this, I was so enraged. I was so passionate. I was like, I've pastored in different countries around the world and I had a broad network and I never wanted to take advantage of my network as much as at that moment. And so what I did is I was like, I gotta find a meeting with the president of Korea. Somehow, because my assumption was if he just finds out he'll be enraged like me, this will be gone, right? And so I do flex my networking muscle. I eventually find out that one of my friend's dads, he went to the same high school as the current president.

And in Korean culture, if you go to the same past school, whether it's college, high school, elementary, that's actually a real positive in terms of connecting you with somebody. So I utilized that. He was able to talk to the president. He wasn't able to meet me, but he set up a meeting with one of his advisors, a key presidential advisor. I was like, I'll take it. Whatever I get, I'll take it. So I have a meeting with him and it goes for about an hour. I'm explaining my data, research, interviews, all these things. And he's just stone—I could not read him for that whole hour. So I share everything. By the end of it, I'm assuming he's gonna be enraged and he's like, let's end this. But at the end, he's just quiet. So I don't know how to take it. And so eventually he responds like, so why do you wanna do this again? Like why you bring this up to my attention?

So I was like, maybe he didn't understand me. Maybe because my Korean wasn't that great or something. But I kind of give another brief summary. It's like, no, no, it's because of this.

And this is how many people, all this evil that's happening. And then he calls me off the record to the corner of the room. He goes, hey Eddie, all guys do this. Why are you making this an issue?

Sean: Wow.

Eddie: Exact same reaction that I had. I was like, oh my goodness. And the reason why that was significant for my journey is that's when God made me realize this is gonna be a marathon, not a sprint. And I was like, oh my goodness. If this is how a presidential advisor reacts to the world of sex trafficking, I was like, oh my goodness. We're heading in for some difficult days. And so through that, it really changed my perspective in terms of realizing that there is gonna be a lot more opposition, especially culturally, and challenges that were involved.

And I'll give you another picture of what happened.

Sean: Oh my goodness.

Eddie: As our ministry, especially for justice was growing, obviously we started to increase our budgeting for it. And then one day the head finance elder calls me in for an early morning meeting because I'm flying to Thailand that afternoon. So he calls me in typical Korean meeting at 5 a.m. And so I meet with him. I sit down first thing out of his mouth 'cause he's looking at our budgeting for the upcoming year. And I know, you know, I heard that people weren't happy with that, but head finance elder, what can you do? I sit down first thing out of his mouth. He said, Eddie, I hope you leave our church and a lot of people are gonna be happy. First thing out of his mouth. I was like, oh my goodness. So in my mind, I'm like praying. I was like, God, give me wisdom. 'Cause I do not wanna respond in the flesh right now.

Sean: Exactly.

Eddie: So I tell him, you know, I'm sorry, you know, Mr. so-and-so that you feel this way. I didn't come back to Korea because I wanted to. It really was out of obedience to God. And I did not start these justice ministries because I wanted to. It really was out of God's leading. And so I'm sorry you feel this way, but if God tells me to stop or leave, I will. But I'm not gonna do it just because I know that you and some other people are, you know, uncomfortable with this. So I don't remember the rest of the meeting. I think it was just such a traumatic experience, but I do remember taking a cab to the airport and I was grumbling to God the whole time. I was like, what a jerk. How can you be an elder? How can—I was just fuming to God. I arrive in Thailand at the orphanage that also cared for a lot of these rescued children that we were supporting who came out of trafficking. And the spirit was speaking to me again. It was like, Eddie, remember how you were just venting to me at what a jerk that guy was to you? It's like, yeah, it's like, I can't believe it. It's like, but you know what? The words and the actions that that child in front of you has gone through is nothing. Like what you went through is nothing compared to what she has. And that put everything into perspective for me again. And I realized, I told God, I'm not gonna complain anymore. You're right. God reminded me why I was doing this. It was for these children who had no voice. No one is fighting for them. And the small fights that I had to have, it really was nothing compared to what these precious children that God loved so deeply was exuding His grace in and through our church into their lives so that they could have hope, freedom, and especially find and understand that there is a God in heaven that loves them.

You know, I interviewed about a hundred women for my documentary who've come out of this.

And what was fascinating for me is that almost all of them had the exact same story. They came from an abusive background where they were deeply abused. I mean, like the worst you can imagine before the age of five, usually at extremely young age from either an in-law father,, some close-by family member, right? And then they're continually abused till they're about eight, nine years old to the point where they all think, I have a better chance of having safety and a good life on the streets than at home. And so they all run away at a very young age. But in Korea, they have 24 hour PC rooms. So they go to these PC rooms and they're just kind of in these chat rooms talking to their friends and talking, you know, just trying to find somebody that could help them out. And these traffickers are living online too. So once they find out, they see something like I ran away, they say, "Hey, meet me at this train station, exit. I'll take care of you." They're cared for for several days thinking that, man, they're so kind to me. After a few days, their tone, everything changes. Hey, here's the bill. It's like, I don't have money. Then you need to pay. You need to work for me to pay it off. And that's how a lot of them end up being forced into these types of services. But in this interview too, what I also found fascinating, no matter their religious background, they could have been atheists, Buddhists, Catholic, Christian, whatever, whatever their religious background was in the past, at their deepest moment, every single one of them at one moment cries out to God. Say, "God, if you're real, hear this prayer and get me out of this hell." And so that became such a pivotal moment for their journey and for us to speak into their lives once they are out. When they do share this, say, "We're here," because God answered that prayer for you.

Scott: So once these women are out, what does the recovery look like?

Eddie: Yeah, that's one of the most challenging things that I've found, especially in Korea because of the whole shame factor. It's such a shameful part of their past that for most of them, it is so hard for them to talk about it. And so there is a deep need for obviously psychological counseling and care, deep seated trauma that they have to work through because they've been abused 15, 20 times every day for decades, right?

Sean: Goodness.

Eddie: So there's a—but you have to also realize that a lot of them, they started when they're eight, nine, 10, 11 years old. And so even though physically they're adults, they look like they're 23 on the outside, they're still that eight, nine, 10 year old girl on the inside.

Scott: So the trauma's basically stunted them emotionally.

Eddie: Yeah. And so for example, like when we gave that rose initially, most of them, they've never received a gift like that before. They've never received flowers before 'cause what eight year old girl has, right? But also for them, they were abused. And so expressions of grace is so foreign to them. And that takes a long time for them to be able to trust and receive that you're not gonna do something to me or abuse me or use me because you're giving me something. And so that's where the gospel becomes such a powerful path of healing for them, to know that there is somebody who's gonna love you unconditionally and there's somebody who gave you the most precious gift that you never have to pay for through Christ.

And so, we realized, I realized more deeply, the church needs to be involved, even in this aftercare process, so that they can begin expressing truth in love 'cause they've never heard these words that you are beautiful, you are precious, you are unconditionally loved, you are a princess in the eyes of God. They've never heard this. And they're not gonna hear this from law enforcement through the judicial system. And so that's the role of the church I feel to be the voice of God into their lives to speak this truth. But also, in the recovery, they need education. They need to learn their ABCs and 123s again, 'cause they forgot a lot of it. They've never used it. And after all of that, vocational opportunities and training. And so every level of what it means to be whole and human, unfortunately needs to be relearned for their lives.

Scott: That's really helpful because I think the misconception is that the trauma is so deep that you must be a skilled therapist to be able to help them toward healing. But it sounds like that's not true.

Eddie: Well, for some level that is true because there are gonna be some areas of trauma counseling that the average Christian would not be able to give. But there is an element where the extending of grace and when the time is right 'cause their hearts are opening, when we do live out the gospel and share the gospel, later on, that is something that, again, the role of the believer can play a crucial part in the healing and restoration process for.

Scott: Is there a difference the way you've described is happening in Korea. 1.2 million. Like how widespread is this? And how is it human trafficking done differently in other countries in Asia or even in the States?

Eddie: Yeah, this is widespread, unfortunately. And trafficking happens in every country around the world. There are cases that have come up—the highest number and percentage where it does happen though would be the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the United States. But where it comes in terms of how the differences come to play would really be the cultural nuances of how culture plays a role in the captivity of the mind. What I mean is, for example, in Korean culture, there's such a strong Confucianistic high value in hierarchy.

Age is one of the hierarchical values. Your position or title, male versus female. There's all of these hierarchies. And so for a young girl, especially, you have the male-female hierarchy.

On top of it, you have the age thing. But especially if that person is much older, that person culturally feels they can't speak out. They can't challenge what you are telling me to do. So, there's so many layers of that culture that comes into play that unfortunately makes it so much harder for them to realize or question even, you know what? This debt that he's saying I owe because I use his place or bought toiletries from him, that's actually an illegal debt that they cannot comprehend culturally. And so that's part of the challenge that we have.

And so depending on the country, you have those type of cultural nuances that come into play that make it a challenge for them to break out of the system that legally they have no obligation to be in. But yeah, society or cultural makes it hard for them to understand that.

Scott: Would it be fair to say that basically no city or community is exempt from trafficking?

Eddie: Yeah, that would be a safe thing. And you know, Polaris Project, they did a study on all the massage parlors in the United States a couple of years ago. And I believe you could still find this study on their website right now. But so they did undercover operations, interviews in their mind, every massage parlor in this country. And they found, I think it was like 80% to have involvement in sex trafficking, basically the majority. So if you see a massage parlor, chances are they operate illegal women and girls to be in, you know, masseuses within their parlors.

Scott: Okay, what are some of the other indicators that we might look for that would give us clues trafficking is taking place in our community?

Eddie: Yeah, you know, the key things that you need to be aware of around the world, but even the United States are gonna be areas of vulnerability who are vulnerable. And unfortunately, it's a lot of times it's gonna be minors, they are vulnerable. You know, unregistered, you know, residents there. So anyone who basically does not have full legal rights in their minds to defend themselves, they're gonna be vulnerable. Also, you do have, yeah, poverty is also a factor for a lot of areas where money is not plentiful in some communities. But unfortunately, it really also comes down to across cultures, culturally, a common theme is gonna be broken families, broken homes. For example, in Dallas, the Dallas News reported several years ago too, that there is a teenage girl in high school who also vented online saying, "I hate my parents, I just wanna leave." And then in this online world, somebody responded, "Meet me at this shopping mall, you know, and I'll take care of you." And in the same way, she went to the mall, ran away. But from that moment on, for the next couple of years, she was trafficked across like 10 different states. So, when she was finally rescued and interviewed, that's when it was revealed that, oh my goodness, she was from a wealthy suburban suburb in Dallas, in a major city, but simply because of her venting online, that became something that these traffickers hold onto. And that is common what I've seen across the world, that these children who come from broken families or strained relationships with their parents, they vent online and then traffickers will take advantage of that. And so that's something that I think parents especially need to be aware of.

Sean: How often are traffickers being brought to justice? In Korea, the states, anywhere?

Eddie: Yeah, you know, unfortunately not strong enough. That was one of the reasons why God led us to—God started bringing strategic people to our church as we moved into this arena. And so we were able to change 15 laws in Korea, 10 for trafficking, five for orphan care adoption issues. And part of the reason why we were really pushing for these law changes were precisely because at that time, if all of a sudden we would bring to law enforcement that, hey, this girl shares that she was sex trafficked, da, da, da, they'll interview the pimp says, hey, this is my business. She volunteered for it, she lied about her age and all these things like that.

So we were able to successfully lobby for some of these changes like, the buyer of sex is gonna be prosecuted. In the past, he wasn't. The pimp and the trafficker who orchestrated that buyer to purchase, they're now held accountable. And so all of these layers that weren't in existence before, that basically gave them a free ride to do whatever they wanted. So that's what really made us, we really have to be advocating for stronger laws so that when a buyer, pimp, whatever is operating in this arena, it's gonna create more protection for the victim. And so those are the ways that we were trying to do it.

The US, there are definitely—it has improved over these past 10 years. I mean, since my first involvement in Korea and in the US, it really has improved quite a bit. But still, unfortunately, I still personally don't feel it's strong enough to be a preventative measure to create a fear factor for these customers to not even try to attempt it. That I feel would decrease this quite a bit if we could make stronger punishments for them.

Scott: Eddie, what's your estimate about how many women and girls are being trafficked worldwide?

Eddie: Yeah, you know what's interesting? It's not just women and girls anymore. Over the past seven years, the number of men and boy victims has also skyrocketed. And what's interesting when I was looking at that is in the United States, also within the past like eight to 10 years or so, the cultural, not just acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, but the celebration of it has really shifted radically within American society. Then in the past, for example, like when Ellen DeGeneres first came out when she was on her sitcom, her last show was the episode where she came out 'cause she knew Hollywood was gonna banish her and that's actually what happened. And then fast forward a few years after that, now, anyone coming out is celebrating, right? During that same period where we see that shift happening in the United States, the same pattern all of a sudden, there is a spike in the number of boy and men victims in terms of supply and demand in these types of services globally. And so when I talked to the partners that I work with, they saw the exact same thing happen.

But in terms of numbers, going back to your original question, because so much of it is underground, it's hard to estimate an exact number, but it is in the tens of millions, where 50 to maybe 80 million around the world are in some sort of slavery to this day. And so it's shocking that it's so big and it's shocking that it's in our lifetime, all the more so that we really have to be fervent to bring this to awareness and bring it to an end.

Sean: Of the people who are fighting alongside you in this, how many are Christians, how many are humanists, how many are other faiths? Who's in this battle? Who are, tell us about that a little bit.

Eddie: That's a great question. It's really mixed. And what I found, especially again, like 13 years ago, when I first started, I would go to a lot of these conferences or a lot of these gatherings and I'm the only evangelical there. And for a number of them, they would be like, Eddie, you're the first pastor that I actually like. They would say so many things, like you're the first evangelical that I feel like I could have a conversation with where you're not judging me.

And that's when I realized the whole Matthew 5:16, come into play, let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to the Father in heaven.

Another testimony is—a couple actually I'll share. One is, I went to Thailand and we did a lot of work with children who were rescued out of trafficking in Thailand and the lady who was leading one particular one was Buddhist. And she said to our team, 'cause I sent out a team to help her and the kids one time and she said to our teams, like, why are you helping us? Because you're a Christian and we're Buddhists. Most Christians, they refuse to help us after they find out that I'm Buddhist. And it became a wonderful opportunity for us to share the gospel with her too. It's because the God that we serve cares for everybody, cares for people like the children that you're caring for, cares for all people. And so this was a fascinating response that she said to that.She goes, I wanna know your God.

Sean: Oh my goodness.

Eddie: 'Cause the past gods that I've met, I didn't wanna know them, but I wanna know your God.

Eddie: And also within the church that I was pastoring at the time too, we had so many people come to our church and say, Pastor Eddie, I just wanna let you know, I left the church about 10, 15 years ago, but when I heard about what you guys were doing, it drew me back because I'm finally seeing a church living out what Jesus told us to do. That we're not just a church within the four walls of a building on Sunday mornings. I love that we're living out our faith. And that became a wonderful testimony for our ministry as well.

Scott: So let's be real specific now, 'cause I suspect we're gonna have viewers who have been, like we've been, captured by what you've been doing and the stories you're telling. And I suspect they're gonna be thinking, all right, I'm hooked. What can I do? What's my next step?

Eddie: Yeah, and that's a great question. And the way that I usually respond to that is I let the churches know that biblically, it's clear that we all have a role to play in the pursuit of justice within our communities, but we don't have the same role. And so we really need to specifically as a local church, prayerfully come before God, have some brainstorming sessions before God and brainstorming sessions in prayer before God as we look at our community to see who are the vulnerable within the streets of where our church is worshiping. And then we need to come up with an action plan in terms of being a light and a salt within our communities. That said, I do have a chapter in my book that specifically is, 'cause I had a brainstorming session with God when I first found out about this, and he gave me like 50, 60 different things that churches can practically do. And so what I encourage people to do, for example, is like you could read through that chapter as a church and as a leadership, yeah, pray before God, lay these things out before God and say, what are maybe the first three, four, five things within this chapter that we could practically do. Whether it's to start praying and fasting for this, or whether it's volunteering at aftercare centers, or even pushing foster care more, because that whole system also is an area of vulnerability. Or maybe for our next short-term mission trip, we're gonna go to a place that is specifically targeting and helping these types of people, right? So there's a variety of things that, but I don't wanna be like a fire hose and stuff, but pray through—

Sean: That's smart.

Scott: That's helpful.

Eddie: Yeah, pray through this chapter and come up, brainstorm with God and say, God, what are the next practical three, four things in the chapter that I feel I can personally do or we could do as a small group or as a church?

Scott: Great, and we'll make references again at the end, but that's coming out of your book, “A Light in the Darkness.” So helpful. Two more questions for you. First of all, what gives you hope?

Eddie: Yeah, oh, that's a great question. I get asked that a lot because the world that I've seen literally is the closest thing to hell and earth for a lot of these people.

Scott: Holy cow.

Eddie: You know, again, just the depth of human depravity that is unleashed into some of the most precious children in this world, it really is disturbing. And so that's how I also know that this is not for everybody. It is not everybody's calling to move into this, but that's also how I know God has called me into this, that he's given me such a deep passion, burden, but also a lot of protection, I feel, even emotionally as I walk into these arenas. What gives me hope really is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a firm believer that God's call for the church, I feel from the beginning of all time, what his solution to justice really is the cross. That all of our evils and injustices that live in our hearts, God remedied and desired to remedy it through the blood of Jesus Christ as we surrender before him. So that's his plan from the beginning. I believe God's plan at the end of all time, if you do not submit to that first remedy of the cross, God's remedy at the end of all time is gonna be judgment day, that we could be assured that one day, because I've seen the evil that the human heart can do, I know that if this person does not come before the Lord in repentance in this lifetime, there will be justice one day, right, in the end. But God's plan right now is the church. And I really believe that we have a mandate and a call to be light, to not just preach the gospel, that is core, that is essential, but also to live out the gospel, to show people what Christ looks like through how we live. I think those two things have to go together. And my hope is knowing that, especially as I've seen the gospel bring deep healing and hope to these women, men, children, boys, girls, I realize there is no other hope in the midst of such darkness except the light of the world.

Scott: Wow, it's not often that we get moved like we have been here.

Sean: I totally agree.

Scott: Now, Eddie, you direct the doctor of ministry program at Talbot and there's a doctor of ministry track in biblical justice that's starting to help train pastors to fight some of these injustices, trafficking included. Tell us a little bit about that track and how people can find out about it.

Eddie: Sure, yeah. I'm really excited about starting this new track and within the three years of the residency, the first year is gonna focus on the biblical foundation of justice. We wanna begin there in terms of what does scripture have to say about this issue? Through the lens of the Old Testament, through the lens of the New Testament, through the lens of the gospel. How is justice biblical and how do we operate in this spirit and this heart for justice so that it doesn't become humanistic, so that it's not a self-righteous motivation, right? That we see in the world a lot, but it is a reflection of the Christ righteousness that is received as gift, as grace, right? So that first year is gonna be really diving into the biblical foundation and the biblical lens of justice.

Second year, we will be looking at the practical theology of justice locally, meaning within the United States and in Southern California as well. So, we're gonna be exploring how church leaders can practically begin taking steps and what is being done, within the US and in California, where we are, in terms of different avenues of justice pursuits through the local church.

The third year, Lord willing, we're planning on doing a practical theology of justice, but overseas.

We're planning on having that residency in the Philippines.

Sean: Oh, wow.

Scott: Wow.

Eddie: And I am bringing in some of my partners throughout Asia, Cambodia, Korea, Philippines, that have been just doing a phenomenal job over these years. And the reason why I picked the Philippines, one is, yeah, I do have some strategic partners there, but it's an English speaking country, so it'll help people get around. But we, a couple of dear friends of mine, and I help support, started an aftercare center in Cebu, Philippines, five years ago, now it's been five years already, that helps minors who have come out of cybersex trafficking in the Philippines. Now, the reason why this is relevant for all of us is because the primary customers are, unfortunately, wealthy, married, Western men from the US.

Sean: Unbelievable.

Eddie: And for those who may not be familiar with cybersex trafficking, what that is, is it's when, through webcams, again, typically, an American male will find this website and pay money online and request what he wants done to this child who's in the Philippines, and the trafficker will do whatever is asked for. And that's really, again, demonic evil.

Sean: Oh my gosh.

Eddie: And yeah, the youngest child that we helped rescue was just a few months old. That's how evil it is.

Scott: Oh my.

Eddie: And, but the main age range is about eight to 13. And the reason why this was started, it's called Restore Children and Family Services in Cebu, Philippines. Because up until that point, all the government funding and care for victims were just for adults, 18 and older. But the number of children victims has, and just skyrocketed over these, especially during the years of COVID. And so with these thousands and tens of thousands of children who have no one to help them, this was a huge need. And so my friends started, and this has been doing a phenomenal job of bringing healing for them. And so I want them to see some of the good work that's being done, as well as learn theologically and practically what can be done through the church.

Scott: I hope our viewers will talk to their pastors about this. If you're a pastor and looking for a way to further your education, I can't think of too many better ways to do that than this track on biblical justice and Talbot's D.Min. program. And also for our viewers, if you've been moved like we have, at least begin to pray about how God could use you, how God could use your church, because this is one of those areas, it seems to me, where this is an all hands on deck for the church. So, Eddie, thank you so much for being with us, for your work, for your book. I'm gonna recommend your book again, "A Light in the Darkness." It's a fabulous book, very readable and accessible, and has lots of good practical tools, practical things that our viewers can do. So, thank you so much for your work. It's been incredibly insightful and moving, and very grateful for the time you spent with us.

Eddie: Thank you again for having me. Appreciate it, thanks.

Scott: I hope you've been moved by this. And if you have comments or questions or wanna suggest guests or issues that we take up, feel free to email us at thinkbiblically@biola.edu. That's thinkbiblically@biola.edu. We encourage you to subscribe to the audio version of the podcast and consider sharing this with a friend. Thanks so much for listening. Think Biblically about everything. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next time.