There is a song we used to sing around the fire at summer camp was I was a kid, called “It only takes a spark.” The lyrics go like this:
“It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around will warm up to its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on.”
Such is the power of one.
One Solitary Person
I have seen the power of that spark in my life, and you have too. History is full of examples of one solitary person who saw a need, stepped out of their comfort zone, and did what was right–often at great peril to themselves. Like sparks, they lit a fire of inspiration and courage in the hearts of others. In many cases, movements were started that continue to touch us all.
I think of Martin Luther King, whose great “I have a dream” speech still echoes in the minds of millions. Though he lived in a day when “the slave trade” was supposedly a thing of the past in America, his words addressed the slave inside of all of us. Those who heard him speak would have cringed at the thought of human trafficking–but it was alive then. And it is alive now. Slave trades exist in many forms in our society and so much the more in societies around the world that are not as politically liberated. MLK was called to free the slaves…and that included all of us.
I think of William and Catherine Booth who established the Salvation Army amidst the squalid slum conditions of London in the 1800’s. (William Booth was the son of an alcoholic who went bankrupt and in his utter poverty, when he ’ “could no longer afford his son’s school fees, and 13-year-old William Booth was apprenticed to a pawnbroker.” How vulnerable would William have been today to human trafficking and the slave trade that now grips Europe? We need not ask well would he have fit the the profile of an “at risk youth.”
I think of the little boy in the crowd of 5,000 that had followed Jesus into the countryside, who simply gave his brown-bag lunch of 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish to Jesus because He asked him for it, only to watch as the Master multiplied his small offering to feed everyone there.
I think of William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in providing the spark that resulted in the eventual eradication of the slave trade (and slave trades) in England. I think of Nelson Mandela, whose 27 years of suffering helped provide a spark that resulted in the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid, and all the state-sanctioned slave trades connected to it. (I recommend his excellent biography “The Long Walk To Freedom” )
One of the most powerful narratives in all of scripture is that of Joseph. Loved by his father but rejected by his brothers, he was thrown in a pit and left to die. Through the providence of Yahweh, (or dumb luck, if you believe in that) a caravan of desert wanderers found him in the pit, rescued him, and sold him to some traveling merchants who sold him as a slave to Egypt. (Here is one of the earliest examples of human trafficking I can think of. ) After being thrown into prison for two years on a false accusation, he was released because of his reputation among his fellow prisoners as one who had wisdom and could interpret dreams. His gift made room for him. When the Pharaoh hit the wall and needed someone to interpret his dream, Joseph got his window of opportunity and he didn’t disappoint. His character so impressed Pharaoh that he promoted him to the prime minister of Egypt. A man who lived many years in the slave trade was ready to step on the scene and be a world changer. An “at-risk youth” who stood in the gap for the whole world at risk of starvation! Poise, perseverance, character. It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
And I think of Mother Teresa, that little woman whose spark of unconditional love for people and passion for Jesus touched all of our hearts in a way no one else could. She loved people who were enslaved to poverty and caught in the lowest rung of society, condemned to serve the lives out in one of many slave trades made available to them-the most common of which was begging on the streets.
I could go on and on with examples. Maybe you have some you would like to include in a comment. Please do! When the title of this article came to me recently, I was immediately reminded of the book, ‘The Power of One,’ by Bryce Courtenay. While I haven’t read the book (yet) I did see the movie a few years ago. What a story!
There are stories of survival all around us. We live in a world of “at risk” youth, even “at risk” students. It is a FACT that schools are targets for the despicable crime of human trafficking, particularly in Eastern Europe, where families are struggling to put food on the table and any opportunity to make money for the family is very attractive. It is our high calling to combat the slave trade of our generation and prevent as many as we can from being snared by the trafficking cartels as we can. And if we can save them BEFORE they are snared, so much the better.
Every young life born into this world has the power to be a world changer. And remarkably, a very high percentage of world changers come from extremely difficult backgrounds. It is a privilege to work with orphaned and at-risk children and teens, those youth who are particularly vulnerable to the slave trade, human trafficking, homelessness and all of the related psychological and physical ailments that accompany these epidemics. Modern-day slavery-which includes the slave trades of sex, work, and pornography, otherwise called human trafficking–is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world, and ranks 2nd behind drugs (at a virtual tie with arms dealing) as the most lucrative. It is a 9 billion dollar industry. What is wrong with this picture? Here in the United States, we fought the Civil War to eliminate one kind of slave trade. Now there are many slave trades all wrapped up in the one ugly word: human trafficking. And the victims are all around us, all over the world.
Though no parents may love or claim these treasures, they are God’s kids. It is our passion to rescue, encourage and empower them to take their place in this world. Many of them are the leaders of the future.
We should never underestimate the power of one.