Kentucky ranked No. 1 in the nation for child abuse, according to a report released last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The state also ranks high in single parent homes, children living in poverty and teen births. Family instability is a common thread through the stories of youth who deal with addiction, abuse, trafficking and homelessness.
Perhaps most shocking of all is that reports of trafficking have quadrupled in the last five years, according to a University of Louisville study.
Southeast Christian Church cares about people behind those statistics. Teams that focus on vulnerable youth are being mobilized at every campus.
This month, Southeast’s Missions Ministry, Women’s Ministry and Care Ministry are sponsoring four Protecting Vulnerable Youth presentations.
There will be a presentation Monday, Jan. 13, at Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, one at Southeast’s La Grange Campus, Tuesday, Jan. 14, another Wednesday morning, Jan. 15, at the Blankenbaker Campus, and one Wednesday night at the Southwest Campus.
Jeanne Allert will facilitate the presentations. Allert is founder and executive director of The Samaritan Women, a national organization providing restorative care to survivors of domestic sex trafficking, and the Institute for Shelter Care, which serves as a research, training and equipping entity to address the lack of access victims have to qualified care providers.
Presentations will focus on the causes of vulnerability, tactics of predators, the role of pornography and information on how to protect children and youth from being exploited.
Presentations are free and open to the public. Registration is not required.
Allert describes the workshops as “radical.”
“We will be talking about shocking realities,” she said. “We have to be careful that we don’t insulate and say protecting vulnerable youth is not an East End issue. People at every economic level are affected. This is a huge opportunity for the church to come alongside single-parent families, those who are struggling, to engage and strengthen them.”
The La Grange Campus reaches out to vulnerable women and children, and La Grange Women’s Ministry Leader Karissa Sites said trafficking exists near every Southeast campus, nearby neighborhoods and areas of Louisville and Southern Indiana.
“The church is Jesus’s hands and feet, so we must be vigilant in fulfilling what Jesus called us to—frontline defense of those who cannot defend themselves,” Sites said. “We are ignorant if we fail to see that the wicked are close by and aggressive about enslaving vulnerable women and children. We must be vigilant for these women and children rather than preoccupied with everyday comforts. We must rescue and protect in Jesus’ name.”
Protecting vulnerable youth and children has historically been part of church outreach.
“Early Christians heard about babies being abandoned by rivers and in the woods,” Sites said. “They didn’t have a lot of meetings or trial runs to see how it would go to get the babies to safety. They rescued and cared for them. As a church, we are called to be the branch, catch the wind, wreck the roof, grip the plow and empty the jar. We have a responsibility to be informed and pick up the work of rescuing. There is no better calling than to share the love and security found in Jesus with a vulnerable child who could end up in hell on earth if the enemy has his way and gets there before we do.”
At the La Grange Campus, women and children are learning that love is more than a twisted version of exploitation.
“They have found that love is real, sacrificial—a free gift of Jesus—not a demand for them to give up their humanity and dignity in exchange for food and shelter,” Sites said.