Archives for posts with tag: human trafficking

Steve Lepse up on Marine Drive says

This Sunday evening (April 7) at 9 pm central time, MSNBC will present an hour long news special entitled, “Sex Slaves”  Windy City”.  Among other things, the show will document the work of the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force, which our Stop It program co-leads alongside the Cook County States Attorney’s Office.  I’m not sure how much Stop It will be featured (the focus is more on the legal and law enforcement side of things), but it will provide a good look at the work we do here in Chicago.  If you have time, give it a look.

Steve serves as Director of The Salvation Army’s Family and Community Services in Chicago.










Urban?  Multicultural?  Social justice?  Global?

All these topics and more are the content for one impressive conference coming this spring to the Chicago area, Mission On Our Doorsteps, April 18 – 20.

It looks like a dream tag-team squaring off against the forces of evil.  Really.

Will it be as good as it’s promotion?

I want to go and see something happen that will help Chicago become less racially-divided as a city.  Including our churches.

And from the description it looks as good an event can be for Salvation Army work in our cities, especially for our Chicago corps and ministries.mission on our doorsteps

What first caught my attention was Ray Bakke, one of several featured presenters.  Many of us consider Bakke the dean of urban ministry.  Also, a number of speakers and practitioners familiar to us Salvation Army people.  CCDA.  Brenda Salter McNeil.  Matthew Soerens.  Elyse (Dalberg) Dobney will be part of a presentation on human trafficking.

Salvation Army officers and corps which share a building with one or more congregations (Chicago Irving Park, Chicago Temple, Aurora IL, etc):  check out Under One Roof which will present on “building healthy partnerships between congregations of different ethnicity who share worship space”.

Chicago Mayfair Community Church (Salvation Army), Latino corps/congregations, and others:  check out Generational Issues Among Immigrant Churches.  Generation 2.0, etc.

What nags me about the conference is that it will be hosted at Wheaton Bible Church out in pleasant suburban West Chicago.  Why not in Chicago?  Englewood or West Pullman?

Because there aren’t any Hampton Inns, Marriotts, etc.  Irony.

Today, a story in the Free Press of “a person dressed in women’s clothing” found shot to death near Woodward and McNichols in Detroit.   Neighbors say the area is “plagued with prostitution … women prostitutes and prostitutes who are men dressed like women” and that made me remember.

In 1980s Chicago along Madison Street were ‘heshes’.  That’s pronounced he-she with an ‘s’ for the plural.  Men dressed like women.  Black men picked up by white men who would drive into the neighborhood, Chicago’s Near West Side, and then drive away with a shehe.

This was a regular thing.  Gail got so incensed that one day she began writing down license plate numbers thinking that she would blow this thing wide open probably with the help of the newspapers, TV and radio stations, Mayor Washington, etc.  Never got to it.  Though she did compile a fairly impressive list. 

What to do?  For a season we held meetings on the sidewalk outside our front door on Madison Street, just east of Ogden.  With a little public address system we preached, prayed, sang.  It’s a form of Salvation Army activity known among Army oldtimers as an open air meeting.  Our location was perfect.  Plenty of people to harass/bless with our open air.  It got to the point where a pimp warned us to stop it or else.  Made us nervous.

Talking about pimps, there was a summer afternoon one with his entourage stopped to harass us as we conducted outdoor Bible school for young people across Ogden to the west in Union Park.  Then it turned into a semi-meaningful conversation.  He shared that he had attended Bible school at the Salvation Army.  Memorized Bible verses, lots of them, maybe it was a hundred verses.  He even recited some of them to us in Union Park.  I remember us saying later ‘a lot of good that did’.  Maybe if he had lingered we would have made him a teacher.

Back to Madison Street …

One evening after programs, Gail and our children were at the building waiting for me to return with the van after dropping off children in the neighborhood.  When I returned Gail was excited and a little shook up.  She had watched a drama in our sprawling overgrown neglected parking lot behind the corps building.  The lot was surrounded by old rusting wire fence.  It made for a very effective World War I battlefield.  That fence had trapped two heshes trying to escape some young white guy driving an SUV trying to run them over.  Gail said it was horrifying and hilarious.  Here were two creatures running for their lives best they could in high heels, dresses (very revealing dresses), wigs, makeup.  Heshes were always, shall I say slender.  Could fool you for a moment at least into thinking, yes, they could walk down the fashion runway.  But now two were frantically running from one side of Verdun to the other, looking for an opening in the fence to get away.

Gail phoned the police who responded with a yawn.  So, she watched, from behind a locked door.  Actually, the way our doors operated, once locked you couldn’t open them if you wanted from either inside or outside without some lengthy mechanical process.  That’s another story.

Then one of the heshes ran up to the door as if ‘HELP!’  All Gail could do was helplessly look.  But for just one second, eye to eye, it was as if looking into death.  It chilled her.

The heshe turned and ran.  The SUV was almost on him/her/it. 

Eventually one slipped through the fence.  And then the other.  The SUV left.  Leaving Gail and our three children standing at the door.

We guessed what probably happened.  The SUV driver thought he was picking up two women.  Surprise.  Thus the scene.

Men dressed like women.  One more story to share another time.

Tomorrow I leave for Grand Rapids MI where our biennial Mission and Purpose Conference takes place.  If you’re in the area stop by for one of the plenary sessions Friday 7:45PM, Saturday 8:45AM and 7:00PM, Sunday 10:00AM.  The MAP Conference is being hosted at the Kroc Center on Division Street near 25th Street.   You are welcome.

A final word about the CCDA Conference in Indianapolis.  As energizing as ever.  You really sense how so many are committed to the vision of transformed neighborhoods and cities, individual lives, structures and systems.  Meeting people, hearing of their work.  Inspiring.  Provoking.

Near the end of the conference we Salvation Army people gathered with our lunches in a sitting area of the JW Marriott lobby.  We introduced ourselves, shared about our work and what caught our attention at the conference.  Nicole Woodcox from our STOP-IT program in Chicago dropped by.  Nicole co-presented a workshop with Joseph Elkerton of Toronto on “Human Trafficking and the Ongoing Fight Against Injustice”.

Sharon Barber from our National Headquarters was super.  Sharon headed up our exhibit booth which attracted a steady stream of delegates sharing their Salvation Army stories.  One afternoon a young man shyly made his way to us and told of how he was helped by our Adult Rehabilitation Center in Rockford IL.  He’s now working at a Rockford church, helping others.

Dr. John Perkins, founder of the CCDA, spoke all week of discipleship.  He’s concerned that we are not discipling as is needed.  He said “discipleship is someone in your life so you are not making decisions all alone.”

CCDA:  a good place and good people to be with.  Next year Minneapolis hosts the national conference.  Try get there.

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