Archive for the ‘child abuse’ Category

Last year in Texas, there were 58,644 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect. That’s one child victimized every 9 minutes!

60% of these victims were 6 years old or younger!

If these statistics aren’t sobering enough, 48,795 children were in Texas’ child protection system – a system that in December 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled it failed to protect the children in its care – ultimately violating their constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. 

The 2016 Department of Family & Protective Services Data Book revealed that 222 children died due to abuse or neglect! If that many pets were killed from abuse, every news outlet across the country would be reporting on it! But when a child dies from abuse there is rarely more than a blip on the news outlets! 

In 2017 New Hampshire’s nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, was named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the state and the Division for Children, Youth & Families for the alleged sexual assaults on two young girls while in DCYF care.

Bedford attorney Rus Rilee sued the state, Easter Seals of New Hampshire and CASA NH on behalf of the adoptive parents of two girls, J.B. and N.B., who were “horrifically” sexually assaulted by their biological parents while the DCYF, CASA and Easter Seals were supposed to be supervising the case, according to the lawsuit. 

The biological parents are serving life prison sentences after they were convicted of assaulting the girls during unsupervised visits arranged by the DCYF and CASA, and videotaping the assaults. The girls were ages 4 and 18 months at the time. 

But Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson ruled that the judicial immunity that protects a judge from legal action extends to CASA-NH, because its volunteers act as an arm of the court by advocating for the interests of abused children. Abramson explained that CASA’s role in recruiting, training and supervising volunteers, known as “guardians ad litem,” entitles the organization to the same immunity protections. Attorney Rus Rilee, who represents the children’s grandparents, appealed Abramson’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 

In May of 2018 the state had agreed to pay $6.75 million to settle a suit brought by the grandparents of two young girls who were sexually abused by their parents while under the supervision of New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. 

Under the settlement, each child will receive $3.125 million and their grandparents, who have adopted the girls, will receive $500,000. The money will come from the state’s general fund and be released as soon as Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson officially signs off on the deal, said Rus Rilee, the attorney representing the family. “They’re not doing well.” Rilee said. “They need serious treatment. And now they’re going to be able to afford it.” 

CASA volunteers, mostly middle class and overwhelmingly white, march into the homes of people who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately people of color. Then they pass judgment on the families and recommend whether they should get their children back. Judges routinely rubber-stamp their recommendations. The demographic information, and the information about judges’ behavior, can be found in the most comprehensive study ever done of CASA – a study commissioned by the National CASA Association itself.

But that wasn’t all the study found. As Youth Today reported at the time, the study “delivers some surprisingly damning numbers”:

  • The study found that CASA’s only real accomplishments were to prolong the time children languished in foster care and reduce the chance that the child will be placed with relatives.
  • The study found no evidence that having a CASA on the case does anything to improve child safety—so all that extra foster care is for nothing. 
  • The study found that when a CASA is assigned to a child who is black, the CASA spends, on average, significantly less time on the case. The study also found that CASAs don’t spend as much time on cases as the organization’s public relations may lead people to believe.

CASA volunteers reported spending an average of only 4.3 hours per month on cases involving white children, and 2.67 hours per month on cases involving black children.

No matter how desperately they try to spin the findings, the problem is built into the CASA model itself. So they need a better model.

CASAs still can perform a useful service as mentors to foster children and in advocating for services. But children need a real voice in court, a lawyer with a mandate to fight for what is best for the child, and not what’s most convenient for the courts.

I have experienced this myself when CPS placed our grandson in our care. Over a period of months, a CASA worker only visited us one time—and even then, only spent a few minutes talking to us long enough to sign some papers—and never even spoke to our grandson!

DHHS was even worse. Although our grandson’s pediatrician, the pediatrician’s phycologist, and our grandson’s former therapist all agreed that he needed further therapy, DHHS refused to allow us to take him to therapy. We even offered to pay for his therapy ourselves, but they still refused. Their reason? Our grandson had already graduated six weeks of family and group therapy and therefore did not need more therapy.

I don’t believe these are isolated cases.

When children enter the long-term care of the state, there is a general perception that they’ve been saved, and no further help for them is needed. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The sad reality is that kids languishing in foster care means a lifetime of damage and trauma; and they tend to experience bleak outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration, mental health illnesses and attachment and abandonment issues.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” If this quote is to be believed, where does that leave us?

“He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” (John 10:12)

Many Christians in mainline denominations have expressed righteous sadness and outrage at the sexual crimes within the Catholic Church. And yet refuse to acknowledge the same sin within their own churches and homes. 

And those who speak out about sexual abuse in churches are often shamed in an attempt to quiet them. They may be accused of seeking attention, or of trying to bring down a godly man. They may be told to be quiet or they will be causing shame on the congregation and will cause people to turn away from the church and spend an eternity in hell because of the poor light they’ve portrayed the church in. After all, these abusers don’t just groom victims—they groom congregations and communities, in hopes that the majority will rise up and protect them.

Many church leaders try to deal with sexual abuse “in house” in order to keep their “little secret” from the community because they are more concerned about their reputation in the community than they are for the victims of sexual abuse. Ironically, this is the same method used by almost all pedophiles—Keep it secret, threaten and shame their victims. The result of all of this is that many young people are leaving their churches and even leaving behind their traditional faith.

According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously.  Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct. 

“I believe the gaps are generational in that the younger generation has had it with fakery, and they are bent toward telling it like it is, whereas older generations grew up with the ‘don’t tell secrets’ unwritten mandate. To be sure, both ages have experienced sexual abuse, but younger believers are more apt to share them,” said Mary DeMuth, a survivor of child sexual abuse and an advocate.

More than 90 percent of church goers said their churches were safe places for children, teens, and adults, and more than 80 percent believed their leaders would not cover up misconduct and would bear the cost of addressing incidents correctly, LifeWay found. 

These findings reveal that congregations assume the best about themselves and assume the best about their leadership. Unfortunately, these churchgoers’ optimistic views do not match up with the reality of a majority of churches. 

In spite of the #metoo movement and so many speaking out and publicly, sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse, major investigations have still uncovered hundreds of victims among Protestant churches, while allegations of abuse among missionary kids and within other evangelical organizations continue to come out. 

In 1 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul had to deal with a similar problem in a congregation. His advice? “Shouldn’t you rather have been stricken with grief and removed from your fellowship the man who did this?” 

Jesus said that we are the light of the world. This sin needs to be stopped and repented of! Otherwise, our light will be snuffed out. 

It is a sad day indeed when the world tells the Church it needs to repent…and they’re right.

Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein all have inspired the #metoo movement. Many celebrities came forward (and continue to do so) to publicly relate their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault by powerful men.

Sadly, the public has remained silent when it come to the same thing perpetrated on children.  

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 683,000 children experienced some form of child maltreatment in 2015. Child sexual abuse is just one kind of maltreatment, and it happens with alarming frequency. Because of the stigma associated with child sexual abuse and children’s dependence on their perpetrators, this type of crime often goes unreported. 

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13. 

This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood. A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can even become suicidal. 

Adult intervention is key to saving children from this kind of abuse and giving them a chance at a healthier, happier outcome. Mandated reporting laws support this type of intervention by requiring certain adults to tell the authorities about suspected child abuse. But there is no federal law requiring mandated reporting except for professionals, (teachers, nurses, doctors) so many instances of child sexual abuse go unreported. 

Researchers have found that people tend not to report abuse when there are no bruises or other physical signs and avoid contacting authorities based on suspicions alone even though mandated reporting laws require them to do so. This has become even more prevalent when the perpetrator is a family member living with the child.

These types of egregious failures happen more frequently in our court system, despite the laws in place to deter them from shirking from their responsibility. 90 percent of those convicted of sexually abusing a child living in their home are allowed to plead guilty to a lesser crime and are sentenced to probation and required to register as a sex offender. 

Many mistakenly believe that the Sex Offender Registration laws (SOR) keep children in their community safer. Nothing could be further from the truth! The SOR law in most states do not place any restrictions on registered sex offenders. None! This means that a convicted child sex offender can visit and/or work in schools, daycares, children museums, and even live with or socialize with vulnerable children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victims! Thus, allowing perpetrators to continue their abuse without consequences! 

I have written to the Nebraska governor and over 20 Nebraska state legislators pleading with them to make changes in the SOR law to better protect our children. The very few that responded, (less than 8) told me that there was nothing they could do. Really? The Nebraska Senate website states that a senator is called (among other things) to: 

  • Represent the people and the best interests of his or her legislative district
  • Appropriate funds to protect property and persons 
  • Right injustices involving the public
  • Establish state policy by introducing bills to create new programs, modify existing programs, and repeal laws which are no longer needed 

The health and social impacts of child sexual abuse on a survivor last a lifetime and affect us all socially and financially. Delinquency and crime, often stemming from substance abuse, are more prevalent in adolescents with a history of child sexual abuse. Adults survivors are also more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Child sexual abuse is costing taxpayers over $200 billion each year! The costs include: 

  • Mental and physical healthcare costs 
  • Criminal justice costs 
  • Child welfare costs 
  • Special education costs 
  • Productivity losses 
  • Academic problems 
  • Teen pregnancy 
  • Sexual behavior problems

I know there are many who would rather I remain silent on this subject—at the very least stop using my religious beliefs as a solution to the problem. But I happen to know that the Bible IS the solution to this problem. But most don’t want to follow it. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) 

But I will not go quietly into the night. I will not remain silent without a fight. Just as Tom Petty sang, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

 

Why am I so passionate about this? Because child victims of abuse are rarely in a position to advocate for themselves. Since their safety depends on adult intervention, it is absolutely critical that adults stand up and speak out for victims of child sexual abuse, or any type of child abuse—Publicly and loudly. If not, we will all be judged by what we did or did not do to prevent it. 

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

 

Many children today complain about having to do small chores at home. But there was a time in this country when young children were routinely legally forced to work at hard labor right alongside their adult counterparts. During the 1900s children, often as young as 10 years old and younger, were forced into manual labor. They worked not only in industrial settings such as textile factories, but also in coal mines, retail stores, on the streets, and in home-based industries. 

Children from lower class families were frequently employed, whereas the concern about idle youths did not appear to be one shared by the upper classes. Well-to-do fathers in the early 1900s believed that it was their duty to work for their children, plan for them, spend money on them, buy life insurance for their protection, afford them a good education and teach them to be upstanding citizens. But lower income families were forced to use their children to help with the home’s finances without the luxury of saving for their futures. 

By the turn of the 20th century, the labor that the children of the working class performed were varied. In rural areas, young boys, some reportedly under age 14, toiled in mines, sometimes working their fingers literally to the bone, breaking up coal. While young boys in urban areas often earned their living as newspaper carriers known as “Newsies”. In many towns, mills and glass factories regularly employed young girls and boys. 

Although many child laborers, such as the Newsies, worked in plain view of others on city streets, many did not. While their coal-stained faces have now become known through pictures, at the time, the children who worked in mines labored in relative obscurity. Some labored in the mines as “trappers,” others were known as “breaker boys,” and many worked as “helpers.” The trapper’s sole job was to sit all day waiting to open a wooden door to allow the passage of coal cars. These doors, which were part of the mine’s ventilation system, required opening between 12 and 50 times a day. During the rest of the time, the boy sat in dark idleness next to the door. 

Although less monotonous, the job of the breaker boys was likely more dangerous. Their job was to use a coal breaker to separate slate and other impurities from coal before it was shipped. To do so, these boys, some as young as 14, were precariously positioned on wooden benches above a conveyor belt so they could remove the impurities as the coal rushed by.  At times, the dust from the passing coal was so dense that their view would become obscured. Other child coal laborers worked as helpers. Journeymen miners frequently hired their own helpers, and some parents hired their own children to perform this role. These children were not usually employees of the mine but were instead paid out of the wages of the journeymen. And if the child worker did not fulfill his duties well they could expect brutal blows to the head or other physical abuse.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the numbers of child laborers in the U.S. peaked. Child labor began to decline as the labor and reform movements grew and labor standards in general began improving, increasing the political power of working people and other social reformers to demand legislation regulating child labor. 

But it wasn’t until The Great Depression that political attitudes in the United States changed, especially surrounding child labor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” sought to prevent extreme child labor. And almost all of the codes under the National Industrial Recovery Act significantly reduced child labor. Overall, these laws were successful, not only to the generally widespread disapproval towards child labor, but also because many previously unemployed adults became employed once children were limited in the workforce. 

Violations of the child labor laws today continue among the agricultural industry. Despite the existing laws regarding forced child labor, some children are still forced to labor excessive numbers of hours with their migrant parents or hold prohibited jobs. 

There has been discussions for some time now about paying reparations to descendants of slaves. Some refer to the reparations that were paid to the Japanese Americans who were held in the internment camps during WWII as a reason to do the same for descendants of slaves. So along that line of thinking, maybe reparations should be paid to descendants of the children of forced labor too?

In recent years people have discovered a new and even more evil way to exploit children that is also more profitable: Human sex trafficking. Unfortunately, in most cases of child sexual abuse, victims are not treated much differently by the courts today than they were in the 1930s. They are still treated as second class citizens and are not recognized as having any real rights. The courts and lawyers are more concerned with working a plea deal for the abuser than getting justice for the under age plaintiffs.

It is estimated by the CDC that 1 in 6 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Most will be sexually abused by someone they know well and trust. Because of the trauma this causes, many survivors of child sexual abuse suffer a life of PTSD, depression, anxiety and are at higher risk for drug and alcohol addiction and other criminal activity. 

Many of these children are taken from their families and placed in foster care where they are abused again. And 90% of those convicted of child sexual abuse will only be sentenced to probation and placing absolutely no restrictions on them. Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victim!  

Clearly, the United States still has much to do to eliminate the abuses and violations of vulnerable children. To make matters worse, it seems that our legislators don’t really care about protecting our children. I have written to more than 20 Nebraska legislators asking them to place restrictions on those convicted of child sexual abuse. I also sent a petition to the Nebraska legislators though change.org with over 8,000 supporters. The very few that responded told me that there was nothing they could do. Really? Many legislators are concerned with stopping sex trafficking, but trying to solve sex trafficking without working on the epidemic of child sexual abuse in the home is like having a doctor prescribe cough syrup for someone with lung cancer. 

If half as many people spoke out and organized marches to protest the sex offender registration laws as they do to protest gun control, equal rights and sexual harassment in the work place, maybe our legislators would do something to change it.

One day perpetrators of child sexual abuse will be held accountable for their actions. But so will all the people who refused to speak up for the victims.   

Vince Gill – Forever Changed

Some may wonder why I’m so passionate about being an advocate for abused children and survivors of child sexual abuse.

Maybe it’s because I was abused as a child myself—verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Maybe it’s because of the trauma I suffered I ended up in the hospital for anemia. Maybe it’s because I became a target for even more abuse and bullying throughout my school years. 

And because I desired so much to be accepted and loved that I suffered many failed relationships and a few failed marriages. But in spite of all this I still tried to serve God the best way he could: Ministering to the homeless, organizing youth events in churches, starting a home Bible study group, using my musical talents to reach others for God. But it seemed that nothing I did worked out.  

To make things worse, Christians ridiculed me for my “new beliefs” while unbelievers accused him of being gay because I didn’t chase after women. But there is one person who truly loves me and continues to believe in me. A few years after reconnecting with a girl I knew from high school, we were married and have been happily married for over 12 years now.

Maybe I became an advocate for abused children because a trusted friend from church ended up sexually abusing my own 13 year old son. Maybe it’s because I reported it to CPS and nothing was done. Or maybe it’s because me and my wife discovered that our own grandchildren were abused as children. Maybe it’s because I have witnessed how perpetrators convicted of child sexual abuse are only sentenced to probation and allowed to have contact with other children.

But even after all I’ve been through, I still refuse to remain silent about those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. I writes to legislators, asking them to change the sex offender registry laws, I write to judges, asking them not to be so lenient on those convicted of child sexual abuse.  And even though I have not received any positive responses, I am even more determined than ever to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

Maybe you feel the same way—That nothing that you have tried has worked out. But Thomas Edison once said, “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” 

I didn’t fail to serve God. I just found several ways NOT to serve God. I only needed to find that one thing that God wanted me to do. And I think I found it in being a strong advocate for victims and survivors of child abuse like me.  

If you are a survivor of child abuse, maybe you too should consider being an advocate. It will not only help heal those who have survived childhood trauma, it will also help you to heal as well. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

One Thing

Murders, violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. What causes these things? And how do we put and end to it?

The solution is simple, but not so easy. 

The Bible teaches us that if we repent of our wickedness, return to God and obey His commandments, He will bless every aspect of our lives, but if we continue in our wickedness and follow after other gods, all we can expect is more evil in our lives and in the end, destruction. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. “ (Deuteronomy 28: 1-6) 

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.” (vs 15-19)

Although many Christians place the blame for all the trouble in the world on unbelievers and the devil, these words were directed at God’s people. They were never directed to those who rejected God and worshipped idols. Read what God told Solomon after he finished building the Temple for God: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

You see, all the problems we see in the world can all be solved if only Christians would repent and turn back to God and obey Him. Even the apostle Paul wrote, “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) So the Bible makes clear that Christians are not to judge unbelievers, but those who claim to be Christians inside the Church. But to do that we must first understand what it means to be a true Christian.

True Christianity—What is it? 

The basic definition of a Christian is a person who professes belief in Jesus as the Messiah based on the teachings of the Bible. People often consider themselves Christians if they were brought up in a religious family or if they go to church. But does this make someone a true Christian? Keith Green once said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

The Bible has a lot to say about being a true Christian. The word “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible. In Acts 11:26, the believers of Jesus were first called Christians because their actions resembled Jesus’ behavior. The word is also used in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. 

The Bible teaches that a follower of Christ is one who has been born again. In John 3:3 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The term “born again” has been used (and abused) by many in our generations. But it was considered nonsense by the man Jesus was talking to in this passage. Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?”  What Nicodemus couldn’t know until later on, was that the phrase “born again” literally means born from above. It indicates a change in one’s heart—a spiritual transformation of someone’s life. 

What is the Result? 

A realization of one’s sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This sin results in death according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The death that the apostle Paul is speaking of is not an earthly death but the second death after the Resurrection. The term “second death” appears only in the book of Revelation. It appears four times: Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 20:14-15; and 21:8. Revelation mentions that there is no second death for those who have repented of their sins and surrendered their lives to God. Only those who have rejected God and His gift of salvation through His son, Jesus.

A true Christian has faith in only Jesus

Having faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and accepting that salvation is a free gift of God—acknowledging that we can’t do enough good deeds to work our way into heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We cannot become holy by doing things, helping people, giving money, being kind or polite. We can only become holy by believing in Jesus Christ and letting him take control of our lives.

What are the characteristics of a true Christian? 

A true Christian is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The “old” refers to everything that was part of our old nature—pride, love of sin, negative habits and evil passions. We do not inherit the new nature from our parents, nor can we re-create a new nature for ourselves, no matter how good and moral of a person we are. And it doesn’t mean that God simply cleans up our old nature. He creates in us an entirely new and unique person! 

A true Christian is dead to sin. 

Romans 6:11-12 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” A Christian may still struggle with temptation to sin, but they repent to God and are forgiven because of the sacrifice that Jesus made. Repentance is not parroting a prayer and asking Jesus to come into your life. And it doesn’t mean that you’re sorry you got caught in the sin. Repentance means that you’re sorry for the sin itself—that your sin hurt God and damaged your relationship with Him. Repentance means that you turn from your old life of sin and surrender every aspect of your life to God—A life no longer ruled by sin. 

A true Christian is conformed to God’s Spirit.

A true Christian allows God’s Holy Spirit to conform them to the image of Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.The fruit of the Spirit has nothing to do with soul winning, or preaching, or being successful financially, or even discipling others. The fruit of the Spirit has to do with how one lives their life. I have met many who are homeless, who struggle with health issues and have never won anyone to Jesus, and yet lived their lives according to God’s word. And we have all witnessed so-called successful Christian preachers and evangelists who have never displayed any of the fruit of the Spirit in their personal, private and/ or public life. 

A true Christian is called to live a holy life. 

That means not being conformed to the ways of the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul gives us instructions on how to live our new life in Christ: “…put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I believe this would apply to our social media posts and Twitter feeds as well.

 A true Christian is to read and obey God’s Word. 

James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” There are many professing Christians today who say, “Because we are now under grace we don’t need to  obey the Old Testament law.”  And, “It’s impossible for us to obey God’s commandments. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross.” 

But why would God give us commandments that He knew were impossible for us to obey? He wouldn’t. In 1 John 5:3 we read, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” And again in 1 John 2:3: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” When God gave His commandments of blessing and cursing to Moses and to the Hebrew people he said, “…For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that YOU CAN DO IT.” – Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (Emphasis mine) 

A New Commandment or just the same old one?

Many Christians believe that because Jesus gave us a “new commandment” in John 13:34-35 that he replaced the Old Testament Law. They even give proof by pointing to what Jesus said in Luke 10:27: One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.” 

So what was this expert in the Law referring to? Possibly the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5? “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And Leviticus 19:18? “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” 

Anyone who thinks that the Old Testament is only about strictly obeying the Law and lacks God’s grace, has not studied the Old Testament. It was out of God’s love for His people that He continued to pour out His grace on them—time and time again. The people would rebel against God and serve idols, then they would bring trouble and destruction on themselves. Then they repented and cried out to God, and God saved them—time and time again. And that is exactly how God expects us to love each other. The same way He loves us.

God’s Laws and His Holy festivals that He commands us to obey are not to keep us under His thumb or hold them over our heads. His commandments are for our own safety. When my children were young they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed me, or afraid that if they disobeyed I would love them less. But BECAUSE they loved me they obeyed me. And they knew that my rules would keep them safe. We do not obey God’s commandments because we think God will love us more if we obey, or we’re afraid that God will love us less if we don’t. But BECAUSE we love God we obey His commandments. (1 John 5:3)

Now there will always be sin in the world until Jesus returns and rules on the earth. But the problems plaguing our world today would be greatly reduced if only God’s people would repent of their wickedness and turn again to God and obey only Him. It’s all up to us. 

Listen to what God said: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) 

When most people think of the homeless, they think of the mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics that would rather live off of the money they beg for on the street than to get a real job. But there is a large part that makes up a much darker side of the homeless community: Homeless youth. 

Homelessness among young people is a serious issue. Homeless youth in our communities are individuals who lack parental, foster or institutional care. They are the ones who have become invisible to most and an irritation to some.The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. 

Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless:

Family problems: Many youths run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the parents cannot afford to care for them.

Transitions from foster care: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets.

Abuse in Foster Care

When there is suspicion of abuse or neglect in the home, child welfare services may intervene and the child can be removed from the family and be placed into protective services and eventually into foster care. Unfortunately, many of these children end up being abused and neglected in the foster homes that were supposed to be a safe haven for them. As a result, homeless youth often become frustrated and rather than continuing to endure the abuse, they resign themselves to a life on the streets alone. 

According to a report issued by Julie Rogers, the inspector general of Nebraska Child Welfare, At least 50 Nebraska children, some as young as 4 years old, had suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care or after being placed in an adoptive or guardianship home from July 2013 through October 2016. All of the cases were reported to the state’s child abuse hotline and all were substantiated, either by the courts or by child welfare officials. Few details were released on the cases. According to another report issued by Rogers, sexual abuse and suicidal behavior among children in the care of the state increased again last year. There were 45 reports of child sexual abuse during 2017-18.

During the same 2017-18 period, there were two suicides and 52 suicide attempts involving youths whose care falls under the state umbrella. The previous year, there had been one suicide and 45 suicide attempts. The 52 attempts involved 49 youths, three of whom made multiple attempts. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home or in foster care, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours after leaving home. And the average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen. 

These children often grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes where love and affection are absent. Instead of protection, many times these children receive brutal treatment. Their self-esteem is beaten to the point of feeling unworthy of any respect or fair treatment. They are insulted, humiliated, threatened, yelled at and isolated. They endure repeated sexual abuse—sometimes from several perpetrators. All of these factors may contribute to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional problems which lead them to start using drugs as a way to cope. 

28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in what is often referred to as “survival sex”. (Exchanging sex for money, food, drugs or a place to stay) Most of these children come from horrific living conditions. They find themselves vulnerable, desperate, and in need of surviving. They require basic needs like food and shelter; therefore, they give into survival sex. 

The situation for these youth is dire. But there is help available for homeless youth in our community. The Youth Emergency Services (YES) has a shelter that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with youth workers, counselors and homeless youth advocates. The shelter is available to youth ages 16 to 20.

Youth seeking shelter services are screened to ensure appropriate placement and safety of the residents. The emergency shelter is a family-style residence with separate sleeping areas for male and female clients. Youth share meals, television and computer privileges, and recreation and laundry facilities in a community area.

A trained staff of counselors, advocates and youth workers spends individual, focused time with residents to help them work through the problems they face. YES exists to help these youth turn their lives around. You can find out more about YES volunteer opportunities and ways to to help at: https://www.yesomaha.org 

We need to change our mindset and preconceived ideas about these helpless children that lead us to make erroneous conclusions. Many of us may have looked the other way and denied ourselves the opportunity to help. It may be that the assumptions made in regards to the homeless youth are what is preventing us from aiding and reaching out to them. If we did, perhaps there would not be over one million of our youth living on the streets each year in the United States.