In May last year I travelled to Hanmer Springs for a Baptist Leaders Retreat. It was very intentional to go to this retreat during my sabbatical because I believed that God needed to do a work in me in a community setting that this retreat provided. God didn’t disappoint and He certainly met me in a powerful way. I’ll always be grateful to those who ministered to me. Nearly all of the prophecies spoken over me were profound, but one excited and disappointed me at the same time. Someone believed that within a year I would be establishing a new team. My comment at the time was, “I have an awesome team, I don’t want that to change,” but there was a sad sense of acknowledgement that this word was true.
Stand Against Slavery (SAS) turned one year old on 2 October 2014 and I have a new, awesome team and we have outperformed our 3-year goals inside that time. It seems surreal that God’s grace is upon me and this Baptist Justice Initiative, but it fills me with confidence that as a denomination we have been obedient to God’s prompting.
This time last year when the Baptist Churches of NZ gathered at their annual Assembly in Manukau I saw God’s hand anointing a truly new ministry for us as a movement. Now that we are twelve months old let me give you a few brief highlights, especially to those who responded on the Friday evening of the launch of SAS. Your response at the time was humbling.
- On 2 and 4 October 2013 the two governing Councils of the Baptist Denomination affirmed that we should establish SAS, along with seed funding secured for the first twelve months (which we have managed to make stretch longer).
- We joined a coalition of five other organisations exploring the possibility of comprehensively researching the prevalence of slavery in NZ.
- Nicola Winthrop, SAS’s first team member, started on 25 October.
- SAS launched to the Baptist family at Assembly on 8 November.
- Individuals and groups have generously donated funds as a confirmation that this has not only touched hearts but also motivated support.
- Early January 2014 we set up our offices at 477 Great South Road, Penrose, sharing space with Marketplacers International Limited.
- Steph Lambert joined SAS on 10 March and our roles began to emerge more clearly. Nicola responsible for mobilisation and collaboration; Steph responsible for advocacy and capacity building; and myself as chief visionary, strategist and administrator.
- During this first quarter we introduced ourselves to many people and organisations working in the abolition space here in NZ.
- We welcomed Helen Sworn, Founder and International Director of the Chab Dai Coalition based in Cambodia, to share the importance of collaboration to the NGO community, any government agencies who might be interested, and also to the faith community. This marked our launch, presence and intention in the abolition space.
- On 31 March I concluded as General Director of NZBMS to dedicate my time and energies fulltime as the CEO of SAS.
- In April SAS officially became a charitable trust. I received notification on Good Friday 2014.
- For the next few months the SAS team got down to the hard work of developing relationships across all sectors: meeting with government officials, politicians, NGOs, churches, and individuals who are interested in the abolition space. We have spoken in meetings, schools, churches, Carey Baptist College, over lots of coffee, on Skype, by email and over the phone. We will talk to anyone and everyone.
- We started to produce media releases as we began to develop a relationship with the media about issues of great importance. We were warmly welcomed and are regularly asked to comment on various stories that come up in the media.
- In July, having had sign-off by the two Councils, SAS convened its first full official board meeting. The Board is currently made up of Brian Winslade (Hamilton Central & Board Chair), Grant Warner (Titirangi), Michaela Vernall (Bethlehem), Daniel Palmer (Manukau City), Greg Knowles (Langholm), and myself as Founder & CEO (Eastview).
- In August Richard Nauck joined the team in providing strategic input as we cast our eyes forward to the next three to four years. He is also helping us with our communication strategies. We call him our Storyteller.
- In September we welcomed Lapi Mariner as the world’s first SAS Abolition Ambassador. Lapi is excited to promote the need to stand against slavery in the entertainment industry. He is having some pretty amazing conversations with other possible ambassadors who we will announce in 2015.
- 28 August 2014 will go down in history with the announcement of NZ’s first human trafficking arrests. Immigration NZ provided us with advanced warning of the media release so we could prepare well. We had some great coverage on radio and television. I believe the opportunity to talk about these issues on TVNZ’s Breakfast show announced to the NZ public that Stand Against Slavery had arrived.
- Richard and I are in serious planning stages and have a number of important meetings scheduled to share our vision for the future and how it could be funded.
When we launched SAS it was a missional response to the global injustices of modern slavery and human trafficking. We have entered into our conversations with the posture of representing Christ in a manner that He would be pleased with and I believe He has smiled upon us and walked with us throughout. We thank you for your prayers, and need your continued prayers because it is a tough ministry to work in. We regularly pray Ephesians 6:11-18 as a team and God is our protection. We also see the need to be responsible with our health. Prayer and counselling will contribute significantly.
I look forward to seeing many of you at Assembly this year and throughout the coming months and years, as together we stand against slavery.