Substance AbuseWe are excited to announce that the Christian Life Commission Substance Abuse Ministry is now producing podcasts!

Our initial podcast will focus on education, prevention and helps for churches to establish substance abuse ministries.  You can find the podcast on I-Tunes by searching "Christian Life Commission" and under podcasts you will find the BGCT logo.  The podcast is also available on the CLC web page.  Additional podcasts will be added monthly and you can subscribe to the podcast through I-Tunes and each time a new podcast is produced it will be added to your I-Tunes account.

Also, I encourage you to put Friday, May 1, 2009 on your calendar.  We will be having our annual Substance Abuse Ministry training.  This year it will be at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.  This will be a great opportunity for churches to learn about different substance abuse ministries to see what is a fit for your congregation and for churches to network.  To register just call the Christian LIfe Commission.

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Aaron HaagAaron Joseph Haag, 31, passed away on February 4, 2009. He was born in San Antonio on September 2, 1977 and lived through early adulthood in Dallas, where he was baptized and a member of Royal Lane Baptist Church. In 2003, he moved to Austin where he eventually was employed by Epic Towers to build and service telecommunications towers. Not long after moving to Austin, Aaron met and fell in love with Angie Turner, who became his wife and the mother of a beautiful daughter, Savannah Gracie, now 20 months old.

Aaron’s work as a “tower hand”–which was risky, physically demanding, and perpetually moving–epitomized as his personality and character. Aaron worked hard and gave his all without complaint. He was seldom still and never speechless. He never met a stranger and reached out to people in need. He was kind-hearted, ready with a smile, and eager to please. He was playful and engaging. He loved God with the vigor and incompleteness common to us all. Most of all, he loved his family, friends, and co-workers energetically and unconditionally.

Aaron is survived by his wife Angie, their daughter Savannah, his father Joe, his mother Jean Ann, his sister Allison, his grandmother Frances, his aunts and uncles Kathleen and Mac, Donald and Debbie, Sam and Katie, and Marian, numerous cousins, Angie’s family, and a multitude of dear friends.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be sent to the Savannah Gracie Haag trust fund in care of the Christian Life Commission, 333 N. Washington, Dallas, TX 75246; Attn. Marilyn Davis.

Call and ResponseThe revolutionary rockumentary “Call + Response”. exposing the underworld of modern day slavery was viewed by an engaged and deeply moved audience at the CLC bi-annual conference on faith and public policy. Justin Dillon the film’s producer and director spoke on the Human Trafficking panel with Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Representative Rafael Anchia, and Eric Nichols, Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice for the Office of Texas Attorney General (pdf). 

Major Human Trafficking legislation filed this session:

Rep. Anchia – HB 530 (pdf), 533 (pdf), 628 (pdf)

Rep. Thompson – HB 639 (pdf)

Sen. Van de Putte – SB 89 (pdf)

Sen. Carona – SB 501 (pdf)

Senate Bill 89 by Van de Putte has several moving parts.  The bill in its current form would create a state wide task force, creates a state fund in order provide grants to counties and NGOs combating trafficking, commission a study on juvenile prostitution and alternatives to current punishments, officer training to better equip peace officers to recognize human trafficking, amends criminal codes on forced labor and trafficking of persons.  SB 89 is in its first form and the bill will be amended as it proceeds through the legislative process.  The CLC is very encouraged by the variety of bills filed and the commitment of the different bill authors. 

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Human trafficking actually exists?  That’s a question that comes up from time to time.  Sadly, the answer is yes.  The U.S. Congress requires the State Department to submit an annual report each year on “foreign governments’ efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.”  The Report, now the 8th annual one, states:

The International Labor Organization (ILO)—the United Nations agency charged with addressing labor standards, employment, and social protection issues—estimates that there are 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, and sexual servitude at any given time; other estimates range from 4 million to 27 million.

Additionally, the Report states that Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices “initiated 182 investigations, charged 89 individuals, and obtained 103 convictions in cases involving human trafficking” in the United States during fiscal year 2007. Read the entire report…

Because of the nature of human trafficking, its victims generally do not have authorization to remain in the United States and are subject deportation.  This creates two problems:  1) the deportation of the victim deprives the prosecution of a crucial witness in its case against the traffickers; and 2) the victim could be victimized again in their home country by the same trafficking organization.

In an effort to provide relief to the victims and aid in the prosecution of these modern day slave traders, Congress authorized the “T-Visa”.  To qualify for the T-Visa, a victim:

  1. must have been subjected to “severe trafficking”;
  2. be physically present in the United States;
  3. the Attorney General or Secretary of DHS must agree that the victim has complied with a reasonable request by a Federal, State, or Local law enforcement agency to assist in the investigation or prosecution of such trafficking
  4. the victim would suffer “extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal” from the United States.

The Code of Federal Regulations defines “severe trafficking” as either a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion (“sex trafficking) or the recruitment, harboring, or other acts of obtaining persons or labor by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose subjection to slavery, debt bondage, or involuntary servitude (“labor trafficking”).  See generally 8 C.F.R. §214.11(a).   The T-visa also requires the victim to cooperate with law enforcement’s “reasonable request” to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking.

Here is a good discussion about the T-Visa…

An excellent “rockumentary”on the subject is Justin Dillon’s Call and Response… 

Please do not forget to pray for the victims of human trafficking and pray for the end of this horrible practice.

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MARSHALL – East Texas Baptist University was presented with the United States “Surgeon General’s Outstanding Service Award”  during a luncheon held in the Phillips Dining Room on Feb. 18. Full Story »

LONGVIEW – Home doesn’t get much sweeter than this. Full Story »

UVALDE – Texas Baptists have stepped forward in more than half of the state’s counties to volunteer to lead efforts to place Scripture in every home in their respective areas. Full Story »