The Center for Faith & Culture—Olivet Nazarene University

Setting the Captive Free

The abolition of slavery was one of the driving issues in the early holiness movement in the mid-19th century. While forms of slavery have changed, the problem of slavery is still with us. Trafficking in human beings has become an “industry” around the world in the 21st century. The Church of the Nazarene has identified with the modern abolition movement against human trafficking. This column will explore the problem of human trafficking and what kinds of redemptive response we might be able to make.

Concern and action addressing human trafficking is not new to the Church of the Nazarene. Robert Smith, historian of the development of the Church of the Nazarene, explores the church’s interest in this ministry in its early history.


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The Holiness Movement Mobilizes to Confront White Slavery

The Holiness Movement Mobilizes to Confront White Slavery

My dad worked as a freight conductor for the Rock Island railroad.   I have memories from fifty years ago when I would accompany him to the depot on the far southeastern side of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Located right next to the railroad property was the Union Rescue Mission.   We had an active teen ministry at Little Rock First Church of the Nazarene.   One evening our teen group held a service at the Union Rescue Mission with an audience comprised primarily of men.   In those years I was not aware that Nazarenes once supported several rescue ministries devoted to women and their children in an attempt to combat what was known then as “white slavery” or now as human trafficking. In the 1890s and early 1900s these missions were normally called Rescue Missions or Rest Cottages.

In the 1890s and early 1900s, holiness people grew concerned about the plight of women caught in the web of white slavery.  For example, in 1894, The Beulah Christian, the holiness magazine of eastern holiness churches, reported that the Mission Church of Lynn, Mass. had opened a rescue home for fallen women.   In 1903, J.P. Roberts established a Rest Cottage in Pilot Point, Texas.    Stan Ingersol, Nazarene archivist, has put together a resource pamphlet containing bibliographical materials and a limited selection of some of the early materials written by holiness writers on this subject: Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying.   Within the early Church of the Nazarene the teens and early twenties seem to be the high point of focus on this issue until recently.   However, in 1938 a twenty page information pamphlet on the Frist Church of the Nazarene in Little Rock carried a short article on the Rest Cottage ministry with focus on, and a picture of, the Rest Cottage at Pilot Point, Texas.  Early holiness magazines and later the Herald of Holiness publicized these early attempts at ministry to women and also challenged how the men and women engaged in these activities where often judged by a double standard.   Early rescue centers were established to provide a positive environment to help women to break away from prostitution and to care for children.   Societal and church views towards women trapped in the cycle of prostitution and poverty necessitated an organization outside of, but supported by, local churches.

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Human Trafficking: A Call to the Church for Help


Imagine …..   You are reading this article and suddenly you hear a sound.  It seems to be the sound of someone screaming for “Help”. Repeatedly they call for someone to help. The cry began softly with a tremble of fear. Fear in the voice of the cry and fear in your realization that you were hearing the cry. It grew into a sound of sheer panic. It is now a sound ringing in your ears and forming as a question in your mind as to whether you have really heard the cry. Then, suddenly it settles in your heart and you know.  You are sure. You are fully filled with “Awareness”.  You know that you heard the cry for “Help”. You begin to question your ability to help the person. You wonder if you even have the “Authority” to intervene on their behalf.  It is now a matter of you being responsible to “Respond”.

“Help”! …..     That is the call of the modern Abolitionist Movement - the efforts to end modern day slavery.  You are being called to help in the efforts to act as an advocate on behalf of the oppressed and victimized.

“Awareness “….. Some have progressed to the stage of hearing the cry of the oppressed. Some have just begun the process of becoming fully aware of the situation occurring in our local communities as well as in foreign countries.

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