“Fields of Mudan”

I’ve seen “Fields of Mudan” several times over the last few years and it still affects me deeply and profoundly each time. This is an intense, but necessary film.

Mudan is a young Asian girl who is forced into sex slavery by a brutal madam in a child brothel. Mudan clings to her memories of her mother, and her hope that her mother will one day rescue her and take her to America, a land of promise and dreams. In the midst of the hostile surroundings of the brothel, Mudan befriends another brothel girl, Faye, and the two seek out any small opportunity they have to live as ordinary girls. Those opportunities are few and far between, and eventually their circumstances overtake them.

Created as a masters thesis project in 2004 by Stevo Chang, a graduate student at the film school of Florida State University, “Fields of Mudan” has won numerous awards and recognitions at film festivals in the U.S. and abroad, including the Amnesty International Award and as a finalist in the 2006 Academy Awards. Stevo cites his his five-year-old niece, and his realization that girls the same age as his niece are being enslaved all over the world, as his inspiration. He therefore used his thesis project as an opportunity to speak out against sex slavery and child prostitution in a deep and meaninful way.

AB Women’s Ministries has shown the film in small group settings several times. However, we always let people know ahead of time that it is an intense film so they can discern if they want to stay. In some instances, older teen girls (juniors and seniors in high school) have seen the film with parental permission. It is not an easy film to watch, but it is an excellent resource for engaging in the issue of sex trafficking and child prostitution.

“Fields of Mudan” (23 minutes) is available through Indieflix.com for 30-day streaming for $1.95. Proceeds go to The Polaris Project and International Justice Mission. The film is also available as a manufacture-on-demand DVD through Amazon.com for $9.95.

–Sandy

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The Evolution of COTAAN

Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin, creative commons license

The theme of this blog is, as you know, women and girls in vulnerable situations–those who are at risk for exploitation and abuse. One of these situations is women re-entering society after being incarcerated in the penal system. They are faced with a host of issues that they need to successfully navigate, and prisoner re-entry and aftercare ministries are an excellent resource to help them do so.

We have the privilege of watching one such ministry being born: COTAAN. Over the next several months, we’ll be posting periodic blog entries about the evolution of COTAAN from the glimmer of an idea to a reality. You will not only learn about aftercare and re-entry ministries, and about COTAAN, but you will learn how to bring a new outreach ministry to fruition. Following COTAAN as it develops, seeing its joys as well as the ways it needs to shift along the path, will help us all gain valuable insights into the birth of a ministry.

The COTAAN blog posts are contributed by Rev. Christine A. Smith, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Wickliffe, OH, www.covenantbaptistwickliffe.com.

The Evolution of COTAAN: Covenant Outreach Through Advocacy and Agency Networking

(Pronounced “Cotton” – A “soft” landing for those coming from a “hard” start)

To say that I had, or have, a burning desire for prison ministry would not be honest. The fact of the matter is that I have learned that “ministry” does not always flow forth from a lightning bolt experience or an overwhelming feeling of “I’ve got to do this!”  Rather, it sometimes comes from an openness to the voice of God through circumstances, situations, and observations.  COTAAN is evolving from just such a place.

Some years ago as an associate minister at my home church, I participated in the prison ministry at the Women’s Pre-release Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  Our visits included a prayer and praise service, a sermon, and distributing personal hygiene items as permitted by the system.  On one of those occasions, as the sermon was ending, the minister offered an altar call prayer.  Following the prayer, several of the women were sobbing.  Quite presumptuously, I assumed that their tears were because of their incarceration.  However, their cries were not due to imprisonment but, to my surprise, something altogether different.  One by one, those who were crying came forward and said, “Please pray for us.  We are going to be released soon and we don’t know what we are going to do.”

The minister in charge instructed us to pull back from the women since the guards were ready to escort them back to their quarters.  We had no time or opportunity to address their fears.  Even if we had, I didn’t know what to say.  That image has remained with me.

Fast forward….  In 2008, while attending the American Baptist Churches USA “Speak Until Justice Wakes” conference held at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California, I was deeply moved by the life work and ministry of the Reverend Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., then pastor of Allen Temple.  I learned of his after-care ministry to ex-felons.  Several of the ex-felons who had been involved in the ministry openly shared with my husband and I how Dr. Smith and the Allen Temple congregation touched their lives and the lives of many others. They spoke of how the church helped them by giving them a chance, praying with them, visiting them while they were still in prison, and working with the prison system and local employers to give them job opportunities after completion of the church sponsored re-entry programs.  The church welcomed them in, trained them for positions of Christian service, and showed them the love of Jesus Christ in tangible ways.

In 2010, Rev. Fela Barrueto,  national coordinator for Prisoner Re-entry and Aftercare Ministry at American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), came to Cleveland to work with the Cleveland Baptist Association to launch our first regional prison re-entry resource guide.  As president of the CBA’s board of trustees, I was an ex-officio member of the planning team.  It seemed that the Lord kept placing the ministry of re-entry before me.

Several members of my local congregation have family members who are  incarcerated and about to be released, or who have recently gone through that experience.  Each family shared some of the same concerns:  “What is going to happen to my loved one when they come home?  How will we make the adjustment?  How will they survive?  Where will they find work?”

In these questions, I heard the Lord asking, “Who will go for us? Who shall we send?” (Isaiah 6:8)  I began to prayerfully consider how our congregation could get involved. I believed God was calling Covenant to answer, “Here we are, Lord! Send us!”

(Stay tuned for more on this story!)

COTAAN is a grant project of AB Women’s Ministries. For more information about COTAAN , including how you could help support this ministry, click here.

Penguin Atlas of Women in the World

Penguin Atlas of Women You can see my copy is well marked.  The tabs may move around as I study different issues, but there are always several bright yellow stickies marking my travels through the pages of this book.

Yes, I reference this book frequently in my work on global issues facing women and girls. The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World (Fourth Edition), revised and updated by Jodi Seager, provides informative–albeit often disturbing–snapshots into the lives of women around a variety of issues.

It’s divided into sections: Women in the World, Families, Birthrights, Body Politics, Work, To Have and To Have Not, Power, and World Tables. Those sections contain everything from where women have the right to vote and hold government offices (and how many actually do hold office) to statistics about domestic violence, female genital cutting, and rape as a weapon of war. Literacy, poverty, wages, women in the military, sex trafficking, migration, maternal mortality, and many other issues are addressed.

You will find a wealth of very important information here…the numbers to back up the stories you read in the newspaper or online, facts that will make you want to know more. It’s always possible–and a good thing!–to question statistics, of course. There are so many ways one can go about counting numbers and statistics are always shaped in some way by the perspective of the person quoting them. However, just seeing the numbers to begin with will make you stop and think. My hope is that you would be spurred on to deeper study. Not sure about the statistic? Do more digging from other sources to see what you can find out.

In any case, I think this book is a good jumping off place–discover which figures send an arrow into your heart the deepest to determine where you may need to do more self-education or, perhaps, engage in the issue directly. It’s also a good supplement to other resources. Reading about sex trafficking in Eastern Europe? Check this book to see some numbers, and then see how prevalent an issue it is worldwide.

The binding on my book broke within a few months of me owning it, I refer to it so often. I hope yours becomes just as worn out…until books like these no longer have a reason to exist.

–Sandy

The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, Fourth Edition, revised and updated by Jodi Seager, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2009). 128 pages.