Small Steps to Seek Justice: Reflections on Advocacy
UPDATE: YOU DID IT: TVPRA Passes Congress and is Sent to the President
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act has passed the House of Representative in a bipartisan vote and will be on the President’s desk today. This is because of all of you! Your voices have echoed through the halls of the Senate and House and have been instrumental in the passage of a law that protects victims, prosecutes traffickers and prevents vulnerable men, women, and children from being enslaved and exploited. Congratulations Women of Vision!
Please call your representative and Senators to thank them for supporting the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
Today we welcome Tracy Mathews, Chair of Chicago Women of Vision. Tracy shares her reflections on advocating for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act in 2012 and how God can use our small steps to do something incredible.
My journey with advocacy for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) began in March of 2012, when I wanted to attend the Women of Vision National Conference. No one else from Chicago could go, and I was scared to go alone. Yes – I am a grown woman and mother of two, but was still scared to go by myself. “Who would I sit next to and talk to?” “Would I look sad and pathetic all by myself?” “Would I have to constantly check email on my phone in a vain attempt to look busy?” Silly, I know, but God provided me with some inspiration, and I convinced my mom to go with me. This turned out to be a great idea, and not just because I had someone to sit next to.
Prior to the Lobby Day, I’d never done any lobbying before, or really any advocacy work for that matter. I don’t think I could have even defined what advocacy was at that point. I certainly hadn’t put it together that, since I was the only participant from Chicago WoV, which is the only chapter in Illinois, there would not be a large group from the Land of Lincoln. I didn’t actually think I would have to say anything. If I had thought I might be the only one in the meetings I might have chickened out. But World Vision staff did a great job of preparing and encouraging us. And God was faithful in providing two others from Chicago to join me.
Senator Kirk, who had not yet cosponsored the TVPRA, had suffered a major stroke earlier that year. We were encouraged to meet with his office in preparation for his return. We met with one of his staffers who was so warm and engaging. We told her about the importance of the TVPRA and she was receptive.
I probably would have stopped my lobbying efforts there, but then in May I spoke with a local woman named Margaret, who was interested in joining Chicago WoV, and very quickly became interested in advocating for the TVPRA. She put together a packet of information on human trafficking to send out to our group and encouraged me to ask our partnership to regularly call into Senator Kirk’s office. To be honest, I hadn’t actually been calling Senator Kirk’s office myself until she asked me to ask our chapter, and I figured I should probably call in if I was asking others to do so.
I was nervous about making the calls. They still sometimes make me nervous, even though they take just a minute or two and the people are always nice. I know others from our group started making phone calls too, and even writing letters. I just spent a few minutes every week or two calling in. Every few months, I would email the staffer to see if she had anything to report in terms of Senator Kirk’s interest in the issue. Then, what seemed like out of the blue, I got an email from the staffer in September, letting me know Senator Kirk had decided to co-sponsor the bill! Four months later, Senator Kirk was one of the 93 Senators who stood up and voted yes to pass the TVPRA in the Senate. Our voices worked!
So, my story is not very impressive. Reflecting on it, it’s me being a wimpy, scaredy cat. But here’s the cool thing: Even though my part in this story was small and unimpressive, God still used it to do awesome things. Although my steps were shaky– He smiled down on me and went ahead of me, and came beside me. He actually supplied many other ‘actors’ so that we could do something meaningful: My mom to go to the conference with me, the other women from IL to go to Lobby Day with me, the WV staff to prepare and encourage us, Margaret to prompt our group to action, the Chicago Women of Vision partnership that responded with phone calls and letters – everything that led to one more step forward for the TVPRA and victims of injustice around the world. So it turns out that it is an impressive story, because it’s not actually my story: It’s God’s story…and I got to play a part.
God does not expect us to be impressive – He just wants us to swallow our fear and take one small, non-impressive step of faith after another. As we embark on 2013 and work to push the TVPRA through the House of Representatives and then onto the President’s desk, I hope you will join me in taking small steps: make a call, send a letter, encourage your friends to do the same. Small steps that will result in impressive work by God. Small steps that God will use to seek justice for the voiceless.
Call your representative and ask them to support the immediate reintroduction and reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.