As Carmen Halsey walked the roads of this South Asian country, she challenged herself to a game of sorts. “I’m a make eye contact, smile kind of person,” said IBSA’s director of women’s ministry and missions. Halsey tried to lock eyes with women she passed and see if she could get them to smile. But it never happened.
“I’ve never seen the face of oppression like what I saw there,” Halsey said, remembering how she tired of the multiple calls to prayer at the mosque, ringing out daily and reminding her mission team of how many people are walking in spiritual darkness.
Halsey’s trip to South Asia was actually years in the making. When she joined the IBSA staff in 2013, she mobilized women in the state around awareness and prevention of human trafficking—a focus started by National Woman’s Missionary Union.
In Illinois, Halsey has continued that emphasis, putting in place a task force to study the issue, create resources for churches, and facilitate mission trips in North America and internationally to be involved in rescuing victims of trafficking. The trafficking focus is how Halsey met Kimberly Sowell and Bangladesh: For Faith and Freedom.
The April trip, led by Sowell, gave Halsey and Illinois women an opportunity to see up-close trafficking prevention and rescue at the Light of Hope Center. But they also saw the importance of encouraging national Christians—South Asian women who have come to Christ and are now risking persecution to reach others with the gospel.
During their trip, the Illinois women saw in a new, real way the threats Christians face in other parts of the world. The awareness that believers in South Asia could lose their lives for their faith spurred the team on, Halsey said, and inspired “intense, beautiful” prayer. It also left Halsey wrestling with a bigger question: As Christians in the U.S., most of us don’t have a target on our backs. Why then are we not sharing here?
As the team ministered in a village one day, they were asked to pray for people who were sick. One woman went to get her son, a Muslim, so Halsey could pray for him. Halsey describes what happened next as her boldest moment. “I looked at him and said, ‘I will pray for you. But I have got to be clear: There is only one name I’ll pray to.”
In this place, where people are in desperate need of hope, only one Name can deliver it: Jesus.
For more information about IBSA mission opportunities, contact Carmen Halsey at (217) 391-3138 or CarmenHalsey@IBSA.org.
– Meredith Flynn