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From iconic strip club to Freedom Center

This Fourth of July let's meditate on what freedom means

There isn’t much not to like about the Fourth of July, and it is truly one of my favorite holidays. I love fireworks, I love parades, and I love a good family barbecue.

Miles McPherson
Courtesy of SD Rock/Nathan Maselli

More than any of the food or festivities, however, I love that the Fourth of July causes me to meditate on the topic of freedom. Naturally, I begin by reflecting on the freedoms that we are privileged to have in our nation. We have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, and other such freedoms that many countries are not afforded.

More importantly, however, I spend this time of year reflecting on the comprehensive and transformational freedom that we have because of Jesus. Galatians 5 tells us that it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free,” and this is more than just a meaningless phrase buried in the pages of a religious text. This is the grace-laden truth of the Gospel message, and it has profound implications for our lives today.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed centuries ago, our nation didn’t just experience momentary freedom. We didn’t just become free from the restraints and restrictions that were placed upon us. Instead, we chose to move toward independence so that we could live out freedom in all of its fullness and exist as a nation in which people can truly flourish. That freedom is something that we get to live into right now, in our day-to-day lives.

In the same way, the spiritual freedom that Jesus imparted to us was not momentary or a means to an end. Christ set us free FOR SOMETHING – in order that we would “serve each other through love” (Galatians 5:13) and grow in deeper levels of freedom each day as we walk in step with the Holy Spirit. It was for freedom that Christ set us free, and we get to choose whether or not we are going to walk in that freedom and how we are going to use it.

This year, the topic of freedom is particularly meaningful to me as I have gotten to see freedom in action via the San Diego Freedom Center. Through God’s grace, the help of several investors, and too many miracle stories to count, our church was recently able to acquire and permanently shut down one of San Diego’s most iconic and long-standing strip clubs that was for sale. Now, this building will be repurposed into a transitional living center in which women who are survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation can receive hope, safe shelter, and practical services.

I am beyond thrilled about this project for several reasons. I have been deeply distressed about the topic of human trafficking since I was first made aware of this pervasive injustice years ago. The fact that this type of slavery is one of the biggest crimes in our world today is absolutely astounding. When I heard the statistics about trafficking in my own backyard of San Diego, I became completely undone. It is overwhelming to hear the numbers, and the temptation is to feel detached or helpless due to the prevalence of this issue.

Still, it is incredibly important to allow the reality and weight of those numbers to crash over us. I knew that our church had to find a way to participate in fighting this crime. I knew we had to find a way to bring freedom to the people who were caught up in the sex industry, whether by choice or by force. I knew we had to find a way to use our freedom to serve others with love.

That is exactly why we are now working to build the Freedom Center. This 4,000 square foot facility will be designed to provide holistic support to women so they can receive resources and experience healing. We don’t just want to see women rescued from trafficking. We don’t just want momentary freedom for them. We want them to experience true, comprehensive freedom that leads to a free and flourishing life.

The Freedom Center will have an intake room, counseling rooms, bedrooms, a kitchen, and a laundry room. Support staff will also be able to provide psychotherapy, food, shelter, employment, childcare, clothing, transportation, legal assistance, and healthcare, and staff managers on-call 24/7 with the ability to meet and follow up with potential trafficking victims. To learn more about our plans for the Freedom Center, you can check out sandiegofreedomcenter.com.

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I want to encourage you to take some time and meditate on the freedom you have gained through Christ. Are you fully living into that freedom? Are you using your freedom to serve and love others while growing daily in dependence on God through the Holy Spirit?

I also want to ask you to partner with me in prayer for the Freedom Center and all of the women who will come through it. We have big dreams for how the Freedom Center will serve our community, and we are looking forward to pouring into similar projects in the near future. We are brimming over with hope and gratitude because of what God is doing.

Miles McPherson is the Senior Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. He is also a motivational speaker and author. McPherson's latest book “The Third Option” speaks out about the pervasive racial divisions in today’s culture and argues that we must learn to see people not by the color of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.

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