Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom

By Brad Layland, Chief Executive Officer & Senior Consultant

As we approach Juneteenth, I am reminded of the profound significance of this holiday, not just in the context of American history but also in the broader spiritual landscape.

On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation—which had been issued over two and a half years earlier—was read to African Americans enslaved in Texas. Though they were the last to hear this profound news, they celebrated. What a joy it must have been to listen to those words of freedom and liberation! If you are unfamiliar with the significance of Juneteenth—or simply want to learn more about the rich story behind it—I recommend you watch Faith and Freedom, a PBS video created by two of our clients.

On Juneteenth, we celebrate freedom from slavery. As believers, remembering this important historical day can also fuel our imagination toward the promise of true spiritual liberation. It’s a day that encapsulates the very essence of what we believe as a firm and what I believe as a person. I envision a world where people are not bound by the chains of slavery but are free to live fully in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

Juneteenth is a powerful reminder both of the cost of not knowing the truth and the value of freedom. Just as the enslaved people of Texas were unaware of their liberation, many today are unaware of the spiritual freedom available to them through Christ. At The FOCUS Group, we see our mission as helping nonprofits and ministries guide people to this freedom and the joy found in Christ. We support organizations that work tirelessly to free people from various forms of bondage—whether addiction, poverty, or the pursuit of material wealth over spiritual health. Some of the organizations we serve also address the harrowing reality that literal slavery still exists. It is deeply troubling that today, an estimated 40.3 million people—more than three times the figure during the transatlantic slave trade—are living in some form of modern slavery.[1]

A few years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission (IJM), share his vision of ending slavery in our lifetime. It was pre-pandemic, and he said, “We have the vaccine,” and we know how to do it. I was honored to be in the room, helping from behind the scenes to engage their major donors around this vision. In addition to IJM, we serve other organizations that are transforming lives. I think of Many Hopes, an organization that rescues children from trafficking and other horrible situations and educates them to become leaders and change agents in their countries.

As we reflect on the significance of this day, let us remember the words of Jesus in John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” This Juneteenth, let us recommit ourselves to the work of freeing others, both physically and spiritually, and celebrate the true freedom that comes from living a life dedicated to God’s purpose.

My question for you to ponder is: What can you do to rescue, free, and tell the good news of love and liberation in this world? For help answering this, consider watching the story of the founder of Many Hopes and hear how he used his agency to start an organization that is transforming lives. Here is a link to the video.

[1] UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation.

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