Friday, April 11, 2014

Why I Stand for Freedom.

On April 9, 2014 Northwestern College took part in International Justice Missions "Stand for Freedom." Along with college students across the globe, students stood collectively for twenty-four hours to raise awareness of human-trafficking. NWC brought me so much joy on this day. Throughout the day over 100 people stood and over 300 people signed the petition. People bared the cold and slept outside, students woke up and stood from 4-6am, companies donated, and many people were involved for over 6 hours! For a school of 1,200 students, our passion for justice was definitely evident through the day.

  • There are currently 29.8 million people in modern day slavery. 
  • Human trafficking profits $32 billion annually
  • 70% of victims are enslaved in sex-trafficking
  • 50% of victims are children
  • 98% are never rescued 
These are just a few of the reasons we stood. But for me, the day was so much more than that. I stood for the 28 strong survivors I grew to know and love this summer. I stood for the young girls living in the slum who came to the stitching center and are at such a high risk for being trafficked. I stood for the girls behind the glass doors in the red light district in Amsterdam. I stood for the women who I saw being treated more like objects than beloved daughters of the King. I stood for the 29.8 million names and faces I do not know. That's a big number, but too often we read that only as a statistic. 29.8 million is not only a big number, but that is a lot of lives. It is 29.8 million lives that are trapped in daily violence, manipulation, fear, and abuse. These people have names and faces and heart wrenching stories. And yes, only 1-2% may ever be rescued, but that's 596,000 people and 596,000 stories of hope and restoration! The numbers can be overwhelming and I'm often asked how we can make a difference, but I believe the answer is simple: we can pray. If nothing else, we cover these people in prayer. Yes, we can raise awareness and donate and advocate and we should! But at the very least we can pray. Trafficking is not everyone's passion and that is okay, but these people do need prayer. The victims, the survivors, the exploiters, the advocates, and the organizations working to fight this all need prayer. In the red light district, I couldn't do anything but pray and yet I prayed for each and every girl I passed. I pray for my beloved sisters in India. I pray for the girls I know working in the field to stop it. And most of all, I pray that these victims will know Christ's victory. Even though up to 596,000 may be rescued, not all know the love of Jesus Christ and that is the only thing that will truly set them free.

This is why I stand for freedom, not only on April 9, but 365 days a year. 

Galatians 5:1 (The Message) "Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring break in Amsterdam

I returned from Amsterdam on March 10th and jumped right back into real life at full speed. My ten short days in Amsterdam were a blessing beyond what words can express. I was blessed to be able to spend my spring break in Amsterdam serving alongside the Shelter Hostels Amsterdam staff, who were continuously a blessing and an encouragement to me. My trip was humbling and I was reminded of the goodness and grace of our Lord and Savior. This trip was also very different than other ministry I had done before. The majority of our time was spent cooking, cleaning, leading Bible discussion, and building relationships with the staff and guests traveling through. This week I saw people from more nations than I have in my entire life. I got to interact with people who loved Jesus with all their heart all the way to people who had never heard of Him. Quite honestly, I kind of went into this trip expecting to be disappointed but that was far from the truth. These ten short days blessed me, challenged me, and taught me. Here are a few highlights and lessons from my trip...

Top Highlights [in no particular order because it was all fabulous]:
1) Prayer walk through the 'Red Light District' (another post will be written all about that)
2) Praise and worship at the volunteer house- on Friday night we joined many of he Shelter Hostel volunteers at their house for a night of worship. This time was completely relaxed and a few hours of brothers and sisters coming together and worshiping our Maker. God definitely met us right where we were at.
3) Hostel Night- on Friday we hosted hostel night with a theme of 'change.' We had a free meal for all the guests (curry- yummmm!), played a few games, and my wonderful teammate Kelley shared her testimony. While in the kitchen preparing the meal I looked out and was overwhelmed by the sight of people of all nations, who had never met, interacting with one another, laughing, and exchanging stories. 
4) The Corrie TenBoom house- On our day off we went to Harlem and biked to the coast- BEAUTIFUL! Afterwards we visited the Corrie TenBoom house. For those of you who don't know her story google it. Right now. Seriously, did you do it? She has an amazing testimony of God's grace and redemption. During our tour I was brought to tears in her bedroom where she hid eight Jews and was brought to a concentration camp for it. Her father and sister both died, but she survived. Her family helped over 800 Jews, had 8 in hiding during their capture, witnessed in concentration camps, and by the grace of God forgave the man who turned their family in. Corrie wrote this man a letter saying she forgave him and he became a believer shortly before being executed. Praise the Lord! God is good.
5) Bike crash with Bekah :) and dual encouragement- Bekah was our host during our time there and was such a blessing to me. She has a beautiful, strong soul and is committed to furthering the Kingdom. And we crashed in the middle of a tram was great.
7) Getting to know the staff. - Again, so blessed by these people. The majority are volunteers between the ages of 18-25 spending 3-9 months volunteering at the Shelters.

our team for the 10 days
now plus our leader, Derek. Heading home!

Beautiful reminders from the Lord:
1) I am nothing without God. Lots of times I can forget this and think I have a lot of the answers...but I don't. God is so much bigger than me. He loves me. And He has a glorious plan.
2) God crosses cultural boundaries- I saw this over and over throughout the week. I often felt helpless to cross the boundaries, but the Lord did and changed hearts. 
3) Giving people hope can be as easy as saying hello and asking “How are you?”
4) God is victorious!- God reminded me of this on my prayer walk. In the midst of darkness and sin I was overcome with a sense of victory and hope.
5) Becoming comfortable in a routine not centered on Christ is not okay.- This is really easy for me to slip into back home and at school, but it's not okay. I was not only reminded of this, but challenged to change it. Keep me accountable, okay? 
6) Prayer, the Word, and an intentional community of believers is critical to maintaining a walk with Jesus
7) My faith is weak, but my Jesus is strong. - This is actually a quote from Corrie TenBoom and it stuck with me all week. My faith is weak, but my Jesus is strong. We serve a great, big, and mighty God. 
pre-bike crash

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Hey y’all. I haven’t blogged in a while for a few reasons, but one of them is that lately I’ve been struggling to find the joy. That’s obviously the title of my blog and one of the things I strive for most in life. A few years ago the Lord really taught me that despite my surrounding circumstances, I can always find joy when my eyes are set on him and his love. But lately, on and off again, I’ve kind of struggled with this. Looking back at my journal, there’s a lot of asking God for patience, and peace, and a love like his. It seems that rejoicing can occasionally be really difficult and the other times it seems to be second nature. In Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” she says, “Do I really smother my own joy because I believe anger achieves more than love?”  Do I strive to get angry instead of see joy? Lately I get irritated and frustrated quicker, and need to remind myself to allow joy to triumph. So my prayer lately has been for the Lord to teach me to see his face in the mess and, with thanksgiving, change the mess into joy. I’ve also learned the joy and peace and love I pray for is also a choice I have to make. My “Jesus Calling” devotional the other day said,“You will never run out of things to worry about, but you can choose to trust me no matter what. I am an ever-present help in trouble.” – Jesus.

So I’m working on choosing. Choosing God. Choosing to trust. Choosing joy!

The other reason I’m writing again is to update y’all on my life. In less than a month I’m heading to Amsterdam on a Spring Service Project along with 13 others from Northwestern. Our trip is 10 days, and during those 10 days we’ll be working with two different hostiles in Amsterdam. I was initially drawn to this trip because it’s near the red light district (which many of you know is one of my greatest passions), but the Lord actually changed my heart and drew me to this trip for a completely different reason. During our stay we’ll be cleaning the hostiles top to bottom to hopefully give the long term volunteers and staff a break, which I’ve seen in the past can be very important. Ministry can easily wear a person out and it’s my prayer that during our stay we will not hinder the staff, but rather give them an opportunity to rest and spend some sweet time with our Savior. We’ll also just be hanging around the hostile and forming relationships with the people traveling through and leading nightly Bible studies. It’s my prayer that through this seeds will be planted and people will be drawn to the Lord, whether we are there to see that or not. So as me and the rest of the team prepare to leave on February 28th, pray that the Lord prepares our hearts for ministry, but that he also prepares the hearts of those we’ll interact with. We serve a great, big, and mighty God who is capable to do more than we could ask or imagine…so let’s ask! Let’s ask him to bring a revival in the hearts of those we’ll encounter in Amsterdam! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

season of joy.

  10,000 Reasons. When I hear this I see 11 boys sitting on the hard floor of an orphanage in India. I see them beaming from ear to ear and lifting up the name of the Lord. I hear their beautiful voices singing, "Jesus, I will worship your Holy name" a Capella. I feel my heart fill with so much joy I can barely contain it and I feel my eyes brim over with tears. I imagine their loss, their heartache, and their pain but I see our mighty God prevail through this all. I see joy and I see victory over our broken world. 

                      Psalm 103. 
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

During this season of joy and family and snow and presents and celebrating Christ's birth I have so much to be thankful for. I'm thankful for the moment on that orphanage floor I just described. I'm thankful for all the Lord taught me in India. I'm thankful for a wonderful, crazy family that loves me so dearly. I'm thankful for an addition to the family coming in May. I'm thankful for Northwestern, my youth group, my friends who love me at my worst, and so much more. But above all else I'm thankful for the cross. I'm thankful that even if I didn't have anything else, I have the promise of being a beloved daughter of the King. So during this season I will try to remember the 10,000 Reasons I have to bless the Lord. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Far from Glamorous

A friend of mine who works with sex-trafficking wrote this, and I asked if I could share as well- it's beautiful and it needs to be heard. She is on the front lines of human trafficking. Pain and abuse threaten to overwhelm her daily. She is the hands and fee of Jesus.  She is a beloved daughter of the King committed to furthering the kingdom and fighting injustice. 
Folks, we need to hear the truth. We need to know what sex-trafficking looks like and what fighting it looks like.
The beauty.  The heartache.  The frustration.  The warfare.  The silence.   
And how God is in every bit of it.   
Friends, we need a reality check.   
My prayer is that our hearts will be forever changed.  
 "Far from Glamorous" 
When I was asked to do this my initial response was "I would love to!". I would love to share the reality of human trafficking and working overseas with survivors.

First I want to start off with a question for you… 

What comes to mind when you think of aftercare for survivors of sex trafficking?

Is it taking them by the hand, and walking along side them in a beautiful center that was built just for them? Training them maybe in a skill or teaching them English?

Aftercare in the area of sex-trafficking is a very long process that often starts with teaching a grown woman how to hold a pencil and write her name. 

In thinking over what I would share with you, I decided not to plan it all out, but to instead just type. So, I have only been living in India for 6 months, and I am 25. Therefore, I still have a ton to learn, but I can share with you what the Lord has taught me thus far. 

First of all to think that one could just walk in and lead a girl out by the hand is absurd. Especially in a foreign country where corruption reigns like many other places, even the US. Really think about it. How will you communicate? Why should she leave with you? She is making good money, and being fed. Who are you to her? Why should she trust you? Everyone she ever trusted let her down. It is important to understand that she has no concept of trafficking.  
She does not know she is being abused. She learns all these things later, if at all…. I use "she" here to make it a little more personal for you because it is very personal for me knowing 30 of these truly amazing ladies that have the following as their stories. 

These women are brought to the brothels in different ways. 
Some are born into them, and inherit their mother's job. 
Some are tricked by a madame at a bus stop and drugged. 
Some have a love marriage to a man that is married to many other women. 
Some live in red-light districts.
 Some operate out of their homes in the slum. 
Some work at a train station and go home in the morning. Some work out of auto-rickshaws. 
All of the methods in the brothels in red-light areas are controlled by pimps, police, and mafia as well as some of the other trafficking rings. These are highly organized systems, and the people running them are highly skilled professionals.  
These women are controlled, dehumanized, and broken to a point where selling herself becomes all she knows.
 It becomes her normal, her comfort zone even. 
Some may ask "why does she not  just run away?" Well, because a girl she knew tried to run away, but was caught. She was brought back horrifically abused in ways you could never imagine and killed in front of her along with all the other ladies she works with. They make examples out of runaways. 
So, would you run? I wouldn't.  
They remain, until a raid where they are chosen. Where often in raids the police do it for the publicity, but then take the girls right back to the brothel. However, some chosen ones are truly removed from their situations. 
Among these even fewer are removed forever.

Now that you have a little idea of what sex-trafficking in India is I can share with you daily life.

First off, it is hard. 
It takes a lot of patience. Things take so much longer. What takes 5 minutes in the states can take days here. It is consistently inconsistent. There are culture things that shock you daily. Even sometimes things that you don't even realize.  
There is a constant presence of darkness. 
A constant presence of confusion. It is often a fight to even be able to wake up and face the day. 
Then there is the understanding of trafficking in India and what it looks like. It takes a long time to even be able to understand where the trafficking is, and how it is happening.  
The enemy is working and has grabbed many souls here, many are captive to the lies that he constantly breathes out. 
Many are in great need of the Savior

What I do daily is far from glamorous. Every day there is a need of constant prayer. Prayer against confusion, lies, and exhaustion… Some days it is getting lost for 4 hours because you can't find the right place, or waiting for 3 hours for no one to show up. Or waiting for and entire day for the water truck to come so you don't thirst to death. There is a concept of survival time that accounts for a lot of the day. Life in general takes much more energy than in the States. 

Then there are the beautiful ladies that I have the privilege of knowing. Some days it is just helping them get all the bed bugs out of their things and killing roaches. Some days, it is teaching them to use dental floss because they have no idea what it is. Sometimes it is teaching them how to save money because they are about to leave and "go work elsewhere." 
Some days you walk in to realize that one of your favorites and her 2 year old daughter are gone. Then you realize that you will probably never see them again. You wonder if they will ever know the love of Christ. You wonder what will happen to that beautiful baby. 
Some days you cut and glue photos so that the ladies can get identity card, or work with one for hours just helping her write her name. 
Some days you just sit while two ladies lay on your lap and weep because they miss their family. One missing a family that has passed, and the other missing a family she hasn't seen in 4 years. 

Again It is far from glamorous. I do nothing. Only God has the power to save.  
So, I  pray a lot, and carry a lot of souls to the throne. 
In the midst it is often hard to believe that the Lord will come to them in the midst of such great darkness and oppression.   

He is bigger than all the oppression, all the darkness, and all the pain. He sets the prisoners free. It is for freedom that He sets free. 

I have seen very few glimpses of this freedom over the past few months until recently. 
And the glimpse is just that, very small. 
A smile for the first time from a lady that finally decided to try writing after not being interested for 6 weeks. 
A laugh. I love to get to see these ladies laugh, and I am so thankful that they still can. 
Most exciting thus far has been this one question and comment. 
One of the ladies asked what fruit Adam ate, and shared how she had been reading in Genesis. 
On her own. 
Now the question is insignificant, but what the Lord communicated to me was of great encouragement to my soul. The Lord draws them near to His word. These ladies have the opportunity to experience Christ, their redeemer, in ways you and I never could. He showed me that He was not only hearing this prayer to draw them near, but also acting! These moments are increasing so Praise be to God. Lets us walk in belief in the power of the Holy Spirit and know in our heart that He is Faithful. At the end of the day He is all we have. He and our hope in Him. 
May they soon have the same.