Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dressember

This December I will be participating in Dressember with several other men and women on Northwestern's Campus and even more around the world. Dressember is a movement that uses creativity to restore dignity to all women. The heart of Dressember is freedom, which many of you know is my heart as well. 


Women around the world are locking arms to fight one of the greatest injustices of our time, but on Northwestern's Campus we're blessed to have men participating as well. So for all 31 cold days of December, I'll be wearing a dress (and guys participating will be wearing ties, so we've named our campaign 'Dress(up)ember'). For those of you who know me, I don't often wear dresses and I surely don't in the dead of winter in Iowa. As they days have been getting colder, I've often had negative thoughts about running across campus in tights and a dress in a negative seven windchill, but then my mind goes back to my beloved sisters in India. I remember the pain they carried with them on a daily basis from years of abuse. I remember their sweet hands grabbing mine as I entered the aftercare center. I remember painting pictures of God's love. And most of all I remember their joy despite their trials, and "suffering" through wearing a dress in the cold for 31 days seems like nothing. So I'm doing this for them. 


Some of you may be curious how Dressember actually helps fight for freedom, and it's a valid question. By wearing a dress every day during the month of December I am embracing my freedom on behalf of those who aren't allowed to live free, vibrant lives. Wearing a dress when it's below freezing for 31 days is also pretty strange, and people will ask questions. These questions are the perfect opportunity for me to share about the 30 million in slavery today. This campaign gives me an opportunity to share my heart for the enslaved and the oppressed! So Dressember spreads awareness of modern day slavery, but seeking justice goes beyond awareness. So for the second year, all funds raised during Dressember 2014 will go to support the work of International Justice Mission. IJM is a human rights organization that seeks to bring rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and violent oppression. In 2013, over $165,000 was raised for IJM. The average rescue operation costs $4,500 so that's 37 rescue operations funded by Dressember. Education for one year of college for a survivor of trafficking is $886. 186 victims could receive education because of Dressember 2013. You CAN make a difference.

So please join me in my fight to end human trafficking. You can do so first by joining me in prayer. Pray for the victims, pray for organizations fighting human trafficking, pray for those at risk, and pray for the traffickers. Second, you can join our team to raise your own funds (or you can choose not to make an online profile and simply participate)! Or third, you can donate to support the cause. I would love for you to pledge a dollar a day, or even 50 cents a day. Anything can make a difference and I'd be beyond grateful if you joined me in this cause. The link to our team page is here: https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise/team?ftid=38529 and my individual page is: https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=358674 





Thursday, October 9, 2014

Northstar '14

This past weekend I traveled down to Nashville with 10 others from Northwestern to attend Northstar. I've received many questions like, "What is Northstar?" "What does IJM stand for?" "Why did you drive so far for that?" "How was it?" So I decided to write and answer these questions and share what the Lord taught me over the weekend. 
Northstar is a leadership conference for college students passionate about leading the justice movement in the name of Jesus. The conference is put on by International Justice Mission, or IJM. IJM is an organization inspired by God's call to love all people and seek justice for the oppressed. Their vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible. They hope to end modern day slavery and this conference was to gather student leaders who have the same dream. Throughout the weekend we had the opportunity to hear from IJM employees, soak in wisdom from Donald Miller, worship our Father, and dwell in the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

This weekend was refreshing and encouraging. It was encouraging to see 250 people gathered together who all share the same passion of ending human trafficking. It was refreshing to hear stories of success and be reminded of how victorious our Savior is. I left tired, but so alive; hurting, but joyful; confused, but yet at peace. 
You see, human trafficking is a big problem and too often it's simply overwhelming. It seems like such a big problem that I get tricked into thinking I can't make a difference. But in these moments, I'm forgetting of how great a God I serve. I serve a God who shows up. I serve a God who is going to be victorious. I serve a God who hates injustice and when His people respond to the call of fighting injustice, He shows up. But we have to respond. So whether that's through prayer, advocating, or fundraising we're called to act and it does matter! During the weekend, we heard from an IJM investigator working in the field and with tears in his eyes he said, "It matters." Those two words are burned in my brain. Without prayer, he could not perform rescues and without financial support he could not even be in the field. 

I often feel pressure to do a certain thing, especially as a college senior. I don't know what's next and I'm scared to make the "wrong" decision. And I feel like since I have such a passion for justice and for the oppressed that I have to do a certain job, specifically doing justice (whatever that looks like), while using all my nursing skills. So I have to be starting IVs on really poor people, maybe in a different country? What? Uhm, nope. I mean, maybe..but not necessarily. As long as I seek to glorify God with my passions and do my best at whatever I do, He'll use that to seek justice and further His Kingdom. I focus too much on me, when I need to focus on my Savior. I need to rest in the fact that He is faithful, good, and sovereign. 
[One more tidbit of the Lord's faithfulness: I spent 7 weeks in India with Erin in 2013 and we got to spend time together at Northstar. Her joy is contagious, and she encouraged me to no end in less than 24 hours. Saying goodbye in the Germany airport last July I never would have thought we would be worshiping the Lord together in Nashville the next October. God is good] 





Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Heartbreak over the Nigerian kidnapping

 Psalm 9:7-9
"The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." 

        276 girls were kidnapped. They were just taken from school. I'm sad and I am angry. I'm really, really angry actually. I'm angry at the injustice and pain and hurt. How does this happen? Since I heard about the incident I've watched countless news stories and read numerous stories. I cannot imagine what these girls or their families are going through. The thought of it makes me sick and repeatedly brings me to tears. The abductors, Boko Haram, are an Islamic group that has been in Nigeria since 2009. Their name literally means, "Western education is sinful." These girls were taken simply because they were getting an education. Under Boko Haram's version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write. The reports say that the many terrorists raided the girls' school in the middle of the night, posing as soldiers. After a gunfight with security guards, they herded the girls into vehicles and drove off into the forest. As they made their escape, the militants burned the school to the ground. This story has changed my perspective on life and school. During finals week most students are tired, stressed, worn down, and sick of school. I don't know how many times I've heard, "I'm just so sick of school." or "I hate school." And I'm guilty of this too. But how fortunate am I that I get to go to any school of my choosing? I am encouraged and empowered to chase my dreams, no matter what they may be and this is not the case for too many young girls out there. Simply because of their gender, women around the world are abused and oppressed. This story has made me look at school a little differently and be a little more thankful for the opportunities in front of me. 

     This is also a chilling reminder of how real slavery is...today and all around the world. Recently, the leader of Boko Haram announced his plans to sell the girls in the market. One report said that many of the girls could be sold as wives for as little as $12. TWELVE DOLLARS. I spend $12 on dinner when I go out to eat and that's what these girls are being sold for?! No one should ever be sold. No one should ever be treated like an object rather than a beautiful sister and daughter. This is not okay. This story breaks my heart, and I feel a little helpless but once again we can pray for these girls. We can pray for the abductors. We can pray for the families. We can pray they are found and we can continue to be a voice for these 276 girls, but also the other millions around the world whose stories aren't being told on the news. #BringBackOurGirls

      
http://abcnews.go.com/International/Nigeria_Kidnapping/
http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/nigeria-abductions-why-it-matters/

Monday, May 5, 2014

Homesick?

This year I get the beautiful privilege of seeing two dear friends head over to India to serve for the summer- one to Goa and one to Bangalore. I love them both so dearly and can NOT wait to see what the Lord has in store for them! When I think about each of them exploring this beautiful country and falling in love with the people they work with, my heart feels as though it might burst with joy. And while I'm 110% excited for them, my heart aches a little too knowing I won't be there. Chatting with them and preparing for them to go has made me a little homesick for Bangalore.
     Some days my heart still aches for India. Some days I feel homesick for India. But how is that even possible? How can I feel homesick for a place I only spent two months in when I'm living in the place I've been raised all my life? How is it that I feel more comfortable flagging down a rickshaw on the dirt streets of India than I do hopping on a train in Chicago? How is it that I still catch myself bobbing my head instead of nodding it occasionally? Since the moment I stepped foot on the red soil of Hyderabad in May 2011 I've been in love. I love the people and the culture. I miss hearing children yell, "aca!" and sitting with women who I cannot even communicate with. I miss sharing the gospel through henna stories. And yes, the injustices are great and the pain is raw but the hope is so much more! The good easily outweighs the bad for me. So why do I so often think about going back? Why do I try to figure out how to go back with school loans? Do I want to go back for the right reasons? Would I even like it if I went back long term? Would I be useful for the Kingdom? Am I strong enough to live 8000 miles away from my family? Does God want me to go back?! How do I know if he does? What about being a nurse in the states? I'd love that too, and could further the Kingdom that way. If I do stay in the states, where do I work here? What if I do the wrong thing? Is there a "wrong" path?
     These are the questions that run through my head all too often. Do I have all of the answers? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I may not even have any, but I have peace in knowing that I don't have to have all the answers because my Savior does. All I need to do is surrender. I need to let go of my plan, open my heart, and follow his plan. I read this on a blog from another volunteer, "I'm learning to let go of the need to know and plan and strategize and, in turn, just rest in His promises and sovereignty...to know that is plans for me are greater than anything I could design for myself. Perhaps one day I will return...maybe not. But more than geography, I long to be an effective tool for the Kingdom. And since it's His Kingdom, surely He knows how to best build it." Well said, sister. Amen.

Anyway, these are few of the ramblings of my brain. And I'm thankful for them. And I'm even more thankful I serve a God who holds the answer to every single question. And I'm thankful I get to see two of my sisters in Christ head over to India to serve the Kingdom.


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."