I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for October, 2012

Compassion

What could you and your family do with $38?  Maybe a fast food meal out?  Take-out pizza for a movie night at home?  As much fun as those two things might be the simple fact is $38 dollars will not last you a month.

That $38 dollars, in the hands of the people at Compassion International, can change the life of one child living in poverty. So the question is are you willing to free up $38 a month to make a difference in the life of one person?  And when I say make a difference, I mean a HUGE difference!

The little cutie below is the newest “member of the family.”

Her name is Aprilini but she goes by Arini.  She turned five last April, lives in Indonesia and is the Compassion child my husband and I sponsor.  Her parents work as vendors when there is work available!  And she’s one of the lucky ones because she has both of her parents.

Our sponsorship provides education, health training, and Bible teaching.  She’s already sent us two letters written with the help of a tutor and translated by Compassion employees.  We even have the opportunity to send monetary gifts which the Compassion staff in her country will use to purchase gifts for birthday, Christmas or “just because”.

Compassion students have gone on to obtain college degrees, start their own businesses, and strengthen the economy of their home communities.  Helping just this one child could have an effect on the future of her family and her village.  We are her only sponsors so somehow that $38 stretches much farther than I could EVER make it stretch.

Are you ready to put your money to work to change the life of one child?  I know, I know, helping one child seems like such a small thing in light of the rampant poverty in parts of the world.  But if that one child can make her life better for herself and her family, if that one child can reach out and help others with what she learns, then my $38 has gone much farther.

It’s so easy I’m ashamed we didn’t do it sooner.  We have set up an automatic monthly payment on the Compassion website, used their online letter service to send her letters and pictures which they print out and give to her and her family.

Yes, the $38 a month means purchasing a few less “high-end” coffees. But in the end, she gets far more out of that money than anything a cup of coffee could provide for me!  I encourage you to get involved.  Encourage your kids to get involved!  Two of my daughters use their own money to sponsor children through compassion as well so sponsorship is not limited to adults!  It’s time to stop talking about poverty and start doing something to really make a difference.

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It’s About Justice

• After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing. (U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services)
• Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade. (UNICEF)
• There are an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 children, women and men trafficked across international borders annually. (U.S. Department of State)
• Approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors. (U.S. Department of State)
• The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion. (U.N.)
• Sex trafficking is an engine of the global AIDS epidemic.(U.S. Department of State)

This is where the International Justice Mission comes in.  They go after the guilty and seek legal action against them.  They currently work in Bolivia, India, Cambodia and the Philippines and have freed more than 1,000 women and girls from the sex slave trade.  Our court system here in the U.S. may have it’s flaws, but there are others countries where the court systems are essentially useless because no one ever prosecutes the guilty.  IJM steps in and does what others don’t have the resources or the courage to do.  Human trafficking is about profit.  When you free the enslaved and prosecute the guilty, the risk goes up and the profitability is affected.

Hey students and teachers!  There are resources specifically geared at YOU that allow you to help IJM continue their work!!  Loose Change to Loosen Chains is just one of these programs.  IJM will provide you with specially designed collection cups and educational materials so you – teachers and students – can get your school involved in making a difference in the lives of those who have been bought and sold.    An article in Real Simple magazine stated that there is an estimated $10.5 billion (yes, that said billion) in loose change just lying around in American households.  Can you imagine the lives that could be drastically changed for the better if an organization like IJM got their hands on even a fraction of that?!  College students, you can create an IJM chapter on your campus. Check out the Get Involved page on the IJM website for more details and information

The statistics above are sickening.  There are times I wonder if the little bit I am doing is enough.  Then I am reminded that I am not alone.  There are others out there like me, modern day abolitionists who do what they can with what they have right where they are.  What about you?  Are you an artist who can use their creativity as a platform for educating those around you?  Are you a student who can start a Loose Change program at your school?  You may not be able to relocate to another country to work hands on with those who are in bondage or have been set free.  But you have a voice.  Are you ready to use it?

Focus – India

  • India has 25.7 million orphans, more than any other country in the world.
  • Girls as young as 7 are being forced into prostitution.
  • 30,000 girls are trafficked annually in India (that’s 82 girls per day!).
  • Child laborers in India who work in the silk industry get one day off per year.

Those statistics tear at my heart.  I have often said that every child in the word desperately needs to know that there is at least one person who is crazy about them.  To know that so many children in one country are alone saddens me in a way that I cannot adequately describe.

That’s why I’m so grateful to the men and women who work with As Our Own.  Their mission is to rescue children from certain enslavement and exploitation and provide aftercare in a family environment.  But they realize that merely dealing with the brokenness is not enough.  They are working with local churches and community leaders to educate and equip them to provide hope, counsel and encouragement to protect children from ever being in danger.

What can you do?  First of all, go their website and educate yourself.  Then take action!  Financial donations are always welcome, of course.  You can even choose which project will benefit from your gift!  You can become a part of the prayer team, dedicate proceeds from a garage sale and more.

It is not my purpose to overwhelm anyone with my recent intense focus on the issue of human trafficking.  But I know too much to simply shake my head at how tragic it all is.  I have three daughters.  In a different time or place, with a different set of circumstances, they could be trafficking victims.  I praise God that they have been spared!!  But there are other daughters/sisters/cousins/nieces who are living in what must feel like Hell itself.  For their mothers/sisters/aunts/cousins I must do what I can.

As I read and research, there are times it feels overwhelming and hopeless.  There are times I wonder if the little I can do is enough.  But I can’t stop trying if for no other reason than these words from Matthew 25:34-40

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Our Abba sees what these women are suffering and this principle from his word leaves no doubt in my mind as to whether or not I can throw up my hands and say, “I’m only one.  There’s nothing I can do.”

I can pray.  I have and will continue to do so.

I can write a note to a woman who has been rescued.  I have one waiting to go out in the mail.  (Check out this link for suggestions and an address – The A21 Campaign.

I can help educate those around me and encourage them to act with me.  I’m working on an idea right now and I’ll let you know how it plays out!

This is not a women’s issue.  Every one who claims the name of Christ is called to reach out to “the least of these.”  I’m ready.  How about you?

Repost – No More Turning a Blind Eye

This is actually a “repeat” post.  But it fit so well with my recent focus on human trafficking, I thought I’d share it again.  In the time since I wrote the original post, NightLight International has opened a third U.S. location.  Sad.

Imagine a culture where sons are expected to spend time in a monastery after each family death so that he can “make merit” and earn a life cycle in heaven for the deceased.  Those same sons are not expected to be loyal fathers or husbands and the law does not protect the wives and children that they frequently, with little or no excuse, walk out on.

What about the daughters?  They are expected to be the responsible ones, to provide for their parents as mom and dad age.  They can either bring the family prestige by fulfilling their familial duty, or they can bring the family shame by failing to provide.  No pressure!

Imagine this – a man decides he’s bored with marriage and walks out, leaving a wife and children behind. If she’s lucky, the jilted wife has a 12th grade education.  It’s more likely that her education is 9th grade or lower and she has absolutely no marketable skills so a job is going to be difficult to find.  In desperation, she and her children return to the village of her youth and move in with her parents.  Not only is she not providing for them, they are now having to take care of her and her offspring.  This is the ultimate in shame.

Now let’s imagine in that same village that there is a family who has a home with cement walls instead of wood and a tin roof instead of thatch, all of it provided by their daughter who is away in the big city.  This responsible young woman sends money and gifts home on a regular basis – even things like household appliances! – and has even come to visit once bringing with her a handsome, wealthy foreign man who was seen in the bar buying rounds for everyone.  This is a family that takes great pride in how well their daughter is providing for them.  She is a good daughter and brings honor to her parents.

The abandoned young woman is desperate to provide for her family so lavishly and turn their shame to pride.  So she does what the other dutiful daughter did and heads to the big city to get a job in the bar.  Her work responsibilities are simple and she knows exactly what she is getting into.  She needs to convince the men at the bar to buy her drinks (she has a monthly quota to fill) and she must convince a few of them to pay a $20 fee to the bar so that they can enjoy her company after hours (another monthly quota).  During her shift, she dances on a stage in a string bikini.  This is a woman from a culture that values modesty and she’s probably never even worn shorts in public before this and now she is displaying her body in a string bikini.  At an appointed time each night, she is ordered to remove her top.  The customers are supposed to tip her $40 after she has rendered the expected services.  If she makes her quotas and her customers tip her appropriately, a woman can make as much as $3,000 a month, most of which she sends home to her family who can then hold their heads up high because they have a “good” daughter.

I wish this was fiction, believe me. I wish that I wasn’t telling you about the actual cultural situation in Thailand.  This weekend, while attending a women’s conference, I had the honor of hearing Annie Dieselberg speak.  She and her husband Jeff and their kids are missionaries with the  American Baptist Churches to Bangkok, Thailand.  Their focus is getting the women out of these deplorable working situations.  But merely getting these women out of prostitution isn’t enough.  After all, they need to provide for their parents, remember?

NightLight ministries provides jobs, benefits, free child care, job training classes, leadership classes, Bible classes and a chance to make more than minimum wage and provide for their families.  No, it isn’t the $3,000 a month they would make prostituting themselves.  But it provides far more dignity and self-respect!

Lest you think this is a problem in another part of the world,  NightLight has three  branches here in the states – Los Angeles, California, Atlanta, Georgia, and Branson, Missouri (which just opened Fall 2012).  The fact that they are here in the states screams a truth that breaks my heart because their mission is the nearly the same as the NightLight “branch” in Thailand – rescuing women from sexual slavery.  True, the women here in the U.S. don’t usually walk into the situation with their eyes wide open like their counterparts in Bangkok.  But the degradation and hopelessness is every bit as real.

Yes, human beings are being trafficked right here in the U.S.  And I can’t simply sit back and feign ignorance.  I can’t “unlearn” what I learned this weekend and I have to get involved somehow.  Relocating to one of the cities where NightLight is currently working is simply not realistic.  But I have to find a way to get involved.  In my heart, it would be absolutely unacceptable to know what I know and do nothing.

Video

Key2Free

27 million.  That’s a HUGE number to try and wrap your brain around.  And it’s the estimated number of humans currently being trafficked in the world today.  Some of them right here in America.

I never dreamed that in my lifetime there would be a need for a new movement of abolitionists to stand up and say “No more!!” But that is exactly the situation in which we find ourselves today.

So what can I do?  What can you do?  You can start getting involved, educate yourself, and take action.

The video above was created by the A21 Campaign in an effort to bring awareness to a grave issue and as an attempt to get people involved.  They have some very practical ways (21 to be exact) for you to get involved and begin to make a difference.

Can you send some personal hygiene items to a woman who has been rescued from slavery?  Can you write a blog, paint a picture, create a youtube video, write a song then share your work with your friends and tell them what “inspired” you?  Can you educate yourself?  Can you write a letter to a woman who is making her way out of slavery to let her know that there are people who care?  If you can, then you can be a modern day abolitionist.

This is an issue that has become very near and dear to my heart.  It began when I met a woman a woman several years ago now who had escaped slavery in California.  Yes, California.  She was an enslaved domestic.  She was such a dear woman and I have been slowly but surely educating myself since hearing her story.

A21 is just one organization trying to fight the darkness.  Stay tuned for information on other groups that have heard the call to rise up and fight slavery in our world.  Can we count on you?

Season of Renewal

I might be alone in this (although I doubt it just a little bit) but fall is always a season of “new beginnings” for me.

I know, I know – a large number of people feel spring is a more appropriate time to “start over”, as the saying goes.  But for me, that chance to start something new or make a change is always associated with the changing color of leaves, the crisp fall air, apple cider and cake donuts, holiday meals being planned (I’m getting hungry!) . . . where was I again?

Oh yeah, renewal.

It’s no secret I’m busy.  I would say I’m a “busy mom” but that’s redundant since EVERY mom I know whose children are still in the home is busy!

Nevertheless, I have the amazing opportunity to spend much of my “work” time (aka, time I get paid for) in the performing arts.  Some of these jobs are seasonal and come and go from one year to the next.  The down side?  These same jobs take up my time in the evenings at least a couple of nights a week and one of them occasionally needs me on the weekends.

I love to be busy and wouldn’t know how to function if I had a safe, predictable, nothing-exciting-ever-happens kind of work situation.  But it would be FAR too easy to over-commit myself, thus making me useless to pretty much everyone!

So now the big question – what, if anything, should I commit my evenings to besides the theatrical productions I get paid to work with?  This is never an easy question to answer because there are so many good things I could be doing; fun things; worthwhile things.  But as my husband loves to say, “You can’t do everything”.  He’s right.  At some point, I have to say “No more.”

I still have children living in my home, laundry to do, meals to prepare, grades to enter, music to rehearse, etc. and I need to allocate my time wisely.  Before you begin to point out that my children could be helping with some of those tasks I just mentioned, let me stop you.  (1) My children are responsible to do their own laundry but my husband and I can produce 6 to 8 loads a week just between the two of us (work clothes, casual clothes, etc.) and that doesn’t include towels, bedding, etc. (2) I will not pawn chores off on my kids just so I can go play.  Yes, I need time to recharge my batteries so I don’t get cranky from feeling overloaded and stressed.  But being gone more nights than I am home just does not seem wise REGARDLESS of whether or not family members help out with chores.

So I’ve set a deadline (of sorts) for myself to get some things sorted out and decide whether or not to give away even more of my evening time to other activities or not.  Here’s hoping and praying (LOTS of praying) that I get it right!

Sometimes being a grown up is hard work!

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