My social media feeds call out Human Trafficking Awareness Month for January — a cause that frequents my thoughts and prayers.
However, this year is unique in its time and place. When I heard Buddy Owens of Saddleback Church talking about God’s will for your life, the following verse really hit home:
“The path of the righteous is like the first light of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” -Proverbs 4:18
The past year has been one of transition for me. It’s definitely had its ups and downs. I know in my heart it’s leading somewhere unbelievable, but sometimes it’s so hard to see through dark and stormy clouds.
My close friend, who has been going through a similar situation, described this changing landscape of life as a series of moments. There are peaks and valleys in this place. Moments of clarity and divine vision. Times of doubt and confusion. It can be tough and treacherous, but at the same time full of overwhelming blessing.
So this is my prayer: God, please give me the focus and discipline I need to see the paths before me. Reign in me your perspective, as you build in me perseverance, character and hope for this new year.
Mother Teresa once said that the community of Christ is, quite literally, the “hands and feet” on earth to do His will.
I love that reference because it gives such rich meaning to our lives and inspires us to do more for others. Shared Hope International — whose mission is to eradicate the sex trafficking of children around the world — is one real-life example of applying Mother Teresa’s principle.
Millie Stamm in her devotional Meditation Moments (the copy I have was published in 1967 by Zondervan Publishing House) provides a likewise account of how we can put faith and action together to lead full lives. In her November 23 entry, she shares a thoughtful story about how we can all use the “ten-string lyre” from Psalm 144:9 as a form of thanksgiving.
At our Thanksgiving dinner table this year, I read the following excerpt from her story:
One night at a prayer meeting an old man prayed, “Lord, we will praise Thee with our instruments of ten strings.” People in the service wondered what the ten strings were. He prayed on. “We will praise Thee with our eyes by looking only unto Thee. We will praise Thee with our ears by listening only to Thy voice. We will praise Thee with our hands by working in Thy service. We will praise Thee with our feet by running in the way of Thy commandments. We will praise Thee with our tongues by bearing testimony of Thy loving-kindness. We will praise Thee with our hearts by loving only Thee.”
These words gave me a visual of how we can practically go on in life — no matter what happens — and especially this time of year as the holidays unfold, even as hearts may be broken, yet still hopeful; joyful, yet still healing from a sadness; and tempers may be short but accepting of God’s grace.
My mom found Stamm’s out-of print book for me by searching online. It was recommended by a friend who bought it quite a few years ago. She searched and found a used copy available for US $1.
As you can tell, that dollar has been more valuable to me than its monetary worth. I hope you can also gain some insight from its message.
I wish I could go to this year’s JuST Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, next month. Somehow it never seems to be the right timing for me to attend!
“JuST” stands for Shared Hope International’s efforts to combat “juvenile sex trafficking” in the United Stated and around the world. The yearly conference aims to bring together those involved in sex trafficking investigations, prosecutions and support services with the goal of learning from each other and moving forward in a multi-disciplinary approach.
This year I had signed up to go, however, I had to cancel plans due to job changes. But I’ll never forget the woman I spoke to on the phone when making reservations at the Gaylord Center. When she found out what event I was attending, she told me how a stranger had once offered to “buy” her five-year old nephew, who apparently was a very handsome little boy. Luckily, the youngster was saved and protected by his mother, and he was never put at risk.
I don’t know the extent of the situation she described or all of the details, but it made me think about how this issue is so prevalent — even when casually talking to a complete stranger across the country. At the end of our conversation, the woman commended Shared Hope for all of the work they do to help fight this horrific crime.
I’m sure attending the conference would renew my own sense of hope on this challenging and complex issue and help me learn so much more about it.
But for now, I’ll just remember the nephew of a kind-hearted hotel reservationist. And that’s inspiration enough for me to keep fighting.
Inspiration. Perseverance. Hope.
That’s what I heard from Australian-born Christine Caine, when she shared her story of abandonment, abuse and tragedy during Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church service in California on 25 September.
The first 12 years of her life were horrific, Christine adamantly submits. But she is a survivor. In fact, she’s taken her personal history of human trafficking and sexual abuse and transformed it into a passion for helping others and rescuing victims in 14 countries around the world.
In true Biblical terms, she’s proven to be more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37) And it’s awesome. I encourage you to check out her guest sermon, at: http://www.saddleback.com.
As I work on finalizing my preparations for a local human trafficking awareness event this weekend, I’ll be thinking of Christine and countless others who have unfortunately met this fate. I hope to pass on even a tidbit of Christine’s enthusiasm and energy for Christ, along with her fervent desire to bring attention to this worldwide issue in any way I possibly can.
Stories like Christine’s are real and powerful. God is definitely using her life as a storyboard to rescue precious hearts around the globe, turning what was once meant for evil into healing and victory. (Genesis 50:20)
Fall has always been my favorite season, especially in the Northwestern United States. The season signifies to me a time of renewal, discovery, anticipation and change. It also beckons a revived sense to bunker down, focus and get things done.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be representing Shared Hope International at a human trafficking awareness event at a local school. The goal is simple: to spread awareness of this tragedy occurring at the local level and to share how those in the community can get involved and help support this cause.
Last year while attending this event, I met a young woman in restroom who was struggling with several family issues. She told me her sister was prostituting herself to support her drug habit. Earlier that day, I talked to a 15 year-old who had run away from home and was approached on a local highway three times in 24 hours by men who wanted to buy her for sex.
Clearly, more awareness and resources are needed to combat and counteract efforts to lure young girls into illegal and life-threatening life styles.
The need is great, but I know that God is greater.
May His light shine through the darkness (John 1:5) and shout out to all: STOP BUYING OUR GIRLS.
In many respects, I don’t want to be on this journey — shared or otherwise. Even praying about it is disconcerting, like I’m inviting its evil nature inside my thoughts. Its contents are often unbearable to hear and even worse to visualize.
The stories of sex trafficking around the world are horrendous. It tears you up inside. Makes you want to cry oceans of tears in hopelessness, frustration and defeat.
I feel sick when I think of how souls are violently ripped out of victims and how their captors want to condemn them to a life of unbelievable slavery. Where hopes and dreams seem destroyed or non-existent. A place where lives become undone.
But just knowing that there are organizations out there dedicated to this cause — like Shared Hope International and many others — brings light into a very dark place.
Awareness and healing are changing the score, even if it’s only one rescue, one life at a time. My participation in this cause also brings focus where it’s needed most. Because I know of these stories, there’s no turning back in my support.
This journey I’m taking to help eradicate sex trafficking started on my own, way down deep inside my spirit.
I’m so glad there are others on this path with me — because I could never bear it alone.
This post was written in response to the weekly Discover Challenge: Shared Journeys
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.”
This post was written as a response to this week’s Discover Challenge: A Piece of Advice