Thursday, August 21, 2014

#Ferguson

A couple weeks ago I traveled to the Dominican Republic with IJM to witness their work towards justice in our world. I’ve sat down several times in the past week to write about this experience but every time I sit, I can’t write. It’s hard to write about the work of justice being done through God’s people in other parts of the world when there’s such a big moment for the church to respond right before our eyes.

And yes, I’m talking about Ferguson.

I’m a white, stay-at-home mom. I realize the fact that my husband and I are in a position where this lifestyle is even an option shows the privilege that we live. And that’s okay. I’m beyond grateful for the environment in which I grew up in and for the life I get to have with my husband and children.

I also realize that my blonde, milky-skinned children will never have to learn the lessons that my dark-skinned brothers and sisters have to learn.  They will have their own battles, to be sure, but their skin color will not be one of them.

We could probably live full, splendid lives celebrating the fruits of our birth right’s labor and never have to acknowledge those for which this is not the case.

And to be honest, a lot of days I’m not sure what to do with this.
I mean, really, what does some dude in Missouri have to do with Lakeland, FL?
What does some little girl in the streets of Cambodia or the Dominican Republic have to do with my family, my community? You know, beyond the whole shared humanity, created in the image of God stuff?

But still.

If I could say that none of these things were related, maybe I could just move on and leave it to other people to figure out.

But I’ve met Jesus.
And we say this changes everything.
So days like this we have to act like this is true. Even when we’re not quite sure exactly what the action is. Maybe the first step is just stepping back and looking toward Jesus, believing his words are true.

When he stood up in his hometown and announced his mission, he was talking to us,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In Psalms it says, “He holds up the cause of the oppressed,” and he “secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Scripture drips of justice for the oppressed, which we are comfortable saying when it comes to those on the other side of the world, but God also calls us to examine what is right within our reach, which is often more difficult to see.

Just as being wrecked by the little girl in Cambodia being sold for sex teaches compassion for the twenty year old selling herself in my own community, so must a black boy in Ferguson remind me that systemic racism is a part of my own community. The kingdom of God breaks through when each of us recognize these things in their own context, where we can do something about it right where we are, allowing us to be better listeners. Teachers. Advocates that call out injustice wherever it may be and say that is is not okay and work towards change. We must raise children with Jesus ideas- not just personal piety or fire insurance but standing with those with whom he stands, as the God who gave up his God-rights and put on skin.

It’s not that he doesn’t stand for the rest of us, its just that the rest of us already have so many standing in our favor.

What the people of Ferguson are asking for is not a high demand.
They want answers. They want justice. They want leaders to listen without asserting violent power over them.

I'm not saying that the cop involved wasn't threatened. I have no idea what went down. I have close family members and friends who are cops. They put their lives on the line daily and have witnessed horrific evil. They have comforted the most vulnerable victims and have to live with the memories of being first responders to the stuff we only read about in the paper.  

Regardless, we mourn the death of a man. We mourn that his life was taken violently, whether by a cop or someone else. I couldn't help but think back to an article I read last winter about Iceland's response to the first death of a citizen by the armed police force since becoming an independent republic in 1944. They grieved.

You approach vigils with tear gas and tanks, you send a message.

This summer I was in a part of town where I don’t usually frequent and walked in a store to hear an announcement that I am being monitored by security cameras. Every time the door opened this message would play. I know what this triggered in me, and it wasn't thankfulness for the warning. But it was only five minutes of my life. I can’t imagine if this was the message engrained in me over and over and over again.

Posture can speak life into dark situations. It can also incite rage. 

Blessed are the peacemakers.
Yes, there are people stirring up violence on all sides during protests.
But there are so many more working for peace, in and beyond the protests.

This is exactly where the people of God of every color belong. Those in Ferguson belong in the middle of it, linking arms in solidarity, fighting for their community. And those of us outside of Ferguson belong working in our own community for racial reconciliation.

Partnering.
Learning.
Friending.
Connecting.

Not letting silence speak for us. Acknowledging that racial inequality exists in our country and broken systems benefit the majority to the detriment of the minority. Ferguson reminds us to look at what's right in front of us with fresh, new eyes and motivation to act in our own neighborhoods.

It’s small, intentional steps, just as with anything else. It’s relational. It's being okay with discomfort and intentionally entering into it with another human being that does not look or act like you. It’s celebrating the small victories of God’s kingdom breaking through generational cycles of oppression, radically shaking up the ways of this world. It's what God has called us into every single day, for those willing to risk saying yes.

So what are some ways we can work towards racial reconciliation in our own communities?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Home


Waking up in the same home where I spent all eighteen years of my childhood brings with it an elusive longing that I’ve never been able to name. But it’s always there when I return, especially now as a parent. Maybe part of it comes with the desire to connect my children to the best parts of me.

Maybe it's that I want them to know no matter where they land in life, they will always be connected to something bigger than just their individual story.

The familiarity of place triggers so many emotions. It’s like randomly hearing a song on the radio from ninth grade or smelling mulch when you’re landscaping, bringing you back to summer camp. You may not even have a specific memory associated with the trigger, but there’s just something that reminds your senses that these were precious times.

This is what returning home is like.
A series of those moments.
Connecting me to the past as I lean into how it’s shaping my future.

I was built with a sense of adventure by spending weekends sleeping on a boat and learning to water ski in the Thousand Islands. I experienced the itch for freedom in the open ocean jumping waves in a dingy with my brothers and two family friends during summer trips to Cape Cod. I learned that nine people and two dogs sleeping on a 27-foot Sea Ray have just as much fun in Nantucket as those who flew on their private jets to get there.

I learned from my parents that taking spiritual leaps from the traditions you grew up in is difficult and painful for both you and those who love you. It’s a free fall of trusting God and finding grace. And in the end, those that love you will still love you because that is the beauty of a God-built family.

While church culture later awakened a cynicism in me that I can still struggle with, those first years of my life stirred a longing to know God that has never changed, even through faith shifts.

I was gifted with life-giving friendships with people that I still love dearly. They are the rare kind that stick with you beyond each life season. I’m well-aware that friendships can be seasonal, and making forever friends that strive to continue to “get you” through all the changes are invaluable.

These were the years when I was fearless. Whether it was speaking random thoughts in youth group, leading worship as a girl that probably shouldn’t be singing in front of others or giving testimony on missions trips that were translated into Chinese, I just knew that God was moving and I wanted to move with him regardless of whether I looked silly doing it.

My childhood taught me an awful lot about what it means to love and walk beside others. There was so much safety in that space. It wasn't free from hardships, but the type of security that comes with the knowledge that no matter what happened, I was loved. By God. By those whose stories were weaved in with my own. I was knitted into something bigger than myself. I had a role to play and was acquiring the tools I needed to play it well.

We all were.
I love seeing what those from my past are becoming, how our stories are still building upon each other. We are who we are today because of all these yesterdays we had together and all the people who have walked alongside us.

Now there’s new people in our lives enriching the histories being made, grafted in with all the others, connecting us to new stories. Shaping us still. Helping us shake off the dust that sometimes settles when we can’t find our way forward. Homeward. Toward the best parts of who God created us to be. Together. As it was always intended. Journeying towards home with brothers and sisters who are rooted in the same love. Who experience the same longings. Knowing the hope of someday. The hope of home.

Image by Darwin Bell

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life After Easter


There is a holy mystery in recognizing that pain births joy. How our pain can be transformed into something beautiful is beyond me, but the signs are all around. Pressure makes diamonds. Labor brings babies. Good Friday leads to Resurrection Sunday. 

Pain awakens joy.
This is the reality of Easter.

We know God turns worlds upside down in the most unexpected ways, and I often wonder if I would have recognized this had I walked those dusty roads, laying my palm branches before the man who came into town on a donkey who was crucified days later.

My heart can be so practical.
And life always moves beyond that first moment of knowing resurrection.

We are so forgetful. Even when we’ve been the recipient of his grace, time and again, we still struggle, clinging to the hope of the joy set before us.

I can only imagine how Mary’s heart must have burst with joy as she met the risen Jesus, with all her uncertainty fading away when she heard him say her name.

He changed everything for her, but I doubt it was how she would have planned it. Did she envision years of following him, helping provide for his needs with the other women? Had she any idea that her time with him would be so short and the rest of her days would be lived without his earthly presence?

I wonder if he ever defended her to the twelve, advocating her worth as one who was once wild and possessed. Having your demons cast out is one thing, living among other human beings who know your scars is quite another.

I’m sure she never would have imagined being baptized by Spirit indwelling power, an internal Advocate before God and man.

But even still…

Did she struggle with the process of being transformed? Did she ache in the long years following Christ’s ascension, never again physically sitting at the feet of her friend and Lord, as one fully loved as a woman created in His image and freed from such slavery?

Did her heart ache in those days after Easter, as she went about the business of life? While the resurrection changed everything, daily living in this reality still had its trials, as it does today. When the gender barriers Jesus fought to break down were again erected, did she remember how he called her name when she was at the tomb? Did her heart skip when she thought of being the first one he showed himself to?

Did brokenness ever define her again? Did her flesh do battle with the Spirit, causing her to forget her belovedness until she returned to his scars, in awe of a God who would sit with her, letting her touch them, as the marks of his humanity remained in his resurrected body, reminding her that by his wounds she was healed? She must have returned to the memory of his scars often. I’m sure they brought her comfort when she dealt with her own wounds, remembering her past and fearing what lied ahead. 

Because even after resurrection, we still stumble around in the dark. We still wrestle with being redeemed as we fail to recognize it happening all around us. We see life through such a veil.

But he is at work, moving tirelessly through our world, inviting us to be a part of it. Inviting us to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, noticing all around there are signs pointing to his goodness. That life itself is such a good gift. The sweat and tears that water our lives bring forth such joy.

We celebrate Christ conquering death and rising to bring new life on Easter Sunday. And then Monday comes with all the same battles as the week before. But somehow we face them. We play the Story over and over again in our minds until it’s so engrained in who we are that it does become who we are. No matter how often we forget, we are resurrection people. This is our reality, no matter what circumstances temporarily suppress it. We are people that rise with him, in him, and through him. Until the pain of this world is finally lifted and our joy is complete in seeing him face to face. This is the drama we enact in the days following Easter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Art of Compassion- Simple Goes a Long Way

Jax has been sick for the past few days and last night went into a pretty bad coughing spell where he just couldn't catch his breath. I gave him the nebulizer. Didn't help. Listening to your child as he can't breath can be a pretty scary thing. It wasn't 911 scary, but urgent care scary. As a parent you know the difference.

I drove over to a place called Nite Owl at 9:30, filled out the paper work, submitted my insurance card and waited with my sick boy who was also carrying a fever of 103. By this point the coughing had slowed down but his breathing was still labored.

I got out my checkbook to pay the $80 co-pay and was told that they didn't take checks, which I had checked before I left. According to superpages, they accept checks. According to them, they don't. A lot of people have that issue, they told me unapologetically. It's not their site. As a business, it would probably be beneficial to take the simple step to contact the site administrator and fix it, duh. There's an edit button there if you are the business owner. I looked into it.

But whatever.
It was 10:00PM and my insurance had gone through and I had a 3-year old with breathing problems. Surely they could be reasonable.

I mean, we're talking about a 3-year old who couldn't breathe. 

The receptionist said she'd go speak with the doctor. 
She came back and said there's nothing they could do.

I reminded her that my kid couldn't breathe.

She told me to take him to the ER.
I reminded her he's right in front of her.

She told me policy is policy.

What doctor in their right mind refuses to see a 3-year old who can't breathe in the middle of the night? Seriously, I was boiling.
Yet another instance of feeling completely helpless in the name of healthcare.

All I needed was one small drop of compassion. 
Or simply a smidgen of common decency.

Nope, they wanted me to drive further across town and pay $400 to sit in a disgusting ER for hours at night with a sick child.

But it's good that they followed procedure. Rules are rules.

We headed home.
Neither Matt or I thought going to the ER was wise, but we were still worried. What if he got worse? And what about that fever? Why does stuff like this always have to happen late at night?

So I grabbed the credit card and headed back.
I'm sure they were excited to see us.

You don't send a mom away in that situation and expect high fives when she comes back. 

Jax got meds and the doctor got a pretty intense stare down.
Though I thought I was pretty calm considering. He danced around it, telling me if I think my kid can't breathe, call 911. Not the right words, buddy. How about simply looking me in the eye and saying, "I'm sorry, that shouldn't have happened."How far those words would have gone. Just a dose of humility. He asked if I wanted the co-pay waived next time to which I said I didn't want anything from him but to act like a human being when there's a 3-year old in front of you who can't breathe.

I sometimes wonder what life scenarios play out in people's lives to make them callous.

There was a ray of sunshine to the story though.
After being up all night with Jax, I stopped by his regular doctor's office this morning to see if I could speak with a nurse or leave a message about the breathing treatment he was given. Evidently this was not proper protocol. Tears welled up in my sleep-deprived eyes as I was scolded by the receptionist.

Not again.

But.

Then this woman made the choice to act with compassion.
She walked back to the nurses' station and brought my nurse to see me.

This nurse also made the choice to act with compassion.
She listened.
She answered my questions kindly.
She sympathized.
She hugged me.
She was everything a person working in healthcare should be.

These women restored dignity where it had been lost.
What they did was so simple but meant so much.



On a side note, I asked Jax what he thought of the doctor visit last night.
He said it was bad.
I asked him why.
"Because they made you sad."
Why was I sad?
"Because they wouldn't fix me."
True, but I told him I will always, always fight for him.
He gave me one of his Jaxie smiles, hugged me, and said, "I know that," even though I'm sure he had no idea what I was talking about. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

We Are Not Bound

Recently, I read a book called The Most Important Thing Happening, by Mark Steele, where the characters worked at a publishing company. Throughout the course of the day they realized they were in fact just characters in a story that had already been written for them. They would experience the same day over and over again as the story was read. However, they also observed that they had the ability to move the story along in new ways by learning from their past. They would come to realizations about themselves and others that they had to react to based on this knowledge. They discovered that they were both written and had words and a will of their own. The author wanted them to make decisions that influenced the other characters and would leave hints of this all around. But they were forgetful characters. Their choices were recurrent.

But.

Some characters were deeply effected. One approached the author with this:

All we ask is that we- that we take some of this with us. The ways that we have molded and shaped one another. A hint of the knowledge of you. It doesn't even have to be certainty- it can just be a notion. Something knocking around in the foggiest part of our minds that urges us to behave differently. I understand what you were trying to say now about the difference between seeking an answer and finding one. Finding an answer makes me stop hungering, stop hunting. But, chasing an elusive answer, especially one that feels like it might just be around the corner- it pushes me, shapes me. trusting something that had not been proven to me did more to strengthen the way I was written- much more than knowing for certain ever could have. Trusting you. Please- please- next time, let us- let me- see that sooner.

And that.
Is life.

We are forgetful creatures.
I mess up over and over again with the same silly things.  I chase after what doesn't bring peace. I react in the same ways when I'm hurt. I say stupid things. I make dumb choices that seem to just be a part of my make-up.

I choose the lesser story instead of pressing into the foggy unknown of something different.

What if I could just see sooner that this is not how it has to be? This is where I want to live. I know I'm going to screw up and make mistakes, but I'm not bound by how it has always been. Instead, what if I would read the hints that have been dropped along the way that point to One greater and live out of that knowledge, which is greater than all my mistakes, my throwing in of the towel, my giving up out of fear of not measuring up or that anything will actually make a difference anyway. Instead, I would run hard and keep running. Push through the pain. The uncertainty. The what-ifs.

What if we all truly allowed those around us to play an active role in molding and shaping us? What if we were better listeners and took people's words to heart. What if we paid attention to inciting incidents and believed that next time, we can respond differently, and the future will change because of it. But even if it doesn't change anything, at least we lived our part well.

Another character in the story was given opportunity after opportunity to act in behalf of other people, but every time he tried to interfere he would meet a force of pain so great that it stopped him. He didn't think he could do anything about it because it hurt too much. Then it dawned on him that the pain was there all along for him to push through, not to keep him from acting.

It seems that's where many of us live, on the verge.

My prayer is that we remember who we are. That we don't numb the Voice inside that sends us on this wild chase to the heart of God but that we listen well- to God, to others, and to all the signposts He has left all around us.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Lake

Ok.
So bear with me for a while.
You know when your brain just needs to think out of the box?
To stretch?
To see with new eyes?
To practice creativity?

Well that's where I am as of late.
Which makes for really weird writing, I know.
But it's just noticing the metaphors surrounding us and exploring them a bit.
I can't help it.
I'm an INFP.

So I was at the lake the other day half running, half strolling, half picture taking half just being my weird self and here's the stream of consciousness that came with it. It's like wanna-be poetry without taking the time to mess with meter and form and all that necessary stuff. And yes. There's a cuss word. FYI. It's not there to offend. It's to strengthen the metaphor. Just sayin'. Not that I need to. But whatever.

At the lake.
Death mingles with life with such fluidity
it's hard to tell where one begins and the other ends
where one story ends and the next begins
because
its all connected.
all parts of the whole
puzzle
picture
plan
interwoven and interdependent
spewing with creativity and purpose
a reflection of the seen and unseen.

it meets the pavement of second creation
where familiar feet and faces fumble,
stumble
and run to escape,
to tame,
to prove,
to conquer
to find peace with the whole
while other stories drive by filled with
pain
perplexity
passion
contained in passing sets of rubber tires.

dog shit and butterflies
hope metamorphoses on waste and rejection
prodigals puddling
knowing there is value worth seeking
and finding
even in the messiest messes
new stories finding place
space
time
new beginnings.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We Keep Telling the Story

We tell stories.
We tell good, beautiful, hopeful stories.
Redemption stories.

We want them to be true.
We need them to be true.

Because too often reality is something else.
There are stories that die without ever finding their happy ending.
Too many stories.
Characters that never get their chance to bloom,
to write a different ending.

We try to bend, to control
Heck,
even to help and heal
but we're not the Author.

We don't hold the pen.

We make our choices.
They are the only ones we can make.
We play our part.
Well.
We let go.
And trust that the Author is good.

Story after story.
Time after time.

We tell stories.
We tell good, beautiful, hopeful stories.
Redemption stories.

Until it is the only Story left.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Passing on Great Stories to Our Kids


Last night I got to meet with a small group of students from a youth group that I spoke about Love146 with several months ago. These are teens whose hearts have been pricked by the desire to act in behalf of other people. How can you not love that? It's interesting because my story began in SE Asia but as they say, "All roads lead home." I realized last night how much my story is evolving. While a part of my heart and desire to see justice lies in SE Asia, now it's about girls and guys right here. Sometimes you have to travel far away from your own comfort zone to see the big picture so you realize what's happening in our own backyard. 

Our churches, our schools, our communities. 

The kids that I talked with last night wanted to live bold stories. They want to learn and they want to tell others. They already understand that there's so much more to a person than if they dress provocatively or act out. They shared their own stories of friends or people at school whose actions reflect the mess going on inside their hearts. Kids who only knew stories of pain and exploitation. 

I wonder if part of the problem with our culture is that we're not familiar with enough really good stories? Think of all the Disney stars that have gone down destructive paths. What if we could just begin to teach our kids better stories? Would it effect the choices they make? 

Miley Cyrus grew up in an environment that told her that being famous was the end all. It was important that people talk about her. As a young girl the way to do that was by being a Bible-quoting role model. While that story may look good, it's important to note what drives it. It's a story that sells- to tweens and to their parents. It revolved around the empire of Miley, which is a dangerous place for anyone, especially a teenager. When she grew up and learned the way to be the "it" girl in the over-18 economy is using her body, than that's what she did because that's how she was taught. Use whatever means necessary to make the most people talk about you, generating the most amount of cash. She was the "it" girl as Hannah Montana and she is the "it" girl now because we are the ones who put her there. Unfortunately, she is merely a by-product of a culture that has gone horribly wrong when it comes to selling a product; she is no longer a person, she's an enterprise. It is the dark side of capitalism paired with a sex-obsessed culture. We look at her and we shake our heads and call her a slut but it was our dollars that bought her all along. She is our mirror. We are her wrecking ball. 

What if she had been told a better story?
What if she had learned that life was not about becoming famous? What if she was taught to use her voice for something bigger than herself? I can't help but think of the often used C.S. Lewis quote,

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

If there's one thing I know about human beings it's that we all want to be a part of something. It's written in us. We want a role in this grand drama playing out around us, but if the stories we are hearing are weak, we will be weak. And in the upside down world that we live in what is painted as weak and strong are actually quite opposites. The story that Miley Cyrus and so many other girls find themselves a part of says that strength is in doing what we want, when we want, how we want because we do what we want to!

I came across a far better story this morning. It's about a young woman named Malala, the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. You may have heard of her before. At fourteen, she was an advocate for education in her town in Pakistan where the Taliban was shutting down schools and murdering those who opposed them. Malala does not see the world as revolving around her, but she is a voice for young women everywhere. Her father taught her a better story and she believed him. The Taliban shot her in the head because of it, yet she survived and is still telling the story, living the story. Take a minute to check out what she has to say in her own words, particularly taking note of what she said her thoughts were before the incident about how she would respond if the Taliban came after her. 

There are deeper, better stories to pass onto our children. Ones that don't revolve around turning a profit, but revealing the image of God embedded in all people. Wendell Berry once said, "There is no sacred and secular. There is only sacred and desecrated." Let's pass on that which is sacred instead of what has been desecrated. 

These are the stories I'm hoping to pass on to my children. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Art of Losing Well

Em and Jax were in a coloring contest this weekend. The winner was to be notified by phone that same afternoon, so Em waited all day for a phone call. She was pretty confident her perfectly colored pumpkin would take home first. Matt told me a story about how when he was about the same age, he and his little brother entered a coloring contest, too. Matt colored the best green witch anyone had ever seen while Joel did his in rainbow.

Seriously. How many rainbow witches have you ever seen?

Matt's perfectly green witch lost; Joel's multi-colored dream witch won. Matt's still a little bitter, so when Jax turned in his ROYGBIV pumpkin, we laughed at how ironic it would be if he won.

Which he did.

Oh, my Em. She thought she had it in the bag. She was devastated when we had to tell her that she didn't win this time. Poor girl burst into tears. Jax could have cared less if he won or lost. But he did win, so we were going to celebrate. Em learned the hard lesson that she's not always going to win and that it's okay to be sad about it. For a moment. While she had a cry fest, Jax and I comforted her with hugs. Matt comforted her with stories of his own loss to his little brother and how losing is a part of life. As a high school and college athlete, he knew this well. For once, we totally nailed this parenting speech. Whether or not her five-year old self would agree, I'm not sure, but the day ended with smiles as we came up with a Jaxie Won! dance and went to pick up his prize pumpkin.


I wonder if Em will remember this moment like her daddy did? Will it change how she thinks next time she loses? Will she be more inclined to celebrate with the winner? I hope so. I love that she'll have plenty of opportunities to learn this though. Not that I want my daughter to lose. Of course I want her to win, but more than that, I want her to know that it's not the most important thing. I want her to genuinely be able to celebrate someone else's victory without dwelling on her own loss. On the other hand, I hope that I'm a mom that understands and is able to love her well when she can't get passed those ugly feelings. Those days will come, too. More than anything, I want them to know without a shadow of a doubt that they are completely loved right where they are.



Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 FL Human Trafficking Summit- the Faces Behind the "Cause"

The other day I wrote about being liberated from causes because of how easy it is to disconnect. It has a tendency to either sensationalize or sanitize. We're talking about real people though. Real lives. Real stories. What we see as a cause is someone else's reality.

I was reminded of that yesterday as I listened to two survivors of sex trafficking. These women are still in the middle of their story. They are both the same girls who were trafficked, while years later, not the same at all.  Their past is a part of them, and while they've found healing, I'm certain it's still a process. This is important to note as the story of all of us. As long as we are alive, our stories continue to unfold. While we may currently be in a safe chapter, we must remember that we all have chapters we're not proud of. Who we are today is not the same as who we were five years ago and chances are we will not be exactly the same as who will be five years down the road. So many factors play into how we are shaped. Maybe if we can remember this, we'll be more apt to extend grace to others, knowing that their story is not sealed. There are more pages to be filled, more time for redemption.

The women that I heard speak yesterday would have even identified themselves as trafficking victims up until a few years ago. Neither were even aware of the label. One was abused at home from a young age, taught that it was a cultural expectation. She would skip out of school to turn tricks arranged by a family member. She is currently on her third marriage, attributing this to the fact that she learned late in life what it meant to love and be loved.

The other woman was caught up in prostitution for four years in fifteen states. She thought her pimp loved her. He started out kind and gentle, giving her attention that she craved. When he switched and began beating her and forcing her into prostitution, she was already hooked. She loved him desperately and would do anything to stay with him.

While both of these women had such different stories, much of what they said was the same when it came to what we can do to help those that have been exploited. At certain parts of their lives, these women were operating from a brokenness that left absolutely nothing left to give. There were times they were mean. Times they didn't want help and resisted those that tried. Even in the darkest parts of their story they needed people that just showed up. People that would love them regardless of what they did, even if that meant that they returned to the person that was pimping them out. They needed people that were patient, knowing that healing is not a straight line. They needed to be loved "with a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love."

When they found that love, they realized the power of their story and how it must be shared. They didn't want to tell their story for fear of judgement but as one pointed out, Christ's love compelled her. She couldn't stay silent while other girls were being still being exploited. Both women realized that they had to fight for others in a way that they were not fought for. They had to act. They still face obstacles but they are changing lives.

One woman shared from Proverbs 24 and 31:

"Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
 If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,'
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?"


"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
 Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Hearing these ladies stories was such a great reminder of how we are all responsible for each other. "We knew nothing about this" carries no weight. We know. So we do.

There's a couple resources that I've discovered in the last few months that has really helped see the stories behind the "cause." They're both hard to read but important stories that give insight into the mindset of these young women and what can lead to this type of exploitation. One is a book put out by Shared Hope International called Renting Lacy. The other is Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Murder Mystery.

W.E.B. Du Bois said, “There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know.” Learn. Study. Know. Act.

Love does.
Always.