because Christmas is about giving (an opportunity)

I am still working on how to convince my 5-year-old twin daughters that Christmas is about giving not getting. Perhaps because I, too, have a hard time really sinking into the reality that it is more blessed to give than receive. I, like them, love (and prefer) what’s shiny and new. My “toys” are more “sophisticated” – and expensive – than theirs, but I, too, have a bent towards thinking first about what I want to get instead of what I want to receive.

And so I would like to turn our eyes toward the meaning behind the songs and the shiny decorations and the twinkling magical lights – and I want to do so by also giving you an opportunity to put it into action.

Allow me to introduce my friend “Sara” to you (pseudonym used to protect the sensitive nature of her work). Sara is preparing to embark on one of the bravest adventures I’ve ever known, an adventure and a battle against one of the worst present-day places of evil, darkness, and injustice in our world: human trafficking. I’ll let her tell you in her own words:

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Called to Battle

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

The Battlefield

Everything you might imagine about a South Asian city is true of K. Noisy all hours day and night, chaotic traffic, decaying colonial architecture, smells ranging from urine, curry, body odor, jasmine and cinnamon- this city has it all. What you might not know about K. is it is also the exact opposite of all of those things. K. is a place of laugher and bright white smiles, vibrantly colored saris, pastel painted walls and doors.

Surprisingly, amid all the audible and visual noise there are small elements of calm. One of my favorite things is to see the city wake up for the day. Older men sit near the corner chai stand and read the paper, gossip and watch the city come to life. Other men and youth bathe in the communal taps that seem to be on every street and always running. Store keepers sweep the filthy sidewalk in front of their stands, a seemingly unending and unfruitful task.

The Fight

South Asia is also an area of darkness- oppressive heavy darkness. Darkness that can be felt and where evil lurks under its cover. In K. there is an area known as S-chi. It is no wider than a few city blocks wide and not many more long.

This small area is one of the world’s largest red light districts. A staggering 10,000 women work here daily.

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Some have been trafficked across this country, or from other countries. Others have been tricked by husbands or family members. Still others saw no possible means for providing for their family so they chose to join the forces. Each has a unique story. Their stories might differ in details, but common threads are woven throughout. These women have been led to believe they have no voice, no worth, no value, and no hope. Their only worth comes from what they can sell to others; their body. All have been fed lies about who they are and what they have been created for. Dignity and freedom has been stripped away, things we take for granted.

These are lies the Evil One has led the ladies, their culture, and largely the world, to believe. Their reality is a heartbreaking confrontation with Evil. Our battle is not against the rulers and authorities, but against the dark powers of this world. We are all called to fight against the darkness and bring light to the world.

We have a God of hope and freedom in the midst of this darkness. We are called to bring this hope and freedom to others that haven’t yet seen or experienced with their own eyes.

 

The Battle Plan

In K the team has started a Western Style Bakery.Through the bakery they are able to offer alternate means of employment and tangible glimpses of hope out of unimaginable circumstances.

The goal is to provide life skills, job training, empowerment, confidence, dignity, worth and freedom to women who have never dared to imagine these things for themselves.

We are there to help them dream and claim the promises God has for them!

How can we expect to see justice in this situation? The scale of need is so great, where to begin? One woman at a time. One fumbling Bengali conversation after another until something clicks and there is a personal connection. One western smile meets an Asian smile. One exchange haggling over a market purchase. One life, one story, at a time. This work hinges on relationships. It begins and ends there. One life that is changed is a life changed! From there change is contagious, the lives of the immediate family change, then the extended family, then a village. God is mighty to move nations, and he uses individuals to do so.

My role on the team will be social justice coordinator. I will have a foot in the bakery, walking alongside ladies transitioning out of the demands of the district and into life as a baker. My other foot will be firmly planted in the district looking for opportunities to talk to ladies, getting to know them -learning their stories and stories of their culture, and sharing life.

The Army

Encouragers: I need to be reminded of the gospel and of God’s promises. It is as much for me as it is for the women that don’t yet know Him.

Physical: My target departure date is March 2016. I have to have pledged $4600/ month of financial support to get to the field, and one-time gifts of $40,000. I have only $26,000 left in one-time gifts.

[Heather’s note: Whatever you are able/can give will make a big difference in this balance of $26,000. For example, if each of you, my faithful readers, gave $25 we could help Sara with over half of her one-time balance – bringing it down to just under $10,000 remaining.]

Intercessors: This work cannot be done without the power of committed prayer, and willingness to enter into oppressive darkness.

I am very excited about this journey. I have committed to long term service of five years with the sending organization. I am not taking this journey alone. I need an army of supporters and givers willing to join me in the battle against the dark forces of Evil in this place. I am committed to being the eyes and ears on the ground and connecting you to work God is doing on the other side of the world. Will you step into the battle with me?

You can give online to Sara by going to www.serge.org/give/ and entering her designation number #54410. [This is a secure field, and she is not listed directly on the agency website.]

To be connected with Sara’s team of intercessors and encouragers, leave a comment below and Heather will pass it along to her.

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: lost

I write tonight from the rare bliss of a hotel room all to myself, after a day of refreshment at The Gospel Coalition Women’s conference. I’ve heard Tim and Kathy Keller both teach on the book of Nehemiah; been led in worship beautifully by the Gettys; and have had the opportunity to connect and reconnect with friends old and new. Not to mention the afternoon enjoyment of this resort-like pool here. It’s a little taste of heaven in every way! A rare gift to have all of this at once: community of friends from various stages of life (I’ve literally run into friends from all major epochs so far: South Carolina days, Wheaton, Westminster Seminary/CCEF, World Harvest Mission – all in one place. Wow. Last time this happened it was our wedding … !)

Now onto Lisa Jo’s Five Minute Friday. This week’s word: lost.

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We were in a grocery store, and I lost sight of her amidst the aisles of colorful food cartons and cans. I was terrified that I would never find her again. But after a brief few minutes, I found the mama I wanted as a five-year-old child.

picforparents.areavoices.com

picforparents.areavoices.com

A few years ago, it was reversed. And one of my blondies was there one moment and lost the next amidst the rows and rows and rows of clothes at Kohl’s. I looked everywhere for her and could not find her. I was feeling very panicked as I searched through two departments. I’ll never forget what it looked like to see her coming around the corner safely rescued by one of the staff.

Lost is terrifying. But in those few minutes before you realize you’re lost or that you’ve lost someone/something, you are blissfully unaware. If you’re the lost one, you may even think you’re free. Because to be lost can feel like freedom. Until you realize you’re unmoored from the source of life, of hope, of true safety and security. 

Mine is a story of not knowing I’ve been lost. Of being the good girl who always was finding others, never realizing that I needed to be found. And mine is a story of being rescued and found over and over and over again. Not physically (though that has certainly happened too during various cross-cultural travels), but spiritually. Being found by the God who delights in me and who always knows where and when and how to find me. Like how He is finding me here, in a solitary hotel room amidst 4000 women.

Show me where I’ve been lost, God, and lead me back home … through Your Word and Your people. Amen.