Psalm for the 29 Million

A Psalm for the 29 Million - #trafficking #endit

There are 29.8 million slaves in the world today. 60,000 of those are in the USA. Reflecting on this led my friend, Liz Below, to write a Psalm for the 29 Million. In support of this week’s #ACourageousOne project, she kindly agreed to share it.

Hear my cry, O God,
O Lord, listen to my plea.
You are merciful and just,
Your righteousness and love know no bounds.
But where do you hide your mercy?
Why does Justice slumber?
Night and day evildoers roam the earth
Morning, noon, and night they steal away innocence
They trade gold for pleasure
Offer treasures for a moment of ecstasy
They torture, threaten, and terrify
They kidnap, keep, and kill
They sell innocents for profit
They barter lives for luxuries
The lost and fatherless scream in pain
The hopeless and forgotten cry out in desperation
Are you not God, the Father?
Speak up for your Children!
O that you would reach down your mighty hand of Justice
And wipe away these vile creatures who defile your offspring.
O that your Spirit would come down and free these slaves;
Restore to them their purity,
Return to them their innocence,
And give them a home like they’ve never known before.
Hear my cry, O God,
O Lord, listen to my plea.
Rescue the children from these hungry lions,
Save them from the monsters of this world.
The lonely and abandoned,
The lost and forgotten –
Let them be loved and adopted,
Found and remembered.
Give them Courage and a Hope
For your Love endures forever.
Hear my cry, O God,
O Lord, listen to my plea.

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The #ACourageousOne project is aimed to raise awareness, money and hope on behalf of those individuals who are hidden and suffering among us in sexual slavery. To read more about The Courageous One project, click here. To read the story of a survivor of childhood sex trafficking, read Liz’s story.

There are more courageous ones out there in need of rescue, like Liz. This week, show your support by giving YOUR Courageous One:

  1. One DOLLAR to end sex trafficking (consider Courage Worldwide and International Justice Mission)

  2. One MINUTE in prayer (pray today’s Psalm!)

  3. One ARTICLE SHARED on social media. (Share Liz’s story, or why Prostitute doesn’t mean what you think it means. Share today’s Psalm, or  this excellent article on 10 things you didn’t know about sex trafficking (and what you can do about it.) And use the hashtag #ACourageousOne, if you’re into that kind of thing. 🙂

Your Courageous One can help one of the courageous ones. Thank you for partnering!

How To Host A Life-Changing Garage Sale

How to host a

There are a handful of items in my house which I found at garage sales: awesome things I picked up for an absolute bargain and which get daily use. I love finding treasures at garage sales. In the past, however, I have not loved throwing garage sales: they seemed like a lot of lonely work for relatively little reward, and I still landed up having to drive the “left overs” to the thrift store afterwards. It felt like a lose-lose situation for me, and a win only for the buyers.

However, in the last year we have held two garage sales which have been win-win situations for everyone. Here’s what made the difference. (And here’s the link to the “If you give a mouse a cookie” version of how we got started on this in the first place. It’s fun. You should read it :-))

Do it TOGETHER

In short: holding a garage sale became worth it when we teamed up with others to make it a community fund-raising event. Rather than doing all the work solo, a few friends agreed we would all like to declutter our houses and pool our things. That way, we could have enough things to make it a worthwhile event for shoppers, and we also had company along the way.

It took three of us. We picked a Saturday, and started to spread the word, giving people 3-4 weeks to start setting aside things they wanted to get rid of.

  • Win: an opportunity to spend time with friends.
  • Win: clear out some clutter.

Do it for CHARITY

One of the hardest things about holding garage sales before was the feeling that we were putting in all this work, and then selling items which had cost a pretty penny before for just a handful of grubby pennies now. If time is money, it felt like we were paying for those items twice.

The easiest way to overcome this was to do it all for charity. That way, all items we were getting rid of felt like a gift freely given. And every cent made at the garage sale felt like money freely donated to a good cause. (Also, shoppers were more generous when they knew where the money was going! It was amazing!)

We chose two worthwhile organizations: Courage Worldwide (who provide safe houses for girls rescued out of sex slavery here in the US), and International Justice Mission (who work to bring justice to oppressed people worldwide: addressing slavery, trafficking, police brutality etc by supporting and equipping local authorities to work on enforcing their own laws. They are combatting the Locust Effect., protecting the poor from violence). Last year, we supported Food for the Hungry, a fantastic community development and hunger relief program.

I made a rustic poster explaining where the money would be going, and we had some pamphlets available for shoppers to tell them about Courage and IJM: you know, raising both funds and awareness. 

  • Win: being able to do some good in the world.

Do it WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HOUSE

The advent of the internet made this possible to organize after hours and from home.

Getting the word out: I made a simple ad with the date and address, and posted it on Facebook a few weeks before. I asked friends to share it.We put an ad for it in our church bulletin. We invited people to bring their donations to my house any time the week before the event, and stashed them in the garage (more about that later).

Then, on the week of the event, I posted an ad for the event on Craigslist, which has a category for garage sales, as well as in a few neighborhood Facebook groups which buy-and-sell kids stuff and house wares.

TIP: when posting ads on craigslist for garage sales, list the items you have in as much detail as possible, as there are many people looking for particular items. We specifically mentioned some of the items we knew people regularly looked for (radio flyer tricycles, specific appliances, specific furniture items). I also took photos of a few items to put on the ad.

  • Win: do it all wearing pajamas
  • Win: Social Media really can get the word out better than posters can

Arranging to have it cleaned up: I also called the Salvation Army several weeks in advance, and scheduled a pick-up for all the items remaining from the garage sale. This was a deal-breaker for me: I could not have cleared out the remaining items by myself – so if Salvation Army hadn’t been able to come, I might have called around to find a charity which solicited donations.

  • Win: we got to do a second round of donating… to another worthwhile cause!

CREATE A SPACE to stash the goods (Logistics)

We decided to park our car outside for the week, and I cleared a large space on the garage floor. This year, I got a bit more organized and put painters tape on the floor, demarcating different areas for clothes, toys, books, sports goods etc, so that as donations came in, people could put them in the appropriate areas.

I’ll be honest: for a week, my garage looked like a zoo. But, the clutter wasn’t in my house… so that made a difference.

  • Win: a reason to clear out my garage. And, a working space which didn’t cramp our lifestyle while we were arranging.

Getting ready

Before the day, we also:

1) got some petty cash from the bank. I turned $50 into quarters, $1 and $5 bills. We needed the change for the early-bird bargain hunters.

2) arranged a place to keep the money on the day. Last year, I borrowed a cash box from our church, and we had a table set out where people could pay. This year, a crafty friend made us two adorable aprons out of repurposed jeans, and we used the pockets.   Look how cute my husband and I look in the aprons:

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3) We also borrowed a couple of fold-up tables (because items at eye-height are easier to buy than items on the ground), and pulled out a couple of camping tarps to lay toys and clothing items on.

4) We kept the boxes and bags which people had brought donations in to one side, and offered them to shoppers on the morning.

Have a WORK PARTY the night before

I had 5 friends stop over the day before. We used the trusty roll of tape and used a sharpie to price items (and priced them cheaply – better 25c for our cause than nothing, right?)

  • Win: a few hours to chat and work alongside friends. It felt good!

Sell, sell, sell!!

On the morning of the sale, we had 2-3 friends come 2 hours early to help us set out the tables and move everything from the garage out on to the tables. We had hardly begun moving stuff out when the early bird shoppers arrived. (Our start time was 9am. The first shopper arrived at 7:25!! I told them, as I had said in our Craigslist ad, that they were welcome to shop early – but that before 9am everything sold had a $30 surcharge. For charity, of course. They all went away and came back later.)

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It was a fun morning! We had a HUGE amount of people, and we raised a ton of money (last year, $900, this year – $1300!) We chose not to haggle over price too much, but rather to see each purchase as a donation, and to thank them for it accordingly.

Win: All the shoppers got a bargain, and they felt that they were doing good in the world too!

All in all, it was a little more effort than doing a garage sale by myself, but it was so worth it: we connected with friends, we got to support justice in the world, we built community and enlisted our family’s help in doing so (both our kids, and our church)… and at the end of it all, we had a cleaner house and a big fat check to send off to change lives.

Win win, right?

 

 

Remembering the Forgotten Children – {guest post by Ingrid Lochamire}

I’m so grateful to have Ingrid Lochamire as a guest today. I’ll let Ingrid introduce herself, and tell you all how we met 🙂

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At a writing conference in Michigan last spring, I met a tall young woman with a captivating smile and a beautiful accent. We ran into each other over and over again during the conference (including in various restrooms) and decided we could be “cyber friends”. Though we live half a continent apart, I’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with Bronwyn Lea over the past several months via her blog and other writings. At her request, I’m honored to share with you, her readers, these words that have had an impact on my life.

Many conversations over the years have given me pause, turned me on my heels, changed my view of things, but few have had the impact of two words spoken from the altar by a woman in the church we began attending six years ago:

“Forgotten children.”

Could there be such a thing? As a mother of four sons that I have guided into adulthood (with more than a little help from their dad), this was a concept I couldn’t accept.

I learned on that Sunday morning that thousands of children live on the streets of Honduras, one of the poorest nations in Central America. Most have been abandoned by family, sent to the streets to beg and fend for themselves. Many are sexually and physically abused. Others become addicted to huffing glue.

Our church worked alongside a missionary in Honduras in 2002 to rescue 10 boys from the streets of Tegucigalpa, and a new ministry was born. By the time I learned of Forgotten Children Ministries, over 70 boys and girls had been rescued and lived in an orphanage in Tegucigalpa and on a farm in Monte Redondo.

Hearing the woman tell of her recent trip to Honduras, and viewing photographs of those beautiful brown-eyed children, I felt God tugging at my heart. I had been on a mission trip to Nicaragua a few years earlier, but our ministry was to families in the hillside city where we stayed in a gated compound. This Honduras mission put volunteers in the orphanages and the countryside so that they could meet face-to-face with the children and with families who are desperate for help.

For the next couple of years, I listened to reports from the mission teams who traveled from Indiana to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, several times a year. Health issues and responsibilities at home had been my excuse for not joining them, but in the spring of 2012, I knew God was telling me to trust Him. My youngest son and I signed on to spend six days in Honduras that summer. It was a decision that changed everything.

Chase, who was 17 at the time, was a little ambivalent about the idea (did I mention he was 17?), but once he found himself surrounded by smiling little boys who loved nothing more than to kick around a soccer ball with an American teenager, he was hooked.

For myself, I ended every day in tears. So much poverty, contrasted with so much joy. I was humbled to see the faith, strength and resilience of the children, and of these broken people who called a 4×4 metal shack “home”.

The week flew by, and in the midst of it, I was smitten. 10-year-old Nayeli, a gap-toothed sprite who giggled at my faltering attempts to speak Spanish, stole my heart. By week’s end, I had signed on as her sponsor and, through tears, I promised I would see her again.

I left Honduras a changed woman, and I think my son grew a foot during his time in Honduras — in body and in spirit. A year later, we both returned to Honduras to love on those “forgotten children”. It was even better the second time around.

I know I’ll find my way back to the orphanage in Honduras where a sassy little brown-eyed girl from the streets is growing into a beautiful young woman with a future. She, and all the others, won’t be “forgotten”.

Ingrid Lochamire is a former newspaper reporter who “retired” to home school her four sons, now ages 19-30. A freelance writer and blogger, she shares “Reflections on the Journey” at ingridlochamire.com. A week’s worth of essays and photographs from Ingrid’s 2013 mission trip to Honduras can be found on her blog under “missions”.

Share your story. Change the world.

I am a small-time writer with a small-time blog, but recently I posted a piece that got really big really fast. I had been scared to post it. I was scared because it was personal. I was scared because it was political.

I posted it anyway, thinking “well, it won’t make much difference anyway. It’s just my little story,” but I could not have been more wrong. People responded to my story with comment after comment and email after email about how hearing an individual’s story had helped theme to see “the other side” of the debate for the first time, how the personal had cut through the rhetoric. My story encouraged others in turn to write and tell me their stories of how they have suffered under immigration laws. Hearing my story apparently opened up compassion in people who had not ever thought compassionately on the topic before. Sharing my story put a social justice issue on people’s hearts in a way that it had not been before.

storytelling

Story telling has great power to effect change – great change – far beyond what politics or philosophy could possibly do. I think stories are powerful for three reasons in particular:

1. Stories are disarming.

In a world where opinions are thrown at us day in and day out, our natural tendency

is to keep ourselves braced against the onslaught of ideas and words. We read the news with our defenses at the ready. We listen to speeches with our BS-meters finely tuned.

A story, however, does not demand our attention or allegiance. It is an offering of one person’s life and point of view: it does not threaten, it does not demand change. It simply tells. Our generation values being heard, and so when people speak from the heart – we listen. A story can reach the places of the heart, places we generally keep shielded from politicians and activists.

 

  1. Stories cut through bias.

Our natural tendency is to sort people into categories: like us, and not like us. Our inherent bias finds it easy to regard those in our camp as being individuals, unique and distinct. On the flipside of that coin, we tend to believe that all those “in that camp” are all one way. We make these generalizations because it helps us sort through issues of identity, it is our natural sorting hat for classifying, understanding and articulating difference in the world. However, the dangerous side of our natural coping mechanism is that we always carry a set of beliefs about what “they” are like.

The power of the story of just one person is that it breaks open the “they” category, and reminds us of all the individuals in “that camp”. It allows us to feel compassion and empathy for those who are “not like us”, because for the first time the story reminds us that in some way, that person is a lot like us.

3. Stories allow us to choose our response.

In their ground-breaking book “Half the Sky”, Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn challenged readers to respond to three specific social justice issues which affect women world wide. They had an armory of statistics and facts at their disposal, yet they chose to make their appeal by telling specific stories about individual women impacted by each plight.

Our brains cannot process facts like “there are 2 million sex slaves in the world right now”. We can, however, hear and understand the story of Suryesh, kidnapped from her family at 10, beaten by thugs and raped repeatedly each day until she submitted to the brothel owner. Big campaigns and huge numbers overwhelm us. We become immobilized by the enormity of the task, and change seems impossible. However, the story of one gives us a non-threatened space to respond: I cannot save 2 million, but I can make a difference to Suryesh.

Stories have the power to reach and to mobilize people far beyond the reach of politicians and power-mongers. In the quest for social justice then, here are two very powerful things you can do:

 

First: Share Your Story

The personal is political. If you have a story to tell, be brave and tell it. Tell your story of how your friend’s family got deported. Tell the story about the high school kids you work with and the things they go through. Tell your story about the poverty you’ve seen, the prejudices you’ve suffered, the abortion you went through. Share your story of loss, of mistakes made, of learning to hope through adversity. There is healing in the telling, and there is also healing for the hearers. Sharing your thoughts, your fears, your hurts can do far more to reach hearts than you might imagine.

 

Second: Share Someone Else’s Story.

By “share” here I don’t mean tell someone else’s secrets, I mean “share” in the internet sense of the word. I have a few dozen readers of my blog, a relatively small group of people who could hear my story. What made the story BIG was not so much my sharing, but that readers shared the story again and again. Every “like”, every “tweet”, every link emailed across the globe passed the story further and further. I shared my story with 200 people. A week later, it had been read by thousands.

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Social media (used well) can allow us to do impactful work for for building bridges, for bringing understanding, for furthering social justice. Every click of a mouse sends a story’s ripple a little further into the pond, and allows that story to do it’s disarming, awareness-raising, compassion-building, change-bringing work.

Of course, the power of stories should not come as a surprise to us. The Great Storyteller Himself chose stories to teach, to rebuke, to illustrate, to challenge. He chose the gospels, four stories of His life, to be the means by which we see the face of the eternal and invisible God. And he chose us to tell His story, a story which, once heard, shapes people’s eternal destinies.

Share a story. Change the world.

 

You might also like this story: The pair at the door….

Hope engaged

 

I would love to introduce you to my friend Katie. I met Katie in 2005 when we served on a short term mission trip together, and it has been my great joy to stay in touch with her in the years since then. She has been on all sorts of adventures.

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A while back, Katie started a blog. She called it “hope engaged”. She and Kevin had recently got engaged and I assumed from the title of her blog that she was writing a couples-blog. Not being a big partaker of romantic sentiment, I skipped over it. My loss.

Far from being a blog about romance, Katie’s blog is her record of being brave with life.

…. For there is a world of heartache and brokenness out there. So much injustice and pain and loss. This is a topic that is close to my heart. But there is a God who cares about us and this world and who has done something about it. Jesus’ death and resurrection set into motion a new Kingdom: and there is life, restoration, peace and forgiveness to be found in Him. This is our HOPE.

… But our hope is not an airy-fairy-pie in-the-sky-when-you-die type of hope. God’s concern about life and justice is not a cheap comfort held out as a celestial carrot – offered only in the future. Rather, the New Testament says that God, both directly by His Holy Spirit and indirectly through his church, is concerned to act in this broken world NOW, and to bring eternal life to humanity NOW. To show glimpses of the comfort, peace, justice, truth that is to be had fully in the future by living that way NOW. In other words, this is our hope ENGAGED.

Katie and Kevin took a brave step and asked God: “We know we could live a comfortable life here in California – but what do YOU want us to do? What’s important?” Hope engaged is the blog recording where that prayer has led them. At this moment, that prayer has led them to Nepal, where they are working in a home for little girls who have been rescued out of sex trafficking.

Katie’s blog is full of beautiful pictures and beautiful words: images and thoughts which encourage me to be brave with my life too. So without further ado, let me lead you to the click you’ve been waiting for:

… a great introduction to Katie and her blog, and the most recent post which left me weeping for joy.

We have a great hope. Let’s engage.

Turning impotence and injustice around

(This article originally posted elsewhere in December 2012. I still believe it is true, so here it is again.)

When I was 15 and finishing high school, I applied for a number of scholarships to cover the many years of tuition which lay ahead. One of those scholarships was a full-ride ticket offered by Anglo-American, arguably the most prestigious scholarship available at the time to school-leavers in South Africa.

For the interview, I had to travel to their shiny skyscraper HQ in Johannesberg, and I well remember feeling intimidated and exhilarated as I stared up at the giant glass building. The interviewers asked me about myself, my background, why I wanted to study law. “I want to help women and children,” I said, “I’m interested in justice for women and children who would otherwise not have a voice.”

The chief interviewer smirked as I answered a few more questions, and finally said goodbye. I remember her words as I left: “It was good to meet you and we wish you all the best at university, even if your ideas are a little naive.” Coming from a shiny-successful person in a shiny-successful building, her words stung, and I remember feeling a little ashamed of my gung-ho “I’m going to save the world” declarations.

I did not get the scholarship, but I did go to law school, and on more than one occasion I remembered her words. It was true that the ivory-tower ideals of law school often met with the much more gritty reality of what actually happened in court. I realized I was studying about the LEGAL system, not the JUSTICE system. What I learned seemed to confirm my cynical interviewers words: the desire to really do good and oppose injustice is fanciful, naive, immature.

Well, life took me – or should I say God took me – in different directions. First vocational ministry, which I would NEVER have guessed I would land up in. And now, full-time suburban motherhood, which remains a very unexpected outcome in my opinion. I definitely saw myself in the shiny-successful role in the shiny-successful building, rather than behind a sink and using my Mommy voice to explain (again) why my preschooler should not bash his fork into the dining table. But here I am, in full time Mommy zone – a million miles away from law school and career ambitions and the person I thought I would become.

Until recently.

A friend sent me Kristof and WuDunn’s book halftheskyHalf the Sky” and asked my opinion on it. I read it in stolen moments over several weeks, and as the pages turned, so too the wheels in my heart and mind turned. There is still much for me to process in the aftermath of the book, but here’s the beginning of it.

Millions and millions of women in our world are subjected daily to cruel treatment, medical failure, abuse and exploitation. Little girls are sold into sex slavery, girls have their genitals slashed, women die needlessly in childbirth. Women and girls starve to death, because they are considered less important to feed than boys and men. The suffering is deep and widespread. And the impact of undernourished, undervalued, impoverished and uneducated women is borne by community after community, generation after generation.

Reading such things is gut-wrenching and eye-opening. My first impulse is to weep. My second impulse is to shake my head, feeling helpless and unable to do anything. After all, haven’t I carried a thought in my head for some twenty years which scolds me “it is naive and foolish to think you can do anything for women and children. The shiny-successful lady told you so.”

But the message of this book is not just to alert readers like me (and you!) to what is going on in the world. It is primarily a book to galvanize action: small and purposeful changes CAN and DO make a difference. One extra year of education for a girl dramatically changes the statistical trajectory for her life. One extra year of school for one girl means she is far more likely to marry later, to bear less children, to suffer less physical harm from youthful childbearing. It increases the wage she is likely to earn, and thus her access to health care. One extra year makes it more likely that, as a more numerate and literate person, she can contribute to her family, her community, her country in the years to come.

And friends, I can help with one year of education for a girl.
I can help with deworming kids.
I can help support legislative efforts to police sex trafficking effectively.
I can help, by prayer, aware-ness raising, and purposeful contribution.

I am not impotent in the face of injustice. I am willing – I have always been. But now, after twenty years of believing a lie, I am also willing to say I am able.

Here are three ways our little suburban family tried to make a difference:

1) We prayed about injustice, with hope and specificity. I have lacked faith to pray about matters so big. But I can pray.

2) We decided to give some Christmas gifts which would “keep on giving”. To my sisters, I gave a donation to Food for the Hungry to educate a girl for a year. To my vegetable-growing mother in law, we gave a donation of vegetable seeds to a poor community in South America. etc.

3) We have decided to switch to buying fair-trade only coffee. For a long time I have put all the buzz words of our day (organic, free range, fair trade, nitrate free, sustainably developed etc) in the same category. Organic was the only category I had given a little thought to – and I figured that the risk was ours: we could choose to brave the pesticides and wash our fruit and veggies, or not. No harm to anyone else – our risk alone.

But now I realize that they are not the same. The risk is OURS if we buy non-organic products. But to but non-fair trade products means the risk was someone else’s. Learning about our slavery footprint was eye-opening.  A package of coffee which is not marked as being fair trade could perhaps have a stamp on it which says “hand-picked for your enjoyment by oppressed people worldwide.” So I will buy fair trade coffee.

There’s more to be done, even in our own home. I read an article just before Christmas which has given me much more to think and ponder. But for now – this is where we start.

Shiny-successful lady, you were wrong.

It is not naive to want to help women and children. It’s human. It’s necessary. It’s what we must do. I serve the God who cares about the poor, the fatherless, the widow. He came to set the captives free. I dare not think that, as one of His children and one of His disciples, doing nothing is an option.

This is an exciting year. I can feel it already. I’m taking my 15-year-old self out for a treat to see how little-me can make a big-difference to little-you out there.