Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Perfect Adoption

Her name was Mallory.  In French it meant "unfortunate," and it was entirely too appropriate.  At the age of thirteen she became a victim of sex trafficking.  She lived in a small, impoverished Russian town and found an ad in a small newspaper for nanny work in the Ukraine.  Mallory answered.  Her family needed the money.  But it was a terrible scam.  For six years she was trafficked for sex work across numerous countries, beaten and raped by her captors, drugged, forced to have sex with upwards of thirty customers a day, and mutilated in horrendous coat hanger abortions when she became pregnant.  After those six years, she was finally rescued in a police raid in Bosnia.  Except it wasn't an ordinary rescue.

Bosnian police are notoriously corrupt.  Their salaries are low, their hours are high, so a $100-$200 bribe to look the other way when they face trafficking isn't a difficult choice.  When the raid came through, there was one particular man that went directly for Mallory.  He wasn't in uniform like the other men and his face was set like steel.  He scared her.  The stranger covered her broken, bleeding, naked body with his coat and scooped her into his arms, cradling her like a child.  Brushing past the police making arrests and the traffickers attempting to escape, the other victims afraid and crying, he held her close against his chest and carried her to his jeep.  She didn't know if she was being kidnapped by another trafficker, or if this man was going to help her, but between the drugs and her empty heart, she didn't fight him off.

He took her to a safe place and washed her clean of the dirt and mire from the brothels she'd been dragged through.  She cried as he tended her wounds with the gentlest of hands, and then he wiped her tears away and held her while she wept.  She slept as the drugs passed through her system, and he watched over her.  When she woke, he gave her new clothes, clean and modest and comfortable.  When she was dressed, he knelt before her and told her his name.  When she asked why he had rescued her, the stranger said, "Because I love you."

He told her he wanted to adopt her.  He wanted to take her away from the horrors of her past and care for her for the rest of her life.  He wanted to protect her, teach her and show her a way of living that let her experience joy and love and pain and heartache in a whole new way.  Pain would deepen her capacity for love and shape her into the person he knew she could be.  If she let it.  Love would consume her.  As he shared his heart, tears of sincerity filled his eyes and he promised he would be with her until the very end.  All she had to do was come with him, or she could walk out the door and he would let her go.

Mallory's eyes burned as her own tears ran their course.  Why would he do this for her?  She was nothing, a nobody, used up and hardly even a human being anymore.  But the man insisted.  If she'd let him, he'd make her his.  Because he loved her.  The idea was so foreign to Mallory her fears roared their ugly head inside and she began to doubt.  How could she trust this stranger?  How did she know he was telling the truth?  Did he really love her?

He bowed his head.  When he raised his eyes they bore deep into hers.  He had a son.  He was the perfect son in every way.  An advocate for victims, a loving and kind man, he had a heart for the poor and he brought justice and mercy wherever he went.  The only way the stranger could rescue her, was send his son to die on her behalf.  Willingly, with full knowledge of his fate, the son went.  He paved the way for his Father to rescue her.

Mallory fell at the stranger's feet.  "Forgive me for my unbelief," she wept.  "I'll follow you wherever you go, Father."

~

I read in my quiet time this morning about adoption into God's kingdom.  We are the worst of the worst, and yet he not only justified his believers through his only Son's death on the cross, he also adopted us into his family.  The same Father-Son relationship Jesus has with the Lord, so we have with the Father (Mark 3:35; Matthew 28:9-10; John 20:17-18; Hebrews 2:12-13).  

Adoption is not given to everyone.  It's only given to those who follow Jesus.  Who believe, repent, and are baptized in his name (Acts 2:38).  It involves counting a cost, and then living as adopted sons, or daughters, of God.  Just as Jesus lived as God's Son, so believers are called to live as God's children.  

In conduct: Show family likeness in your conduct (Matthew 5:44-45, 48).  Be proud of your Father and show others how wonderful he is.  Behave in a way that is a credit to him (Matthew 5:16; 6:9).  Seek to please him (Matthew 6:1-18).  *Our Father notices and will show special pleasure when we concentrate on pleasing him and him alone.

In prayer: Pray to God; the Father is always accessible to his children and is never too preoccupied to listen to what they have they say (John 11:42).  We don't need to hesitate to imitate the sublime "cheek" of the child unafraid to ask his parents for anything because he knows he can count completely on their love (Matthew 7:7-11).  *It's God's prerogative to give good things that we have need of.  Often he gives us what we should have asked for, rather than what we actually requested.

In the life of faith: Trusting God for my material needs as I seek his kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:25-33).  It means following God's will at whatever cost and trusting him for the consequences.  *After all, if God cares for the birds, whose Father he is not, isn't it obvious that, being MY Father, he'll care for me?

Adoption into God's kingdom is truly the perfect adoption.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Calling to Malaysia



This summer I'm going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Located between Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines, it tends to get mixed up in the mass of islands most Americans ignore in our Geography classes.

I'm going with an organization called HOPE worldwide, their HOPE Youth Corps (HYC) division.  "Youth" meaning ages 15-25, and I barely qualify.  I'll be 26 next March.  HYC does dozens of mission-oriented serving expeditions around the world and across the nation each year.  From Kenya to the United Kingdom, Malaysia to Jamaica, I prayed about where and how to serve this year and was called to Malaysia.  I thought it strange, really.  I lived in Japan for three years, so I thought I would take a break from East Asia for a while and see what other areas of the world I could touch.  However, Malaysia grabbed hold of my heart in a way none of the other places did.  Why?

A couple of months ago I attended a lecture by Siddharth Kara regarding the topic of sex trafficking and bonded labor.  He's a brilliant speaker who used to work on Wall Street before quitting his job to research and become an advocate on the topic of modern-day slavery.  I bought two of his books, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery and Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia.  What struck me about his lecture was that this is an economic issue as much as it is a human rights issue.  I encourage you to read his books and listen to his lectures.  The United States plays as much of a role in the business as any other country.

Kara's lecture was a single experience that lit a fire within me.  It'd previously been nothing but coiling smoke.  I've always had a big heart for victims, especially children.  When I first learned of sex trafficking and slavery in 2009 I saved up a few thousand dollars and gave it to the International Justice Mission to rescue as many as possible.  My heart for those girls hasn't diminished at all.  Now that I'm older, more educated, more established than I was in the Marine Corps, I feel more convicted to do something more for victims of sex trafficking.  (When I say "sex trafficking" I'm not only talking about the movement of slaves, but the exploitation of them as well).  

I've been spending the previous couple of months immersed in studying the character of God, seeking to know him better.  To trust him, I must know him.  After my study I take about 15-20 minutes just to read the Bible.  I've been working my way through the New Testament, having just finished Colossians.  

There have been little lightning strikes in my heart as I've been reading to go and spread the gospel to these women:

"He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles" (Galatians 1:15-16).  
"Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do" (Galatians 2:10).
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
"And (Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far off" (Ephesians 2:17)
"Now, to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory" (Ephesians 3:20-21a).
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15-17).
"(Pray) also for me, that the words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:19-20).
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
"... make the word of God fully known... To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the flory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ" (Colossians 1:25b-28).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:16-17).

Other scriptures stood out as to what to use when sharing the gospel:

"So you are no longer a slave, but a (daughter), and if a (daughter), then an heir through God" (Galatians 3:7).
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
"... remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe" (Ephesians 1:17-19).
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:13-15).
I do not know what the future holds, but I do know I seek to do something with victims to help.  These are the little lightning bolts in my heart that are compelling me forward.

I'm fundraising my entire trip to Malaysia.  There's also an opportunity to go to an international leadership conference in Singapore I'm hoping to attend.  As a full-time college student, part time caregiver, mentoring a couple of teenage girls, being involved in my church and trying to sell my next novel, I don't have the financial means to go on my own.  I'm doing things like selling stuff on ebay, craigslist and having weekly fundraisers at church by selling homemade goods and coffee before and after service.  I also have a website up, the link is below, to give directly to the cause through PayPal.  If you, or someone you know, can give it would make a big difference.

I seek to help the victims without an advocate.  I find the hopeless, the lost and I try to help.  The best way to help is to spread the truth of the love of God to them.  Sometimes the entire process can feel daunting and hopeless.  But I know God will make it possible.  He's done it in the past.  Your help could certainly be part of his plan!

 http://www.youcaring.com/mission-trip-fundraiser/serving-orphans-stopping-trafficking/169087 




Friday, May 9, 2014

A Year in Review

It's been more than a year since my last blog and I must apologize to readers who were following my posts that were left in the dark!

Life has been a journey, as it always is.  Reading over my blog's past I was humbled by my honesty and vulnerability.  Perhaps my absence this last year has partly been due to my fierce need to protect myself.  I'll tell you that the hard shell does little else but isolate the one wearing it.

After my last post I went to the VA and was given the service I needed.  I began with a sleeping medication, but had a negative reaction.  The warnings on medication labels are legitimate.  I was plagued with a bout of suicide ideation for almost two weeks before I became scared enough to finally commit myself to the VA hospital.  I was placed on suicide watch in an inpatient facility for one week while they regulated my medication.  When I left the hospital I was on a different sleep medication, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and anti-nightmare medication.  I was also unable to return to work.

My book was published March 12th, 2013 and I had a dozen or so book signings.  The effects of the publishing took a toll on my family.  To better understand please read it.  A Winter Storm is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.


I moved in April and became an at-home caregiver for a friend of mine.  I gave up a few other commitments in order to slow down and pay more attention to myself and my needs.  Even though I was on carefully managed medications, I was much more attune to my triggers, my fears and was forced to endure and process them.  It's not easy.  I'll admit I became a little paranoid.  Then again, I think I was always paranoid and simply more aware of it once I was medicated.  My faith took a turn, and I struggled to do anything more than try to remember that God loved me, exactly as I was.


Living in a new house in a different, safer, neighborhood was helpful.  It felt like something of a new start.  In July I decided to return to a Haitian orphanage I visited in 2012.  All I held onto in that time was to love God, and love others and to exercise that the best I could.  In August I began talking to a man I met while in Haiti in 2012.  He decided to join me once again in Haiti.  The majority of the funds that helped me go were donated by friends.  At that time one of my three other roommates decided to move across the country.


October came, and my journey to Haiti brought me much of the restoration that I needed.  The man I met there helped me to see that it is possible to love and be loved in a way that is selfless, not selfish.  While in Haiti I learned about faith.  The kind that is trust, not just belief.  The day I returned I quit smoking.  Without the patch, the e-cigarettes, or the gum, I relied on God to keep me smoke free.  I quit, praying and trusting God to give me the strength I needed to abstain from it.  I haven't had a cigarette in 30 weeks, 210 days.


The day after I returned from Haiti, my roommate and friend fired me as her caregiver.  Less than one month later she moved out, doubling my rent and utility bills.  It wasn't until December that I finally got another client.  It was also at that time that the man I saw in Haiti and I admitted that we both wanted to be more than good friends, we wanted to be in a relationship.  No commitment was made yet, but the desire was there.  The distance from Florida to Washington state is a long one, but we planned a visit.  He was going to do it, but things came up.
In January, I decided to fly to Florida to see him.  It would be a trip that would ultimately determine whether or not this would be a relationship that was going to take the next giant leap.  He was committed to work and a community play so communication was limited.  When I finally flew to Florida in March, I had a wonderful time.  I left five days later understanding that until he was willing to make me a priority, instead of trying to please everyone else in his life first, our friendship would go no further once I got on the plane.


I haven't heard from him since.

I've completed my second novel and am in the process of sending out query letters to sell it.  I love working for the man to whom I'm currently a caregiver, I'm one year away from finishing my bachelors in human development and I'm training for my first ever triathlon and half marathon.  God has provided the money to make ends meet every time I thought I wasn't going to.  He's held my hand, continued to give me opportunities to trust him and his grace has caught me every time I failed, only to let me try again.

Living is painful.  But when I take the moments to smell the flowers, lilacs are in bloom this time of year in Washington, tend to my garden and watch spring bring it to life, I'm reminded that this is not my home.  Until I do reach home, God will remain trustworthy and he will take care of me.  He will bring me back to life no matter how harsh the winter I endure.