Sunday, June 30, 2013

More Than Just a Cause

Before Cambodia I called myself an abolitionist because I raised awareness for human trafficking. I wrote letters in protest to companies that used child labor. I bought merchandise made by former sex slaves, and I spread statistics in my blog posts and on my Facebook statuses.
Don't get me wrong...these are all good things. All of these things are much needed, and I'll continue to do most of them when I return home in just under two weeks.
But this week I had a revelation. As I stood worshipping God in a circle of 23 girls that have been trafficked or raped, I realized the biggest thing this trip has changed for me.
I sang my heart out to "You Won't Relent" and "Hosanna" that afternoon. A six year old girl stood directly in front of me with my arm wrapped around her little frame. Another nine year old girl was snuggled in by my side. I almost lost my voice in a moment that seemed to last forever. As I looked around our little family worship circle, I realized that I'm not allowed to stand by anymore.
Human trafficking isn't just a cause anymore. My motivation doesn't come and go like some fleeting college-aged passion.
This all changed for me when I looked around the circle that afternoon, and 23 little Khmer faces looked back.
I don't know what I'm going to do to work against human trafficking in the future, but I do know that these 23 little faces are going to push me onto the finish line.
She has a name.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

That Thing No One Wants to Talk About...

All over the world, people are raising awareness for the global catastrophe of sex trafficking. This atrocity has been under wraps for a long time, but people everywhere are starting to shed light on the matter. There have been documentaries made and conferences attended. Many people are focused on funding aftercare and taking care of the girls that have been rescued.
But there is something we can do to stop trafficking before it even happens: we can fight against pornography.
College students are much more likely to fight sex trafficking than porn because many students don’t see the connection between the two. A study says: “It's easier to attack trafficking than porn because so many students are using it, they have to confront the issue that being an activist, they may be hypocritical.” It has been found that men who went to prostitutes were twice as likely to watch porn than other men. Pornography fuels the sex industry and puts girls at a greater risk of being trafficked. To read more about this, click here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trafficking in Cambodia

Every year, the US Department of State puts out a report on human trafficking. In June of this year, a new report was put out. This disturbing report shows us that Phnom Penh’s effort to fight trafficking has slowed down from last year. The US Department of State moved Cambodia down on the watch list. If Cambodia declines any more, they will be put on a list that is for countries that do not meet the minimum standards and are not even trying to meet those standards. There was an outburst of Cambodia’s opinions on the matter once the report was released. Cambodians claim that the main customers of trafficking are Western men. To read more about this, click here.

Friday, June 21, 2013



God had some serious lessons in store for me. In fact, I'm sure He still does in the three weeks I have left on this Cambodian journey! I had no idea how hard missionary life would be. I had no idea how hard being on the other side of the world from familiar people would be, but God brought me all the way over here to show me things about who He is and who I am.

First of all, it is so hard to be myself overseas. The culture shock and the stresses of overseas life brought out sides of me that I didn't know existed. Sometimes I don't like what I see. I think I'm too cowardly and not good enough...but God has shown me that even at my lowest point, He loves me. He loves me despite my filth and sin. That elementary truth has come to absolutely BLOW my mind since I have been here. I am so thankful that I have been able to more fully grasp how wide His love is for me.

Secondly, I have been able to see that I don't need anyone but Jesus. Although familiar faces are nice (and I miss them dearly!), I don't need them as much as I need Jesus. I don't need bathrooms that don't smell like sewage and showers that don't require you to straddle a toilet whilst you attempt to get clean... I have Jesus, and that is enough. I might be in a place full of unfamiliar people and things, but my God is faithful and He remains the same. I can count on Him, and He really is all I need.

Thirdly, I have allowed God to restore me. It a trip to the other side of the world, but seeing young girls come to an understanding that God has given them a second chance after being enslaved to sex tourism has opened my eyes to the fact that God can take what has been broken and make it whole again. I have in no way been through anything anywhere close to what my girls have been through, but He has shown over and over to me that He is faithful and that He will complete the work He has started in me...just as He is still working on the work He has started in the lives of these girls that have been rescued.

That's just a glimpse of what God has done in my heart lately!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What It's Like

People have asked me two questions a billion times since I left the US a little more than three weeks ago: What is Cambodia like? What does a day in Cambodia look like for you?
I think it will do a world of good for the people who are supporting me to see what it is that I do and what it is like where I live.
First thing's first! What is Cambodia is like? I have to say it is entirely too difficult to describe. People come to Cambodia to vacation by the riverside in Phnom Penh, but that isn't what Cambodia is really like. People come to the beautiful beach at Kep to get away to a resort, but that isn't what Cambodia is like. I've been to both of these beautiful places where tourists flock, and it is not an accurate glimpse of what Cambodia really is like. Today I sat on a bus for close to five hours with dozens of Khmer people. I watched out the window as towns, villages, and provinces passed by. I have visited houses of girls that have been reintegrated into their homes, and I have seen what people really live like in the US. I have a couple of pictures that may help you see how people live:

Being in the city of Phnom Penh is very fast paced and crazy. A normal, four lane road of traffic will easily have 16 rows worth of traffic. Monks with their orange robes and yellow umbrellas go from house to house. Elaborate mosques, temples, and buddhist churches tower over the small shacks that are falling apart. It is common to see a family of five riding one motorcycle. Tuk tuks and motos jam the streets. People sell things on the side of the road, and people pull ox carts full of things on the roads. Markets are everywhere and full of smelly fish that sit out in the hot sun all day. It is blazing hot with insane humidity all the time. I never stop sweating. Horns are always honking, dogs are always barking, everyone stares at me because I'm white...oh, and did I mention that little girls are prostituted on the streets? Yep. You read that right. Little girls are prostituted on the streets. I've seen it with my own eyes. It is no secret in Cambodia that sex is a big thing that the Westerners want. Most of the time, it is safe to assume that a Western, white man with a younger Khmer girl is only using her for that evening. It is sickening.
I am in no way complaining about where I am. I know that I am in the center of God's will for my life right now, and I just want you to be able to see through my writing what it is really like over here. I want to remember how blessed I am and thank God continually for those blessings. I also want you to see how blessed you are. I want you to stop and thank God for the blessings that you have.
I also want you to be able to see the good that you are doing by supporting me on my Cambodian adventure...because some of the girls that have been used so wrongly have been rescued.
That is where you come in. That is where your support and your prayers are making the difference, because 23 little girls have become my Cambodian sisters over the last three weeks. There are 23 little girls that have been taken off of the streets and are no longer slaves to the sinful desires of evil men and women.
That being said, here is the answer to the second question! What does a day in Cambodia look like for me?
I work an 8 to 5 day Tuesdays through Saturdays. I arrive at my office at 8 AM and prepare for staff devotions with the Khmer office workers, social workers, drivers, and house mothers. The devotion takes place at 8:30, and then I ask if any of the Khmer staff would like help with their English. We help the staff learn more English, and then we spend the rest of our morning doing any preparation or office work that needs to be finished, as well as running any errands around Phnom Penh that need to be finished for the ministry. We have a lunch break at 11:30 and resume any tasks that may need to be finished at 1 PM. The girls are in school all morning, so I do not spend time with them in the mornings. Depending on the day of the week, the afternoons look different. I help the girls with their English at 2:00, and sometimes I spend my afternoons taking my 23 new little sisters to the pool for their swimming lessons. Nevertheless, at 4:00 every day we have devotion time. Today I led a devotion on 1 Timothy 4:12, and spent the rest of the afternoon telling stories to the girls and having them braid my hair. We just sat in a tight circle on the floor together and laughed at funny stories and silly hair styles. I love these girls. The evenings in Phnom Penh are quiet. I usually bike ride around the city a little bit, grab some dinner, spend some time with the others that I work with here, and then come back to my room to reflect on my day and spend some time with the Lord.
Here is a picture of my sisters:

Today was a day that has been seared into my memory. I spent about two hours with the girls in the home today, and I got to just sit with them and love on them. I was able to see how the Lord has taken such broken lives and restored them. Isn't God just great like that? It took coming all the way across the globe to Cambodia for my eyes to be opened to the fact that God can take something so tarnished and bruised and make it new.
The best way I can explain it is through sharing my experience with a little six year old girl. This girl came into the care of the She home just two weeks before I got to Cambodia. When I arrived, she was reserved and quiet...even with the other girls. When I came into the home to lead devotions today, I saw her little head poke out from behind the couch cushions and heard her squeal with delight as she ran to me to hug me and say hello. We sat together and played hand games today and she babbled on and on in Khmer as if I could understand every word she was saying.
Only three weeks ago, this little girl could hardly look me in the eye. Now I've seen her laugh and play with the other girls and heard her sweet little voice whisper her prayers to Jesus after we have done our daily devotions. Jesus has got His hands on this little girl's life, and seeing her restoration in the Lord has caused me to see that He can restore me, too! Nothing is too messy or too ugly for Him to clean up and make new.
I can't show you this sweet little girl's precious face...but just so you can get a glimpse of how adorable she is:

I can hardly believe my time here is almost halfway up. Thank you so much for supporting me with your prayers! I hope this update helps you to see what your prayers and support are doing! You are making a difference!

Monday, June 3, 2013

French Tips and Iced Tea

My first two weeks of work with the SHE Rescue Home have come and gone, and I can hardly believe it has already been two weeks. I have been stretched further than I have ever imagined. It has hurt more than I could have ever fathomed. I have struggled, and I have experienced the sweetest joy.
My last short post was dedicated more to the struggle side of the last two weeks when it comes to my lupus and how I have struggled with that. It took a lot more to adjust to a foreign country than I thought it would. Even when I went to Peru four years ago, after two days I was in it and excited and going crazy with the kids I was working with. It took Cambodia a little longer to grow on me. Culture shock set in and took over for about a week. The new language, the strange food, the weird smells, the intense heat, the 11 hour time was all so much to take in!
Now, I am happy to inform you that the joy has far outweighed the pain.
Now I feel fully rested and ready to take on my third week tomorrow. I feel adjusted and ready to take this summer and milk it for every little thing it is worth. I have a couple of sweet, small stories that I have already stored up in my heart, and I can't wait to share them with you.
Okay, so this one isn't so small...but it is certainly sweet. :D
The girls in the SHE Home have been going through a program called SHINE with a volunteer that has just recently left us. SHINE is a program that came to the rescue home through Hillsong Church in Australia. The purpose of the program is to teach the girls who they are in Christ and where their worth comes from. Since most of the little girls that I work with have been either raped or trafficked, this program was a huge gift to the home. The girls were able to see that they are beautiful and that God is not finished with them yet. It is such a great program!
I came into the country just as the program was wrapping up,and I had the amazing opportunity to see 12 weeks of this program come to a close as my 23 new little sisters graduated from the program. The whole day was absolutely a fairy tale.
I went to work on Friday morning and headed straight over to the SHE house with a box of makeup under one arm and a box of nail polish under the other. The girls squealed with delight when we came through the gates at the front of the yard and headed toward the porch to unload our goodies. The morning was so full of precious moments and ministries as I painted tiny fingernails and applied makeup to little faces. One of the littlest girls, only six years old, made it her mission to make my makeup and nails perfect. Let me tell was not a pretty sight. My makeup was not too bad actually, but my nails were a disaster...and I loved every second of it. She even attempted to do french tips on one of my hands.

The morning was full of precious moments and memories. After the morning full of pampering and a lunch break full of last minute preparations for the graduation, we all gathered in the living room of the SHE house. Twenty-three girls all dressed in fancy tea party dresses gathered in the living room. Hair, nails, and makeup was all done, and they looked absolutely stunning. All I could do as each girl passed me was clutch her hand and whisper the only Khmer word that I knew at that point..."sa-a..." which means "beautiful" (how fitting is it that the only word I knew was the only one I needed?!).
The girls climbed up the large, spiral, wooden staircase and the room came to a hush as they waited for the program to begin. The two tuk tuk drivers and the van driver waited at the bottom of the staircase with a basket of tiaras for the girls and six roses for the six women graduates. Each girl's name was called. As her name was called, starting with the youngest, she descended the grand staircase to the cheers of her sisters. At the foot of the staircase, one of the men would bow customarily to her and place the tiara on her tiny little head. The girl would then move to the side where she would watch as the rest of her SHE sisters descended the staircase and joined her on the living room floor. Watching each little girl have her little moment to feel beautiful was precious and moving. Each girl was glowing!
After each name had been called, 23 girls with sparkling tiaras climbed into tuk tuks and vans and rode over to a local café. The place was set up with beautiful table settings, flowers, and china. There were goblets full of iced tea and a table loaded with sweets and sandwiches.
The girls were told a wonderful story about a tea cup who did not understand why the potter had stretched him and put him through the fire, but it turned out that God had big and beautiful plans for the tea cup even through all the hard stuff it went through. The story was very touching because of the situations that the girls have come from. Several of the girls spoke about what the program had spoken into their lives. One girl spoke about how she is no longer insecure and now she has confidence. It was so great to see the end of this great program!
The pure joy on the girls' faces was indescribable. Little girls came running up to me with goblets of iced tea the size of their faces and toasted their glasses with mine. They ate so much food and just had the time of their lives. By the time it was time to leave, many of the girls were crashing down from a sugar high.
It was such a beautiful afternoon, and I was so blessed to be a part of it.
It was such an incredible thing to see that the Lord had restored beauty and confidence to these young girls that were so wrongly used. I can hardly wait to see what other memories and precious moments lie ahead on this journey!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thorn in My Flesh

My first two weeks of work with the SHE Rescue Home have come and gone, and I can hardly believe it has already been two weeks. I have been stretched further than I have ever imagined. It has hurt more than I could have ever fathomed. I have struggled, and I have experienced the sweetest joy.
Most of you know from my Facebook and through my mom that I really struggled early last week with a lupus spell. For those of you that knew, thank you so much for praying. It was really difficult to move around for a couple of days, but with the exception of my hands, I am pretty much all back to normal.
Lupus has been a big struggle over the past three years. In high school and college I've missed classes for short spells, but usually the pain leaves after a couple of days, and it doesn't limit me very much. I have been so humbled over the last week with my hands.
You know, you never really notice how much you use something until it becomes almost impossible for you to use it. Every morning I have to exercise my wrists and fingers to be able to use them during the day. Even though the pain with using them is excruciating during the day, I have prayed for the strength and the ability to keep on using them to be the hands of Jesus. Let me tell you...even when it hurts, it is worth the pain.
Every time I grip the brush to paint a little girl's nails or play Miss Mary Mack or teach her the handshake from the parent trap it hurts, but the Lord keeps giving me strength to move forward.
I just keep reminding myself of the thorn in Paul's flesh and reminding myself that the Lord is my strength in my weakness!