Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thank God for Special Armour Bearers

Proverbs 18:24 says: A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Two years ago when God gave me the opportunity to share at my home church about the issue of child sex slavery and our response as followers of Jesus Christ, there in the audience was a husband of two young girls. Subsequent to that sharing, he contacted me and sent me a hand written letter in the mail a week later. God had used my sharing to speak into LD’s heart about the plight of these girls and moreover, he felt led by the Lord to commit to praying for me on a daily basis.

Fast forward two years later and the letters continue to come….some handwritten, some by email but this dear brother has become one of my special armour bearers. He is a man who walks with such humility and servant hood, who seeks not the limelight and prefers to serve behind the scenes. Whenever he speaks, I listen…it reminds me of that T.V commercial ‘when E.F Hutton speaks, everyone listens.’ LD is a man who seeks God and who has been such a tremendous encouragement to me. He has taken the time to write words of encouragement to each of us who are part of the core group that was formed two years ago. He is a man who takes his role seriously as an armour bearer and one who speaks with much wisdom. When we were brainstorming as a group about the title of last September’s conference it was him who gave us the title ‘Slaying The Giant’.

He is a man who quietly and wholeheartedly serves in a steadfast way and who’s wise counsel has served to affirm, encourage and strengthen me when I am feeling weak, tired or weary. Indeed he is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. In his role to stand in the gap and intercede, he and his family have experienced spiritual attacks. I am grateful and thankful to God for people like LD. He is not intimidated by the enemy’s attempts to derail or discourage us but rather he is an example of one who presses on despite the obstacles. The Lord has surrounded me with some amazing intercessors who are all female but to have a male in our group who takes his role seriously and who takes the time to send me words of encouragement is something that humbles me. Some times I do not feel worthy of such blessings but I realize that the Lord longs to give us His best. In this cause against injustice, He certainly has provided beyond what I could ever ask or imagine. He has surrounded me with others who spur me on but who themselves reflect His heart by the way they encourage and challenge us to live fully for Him.

Recently LD sent me two quotes. Each of them reminding me of different aspects of God’s character. One was from Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God which really touched my heart as I thought of our little sisters in Cambodia. "Her past was beyond repair, if there was any good thing there to salvage I knew not how. But God showed me she had her future. And it was vast, unbroken, pristine, radiant. It was pure promise: a Glory that would be revealed in her, a Glory that outweighed her present troubles, the Glory of the One who was coming to redeem her and transform her. Her past was a tragedy to lament. But her future was an epic to anticipate; which is simply to say: What will happen matters more than what has happened." This is the vision of Isaiah 61:1-3 that I believe is God’s vision for these little ones. Indeed each and every child who has or was subject to such trauma in their lives may come to that realization that the future before them is one in which God wants to write a new story filled with new hope.

The second quote that LD shared was from Matthew 1. He writes: ‘I have always been fascinated by the recording of Jesus`s family tree. What has always struck me is that there are only 5 woman mentioned. They are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Some were prostitutes, one was an adulterer, one was a widow from a despised race. But God choose these women to be the bloodline of Jesus. This reinforced how special of a place that God must have in his heart for the girls in forced prostitution. As the women in the Bible, some had choices and made poor decisions. But God showed the incredible Grace by having their names recorded in his Book. How much more Grace is He willing to shower upon the little girls all over the world who are in prostitution through no fault of their own.

Thank you Lord for reminding me that your arm is not too short to save. You who are the Hope of the nations is mighty to save and deliver. Thank you for the privilege you give to us to partner with you and with each other to build your kingdom and to shine your light in the most darkest corners of the world. Let it be that we will continue to be the Your voice for the voiceless.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our Sisters, Our Daughters, Our Children!

These past few weeks I wished I had more hours in a day but then again I remember that God only needed 24 hours so why do I think I need more! There has been so much happening and in all of these wonderful activities it is so easy to focus on the ministry and not on the relationship. Henry Blackaby once said that we need to keep examining the quality of our love relationship with Jesus. I value those wise words for what do we have to offer others if we do not gain our strength, wisdom, energy, love, hope, peace and joy from the One who came to give us life. It is times like this when my plate seems full that I need to abide in the Vine for apart from Him I can do nothing and I labor in vain. So yesterday, my Sabbath day--- I say Sabbath and people think I take the whole day off but what I mean is I protect my Monday evenings so that I can just relax and do whatever I feel like without any agenda. As the weather is getting warmer and the days are longer I have been going walking for 1 hour--- Me, my IPOD and God….it has been a sweet time listening to a sermon and then spending time praying and talking to the Lord about all sorts of things.

I’m dreaming and imaging possibilities with Him because each day is filled with new surprises. I never know what to expect when I check my emails. I feel privileged to be connected with so many different people. Last night I got an email from our newest Ratanak partner Ruth Elliot who runs Daughters Cambodia (www.daughterscambodia.org) I have been reading a newsletter she sent and found myself in tears reading about ‘my sisters’ in Cambodia. This past March, 14 girls were baptized during a special Easter service and joined the family of God. These are my sisters, my daughters, the ones I look forward to seeing and meeting when I go to Cambodia in July. I have not met them as yet, but my heart is knitted with their heart. We share a bond now in Christ. These are the ones for whom Jesus came and who He beckons us to serve and to love. In the world’s eyes, they are viewed as disposable, outcasts, but in God’s eyes, they are not forsaken nor forgotten by Him. They are His treasures, precious ones for whom He came for, for whom He died and for whom He rose again to demonstrate to us that in Him, we can experience new life. Indeed it takes on a whole new meaning when one looks at lives that have been treated worse than animals….spit at, tortured, raped, drugged and beaten…and yet they show me what it means to share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. They can identify with Him at a level that I only read about.

As I read their testimonies, I am reminded again about the resilience of the human spirit….where sin increases, grace increases more and our Lord indeed can and is able to restore dignity beyond what we can ever imagine. These sisters continue to be my heroes. They give new meaning to the words ‘more than conquerors.’ Shame, guilt and fear does not have the last word, love does. Love has come down and lifted them up and has bestowed on them a crown of beauty for ashes. I enclosed a couple of their testimonies but if you would like to be on Daughters Cambodia prayer list and learn more about this organization, how you can get involved and what God is doing in and through this amazing ministry please email: daughterscambodia@gmail.com

Below are two stories from young women at Daughters. Their names have been changed to protect their identity but I trust as you read them, that God will fill you with hope that all things are possible with Him!

Sinah’s Story

From my very first day at Daughters, there has been one girl who consistently makes me feel welcomed and accepted. Her name is Sinah, she is a 17 year old beauty with a feisty personality and a fierce confidence. Although her English is limited to the basics like, “Hello” and “How are you?”, she is constantly struggling to communicate with myself and other English speakers that come to the center. Upon meeting Sinah, one might see a normal teenage girl who is well adjusted and light hearted; but as I get to know her better, I find that there is more than meets the eye. Sinah used to work as a sex worker in a bar. One day, her mother fell ill and she had to go to the province to care for her. She spent 15 days nursing her back to health, only to come back to the city and find that they had kicked her out of the brothel. Alone and not knowing what to do, Sinah decided to take her cousin’s advice and check out the NGO called Daughters of Cambodia. When she did, she knew her life would never be the same.

“Everything is better than before,” she tells me with a smile, “It is honest work, I can take care of my mother in the province, and I am free from guilt.” It is here at the center that Sinah has found the true freedom in Christ. “I used to live in the darkness, but now I live in the light.” Although Sinah has found peace and joy in her new life here at Daughters, she finds herself battling Satan’s lies on a daily basis. “I am free and I threw everything from my old life away, but I am still broken hearted,” she whispers quietly. The conversation has shifted and I am beginning to see another side of this precious girl.

She begins to pour out her heart, revealing the tragic reality, that at times the pain is so strong and so intense, her whole body goes numb. “Sometimes when I go numb, I will sew right through my finger and not even notice. I can’t even feel the pain,” Sinah tells me with tears in her eyes. When I look down, I notice she has a brace around her ankle; my heart begins to ache.

And then, she says something that both surprises and humbles me, “But that is how I know God loves me so much. He watches over me and keeps me safe when I cannot do it myself. He has to take care of me.” Sinah’s faith in the Lord is becoming stronger and stronger every day. Although the people in her life do not understand her decision to follow Christ, she will not turn back to her old life.

“Sometimes it feels like I am the enemy of Cambodia. Everyone calls me crazy and a bad Buddhist,” she stares blankly out the window before turning back to say, “So I ask God, “If I know you and it is right- Why do all these people hate me? Is it right?”” Then, after a long pause filled with careful consideration she says, “But I know I’m not crazy, because now I live in the light. I am free with Christ- so I will continue to choose Him. He has led me here and I am thankful.”

As our time together comes to an end, I find myself amazed at the wisdom this young woman possesses. She trusts Jesus with everything she is. She knows that no matter what happens in this life, she will remain a follower of Jesus. “I am thankful for Daughters, because it gave me a new life and told me about God,” Sinah makes her final statement and quietly goes back to work.

Naly’s Story:
After being sold by her parents into a relationship with a Chinese businessman, Naly was forced to leave her home in Cambodia and migrate to China. Her life would never be the same. When she returned from China, her parents tried to sell her once again, but this time to a Korean man. That was when she learned about Daughters of Cambodia. I knew that I had to make money to support my parents, but I didn’t want to go back to that life,” Naly calmly states. She had heard about Daughters through a friend and began working the first day she came to the center.

When she talks, Naly speaks with elegance and poise; always composed, she exudes strength. But when talking about Daughters, her new friends, and Ruth (her boss), she seems to lose that composure that makes her so untouchable. “My life is so much better than before,” she says as her eyes get misty, “I have learned so much, while supporting my family at the same time.”
Naly has a very keen mind and has learned skills quickly, making her a valuable asset to the Daughters businesses. She loves to learn new things and always enjoys sewing, making jewellery, and making art. It was also at the Daughters center that she came to know the Lord for the first time. “I didn’t believe in Jesus when I heard about him at the center, until one night before I went to sleep, I prayed a prayer to him. I said, “God, if you are God, please help me.” Naly had been going through some hardships and was struggling to find comfort in the midst of her sadness. “That night when I went to sleep, I was filled with peace. That was how I knew that Jesus was real.”

As Naly continues to excel in her position here at Daughters, she prays that the Lord will continue to bless the center. She emphasized the importance of having the center, “This NGO is so good, because it gives sex workers a way out of prostitution. It saved my life and I would like to thank all of our donors.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Bitter Sweet Moment

This morning I have woken with a bitter sweet taste in my mouth. I had to journey these thoughts to process my own feelings and what is going on within my spirit. This journey to Slay the Giant and end child sex slavery takes me through various paths with many unexpected twists and turns and yet I know that it is He who is charting the course and equipping me and teaching me as I go along with Him.

In many ways, I feel so privileged that God would share His heart with me and I look back at the beginning of this year at the Solemn Assembly at our church when our congregation was repenting about not taking the Great Commission seriously. One of the challenges that we were asked to pray about was investing in the next generation. I found myself drawn to this particular prayer request as God has opened my eyes to see the next generation as my spiritual children. So often my focus has been and continues to be on the spiritual daughters in Cambodia that He has burdened my heart to pray for and to give my life to investing in their restoration and redemption. But God has a funny way of teaching us things close to home. After all, how can we expect to serve Him overseas, if we are not doing the same at home.

Earlier in March, I spoke at a conference here in Toronto and I invited the teenage son of friends of mind to help me. He is gifted in computers and so he was a great help to me in working the powerpoint when I was speaking. In some ways, this young man has become another one of my spiritual sons and so last night it was such a privilege that I could return the favor and help him. God is nurturing his heart to speak up for these who have no voice and last night he was doing a presentation at a youth group. I had given him copies of what I had done and also felt led to go help him run the powerpoint, pray for him, as well as the rest of the youth. I knew he would be showing a movie called Fields of Mudan. This is a movie I often use as part of my presentations because it so accurately displays the terror and trauma that is inflicted on children who are forced in to prostitution and sex slavery. While it is never easy to watch this movie, I know that if people are to really get a glimpse of the pain inflicted by this giant, that we all need to enter into the suffering of these girls. To not do so would be to avoid allowing our hearts to be broken with the things that break God’s heart.

Having said that, a wise friend last fall said to me that when we show the Fields of Mudan movie we need to be mindful of those who themselves have experienced sexual abuse. She reminded me that while this movie is indeed a powerful portrayal of the pain and suffering of child sex slaves, it has the potential of opening up wounds of those in the audience who themselves have been abused and so the importance of offering prayer ministry as part of the presentation is vital And so at each event, I and my armor bearers will pray for God’s protection over hearts and minds of people. I knew it would be just a matter of time when I would have to face this particular issue first hand. Last night, turned out to be such a night. One young teenage girl was visibly and notably broken, shaking uncontrollably and crying out in pain. Her tears were not from physical pain but it came from somewhere deep within her soul; the inner turmoil exposed and visible in all its rawness. At that moment, I just held her in my hands and told her to ‘let it out, let the tears out, let the pain out.’ I am thankful that one of my armor bearers was with me at that time. She reminded her that we were in a safe place. We asked her how we could help her and in the midst of her tears she sobbed ‘stop their pain, stop what is happening to the little girls’-----I believe she was also talking about her own pain. We prayed for her calling out to Jesus knowing that He hears the cries of her hearts, He knows her pain, He knows her suffering, He is close to those who are crushed in spirit, He knows! Jesus, Man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, who bore our sin and who endured the cross, He knows what it is like to be abused. How I am thankful that we have a Savior in Him who can lift us out of our miry pits and bestow on us a crown of beauty for ashes.

As we continued ministering to this young girl, her mother called on the cell phone and I could hear her voice, filled with anger and rage as she yelled at her daughter to get her (expletive) self outside to the front of the building. Her daughter sobbing on the phone begging her mother to come in and get her because she couldn’t move. She was in some sense paralyzed by the pain deep within her. But her mother did not hear the cries of her daughter’s heart. She had her own agenda and totally disregarded her daughter’s appeal to come. We asked our youth pastor to go and talk to the girl’s mother and explain all that happened in the evening. He did but there was no listening on the mother’s end. She said her daughter was being over dramatic. This image has stayed with me as I drove home last night. How could a mother be so deaf to the cries of her child? I can’t judge but I know what I saw. I saw a young girl in need and desperately asking for help but her mother for whatever reason could not hear the cries of her daughter’s heart. I asked the Lord about this as I was going to bed and I believe He gave me an image of what had happened to this teenager. She may have been a child when she was abused, she may have told her mother about it but her mother dismissed it. The very people who she reached out to ask for help, the ones who love her, dismissed her emotions, her feelings. Her voice silenced until last night, when the memories of her youth were surfaced. It is hard to watch someone be gripped by such pain. I wish I could take it away from her but that is Jesus’s role. I know that God has called us to stand with these. To hold their hand, to let them know that we are a ‘safe person’, to offer His healing words to them, to encourage and build them back up in His love. I am grateful for this special privilege that He has entrusted to us who are in this battle.

This morning, my spirit remains heavy as I continued to pray for this teenager. I know that what God has revealed to her, is part of His journey to bring true and deep healing to her wounds. To set her free, to restore her and repay the years the locusts have eaten from her so that she will never again be shamed. Scripture reminds me that what the Lord has started, He will complete. He doesn’t just open up wounds but He will bind them and heal them with His tender balm. I am praying this for this precious girl. It is not surprising that He would continue to speak to me about all that transpired last night through my quiet time with Him this morning. Psalm 139:1-12 was my meditation and He reminded me that ‘He knows everything about us’---- I am grateful that He knows everything about this teenager. He knows where she had been, what has happened to her. He knows exactly where she needs to be healed. He is familiar with all her ways. He reminded me this morning that He will go before her and follow her and He will place His hand of blessing on her head. I pray indeed that she will experience such deep and permanent freedom and healing from Him in the days and weeks to come.

As I think of her, a song comes to my head that I heard last night. It seems so appropriate. It’s called: He Knows My Name by Tommy Walker. It is my prayer that each child, each person who has ever experienced and endured such violation would encounter this truth in the deepest areas of their soul:

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands


He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and He hears me when I call

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and He hears me when I call

God is taking me deeper into His heart and the heart of these who are broken at their deepest levels. It is a bitter sweet moment but I am thankful to share in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10) as I share in the sufferings of these whom He brings my way. It is uncanny how this verse that He gave me in 2000 for my first trip to Cambodia has taken on such a huge importance in my life as He leads me forward to slay this giant of child sex slavery.