Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More Than Enough-Fiesta Update




Out of any event I have ever done, out of any outreach and out of any of the dangerous places I have been, this past weekend was the first time I have never felt any kind of fear.

I had an amazing team with me this week. A huge THANK YOU goes out to my staff; Laura, Anita and Viviana! You girls rock and are simply amazing. It is a beautiful privilege to serve with you. Secondly, two awesome girls from our home church, Brittany and Erin! Thank you girls, I was blessed by how you jumped in and did not let the language barrier discourage you. Thirdly, Michele (who drove) and Elizabeth (who filmed) joined us on our journey up to the border. You ladies were such a huge help and sincere source of encouragement. It was a privilege to know you and work with you this past weekend, I look forward to more adventures. Lastly, a thank you to Helen and Xiomara from New Image in Managua, Nicaragua. These girls joined us for the whole weekend and completed the LightForce team. I am so grateful!

The fiesta was amazing and I am so thrilled at how easy God made the whole thing feel. Saturday, I felt an incredible amount of peace. We committed the day to God and so whatever happened our hearts trusted. Between the women, children, our team and a local pastor with his youth group there were SO MANY PEOPLE at our event. However we somehow had food left over! I was amazed. The games were a hit, of course the pinata and the dramas performed by the youth group were some of the best I have ever seen. Everything that encompassed the night was above and beyond my expectations. One women told us that she never had a childhood and so that was the most fun she had ever had in her whole life. You see it is our belief and heart that you go out for the one. It is not about numbers that mark a success rate. It is easy to feel that pressure but yet I refuse to feel that expectation. Jesus said He leaves the 99 for the one and so that is the example set before us. Although, we do get a lot of women and young girls at our events sometimes, it never matters. One heart that changes is always enough. In a year and a half of this ministry I have never encountered the amount of favor as we did this weekend. God is the God of above and beyond. Every single facet held so much favor, joy and peace and yet we were in some of the most dangerous areas. Only God can make the scariest, darkest place be a place of fun and light. I know these principles about His kingdom and yet I am always so amazed when He does it.

Tomorrow Brittany, Laura and I will head out on the bus, once again, to Nicaragua. Thursday is our fiesta for the children near the brothel areas and whose mothers are drug addicts and often they are left all alone at home all day. Many of these children do not go to school. These are the little ones who are at great risk for tragic situations if they are not already in one. So we will have games, candy and a pinata! The most exciting thing about this day is that the event will be held in our new house we are now proud to have close to a rural area. A person pledged to pay the rent for our house, the lawyer waived the fees when we signed for the house and women from the border are already calling to sign up for classes. God is amazing!

Friday we will host our final fiesta in Managua. This is our biggest one for children, so far we have 225 of some of the poorest kids signed up and I have to admit anything with kids is my favorite! Whew, it will be wild for sure! LightForce is hosting the events and paying for the food but a wonderful family in the States personally paid for all the toys and gifts! These are some children that are at risk for prostitution, so please pray that God will give us wisdom and that they will know that God loves them.

We are all a little weary so pray God strengthens us for the final events!

There are still so many stories and situations that for security purposes I am unable to blog about. However, please continue to pray for us here in Central America. God has been opening up such amazing opportunities. The danger has increased some but also favor and protection has as well. People like you who read this and pray, make it all possible. I saw the evidence of your prayers for us this past week. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Check back soon for more updates from this week's events!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

God of the nations, God of the peoples and God of the Fiesta

One of my prayers everyday for the last eights months has been that Jesus would be Lord of my day, Lord of my moments and Lord of my choices. One thing I have learned in the last year and a half was to depend on God for absolutely everything. Everything is His and everything He holds in his hands. His is God. I wish I had learned this prinicple before I was sent to work in such dark areas. However God has used this ministry and situations we encounter to teach me utter and total dependance on Him.

Thursday night a team of us went out into the red light districts of San Jose passing out coffee and cookies. The night was unusually chilly for Costa Rica and so the hot coffee was a welcomed treat by many of the women out working. We were such dangerous places and yet somehow I felt at home talking with the women, hugging them, praying for them and just being with them. Strange how I could be comfortable I know but yet it's true.

Friday morning six of us loaded up in Michele's van and headed out onto the open road to the border. The weather everyday for the last two weeks has been unusually cool and rainy but not this day. We had and have had amazing clear skies and warm weather. It has been beautiful. We arrived in time to freshen up, check into a hotel and then head back out to the border. We all met up with Anita who brought a small team to help. We stood inside the area where the fiesta was to be held and prayed. I can't tell you the depth my heart was blessed by the sound of 9 women praying and worshiping in the dark. Darkness all around us spiritually and physically and yet we were full of joy and anticipation. We then divided into two teams and passed out invitations all around the border.
We were given incredible amount of favor with all the police and government officials. Several of the women and children remembered us from last year and were looking forward to the Fiesta. God is so good. We came back to our hotel that night tired, dusty, sweating and so elated and what God had done with just 9 women inside a border.

Today is the big day and one I have been looking forward to all year. Today is our annual Fiesta! We have been wrapping gifts and preparing for this event all afternoon. So much work goes into this fiesta and I could not have done it without the amazing team of people God has placed around me for the event. Thank you to all of you who continue to lift us up in prayer.

Please pray, pray, pray for tonight's event. It is dangerous and we ask for protection and continued favor. We know our light will shine as it already has thus far.

God Bless,
Anna

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Adventures of LightForce's Angels

"Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee."
Saint Augustine
When I do not center my heart on Jesus, often the wickedness that takes place all around me can be so loud that I can feel as if I am drowning by the noise. The noise lashes out at me testing my faith and yet my heart still clings to the fact that God alone can rescue, God alone can save and God is good. I have come to learn that my heart is not quiet until it rests on the knowledge of God. There is a difference between a silent heart and a quiet heart. Knowing that difference has kept me steadfast in fighting even when I have not seen results. 

I was only living in Costa Rica for a few months when I discovered that God wanted to share with me the stories of thousands of sexually exploited women and children. These children are hidden by older prostitutes and work primarily at night.  We began inviting the women and children to our rescue fiestas, and – against tradition – they come.

As I sit here writing, tears come to my eyes on the thought of how a year ago I set out to work in an area no one wanted. I was scared and nervous and had no clue what I was doing, in many ways I still don't know what I am doing! Only by God's amazing grace could I continue. I often wondered when I began this ministry over a year ago if I would truly stick it out. However, my fear of God and my desire to honor Him as Lord of my life was greater than my fear of failure. I am so grateful for a God who not only fights for these women and children but that He fights for me too.

This coming weekend marks one year of LightForce International's outreaches to women and children who are sexually exploited. I am going to do my best to keep a little log on here of our weekend. 

Tonight we will go out into the streets and red light districts to give coffee and cookies to women who work in prostitution. These outreaches are designed to be a source of light in a very dark and oppressive industry. We take opportunities to talk to the women, sharing the gospel and offering a chance for hope and change.
On Saturday December 4, we will hold our annual Christmas Fiesta. The outreach is held four hours away from the city. So on Friday our little team out of San Jose will load up into a van and head out on the highway! Road trip! 

Friday night we will head out into the area our fiesta is to be held and pass out fliers inviting women, young girls and children to come. This is often an intense and instrumental part of our outreaches so we ask for all of those reading to please be in prayer for us.
To help our staff at LightForce pull off this event, is an amazing host of volunteers! Yesterday, we picked up Erin and Brittany from the airport. These girls are some of our church family and they came all the way to down to help and serve. Accompanying us on our four hour road trip will be our friends who are missionaries here in Costa Rica, Michele and Elizabeth.
Saturday is the big event and our biggest outreach of the year. We ask for prayers!!! Lots of them!!!
Here is how you can partner with us in prayer:
Pray for our safety spiritually and physically.
Pray that women would come.
Pray that on Saturday night December 4th, 2010 that the night would shine like the day just as Pslams 139 proclaims. 
Please help us out by re-posting our prayer requests and updates. Help LightForce get the word out and get as many saints around to be praying on behalf of these women who God loves and desires to rescue. Together we can make a difference and it starts by prayer.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Graduation Day

A few days ago we studied the story of David and Goliath in Spanish Class. At the end of class we had a discussion and our teacher asked us, "What is the 'Goliath' in your life right now?" I sat there pondering on how to answer, especially in Spanish! Picture upon picture began to flash in my eyes of different girls we have ministered to or are currently ministering to in LightForce. The heartbreak and the anger I felt in that moment was overwhelming. I looked at my teacher and replied, "My Goliath is the beast of sexual immorality."
 This "Goliath" is a beast so hideous with characteristics so evil. His demand for sex is so outrageous it causes a girl to loose her virginity at 5 years old so that the supply can always meet the demand.
Or a girl I work with who was raped by 6 different men by the time she was ten coming to a total of 10 men by the time she was 16 therefore causing her to decide she was worthless and began to sell her body for money living hungry, dirty and broken as a prostitute.

I know God is bigger than any Goliath but there are days, even weeks when I struggle to stand upon that truth.

Yet days like today, my heart is overflowing and thankful to serve a mighty, mighty God. Today was graduation day for the men and women in Rivas. Sadly not all the participants of the project could attend the party.


I cried with Meybi when she received her certificate. You see we met Meybi on the side of the road one day. We gave her rice and beans, prayed for her and asked her to come to our Jewelry Project Seminar. Surprisingly she came, quiet and holding a look of uncertainty in her eyes. However two months after attending the workshops and hearing about Jesus, Meybi made a whole hearted decision to follow Jesus Christ. Instantly, she left a long life of prostitution. Today, Meybi attends church with her daughter is making her living as a seamstress. Next weekend we will attend Meybi's Wedding! Even now as I type, my eyes fill with tears and I am so humbled to have witnessed this change.


When Walter received his certificate, he could not stop smiling. Then he suprised us all by giving a little speech and challenging everyone in the room to remember that I said God had bigger plans for all of them. Walter said he now knows and believes God wants more for him. He thanked us and God before a whole room of people. Annita and I were shocked and blessed. Walter hardly ever talks!

I wish I could type every detail but sadly I am out of time. Thank you to all the many supporters and intercessors for LightForce International, you help us continue to shine light into darkness!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Broken Has A Face

Broken-
reduced to fragments; fragmented.ruptured; torn; fractured.infringed or violated  
 
 Laura and I arrived to the USA September 1st and throughout most of that month traveled and spoke in several US States and Cities. It was on one of my many road trips that I heard a song that really struck me. It had been one of those weeks while traveling that my faith felt challenged. Every now and then, there are times I get discouraged and tired and wonder if I am fighting in vain. Of course I know we are not but there are times even I need reminding we are not fighting a losing battle. The song came on right in the middle of a mental battle of discouraging thoughts. Here are a few of the lyrics:
"Something here is wrong
There are children without homes
But we just move along to take care of our own
There's so much suffering just outside our door
A cry so deafening
We just can't ignore

To all the people who are fighting for the broken
All the people who keep holding on to love
All the people who are reaching for the lonely
Keep changing the world
"

Broken is an interesting word. What do you think of when you read or hear that word? When I was a little girl when I thought of the word broken, I thought of toys. When my toys or accessories were broken, I took them to my father and usually he was able to fix or mend them. When I was a teenager, broken was a bone in my body or my car. I would call my father and he would come to my rescue. When I entered into the medical field and worked for General/Vascular Surgeons, broken was usually a Gallbladder, Appendix or Vein. This time, I did not call my father because I was the one to learn how to help fix what was broken. Finally when I left and moved to Central America, the word broken took on a whole new meaning. Broken no longer was a toy or accessory; a bone or a car; a gallbladder or appendix. Broken had a face. Broken was men and women, boys and girls all hungry and hurting for more than just food. I called my heavenly father to help me with the broken in Central America. Then one day, I learned of broken little girls and forgotten older women. Broken now meant women and children living and working in prostitution.  Once again, I called my heavenly father to help and He reminded me that His son Jesus died on the cross so that whatever was broken could be fixed
Now and always, Broken has a face to me. Broken has a name and a dream. Broken cries on my shoulder. Broken smiles at me when the making of an earring has been accomplished. Broken has become my family.

I have loved living among the broken and hungry. I have been humbled and privileged to partner with Jesus to fill hungry bellies, mend wounded knees and love on hurting hearts. 

To any of you that think you could not change a hurting, ugly world. I have good news, because of Jesus and now through Jesus we can! 



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Lesson in Beauty



Laura and I arrived, met up with Annita and the three of us hit the ground running! Many of the women we are outreaching to had some basic needs that needed attending. After a quick lunch and a few much needed cups of coffee we grabbed a bicycle taxi and headed to a brothel area. We were quite a sight as we were crammed into this taxi driving down a road that people go to for one reason! Yet, we were smiling and waving to many of the women standing outside. Our taxi driver/cycler(I am not sure even what these things are called??!) graciously and valiantly agreed to be our body guard. We were on a mad hunt for Carmen who had an open, gaping wound that needed my attention! We finally located Carmen at the local bar/brothel and she came outside and there on the side of the street (with quite an audience) we got her fixed and bandaged up! I never caught the full story but someone beat her up and sliced her knee with a broken, glass bottle. Unless we tood care of it and got her on anitbiotics there was no other option for her. Nice to have my nursing training come in handy on the streets of Nicaragua!





That night we were joined by Ashley and Delia! We grabbed some Salvadorian food and then all crashed! The next day we headed to a famous tourist area were there is a lot of prostitution and trafficking. We had planned to go undercover and talk to some of the women, we were all set until we found out that the danger was at a higher risk than we had anticipated. Don't get me wrong these types of scoutings are always dangerous but for reasons I am unable to explain, we had to make a call and cancel the outing! We found out that if a guy had been with us, we could have gone!! Okay guys...if you are reading this....WE NEED YOU! We did however get some of the main information we needed and we are set to go again next month and we have a guy this time!

Finally, the day for the jewelry workshop.
I am so blessed and so grateful for all the prayers and donations for this past event! We held the jewelry workshop in a new area and I was unsure how it would turn out. The day exceeded my expectations! Out of all the workshops we have ever conducted, this one by far was the best. The peace and joy that filled the atmosphere was so amazing.









All throughout the summer God has sent us so many amazing girls from the USA to help out at all the right times. We were privileged to have Ashley and Delia join us these past few days. The girls are students from Fuller Seminary and were finishing up their practicum here in Costa Rica. Here below is Ashley's words of the Mariposa event:

         "I’ve been in Nicaragua for the past couple of days, shadowing and helping a ministry called LightForce that works with girls and women who are either prostituting themselves or have been trafficked.  Today, we held a jewelry workshop for the women, and I wanted to share my thoughts from the experience.....

Her eyes surveyed the beads, deciding which color to string next onto her hoop earring.  Black bead, sparkly crystal bead, brown bead.  When she completed her earring, she held the sets in her hand and smiled contently.  These earrings were her creation- her unique creation.  I smiled as I witnessed her joy.
I bet God does the same thing when He creates each one of us.  He deliberates on every aspect of our personality, body part, and, especially, our spirit.  After creating us, I can imagine God sitting back and smiling contently at His creation.
He smiles contently at this woman making the earrings, who sells her body for money on the side streets of Nicaragua, just like He smiles contently at the missionaries who began this ministry.  They may be different nationalities, have different pasts, and be immersed in different circumstances, but they have the same Creator.
While the intent is for the earrings to help the women create a small business, which would enable them to stop prostituting their bodies, the main goal of the ministry is to help them understand the realization I just described:  they are a unique and beautiful creation, God’s creation.
After making several pairs of earrings, the women clutched their creations and headed back to the streets to make money.  My heart ached.  Regardless of their profession, they are still God’s creation in whom He delights.  Regardless of my profession, I am still God’s creation in whom He delights."

Ashley so sweetly described the events of the day in way many of us thought but could not explain. Watching these women discover their ability to create things of beauty is like Christmas morning for me every single time. I so love their looks of delight and wonder, almost child like. As Ashley said, it gives me a tiny glimpse of God's delight in us.

Thank you for helping LightForce sparks smiles and best of all, HOPE!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sponsor A Smile This Weekend and Help Us Shed Light In The Dark!!"




"You are my lamp, Lord. My God illuminates the darkness around me." Psalms 18

 I am gearing up for a long/late bus ride tonight again. I have always loved traveling but this past year has seriously challenged that love! This weekend we are heading to an area of Nicaragua to hold a jewelry workshop through our program, "The Mariposa Project". This will be the first time we have held a workshop in this particular area. I received word yesterday that already many women from a brothel area have signed up for the workshop. My cup runneth over, Jesus! Annita, our field director in Nicaragua could hardly contain her joy and desperation to help these women. She had just returned from meeting these women and sharing with them about the Mariposa Project. I was in a constant state of prayer as I waited to hear from her. These areas are dark and physically dangerous that Annita was visiting. The suspense and waiting was almost my undoing! So you can imagine my joy to receive a message on skype from her! Here is how our conversation went,

Annita: "Anna!!!!"
Me: "Hi!!!"
Annita: 7 more of them will go on Monday..they really are so excited
I saw their smiles.....
Me: "yay!!!"
Annita: ..."my heart was broken today with the prostitutes...they need a lot help dude"
Me: "well we are going to help them!!....tell me about it?"
Annita: "yes...for example one of them got a infection in her leg...and it look horrible"
Me: "okay we will try and get her help"
Annita: "okay and another girl was vomitting because she don't have any food today and her stomach was empty :( so I went and buy some bread for them."
Me: Okay, I will figure some things out when I get there and I will look at the one girl's wound.
My heart is breaking too....."
Annita:"but they are so excited about Monday!"

We made a few plans and said our goodbyes. I sat staring at the computer screen feeling such a mix of emotions. My heart breaking for these young girls and yet also so full of hope. Jesus is hope and I cannot wait for them to know him like I know him and I know His heart breaks more for these girls than mine does. He has an answer for them. I felt so humbled and such anticipation to get to these women, to hug them and love on them.

Psalms 9:18 says,"for the needy are not permanently ignored, the hopes of the oppressed are not forever dashed."

In this program we will teach the women a new trade, minister to and love on them; feed them and attend to their basic medical needs. Many are sick or malnourished  and simply in need of a hug!


I feel so blessed that so many people have been asking how they can help! Wow, how amazing the body of Christ can be. There are two ways people can help with the event this coming weekend:
1.) PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! We need safety and protection as we head into new and unknown territory. Divine provision and in general the message of love to be conveyed to all who come through the door.
2.) You can purchase a jewelry starter kit for just $8.00 and sponsor a smile! This kit contains enough for a woman to make herself a couple pairs of earrings, allow her to learn the "how to" in the workshop and receive a full meal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Beginnings

With a culture saturated in sex and distorted ideas of how women and men should look, act or love; young people everywhere have to fight for the purity that their maker has entrusted them with. But there is a change in the wind; God is raising up a generation willing to fight for what the enemy has taken away.

LightForce International Ministries is committed to the fight.  In addition to reaching out to exploited women and children, it is our heart to help young women restore the standard of purity in their hearts and lives. 

From July 19th-23rd,  LightForce had the privilege to partner with Village Ministries International and Young Life Nicaragua, where we held four one-day conferences in three different Nicaraguan cities. These conferences, themed Passion and Purity, were specifically designed to target young women ages 13-21 and restore the hope of innocence. Passion and Purity was sponsored through our program entitled, The Mariposa Project.

Our team consisting of myself, Laura P., Laura G., Breanne, Jacob and Ana A., Rusti and Octavia took turns sharing from a biblical perspective and answering questions on the issues of Love, Sex, Dating and Marriage.

Our seminar each day was broken into three main parts:

Love and Passion

Holiness and Purity

Redemption and Restoration


In the middle of the sessions and at the end of every day, we set aside time to answer question the women had written down. We gave them little sheets of paper to write their question anonymously and every single young girl took that option! Here are just a few examples of the questions we received:


I want to obey God. How can I do that?

How can I avoid someone lying to me in a relationship and know that they really love me?

I know that God can do something more in my life.  What is the way that I can go for His purpose? Because I really want an experience…something new and wonderful.

What do you look for in a guy?

Why are there guys in church that break your heart, but that say they know the love of God?

 Do men and women have the same feelings?

After I was raped I thought boys would not like me anymore. How come it did not happen? They do like me.

Nowadays the phrase love and passion means having sex.  In courtship men ask for the test of love (sex)…why do they think that?

How long do I have to wait to be healed from sexual abuse?

Is virginity spiritual, psychological, or physical?

After I have been raped by my partner what can I do to feel like a new virgin?


These are just some of more than a hundred questions in total we had received at the end of the week. I would estimate that 1 in 3 girls had either been raped or sexually abused. When we polled girls in the States, we received similar questions.


As Christians, we have a responsibility to deliver the truth and answer the questions and cries of this generation. It is a battle for purity, a tough one. Many of the questions we were faced with were good and difficult. They contained graphic topics on issues of sexuality in today's society.   



 In addition to speaking to the women on love, sex, dating, and marriage, we also engaged them through drama, crafts, and serving them a meal. In conducting these seminars and educating young women, it is our goal to use this as a preventative measure for those at high risk for sexual exploitation.

The response from young women all over exceeded my expectations. At each seminar my heart melted as I looked into their eyes and saw the longing for hope, love and redemption. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news and that is exactly what they needed to hear! The team from VMI was incredible, and I could not have asked for a better group to launch this project with.

The preparations for the seminar was a joint effort from our team, Mark, Rusti, Jacob Bottom and Laura Gassaway. I want to say a special thank you to them for their tireless efforts and contributions to the curriculum for Passion and Purity.

The week following the seminars our team had the wonderful opportunity to assist VMI with vacation bible school in a very poor area of Esteli, Nicaragua. This week was fun and yet very challenging as we worked to teach the children the gospel as well as proper behavior. In an area where manners are not a priority, our entire team was challenged in gaining their respect and attention. Daily there were obstacles and calamities and yet so much joy.

My favorite part of each day was worship time. We taught the children three songs including hand motions, and they caught on so quickly. This moment seemed to be the one time we managed to have all the children in one room where they were all attentive and engaged! Rusti did an incredible job of organizing the entire program and running the show!

I was encouraged and blessed for our ministry team to have the opportunity to work and serve with VMI this summer. The unity among the team and ministries was remarkable. Mark and Rusti Griffin are such amazing hosts with  real hearts to love and serve people everywhere.


Breanne wrote something on her blog I wish to quote,"This summer, we've gone from being blessed to play with children in the slums of Costa Rica and Nicaragua to being blessed to stay and rest on a beautiful island or beach. We've had days of sitting in an apartment giggling and studying the Bible together. We've also had days of sitting down and hashing out misunderstandings between us. We've been healthy and gone running at a nearby park, and we've been at the clinic or hospital with parasites and intestinal infections."


It is not easy for any of us to sum up the last two months in Central America. In the ups and downs on the mission field you learn "to count it all joy" as Paul stated in the bible.


Thank you to so many of you who made these last several projects possible for us! By your prayers and support you are a part of these seminars and change.


One last news piece! We have a new addition to the team at Lightforce, Ana A.

She serves as field director in Nicaragua for Lightforce as well as an incredible translator, prayer partner and co ordinator!


more to come soon!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Where Do I Start!!






It is difficult for me to know where to begin in explaining the events of this summer so far here with Lightforce International. Words fail me to truly articulate my heart at this moment. I feel honored and humbled to have been apart of God's work here in Central America these last few months and even more honored to have served alongside so many amazing people.

Many of you who follow my blog know that Susannah has been my partner in "fighting crime" from the beginning and this summer she has since returned to the United States. I could never have done any of the starting of our organization without her and I will miss her greatly. Susannah was also an incredible friend and a great adventurer. Memories of tears, laughter, heat, bugs, long bus rides, times of desperate prayer, intense obstacles, flat tires, flashing fuel lights and brainstorming over chickys and peanut butter were the days of small beginnings in Lightforce International and Susannah's part. Love you Sus!


















I am thrilled to share that I now have a new partner, Laura Perry, here with me. Laura prayerfully made the decision to join Lightforce International and move to Costa Rica. She will be the director of communications for Lightforce as well as my constant traveling companion. Laura has done so much in helping as emails from all over the world pour in and important decisions have to be made speedily. We have been sick together, cried together, laughed together and learned together. Ministry among the exploited, abused and prostituted can be extremely difficult and heavy at times. Yet, God's faithfulness shines through and we stand in awe as He works.

 




















We also have our counterpart for Costa Rica, Vivianna. I am so blessed and excited as God's forms our tiny team of fighters.
























We started June off with a press release, launched our new Tshirt design, hosted our very own booth at a music festival, made it through a series of radio interviews, painted a mural for Rahab Foundation, established an internship program and wrote the curriculum for the Passion and Purity seminars. So many of my friends and church family lost sleep and consumed lots of coffee to help me pull off the above list. Thank you to all of you who volunteered at Lightforce's booth and bought a Tshirt! A special shout out goes to Susan Trout of Hands On Originals, she worked hard with me to pull off the new Tshirts. Not only is she an incredible sales rep but also an incredible friend.




We held VBS in a rural area of Costa Rica in Pastor Jose's church. To help with this project, my friends 'Opposite Youth' came to help. This was a wonderful and tough experience for all of us. The children were blessed and many tears were spilled at the end of that amazing week. The children of this area still call me from Pastor Jose's phone asking in such sweet little voices when I am coming to see them again. AH, melt my heart!
The following week my amazing group of interns worked hard to paint a mural for my good friend and adopted Mom here, Mariliana. Mariliana is the founder and director of Rahab Foundation.  These girls were amazing servants and never complained. Just when we settled into a wonderful routine, it was time for me to put half of them back on the plane!

At the end of June I headed up to Nicaragua with Breanne and Laura to join up with my friends from Village Ministry International to conduct a series of Passion and Purity seminars and VBS. (the rest to be continued in next blog!)

In the mean time, check out one of our interns and our photographer for this summer Breanne's Blog.
http://faithleaps-hoperises.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html





Thursday, July 1, 2010

Upcoming Event with Lightforce!

Passion and Purity: Are You Willing to Fight?

With a culture saturated in sex and distorted ideas of how women and men should look or act, young people everywhere have to fight for the purity that their maker has entrusted them with. But there is a change in the wind; God is raising up a generation willing to fight for what the enemy has taken away.

LightForce International Ministries is committed to the fight. In addition to reaching out to exploited women and children, it is our heart to help women restore the standard of purity in their hearts and lives. From July 19th-23rd, LightForce has the privilege to partner with Village Ministries International and Young Life Nicaragua and hold five one-day conferences in five different Nicaraguan cities. These conferences, themed Passion and Purity, are specifically designed to target young women ages 13-21 and restore the hope of innocence.

In addition to speaking to the women on love, sex, dating, and marriage, we are also engaging them through drama, crafts, and serving them a meal. This creates a unique opportunity for our partners to fight with us.

We ask that you please pray for open hearts and minds in order that the Gospel of Jesus and the message of purity would be solidified in this generation of young women. We can do nothing except through Him who gives us strength, and we covet your prayers intensely.

This is also a chance to partner with us financially as well. As we are expecting 50-100 women at each conference, which is 250-500 for the whole week, we need the help of our partners now more than ever. Right now LightForce needs $700 for food alone for the week. If 25 people gave $28 each, we could feed and bless these young people!

We ask that you give whatever the Lord lays on your heart. You can go to www.lightforceintl.com and click ‘Donate.’ Or send checks written to ‘Cornerstone Church of Lexington’ with ‘LightForce International’ in the memo to the following address:

LightForce International

C/O Cornerstone Church of Lexington

P.O. Box 21821

Lexington, KY 40522

Thank you so much for your prayers and support thus far! It is only when we partner with the Body of Christ as a whole that we can reach a generation looking for hope!

In Him,

LightForce International Ministries

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Press Release

God is doing some amazing things in and with LightForce International Ministries this year. Our very first press release was launched just this past week and I wanted to share it with everyone! I promise to update everyone soon with a more detailed account. Hugs and Blessings!

LIGHTFORCE INTERNATIONAL SHOWS POWER OF ONE IN FIGHT AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Kentucky Woman a Force to be Reckoned With in Battle against Costa Rican, Nicaraguan Sex Trade;

Mariposa Micro-Finance Project Helps Women, Children Learn Jewelry Trade for Alternative Income


LEXINGTON, Kentucky and SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (June 8, 2010) – One woman from Lexington, Kentucky is on a mission to help sexually exploited women and children in Costa Rica and Nicaragua experience a new way of life. Love, support and teaching a new trade – jewelry-making – are the tools this missionary uses as she brings hope and aid to hungry, abandoned and exploited children in the two Central American countries that the U.S. State Department calls “source and transit” points for forced prostitution.

Anna Carroll, founder of LightForce International Ministries, works in cooperation with Costa Rican and Nicaraguan church leaders who guide and support her efforts, especially in the border areas. LightForce International’s anchor program is called “The Mariposa Project,” an outreach that supplies food, basic medicines, and workshops for learning jewelry-making. Mariposa means butterfly in Spanish. Carroll, the daughter of Pastor Kim Carroll of the Cornerstone Church of Lexington, which sponsors the mission. has dedicated this project to the transformation and redemption of exploited women and children involved in prostitution.

“We want every victim to have the opportunity to experience the love, beauty, freedom and hope found in relationship with Jesus. It is through The Mariposa Project that we have begun to reach the women and children in Central America by holding fiestas and trade workshops. Out of these outreach events we are slowly gaining their confidence and trust,” said Carroll. “This project is dedicated to my grandmother, Betty Bell, whose initials "BB" make the wings of the butterfly. She was the first supporter of the jewelry project.”

“The transformation from brokenness to wholeness is a metamorphosis that begins by loving people where they are and as they are,” explains Carroll. “The jewelry workshops allow women to see there is another way to support themselves. We ask the ladies to make three pairs of earrings, one of which we resale to support the ministry.”

This summer, LightForce International will partner with Village Ministries International to host a series of seminars on abstinence, health risks and purity in the northern mountains of Nicaragua, a region where young girls are at high risk for prostitution and trafficking. Carroll is currently visiting Kentucky as she prepares for the upcoming Ichthus Music Festival, June 16-19, where LightForce will have a booth to distribute information and sell tee-shirts and jewelry in order to raise funds to support this summer’s outreach programs. For supporters unable to attend the Ichthus festival (www.ichthusfestival.org), donations can be made through the ministry website at www.lightforceintl.com.

While other cultural or religious leaders may be debating social justice, Carroll’s mission demonstrates a growing awareness and commitment among American evangelicals to fighting modern slavery. "Human Trafficking" has been selected as the Evangelical Press Association's "Cause of the Year" for 2010. EPA will present a special "Higher Goals" award next year for the best article on this general theme published during the 2010 calendar year. This special award is designed to encourage EPA publications to write about this pressing human rights issue.

"The ongoing tragedy of human trafficking is an offense to God, who values humans so highly that He sent His own Son to die for them," said Doug Trouten, EPA executive director, in an announcement about the 2010 Cause of the Year. "Those who treat people as commodities to be bought and sold are sinning against their brothers and sisters, and against God who created people in His image."

Human trafficking involves luring, tricking, coercing or forcing people to work in exploitative conditions for little or no pay. Although human trafficking often involves the forced shipping of people from one location to another, it sometimes happens within a nation. Some claim that human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, with annual revenues exceeding $40 billion. The United Nations estimates that nearly 2.5 million people from more than 100 nations are victims of human trafficking.

"Human trafficking is a large enough topic to include slavery, indentured servitude, debt bondage, forced marriage, prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, the sale of infants for adoption, organized begging, and forced military conscription including child soldiers," said Trouten. "The issue also connects with questions of how we treat refugees and runaways." After drug-smuggling and gun-running, human trafficking is estimated to be the world’s most profitable criminal activity.

More of Anna’s Story, in Her Words:

While pursuing a medical career in Lexington, Ky., and working with several ministries through my local church, I felt a tug. It was time to go.

I’d gone on several short-term mission trips, but thought that someday, God would call me to mission work full time. When he called me to work with children in Costa Rica, I closed down my American life, and said, “God, take me where you will. I want to be your hands and feet. Write my story, your version, your way.”

Once I arrived in Costa Rica, I realized that it wasn’t my story that would be the focus. He wanted to share with me the stories of thousands of hungry, abandoned and exploited children. One image stands out in particular. In Costa Rica, I saw a bright pink backpack bobbing up and down on the back of one of the cutest little girls I have ever seen. The 10-year-old bounded up to me, wrapped her arms around me and introduced herself. She had just returned from school. As she ran off to play, a woman told me her story. As is often the case with child prostitutes, her impoverished family sold her at a very young age to a hotel to be used as a prostitute. They sold her for $7. She was later rescued and placed in a Christian shelter, where she now lives. Perhaps, like me, this story brings tears to your eyes and has you call out to our Father, who alone can rescue and heal these children.

Right now, I’m working with churches in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. One Costa Rican congregation in particular has a huge burden (but few resources) to reach sexually exploited youth in the area. These children are hidden by older prostitutes and work primarily at night. They are smuggled between the two countries by truck drivers. The congregation had been praying for God to send a missionary who could look past the darkness and bear God’s light. I’m honored to be an answer to that prayer. Praise the Lord, I get to see the look of hope in eyes that once looked hopeless. We invite women and children from both countries to our rescue fiestas, and – against tradition – they are coming. High officials are taking notice and offering their help. No door remains closed to us, because the way is paved by the prayers of his people.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua are just the beginning. Christ longs to crush human trafficking, and I pray He uses LightForce to stamp it out from every nation. We desire to equip local churches with the necessary resources to combat this issue, all the while preaching the gospel, our message of hope.

God reigns, and He is good.

Additional Information
More than 3,000 girls and young women work in San José’s 300 brothels. Now rivaling Thailand and the Philippines as the world’s leading sex tourism destination, Costa Rica is credited with having the region’s largest child prostitution problem and has been flagged by INTERPOL, as the country is fast becoming the hemispheric capital of sex tourism.

LightForce’s Plan in Central America:
• To feed the women and children.
• To teach other trades as means for in­come.
• To raise awareness and to educate the world about the problem of exploitation & prostitution.
• To preach the Gospel – a message of hope.
• To love the women and children.
• To connect them with the local community of believers (local churches).

Nicaragua is principally a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and children are trafficked within the country and to neighboring countries, most often to El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States, for commercial sexual exploitation. The most prevalent form of internal trafficking is the exploitation of children, both boys and girls, in prostitution. NGOs identify Managua, Granada, Esteli, and San Juan del Sur as destinations for foreign child sex tourists. NGOs report instances of forced child marriages between young girls and older foreign men, particularly in San Juan del Sur. Children are trafficked within the country for forced labor in construction, agriculture, the fishing industry, and for domestic servitude. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009

Factors that Contribute to the Trafficking Infrastructure
Throughout the Central American region, “machismo” attitudes are prevalent, and women are often viewed as sexual objects. Interfamily violence, the breakdown of families, and poverty push young people to leave their homes and communities to search for better lives. The pull factor of the United States also causes many young people to migrate northward. To a lesser extent, pull factors entice young people toward more prosperous neighboring countries, for example, from Nicaragua south to Costa Rica. (Nicaragua has the second lowest per capita income in the western hemisphere.) At border crossings, children are especially vulnerable to the whims of corrupt immigration officials or traffickers who help them cross the border.—The Protection Project, Johns Hopkins University

For more information about LightForce International Ministries, visit lightforceintl.com and letgodwrite.blogspot.com. LightForce International Ministries can also be found on Facebook and YouTube. Anna Carroll tweets at @AnnaMCarroll.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This Little Light of Mine......

One of the first songs I learned to sing as a child was called, "This Little Light of Mine."  For those of you who may not be familiar with this particular song, it went something like this,
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine (x3)
Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine

There were many verses for this song as well as hand motions and I remember them all to this day.  Lately, there is one particular verse that has stuck out in my mind and well describes life for me in recent months.
Don't let Satan blow it out
I'm gonna let it shine (x3)
Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine
Many days, I feel as if my light is so little and insignificant; I fight though with a relentless determination to NOT LET SATAN BLOW MY LIGHT OUT! I have learned the importance of being decided. In the Bible Paul speaks of the fact that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. I have never felt I truly understood or personally witnessed this verse in my own life until now.  At times, the realms of darkness I have seen and fought against that surrounded the lives of women and little children  have made me want to run.  Yet, there is something greater and more powerful to sustain my heart; the knowledge that the voice that calms the seas, spoke the world into motion, who conquered death and can make the night shine like the day, lives in me.  There is nothing more powerful or greater than my God and because He lives in me, I have power over darkness. I get so excited and re fueled when I begin to think of these things!

Susannah and I spent four days in Nicaragua last week visiting various ministries that were similar to LightForce.  I asked as many questions as I could desiring to learn as much as possible.  Certain stories were hard to take and absolutely heartbreaking but for security purposes I have decided not to share them on this blog.  I also heard beautiful and powerful stories of redemption.  God is good.  We learned to navigate the sections of Nicaragua that were new to us pretty well and the favor that seem to ensue at times was amazing.  Towards the end of our trip we were blessed to stay with Mark and Rusti!  They are an amazing couple who are laying their lives down as missionaries to Nicaragua.  I had the wonderful privilege of staying up very late one night talking with them and hearing their wisdom and insight into situations I had encountered.  Praise God for His people around the world.  Their home, fellowship and hospitality was the perfect ending to an emotionally draining week.

This week, I have been beyond blessed to have Amber as my roommate and she will be here for two whole weeks.  Just in the few days I have come to know her, I have felt so encouraged by her heart and life.  Amber showed up with a heart ready to serve and love on me as well as gifts and an array of talent and wisdom to add.  At one point she gently told me I was going to have to let her love on me a little bit and learn how to receive.  Ha ha, she was right as I have proven to be a slow learner in this department ;)

Today, my Mom and Karen flew in from the States with more gifts, love and hugs.  I feel overwhelmed in a good way!  Tears cloud my vision as I try to type and I cannot even seem to really find the words to describe the depth of gratitude I feel to have these women here with me.  This past month has been the hardest month I have ever experienced since moving to Central America.  This past month has also been full of sweet surprises.  On one of my lowest days, I received a package in the mail from two of the most incredibly thoughtful people.  The package contained my favorite snacks and an assortment of things every girl loves to get and it made me feel normal and not so far from home.  I am so truly humbled.

Below, I have included several pictures taken by Alumbra Photography of the recent children's fiesta and just highlights in general of a trip to a border area.  May God bless all of you who read this blog and pray for us here in Central America.  Thank you so much for supporting LightForce International Ministries.  I pray for those of you Christians reading this that you would remain decided to let your "little light shine", what difference one "little light" can make in the world.

* NOTE  Click on the pictures to see in full.



Sunday, April 4, 2010

It Is Well With My Soul because I'd Rather Have Jesus

In 2 Samuel David makes a statement that he can't give to God that which cost him nothing. Although I had been walking with the Lord for sometime, it wasn't until the summer of 2006 that I truly surrendered my heart, dreams and ideas over to Him and made Him Lord of everything. I told Him, down any road at any cost, I would follow and I truly meant those words. Since that day, there have been seasons that have led me down a path ending at the foot of the cross. Upon arriving at this place, I have had to lay my preferences or desires there and walk away. Knowing that to truly know God and to live for Him, I had to lay it all down; surrender everything.  A friend once told me that God will take us to altar moments, just as He did Abraham with Isaac. In those altar moments, it will not be enough to simply build the altar; it will not be enough to simply lay that "thing" on that altar; but He will require us to raise the dagger and be willing to put to death that very "thing" which appears more important than Him. 

In  following Christ, it is supposed to cost you and me. We all should live with the mindset as David lived.  My altar moments have called for me to move to another country and lay the dream of house, marriage and family in the USA down.  I am asked often by strangers who are simply curious about my life and choices if I just did not want to get married or have children or live in the USA.  I often reply that I believe I will one day have a marriage, family and home, preferably on the mission field. However, at present this is what God has for me and is doing in me.  I have to trust in God, I cannot afford any other option. 

Maybe for those of you reading this, your altar moments have looked nothing like mine.  However, the point is not if yours are similar to mine but rather do you even have them. Does your life lived before Jesus allow for Him to call you to the foot of the cross and lay down that which is held more dear than Him? God cares more about your willingness to lay something down for His name sake than the actual something you laid down.
 
 On March 26th, 2010 my grandmother, (known to many of us as "Nanny") closed her eyes for the final time and passed away. I received the phone call from my father early that morning informing me of her peaceful death. I wanted so much to be there with her, to hug her one more time and say goodbye.  When the choice came to fly home, I turned it down.  God gave me the option but in my heart I knew I needed to stay.  As painful as the decision was and still is, I do not regret it for one second.  Upon hearing of her death it took me many days to gather my thoughts and challenge myself of the decision to live here and of the cost. 
 
Thank you to so many of you who sent emails, cards and messages containing your condolences and prayers.  I am one very blessed girl!  
 
There is much on the agenda this month for Light Force and I am excited!
 
On the week of the 19th, I will have three awesome women coming to help us conduct the next outreach beyond the border! Amber, from Georgia, will be here for several weeks with me.  Karen, from Kentucky and my home church, will be here a week.  I have known Karen my whole life and it is truly a precious privilege to have her come and to be able to serve alongside her here!  Last but not least, my Mama is coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  She will be here for a week and I am so so excited.  Here I am missing my family but choosing to stay and God rewards that by sending family to me.  The most beautiful part is that He doesn't have to but He chooses to and that concept makes me cry all over again.

I am leaving the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, which was the last song I sang with my grandmother.
 
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name. 

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nothing But Jesus' Love Can Make A Way

















"To believe in a child is to believe in the future. Through their
aspirations they will save the world. With their combined knowledge the
turbulent seas of hate & injustice will be changed. They will
supply humanity with music & beauty it has never known. They will
endure. To these ends I pledge my life's work."
-Henry James

I have sat here for the last few minutes watching the cursor flash in and out waiting for me to type something profound to articulate the events of the weekend. I was stalling, racking my brain for that perfect adjective to describe my thoughts and feelings. 
Friday, was the fiesta for children inside a community of Nicaragua. We were told there were around 70 children anxiously awaiting our arrival. I was so excited, I love children! I love spending time with them, singing with them and learning from them. We could not get across the border fast enough to get to these children for my satisfaction. When we arrived we discovered there was well over 70 children and the final count came to 200 children. While my Dad and Pastor Rudy filled the pinata, Catherine, Susannah and Matt helped entertain the children with games while I set up music for worship.
Worship turned out to be a hit with all of the kids. They learned the motions quickly and joined in whole heatedly. We were having a blast. It was hot and I was dripping with sweat from all the jumping and singing. However, the look of excitement on the faces of those kids kept me going and I soon forgot the heat, dirt and the malnutrition surrounding me. After worship it was pinata time! However, this was the hardest part of the day with so many children and one pinata. I will leave you to your imagination as to what that particular event was like! 
We wrapped up the fiesta with a lesson on how Jesus is our friend and then we passed out cookies and Koolaid. It was not until I was in my hotel room that I allowed what I saw to settle into my heart and think of all the hunger I saw. Hunger for love, attention and food. Have you ever seen a malnourished child? I am not talking about the advertisements you see on TV. I am talking about real life, in person? If you have then you know the absolute heart break I felt that night as I tried to sleep. Some of my little friends in that community, their hair is falling out, they have worms, distended bellies, dirty feet, deformities and do not go to school. For two hours they laughed, played, sang and hugged my neck as if there was not a problem in the world. When they say my name, my heart melts. They are not statistics, a project or a cause they are people with hopes and dreams and feelings. They are becoming part of my life and the reason I stay and fight.
Saturday, one of final fiestas inside the border went better than I could have ever asked! LightForce partnered with World Vision to host a talk on HIV awareness and to answer question the women may have on medical problems. Due to time restraints, we were unable to have the doctors there for the exams but next time we plan to host a medical event with doctors. World Vision has agreed to do this for me and I am so grateful as I do not have those resources yet. Between thirty and thirty-five women showed up for the event and it amazed the people from World Vision. The head representative told us that it was incredible the women come to us and have a re pore with Susannah and I. He told us that we must be doing something right to have a turnout such as that and if we ever needed anything not to hesitate in asking him! Many of the women are learning our names and slowly we are beginning to earn their trust, slowly. Many of them I had not seen since the last fiesta and it was fun to catch up. I sat with one who is considered the ring leader and the biggest trouble maker. The "big trouble maker" calls me friend and sat there teaching me Spanish words I had not learned. I love how God is not bound by language.
When it all ended, they asked us when they could see us again and made sure we knew how to get in touch with them. My heart was overflowing. True contact and connection, finally.
Susannah, Catherine and I ended the night in our hotel laughing and sharing Root Beer Floats. A long, successful and fun weekend was coming to a close.
The next morning we went to Pastor Alberto's Church where Dad preached. It was an awesome sermon about Jesus and our place in history. To say I was proud, would be an understatement. 
Dad and Matt left this morning and as always, I fought tears when I hugged my Dad's neck goodbye. Sometimes, the little girl in me doesn't want to stay. Instead she wants to climb in his suitcase, or beg him to take me with him. I don't though, instead I smile and we say see you soon and I watch him walk away. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I have been extremely blessed to have Catherine here with me in Costa Rica. She has braved the ups and downs of life here without so much as a flinch. Catherine has taken everything in stride with me as we laugh at changes in schedules, bad bus drivers, weird foods, bugs, heat, dangerous places, long services, language barriers and being far from home. She has had a first hand look at my life here on a daily basis and God has used that through her encouragement when things go wrong. No amount of words can truly describe the depth of gratitude I have felt for not being alone for a change. So, in honor of her perseverance, we played tourists over the weekend instead of missionaries!


We hiked around the base of the Arenal Volcano and went swimming at the bottom of a huge, beautiful waterfall in La Fortuna. However, we had not worn swimsuits or brought towels but that still did not stop us from jumping in clothes and all! Abdi was our amazing tour guide who wanted to practice his English. One of the questions he asked us was this: "Why in English do I say 'get off the bus' 'get on the bus' but when I am talking about a car I have to say, 'get out of the car', 'get in the car'? This does not makes sense to me, can you explain please?"
Oh man all I could do was laugh because he was right no one would ever say get off the car in that context! The more Catherine and I thought about how to answer, the harder we laughed. We had no clue what to say but, "well, umm, hmmm, you just don't say that Abdi." I am sure those of you reading might have a much better answer, I am curious to know it myself!

In the past few days, Catherine and I have been planning for the arrival of my Dad and Matt C and the trip to the border once again. This particular weekend is a big one for us and already obstacles have begun to swing in from all sides but that just makes it all the more exciting. I refuse to cave or give up just because something does not go according to plan. For every door that shuts, there are always three that remain open. God has a path carved out and daily I am seeking to stay on His path and not mine. 

To spend a few days being lighthearted has been a great anecdote for me heart. The last week has been tough not being home with my family. My grandmother has been sick with Pancreatic Cancer for the last 9 months and she is now coming to the end of this battle with Cancer. Hospice has been called in and my Mom tells me my grandmother is peaceful and not in pain. The majority of my family and her grandchildren live in Kentucky. There have been many family gatherings, story telling and laughter that I have missed out on. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am close to my family and to miss all of this is absolutely breaking my heart. The Bible says that God is near to the broken hearted and I have had such a great amount of peace and trust in my heart with everything. There is a small possibility I may get to go home to say goodbye to my grandmother but whether it works out or not, I am okay.

My Dad arrives tomorrow and I am thrilled to have that piece of home here with me. Please keep us in prayer this weekend as we journey again into a tough, dark area.

 "To choose 
what is difficult 
all one's days
as if it were easy
that is faith."

W.H. Auden

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When love comes to town......














A friend recently asked me to give a description of a typical, normal day or week in my life here. Upon reading that, I laughed softly to myself because there was no such a thing as a "typical" or "normal" day or week for me here in Central America.
Living in Costa Rica, working in Nicaragua, friendships with high ranking officials, Spanish tutor that does not speak English, helping fellow missionary friends open a coffee shop, earthquakes, coconuts straight off the tree, mango off the tree, and 90 degree weather in February. Surprisingly these things are all ironically now very normal and typical for me. Each day here is truly adventurous and each trip to the border or Nicaragua is always full of surprises and obstacles. Sometimes I feel like life for me is fascinatingly chaotic.
 This past weekend the trip to Nicaragua was above all I could have expected! Often I have no clue what will transpire or how successful a workshop will go but I always put my hope in God. Always, always, always, God comes through in powerful and unexpected ways for me.
 Last Friday we all went to bed as early as possible because we would be catching a 4am bus to Nicaragua. However, our sleep was interrupted by a 4.4 earthquake here in Costa Rica. Although it was certainly not quite on the level of Haiti or Chile it was still a hard one. During the shaking, I felt so helpless and my mind was racing as to what to do in that moment. However, I couldn't move from the shaking and that was the most helpless feeling. Needless to say, I never really fell back to sleep! Catherine, myself and Valeria loaded up on the bus and it turned out to be literally the worst bus ride I have ever encountered. It was the worst Valeria had ever experienced and she is Costa Rican! Our bus driver almost wrecked twice and in one of those moments we almost toppled off the side of a mountain.
I was never so glad to finally get off that bus and head for the immigration lines! We entered into Nicaragua and Pastor Rudy was there to greet us at the border. We headed to the Church to rest and catch up with Pastor Rudy. We sat in the shade and he shared his powerful testimony. He also shared with us that there is much persecution for him and his family in this small town from several practicing witches there. He said it was a stronghold in the community and many try to cast spells on his house. Rudy smiled and said he knew God was stronger and he had no fear or worry. Then he looked at me and reminded me how important it was for me to stay prayed up. However, there was such a sense of peace that settled on me as I listened to this man share his heart. I have a deep trust in God since living here and also an understanding that depending on God is not optional.
  Little by little, women and children began to trickle into the Church with looks of excitement and hope in their eyes. My heart melted and I thought to myself, "man I love my life!!!" I divided my time between the jewelry making with the women and worship with the children. Despite no sleep and extreme heat in Nicaragua, I was having an absolute blast! At the end I shared a portion of my testimony with the women and told them I was proof God can change anyone's life if they are willing. The vulnerable expressions that met my eyes were so heart wrenching that I was filled with even more compassion and determination to help them. It was the first time in months of going there that I felt a bond beginning to form. God is so amazing.
We wrapped up the long day at a special Church service on the beach. We stayed at a house in the campo which is the country. No running water, outhouses and bugs of ridiculous size! Every single minute was full of adventure and not to mention the fact that we all three had to share a bed, thank goodness it was a queen size ;)
The next day we had breakfast with Rudy and his family. We also had, my personal favorite, coconut milk!!!
He and I discussed the plans for the next event on March 19th at the church for all the children in the community which will be about 75-80 and I am so pumped. I also have a meeting with a lady who heard about the ministry and  is a director of an orphanage there in Nicaragua. For those that know me, this is my heart and to say I was excited to hear this news would be an understatement.
I love Nicaragua and it has begun to occupy a special place in my heart. I simply never tire of going there and seeing the people I have come to love.

Thank you so much to all of you that donated and helped to make this past weekend possible. When I logged on to see my account, I cried at the amount of donations. 
Isaiah 58:10 says, "and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." 

Thank you for being a light with me in such a dark place.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sponsor A Smile This Weekend!!!

" And this is where love comes in - when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy."
-Mother Teresa 

This weekend Catherine, myself and Valeria will head to Nicaragua to hold another jewelry workshop. We plan to love, feed, and hug all who attend as well as teach the jewelry technique. I am excited and prayerful of this weekend. I have no idea what to expect since this will be the first time I will have taught or really worked in this community inside Nicaragua. This event is bigger than the events in the past and therefore will quite possibly double if not triple the amount of women and children to feed and help. I was telling my sister, Rachel, that I was concerned about being able to afford to feed all the people who come this weekend. Her reply was not what I expected and yet much needed! Rachel replied, "Well good thing you are not the one responsible to feed them!" At first I was confused and then realized what she meant. My sister was refering to the fact that Jesus is the one who will feed them and not me. Of course me and the girls with me will be the vessels but ultimately the responsibility is on Him. All we must do is go, serve and obey. 
I am curious to see all God has up His sleeve because this coming event has had the most obstacles, set backs and I have had to fight worrying more this time around!! We also lost most of our help in running and setting up the event. However, Pastor Rudy, (who is the Nicaraguan pastor I work with) came to my rescue! How I could have jumped through the phone to hug him!! He opened the church and so we will outreach to the community. The church there is helping me with food, a place to stay and etc..!! Man, God is so good that many times I could cry. I have so much love for these people, they have become family to me and they take such good care of me. This helps greatly when I feel so far from family and church family.

I am blessed that so many have written me they are praying and many have asked how they can help! Wow, how amazing the body of Christ can be. There are two ways people can help with the event this coming weekend:
1.) PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! We need safety and protection as we head into new and unknown territory. Divine provision and in general the message of love to be conveyed to all who come through the door.
2.) You can purchase a jewelry starter kit for just $5.00 and sponsor a smile! This kit contains enough for a woman to make herself a pair of earrings and allow her to learn the "how to" in the workshop.