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.