Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Cross changes everything.

 “Es una lucha dura.” (It’s a hard fight)

 A few of us went to visit a little fishing village upon the request of a friend. It seems this beautiful, quiet village tucked away off the beaten path has an extreme problem. Sexual abuse, rape and prostitution are rampant through the village, as is drug trafficking. A teacher/director, desperate for change, began to share her stories with me of heartbreaking situations she encounters with the children of the local school.

After she tells the final story, she becomes silent. We all do for a moment. It’s over 90 degrees outside.  The one little fan in her office is making great attempts to cool us off, but to no avail. I break the silence to look at the director and say, “You have a difficult job, and I am going to be praying for you each day.” I can tell she feels hopeless. I squeeze her hand to let her know she is not alone. Sweat drips down both our brows as she says, “Es una lucha dura.” Her words echo my thoughts of the last month, it is a hard fight. However, a hard fight that I refuse to quit fighting. We left the school with a plan to embark on a joint project with this school and LightForce.

Our drive home was met with silence as each one of us was lost in thought upon what we had just heard.

That evening I sat on the beach to spend some time with the Lord. I needed to look at something as powerful and magnificent as the ocean to be reminded of God’s ability to create and control. As I was praying, the Lord brought to mind the verses He had been laying on my heart every day prior:

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever....” Hebrews 6:17-20

I have been memorizing this passage and saying it to myself everyday. I do have this hope and it is an anchor for my soul.

“And we have this hope.....”

A brothel shut down last week in the Caribbean after a girl on our team had the opportunity to present the Gospel to the owner and pimp.

“And we have this hope.....”

Last week, we offered coffee and cookies to a prostitute on a routine stop but she said no and instead requested prayer.

“And we have this hope.....”

A man on our team prayed for a girl working on the streets and hugged her appropriately. She never had a man treat her with respect such as this. She cried hard. It was beautiful.

“And we have this hope.....”

I got to hug a little girl whose Mom has stopped prostituting her in the border. She smiled a healthy smile. Her eyes looked bright for a change. She’s 13 and finally continuing her education into 2nd grade.

The blood of Jesus rewrote history and now we have this hope.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Let Me Introduce You To........ Part II

It's long overdue, but here is the rest of the team that make up LightForce in Central America and the United States! There are so many amazing things to update everyone on but I will have to save that for another blog post :-)  Our staff will change out a bit this summer and God is adding guys to our team, which we are very excited about!

It is incredible to see all that God has done in our lives individually and as team to bring us to this point of all working in LightForce. There are so many other people that help to make LightForce possible in Costa Rica and The States that are not in the blog. Too many to count!

Not to mention our amazing partnership with Freedom Street and the work going on in San Jose.

Karlie Johnson (Costa Rica Chapter)
Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
-St. Francis of Assisi.
Karlie originally came to Costa Rica for a six week trip through Youth With A Mission in 2009. It was then that she not only learned about the issue of sexual exploitation but developed a love for the women and children trapped in prostitution. Upon her return to her home town of Virginia Beach, Virginia, God began stirring her heart to act against the injustice she encountered in Costa Rica. Karlie became a hairstylist so that she could teach these women a trade and help them leave the streets.
In the winter of 2011, she returned to Costa Rica to establish the program, Love N’ Scissors and to join the LightForce team full time.
Her heart goes out to all the men, women, and children that are being sexually exploited. Along with the vision for Love n' Scissors and the help of God, she prays she can restore hope and inspiration for a better life to all those she encounters.
Debbie Allen (Atlanta Chapter)
John 3:3 says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” and at the age of 37 that is exactly what Jesus did in my life.  There are no words to describe the restoration Jesus did in my heart and the changes it made in how I lived my life and where my focus turned.  
My name is Debbie Allen and I have worked for the last 6 years as the assistant to the Minister to Students at First Baptist Church in LaGrange, Ga.  I loved working with all the students and setting up the programs as I watched God work in their lives.  Last September, I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica to work with LightForce International.  It was a life-changing experience and I felt a tug on my heart to work with this group as they sought to serve and develop relationships with women and children who are in the sex trafficking and prostitution industries.  In December, I moved to Atlanta and am prayerfully looking for ways to serve my Lord and further His kingdom especially in these areas.  I am so excited about working with LightForce in Atlanta and to see what God has in store for us as we reach out to this city. 

Mallory Hicks (Atlanta Chapter)

I was born in a remote town in northern Canada and it has been a long and interesting journey that God has brought me along to bring me here to Atlanta. During high school and college I was very involved in Youth ministry. It was during this time that God began to give me a heart and passion for young women as well as purity and what it means to live it out in your life.
Missions has also been something that has always been on my heart. It was the reason I chose to pursue a degree in nursing thinking that it would be something I could use to reach out to people no matter where God took me. I have had the opportunity to go on several short term missions including to Costa Rica where I first had the chance to work with Lightforce. After returning from Costa Rica I felt like God was leading me to start the next chapter in my life. While praying and seeking what this would be God opened the door for me to work with Lightforce here in Atlanta.
“We love, because He first loved us” 1John 4:19. What an amazing thing to be loved by God and awesome privilege to be able to share that love with others.

Megan Hawkins- (Costa Rica Chapter)

I joined Lightforce in September of 2011 with the desire to share love to victims of sexual exploitation. I specifically had a desire to be with a group who was first and foremost sharing the love of Christ. Lightforce has allowed me the opportunity to be able to use my gifts to share with those involved in prostitution and I am so blessed to work with a group of girls seeking Christ’s healing love. 

Megan and Karlie are embarking on a new journey, through their program Love & Scissors and we are so excited for them! Go and check out their website. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Pain in Compassion

Here in our ministry at LightForce, we are constantly being stretched into unknown areas and often fighting the feelings and thoughts that life can be/seem so unfair. Words that dance around in my mind are often words such as, unfair, unjust....etc.  Sometimes I feel the stories and lives that I encounter on a daily basis can relate well to the previous adjectives. In my own life, there have been situations and circumstances that would fit well in the category of unfair and yet, there is God. He is faithful, sovereign, but where is He when these unfair, unjust tragedies strike? Our whole team constantly aches over the whys sometimes. A view of compassion I wanted to share with all of our readers, is a view from the perspective of pain in the midst of God’s compassion. We have come to love and appreciate this view but it has not come without tears and trials.
 I have a friend who is currently serving in Afghanistan, as a Marine and he wrote something, well over a year ago that struck me.  When he wrote the below post, he was still in training prior to deployment. Although he and I are serving and fighting in different parts of the world, we relate well to our mutual battles and struggles. He wrote about compassion in a way that I thought was worth posting and described a side that is rarely viewed and discussed. My friend wrote:

“We were.... learning about Enemy Prisoners of War, how to search them and keep them safe in combat situations and keep yourself safe while you’re doing it. At the end of the class one of the NCO’s, a sergeant  told us a story that I’ll probably never forget.
He told us about an incident that happened to him in Iraq a couple of years ago. They had just shown up in theater and were getting set to take over control of some outpost somewhere and were told to look out for a little girl about 10 years old or so who comes around with her little brother. She comes around every day and sells DVD’s for like ridiculous deals to all the Marines. And if you know anything about life on deployment, it gets boring. So, what do you do when you cant leave? You watch a load of DVD’s.

This girl came around every day and sold DVD’s to the marines...... and over the next couple of months the marines there figured out that the girl’s dad was killed in the invasion and her mom was working and sent her and her little brother out to sell DVD’s to basically get by, they were struggling. So of course they would send the girl outta there with wads of cash pretty well every day.
It didn’t take too, long before somebody watching figured out that this girl and her little brother passed in and out of the security gate pretty well, unimpeded every day. They found her family and took her mom hostage telling her that they would slit her throat if the girl didn’t do exactly what they told her to do. So, the next day the girl wandered up to the gate like she did every day except instead of DVD’s this time her backpack was filled with 5 pounds of high impact plastic explosives and all sorts of rocks and stones and metal fragments. A marine called her over and as he unzipped her backpack to see what all she had to offer for the day some coward with a trigger switch watching about 100 meters away pushed a button and instantly vaporized four marines, the little girl and her brother, and wounded two others. The sergeant who told us this story had a scar on his face from bone fragment that had blown over 150 meters away to his position and caught him in the face.

Why am I telling this story. Well, one, I want to remind anyone who reads this, just what kind of enemy we are fighting. But the larger picture is that it made me think about God in a different way. We were told that story in reference to what types of security breaches get people killed and to be reminded always that “complacency kills.” So  what are our procedures from then on? What is the compassionate thing to do in that situation? You keep people like that away from you and your men. You treat the little girl like a suspect, fully knowing she’s innocent, and you make sure that your men know to yell and scream and do whatever it takes to make sure people know to keep their distance. All the little girl will know is that she is struggling and that all those marines are really mean, and all the marines will know is that no matter how much explaining you do as a commander, they still feel heartless when they do it.

Now, I hate that we live in a world that puts people in these situations, and that in the not too terribly distant future I will be the leader having to make a tough call like that, when all I will really wanna do is try to hold it together when I meet people who have it hard like that, especially little kids. And all you really wanna do is adopt that little kid and help her out anyway you freakin’ can, because, that’s how most of us view compassion. That IS compassion isn’t it? is it not helping the helpless? Well yes, but in this instance compassion really doesn’t look or feel very well like compassionate at all.

How often does God’s compassion result in what we think is a tough break? Getting fired? Not getting promoted, getting dumped, dumping someone else, failing a test, failing school, deaths in the family, death of a spouse, death of your child, losing a friend, feeling alone, feeling like you never get a chance to get ahead, and the list goes on and on. If things had gone the way they should have that little girl would have had no clue why all those military guys with guns are so mean, and as it follows I don’t think we usually get why life sucks so bad sometimes or why things never seem to work out the way we want either. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that maybe sometimes the worst forms of God’s wrath is that he lets you do whatever you want, and gives us over to all the things that our hearts think is good. Passive wrath is much more devastating that active maybe.

The training I’m going through is hard, yeah,  its the hardest this country can offer even sometimes, its designed to be. But through it I can feel fear become more manageable and less a factor in my decision  making, I can feel strength and confidence fill my bones, and all in all I know its making  me into something I’m very excited about. So I have no complaints, no reservations, and no gripes. In this instance God’s compassion took the form of rings of fire and trial to jump through, hardships to deal with, and not being able to see my family and friends when I want, among other things. Yet God is good for it. Sure it gets messy sometimes, and I’ll probably come out a little roughed up and singed around the edges, but which is better, this? Or finding a “safe” job somewhere and going to a bunch of bible studies?
I hope God’s compassion finds us all, whether we like it or not.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Let Me Introduce You To........ Part I

I am beyond amazed at all God has brought us through over the years and so humbled to write this particular post. I would like to introduce the team of LightForce staff to you. 

Amy Boatman (Administration in the USA)

"I started volunteering with LightForce in January 2010 when there was a need for someone to handle the account and other administrative tasks in Lexington, KY.  I knew I at least had the willingness to try and was able to take on this task.  I never thought I would still be working with LightForce today, but am blessed everyday by the people involved and their heart for God and others.  I have even tried to quit when I felt overwhelmed, but God keeps bringing me back.   He keeps showing me that it is not my ability to do this, but His grace that is enough.  I know I do not feel qualified, but can see that quality in everyone who steps into this organization.  I have learned it is not about being qualified.  It is about being called.  Our God is so good to supply all of our needs and this is no exception.  I am called to be a part of LightForce and that is why I am here.
My goal for this organization is to see the heart of God released in each person we encounter.  I know my role is here in the United States and I am a support for everyone involved.  I get to love and encourage the people who are out on the mission field.  I want to create a refuge for those who need to come and rest.  Whether through a phone call or with a visit to Lexington, know that there is always a home for LightForce here.  It does not matter what your zip code is because you can always call Lexington a home.  I can’t wait to see what God has planned next and what favor we will encounter throughout this world.  God never ceases to amaze me with his ability to move mountains and create ways we never thought were possible. " 

 Laura Gassaway (Administration in the USA)

"When I met Anna, in the summer of 2009 in Nicaragua, her passion for the victims of Human Trafficking was contagious. As my knowledge of this type of Trafficking grew, the realization that these victims are all orphans in one way or another dwelled further and further within my heart.
"The summer of 2010, Anna and I took the idea of hosting a 'girls seminar' over love, sex, and purity, and ran with it. We held 4 seminars that summer. The Conferences were called 'Passion and Purity'.
"From working with LightForce in this project, came my desire to be involved with what LightForce is doing in Central America. It is my heart to join them in sharing the Love of Jesus as healer and sustainer to women and children around the country." 

 Amelia Quinn (Atlanta Chapter) 
  "I am 23 and in the last few months I quit my job working with the youth group at First Baptist Church LaGrange, packed up my stuff, and moved to the beautiful city of Atlanta to serve with LightForce. I come from a broken family with a bit of a dysfuntional childhood but I know firsthand the healing and restoring power of Jesus! It is my desire to share that power and love of Jesus with those who are hurting and trapped in darkness.
This past year, I traveled to Costa Rica to work with LightForce. As I saw the relationships the staff had with those hurting on the streets of Costa Rica, I knew I wanted to be involved with the ministry. One of my favorite things is seeing disciples of Christ get outside the church to serve and love those around them and that is exactly what the girls in Costa Rica were doing. The Lord quickly began to partner my heart with the vision of LightForce and for some crazy reason they decided to let me on the team.
My prayer for Atlanta is that God will shine His light in the darkest areas of this city and that He will use me in the process to glorify His name. "

Chelsea Herring( Atlanta Chapter)
"I just recently graduated from LaGrange College with a major in Early Childhood Education. I also took counseling classes through the Exchanged Life Ministries Association. About a year and a half ago I was spending time with the Lord, when I felt Him speak to my Spirit, 'I want you to pray for prostitutes and porn stars.' Honestly I was confused, but it was one of those times I knew the Lord had laid something on my heart. I began to reflect on the lives of the girls trapped in this lifestyle. As sad as it is to admit, I knew absolutely nothing about the widespread issue of human-trafficking. After research, I learned of the severe human-trafficking issue in my own backyard, Atlanta, Georgia. Shortly after graduating, the Lord completely opened the door for me to move and get involved with Light Force International. I have a burning passion to see these women and children delivered and set free by the overwhelming, gracious love of our Heavenly Father. I want  each of them to know Jesus Christ stands with open, welcoming arms and is more than able to restore every area of brokenness in their lives. He has been faithful to do so in my own life, and I want to be used by the Lord for the restoration of others. The prayer of my heart is that I would be used to, “bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” (Isaiah 61:1)

Einas Haddad (Costa Rica Chapter)
"I'm originally from Jordan but I've lived in upstate New York for the past 5 years. I have a bachelors degree in Computer Engineering with a year of experience in my field. After experiencing the 9-5 type of job, I realized that there was so much more to life than a decent paycheck. I was sickened by the way I was spending half my life staring at a computer screen. After much prayer and reflection, I made the decision to go on a short term missions trip! So here I am in Costa Rica, I've been here for about 6 months now, I've been working with LightForce in the street outreach as well as teaching Math & Computer Skills at a nearby slum in San Jose called La Carpio.

I initially came to Costa Rica with the intention of working with victims of sexual exploitation with Christ for the City International. God has created such a passion in my heart to help people that have been sexually exploited, especially through human trafficking. However, when I got here I was told that in order to work in this field with them I would need a minimum of one year commitment and they prefer if I had some sort of experience in this field. This saddened me but they needed a computer & math teacher, so I knew my skills would be utilized for the glory of God. I met Laura and Karlie out in La Carpio in August and they told me more about what they did and I felt an enormous urge in my heart to ask to tag along! After working more with the girls of LightForce, I wanted to be able to serve even closer so I asked to become a fulltime volunteer with them so here I am.  

Sarah McQueen(Costa Rica Chapter)

"I had begun to learn about the issues surrounding sexual exploitation during a college internship in 2008.  I was beginning to understand many of the numbers and statistics, making the problem seem so huge that I was unsure of what I could do to aid in the fight.  Upon graduating from college, I enrolled in graduate school for nonprofit management, knowing that I wanted to work in an organization that directly worked in humanitarian aid issues.  During this time, I continued to stay in touch with a friend and Asbury University classmate, Laura Perry.  After Asbury, Laura had joined Lightforce International as the Assistant Director.  By keeping in touch with her, I was able to see how individuals and organizations were taking practical steps to help men, women and children affected by sexual exploitation.  I inquired about volunteer opportunities with the organization because I knew I would have time to serve during the summer after graduation.  I was accepted for the internship, during which I was made aware of more of the complexities of exploitation and the sex industry.  Yet, the Lord coupled these realizations with the assurance that He is sufficient for the needs of His people and He desires to see redemption and restoration.

As the summer drew to a close, I was presented with the opportunity to work with Lightforce full time.  I was, and continue to be, excited about getting the chance to serve in this way.  I consider myself blessed to be working in a capacity that allows me to use aspects of my academic degree and take part in practical and intentional ministry at the same time.  My prayer is that men, women and children affected by prostitution and exploitation might realize their full potential, allowing Jesus Christ to bring healing and wholeness."

Morgan Sanders (Dallas Chapter)

"And we know that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
 My testimony in regards to my involvement with LightForce is epitomized by Romans 8:28. When I first arrived as a short-term missionary in San Jose, Costa Rica, I was working with another organization with a desire to do great things for The Kingdom. I knew that God had called me to go to Costa Rica and, more specifically, that He had given me a heart for the women and children there. I was in Costa Rica for a total of six months, by the grace of God, I was introduced to LightForce. As I came to know the women who were running this ministry and began to fully understand the powerful work that LightForce was, and is, doing in San Jose...I began to realize that THIS is what my heart longed for. THIS is why I was supposed to go to Costa Rica. I began to feel God moving in my heart and in my life like never before. Through my work with LightForce, I am able to utilize the gifts and desires that God has given me and put them to use in the lives of women, men and children who need to hear about the love and healing power of Jesus Christ. I got to spend 4 months of amazing and powerful time with LightForce in San Jose, and now I am back in my hometown of Dallas, TX to begin establishing a LightForce chapter here! God is ready to move in Dallas, and His redemptive power is ready to break loose over the chains and bonds of the shadow over Dallas that is prostitution and human trafficking. God is faithful. Amen!

Stay tuned to meet the rest of the staff in Part II!