Ministry Update: Looming Ahead

Hello friends! I have an exciting ministry update to share with you all! But first, a little context: 

As some of you may know, in 2005 I went on a two-week missions trip that changed my life. That summer, my youth group partnered with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) to immerse ourselves in urban outreach. It was here that my heart was deeply stirred for the cause of the vulnerable and the marginalized, and I knew then I would spend the rest of my life seeking justice and compassion for the oppressed through my love of storytelling.

The next 4 years I spent a lot of Friday nights under the Burnside bridge, washing feet and handing out socks and sandwiches. I loved getting to meet people there and I began learning the power of relationships in changing hearts. However, I still was operating from a top-down mentality. What can I give you? How can I help you? Instead of, How can we work together?

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We need them.

Happy June! This weekend Ben and I celebrated our fourth anniversary–crazy! In some ways it feels like we’ve been married for a while now, and in others it still feels like we’re just beginning this adventure together. I’m so thankful for his support and presence during this especially hard season–he has truly been amazing. Although I still have some up & down days, I’m also so thankful to be beginning to feel better, have more energy, and hopefully be on the upswing for good!

June started out with an exciting trip for us, as we traveled to Chicago to attend the Justice Conference, held at Willow Creek Community Church. We heard from many powerful leaders of faith during the two day event, and I thought I would share a little of what we’ve been processing afterwards with you.

In the past year or so, both Ben and I have begun to dramatically shift our thinking away from seeing injustice as an individualistic issue, to learning about systemic injustice and broken systems that perpetuate suffering for so many people. This past weekend really cemented our convictions that in order to really change communities and see justice long-term, we have to address these bigger realities. Our God is a God who goes after the one lost sheep, but who also gave himself to defeat evil universally. We find ourselves asking: How do we learn about the complexities these broken systems? What can we do to change them? How can we help without hurting? And how can we not neglect the needs of our neighbors individually as well? 

Second, I was so inspired by the words of many speakers, reminding us that justice work is not about “helping” or “fixing” or any type of mentality that gives us the role of savior, coming in to save the day. I loved hearing Sandra Van Opstal share about vulnerable members of her congregation, and how she is inspired to seek justice because she realizes that she needs them. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Russell Moore:

“We do not need more ‘ministry’ to the poor or racial minorities or immigrant communities. We need to be led by the poor and racial ‘minorities,’ and by immigrant communities.

…The child with Down Syndrome on the fifth row from the back in your church, he’s not a ‘ministry project.’ He’s a future king of the universe. The immigrant woman…is not a problem to be solved. She’s a future queen of the cosmos, a joint-heir with Christ.

…No matter how important the United States is, there will come a day when [it] will no longer exist. But the sons & daughters of God will be revealed. Some of them are undocumented farm-workers and elementary school janitors right now. They will be kings and queens then. They are our brothers and sisters forever.”

May we continue to advocate for those on the margins, looking for ways to bring their voices to the table, because we need them. 

A Prayer for Greatness

This week I’ve been thinking about love, about faith, about fear.

I’ve been thinking of the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I’ve been meditating on Titus 3. I still have a lot of questions. And I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of words have already been spoken this week. What I need, what we all need, is not more words AT each other but WITH each other.

So here is my prayer. I’d love if you would join me in praying, or add a prayer of your own in the comments below!

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May I know their names.

One of the things I’ve realized this year is how our society is growing more and more segregated. In our neighborhoods, work, schools, and churches it is common to have a single demographic disproportionately represented. We can easily spend 90% of our time with people who see the world very similarly.

And so we might talk about poor people or rich people without really knowing any. We might talk about refugees without having ever had a friendship with one. We might even discount the validity of race issues or privilege or global warming. Of course, this is a huge generalization, but I’ve seen it true all too often in my own life.  Continue reading

Prayer and Asking

Want to have a peek into my brain this week?

You’re in luck 🙂 Today I felt like it was time to share some of the things I really just can’t get off my mind. Things that have become very important to me. Things involving lots of prayer and asking God for wisdom. So, if you’ve got a moment, take a look!

1. This Video: If it’s the only thing you get to today, please Watch Session Two of this great study! What an incredibly great and inspiring definition of living out justice. Ben and I watched this last night, and all I could think of is how perfectly he described everything I’ve been wrestling with this year.

2. If you haven’t yet heard, Amnesty International recently voted to decriminalize prostitution, arguing that it would better protect those involved. During my weeks at SHINE, we had tons of discussion about the sex trade vs. sex trafficking. Can they be separated? Should they be separated? What are the implications of each choice? I would encourage you to read this article for a good look at some of the reasons decriminalization is usually NOT a good option.

3. You may have seen this one floating around cyberspace this week…I have to admit this is where so much of the prayer has come in. How to even address such a systematic crime? It’s a lot easier to know what to do about these things in my own community. But I’ve seen enough of these articles coming through in the last six months to feel it’s important for us to start talking about more. I’ve been so encouraged to read Ann Voskamp’s posts on what pre-emptive love might look like for us as Christians.

4. And lastly, ethical shopping. If you’ve talked to me at all lately, you know it’s been a lot on our minds. How does the Bible’s command to “be generous to the poor” fit in here? As we’ve done some research in the past few weeks especially, here are some great resources we’ve found:

A fabulous article by my friend Molly: Ethics and Your Wardrobe (aka why should I even care about this??)

How to Start Shopping Ethically (And again, why? from End Slavery Now)

Let’s Be Fair

Micah Challenge: Great Resources #1 and #2

As I end this post, I realize reading a lot of these articles can make it very easy to despair. To feel like our small efforts will never overcome enormous and far-away issues. There are so many areas of injustice I haven’t even touched on here! So I wanted to end with this reminder from Isaiah 59.

Almost the entire chapter is full of disappointment and judgement because of the lack of justice found among the Israelites. “Therefore justice is far from us…we hope for light, and behold, darkness…justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away….Truth is lacking”. All these phrases can feel so real about our current world when we take a look at what’s really going on.

Now this isn’t good news, as vs. 15 tells us that “the Lord saw it, and it displeased him, that there was no justice.” We do have the responsibility to work towards justice as His people! But we don’t have to do it alone–look at vs 16:

“He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede, then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.”

And in vs. 19: “So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives.”

I just love this. When there is justice lacking, it definitely displeases God. But he’s not hindered by our failures, or by the fact that we as one person just can’t do it all. He will accomplish His ultimate goals, in His power. We don’t have to bear the weight of it on our shoulders, but simply join with Him as best as we can. Using our everyday, ordinary lives to display His glory.

Enter the interns.

I’m excited to write this post today and finally get to answer the many, many questions I’ve gotten throughout the past four months or more. Nearly all of them sounded exactly (and understandably) like this: “So, what will you be doing during your internship?”

My answer, until this week: “Honestly, I have no idea.”

However, I have now officially begun my internship and actually know what it will look like for the next month! Hooray! So for anyone who’s still awaiting a better answer to their question, this post is for you. 🙂

The rundown: Every week we’ll have the chance to participate in all staff meetings and corporate worship times. This will also include scheduled times of helping out around the base, whether that’s cleaning, admin work, laundry, or answering phones. In addition to this, the four of us have been asked to work on a few specific research projects, which will hopefully help the Lighthouse ministry build relationships with a deeper level of cultural understanding and sensitivity. Lastly, we will be participating in outreach three nights a week in various formats.

I’m really looking forward to all of the great experience our team will gain through this internship. Besides myself, there are three other beautiful ladies on my team as interns, and I’ve already been so blessed to work alongside and learn from them. It’s also going to be great spending more time with the Lighthouse staff, as they have so much knowledge and such beautiful hearts.

In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to keep you all updated on what’s going on here–but also add a little more insight into all that I am learning more personally as well. As always, if you have anything specific you’re just dying to know, any questions I can answer–just send them my way or comment below! Thank you all so much for your prayers during this time!

Six Weeks In Quotes

Sitting here in a cozy cafe on this cloudy Amsterdam morning, feeling so thankful. As I continue to wade through all that I have learned in these last six weeks, I thought I would simply share a few quotes that stood out to me personally. If you’re interested, take a look! In my next post, I’ll be highlighting more of what we’ve been up to for the past week as well.

Week One: Justice From a Biblical Perspective

“Heros are those who do what needs to be done, even though it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, or nobody else is doing it.”

“Injustice is not a wrong against us. Ultimately, it is a wrong against God.”

“Hope is anchored in the character of God.”

“Do not be afraid of places of death. They are opportunities for resurrection and life.”

Week Two: Justice, The Sex Trade, and More…

“[What we need] is systematic, quiet, culture-based change. Long term comittment…and relationships are key.”

“Human trafficking is, at its roots, the exploitation of vulnerability.”

“Prostitution is the only legal job [in some countries] with non-profits created to help you get out…In the name of freedom, people are enslaved.”

Week Three: The Father Heart of God, Sexual Abuse, Addictions and the Brain

“The Gospel invites us into the depths, not into escape. We need to engage brokenness.”

“The core issue with our trauma is that it distorts our view of God, [and then our view of others and ourselves as well.]”

“The cross of Christ is so central to healing. To recieve life we must be willing to walk through death. Through the cross we can walk through pain and come out victorious.”

“Ultimately, what gives value to our work is the fact that it’s an expression of our love. We’re just giving back to God what He gave to us.”

“The biggest thing we have to offer people: the permanent goodness of God.”

Week Four: Perspectives–Networks, Politics, Law Enforcement, and Trauma

“Human Trafficking is an evil that will not leave quietly. It is an attack against the very image of God.”

“The biggest barrier to anti-trafficking work: lack of collaboration.”

“Coming together is a beginning.

Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success.”

“To defeat a networked enemy, we had to become a network ourselves.”

Week Five: Mental Health, Media, and Survivor Stories
“Legalization commodifies a person. They not only become the provider of the good, but the good themselves…it creates a culture that grows abusers. The environment itself encourages it.”

“It’s not a coincidence that prositution draws on the most vulnerable population of a community.”

“How can you use the strengths of your culture to overcome its weaknesses?”

Week Six: Pioneering a New Ministry and Collaboration

“Always be sure to examine unintended consequences. Well-intentioned but uniformed work can be very damaging.”

In regards to directing hatred towards buyers and traffickers: “We can’t have selective compassion.”

“Are we seeking to create safer communities so that these things happen less?”

If you’re interested in hearing any more about what I’ve learned on these specific topics, I’d love to chat with you! It’s so hard to convey all that has changed in my heart and mind as a result of these sessions. My biggest prayer in these next five weeks will probably be, “God, now that I have learned and seen this, what would you like me to do with it?”

Wherever these next six weeks and beyond take me, I know one thing, however: I will enter them with a much larger perspective towards all sides of the issue, and a deeper heart to work with excellence and discernment.