Monday, November 24, 2014

Shop With Purpose!

With Christmas just around the corner most of us will be doing lots of shopping for our friends and family.   Why not shop for something that goes beyond just the gift itself?  There are many organizations and shops whose proceeds go towards helping those in need.  I wanted to highlight some of my favorites that help women and children who have been or are at risk of being trafficked.

 
 
WAR Chest Boutique is an arm of Women at Risk International.  Traffic victims are given shelter and care in one of their 5 safe houses and trained with a skill to help them go forward in life.  The items are sold online at their website or one of 3 store front locations in Naperville, IL;  Wyoming;  and Michigan.  The website allows you to shop by the country where the product was made. During the month of December a portion of proceeds will benefit New Name when you mention New Name at checkout.  New Name is a ministry in Chicago that reaches out to women in the sex industry   This beautiful journal sells for $10





The A21 Campaign  is a non-profit organization who believes that together, we can end human trafficking in the 21st century.  They seek to abolish injustice through prevention, protection,  prosecution and partnership.  A21 has administration offices, field offices and restoration facilities in ten different countries.  This classic "because" band sells for just $5 and is a great conversation starter.  When someone asks you about the bracelet you have an opportunity to tell them that slavery still exists. 
 
 


Hearts For Hearts Dolls are an alternative to the popular American Girl Dolls and a great opportunity to teach your child about those less fortunate. The Hearts For Hearts Girls mission is to empower girls to become agents of change in their communities, their countries, and around the world. We want to change the world one heart at a time, and you can be a part of that dream! There are ten multi-cultural Hearts For Hearts Girls dolls and each of them has an important story to tell about life in her country.  They are inspired by stories of real girls who are strong, smart, courageous, and determined to rise above challenging circumstances.  When you buy a doll, Hearts For Hearts Girls donates part of the purchase price through our charitable partner, World Vision, to programs that support girls in that country. Whether it’s malaria nets in Africa, ducks in India, education in Mexico or food supplies in the US, these programs help children to thrive and succeed.   The dolls are considerably less than American Girls dolls and sell for just  $27.99

 

IJM (International Justice Mission) is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. When you shop their Gift Catalog you can give directly to a specific mission of IJM.  Choose from things like fund a sex trafficking rescue operation or help a widow start a small business.
Consider purchasing something from their catalog as a family.   
 
For the person who has everything how about Donating to a Cause in their name?  There are many great organizations out there.  I recently highlighted a few of my favorites in yesterday's post. These organization are doing amazing work to help victims of human trafficking.

Or simply shop from a Fair Trade retailer.  Fair Trade retailers adhere to standards such as those banning child and slave labor and guaranteeing a safe workplace.

Happy Shopping...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Giving Tuesday December 2nd



We are entering in to a season that gives us Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Two days that have us tracking the sales flyers and online deals in hopes to find the best deal.  Black Friday deals have been arriving earlier and earlier each year are now available on Thursday.  It's a season that has us focused on shopping and buying and what can we GET.

Have you heard about Giving Tuesday? It's the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and it's a global day dedicated to giving back and celebrating generosity. It's a time to help us refocus our holiday season and to support a cause you believe in.  It's a day to focus on what we can GIVE rather than what we can GET.

Giving Tuesday is a chance to take part in a day of action and to give hope to those who need it most.

There is no shortage of organizations to choose from and it can be overwhelming to determine where you'd like your money to go.

Want to show you support the fight against sexual exploitation?

Here are a few of my favorite choices:


Refuge For Women Chicago is a twelve-month holistic journey for women who wish to leave the sex industry. There is no charge to ...guests (women and their children) as they live and work together as a family towards healing. During their time at The Refuge, women will develop and work on a "Life Plan" - focusing on physical and emotional health, spiritual growth, education, and life skills necessary for a stable and productive life. As women complete their time with us, they will have the opportunity to serve other women in the industry through ministry internships, or may choose to pursue resources towards further education and stable employment. Why I like them:  They are opening a home in the Chicago area in 2015.  Open beds for women to heal are desperately needed in our city.
 
Shared Hope International strives to prevent the conditions that foster sex trafficking, restore victims of sex slavery, and bring justice to vulnerable women and children. We envision a world passionately opposed to sex trafficking and a committed community restoring survivors to lives of purpose, value and choice – one life at a time.  Why I like them:  Every year their Protected Innocence Challenge grades states on how they are doing legislatively to combat human trafficking.  Shared Hope also has The Defenders - an initiative that challenges men to  honor, and respect to women as well as pledge not to purchase or participate in pornography, prostitution or any form of the commercial sex industry.
 
Polaris Project: From working with government leaders to protect victims’ rights, to building partnerships with the world’s leading technology corporations, we spark long-term change that focuses communities on identifying, reporting and eliminating trafficking networks. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of all that we do -- helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and gathering the data to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Why I like them:  Polaris operates the National Human Trafficking hotline # where those in need of help can call or anonymous tips can be reported.  Polaris also tracks current legislation and is a great resource for those who want to contact government officials to make a difference. 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lessons From a Rope

Lesson 1:  Pass on a Blessing

 
I recently read a children's book called The Bright Yellow Rope.  It was such a simple story, but it really had a wonderful message. 
 
In the story, Sylvester finds a bright yellow rope.  He then gives to a boy whose goat has come unhitched from his wagon, who in turn gives it to the next person who needs it.  Each person to receive the rope repeats this phrase when he passes it on to the next person:
 
"Hi there, friend.  You sure have trouble. I'll help you quick as a bubble. Take my rope. Yes, you can keep it.  Pass it on when others need it."
 
Each friend passes the rope along to the next person in need.  Until it eventually comes back to Sylvester at just the time when he needs it. 
 
"I'm so glad.  Glad that I gave it.  It came back because I gave it,"  says Sylvester.
 
What a powerful message! 
Sylvester sees a friend in need. 
He offers what he has. 
The blessings multiply. 
He in return is blessed. 
 
If we hold too tightly to the things God gives, then our fists are closed and unable to accept the next thing God wants to give us.  If we share, then our hands are open and ready to receive.

 

Lesson 2: Stay connected to the one who love us.

 
I recently heard that when a heavy storm was predicted in the Old West , that the homesteaders would do many things do prepare for the upcoming storm.  One of them was to string a rope from their barn to their house so they could find their way home.  Remember the Little House on the Prairie episode where the children were caught in a blizzard on the way home from school?  The snow was so coming down so heavy and fast the children could not see their way home. These homesteaders would connect their barn to the house and use it to guide their way home.
 
As Christians we too are finding our way home.  We must be careful what we are connected to for that is the path we will follow.  We must stay connected to the one who love us. The one who guides us.  The one who directs our steps.

How do we stay connected to God?  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that as we seek Him and acknowledge Him, He promises do direct our paths.

If we seek Him and allow Him to direct our path, our hearts will be aligned with His and we will follow His plan for our lives rather than the path the world seeks for us to follow.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Local Event: Refuge for Women Launch Night October 24th

 
Save the Date!
 
 
 
When a woman wishes to leave the sex industry she needs a safe place to heal. 
Unfortunately, there is a shortage of available beds for these women across the United States. 
Refuge For Women is a 12 month after care program for women where they live and work
together as a family towards healing. Refuge For Women currently has homes in Kentucky and are planning to open a home in the Chicago area in 2015.
Visit and "like" them on Facebook Here

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

This has to be one of my all time favorite books.  The first time I read it was many years ago before I ever became interested in human trafficking. 

The second time I was able to read it from a different perspective and to see how it parallels modern day slavery.  I loved it then and I love it now. 

One woman in our discussion group said she reads this book once a year.  That's how good this book is!

Michael gives us a powerful picture of the unconditional, unfailing, pursuing love that our heavenly father has for us.  Angel gives us a beautiful picture of the transformative power of His redemptive grace.  
Book Description:  California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.  
Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.   
Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.    
But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go. 
A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.


Redeeming Love is set in 1850, but the story that happens to Angel could easily be placed in modern times and still be true to what happens today.

From the beginning, Angels father was absent in her life.  She longed for him to see her, to be loved by him and was deeply hurt when he paid her no attention. 

Angel was sold as a child into prostitution by a family member, her Uncle Rab.  Although, in this story, it appears her Uncle Rab did not know what he was selling her into. 

Angel was able to escape, but found herself wandering the streets with no place to go. She was cold and hungry and feeling like freedom was only a dream.

When she was offered the best clothing, food and lodging available she accepted because she had no other options.  She would work for the Duchess and turn over 80% of her earnings in exchange for the protection of bodily harm. 

She would later learn that her portion of the earnings would be kept under lock and key and doled out only as the Duchess saw fit.  She would be beaten and threatened when unable to work.

By them time Michael enters her life she has become hardened, bitter, empty and unfeeling.  He offers her a way out, but she doesn't believe one exists.  She refuses his offer over and over.
She feels she is unworthy so she continually rejects him.  She feels there is only one thing she is good at, but it's not what Michael wants from her.

(p50) "What did it matter?  She had nothing left.  She didn't care.  At eighteen, she was tired of living and resigned to the fact that nothing would ever change.  She wondered why she had even been born. For this, she supposed.  And the only way to leave it was to kill herself."

(p65) "What I do is what I am"

But Michael relentlessly pursues her. Even when she breaks his heart and returns to her old life he does not give up on her.  He continues to pursue her with unconditional love.  He is always there waiting for her with open arms, expecting nothing in return. 

"You're a bird who's been in a cage all your life, and suddenly all the walls are gone, and you're in the wide open.  You're so afraid you're looking for any way back into the cage again."
 
We slowly begin to see Michael break down the walls that Angel has built over the years.  Brick by painful brick, his love begins to soften her heart and we begin to see her transformation. 
 
And through this transformation Angel falls in love with Michael, but God is not done with her transformation yet.  She softened and fell in love with Michael, but he became her God.  She finally had the love she had been longing for since she was a little girl, but she still needed to know the love of her Heavenly Father.  

So Angel leaves Michael one more time.  It will be three years for God to complete his good work in her and bring her back to Michael.  During this time we see Angel begin to live with passion and purpose and place her trust in God.  When she and Michael reunite, Angel's heart has been healed and restored by God's Redeeming Love. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review of "The White Umbrella"

This week we had a book discussion of The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking by Mary Frances Bowley.  The White Umbrella tells stories of survivors as well as those who came alongside to help them to recovery. It describes the pain and the strength of these young women and those who held the "white umbrella" of protection and purity over them on the road to restoration.  Rather than discussion questions we read quotes from the book and had great discussion around them.  These are the quotes we used which I feel really captured the essence of the pain these precious women feel and how we can best "stand close under our umbrella" and walk alongside them.  This book is a must read for anyone working with survivors.


 
Beginning Statement:

As long as we are convinced that “somebody like me” can’t really do anything to turn the tide, we can continue to exist in our self-made bubbles of comfort and ignore God’s beating heart.
~ Louie Giglio (from the foreword)
 

  1. Some of these kids are runaways and some are abandoned. Many others come from good homes. They are the victims of cruel and clever predators who know just what to offer – the appearances of friendship, a listening ear, the promise of love or money or a new life. (p 15)
  1. An umbrella is a common item, usually left forgotten in the back of a closet until needed. But when nature delivers a downpour or hailstorm, an umbrella makes a difference – a buffer that protects us from the harsh elements falling from the sky. An umbrellas often does something else as well – it brings those who suffer together. When y0u share one with someone, you have to stand close, side by side.” (p 17)
  1. Outside of my home, I lived a normal life. I made good grades, played sports, and had a few close friends. But on the inside, I felt dirty and worthless. I felt like I needed to hide. Sometimes I wanted to die. If anyone had paid attention, they might have noticed how the light in my face had been extinguished.” ~ Survivor (p22)
  1. When God’s people come together to fight this good fight against the exploitation of innocence, the weight of oppression is exchanged for the weight of glory. The time has come to let our children be little girls once again. The time for freedom is now.” (p37)
  1. Providing a picture of God… “When these girls realize that you've weathered storms of your own and that God made something beautiful through it, a light clicks on in their heads.  When you can accept them for who they are despite what they’ve done, just like God accepts you in spite of what you’ve done, it gives them a picture of who God is, and a picture of what their life could look like through His transformative grace.” (p 47)
  1. They were expected to earn $1,000 per night for their pimps, meaning they would be violated eight to ten times each evening. The average age of the girls lured into the Atlanta sex trade is twelve.”
  1. The common thread among the girls we hoped to serve was childhood sexual abuse. One out of every four girls is sexually abused before the age of eighteen. And these are only the reported cases. The numbers, staggering as they are, are probably higher than we think. This means one out of every four women at the grocery store, at the bank, at the mall, in the pew at church, and everywhere in “normal” life have had this traumatic experience.  Emotionally, girls are arrested in their development and make choices based on the age at the time of the abuse.” (p 51 & 61)
  1. On the outside, she lived a normal life, but on the inside, her self-worth had slowly decayed into a hollow cavity. For years, she blended in at school and even in church, as her pain passed undetected and unnoticed. For years, not a single friend, mentor or confidante was able to read the signs nor realize that the abuse that began at such a young age had warped Alisha’s understanding of what is normal. “ (p 63)
  1. Remember, abuse is not always a choice. Girls who are survivors of sex trafficking are branded on the streets as prostitutes, sometimes quite literally as their pimp burns his mark on their neck or ankles. But they did not choose this work, and it is doubly tragic when these young women are branded once again by stigma and shame when they walk into the wider community, and even the church.” (p 69)
  1. Jesus Christ came to set the captives free, and Christians have the amazing and humbling opportunity to be His hands and feet in this redemptive rescue. Much like the four men in the Bible who dug through the roof to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, we must do whatever it takes to help victims of abuse through the journey of healing. (p 71-72)
  1. No matter how awful her situation, she operates in the “security” of what she knows. It’s difficult for her to give that up for the unknown. She needs a motivating reason to help her let go of the familiar and take those first steps toward healing. She may revert to “crawling” because she doesn’t yet have the confidence in her ability to walk. Whether she is crawling, walking or falling after taking a few steps, our role is to keep standing by her and supporting her at whatever stage she is in.” (p 74-75)
  1. It’s difficult for many of our girls to pray for themselves in the midst of restoration from horrific circumstances. What each one needs most is a warrior to pray for her, someone to carry her to the throne when she is too weak to carry herself.”
  1. They had been pimped out every night and often beaten. Our girls didn’t play sports after school; they worked the streets after school. Our girls didn’t attend football games on Friday nights; they went to the nearest hotel with their pimp to endure unwanted sex with men.”
  1. Change, even good change, is difficult. Each girl responds differently to the opportunity. Ultimately, it is God who brings permanent change. Our task is to seek His will even as we hold out our arms to these young women learning to walk again, encouraging them to take one more wobbly step forward. (p 79)
  1. We have observed that the most volatile time for a young woman who has been sexually exploited is often just after she leaves that life. When she finally exits this life of manipulative abuse and gains perspective through distance, she often comes face-to-face with a conclusion that is too horrific to digest. Often our well-intentioned but inappropriate message is received as, “That was a horrible life. Now we can start over…from scratch.” What we intend as a positive message may have the reverse effect and overwhelm her. (p 82-83)
  1. When people rally together to support a good cause, it shouts a second message to the community at large, that people can work unselfishly together if our eyes are on God and on those in need, rather than on our own advancement. I believe this is the way God meant for us to work. When we allow God to lead, what a refreshing message is communicated.” (p 154)
  1. I feel hopeless. I am the one left broken and defeated. I don’t have the emotional energy to tackle the obstacles. I know I want something different for my life, but everything seems so out of my reach.” ~ Survivor (p 176)
  1. When others tell one of these precious women that she’s a failure and she begins to believe it herself, this is the critical moment when we need to step in. We must proclaim that we believe in her and in our God, who is able to do beyond what we can imagine. And we believe in God’s strength enough to support her with our words, time, and resources, asking nothing of her in return. If we as a community of faith will not demonstrate true belief in the power of God to restore her, who will? We must believe for her…and in her” (p 180)
 Ending Statement:

Together, we can be and will be a force for good, a sea of freedom fighters blanketing the world with the blinding light of His great love. Mary Frances has paved the way for us to raise our voice for freedom and liberty for all. There is a place for you in this fight”
~ Louie Giglio (from the foreword)


Friday, August 8, 2014

Human Trafficking Freedom Coalition of Northern Illinois

I've been a little quiet on the blog lately because there have been so many exciting things happening.  I am so excited to share one of them with you today.

There is a newly formed coalition in the Chicago area to combat human trafficking! 



The Human Trafficking Freedom Coalition of Northern Illinois is a victim centered, non-denominational, nonsectarian organization with a national perspective and local focus. 
 
Their mission is to combat all forms of human trafficking (Labor and Sex trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children-CSEC) by advancing the following four provisions:
 
Awareness/Training 
Prevention
Intervention.
Victim Services
 
Please "like" them on Facebook
 
Their meetings are open to the public so if you are interested in getting involved and making a difference please mark your calendars for their next meeting:
August 27th at 3:00pm. 
The offices of Administer Justice
1750 Grandstand Place
Elgin, IL
 
Groups like this are so important in the fight against human trafficking.  We need communities to link arms and stand together.  People from different backgrounds, denominations and political groups united in a common goal - the eradication of modern day slavery.
 
 
Other groups active in the Chicago area that you might be interested in: