Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ink 180 Documentary

This was the second time I've had the opportunity to meet Chris Baker and hear about the amazing ministry of Ink 180.  The first time was back in 2012 and you can read that post Here.

Chris loves tattoos as is evident by the many colorful tattoos he has on both his arms and legs, but he admits that there are some tattoos that just shouldn't exist and it is the ministry of Ink 180 to remove or cover up those tattoos.

The 2nd time I met Chris was this past weekend to view the new Ink 180 Documentary.

The first part of the documentary focuses on Chris's work removing or covering up tattoos for former gang members.  These tattoos are gernerally in high visibility places like a forearm, neck or face. While in the gang these tattoos are seen as a badge of honor.  But once they leave that gang it is visible anchor still linking them to that gang.  Often these tattoos will make them a target of law enforcement or a rival gang.  It also makes it hard for them to find employment even though they are no longer part of that gang.

The second part of the documentary focuses on the work with victims of human trafficking.  Victims of human trafficking have been subject to both physical and emotional abuse.  Tattoos forced on them by their pimp are a painful reminder of their old life.  It's a delicate ministry.  One that Chris describes like walking on broken glass, but that glass is also on fire.  Most victims are referred to him from a federal agency (like the FBI or Homeland Security) and he requests that someone from that agency be present during the removal or cover up.  Victims of human trafficking have severe trust issues because of what they've gone through.  The agent that has been working with them will have built a certain level of trust with the victim and this will hopefully make them feel a little more comfortable as well as providing the necessary protection for the victim. His shop goes into complete lockdown during the session.

When I first met Chis he had done 508 coverups and removals in just his first year.  He has now done 2000 since opening all at no cost to the individual. He now has 2 mobile units affectionately called Grace 1 and Grace 2.  The mobile units allow him to visit the County jail to remove tattoos for those who can not come to the shop.

But perhaps the most impressionable part to me was the process of closure Chris provides once the tattoo has been removed or covered up. The person is given an 8 1/2 x 11 picture of their former tattoo which they put through the shredder.  This was such a powerful image of saying goodbye to their old life.  From there they are taken to a room that has a mural of a tree on one wall called the Freedom Tree.  Here, the person will cover their hand in paint and place a colorful handprint on the tree to symbolize new life. 
Chris says he has to go to counseling because the stories he hears that are so horrific, but he continues on because he says, "God told me to take His word to the darkest of places."  And he gets a front row seat to watch God fix people every day.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the Ink 180 Documentary you can Order Here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Undaunted Book Discusion Questions

I recently finished reading Undaunted by Christine Caine and I absolutely loved it!  It usually takes me longer to read non-fiction books, but this one was so inspiring I wanted to keep reading.  (I was also going to be leading a discussion based on the book so that helped to keep me on track too.)  As I was reading, I could hear Christine's voice with her Australian accent talking right to me.  She is such a powerhouse and conduit of God's love.  This book is a call to action to make time in our lives to see the needs right in front of us, to look honestly at the horrors of injustice and motivate us to get involved.  Christine's story of overcoming past hurt and abuse and following God's promptings to rescue others is amazing.  I long to hear God's voice as clearly as she does. 

Two examples in her book actually gave me chills. 
"Your plane will be leaving from Gate A21."
"I just wanted you to know that the thing you have scheduled to do on Monday isn't the only option."

If you want to host your own discussion of Undaunted you will not be disappointed or have a lack of things to discuss.  Here are the questions we used for our group:

Discussion Questions
Part 1 – God Knows My Name
“God’s love, which knows you and claimed you before you were even born, can take you beyond yourself.  Love like that can release you from every prison of fear and confusion.  And love like God’s can fill you up till it spills out of you, and you have to speak about, share it, spread it around.”

  1. What are some of the things that people in our world tend to use to establish their sense of value, identity, and purpose in life?  Why is it dangerous to base our worth on these sorts of things?
  2. Christine talks about how in a single moment, when she learned she was adopted, everything in her life changed.  Yet, in a very real sense, nothing changed.  Her fundamental identity was still the same.  What are the things about you that will never change, no matter what you face, because of who you are in Christ?
  3. The bible tells us that God’s works are marvelous.  God made you and me.  This means we are marvelous!  Tell something marvelous about yourself (or the person next to you) why is it so hard, in a day-to-day way, to see ourselves as marvelous in God’s sight and truly valuable?

Part 2 – God Knows My Pain 
“The biblical model is that God deliberately chooses imperfect vessels – those who have been wounded, those with physical or emotional limitations.  Then he prepares them to serve and sends them out with their weakness still in evidence, so that his strength can be made perfect in that weakness.  It’s our weakness that makes us capable of serving, because those we serve identify with our pain.

  1. Christine tells about looking at her adoption papers and reading “unnamed” where her name should have been.  She saw that she was just a number when the adoption papers were processed.  Tell about a time when it seemed as if you were just a number or an unknown face in a crowd.  How did this make you feel?
  2. Describe some of the ways God has healed your heart, your past or a situation? How does this experience of healing help you reach out to others with the restoring power of Jesus?
  3. Christine says “God likes to show off through ordinary or even messed up people.”  Who are some of the ordinary or even messed-up people used in the Bible and how are their lives testimonies of how God can use people like you and me?

 Part 3 - God Knows My Fear
“When you let fear dictate how you spend your days, you allow life to pass you by.  You close yourself off from anything that might hurt or cost or make you uncomfortable – including opportunities to serve God and claim his promises.”

Read Luke 4:18-19.  Each time this passage uses the word me, it is referring to who Jesus was and what he did.  But if we, as his followers, are to think and live like Jesus, it also refers to us.  (Read out loud together)

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

  1. What is one way your life might change if you woke up each morning quoting this passage and believing that it should direct your day?  (Empowered and Focused were words that came up in our discussion.)
  2. Christine talks about her fear of flying and how she talked to God.  “I’m willing to go, Lord, as long as the transportation is on the ground, within my comfort zone.  I’ll go anywhere for you as long as I don’t have to fly.”  What are the things that can get in the way of bringing the love and grace of God to a broken world?  What tends to get in your way?  What is your most common excuse and is it really valid?

Part 4 - God Knows My Destiny
“There are so many daunting things in the world that we must overcome.  Only the undaunted – the undaunted in Christ – will be able to triumph over them.

  1. When we discover God’s plan, purpose, and destiny for our lives, our whole outlook changes.  What can we do to grow in our understanding and awareness of God’s plan for our lives?
  2. If you have gained some direction and clarity concerning God’s plan and destiny for your life, share what you have received.  Let them know how they can encourage you and pray for you as you seek to follow God’s plan.
  3. God has a plan for your life, a purpose for each of us, a destiny.  What are some of the unique and God-given abilities you have?

Part 5 - The Challenge 
“When you decide enough is enough, that the darkness of this world must be lit with the hope of Christ and his transforming love, and that you are a conduit of that love, you will not rest.”

  1. When Christine walked through Auschwitz and was faced with the reality of what happened to thousands of Jewish people in that concentration camp she was changed for life.  How can looking honestly at the pain and suffering of this world move us to action? Describe a time when you were confronted by the depth of human sin and evil and how that experience has shaped the way you see the world today.
  2. Who are the people I can walk right past and not really acknowledge or treat with the love and value God assigns to them.
  3. We can’t meet every need we encounter, but can do our part, each day, as the Holy Spirit leads.  How can we know when God is calling us to stop and meet a need we encounter?  What helps you discern when God is nudging you to take action?
  4. Being busy and running too fast can cause us to hurry past needs right in front of us.  Evaluate your pace of life.  In what ways can you slow down enough to create space in your heart and schedule to cross the road and help people in need?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Human Trafficking Victims – What Does The Bible Say?

A few weeks ago I posted an article What Does The Bible Teach About Human Trafficking.  We know it's an issue that breaks God's heart.  He does not wish for any of His precious children to be used for a purpose for which he did not create them.  Here is another article about what the bible says about the victims of human trafficking and how we should respond.  I found it to be really good.

Human Trafficking Victims – What does the Bible say?
While most of the world wasn't looking, human trafficking in sex and labor became a worldwide epidemic. An estimated 27 million men, women, and children are caught in trafficking situations. It's so common in some areas that it's become a part of the culture. But it is a culture God never intended.

The Bible is clear that vulnerable people should be protected and cared for, endangered people should receive justice, and abuse of any kind is a sin.

Kidnapping is evil (1 Timothy 1:8-10): Whether the bondage is physical or psychological (slavery of the mind), unjustly restraining another is wrong (1 Timothy 1:8-10)—and in the Old Testament, it was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 24:7).

God hates abuse (Isaiah 61:8): God's laws repeatedly tell us to treat others kindly and fairly.

God's business is freedom (Acts 12; Isaiah 61:1): It's hard to get more direct than God's promise in Ezekiel 34:16: "I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment."

Caring for the poor is honoring Jesus (Jeremiah 22:16; Matthew 25:35-40): God has no great love for manmade social distinctions (James 2:1-5). He cares about our hearts, and our hearts should show love to those less fortunate, not enslave them.

Human Trafficking Victims and the Church
When Jesus ascended into heaven, God chose the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be His representative on earth. The church is specifically charged with showing love to others. Religion that God accepts is to look after the disadvantaged and to keep ourselves uninfluenced by the world's crooked values (James 1:27). To that end, God has uniquely gifted the church with the skills needed to help those caught in trafficking.

Community (Acts 2:42): People caught in or rescued from trafficking need to know what good, healthy community looks like. The communities victims came from were defined by abuse, rife with unhealthy escape mechanisms like drug use, and strongly segregated into those who control and those who must submit. The community of the church focuses on encouraging right relationships with God and others.

Family (1 Timothy 5:1-2): A great number of trafficking victims were abused as children, and many don't have healthy families to go home to. But God designed the church to be a family. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul gives Timothy a brief explanation of how church members should treat each other. Mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, all living respectfully. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-31, he goes into further detail about how those family members interact. The church family can provide trafficking victims an environment where they are safe, where they belong, and where each individual has an integral role.

Truth (Romans 8:6-7): Victims initially caught in trafficking are quickly conditioned. They are taught that disobedience brings pain, the rule of their trafficker is absolute, and there is no better alternative in their lives. Trafficked victims who are caught in generational slavery have this ingrained in them since birth. Their place in the "family" is as servant, often sexually. This is their identity. In the church, however, recovering victims can learn the truth. That all, trafficker and victim, have sinned (Romans 3:23). That God loved them enough to sacrifice His Son (John 3:16). And that they can be free from the damage slavery has inflicted on their hearts (Galatians 5:1).

Significance (1 Samuel 16:7): Jesus scandalously loved those society dismissed. As His followers, the church is called to do the same. God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11), and we are to follow His example (James 2:1). Instead of the outward appearance, the church is trained to see each individual as an image of God—someone whom God loves.

Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-20): As victims grow in their recovery, they need to be able to interact in the world as it is, to find work and housing, and learn to prioritize their basic needs. But most of all, they need reconciliation with God. All the social reintegration in the world won't save a soul. God wants their hearts. He wants them to be reconciled to Himself. And God has charged the church to teach what this means.

Love in Action
The Bible tells us how we can help victims of trafficking in Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion
— to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

Trafficking victims (including child trafficking victims) suffer great injury from horrible abuses, but we can help. Find a local ministry online that needs practical help in leading victims to recovery. Or go global and serve with or fund an international organization. God's church is proclaiming freedom for the captives; find out where and join them.

What to do if you suspect someone is being trafficked:
If the situation is urgent, call 911.
If there is no immediate threat, call the non-emergency number, often 311.
Call your local anti-human trafficking organization.
Call the national hotline—1-888-3737-888.

(Hotlines will not necessarily be able to provide emergency assistance, but they will track activity to better aid the FBI and other law enforcement in determining where and how to act.)


Monday, January 12, 2015

Great Deals For Human Trafficking Awareness Month

It is so exciting to see that Family Christian stores are supporting the fight against Human Trafficking. 

Their November Challenge raised over $166,000 to help rescue victims of human trafficking and keep them safe.

In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month they are offering up some great deals during the month of January.  Now through Jan 31, 2015 get the following items online or at your local Family Christian store.
Print Coupon

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls DVD

Not Today DVD

In Plain Sight DVD

In Plain Sight CD by Various Artists

Justice Awakening by Eddie Byun

Not in My Town by Dillon Burroughs and Charles Powell

Saturday, January 10, 2015

January Local Events

January 11th from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm:  Human Trafficking Ted Talk and Open Forum
Willow Creek Church - Room 107
220 Exchange Drive, Crystal Lake, IL
Come learn more about human trafficking this weekend, all are welcome!
We will be watching a short 20-minute Ted Talk featuring survivor Rachel Lloyd followed by a question and answer panel for discussion on frequently asked questions about the industry and our ministry.

Do you have questions about human trafficking? Do you want to know what trafficking looks like locally? Do you wonder what the Anti-trafficking ministry at Willow does? If you answered yes to any of these questions this event is for you! Register Here

January 14th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm Screening of Very Young Girls
WAR Chest Boutique
4 East Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL
Join WAR Chest Boutique and Elyse Dobney from The Salvation Army Stop-It Program. We’ll be watching a 30 minute vignette from Very Young Girls, about domestic trafficking.  Also, joining via Skype will be Moda Esperanza International from Honduras. They will talk about their program and the products that they make (the pop tab purses that can be found in our boutique!).
January 24th at 9:30am:  Ink 180 Documentary Viewing
Willow Creek Church
67 E Algonquin Road, South Barrington, IL
Many victims of trafficking are being tattooed by their captors so that if they are ever found, they can be tracked back and returned to their 'owners.'  These tattoos are sometimes names, but often bar codes.  Ink 180 has covered or removed these destructive markings for victims since he began in October of 2011.  INK 180 exists to offer the opportunity for a real second chance to the least of these, the invisible, the forgotten, the discarded.  Chris provides his time, supplies, artwork, entirely free of charge to the victims. Register Here

January 22nd at 7pm: Freedom Readers Book Discussion of "Undaunted" by Christine Caine
Willow Creek Church - Room 114
220 Exchange Drive, Crystal Lake, IL
We will be discussing Undaunted:  Daring to do What God Calls You To Christine Caine, founder of the The A21campaign.  Read the book on your own and join us for a 1-night discussion. 
Book Description:  Learn how to overcome the challenges and painful circumstances you've experienced so that you may grow in faith and help others! Using her own dramatic life story, Caine reveals how God rescued her from abuse, abandonment, and fear to embark on a mission of adventure for him---and how you can do the same! Join Freedom Readers on Facebook HERE


January 31st from 9am to 11:00am: Refuge For Women Volunteer Orientation
Willow Creek Church - Room 107
220 Exchange Drive, Crystal Lake, IL
Refuge For Women will be opening the doors of a safe house in July 2015.  There are many volunteer opportunities available.  Come hear about the program and how you can get involved. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

January Is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and there are a number of ways you can take part!
In 2010, President Barrack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and urged all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking. To read his proclamation visit Here

Considered taking time this month to learn more about this topic.  Here are some simple things you can do.
Read on the Subject: 
  • Refuse To Do Nothing by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim is my absolute favorite! It's great for introducing you to the subject and for understanding the depth and scope of the problem.
  • Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd is a memoir and a great read for understanding how young girls get trapped into this as well as why it is so hard for them to leave.  This does have some explicit language, but the overall message is one that needs to be heard.
  • The White Umbrella: Walking With Survivors of Sex Trafficking by Mary Frances Bowley will help you understand the trauma these women have experienced and how important the need for healing is.  
  • For a longer list of Suggested Books read my post from last year Here
Educate yourself:
Watch a movie or documentary:
  • My favorite documentary is Nefarious.  It's a comprehensive look at trafficking, but ends with the focus of the hope and healing that can be found in Jesus. 
  • Host a movie night and show a movie or documentary on the subject.  Stop It is offering to help you do just that in the month of January.  During the month of January, Stop It will help you play host or hostess for a screening of Very Young Girls in your home with family and friends.  It will raise awareness about the issue, provide a platform for some thoughtful discussion, and help Stop It raise money for their program working with survivors in Chicago.
  • For more Suggested Movies/Documentaries go Here
 Get Involved:
  • Enter the Human Trafficking Hotline # into your phone 888-373-7888
  • Research organizations in your area that are fighting against human trafficking and sign up for their newsletter or email. If time permits, you may even want to volunteer with them.
  • Sign up for Refuge For Women's 1000 Campaign.  Join an army of 1000 women that have decided to do something and end sex slavery. What individual step will you take in the next year to end sex slavery? It doesn't have to be huge it just has to be something. What is your something? It takes less than 2 minutes to join.  Sign up Here and then invite 5 friends to join you.
  • Pray, Pray, Pray - There is no better weapon in the fight against Human Trafficking
  • Sign up for the daily prayer email with Shared Hope International and commit to praying once a day during the month of January to end sex trafficking.
  • Download the Prayer Guide from The A21 campaign.

Specifically, January 11th is the day set aside as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  Consider setting a timer on your phone to go off every 2 minutes as a reminder that every 2 minutes a child is trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.  When someone asks you about your timer be prepared to share this statistic with them.
Every 2 minutes

Thursday, January 1, 2015

One Word To Frame 2015

I first heard about the idea to Choose One Word last year.  Instead of making resolutions which inevitably get broken, you choose one word to focus on and frame your year ahead. 

Resolutions are hard to keep and leave no room for growth.  Once your resolution is broken, you are faced with the question of whether or not to continue since you've already failed.  We often feel defeated and simply give up. 

By choosing just one word to focus on, the risk of failure is eliminated.  You just pick yourself back up and with God's help strive to keep your focus on your chosen word. 

Last year the word God gave me was love.  The word definitely fit within the ministry and outreach efforts.  Love is the basis of why we do what we do.

This year the one word I am sensing is ironically just that - One.  Just One.

This one word can be applied to so many areas.  In my personal life I will choose to focus on just One and let that be my motivation. 

Choose to say no to dessert just this One time.

Just One workout won't seem so bad.

Just One remark that doesn't come out

Just One critical thought turned into a loving one.

Just One negative thought turned into a positive one.

Just One soft answer instead of a harsh one.

I don't have to start big.  I just have to start somewhere!

In ministry I will choose to focus on just One and let that be my motivation. 

We think about the fact that 27 million people are currently enslaved around the world and the task seems daunting and unreachable.

But if we focus on just One the task seems much more manageable. 

I recently read an article about an interesting study that was done explaining the mindset of focusing on the problem as a whole rather than just one person.

Our brains actually become conflicted with the emotions of wanting to help and the emotions of feeling hopeless because the problem is so enormous.

Yes, the numbers are impossible, but all things are possible with God.  And we reach out to them one by one because every One of them is precious, every One of them matters and every One of them is worth it.

No matter what word you choose, here is a great opportunity.  Choose just One thing that you will do in 2015 to end sex trafficking.  Will you commit to pray over this issue?  Can you find time to volunteer?  Are you passionate about raising awareness?  What One thing will you commit to doing?  Sign up Here and join an army of 1000 women who are committing to doing just One thing.