Advocacy: The Power To Transform Nations (Part Two)

Fact: The victims of the injustice human trafficking and sexual exploitation face physical and sexual violence, mental and emotional abuse, control and manipulation on a daily basis. 

These women and children are treated as a commodity that must generate a profit for the “owner”. They are devalued, dehumanized with their dignity and value stripped from them by their abusers. Forced to serve many “customers” daily, this painful and inhuman treatment leads to many physical injuries, severe psychological trauma and often a reliance on drugs to numb the pain of their existence. Drugs are also forced upon them by their traffickers, as a means of controlling them. An early death is often the tragic end to their story. 

The challenge to us on this advocacy journey is: Do we believe that this is her choice? Do we believe that she wants to live this life? …….Or do we believe that God wants to change this story from one of tragedy to one of hope, and that it actually might start with me? Do you believe you can make a difference? You see, what we believe in our hearts will often determine our actions. 

The good news is that we have a God of justice on our side, desperate for his people to see and meet the needs of the oppressed in this world, to reflect his character and bring him glory. Psalm 146:7-9 states,

 “He (God) gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The LORD frees the prisoners. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down. The LORD loves the godly. The LORD protects the foreigner among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.”

This is our God. He is a God of of protection, rescue and restoration!

Scripture tells us that advocacy is also a desire of God’s and therefore is a privilege of ours as his people. 

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8-9

Yes advocacy is using your voice, using your resources to help others…. But it is also more than words. It is a journey of deep awareness, of allowing the darkness to be revealed, so that in the light it can be transformed. This is also what is needed with each of our hearts as we bring our prejudices, wrong motives and sexual or other types of sin to God and allow him to do the renewing that will lead to personal transformation and ultimately cultural reformation. How do we expect others to change, if we are not willing to do so ourselves? 

The amazing truth is that God wants to use each of us to bring his kingdom to earth as it is in heaven, to be peace-makers, to be advocates. But as we advocate, we ourselves need to recognize our own brokenness. We need to come to know that in our weakness, he is strong. It is through broken vessels like us that his light shines through and illuminates who actually has the power to transform our desperate world. So do not fear! Shine as he has called you to do so. 

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

So will you let him shine through you, in all your brokenness, to bring hope, healing and transformation to this world?

Advocacy: The Power To Transform Nations (Part One)

To be an advocate means to be “one who pleads the cause of another.” (1) The word ‘advocacy’ is derived from the Latin word ‘advocare’, which means ‘to call out for support’. (2) So when we are discussing advocacy, it is important to keep focused on this context of the meaning. “Pleading” and “calling out” suggest that we have opportunity to use our voices to speak up about something that we have an urgent appeal about, or for. We at the SA Foundation have seen the urgent need for advocates to arise due to the drastic numbers of women and children being sold into sex slavery, often leading to their deaths. We know this is not the life God intended for them and we want to pursue freedom for all enslaved in trafficking and sexual exploitation. This life of slavery is not their desire. Rather, it is the desire and greed of those who hold them captive, generating much profit from their repeated sexual abuse. Let’s not hide from this disturbing reality, because the truth is, they need us to see and understand, so that we can be better equipped to fight for them and meet them in their need. So in these next blog posts let’s look at the facts and the issues surrounding them.

Fact: Sex trafficking and exploitation is a growing concern, with rising numbers globally, because there is a growing demand. 

Sex in our world is so far removed from God’s original intention and design. No longer regarded as a precious creation given by God to humanity, it has been treated as  something trivial and light, where individual pleasure is the highest goal. There are people buying women and children for sex, because they believe they are free to do so. We live in an individualistic culture that says my need or want must be served. The solicitors desire to please themselves, without considering the other. 

Is this what freedom looks like today? Has exploiting those who are weaker, more vulnerable or without a voice become acceptable? 

So what is our response, our plea?

Paul writes in Galatians 5:13-14:

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (3)

What a stark contrast to the ways of the world. Yes, we are free in Christ, but how does that change how we should live? We are called to use our freedom to serve humbly and in love. We are called to use our freedom to love our neighbour as ourselves. These are beautiful expressions of God’s love and grace to our broken and hurting world. 

As an advocate, I want to live in a world where men and women stand up to say we will not contribute to this pandemic of sexual exploitation and trafficking; where instead of judgement, we identify with those enslaved, as if they were our neighbour, and say “if it’s not OK for me…it’s not OK for ‘her’; where the love of God compels us to look outside of ourselves and our security to see those on the margins and take action to right the wrongs done to them. It is in this place of laying down corrupt desires  and choosing the life of the Spirit that we can see transformation to our lives, families, communities and nations! 

So how are we using our freedom today for Gods glory and kingdom? 

References:

1- Merriam Webster Online Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/advocate

2- What is Advocacy and How Can it Help? Anush Begloian: https://www.culturepartnership.eu/en/publishing/advocacy-course/what-is-advocacy

3- The Holy Bible- New International Version (accessible online at https://www.bible.com/bible/111/GAL.5.13-14.NIV)

Success Vs Fruitfulness

Don’t we all long for success and to create something of meaning from our lives, maybe even a legacy through which we will be remembered? This isn’t necessarily a bad goal…unless of course, if what we are actually desiring is to build our own kingdoms and reap the glory. There is a difference between what we consider success in this world, and what God considers success or fruitfulness in his kingdom. In our daily lives how often are we asking ourselves and God if we are being fruitful?

Fruitfulness is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work within us, producing spiritual qualities that reflect God to the world. These qualities or ‘fruit’ are not produced or sustained by us- they are not things we can just work harder to achieve, they are practices that require spiritual refining and discipline, which only the Holy Spirit can do in our hearts. One of the greatest things to realize in this world is that we cannot change our own hearts, nor the hearts of others. A life of fruitfulness is the result of a Christian being matured in their walk with Jesus, listening to his voice and learning to seek and obey all that God desires. The journey of refining is a process through which we are pruned, where the dead things in our lives can fall away and the good can be strengthened and encouraged on. Through this refining, good fruit can actually be produced in our lives. Jesus describes it in gardening terms like this:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…..This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-2,8 (NIV)

We are actually identified as his through the fruit that we bear. This brings glory to God- that others might see him through our lives. This is his kingdom’s work! So in these days, are we striving for worldly success or are we asking to be fruitful disciples?

So what is the fruit that brings God glory?

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (AMP)

Isn’t this great news that the fruit is a result of his presence within us and not about us earning it in our independence? The 12 step process the leaders and the women in our programs use for personal recovery and transformation is a powerful tool in recognizing the ways we try and control our lives and the things we use as “coping mechanisms”. God is constantly working through this tool of the steps to show us that he is the author of our life, that he can be trusted and that he is the one able to do the heart surgery necessary for healing, freedom and fruitfulness. The growth can seem so small or slow at times, that we can often miss the significance of what God is doing in and through us. Yet fruit, like anything planted,  takes time to grow, so it is important to have community that can encourage this process.

So let’s not be discouraged, for we are in this journey with a good God and the people/ community he has placed around us to thrive, so we can be “…certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

The Transformation Journey

We have all been shaped and moulded by different people, circumstances and environmental influences, such as our cultural. These things may be positive or negative. They may have caused us joy or pain. Ultimately, experiences and influences are what guide our thinking, our understanding of who we are, our values and behaviours today. This is the human experience of living. God’s design for all humanity is that we would have our identity and value rooted in the truth of who he is and who he has created us to be—loved. In many ways this is what we are all searching for: meaning and purpose, rooted in unshakable and unconditional love.

Transformation can look like a process of renewal. Things that have trapped us in the lie that we are not loved, we are not worth much, or that we have no purpose, can actually be replaced with truth. Within Christianity, we call this process sanctification. Allowing God to change our minds, hearts and desire to the truth that we were made for a good reason and purpose, we were made in his image, and we were made by and for his love.

For many of us, it is easier to believe the lies, mainly because they have been our default pattern of thinking for a long time. When we surround ourselves with others, however, who are able to speak into our lives with godly encouragement and love, when we read and believe God’s promises in his written Word, and when we take time to be still and listen to God’s voice, incredible change is possible.

In one very important letter in the Bible, Romans, Paul is giving instruction to followers of Jesus in the city of Rome, about how to now live out their faith in Jesus, and urges them in Chapter 12 verse 2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” NIV. He is saying that we can have our minds—our thinking patterns—actually renewed to be more aligned with God’s. Through this we will experience transformation.  We will no longer be controlled by the things of this world, such as the lure of success, wealth, people-pleasing, selfish ambition, but we will know the desires of God and want to partner with him to see these things happen in our lives and the lives of others. What a gift!

In the recovery classroom, the women we serve courageously step into the hard work of heart work. They no longer want to be trapped. They desire true freedom. The way out of darkness and into the light is the same for all of us. We must allow the pain to surface, be revealed and be processed. There is no side-stepping healing….BUT, the incredible reality is that what is revealed and brought into the light no longer has a hold over us. The women get to recognize this truth as they journey alongside wise and loving counsel and use helpful tools to process the hurts, such as the 12 Steps. Through these committed relationships and tools they find out who they truly are, and how they now want to live, in light of this new identity. Recovery is a long process, and we need others to help us along the way. One of our core values is in recognizing that it takes time to heal so we allow for that space, relationship and time for each woman. Parenting is a part of this journey too, for as they come to know their worth and value, develop new tools and community, they are able to parent in ways that they had never experienced. This is the power of personal transformation: it can positively affect generations to come!

As Christians we all are on this journey of healing and sanctification—becoming more like Jesus. God is in the business of renewing and transforming our lives for our good and his glory. He is the God of life and is always doing a new thing. He is not stagnant, in him there is no darkness, and he desires the same purity and freedom for his children. This kind of transformation is an internal process. It is where we become fully ourselves—our true selves, as God designed us—and get to love that person.

The beautiful reality is that as we transform from the inside out, our external behaviours also begin to change. As our hearts are set free, our thinking also changes, and ultimately our way of living, as behaviours and actions also undergo Spirit-wrought transformation. Maybe instead of running from close relationships, we stay and become curious about the other person. Maybe instead of speaking hurtful and negative things over ourselves and others, we start to use our words to build up and encourage. Maybe instead of getting angry at things we can’t control, we allow God’s peace to flood us and move past anger into joy. As the serenity prayers states: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Maybe that is your prayer today? Know that transformation is possible, that renewal of the mind is a crucial element to this process, and that he is with you and for you on this journey. You are loved! 

The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude is something our teams are learning to practice much more in their daily lives. Individually and within our teams, we have seen the difference it makes in our perspective, our joy and our relationships when we practice it as a regular rhythm. It is something that we get to share too, a practice we do with the women in our Programs, for we know it is a gift that can truly transform hearts and minds.

So why does gratitude hold so much power? It has the ability to help us transcend circumstances from the stormy dark clouds of trials to actually see the silver lining. Gratitude changes our perspective, it helps us remember the goodness around, it helps us stay grounded, humble, aware of what we have instead of what we don’t have. There is power in gratitude, because is an element of love- This love is not self serving, it does not boast, it is not greedy for more- it allows for contentment and even joy with the present reality. This type of love Paul actually talks about in the book 1 Corinthians, as being true love- God’s love. 

So, the fruit of gratitude is contentment and joy! Wow what a way to live, free of striving, free from comparison, free to see others in the light of Gods’ love instead of with competition. We and the women we serve can learn daily to be confident in who we are, grateful for our recovery and community we are surrounded with and be free to see others in need. Gratitude can bring new clarity and restored relationships. 

But what about the difficult times we are in now- how are we supposed to live with gratitude? In the book of Philippians, Paul is writing to the church in Philipi, encouraging followers of Jesus how to live through the difficult times they were in. In chapter 3 verse 1 he instructs;

“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.”  

“Whatever happens!” Even during COVID-19, we still have cause to celebrate, to delight in Jesus because of who he is and His great love for us and what he accomplished for us on the cross. We have freedom and a life of restored relationship with our God. We know circumstances in our lives can be very challenging, and that sometimes it must be a minute by minute choice to focus on the good instead of dwelling on the negative. It has been a trial for all, as we walk step by step through the uncertainties of this new season. We are all learning to adapt and grow in ways we never expected. There can be frustration, anger, fear. Gratitude is more important than ever, it seems, as daily we are faced with these hard realities and emotions. 

“Rejoicing,” as Paul says, is necessary for us, emotionally, spiritually and physically! We need this for our own health. As we model gratitude and share its fruit, it can also change the atmosphere for others- bringing peace where they may have been fear, joy where there may have been grief, stability when others may be feeling shaky.  What a gift to share! 

This month of May we are going to focus our vision on gratitude- to remain grounded and rooted in truth in these days of potential stress and anxiety, that actually we still have so much to be grateful for. We invite you to join us and allow gratitude to be your new lens through which you see these coming days. 

Tilling the Soil

Recovery is a long process. One of our core values is: It takes time to heal. People who have been hurt do not recover quickly. Our commitment to the women who enter our programs, therefore, is long-term.

When you want to plant a seed, you first need to till the soil. Otherwise, the seed will have no chance of germinating, taking root, let alone growing into a healthy plant. We desire that each of the women, and their children, grow into healthy individuals. So we spend a lot of time tilling the soil.

Tilling the soil requires patience and hard work. The ground may be hard. The rocks to be removed may be large and numerous. Overgrown briars and other dead or dying plants must be removed. It’s messy work. And it’s hard work. But it must be done. And we will do it, and take as much time as is needed. We will not give up, because seeing  Her life flourish is worth all the commitment.

One participant during her time in the recovery classes would state: “A hard day is a good day….because I know that it means I am healing and growing.” The women we work with are courageous, tenacious and willing to do the hard work of recovery to see their lives transformed.

Will you support us and pray for as we seek to till the soil for recovery at the SA Foundation? Will you pray for the women and their children? Will you ask God to give patience, energy and perseverance? God alone can bring about the transformation and growth… and He does,even in the hardest places. We are but his trusted servants,  his vessels and it’s our privilege to partner with Him. He wants us all to experience deep healing and freedom so thank you for your love, prayers and support, that sustain our Programs to provide this time and safe space for these precious women and children.

Giving Freely

Change can never be forced. We believe, in fact, that it grows out of the soil of unconditional love. When others know that we love them, they will be more open to the change and the growth that we are trying to nurture in them.

Much like a plant will grow and flourish when we feed and nourish with the right amount of light, water and food,  so it is with the women and children in our care, who have been rescued from sexual exploitation and human trafficking. We cannot force change, but we can shower them with the kind of love and care that we all need and which they may have never known.

This is how Jesus is with us. He has freely and unconditionally love us first. His love has brought about the change and transformation in our lives. And he calls upon us to freely give to others, as we have received from him:

“Freely you have received; freely give.”–Matthew 10:5

By this means, he brings healing to the sick through us, drives out demons, and even raises the dead! In this way, the Kingdom of God comes near to us, and to others through us. This is what unconditional love really looks like!

Please join us in learning the blessing of freely giving to those in need and opening ourselves up to even more freely given love and grace from God.

Yesterday, Today and Forever

As we move into a new year, we at the SA Foundation have much to be thankful for. God has graciously sustained us through another year. We could count on his provision for every day, week and month that was before us, even when we were wondering how that would happen. We wish to thank you, our supporters, for faithfully remembering us and praying for us.

The turning of a new decade gives additional impetus to consider and contemplate the past, present and future. This is something that we regularly do as an organization. In order to know what to be busy with in the present, we need to reflect on how things have gone in the past and plan for the future. We need to do this, trusting in our Lord and praying for his discernment, wisdom and courage. This is what we have done throughout the past decades of our organization. We’re committed to do in the same in the 2020’s.

Our Lord and Master, whom we serve, and to whom we look every day for his blessing and direction, is faithful and constant. As Hebrews 13:8 says:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

We are imperfect servants, but he is the perfect Servant Leader. As we listen to his voice, follow in his footsteps and seek his direction, he will never abandon or forsake us. In a crazy world, this rock solid reality brings us peace and comfort.

There are three things we’d like to share with you about our present circumstances and needs at the SA Foundation.

In the first place, we are in the process of moving to a new frontline house! This move will not only save us a fair bit of money from month to month. It is also a much newer, more pleasant and better suited home for the women and children in our program.

In the second place, we are in need of a reliable 12-passenger van for the Genesis Vancouver program. If you know of an individual or dealership that would be able to help us acquire such a van, please let us know!

In the third place, we are looking for funds to provide entry level job training program for a successful program participant.

We trust that God will continue to provide for each need, one by one. But we also know that he works through people like you to meet our every need.

The whole team here at the SA Foundation wishes to thank each one of you and wish you the very best in the 2020’s. Please continue to pray for us, for the women and children in our care and each member of the staff and board. We are committed to praying for each of you as well!

 

 

 

Parenting is Vital

One of the distinguishing features of our program model is that we welcome into our program both women and their children. It is important to us to do everything possible to keep mothers and their children together, so that the generational cycle of exploitation can be broken. Like our Lord Jesus, we want nothing to hinder the little children from experiencing the healing that God wants to bring to them.

The Lord Jesus said,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”–Matthew 19:14

For this reason, we provide housing that is suitable for mothers with children, daycare for the children while their mothers are busy with the day program and parenting guidance, classes and mentoring. Will you help us to be a generation changer and help us bless the little children in Jesus’ Name?

Skills Need to be Taught

Whatever vocation a person chooses, they need to be trained. They need to obtain skills and learn how to put those skills to productive use. As they gain experience and competence, they are challenged to develop more advanced skills and given larger responsibilities.

Jesus talks about this sort of thing in his parables. He mentions how a satisfied employer speaks to his diligent and hard-working employee:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”–Matthew 25:23

For the women in our programs, who’ve escaped sexual exploitation, doing satisfying and fruitful work that does not demean them and in which they are not being used by their boss is a huge blessing. We help them discover how they can be fairly rewarded for honourable work, rather than being abusively exploited solely for the selfish benefit of an abusive master. We point them to Jesus, who loves them, wants them to succeed and also promises not merely earthly rewards but an eternal reward!