Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today: A Message to the Church

It’s no surprise that our world is broken, it has been for a very long time. Injustice, racism, hatred, and violence, are nothing new. Humanity has done a great job of hurting itself for centuries. But in these more recent days, the blatant hatred and discord has made this reality even more obvious. I have witnessed more and more people coming forward to speak out against the wrongs, to share their experiences. And while each testimony of experienced racism, hatred, and violence sickens and pains me, I am thankful for those who are willing to raise their voices against the wrong. Oh how this world needs an antidote to itself!


The good news is that we have one, and it is more than time for the Church to rise up and share it! It is time for us to be more vocal than we have been in recent generations, to speak truth, not softly in our pulpits and homes, but loudly in the streets. Because the truth is, there will be other loud voices, speaking hatred and discord, speaking evil to our world. But we must ring out louder, with actions and words of truth and love.

Church, now is not the time to be silent. Now is not the time to let others do the work for us. Now is not the time to appeal to the masses, to bow to popular culture and the whims of the world. Now is the time for Christ to be proclaimed in word and in deed to the watching world that is so desperate for the undiluted Gospel. These are the days that we have been preparing for every time we sat through a sermon, memorized a verse, or practiced our Gospel methods. The time is now.

I implore you, if you claim to follow Jesus, if you call yourself a Christian, do not remain silent. When you see injustice, fight it. When you witness hate, confront it with Him who calls Himself Love. When you hear lies, speak the Truth with boldness. Dust off your Bible and read it with earnest. Get on your knees and pray for your communities, this country, and the world. There is only one Antidote for this world, and you know Him by name.

Church, do not turn on yourself, do not tear yourself down. Do not look to condemn those among you who are “too liberal” or “too conservative,” who voted “wrong.” The Church is the bride of Christ and He loves it dearly. Do not think you can spread hatred of the Church and not anger God. In all times and all ways, the Church must pursue unity. It is a body, one that cannot function without all parts working together in harmony. We must fight for unity.

Church, you are the hands and feet of Jesus. You do not exist to sit comfortably in your pew with your coffee and a side of condescension. You do not exist to stay in a bubble with those whose views align with yours. And above all, you do not exist to live a safe and prosperous life. In this world, you will have trials. But you are called to face the trials, to make disciples, to stand apart, and to do the will of the Father. I cannot wait to see what God does through willing and available hearts.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dressember 2016: Week 4 Recap

Happy New Year 2017, friends!

I love this time of year, a fresh start, full of potential and new beginnings. I feel like I come alive with the excitement of all that a new year represents. Anything can happen when the slate is wiped clean, just waiting to be written on.

Oh my hopes for this new year.

First though, I want to recap the ending of Dressember 2016. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who donated, who shared my posts on social media, who liked my photos, who wore dresses with me, who encouraged me and supported this journey. And thank you to those who plan to still give as we move into the new year. (Dressember and my fundraising page will be open to receive donations through then end of January.)


As of writing this post, we have raised over $1,300 and growing (I still have to make my final contribution)! This is the most I have raised at the end of a Dressember campaign to date. It's so awesome to watch my fundraising total slowly grow. Combined I have had the opportunity to raise over $3,500 for Dressember. All because of you!

I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the outpouring of financial support. And while the money is going to something bigger--to fight human trafficking and uphold the dignity of others--I feel personally uplifted in my efforts each time a donation is made. So thank you, from me and from those who will be aided by your donations.

Day 22

Fundraising Stats
Total raised before day 22: $813
Grand total: $813

Day 23

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $813

Day 23 was also "Ugly Christmas Sweater" day at work! :)

Day 24

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $813

Day 25

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $813

Day 26

Fundraising Stats
Amount donated on day 26: $21
Grand total: $834

Day 27

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $834

Day 28

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $834

Day 29

Fundraising Stats
Amount donated on day 29: $294
Grand total: $1,128

Day 30

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $1,128

Day 31

Fundraising Stats
Amount donated on day 31: $185
Grand total at the end of Dressember: $1,313

Donate now!  |  Visit my Dressember Page

Friday, December 30, 2016

Dressember 2016: Week 3 Recap + Last Chance to Give & Receive

There's only one day of Dressember left! I can't believe how quickly the month has flown by. I am so grateful for all the support I have received--from the 22 donors who have given to Dressember so far, to the ladies who have worn dresses with me.

If you haven't given to Dressember yet, please consider including it in your year-end charitable giving. It's tax-deductible and a secure process. Also, everyone who donates $10 or more to my campaign by January 1, 2017, will receive a surprise gift!

During week three we passed the half-way point of my fundraising goal! Even more importantly, information about Dressember continued to spread. I am so excited every time I get to tell someone new about the campaign and why I'm participating.

A few years ago I wrote this post before my first Dressember campaign and it's still true today. I participate in Dressember to be a voice for other girls, girls who don't have a voice or the ability to fight for themselves. Girls who have been easily overlooked and forgotten by society. Dressember is an opportunity to remind everyone that these girls exist and need our help.

If you know someone who hasn't heard about Dressember, please share my blog or my fundraising page. I would also love to talk with anyone who has questions.

Day 15

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 16

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

My co-worker Kayla joined me in wearing a dress again today!

Day 17

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 17 and 18 were sick days. I still wore a dress and took a photo, just didn't include my face. :)

Day 18

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 19

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 20 / Team Tuesday

Fundraising Stats
Amount donated on day 20: $21
Grand total: $763

Today was my last "Team Tuesday" at work, at least for this year. This has been one of the best parts of Dressember--getting to do it with other ladies!

Day 21

Fundraising Stats
Amount donated on day 21: $50
Grand total: $813

Donate now!  |  Visit my Dressember Page

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dressember 2016: Week 2 Recap + Survivor Story

I apologize that my week two recap is getting published at the end of week three. Needless to say with all of the holiday activities, it's been a little busy. But thanks to a cold, I'm parked on the couch with some free time to finally get this post published!

Before I get into my recap, I wanted to share a survivor story with all of you. These stories paint a picture of what your donation to Dressember can do. It's not just money being thrown around, it's money changing lives.


Elsa's Story

If you want to describe a survivor of sex trafficking in one word, use Elsa’s: Strong.

Just to imagine the nightmare Elsa* lived will require strength. Night after night, men paid Elsa’s boss to take her away to their hotel rooms. They could do anything they wanted to her there.

“I was treated as a slave who was required to follow orders whether I liked it or not,” Elsa says. Now in her early twenties, she speaks with a confidence that shows remarkable resilience.

“I had a happy childhood because of my adventures with my brothers and friends,” Elsa shares.

Everything changed for Elsa when she was 12 years old. Her father died suddenly. Elsa was told the sickness was a curse. Her mother left. Elsa and her brothers moved in with aging grandparents who couldn’t afford both food and school. So Elsa, the big sister, shouldered the responsibility and decided to make a way for herself and her little brother.

Amazingly, she managed to keep them both in school. She worked as a housekeeper, a janitor, a receptionist, a shop assistant—anything she could find. After high school graduation, she saw an opportunity to work as a nanny in Europe. This would allow her to support her family in ways she’d only dreamed of, but she needed a lump sum to offset the initial visa costs. This is when the traffickers made their move.

You see, someone had been looking for Elsa. Not her, specifically, but any girl like her. Commercial sexual exploitation is a profitable industry—upwards of $99 billion a year—and like any successful business, there’s a reliable model. In cities and slums around the world, pimps and traffickers recruit girls who are alone and afraid —teens who are desperate, shouldering a massive financial burden all on their own slender shoulders. The more frayed the support system the better. This is what vulnerable means.

A bar owner offered Elsa a job that promised good pay to jump start a new future. Maybe this was the chance she had been waiting for—the way she could ensure her little brother would finish school. So Elsa took the job. She was given a “uniform,” then made to dance for the customers. The girls took turns, half-hour shifts at a time.

Elsa explains: “I wanted to sleep and rest... Mamasan [the manager] would come to me and tell me to approach, entertain, and even hug customers to give me drinks and take me out. Usually customers would take me out to accompany them to another bar, watch other girls dance, and get drunk. Others take me straight to their hotel and make me do things.”

The pain at night gave way to shame in the morning. Traffickers often don’t need padlocks and bars to enslave young women like Elsa. They are clever businessmen who use loans and sham interest to trap girls in a cycle of debt. They are sly con-artists who propagate lies and prey on cultural stigma that makes girls feel guilty and ashamed for sexual behavior, that is in fact sexual abuse. They are hardcore criminals who will turn to physical violence if that’s what it takes.

In Elsa’s case, the bar managers used a complex system of fines and false debt to keep her and the other girls trapped there. She had to pay for everything—the skimpy uniform, the meals provided by the bar, even water. When a customer paid to take Elsa out of the bar and exploit her, Elsa got about $17, and the bar got $28. What Elsa didn’t know at the time was that the bar was under investigation for employing minors and coercing young women into commercial sexual exploitation.

Nearly three years ago, police staged an operation to arrest the suspects and free the victims. IJM staff were onsite to support the authorities and ensure Elsa and the 15 others rescued that night got immediate and expert crisis care. But this is not where the story ends.

Elsa resisted help. For so long she had lived on her own, managed the pain and shame on her own. She even ran away from the aftercare shelter at one point. But the IJM team that rescued her from the bar wasn’t going away because freedom seemed hard. Elsa’s social worker refused to give up, tracking down phone numbers of family members and even traveling to Elsa’s hometown to look for her.

Finally, Elsa responded to a text message. She said she wanted to try again. Soon after Elsa moved back into the aftercare home, she said she wanted to join the trial. “I thought of testifying to fight for my rights and speak of the truth. It was not my fault that I got there in the first place.”

Deciding to testify was a huge decision. It meant facing the traffickers once again. And in the Philippines, where courts are back-logged, it meant working up that courage multiple times only to show up and have the hearing postponed. When Elsa finally took the witness stand, she was brave, direct and strong. The trial against the bar owner and two managers is ongoing.

Later we asked what she would want to tell the traffickers who hurt her: “My message for the bar owner and manager is: do not abuse women’s weaknesses, their desperation to find a job because of extreme need. Do not step on women’s dignity because it hurts. We are all the same; we are human, not objects nor animals that can be manipulated.”

You should see Elsa today. She is now in her second year of college studying business administration. Her dream is to open an ice cream shop—a business that would give her independence and a way to care for her family. Elsa is moving forward. Don’t miss the message she shared in her own words…

*A pseudonym.
Day Eight

Fundraising Stats
Total raised before day 8: $726
Amount donated on day 8: $16
Grand total: $742

My co-worker Kayla joined me in participating in Dressember today!

Day Nine

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 10

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 11

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 12

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

Day 13 / Team Tuesday

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742

One day a week my co-workers are joining me for "Team Tuesday." Those who want to participate wear a dress for Dressember. I love having these ladies join me!

Day 14

Fundraising Stats
Grand total: $742
Donate now!  |  Visit my Dressember Page
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