Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Voice for the Voiceless

I was approached about a month ago by a friend and fellow freedom fighter for sex slaves in Korea about organizing a "flash mob" event.  It wasn't really a flash mob as you would think of it.  It was more like just a mob. HA!  The goal was to raise awareness among the Korean and Foreign community to the truth of sex trafficking in Korea by getting a large group of people together and hit the streets picking up illegal prostitution ads.  I had many meetings and stayed up many nights planning for this event.  A few of my team members and I even scouted a few areas of the city to find the best district to collect cards in.  We didn't know how many people to expect, but I wasn't so concerned about numbers.  I knew this was something the Lord wanted to happen, and that He would do His thing so I tried to be faithful in doing mine.  The event was planned for Saturday, Dec. 10th.

I had three major events going on this weekend, two of them I was in charge of, so I was super busy and all over the place, but I enjoyed it!  I attended a Single's Conference that was at my church but hosted by a number of English Ministry churches in Seoul.  The conference was Friday night, Saturday morning and then Saturday evening.  Saturday afternoon I had a 2 hour sound check for the Christmas program I was asked to plan at church and then Saturday night we were card collecting.

Saturday night we met around 10:30 and we had 50 people!!! (Only about 37 had confirmed they were coming) My team and I were so excited!!  We had two journalists that work for local newspapers, and three videographers that were there to document and film for us so that we can make a video to raise awareness and educate people on the facts.  So I made a few announcements and passed out bags and gloves.  We got everyone these worker gloves to wear because picking up trash off the ground gets gross.  The palms were red and we made sure to show them on camera a lot :-)  We first started in a popular area of the city, lots of people, but not a lot of cards to pick up.  Then we took the subway two stops away and when we got there the moon eclipsed.  I remembered my students told me about it earlier in the day but I had forgotten, it was cool.  I was so full of energy and excitement when we walked down the smaller street into the back road where we'd had a run-in with the pimp weeks before. I'd collected in this area at least twice before and what took 4 of us about 2 hours to pick up, 50 of us did in like 20 min.  It was great!  Many people overheard residents of that neighborhood say, "I'm Korean, I should be picking these up."  We were able to get interviews with a few Korean teen guys, but I haven't heard how that went yet.  We also overheard one of the pimps saying to the others that they should stay inside and not mess with us tonight which was pretty awesome!  Everyone that went was pretty surprised at the volume of cards that were everywhere.  After we did two sweeps of the street we consolidated all the cards probably 5 or 6 bags and went to the police station.  We were there for a long time going around in circles with them and not really getting anywhere.  We went to the headquarters for all of Seoul, and they told us we needed to go through the proper chain of command, but we told them we already had multiple times.  Then we asked them what more we could do, or who else we could contact, but they weren't interested in helping us.  The whole conversation was in Korean, obviously, and I am meeting with my team on Friday to debrief. 

Overall the whole event went really, really well. Everything I wanted to be accomplished was, and 50 was the perfect number.  Too many and it would have been unmanageable and too few wouldn't have had the same impact.  The community noticed us, the pimps for sure noticed us, and we were able to raise awareness among foreigners that will then go spread the word for our next event.  I was almost giddy with excitement at what the Lord did.  Isn't it true that when we are serving the Lord, we receive a blessing?  I love it!!

Oh!!!  And at the police station, one of the women on my team mentioned to the police officer about Sweden and their zero tolerance policy for prostitution and sex slavery, and she suggested they look into.

One prayer request I have is that through the holidays we can still press on with our prayer meetings, they've kind of taken a back seat to the planning of this event and the Christmas event.  There have also been a lot of birthday dinners and goodbye parties that have happened during the time we would normally meet to pray.  And while anyone who knows me knows how social I am, I'm wanting to end that trend, and start meeting regularly again.

Thank you for all your support.  It is making a huge difference and gives me strength to continue on.  
Isaiah 61:1-3

Much love,

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Are you serious?!?"

     I've been short on money this month.  I'm working hard still trying to set up my new apartment and pay off my debts back in the States.  One thing last year that I would sometimes allow to slip was my tithing, but I was determined to not let that be the case this time around.  So even though it would make a huge dent in what I could spend on social activities and other wants, I willingly gave back what I knew already belonged to God.  For the next couple weeks I watched every dollar spent.  I had already planned to attend a servant's retreat for all those at our church that serve in ministry.  When it was originally announced the cost was 90,000 won for singles which is close to $90.  Knowing it would be worth it I went ahead and signed up.  Then the church worked out some kind of discount for everyone so we only ended up paying 80,000 won.  I paid the money at an ATM by transferring it into our church's account.  Turns out I transferred it into the general account instead of the retreat account.  The church's administrative assistant, Nanah, notified me and she got it all sorted out.  Because of work I was only able to go to the retreat Friday night instead of Friday afternoon.  Unknowingly this made the price even cheaper!!  On Sunday Nanah found me and gave me back 10,000 won ($10).  I was thrilled.
     Then today, Monday, I went home to clean a bit on my break.  As I was throwing some laundry into the washer I noticed something blueish/green stuck in this tiny cavity in the washer.  I pulled it out and it was 12,000 won ($12)!  I stood up with a stupid grin on my face and literally laughed out loud and said, "Are you serious?!?  Man God, you're cool."  Then I laughed at myself some more for saying all of this out loud.  That's two days in a row that He's provided for me in a totally unexpected manner.  Recently the Lord has been showing me that I've had my priorities a little backwards.  He's revealing that I have been loving others, then loving Him.  He has been teaching me this through relationships, conversations, internal dialogue and of course His Word.  Well, today something clicked.  After this physical manifestation of His love, all I wanted to do was spend time with Him.  Here it is, Halloween Day in the world around me, but it feels more like Valentine's Day.  While I was talking with Him, He said to me, "see how I love you?"  Then again later on He said, "I love doing things like this for you."  It was such a special time for me and the one who loves me most.  Yes, it is only $22.00 that we are really looking at here, but it is not at all about the amount.  It is about Him showing His deep love for me.  I remember losing those $12 I found in the washer.  I remember checking my pockets for it and just assuming that I had carelessly spent it.  He didn't have to open my eyes at the time when He knew I needed it.  I've done many loads of laundry since I lost the money and had never noticed it before.  I think there are multiple lessons to be learned here.  Obedience to tithing cheerfully knowing it is a sacrifice returns a blessing.  God keeps His promises to take care of us.  He gives us abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.  And the one that I'm learning most of all, He loves me and wants me to love Him more than any other.  He is jealous of my time, attention, affection.  When it was time for me to return to work after my break.  I closed my prayer saying this, "I love you.  I will continue to try and grasp your love for me.  I wish I could love you as much as you love me."   I look forward to more, "Man God, you're cool" moments in the future.

It is a front loading washer, you see where it got stuck?

Ridiculous, that I even saw it. LOL!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me...

This is my heart...

When I decided to follow God's call to missions I asked Him if I could please go to Africa and work with orphans.  He sent me there with a passage from His word that has changed my life entirely.

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to preach 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,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
   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.

Isaiah 61:1-3

God has spoken clearly to me through these words and has taught me many lessons using them as well.  I once thought that it was my verse just for Africa but I am learning that it is so much more.  When I decided to make my church in Korea, Jubilee, my home, He revealed that the passage in Luke where Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1 is Jubilee's theme verse.  This verse is exactly the work the Lord has given me to do.  I have it tattooed on my shoulder and written on my heart.  It is the missions focus of so many organizations I am encountering lately and I know it is for an incredible purpose.

Just before I was to return to the US in March, another English church in Korea, Onnuri, was hosting an event called Freedom Sunday.  Their guest was the author of a book and founder of an NGO called Not For Sale.  Their mission is to expose the horrors of the human trafficking industry and rescue and restore its victims.  Words can't express the exuberant amount of emotions I felt that day.  I wanted to do something immediately.  I was ready to join whatever missions organization or partner with any church that would get me in the field the fastest, but that wasn't exactly God's timing.  So I've been to meetings, read articles, watched videos and organized prayer meetings to get the word out and pursue this invitation to follow the Lord's leading.    Currently I'm trying to start up a ministry at Jubilee that meets regularly for prayer and seeks to "bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners."  My heart is not for the victims alone, although there are over 30 million slaves worldwide today.  But the traffickers and "clients" are loved by God as well, and the enemy has a tight hold on them.  I know that this is enemy territory and as I continue following God down this path, danger will surely unfold, but He took the nails for me and I owe Him my life.  

Please take some time and research this horrible industry.  Just a couple of facts to get you started... The number 2 country for women being sex trafficked is South Korea.  The number 1 city in the United States that sells sex trafficked women is Atlanta.  It's not a foreign problem.  My home is both countries, I have to respond.

Check out the links below...
Not For Sale
Exodus Cry Prayer Movement, City in Focus: Seoul, South Korea
Nefarious, A documentary on modern day sex slavery.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Whole New World

I'm back in Seoul! I've been here nearly three weeks and it's been good. My school keeps me very busy, but the kids are great. I work from 9:30am to 8pm Monday through Friday. By the end of the week I'm pretty much drained. Thankfully, the school is very structured and the students know what is expected of them and they know the consequences when they don't meet the expectations. It also makes my job much easier to have the administration involved in the students academic lives with the desire for them to learn. I feel more like a teacher than I ever have before. With the grading papers, lesson planning, and classroom management in full force, I am being stretched and matured as an educator. Through all the business and long hours, I really am enjoying it.

I arrived in Korea around 6pm on a Thursday. I was taken to a hotel where I stayed until Saturday. I observed classes on Friday and then moved into my apartment on Saturday afternoon. It's pretty much the standard studio apartment, similar to the set up I had last year. I'm especially excited about the covered balcony I have that I intend to make into a cozy space once the pay checks start rolling in. Anyway, after work on Friday I heard via Facebook about an event for the college group at church. It was a sort of open mic night at the coffee shop that our church runs. So naturally I went. As I was walking towards the building I was almost giddy with excitement to be back at Jubilee. Anxious to see the faces that I've missed for the past few months. Eager to hear their stories and catch up on their lives. When I walked through the door my heart felt at home. It is still strange to me how such a foreign country can have the warming, welcoming, safe feeling that only home can offer. The conclusion I have come to in order to explain this is, the people. It's always the people for me. Aesthetics are rarely important to me, it's the love that comes with having a common bond of Christ and common attraction to the brokenhearted, a common willingness to be vulnerable and intimate with a fellow brother or sister. This is why Jubilee is home. I always leave encouraged, uplifted and refreshed. I strive to pour myself into it and let my love for my Savior and His for me overflow into the lives around me. It is what I miss when I'm away and what I look forward to during the week. It sustains me in Korea. The community I've found here is truly the body of Christ.

Now all that being said. Atlanta will always be my home. It is where my fondest memories are and the people dearest on Earth to me reside. I sometimes feel a little guilty when I go on and on about Korea and Jubilee and the life I have here. I never want to give the impression that I have replaced the closeness that I share with my family with other meaningful relationships. I think the best way I've found to understand this is, when you have a child, you love it more than anything and can't imagine loving anything more, and then you have a second or third or fourth child. Your heart grows and there is room to love. This is how I have two homes. I miss them both when I am away and I cherish them both so deeply. I am so blessed to be in this situation of having two homes to love. I truly understand how the Lord keeps His promise to give us more we can ask or imagine.

How to pray:

1. For those that are teachers they know that the teacher's lounge or teacher's room can be a challenging place to be. All of the teacher's at my school have our desks in one room. Our planning periods, breaks, or any downtime are all spent together. This gives way for criticism of students, school operations and basically anything that we can all collectively complain about. It's difficult to be in the middle of this everyday and not fall into the temptation to agree or take part in the complaining. I really want to be a light and stand out. I want to be an encourager not a criticizer.

2. Children's Ministry! I just joined Children's Ministry at my church and so I will go to bimonthly meetings on Saturday mornings and I have to be at church at 9am. I'll teach the kids in Sunday School during first service then I will attend second service. After second service is Bible Study so I'll be at church from 9am until at least 5pm. I'm thrilled about this, but I don't want to spread myself too thin. I've needed a venue to serve in at church and this seems like a really good fit for me. I'm excited, I just need to keep my energy up so I can be as much use as possible.

3. Almost homesick. My work schedule is much different this time around. In previous year's I've not had to be at work until 2pm which enabled me to stay up late and talk to my family on skype during their day and then sleep until later. As it is now I have to be up in the mornings by 8 and so I can't stay up late. I can already tell that it's going to be difficult for me. I'm very close with my family and so I need to find time to maintain that closeness that we share.