Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Doing it Right

There is a right and a wrong way to engage internationally to foster justice and fight oppression, and She is Safe does it right.  On a trip I took to Myanmar with She is Safe this past December, I got to experience it first hand.

I saw the results of "aid gone wrong" on a post-earthquake trip to Haiti many years ago.  Although I couldn't have put my finger on it at the time, I was troubled by a rather dependent mind-set on the part of many (but by no means all) Haitians whose answer to difficult times was to request money or rescue from their wealthier non-Haitian contacts.  In hindsight, I believe the attitude is one WE created over decades of well-intentioned but poorly designed efforts to help the struggling nation.

In their book Helping Without Hurting, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert suggest that "helping" can actually hurt the recipient because it too often fails to address the roots of the problem.  For example, many programs by churches and humanitarian organizations have the goal of poverty alleviation.  However, the programs have an incomplete and unbiblical view of poverty as a lack of material goods or financial opportunity.  In this view, the "solution" is too often simply to give the needy the material goods that are lacking.

In reality, this approach is merely treating a symptom of the much deeper and more complex psychological and social roots that lead to poverty.  As a result, our well-intentioned handouts have the unintended side effects of creating dependency, undermining the dignity of the materially poor, and perpetuating the underlying causes of poverty.

Corbett and Fikkert prescribe a more biblical and holistic view of poverty as "rooted in broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation."  Using the Bible as their guide, the authors propose modeling development efforts after God's mission of what they call "comprehensive reconciliation" in ways that restore not just material possessions, but opportunity, dignity, and an appreciation of one's identity as a divine image-bearer.

Applying the perspectives offered by Corbett and Fikkert to the important anti-trafficking work that is much more in the spotlight these days, I can see how I have made similar errors in thinking.  When I first learned of the extent of human-trafficking in the world--and particularly sex-trafficking--my response was what I hope most people's would be: "We have got to stop this!  We have to rescue the women and children enduring such horrors!"

It's not wrong thinking, but it is incomplete.  Yes, we must have programs that work directly to rescue people from slavery and exploitation.  However, until we address the underlying systems of thought and culture that foster the treatment of humans as property, until we attack thinking that elevates personal gratification over all else, trafficking will continue to flourish.

Such an approach is a daunting undertaking:  It is slow, complicated, messy, and definitely not for the faint of heart.   On my trip to Myanmar, I had the privilege of seeing such efforts walked out by She is Safe staff members and their partners in Myanmar.   However, Myanmar is just one of many locations where She is Safe is partnering with local efforts and doing development right.

I hope you will consider supporting there work this year by joining me and many others and participating in the 2016 Run to Rescue Virtual Run.  Sign up today!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What are You Supporting?

Being a person who can't say much of anything in a few words, I often struggle to explain the work of She is Safe concisely to people who ask me about what the Run to Rescue Virtual Run supports.

Today I got an message from a friend who works for them outlining goals for a future trip.  This is a trip to a region where She is Safe is just beginning to form partnerships for ministry.  Take a look and see what kind of work you are supporting and the people you are helping by participating in this run!

"Here’s some of the field work we plan to do while on the ground:

  •  Attend children’s outreaches (tutoring centers in local recycle* communities) - observing, interviewing members, teaching lessons, offering encouragement, taking photos, taking notes
  • Participate in an outreach to prostitutes** (forced or volunteer) in the local Red Light District – playing games, developing relationships, offering encouragement
  • Investigate potential outreach to at-risk teenage girls in the recycle communities - observing, offering encouragement, taking photos, taking notes, asking lots of questions
  • Visit ministry leaders & others doing similar work – participating and speaking in church services, praying with leaders and local believers, encouraging ministry leaders, listening to updates from ministry leaders, taking notes
  • Introduce Transformation Groups and determine what adaptations might be necessary to launch into these recycle communities

*Recycle Communities are essentially communities where people live and are employed to sort out recyclables from trash.  People in these communities are extremely impoverished, child labor is quite high, and girls are at high risk for being trafficked to local Red Light Districts or to China as brides for children of the one child policy.  Children sometimes attend school, but the free morning school sessions don’t actually provide an education.  The children’s outreaches (tutoring centers) provide academic help while also bringing the message of the gospel, abuse prevention and awareness, etc.  These outreaches are just getting started and there is more to improve, but in the first year all children participating in the program passed their exams.  This was a big deal!  Now the parents are interested. We hope to expand outreach to teenage girls and possibly introduce Transformation Groups as a strategic bridge to the gospel and holistic development initiative to prevent abuse and exploitation and bring lasting change."

Will you sign up today?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Where Will You Run?

This is one of my favorite photos from the 2014 run. As she posted her pictures from the family run, sweet Haydee commented, "You don't want to know how long it took us to run 5k."  It didn't matter.

 Somethings are better done slowly.  Like raising boys to be men.

When I look at this picture, I see a father and mother who are raising their sons to value women and to fight for them.

Even the ones a world away whom they will never lay eyes on.

Even the ones who are not yet born.

The fact that dad was right there with them?  HUGE. By his participation, Dad validated this event to his sons. As they dressed for their run/walk that day, these boys learned in age-appropriate ways the details of why they were getting dressed in matching shirts, pinning on numbers and hitting the trail.

As they began their run, Haydee told me her youngest looked around, confused and said, "Where is everyone else?"

I'm not sure he was ever able to understand the concept of a virtual run, but the beautiful thing was this:

Everyone else was all over.

There may not have been other runners on the trail that morning, but people were running in Florida, Iowa and Alaska, in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, in California, Texas, and Puerto Rico.  People walked on trails in the heat and, ran on indoor tracks and treadmills where it was snowy.

As they ran, they sent in pictures like the one above that set my heart on fire.

Let's do it again.  Let's do it even bigger.

Sign up today and then comment where you will be running.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Great Letter for Recruiting a Team!

This week one of my great helpers for the Run to Rescue Virtual Run, Sue Williamson, sent me a letter to review.  Excited to build a large team to help this effort, she is mailing it to friends in her homeschool support group and at her church.  With her permission, I am sharing it here as a model for anyone else looking to build a team to help this cause!  Thanks so much, Sue!

Dear Friends, Click here to watch a video on She Is Safe's mission.

Katy Anderson, a missionary friend and former member of my church, introduced me to her mission work and ministry a few years ago at dear friend's home. Katy presented a slide show and spoke about She Is Safe, opening my eyes to the plight of many girls/young women in the world (as you have hopefully watched on the video link above). Last year, my friend Mary Odell worked hard to organize a 5K Virtual Rescue Run for She Is Safe. I'm so proud of her and inspired by her faith put into good works. With the Lord always leading the way the results were: 85 participants from Alaska to Puerto Rico raising $2600 for S.I.S.!

Here's an excerpt from Mary Odell's blog: "I am not going to bury my head in the luxurious sand of my comfy North American life, praising God for my blessings while ignoring the ugliness elsewhere.
I am not going to do nothing.

For now my "something" is to stand with those who are fighting the darkness with the light and hope of the Gospel.  I am standing with She is Safe and their partners in the darkest places through the Run to Rescue Virtual Run.   Will you join me?"

Virtual run?? What does "virtual" mean, you may ask. "Virtual" in this sense simply means that the 3.1 miles required to run or walk on behalf of raising money and awareness for this worthy cause can be "virtually" done ANYWHERE in the WORLD by men, women, or children. Registration is online only and participants are asked to post a photo or two of their experience so others on social media can see us come together one weekend out of the year to help rescue girls from lives of feeling and being treated as unworthy and of no value. WE know GOD values all life...every single life, so knowing this, isn't it our responsibility to share this knowledge with others? We are not all called to go to India and other 3rd world countries like Katy does, but we can all do "something" as Mary wrote. This Rescue Run is one idea, but one I hope you will consider doing because 1) it's easy-- you don't HAVE to do the physical part and you don't HAVE to do the financial part...keep reading to find out more about that 2) As fellow Christians we want to encourage them as the Word teaches all of us to care for the poor and orphans of this world.

If you want to walk with me  I would love it—(insert time and location).  If you can’t make it at that time, you can do walk or run whenever and wherever as long as it’s sometime during the weekend of Oct.9-11! Walk your neighborhood, run the trail, walk on a treadmill, but take pictures and help us spread awareness by posting your photo on social media and/or wearing your Rescue Run t-shirts. You see, the difference between just writing a check and sending it or participating in this Rescue Run, is that the Run was formed to help spread the news about She Is Safe's ministry so that MORE people will become aware & decide to help out. The results of last year prove that it's an effective means of "free advertising", so to speak. It was a great first showing, but we're confident we can do even better this year "with a little (more) help from our friends".

So here's the good news for those of you that can't afford the registration fee, but want to help out: If you can't pay the registration fee, but would like to participate, find a Sponsor who will register for you while you do the grunt work! We tried this last year with a couple broke college students who were quite capable to run a 5K. This year we've added this idea to the official Registration page.

So here's the good news for those that can't or don't want to physically run or walk the 3.1 miles: Become a Sponsor by paying the registration fee and someone will walk/run for you! You can either find someone to run/walk for you (this would be great!) OR the Rescue Run will find someone who will do it (one of those people in the previous paragraph:).

This way, everyone of all ages and stages can help out the Rescue Run and help save and empower lives around the world in the name of Jesus. :) Please register by clicking here and join my team— or make a team of your own. There is a team discount code. Just follow the instructions on the Registration page found at this link.

Thank you for reading and prayerfully considering this,

Friday, September 19, 2014

When Gratitude and Discontent Collide

As of this month I am the mother of two college students.  Both of my girls are attending college locally, so I get to see them each day as they head off to class or to work. (Both also have jobs as of today.)

This season is a bit overwhelming for them because in addition to juggling work and school, they are very aware that choices that they make now will determine the direction of their futures.  Each of my girls has been gifted with a sharp mind, good work habits and enough talent that the possibilities before them seem almost TOO many.  How does a girl decide?  Even my oldest, who knows with certainty that her chosen profession must involve cows, still has a surprising number of career options available to her.  You would think the whole cow requirement would drastically narrow your choices, but this is truly the land of opportunity!

I sympathize with their struggle, I really do.  I am also acutely mindful that such a smorgasbord of possibilities is a gift that is incomprehensible in many parts of the world.  As my daughters wrestle through the options before them, I can't help but think of a passage from the book Forgotten Girls by Kay Marshall Strom and Michelle Rickett.  One of the authors asked a young girl, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"   Initially the girl just answered with a stare.  When she finally answered, her response was a whispered, "I can't be anything."

Ugh.  Each time I picture the scene, I feel I've been kicked in the guts.

While I am grateful for the safe, comfortable life my daughters have enjoyed, I cannot be content with it after reading that story--because that could just as easily be my daughters.  There is NOTHING my family has done to deserve what we have more than that little girl.  I have no answer to why my girls live safe and valued in a culture of abundance while so many girls grow up in cultures that tell them they are worthless and expendable. 

I don't know yet what I am supposed to do with this concoction of overwhelming gratitude and unrelenting discontent that churns in me.    

I do know what I won't do.

I am not going to waste my passion demanding answers from a God who I know from experience is good even when circumstances are horrible.

I am not going to bury my head in the luxurious sand of my comfy North American life, praising God for my blessings while ignoring the ugliness elsewhere.  

I am not going to do nothing.

For now my "something" is to stand with those who are fighting the darkness with the light and hope of the Gospel.  I am standing with She is Safe and their partners in the darkest places through the Run to Rescue Virtual Run.   Will you join me?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Story: Moved to action by Transformation Groups

About a year ago a friend invited me to a tea to learn about the work a friend from her church does with She is Safe.

For several years my family had supported efforts to end human trafficking, so my friend thought I would be interested to meet someone who was doing the work in the field. Up until that point, my interest and focus had been on the urgent aspects of anti-slavery--namely rescuing victims and restoring them to wholeness.

Although She is Safe engages actively in rescue and restoration, what really captured my heart and imagination that day was when Katy told about her specific work with She is Safe: Transformation Groups.

It's one thing to rescue a girl from abuse and exploitation, but how much better to prevent the exploitation from ever happening in the first place!

If you were to visit the areas where She is Safe has chosen to focus their efforts, you would see cultures with rampant poverty and over population--cultures in which girl children are viewed as either a burden or a commodity to be sold. Women and girls in these parts of the world are vulnerable to a host of issues that go beyond sex-trafficking.

Transformation Groups engage with women in these cultures at a level to address these issues.  Through these groups the women themselves are empowered in ways that actually prevent trafficking and child marriage from happening in the first place.

Working with partners within the community, She is Safe teaches women about God's love and their value in His eyes.  Through the Transformation Group, women develop job skills, learn financial management, build savings and administer a lending pool as they support one another's success.   These activities are conducted in such a way that the group is self-sustaining.

The beauty of She is Safe's Transformation Group model is that it equips the women to create positive influences in their community and better futures for their children without creating dependency.  Once empowered, these women are often moved to then reach out with the little they have and impact others.  The stories are amazing, and I hope to share some of them as we move towards the event date.

I encourage you to follow the links I have peppered throughout this post, which take you to appropriate pages on the She is Safe website.  Perhaps some other aspect of their work will capture your heart.  That's great!  My prayer is that you will get as excited about this work as I am and be eager to gather a team of runners together and join us virtually the weekend of October 10-12!

If you want to get involved immediately, especially if you are a business who would help by sponsoring this event, please contact me at .