When we leave you…

Photo Creative Commons by Epicantus

When we leave you, church, it is not because we have stopped believing in God.

We have just stopped believing in your ability to facilitate positive life change. We have been hurt by your negligence of our hearts, be it unintentional or intended. We have felt lost in the “busy-ness” of programs, processes, and protocols. We can’t find our way in the buildings that just keep getting bigger. When we hurt, we can’t find anyone to talk to that will walk the long roads with us to healing.

Church, it feels like you have stopped showing us the way to the heart of God and we are desperate to find Him again.

We know in our hearts that God is the answer to all that is wrong in the world, we just don’t know how to reconcile that belief with how church is doing day-to-day ministry. We long to see the church rise up and make a difference in our neighborhoods, our cities… but first we long to see the church make a difference in our personal lives.

Our doubts don’t need a bandaid, they need the church to be present. Our anger doesn’t need to be snuffed out, it needs an ear so we can process through it. Our confusion doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs the church’s acceptance.

We long for you to SEE us as we struggle… there are many of us around you.

We need you to see us in our pain. We desire for you to sit with us in our mess. We can’t change what our lives have become. We may not know how to ask for help, to define what is wrong, or to understand how we got here when all we wanted to do was follow God. Our hearts yearn for you to take the initiative to help.

Do you see us church? 

 

 

NOTE: This post is dedicated to the dozens of people just this year alone that I have walked this path with, cried with, prayed for, and been present with. It is also dedicated to the 150,000 individuals who walk away from church every.single.week. 

Are We Really Creating Space?

Photo Creative Commons by terimakasih0

“Creating Space” is becoming a new buzzword.

It’s a great concept because the true meaning of “creating space” allows for another person to fully BE who they are while they are in our presence.

One of my good friends did a great job of creating space for me a year ago when I needed to process stepping out of my marriage. She stepped into my mess, accepted me exactly for who I was, and pushed out the boundaries of my anxiety so that I could process what next steps needed to happen. I discovered how to self-accept because she modeled acceptance for me.

She was not judgmental, she was observant. She picked up notes that my heart strings were playing that I couldn’t hear. She walked WITH me, through my mess, and did not tell me what I needed to BE or how I needed to ACT to navigate my journey.

I want to see the church create this kind of space for others.

The kind of space that starts with radical acceptance and then says, “We love you for EXACTLY who you are. We don’t want or expect you to change. You have full access to the community that we offer as a church.”

Not the kind of space that segments eligibility for community-affiliation into buckets based on a person’s race, sexual orientation, gender, or marital status.

We are FULLY accepted in the beloved but then we proceed to mete out acceptance of others based on a code of religious rules that have been in flux since the middle ages.

Let’s risk accepting. Let’s get our hands messy. Let’s step into conversations with our minds made up that we will remain open and humble. Let’s fully step into the conversation and stop hiding behind rules, process, or “the way it’s always been done.” As we do this, I believe we can create the kind of radical space that reflects the diversity of what God has already created in heaven.

Finding Faithfulness When Your Stories Disagree

This continues to be a season where I have more questions than answers.

I’m ok with that. Sometimes. Other times, I just want clarity, and certainty, and understanding.

I feel like the tectonic plates of my guiding theology and praxis are continuing to shift. The shifts have occurred because I’ve experienced excruciating pain when the faith “system” I put my trust in did not meet my expectations for clarity, support, or answers. The shifts have continued because I’ve witnessed vast sinkholes in the programmatic and prescriptive faith practices that have been handed down to me.

And though painful to push through, this process is becoming more redemptive than I could have ever imagined. I find myself entering into this space looking forward to how it is changing me, instead of fearing what I might lose. It is awakening me to the fact that God has written a story through my life that only I can tell, that only I can steward. It’s a story that I can make the choice to embrace and leave a legacy through, instead of fearing it.

Ten months ago, a leader I respect tremendously prayed that God would break the box of the formulaic faith practices I had been taught. That is happening. I can see the wake behind me… but I didn’t expect that wake to catch up with me and begin to create a tidal wave in my current circumstances. I expected to be able to live out my questions and find suitable answers for them within the faith environment that I find myself in.

But a clarifying conversation with my boss this week showed that I am living in a place where my different life stories are conflicting, and I have not yet found a bridge for re-aligning them. The conversation was so life-giving (my boss has an incredible ability to allow me to disagree with him while simultaneously affirming me in asking the questions in the first place). It also made me realize I need to ask some hard questions of myself, and then be willing to face honest answers.

Part of my story is that I love the church. In all her broken glory, I do love her. She is called to be a redemptive force in this world. I work in an incredibly healthy church environment where questions are allowed, being “in process” is affirmed (even if you are a leader), and mistakes are opportunities for growth (rather than an opportunity for the leader to be shamed). Most churches do not offer this type of grace. I believe in the CORE of my being that the church CAN make a difference in people’s lives.

The other part of my story is that I love the LGBT community, and in general I have a deeply felt compassion for all marginalized communities. I love all the broken beauty found in the LGBT community that I get to be a part of because of my family. I believe in the CORE of my being in the inherent worth, dignity, and value of every LGBT individual because they (like me) have been created in the image of God, and I want to add my voice to this important story.

I feel called to BOTH important parts of my story. I feel called to be FAITHFUL to living into the fullness of BOTH sides of my story. I want to live with INTEGRITY by being AUTHENTIC to both sides of my story. I want my stories NOT to have two sides like they do now. The conflict I’m feeling in my stories is found in the question that has been rattling around in my brain:

How do FAITH and ADVOCACY work together in a way that create an environment for me to faithfully live out my story?

This has been the guiding question that has wrecked me the last few weeks. I WANT the question to be answered safely within the environment of the church, because the church has mostly been a refuge, a safe place, a home for me to have breathing room to process the scary stuff in my life. I WANT the church to step into this question too and find redemptive answers that are healing and transformative for BOTH the church community and the marginalized communities I feel called to.

I WANT the happy ending within the faith community I find myself in. The happy ending that says “I can bring all of who I am to the table and my faith community will be willing to step into the mess and walk with me towards redemption. Even if I disagree with them, their theology, their faith practices, or their beliefs.” Gosh, is that even possible in our communities of faith? I have such hope that it is ESPECIALLY within the healthy faith community I’m a part of.

The other questions I’ve been asking are:

Am I called to the LGBT community or to marginalized women or both?

What does the gospel look like lived out in an LGBT context? Is it different than the gospel I’ve been taught?

What have we gotten wrong as the church, and what is my role in building bridges?

What is the other side of the story? (the one that has been labeled as “liberal” by the fundamentalists and thus “wrong”) What do I need to learn about who God is from the other side of the story?

Why are the guiding narratives in the church so overtly focused on an LGBT individual’s sexual identity/orientation only, rather than looking at these individuals as a WHOLE person?

I know I want to make a difference. Can I do that from within the walls of the church? If so, what does that look like?

So though I do not yet have answers, I have a deep THANKFULNESS and HOPE for the GIFT that these questions are becoming. I have a deep and abiding trust that the leaders I have the privilege of serving under are WITH me as I explore these questions… even though they might not agree with me. I have great FAITH that though the process may not be easy, God is WITH me in this journey and I am more WITH Him than I have been in a long time because for the first time in my life, I’m bringing all of who I am to the table.

Though I don’t know where this will lead… I’m grateful for the things that have happened this year to catalyze this process.

Is God Still In The Church?

Sometimes I wonder if God is still in the church. 

Being intimately involved in a church, I can see her in all of her beautiful, broken glory… because people make up the church… and we are all broken. I get that.

We all see God differently… because He (or She) is filtered through life experiences. Often those differences are so drastic, they cause schisms or entire denominational breaks. I get that too.

But I wonder, is God still in the church when that happens? 

Over the last ten years, I’ve seen some really hurtful things said and done by the church “in the name of…” that have devastated people close to me.

I’ve seen the formulaic God that I was taught about here fail to provide answers when my marriage fell apart — though we followed all the “rules” prior to marriage.

People around me that I care for have been devastated by church leaders words and actions about their calling. Other folks have been disillusioned by people in ministry with them who ended up causing more pain than help.

All around me I see more people who have been hurt by the church than helped by her… and it makes me wonder, is God still in the church?

We give trite answers to complex problems like “All things work for good for the person who loves God…” or “God is sovereign…” or “Well, God’s ways are not our ways…”

And I wonder, if God were standing in the middle of that conversation, would that be something that would come out of His mouth too?

In Luke 4, Jesus left the synagogue and went out into the streets.

I have to wonder, has God left our churches and gone out into the streets in search of people who want to know…

a God who is non-formulaic,
a God who separates Himself from Christianity and Christian culture and radically demonstrates love without rules and without boundaries,
a God who does not condone a growth strategy,
a God who cares for people that the church won’t even touch,
a God who can do the impossible because we are willing to step into impossible places with Him

Because THIS God, I’d want to follow.

Freedom Fridays | A Brave Survivor Of Sexual Violence Helps Stage Undercover Operation

Marisol was distraught but determined to get help so other girls would not be deceived and abused like she had been. An undercover police officer posed as her friend, staging an operation to rescue Marisol and arrest the suspects.

For me, stories of rescue from the Philippines have a very special significance.

You see, I’ve had the incredible privilege of sponsoring a young woman through Compassion International since 2001 and recently she was accepted into the Compassion Leadership program – a huge honor that less than 1% of Compassion children receive. I’m so proud of her…

Stories like the one I’m about to share below make me think of her because what if Compassion hadn’t found her? What if they hadn’t chosen to serve her, encouraged her, raised her up into a fine young woman? What if I hadn’t chosen to partner with Compassion?

But Compassion did find her. They did serve and encourage her and develop her leadership capacity. And I did choose to partner with Compassion.

And that sweet young woman now has the incredible leadership development opportunity that I have prayed for over ten years for her.

There are so many ways we can make a positive, eternal impact on another person. Ways that have nothing to do with what chicken sandwich we eat, which candidate we support, or what side of the proverbial political fence we sit.

And truthfully, our common humanity demands that we find the heart to serve the least of these… regardless of what we may or may not believe.

Today’s Freedom Friday story is from my sweet sponsored child’s back yard…

***

Marisol was distraught but determined to get help so other girls would not be deceived and abused like she had been. An undercover police officer posed as her friend, staging an operation to rescue Marisol and arrest the suspects.

MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – When Marisol* first made the long drive from Manila to the provincial town nearly 80 miles from her home, she thought she was on her way to a better life. The 17-year-old girl was going to be a domestic helper, a chance to make a living and gain independence from the poverty that defined her young life.

But when Marisol arrived at the new house, the woman who had offered her the job as a maid turned on her. Almost immediately, the woman’s live-in boyfriend sexually assaulted Marisol, and the couple threatened her life if she ever told anyone. Worse, they told Marisol that she now had to recruit a friend, who would be subjected to the same abuse.

Marisol was distraught, but she was also determined to get help. The same woman took her back to her hometown, where Marisol told a local NGO what had happened to her. The NGO called IJM for advice on how to proceed. Right away, IJM contacted the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, and the anti-trafficking police unit initiated a plan to rescue Marisol – and stop the traffickers from hurting girls like her.

An undercover police officer posed as Marisol’s friend, and soon the pair was on their way back to the abusive house, escorted by the unsuspecting trafficker. A second police vehicle with IJM staff and social workers from the other NGO trailed closely behind. Heavy rains delayed the journey, but after five hours they arrived back at the house.

The man who intended to harm Marisol’s friend in the same way he had abused her was waiting. But soon, NBI police agents arrested both him and his girlfriend who had escorted the young women. Both suspects are now facing charges of trafficking and rape.

Marisol was escorted to another home, this time a safe and loving shelter for trafficking survivors. She will receive crisis care and vocational opportunities that will allow her to lead the independent life she desires.

*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.

Today, choose to get involved and make rescue possible for other women like Marisol

Hear more stories of rescue…

42 Rescued from Bonded Labor | India

Justice a dream for trafficking victims | Philippines

“This Case Will Pave the Way” – 20 Year Conviction | Rwanda

Slavery in America? | United States of America

The Dangerous Dance of Poverty and Violence | Injustice around the World

Grace’s Story | Africa

Trafficked.Enslaved.Now Free | Philippines

 

Freedom Fridays | Trafficked. Enslaved… and now free!

It’s Friday, so that means it’s Freedom Friday here at the bloggity.

The day I get to share about the incredible work that International Justice Mission has the privilege of doing in 14 different countries around the world. It’s God’s work of rescue that He has invited us into and it is a daily honor to get to participate in this good work. This work is beyond our ability to do on our own. It truly is God’s work, and we are simply invited into that good work of rescue with Him.

Daily we meet for prayer to cry out to God for His hand to move because this very good, but very difficult work reminds us that it is too big for us. It is beyond our capabilities, beyond our talent, beyond our resources, beyond even our best intentions and plans, and beyond our desire to make the good things happen. We need God to intervene and move mountains, governments, and those principalities and powers that are truly beyond our human resources.

And we are so grateful when He does so… Today’s rescue and redemption operation is from the Philippines…

***

MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – IJM Manila staff sat quietly with police officers from the National Bureau of Investigations and other members of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). Minutes slowly ticked by, turning into hours. At 10:30 p.m., an undercover operative made a phone call, and the calm before the storm ended as everyone sprang into action.

The rescue team loaded into vans and sped off towards the large entertainment bar where they believed young women had been trafficked and sold for sexual exploitation.

The bar, previously a warehouse, had high ceilings and walls with bright décor. A single pole stood in the center of the stage. Hidden behind the stage was a long, narrow room with cardboard beds crowded along the cinderblock walls. On one wall was a picture of Jesus, hanging next to a cover of Maxim Magazine. Cigarettes and clothing were strewn about the dirty room. A rickety staircase led up to four tiny rooms, reserved for customers who paid the bar owners to have sex with the dancers.

Law enforcement officers effectively secured the location and arrested half a dozen suspects who have now been charged under the Philippines’ anti-trafficking law. IJM and staff from the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development helped explain what was happening to the young women.

After leaving with the rescue team, at least one of the girls said she had been hired as a minor, and several more gave statements at the law enforcement office indicating they had been trafficked and exploited for sex in the bar.

The successful operation was the result of intensive coordination between IJM and its government partners. One of IJM Manila’s lawyers explained how he felt at the end of the long night: “Seeing the girls leave that dark and dirty place that has been like their prison cell for months and knowing that there is freedom and a new life on the other side of the door makes it all worth it.”

***

 

Who is International Justice Mission?

International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. READ MORE »

Read some past stories here:

Five Minute Friday

42 Rescued from Bonded Labor | India

Justice a dream for trafficking victims | Philippines

“This Case Will Pave the Way” – 20 Year Conviction | Rwanda

Slavery in America? | United States of America

The Dangerous Dance of Poverty and Violence | Injustice around the World

Grace’s Story | Africa

How YOU Can Get Involved With IJM

This summer have fun and take action with International Justice Mission. click on the link below to learn more and get involved in our summer Freedom Challlenge !

Pray, Support our work, or Start a Justice Campaign!

Follow @ijmhq

Follow @ijmCampaigns

IJM on Youtube

IJM on Vimeo

Friend IJM on Facebook

Freedom Fridays | Grace’s Story | Protected. Defended. Home.

When Grace’s husband passed away, relatives tried to steal her home — she became a victim of property grabbing.

Her home and her land was her entire livelihood, the only way she could provide for her five children. Without anyone to defend her rights, Grace started to lose hope. Then Grace met IJM, and everything changed. “My old life has ended and now a new one is beginning.”

Watch Grace’s story.



Make more stories like Grace’s possible—help IJM open a new field office in Northern Uganda.

IJM has been protecting women like Grace in central Uganda for the past decade. This summer, help us open a new field office in Gulu, Northern Uganda to help more people. Why Gulu? Learn more.

Give Now

» Impact of your gift

Freedom Fridays | A Story of Rescue

Today I am joining Lisa-Jo for five minute friday.

The stories you are about to read and see below are real. The undercover footage is real. The horror that is happening is real. Yet it is a story that must be shared…

Go.

A few months ago I joined a story-culture.

That culture’s name is International Justice Mission. Here at IJM we exist to give voice to the stories of the voiceless because sharing their story* with you is the way rescue happens for other victims…

Here at IJM we believe that the power of story to mobilize and galvanize the world into action is the most important ingredient of being salt and light for Christ in the world.

You see, when we talk about “trafficking” and “bonded labor” and “voilent oppression” we are not talking about an issue, or a cause, or a social movement… we are talking about people…

People like Jyoti and Madesh and Eugenia.

We are talking about the story of a real person with a real name and a real heart and a real face.

We are not just telling stories to put a face to an “issue” we are sharing our stories because they need to be told.

They need to be told to people like you, who didn’t know these stories existed before…so you can get involved, or pray, or help us move political will in the direction to stop this monstrosity from continuing.

Or you, who has a sponsored child in an area where stories like this still exist… and now you know how much your gift of $24 a month helps to prevent trafficking from happening to your sponsored child.

Or you, who have just learned that a young girl from another part of the world that just happens to be your daughter’s age is being systematically raped, abused, and violently oppressed… so that you can stop feeling bad about it, join with us in the fight for justice, and help give her the freedom that she was granted by Christ…

The stories of our victims are important. They matter.

Because our victims deserve a better story than what is currently being written for them by violent perpetrators.

*Please note, IJM blurs the eyes of all victims for their protection and privacy as well as ongoing case-work in some of the stories.

Stop.

Read some past stories here:

42 Rescued from Bonded Labor | India

Justice a dream for trafficking victims | Philippines

“This Case Will Pave the Way” – 20 Year Conviction | Rwanda

Slavery in America? | United States of America

The Dangerous Dance of Poverty and Violence | Injustice around the World

How YOU Can Get Involved With IJM

This summer have fun and take action with International Justice Mission. click on the link below to learn more and get involved in our summer Freedom Challlenge !

Pray, Support our work, or Start a Justice Campaign!

Follow @ijmhq

Follow @ijmCampaigns

IJM on Youtube

IJM on Vimeo

Friend IJM on Facebook

Freedom Fridays | Justice Is A “Dream” For Trafficking Survivors

As most of you know, I have accepted a new job with International Justice Mission.

Since being a part of the IJM community, I have been privileged to witness many miraculous interventions of God’s rescue of those caught in trafficking, bonded labor, or other type of violent oppression. So what exactly do we do? Hear from Sean Litton, our VP of Field Ops

Daily I am reminded by these stories that God hears the cries of the oppressed and is actively working on their behalf through the people of God to secure rescue for them.

On Fridays, I will be sharing stories of rescue with you as well as providing ways that you can partner with us in our mission in a variety of ways.

Hope you like this new season at JennyRain.com!

***

Convictions in Cebu: Justice Is A “Dream” For Trafficking Survivors

IJM Cebu helped secure convictions against two traffickers

Four years after they were rescued, two young women celebrated with IJM staff as the traffickers who sold them for sex were convicted.

CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES – This week, two traffickers were sentenced to life in prison for selling girls and women for commercial sexual exploitation. Two of the 15 young women who were rescued nearly four years ago were present for the court’s ruling.

After waiting for 45 months, both trafficking survivors were overjoyed that justice had finally been done. “I realized the dream that I longed for – that those people who abused us will be punished by the law,” said one of the survivors. She added, “We were right in our decision to fight for the case because they might be victimizing a lot of children if we did not fight for it.”

In 2008, IJM Cebu received a case referral from a local NGO. Two mothers were frantic for help. IJM responded and helped the women report their case to the National Bureau of Investigation. They told the authorities that they believed their daughters had been recruited to work at a karaoke bar where they were actually being sold for sex.

An investigation soon confirmed the mothers’ suspicions: girls and women had been trafficked to the bar, where they were forced to have sex with the bar’s customers.

Of the 15 trafficking survivors rescued in the IJM-supported government operation, three were girls under 18 years old. Many of the survivors shared similar stories with the social workers. They said that the bar owner claimed they owed him money for their transportation to the island, rent and food – and that the only way they were allowed to pay back this alleged debt was to be “taken out” by the bar’s customers. The abuse became a routine nightmare: A customer selected a girl from a lineup, then took her out of the bar to rape her.

Since the night they were rescued, IJM social workers have walked with the survivors on the up-and-down journey of restoration, offering counseling and helping them establish independent lives in supportive communities.

“I realized the dream that I longed for – that those people who abused us will be punished by the law. We were right in our decision to fight for the case because they might be victimizing a lot of children if we did not fight for it.”
– Trafficking Survivor

The trial against the traffickers finished in just 8 months, a fast trial relative to other trafficking cases in the back-logged Philippines court system. But 37 months passed before the court finally issued the verdict.

On May 17, 2012, the courtroom was packed. Two of the trafficking survivors sat beside IJM staff. Reporters and journalists crammed into the benches. It took two hours to read the lengthy, 18-page judgment. Finally, after hours and months and years of waiting, the just verdict was delivered: both traffickers were sentenced to life in prison for qualified trafficking in persons, each fined two million pesos.

Although the delay in justice was incredibly frustrating, IJM’s Mark del Mundo explained that the case that “came from a sincere and spirited cry from two mothers trying to find their daughters” will set strong precedents for other trafficking cases. He said, “The decision was written well with details, one we will study and use in future cases.”

“As months turned into years, we knew this would be a long battle for justice. But my team never gave up,” said IJM’s Regional Director of Southeast Asia, Andrey Sawchenko. Most importantly, he added: “These convictions are a milestone for the girls we have been representing in court and walking with in their journey of restoration.”

Read more about the convictions in a report from the Philippine News Agency.

How YOU Can Get Involved With IJM

Pray, Support our work, or Start a Justice Campaign!

Follow @ijmhq

Follow @ijmCampaigns

IJM on Youtube

IJM on Vimeo

Friend IJM on Facebook

Freedom Fridays | 42 Men, Women, & Children Rescued from Bonded Labor in India!

As most of you know, I have accepted a new job with International Justice Mission.

Since being a part of the IJM community, I have been privileged to witness many miraculous interventions of God’s rescue of those caught in trafficking, bonded labor, or other type of violent oppression.

Daily I am reminded by these stories that God hears the cries of the oppressed and is actively working on their behalf through the people of God to secure rescue for them.

On Fridays, I will be sharing stories of rescue with you as well as providing ways that you can partner with us in our mission in a variety of ways.

Hope you like this new season at JennyRain.com!

***

 

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE from International Justice Mission

This time last week, 42 men, women and children were living as slaves in a brick kiln. But now, they are free.

IJM Chennai got the call late at night. A government official several hours away was planning a rescue operation to free families trapped in forced labor slavery. He had attended an IJM training about the laws against slavery earlier this year, and he was calling IJM for advice.

Over the next several hours, IJM staff offered guidance. Working through the night, with his training materials as a guide and supported by the team on the phone, the government official found and freed eight families from slavery.

Since 2010, IJM Chennai has trained more than 1,000 government officials just like this one. “It might seem like training government officials is just a drop in the bucket, but it actually has a ripple effect,” explains Saju Mathew, IJM’s Director of Operations in South Asia. “When government officials outside the districts where we work start spreading freedom, we know transformation is happening.”

Thank you for your gifts and prayers. Your support enables us to bring rescue and equip government officials – so freedom can spread throughout the country.

How to Get Involved

Pray, Support our work, or Start a Justice Campaign!

Follow @ijmhq

Follow @ijmCampaigns

IJM on Youtube

IJM on Vimeo

Friend IJM on Facebook

GET IN TOUCH

I'm a natural connector both online and IRL and I become positively giddy when my diverse communities collide with one another!