Amsterdam bound

Amsterdam bound. Yes, I am, thanks to a dear friend who asked if I would join her on the Missions Focused trip with our church. With this trip, we will learn from our pastor, Jeff Adams, who will teach us about the missionary view and cultural sensitivity. I have heard of so many life-changing experiences from those who have attended this trip in past years, both in their worldview and understanding of God’s grace.

My friend, Wendy, has such a huge heart for reaching out to others. I’m sure this trip will be one of great growth for the both of us. I thought of sharing in my own words why this trip will be so amazing, but allowing my friend, Wendy, to share her story with you will be more than I could ever say.

Wendy’s Story:

But by the grace of God…..that is so true to my life.  I had the husband, two children, two new cars, nice house in the suburbs. Then one day it was gone. The marriage was over, husband did not support us and in turn I could not support my children. He also made threats to harm my children, so I had to make one of the hardest choices of my life and place my children in my brother’s home for him to raise them for me.  It was then and still today is the best choice for my children.

So then I had to try life on my own, well I always had God, but I didn’t access Him. I felt unworthy of God and his blessings. So I tried to control my life on my own…and guess what…it spun out of control. I got a great job for a major company making $38K a year. Bought a car and purchased a house. And oh yeah, the man….he promised me so much and gave so little. But I believed he loved me and if I stood by him and trusted him..well,  I thought he would see his own mistakes. He had a gambling problem, drug problem and loved a life of drama.

He introduced me to the world of prostitution. At first he just asked me to come up with catchy little ads to run in the Pitch (a local newspaper here known for its sex ads). Then he would bring young girls home and ask me to talk to them about how to treat a man, to take the street at out of them, and explain to them how much they would receive and why we would keep their money. At first I thought I was helping them, since they all had drug addictions and would sell themselves for a piece of crack. He convinced me that we were showing them how to make more money to help themselves. I would clean them up, get them a nice outfit, new under clothes, shoes, take their pictures and post an ad on the internet. Didn’t take long to realize, they never got ANY of the money and he keep them under control by supplying them with their drug habits. Sure we gave them a place to stay and fed them, but I would soon find out the price they were paying was much higher than money alone.

The girls would all leave after time and next I was hearing how I didn’t try hard enough for our home. Even though I still had my job making $38K, I needed to do more.  So one day I did.  I posted an ad for myself. The phone rang 15 minutes later and I was off to my first “call”. I don’t remember being nervous on the way there. What I do remember was collecting $700 for a little less than two hours of my time. I remember walking out and getting to the car and crying all the way home. And then when I got home he  was absolutely horrible to me. As a matter of fact he beat me the next day, so badly that I couldn’t go on my next “call” for two weeks, because of the bruises and cuts. Well, this became my life…I would go on calls and about every three weeks or so he would go into a rage and beat me. Each time took me to the hospital. Once I came home on crutches, once I was in shock and didn’t know my name, twice I had a broken collar bone, and once I bled until I passed out on my bedroom floor. But I always went back, I mean he would pick me up from the hospital. I can’t explain to you why, but all I wanted to do was go back to him. Twice I did go to a shelter for battered women, but I had him come and get me. I even went to Minnesota to live with my brother for three months, and guess what….that’s right I came home to him again.  And after being home for two months…he had convinced me to start running ads and make him money again. By now the car and been repo’d, the house in foreclosure, and I had been arrested several times because I was taking the fall for him. Well between the second week of Sept to the last week of Nov. I had made over $40K selling myself, but I was getting evicted and never had any money and life just keep spinning.

Then the most amazing thing happened…I was arrested in Wyandotte County for prostitution. It was amazing because now I had a GOOD reason to stop or at least slow down. With all the money I had made he couldn’t even bail me out. I had to call my parents. My dad. I has daddy’s little girl and I had to tell him what I had done. But he loved me. He came and bailed me out. Had to wait seven hours outside the jail for them to release me, but he waited.

The courts had me go to this place called Veronica’s Voice. I had never heard of it and didn’t want to find out either. But it was go there or get a felony conviction for prostitution and go to prison. So I went. At first I hated it. Didn’t talk much and thought I was different. I’m not. Every single women I met there had been molested as a child (like me), been raped (like me) and choose prostitution for survival (like me).  We were all just women broken.  Needing love and support. God had an angel there waiting to reach out and help me. There was this wonderful family there, a mom and her two kids. They came every week to feed us lunch. The meals were incredible. You felt fed with love at the end of each meal. I began asking them questions about different things; cooking, music, art. I discovered that they attend my church. Wow, what are the chances of that? This is when I started to see God’s love for me and he uses everything in your life to bring you back to him and his love. I started going to church again. But this time I started to listen, not just hear. This time was different. This time I heard God answering. Not long after, that man…well he went to prison and within a couple of weeks, I stopped going on “calls”. I started to understand what I was learning in church, and believe it. That amazing mom that once fed me on Fridays..well her name is Amanda, and she began feeding me with God’s word. I became Amanda’s disciple, which was all part of God’s plan for me. I began to grow through Christ and suddenly life looked so different. And the day came when I just trusted the Lord for everything! No more worries. No more stress.  Just grace and mercy and LOVE.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have struggles, big ones even. But now I trust God to see me through them all. God has never lied to me, never let me down and most important…God has NEVER left my side.

I completed my sentence with the courts, but still am very active with Veronica’s Voice, I have a new job in which I get to help young adults with mental illness learn to live independently, I have been part of a documentary on prostitution, I was asked to speak on behalf Veronica’s Voice at a charity function. I have so many blessings in my life that it would take less time to count to stars than my blessings. I have a wonderful relationship with Christ, and I have devoted my life to do His will. God is awesome! Amen.

Over the past year, I have seen Wendy make the most God honoring choices, difficult choices. Her spiritual growth has in turn caused a greater passion and love for God in my own life. While I was supposed to be the mentor in the relationship, Wendy taught me time and time again about total reliance and faith in God’s providence. And she has been so patient, waiting on God’s timing.

Wendy felt very pulled to go on this trip to Amsterdam. When she asked me to go with her, she was confident that God would provide the money. I have no doubt she is right, and no doubt that this trip to Amsterdam is God calling her further into service for him.

The reality of Wendy’s financial state is not bright. She is now working two jobs to not only pay for the trip, but also to continue to stay above water with her daily living expenses. As one can imagine, a woman with a court record does not get paid a large salary. And she recently experienced vandalism to her car costing more financial pressure.

In an effort to help Wendy raise her funds, I have set up a chip in site for those who would like to contribute. All the money contributed will be sent to the church to be applied to her trip costs.

One very exciting side note for the both of us is that we will have the opportunity to work alongside some people in Amsterdam that minister to women caught in the life of prostitution. What a thrilling opportunity to carry on hope with Wendy’s own life story.

amanda ∞

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Final cut

From our trip in June, enjoy the video my husband produced for Won By One To Jamaica:

I must agree with Tayler’s ending statement. My experience with Won By One To Jamaica, my time with my Jamaican family in Harmons, has totally changed the direction of my life.

amanda ∞

Ringing in the New Year

I’ve really enjoyed this break from school and have spent much time in my art studio working on surprises for those who Chipped In. I’ll be sure to post photos after the recipients have received them. ‘Twill be just a bit longer as I finish up the details.

I’m so thrilled to report that the fundraising goal has been met. I have the journals and am doing last minute preparations for the art journal class I’ll be teaching next Friday. So exciting.

My soldering iron has been hot and busy as I’ve also spent time replenishing my etsy shop. Here’s a peak what I’ve been up to:

And since I’m never quite sure when my next post will be, I want to wish you all a contemplative and purposeful 2009. Happiness will be sure to follow.

amanda ∞

Enslaved

Today’s lunch menu for VERONICA’s Voice included:

Corned Beef, Cabbage and Potatoes
Homeade Rye Bread
Green Clover-shaped Spritz Cookies

I was also going to serve fresh apple slices, but left the apples at home. Oops.

The smell of the corned beef still lingers in our home. Delicious and comfortable.

As a continuation from my thoughts on slavery yesterday, I wanted to delve into the other side of slavery. Who is the slave owner of a woman enslaved in the life of prostitution? One easy answer would be the pimp, the one with ultimate control of the prostitute. Or how about the john, the one demanding the service? This is a supply and demand society. If there were no demand for slavery, there would be no position for the slave owner. Or how about the media that glamorizes seduction and immediate satisfaction of desires? Or are drug and alcohol addictions to blame? Or how about poor parenting?

I don’t think the answer is clear cut. While there are specific people in particular that a have made prostitution their livelihood, the society as whole is responsible for the perpetuation of this profession, or rather slavery. The depravity of mankind is responsible. We all are the slave owners.

A natural response to this thought is, “I can’t be a part of the problem. I’ve never had anything to do with prostitution or the like.” But then I think of the words of a wise man:

Matthew 5:27-28 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: (28) But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Adultery is not prostitution, but like purchasing the services of a prostitute, it is the fulfilling of carnal lusts. Jesus always go directly to the heart of the matter, the condition of our hearts. I truly believe that until we humble our hearts and serve our fellow man instead of serving our own lusts and desires that we will always have the condition of slavery. Greed rules the market. Simply by abstaining from “the evil” will not resolve the problem. We must step out of our comfort zones and help our neighbor.

Oftentimes reaching out to someone unlike ourselves can seem daunting. Knowing what to say or what to do to help someone “not like us” can feel awkward and uncomfortable. This barrier is within us, but God can free us.

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

In humility and submission to His Lordship, we can view others through His eyes and find that we are all created by Him and He desires relationship with each of us. In knowing this truth, we can connect with the “neighbor” God puts in our lives, and I promise God will provide opportunity to share His love.

amanda ∞

New Year’s Resolution

New year resolutions, I am not one to set them, but have found myself pondering and praying about God’s directions for me. This fall I spent extremely too much time on the computer. I am sure I wasted days. This is not what God has prepared for me. Last spring, God began stripping responsibilities and duties from me to be available for His direction. Rather than praying and listening, I have been filling my “still time” with mindless computer time. Rather than playing games with my son or playing the piano, I have been pouring this beautiful gift of time down the drain. As a result, my family became less intimate this fall. As I sat staring at the computer screen, everyone else quickly learned to piddle away their time as well.  To guard this precious gift and to allow myself to live more fully as God directs, goals and disciplines must be set. I must choose to do these things.

  • I will not wander aimlessly on the internet.
  • I will not play computer games.
  • I will minimize Outlook so as not to be continually scanning for new emails.
  • I will continue to exercise regularly and will make an effort to add exercise time to my routine.
  • I will continue to focus on feeding my family nutritious food.
  • I will take my vitamins.
  • I will drink lots of water.
  • I will not drink alcohol.
  • I will monitor my coffee intake.
  • I will continue my daily Bible reading and will seek more time in God’s precious Word.
  • I will call, at minimum, one friend each week.
  • I will look for opportunities to be quiet with God throughout each day.
  • I will have conversations with each child individually each day.
  • I will frequently remind my husband to take me out.
  • I will pray for artistic inspiration.
  • I will do my best with household duties without comparing my life and choices to others.
  • I will be of good cheer.
  • I will give thanks.

I notice 3 distinct reasons for these goals as I list them. One is to guard my mind from becoming complacent; two, to keep my body (and my family) in good condition so that I am available; three, to build on relationships with family and friends and anyone God puts in my path. I do all of these things to develop a greater intimacy with my Father. Whenever one of these areas is lacking, I tend to loose touch with the One who created me.

So I suppose if I were to have a New Year’s Resolution, it would be: To let nothing hinder me in my passionate pursuit of a deeper relationship with my Father, not even myself.

amanda ∞

An excellent week it was

Two important events occurred this past week.

On Saturday, the VERONICA’s Voice Courage to Change Walk took place. There was a good turnout for the first annual walk. As this was a learning year, I forsee each additional walk growing in awareness and size. A vigil took place after the walk in which survivors of sexual exploitation shared through poetic style the lives of violence and trauma they have been rescued from. The emphasis was on casting no more stones. It was quite beautiful and moving, and yes, I cried.

In addition to this event, my church celebrated with it’s annual Summit conference. The theme this year was Go! Before the Lord…Beyond Yourself…To the Ends of the Earth! What an inspiring and moving event. I was so blessed to hear the stories of several missionaries and my favorite global visionary.

One of the things I love most about my church is that it focuses on reaching and equipping others (discipleship) rather than focusing on self. The focus is Godward rather than inward. This thought was reinforced during the Summit as one speaker emphasized going before you’re fixed. God will take care of you as you go. If you wait to go until you are ready, you will never go. I also appreciate the emphasis on going from wherever God may have you right now. This gave each person a starting point, the here and now.

And just where are we supposed to go? “Going” is in reference to being obedient to God’s command:

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Dr. Jeff Adams gave a most stirring call to Go last night. His words were confirmation that I am where God wants me to be, and that I need to follow God’s lead in reaching out as I live here.

And as always, God is faithful to give me opportunity. Last night, on the way home from the Summit, just two blocks from my house was a prostituted woman new to my neighborhood. I was able to stop and talk to her. I gave her info about VERONICA’s Voice, but most importantly let her know that she was important, that she was loved, and that I would not stop praying for her. Little does she know that when God lays someone on my heart, He is already on the move. She is in for a change.

amanda ∞

Elementary Camp 2007

C.A.R.S (Christians Are Racing Superstars) is the theme for elementary church camp this year. Each cabin has a mascot from the movie CARS. Our cabin is Mater the tow truck.

Camp begins tomorrow night and ends Tuesday night. This time is always powerful. I love getting to know the girls in my cabin, caring for them, and nurturing them. The kids go through a time of detachment from the world into the realm of worship. It is a beautiful transformation to behold.

As you read this, please pray for the campers and counselors. Pray that there is no hindrance to God’s moving through the hearts of the children. Pray that the counselors are able to give up their own personal agendas and are able to focus solely on the children. Pray that God strengthens all of us to be a vessel for His glory through the sleep deprived nights.

Thank you.

amanda ∞