Friday, January 22, 2010

WEEK 2 - The Kingdom Of God Belongs to Such as These...

The Week's Teachings

This past week was completed more with God’s strength than my own. While discussing child abuse every day, I was challenged in my own faith and even found myself questioning God’s heart for children. What is God’s purpose in allowing these horrendous evils to exist? Why is it possible for such beautiful and innocent children of God to endure the world’s most traumatic horrors possible? Where is God when the little girl is being raped by her stepfather? Where is my Lord when the child cries out for help, to stop being abused and torn down?

Fortunately, the need to be trained in this area is becoming more apparent every day, and it is encouraging to know that what I am learning now will be of utmost importance in a few short months, and for the rest of my life. I am glad that I have the opportunity to confront these questions before I am on the mission field. I want a solid foundation in Christ’s purposes in these issues, and His will for the children. Unfortunately, it has been very difficult for me to face and has given me a lot to wrestle with. But I am trying to seek wisdom and heed instruction. Another vital aspect of my training has been seeking the Lord, for “evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.” I want to fully understand justice and how to achieve it for the oppressed, and am learning to do so by first submitting to and communing with God. My prayer is that fruitful ministry will follow out of the overflow of oneness with Jesus Christ.

Cristina and Karen, two social workers from a Christian ministry here in Costa Rica, came and shared with us about child abuse this week – the different types, how to identify it, how to report it, how to prevent it in organizations and ministries and how to begin to counsel and restore children who are victims of abuse. It was a week of practical learning and growth in ways that I have not experienced before. Even in one short week of training on working with abused children, I feel far more prepared than I was before. I look forward to all that I will continue to learn in this delicate subject.

Learning about child abuse also forced me to personally identify and evaluate what exactly qualifies as child abuse. For instance, the United Nations defines physical punishment, like spanking, as abusive. I can’t say I’m shocked, but I was spanked as a child. Many of my peers were also spanked as children, and none of us have ever felt abused. I could even go so far as to say that spanking has been a discipline that my family has used for generations – but at what point is generational tradition an excuse for abuse? There are cultures where rape and physical abuse are not just common, but accepted as the norm. The spanking example is making me question how stuck in a generational or cultural rut I personally am, and how I would feel if someone tried to tell me that I was abused as a child because I was occasionally spanked for my wrongdoing. I probably would disagree, not appreciate their input, and say that I turned out fine. These hypothetical reactions are helping me figure out how I will minister to abusive cultures. I am realizing that cultural sensitivity will be very important. Every culture and generation is different and has its flaws, and I will have to work hard to remember that.

Local Outreach

An exciting highlight of the week was our local outreach. On Wednesday afternoon, the group stuffed into a bus and drove all over the country (or so it felt…) picking up 4 siblings who were orphaned when their mother was no longer able to care for them. Unfortunately, adoption in Costa Rica is uncommon and difficult, especially when there are four siblings who do not want to be separated. Thankfully, each child was placed with a carefully selected family to be cared for. They now have homes and “parents” but are separated. Our purpose on Wednesday was to reunite the children for an afternoon of fellowship and fun together, so that they could maintain their family relationships and play together. Soccer, drawing, snacks and games were avenues of communication and relationship building, and the children seemed thrilled to be reunited. It was beautiful! God’s intention of keeping a child within a safe and loving family unit was really exemplified this week. To be honest, it made me miss my siblings but also express gratitude to God for the loving and close family that He placed me in. I am learning that ministry always spans beyond its obvious purpose!


Hatian Orphanages Targeted by Looters:

In the midst of disaster, Hatian orphanages are being targeted by looters and robbers in search of food, water and medicine. Because orphanages are being supported by outside sources, they are at a higher risk of having their resources stolen from them. Children and orphanage leaders will now have to ration their food and water even more carefully, as well as protect themselves from the dangerous situation.

Please be praying that:

-Enough food, water and medicine is delivered to Haiti so that resources don't need to be stolen from children.

-Children are not hurt in these raids.

-God miraculously allows children to still receive the things they need, despite having significant portions of their resources stolen.

-Haiti is able to begin to rebuild and sustain itself soon.


International Justice Mission

Currently a Christian organization, International Justice Mission (IJM) is fighting worldwide for justice for the oppressed, exploited and abused. IJM is making efforts to fight human trafficking through identification and prosecution of offenders. They are also working to restore life and hope into victims of injustice through counseling and aftercare. Check out the link above to learn more about what IJM is doing around the world, the people they've helped, and how you can help.

Freedom Firm

A branch off of IJM (above), Freedom Firm's mission is specifically directed towards victims of sex trafficking in India. Like IJM, they are seeking prosecution and legal consequences to the criminals who traffic and abuse women. They also have aftercare homes to care for and restore the women and children who have been trafficked and abused. Check out their site and be praying for their mission!

WEEK 1 - Getting God's Heart for Children

The Week's Teachings

It was a pleasure to meet and be taught this week by Janna Moats, a California native who is currently the head of YWAM's Children At Risk department. She lives and serves on the YWAM base in Burtigny, Switzerland and made it all the way to San Jose, Costa Rica to share her wisdom and passion with our class. The teachings this week were mostly an introduction to working with children at risk, interpreting and understanding the biblical framework for children, and trying to grasp and share God's heart for children around the world. The week was overwhelming - how does one wrap their head around the immense suffering, seemingly hopeless situations and variety of issues that children are battling daily? How do we ask God to break our heart for what breaks His, but still endure every day? I know that God's heart breaks daily for the children of the world - the abused, the exploited, the ignored, the starving, the diseased... and asking to share that burden with Him is exhausting and daunting. But God calls us to care for the widow and the orphan- and not just give handouts or a portion of our time, but to genuinely care in our hearts about the fate of the abandoned.
This week was significant because it marked the beginning of my genuine search for God's heart for children. I have looked at children in need from a variety of perspectives before - compassion, pity, an opportunity to serve God, and many more. However, I realized that until I see these kids the way God does, that I will not be able to fully love and help them. Beyond that revelation, I was able to focus in on my specific vision and calling for children. I was able to identify which areas of a community I feel called to work in, how I want to interact with children, and practical methods of doing so.
As much learning as I did, I finished the week with plenty of questions in my heart. Is my desire to serve one of pride? Am I completely submitted to God's will when I envision serving Him long-term? And how in the world will I ever be able to bring healing to such wounded situations? Through prayer and scripture, I am beginning to explore these topics with God and others.
Janna's teaching, including videos, real-life stories, information about organizations, as well as biblical truths, opened my eyes to the tremendous suffering present in the world, and how much God is wanting us to do something about it. Her vivid examples left me aching inside, both for the children I saw but also to do something. The lasting implications of this week are burdens that will not be lifted without action. I saw a global scale of suffering. The numbers and statistics are staggering, but not overwhelming. God is in control and has promised to do His part. We just need to do ours.

Local Outreach

Local outreach consisted of a meeting with Casa Viva (, an organization in San Jose working to place orphans with lasting, loving foster families. They serve children from 0-14 years, and we will be partnering with them to spend some time with the children who have been separated from each other. Learning and becoming familiar with the organization was a good orientation to their ministry. Knowing about the children's histories and needs was also good preparation for when we actually do meet and interact with the kids. The seed of excitement was definitely planted this week as we learned about the children we'll be meeting shortly.
Just during this short orientation, it became very evident to me that our world has turned its back on the kids who need it most. Unfortunately, most families or couples are looking to adopt babies or very young children. I am afraid that this trend reflects a selfish agenda, and not one concerned with the well-being of the child. It may be easier on the family, but the reality is that that mindset has left a large percentage of older children abandoned and unwanted. We need to change our way of thinking and realize that children of any and every age need to be loved, cared for, adopted and cherished. It is not just impressionable babies that are precious and valuable. My heart really began to ache for the older children who cannot find homes, while babies and young kids do get placed in homes.
This week, though short, was an incredible time of transformation, change in my heart and a new vision and perspective of children of the world - through God's eyes. I cannot wait to see what next week holds!


Haiti Earthquake Update & Relief Actions

Over a thousand workers and dozens of nations are coming together to bring relief to survivors of Haiti's most recent and devastating earthquake. With three million people, nearly half being children, in desperate need of food, water, medicine, and shelter, the task is nearly impossible. UNICEF is working diligently do efficiently deliver supplies to people in need, and bring aid to Haiti before they can begin to rebuild the country.

-Please be praying that:
-UNICEF and other organizations are able to efficiently and methodically deliver food and water to all of those in need.
-The people of Haiti would find hope in God and in community, instead of turning to violence or hopelessness.
-The workers and missionaries being sent to Haiti get their strength from the Lord, and don't give up amidst such a difficult situation.
-Children are cared for, noticed, respected and reunited with their families, or placed in loving situations while they begin to heal from this disaster.

Human Trafficking Information & Articles

Learn more about the rising criminal industry of human trafficking, which is the forced trade, exploitation and labour of people around the globe.

Please be praying:
-For restoration and healing within the girls' and children's lives.
-For God's divine intervention and justice to be apparent - freeing and rescuing people who are victims of trafficking.
-For the traffickers and exploiters themselves, that they would see the error of their ways, repent and find God.
-For awareness - that organizations, ministries and individuals can make people aware of what a dangerous, growing evil trafficking is.