Monday, February 22, 2010

Humility in Leadership

I spent this last week learning about the value of servant leadership. Rick Allegretto, head of YWAM Central & South America, joined us and spoke about humility, the importance of service as a Christian, and the role that a servant heart plays in leadership and ministry. His message provoked me to evaluate my own attitude towards service and others, examine my heart and really try to grasp the concept of true humility and servanthood. One of my most favorite traits about Jesus is His great humility and attitude towards others. I may have a hard time worshipping an arrogant or selfish God, but Jesus made Himself the least - and even sacrificed Himself to the point of death - out of love for others. That’s the kind of God I worship and serve. Rick’s teaching was a good reminder of what service is all about. My motivations cannot lie anywhere outside of a heart hungry after God. I cannot serve so that I receive a pat on the back, or praise from man. And being a leader doesn’t mean preferential treatment or special privileges. Leadership requires authority and responsibility and comes with honor, but it is a position of humility that makes a leader successful.

Local outreach was spent with Metro Ministries, running the children’s program in the neighborhood of Santa Ana. I am really beginning to build relationships with the children there. They now run up and greet me when I arrive, remember my name, and don’t hesitate to have conversation. I am quickly falling in love with all of these kids! I feel so fortunate to be a part of what this ministry is doing. Each week, I have the privilege of worshipping Jesus (in Spanish!) with some of the world’s most beautiful children. We play games together, share hugs, learn more about the character of Jesus and grow in relationship. Unfortunately, the kids talk so fast that I can’t understand their Spanish well. The cool part is that we are still just as close as I would be with any English-speaking child. Somehow play, laughter, and hugs surpass words and conquer language barriers. That is the real blessing.

God is continuing to work in my own heart as I am here… He is bringing so many questions to the surface, and challenging me in most areas of my life. I am praying so hard about my future. The only basis for future plans that I want to have is the Bible – what are we supposed to be doing during this short amount of time on Earth? Each man’s life is but a breath – what will mine look like? What words did Jesus leave us with – what does He desire for us to do? My prayers are scattered all over the place. Should I do a language school? Should I just live and serve and love a community with every ounce of my being, showing them who Jesus is through my actions? Should I return to university and get a degree that will be used to seek justice and transform a community? Should I work and save money so that I can sustain myself somewhere long-term? I am at a point in my life where I can fully, 100% hand my life over to God. My only prayer now is that His will be done – I’ll do whatever He wants. So that’s thrilling… the possibilities are endless! I am so excited to embark on this great big adventure with my Great Big God.


English Teacher/Sex Tourist Arrested in Cambodia,0,2659673.story

An American man who couldn't legally teach in the United States, due to a previous sex offense, went to Cambodia to teach English - and take advantage of the child prostitution available in the area. He is accused of sexually abusing multiple children during this time, and is sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Please Pray that...

-God would begin to heal and work in the hearts and minds of child abusers and people traveling abroad to sexually abuse children.

-God would heal and comfort the children who are trafficked, exploited and abused in all countries of the world.

-Organizations that hire teachers would more thoroughly evaluate their volunteers, in order to avoid having potential child predators teaching in inappropriate situations.

-Justice would be achieved for these children, and that more people pursuing child prostitution or abuse would be caught and prosecuted.


Oasis International

Oasis is a Christian Organization working to unify, equip and train the Church to reach out to all parts of the world. They aim to transform communities, work with children and those in poverty, end trafficking and bring God's Kingdom to Earth. Check out their website to see the variety of things they're doing around the world!

Stop Child Trafficking Now

This organization's strategy to combat human trafficking focuses solely on the demand side of the industry - catching and prosecuting child predators and prostitution customers in order to lower the demand, and as a result, help end the supply. Highly skilled operative teams of governmental and law enforcement officials are working together to convict those who are perpetuating the human trafficking industry. I think their approach to this issue is unique and really awesome! There are a lot of organizations working on rescuing and restoring victims, but this group of people are partnering with those efforts to fight a different side of the issue.

Monday, February 15, 2010

God's Extraordinary Simplicities

This week’s teaching was by far one of the toughest for me. The first half of the week was spent with Greg Burch, an American missionary living and serving here in Costa Rica. He shared with us about working with children at risk and how to have effective organizations and ministry within a community. Through case studies and thorough evaluations of different ministries thorughout the world – some successful, and some not – we discussed what attributes and priorities are necessary to have a productive and fruitful ministry when working with kids.

The second half of the week was taught by Brooke Burns, another American missionary who is serving in Costa Rica. Brooke has a huge heart for ending sex trafficking and child prostituion, and shared with our class about the ministry she’s working with and the topic of trafficking. The facts are devastating. The stories broke our hearts, and it was difficult to emotionally handle the intensity of such a terrible topic. I became aware that Costa Rica is called “The Thailand of the West” in reference to the exploding numbers of tourists that come here for vacation and to enjoy legal and available prostitution. Because Costa Rica is such a safe and convenient country for Americans and Europeans to travel to, and considering its beauty and attractions, it has become a top destination for sex tourism. This means that the trafficking of women and children in and out of San Jose and different beach towns around the country is at an alarmingly high number. My heart has been heavily burdened with child sexual exploitation as well as the trafficking of women and children, and so I was both saddened and excited that I was in this place at this time. I was unknowingly called to serve in a country that is suffering from the very need that I have a heart to meet – I felt totally confirmed in my being here.

With all that I learned about sex trafficking in Costa Rica, my prayers were answered – God gave me clear direction about where to spend the next 5 months of my trip after my training in San Jose finishes in April. Jaco, the beach town I have been visiting and acquainting myself with, is a top city for sex trafficking and prostituion. Poverty and drugs are also rampant in that town, and I feel led to do ministry there. I am so excited! There is so much to be done in that town – local youth are everywhere, children are only in school for half of the day and have nowhere else to go afterwards, and there is an abundance of tourists who are in Jaco solely to party and buy prostitutes. The town seems attractive at first, but in reality is a dark place in need of light and hope. I am already meeting and building relationships with the people there, and can’t wait to head back full-time to do ministry. Please be praying for the people and organizations that are already there, and that God will begin to prepare the hearts of those we’ll be meeting and working with!

I spent much of the last couple weeks praying about the people of Costa Rica and what my role is here. Currently, I am swamped with training, homework, readings, and duties – and on top of that, trying to maintain relationships from home, build new ones with the people I’m living with here, and try to have some fun and relaxation. Yet I was continually burdened – if I am a missionary living in Costa Rica, I need to be a missionary all day, every day. Scheduled outreach times or Sunday mornings at different churches are not the only times that I need to be interacting with the locals or reaching out. I was convicted that sometimes I separate my life into two parts: my life, and the life of a missionary. So basically when we go to different organzations or do a children’s program in the slums, I am a missionary. But when I need to run to the store or go to the beach with friends or eat dinner out, I am just Emily – American girl who is too lazy to conjure up Spanish words, a little tired of meeting new people, and pretty wary of strange men on the streets. But in praying, I really felt God telling me that I need to be a light and witness of love to people all the time – whether I’m riding the bus, surfing in the ocean or ordering pizza. So in obedience to that revelation, I began to look for opportunities to build relationships in the simplest of places. The result? I’ve made a bunch of Costa Rican friends and have had the pleasure of visiting them in their homes, sharing meals together and practicing our languages. We’ve exchanged stories, Facebook pages and made plans to spend time together. One woman has adopted me as her honorary daughter and introduced me to her family via Skype. Apparently God wants to open up doors for relationship and love in all sorts of places - like on the streets of San Jose and during a short bus trip. I realized that God wants to work in extraordinarily simple ways, if that paradox makes any sense. Conversations are simple to start, but the relationships that result are so much more.

Local outreach this week was spent running a children’s program with Metro Ministries in Santa Ana, doing the weekly routine of worship, games and fellowship with the neighborhood children. I taught my first Bible lesson on a stage… in Spanish! It was a lot of fun, and I’m grateful for the grace the audience had with my Spanish. During the week, a group of us grabbed our instruments and went to the downtown square in San Jose to play worship music and meet new people. That was such an awesome experience – tons of people came up and wanted to talk, sing with us and find out why the heck a bunch of gringos were making so much noise in their streets. Fortunately, so many young people are eager to learn and practice their English, so conversations are easy and plentiful. I particularly hit it off with a few of the girls we met, and got a chance to hang out with one of them this weekend. It was awesome – I felt right at home as if this were my own country and these were friends of mine from Indiana. I am blessed to feel so welcomed and loved by the people of this country. They feel honored to meet and spend time with me as a foreigner, but the real honor is on my end. I am absolutely in love with the people of Costa Rica J


Costa Rica Elects First Female President

It was so exciting to see Costa Rica elect their first female president, Laura Chinchilla! I'm not very familiar with the politics of Costa Rica, but I did take an interest in the candidates and political position of the nation that I'm living in - especially because of all the hype surrounding the election. Laura won by nearly half the votes, and will be serving for four years. Her campaign is focused around fighting crime - particularly violence and drug trafficking. In light of my recent education, though, I find it ironic that the human trafficking/child prostitution epidemic in Costa Rica wasn't included... Anyway, I am eager to see what direction she leads the country in! I've enjoyed talking with the nationals here and finding out where they stand on the election and why. An added bonus? Her last name is CHINCHILLA! Wow :)

Please pray that:

-President Laura guides her country with wisdom.

-The nation is able to be politically united, regardless of where people stood before the election.

-Her policies are enacted and enforced quickly and without corruption.

-The best interest of the nation's children becomes a focus for the government - stopping crime and trafficking particularly in the lives of the country's youth.


Not For Sale Campaign

Yet another organization fighting human trafficking and modern day slavery! Please check out their movement and find out how you can be involved in ending one of the most devastating things happening in our world today.

Polaris Project

The Polaris Project is ALSO fighting human trafficking! They're one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the U.S.A. and Japan... again: learn, educate others and find out what part you could play in the anti-trafficking movement!

Monday, February 8, 2010

From My Head To My Heart


Technology rocked my world this week, as our teachings were via DVD and followed up by a Skype conference call with the speaker, Matt Rawlins. Cross-cultural education and missions have been taken to a new level. I learned and grew in ways I never expected to all by watching the 2-dimensional image of a man I’ve never met teach about the Kingdom of God. Matt is an American who resides and operates out of Singapore, but was teaching in the Children At Risk School in Switzerland… we then watched those teachings in our classroom in Costa Rica! It was a crazy week. Admittedly, it was sometimes difficult to watch a screen for hours on end every day. But fortunately, Matt’s words penetrated my heart and I now have new perspectives on God and my relationship with Him.

The Kingdom of God is a broad subject to cover, but it wasn’t broad revelation that I took from the week. Specific points that Matt made satisfied answers I had as well as gave wisdom in areas I’d been struggling in. A favorite quote from the week, in reference to our relationship with God, was: “The longest journey you’ll have to take is from your head to your heart.” As someone who loves logic and knowledge, sometimes trying to fit the “concept” of God into a rational explanation or image just doesn’t work. I took some comfort in Matt’s phrase – not that I want a long journey between my head and heart, but at least I’m not the only one who struggles with balancing God both intellectually and emotionally. I need to remember that our God is a God of relationship, whose highest desire is simply to love us and have us love Him in return. God isn’t concerned with us understanding Him – in fact, He makes it clear to us that we don’t even need to worry about understanding Him – He’s pretty much too huge and awesome to begin to comprehend. And in the words of my own Dad, “I’m not sure I want to worship a God that I can understand!” That’s part of the intrigue – God is huge, and our wonder in Him will never fade. When I step back and think about it, I prefer an incomprehensibly amazing Lord over one who fits in my rational, logical human framework!

Local Outreach

Last Saturday, our group traveled to Jaco – a beach town a couple hours outside of San Jose where drugs, poverty and prostitution are prominent issues. We acquainted ourselves with a few of the ministries being run there. One woman from California resides in Jaco and has been building relationships within a very poor river community while caring for its children when they are out of school. Her combination of love and commitment has produced a really fruitful ministry in that town. It was so exciting to see the transformation that God, through the use of one woman, was bringing about in Jaco. We were hosted overnight by a ministry that is reaching out to local youth through a skate park and surfing – really cool ways to meet, build relationships with and minister to the young people of Jaco. I had the privilege of meeting some of the guys who come to the skate park, as well as members of the river community. I’ll be praying about whether or not God is leading me to spend a few months doing outreach and partnering with the awesome ministries in Jaco.


Sex Trafficking Rises on Superbowl Weekend, Volunteers Work Against It

One of the biggest sporting events in the world will be drawing in unusually large amounts of people into Miami, Florida this year - which means sex trafficking will be on the rise to accommodate wealthy tourists for a weekend of partying. Volunteers are seizing the opportunity to reach out to the young girls on the street and offer a hand out of prostitution.

Please Pray That...

-God worked through the volunteers to speak truth and hope into the lives of the girls on the streets.

-The girls who were ready to escape prostitution were able to safely contact the help hotline and find a way out of their situation.

-Tourists and travelers on weekends such as the SuperBowl are not unusually tempted to pursue prostitution or other forms of damaging behavior.

-Volunteers and organizations are able to continue fighting sex trafficking around the world, and that awareness is continually raised.

Shared Hope International

Shared Hope International is an incredible Christian organization working to fight sex trafficking around the world. They focus on prevention of trafficking through awareness, the rescuing of women out of prostitution and trafficking situations, and inner restoration through healing and empowerment.

Klaas Kids Foundation

From governmental to community change, the Klaas Kids Foundation is working to raise awareness about and fight crime perpetrated against children in the United States. The foundation was formed in memory of a victim of kidnap and murder. Klaas Kids is working to change legislation and advocate for the safety of children. They are bringing out societal and future generational change that will better serve the children of our nation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

For His Ways Are Not Our Ways...

I’m writing this blog the day after my 19th birthday… which, I might add, was absolutely, incredibly fabulous. I say this because it made me think: why is it that God continually pours out His blessings and favor on me? Every Monday through Friday I sit and study about suffering around the world. I learn frightening statistics, study hopeless community problems and am taught about child abuse. Then the weekend comes, and I experience God’s goodness in ways I could never have imagined. From the beauty of His nature to the joy of friendship, I experience my Lord’s goodness. From delighting in surfing to having a safe place to rest and plenty of food to eat, every weekend I am in awe of God’s provision and miraculous blessings. But when the weekend ends, and I reflect on my “luck,” I become troubled. Why me? Why favor and blessings and fun and love? Is it okay that I smile and laugh all weekend, while I fully know what is going on around the world? Should I really waste my time playing Frisbee when there are kids who need help that very second? Why do I “need” to eat three times a day, when many don’t eat once in three days? And why is it that I have never truly suffered, when some people can’t escape suffering? These questions won’t leave my heart, and so I am on a quest to learn more of God’s purposes in all of these confusing situations. I am currently reading The Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, and was able to take some comfort in the wisdom of this passage: “It is a poorly lived life that cannot experience joy, peace, laughter, beauty and mirth despite all the oppression and injustice that mars the goodness of God’s creation.” Right on, Gary.

I am earnestly seeking through prayer and the Word why God does things the way He does… though I’m not fully expecting a good answer, for “His ways are not our ways… as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55). In no way do I expect to exalt myself to the point of understanding God’s crazy ways, but I do want to seek wisdom from Him and understand more of His character and plan. I’m tired of being confused. But one thing I do know: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37). I have certainly been able to enjoy God in all His fullness, and as I delight in Him I do see the desires of my heart being given to me. For that I am thankful! I hope that with time, I am able to understand more of God’s plans and purposes in my life, the lives of others, and how they are all supposed to work together for His glory.

This week was a sort of “break” from all of the heavy material we’ve been learning about. Instead of an emphasis on ministering outwards, the focus was directed inward all week, with a concentration on Inner Healing. Christy Scott came and shared with us, and what I took out of this week was that “You can’t give to people what you don’t have.” I learned that I can’t offer street children love if I haven’t directly received love from God myself. I can’t offer hope if hope doesn’t exist in my own life, and I am unable to offer wholeness to a broken child until I am whole in God. Wow. This week blew my mind. I won’t be able to doubt God’s goodness one day, and then turn around tell a child that God is good the next. This week forced me to confront my own walk with God – its strengths AND weaknesses. I was able to highlight the areas lacking in my relationship with Jesus, and begin to work towards mending them. This journey started Monday morning, but didn’t end on Friday at noon – it is one that will take time and work, but I believe it is so vital to working with children at risk. I will need to preach and offer the truth – truth about God that exists across the board, in their life and mine.

I had the privilege of meeting some of the world’s most beautiful children last weekend. Our group hooked up with a Canadian missionary couple who is working in multiple slum communities and networking with local churches to bring the gospel of love to the families of San Jose. This couple from Canada has dedicated their lives to serving and building relationships within these neighborhoods, and their devotion and progress were so encouraging for me to see. We participated in and helped run their weekly Saturday children’s program, which included worship, dancing, games, a short Bible lesson and fellowship. I was able to meet and talk with so many incredible kids, and I delighted in learning their names and about their families and what sorts of things they like to do. It was brief, but I am so grateful for that time.

I am continually amazed at how the hearts of people around the world are so similar – God has instilled within all of us consistent and unfailing desires. I grew up in the United States’ Midwest Suburbia. These children have grown up in the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica. We could not have had more different backgrounds. And yet in each of my conversations with these children, I found out that we both love sports. We both love singing and worshipping God. We all desire love, hugs, smiling, laughter and fun. We want to know that there is a God who loves and cares for us, and who has a plan for our life. We want a family to care for us. We want a future and a hope and opportunities for a free life. We love candy. And balloons. And running and playing. These children are not different from me at all – we’re the exact same. Suffering or not, we all have the same desires and needs. Poverty or riches, deep down we are all yearning for the same thing – peace, joy, love and purpose. And the good news is that God’s beautiful Kingdom is available for everyone– five years old or fifty-five years old, Tico or Gringo, rich or poor - no matter where you come from or where you are going.

Current Event:

Church Group Detained in Haiti for Illegally Transporting Orphans Across the Border

A group of 10 Christians from Idaho, USA were arrested and detained in Haiti for trying to transport orphans from the chaos of Haiti to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. They claim they were trying to do the "right thing," yet lacked proper documentation for each child. They are being accused of trafficking and are awaiting trial in Port-au-Prince.

Please pray that...

-Relief workers and missionaries do not act irrationally or irresponsibly in the face of overwhelming chaos.

-Children are protected from dangerous situations and from being taken advantage of or exploited during this vulnerable time of transition and disaster.

-Children receive the help they need from legitimate, legal and safe organizations and people.

-The church group being detained is treated fairly, and able to find a way to help that is legal and in the best interest of the children in Haiti.

Youth With A Mission

I keep linking all these organizations that work with children, yet I haven't posted anything about the organization I'm actually with - Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Many of you already know about YWAM through your own experiences, or me sharing with you but I'll tell you anyway :) Started 50 years ago by a couple with a heart to "know God and make Him known" (they YWAM slogan), YWAM is a non-denominational, international Christian missions organization working to train up and propel into action people of ALL ages with a heart to know God and make Him known among the nations. And the name is quite misleading - it's not just for youth, there are people of all ages involved in over 150 countries, all growing and serving the Lord together :) I'd highly recommend getting involved if you're interested...!

PlayPumps International

PlayPumps International is an innovative organization working to help alleviate suffering due to lack of clean water across Africa. Through the brilliant design of a merry-go-round for children to play on, the organization has come up with a way to pump clean water from the ground and into storage simply by allowing children to have fun. For every hour of play on the merry-go-round, 1,400 liters of clean water are pumped into a tank for the community to use! Learn more or donate at the site above. They're doing some amazing stuff.