Sunday, October 28, 2012

Providing Meaningful Work: When God Takes the Vision

Sometimes, even though you are quite sure God is calling you to do something and wants you to put the effort into the work for now, there is this sense that the vision you are pursuing is off, is your own, not God's. I have had that nagging sense in trying to work out and think through all the details of the plans for the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative. I was working on it and making progress, but the whole vision was sort of shrouded in a fog. And I felt all alone. Not alone as in not having a friend to work with, but alone as in I knew God was letting me work this out on my own, waiting for something, and I was steadily becoming more discouraged.

Then last week at adoration, I finally just handed it to Him. In our time of talking I told Him I was tired and uncertain. That all these big thoughts I had been thinking and all the compassion He had drawn up in me for women battling the worst forms of oppression and exploitation was too heavy a burden for me to carry. It was robbing me of energy I needed for my first and most important mission, loving service to my family. So I handed it to Him and told Him He could have it back. That if this was the fruit, I knew it was not my work for now. I put it on the altar with Him and left it there, with the prayer that if He wanted me to do this work now, here, He had to send His Spirit to lift the fog and clarify the vision so that I knew I walked in His light.

The next morning in the shower, the Holy Spirit shone through my fog, big and bold and bright, giving me a new vision and new plan that had never once entered in to all my thinking about this outreach in the past. I knew it was His time for me.

And so the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative has become mercy covers

The link above is to our Facebook page. We are working on the web site and donate page now and hope to have it available in the next day or two. You can read about the new vision in the "About" section of the Facebook page.

Here it is in a nutshell:

The donor makes a $40 donation which serves as a contract with a member of our co-operative to produce a handmade recycled t-shirt quilt which will be given to a child in an orphanage or a survivor in a human trafficking safe house. The materials for the project and the skills training as well as work space will be provided (in our home) by the St. Bryce Foundation.

When the quilt is completed, the woman will receive a $10 cash payment for her work, $10 worth of tools for creating beaded rosaries and jewelry and $20 worth of supplies for making her first rosary, as well as the skills training for the project. 

She will then continue through additional steps in our program which include skills training in a variety of craft products which she can market locally and through our online shop, personal financial management training, English, health and other educational courses, and discipleship and fellowship.

Our goal is to contract 36 quilts by Christmas to cover the 18 beds at Salvando Corazones and the 18 beds at the orphanage with which we work here in Turrialba.

We'll be back to share the web site soon. For now, can you head over and like the Facebook page and share it with your friends? 

Edited to add the exciting news that Mercy Covers is now a Field Partner on Pure Charity and you can back our project there! Don't know yet about the Pure Charity vision? Do check it out. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let's Not Forget

It's been a long stretch of blogging about action to end human trafficking. And I'm nearly halfway there. And to be honest, it's starting leave me tired and raw. Reading about the atrocity. Thinking about the pain and the problem and the solution. Writing letters. Waiting for results. Reading about the work of those on the front lines. Fasting in solidarity with the victims. Hurting for those who are hurting? Well, it hurts. Facing the horror and suffering wrought by the most inhumane of injustices? It painful and heartbreaking.

I have asked the question of a few friends this week. How do we know these things and live? How do we bypass ignorance or selective knowledge for action and avoid depression? How do we battle the weariness of operating machines to wash our clothes and preparing the food that feeds our families without feeling like utter failures for the Kingdom? Because on this earth where our bathrooms beg our attention and we can't find the energy to give it and where we fuss irritable at kids who won't head to beds or stop kicking a soccer ball in the house, on this earth where we raise our hands in praise to a merciful Savior, little girls live in cages and are groped by perverse men and teenage girls are being trucked across the highways of our prosperity to a life of slavery and poverty sends people running ignorant into a life of exploitation. And we bear His name and so must bear His pain at it all. And yet we must live and love and serve these in our midst and not forget our first duties. And sometimes it makes my swim and my heart beat too fast.

And then I remember that all my strength for the battle lies not in me and my weak-kneed terror at the battle, but in Him and in His victory over it all. And I remember that if He can save me from me then somehow He is able to save them. And that I am not the Savior but the sick needing saving. And on the days when I am not incapacitated by my own sickness, He mercifully lets me play the role of servant, rising up like Peter's mother-in-law to serve those in my midst. And I remember that the medicine I need to stay strong, to suffer with the suffering without breaking, to embody at the same time death and resurrection, is there in Him -- in His Word written across the ages, in His presence waiting, hidden in the facade of sustenance we call bread, in the caresses of those who love me and of the encouragement of others who love in His name. And I run back to the heart of prayer where He waits to mend my brokenness and tells me that it's okay to admit that I'm the one who needs to be rescued and healed today. That He will give me what I need and strengthen me to rise again to serve. And it takes only moments -- silent moments -- to know the grace is enough. To feel the questions that threaten to paralyze fade away and the paralysis loosen its grip. And my heart slows to rhythm of mercy once again and my feet begin to keep pace with the Spirit once more. Over and over this is how I live. This is the breaking heart of the broken.

So today, I invite you to pause and remember with me that prayer is our first weapon. It keeps the warriors fighting and heals the wounded. It moves the heart of the only real Savior and reminds us of the victory. It meets in the tomb and transforms it into resurrection glory. So if you take no more action than this today -- or tomorrow or ever -- this is something. Something big. It is the way the saints suffer and break and yet still live.

So keep praying with me? Our collective prayer:

Or the missions rosary devotions I've been contributing over at Suscipio:

and today, for Oceania.

Because He has promised that wherever two or more gather in His name, He will be in their midst. And oh how I need Him in my midst.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let's Shop Responsibly

With the season of giving fast approaching, one way we can act to end all kinds of injustices and support the efforts of those working on behalf of the poor and oppressed world wide is to shop responsibly and make as many of our holiday purchases from stores that sell fair trade products or products produced and sold directly by organizations working with the artisans. Another aspect is to support organizations who use the sales of their products to change lives by providing good for orphans, clean water in Africa, or other vital needs.

Another thought, maybe more radical, is to give instead of get this Christmas. What if a family decided to half what they spent of gifts this Christmas and spend the weeks leading up to the birth of Christ giving to others like my my beautiful friend Ann does. I'll admit, I'm struggling with Christmas this year. I'm taking my missionary kids home for the first time in a year this Christmas (God willing, we just got some rough news from our supporter about this. Pray with me that we can accept God's will in grace?). I want it to be meaningful for them and yet mindful of others. They have some real needs that could be met with gifts. But I also want to them to think of giving as the way to real Christmas joy. Being a missionary isn't a free pass to that joy. Sometimes it's easy to justify indulging these darling missionaries because they give up so much already. I want to be more intentional than that in our time at home.

If you are feeling called to shop more responsibly this season, there are some great internet sites that have made that so much easier. I have done what I can to get a list going here. If you have others to suggest, please leave them in the comments below.

Gift Selections:
  • Shop to Stop Slavery's Ethical Shopping Guide: A great resources for finding conscientious companies and a variety of gift ideas for every budget. And all the research is done for you. 
  • Charity Gift Market: This might be my favorite resource in the list. Shop by product, name of charity or cause you want to support. And the gifts are beautiful.
  • Edited to add the Connected in Hope shop co-founded by Catholic homeschooling mom Ryane to provide meaningful work for former fuel wood carriers.
  • The Open Arms Shop: Providing meaningful work for women refugees in the Austin, TX area. And the skirts and scarves are so pretty!
  • The Amazima Store: Necklaces made by women in the Masese community ministered to by Katie Davis. I'm giving these to my favorite ladies this year! And I might sneak a red one into my own stocking!
  • Radiant Cosmetics: Lipstick and eye shadow that fight trafficking! A micro-enterprise cosmetics company.
  • 3 Cords: A social enterprise for Haitian women who lost limbs in that country's tragic earthquake. Really cute bags, head bands and accessories. 
  • Haitian Crosses: Beautiful products, including some lovely Nativity triptychs, from a Haitian artisans cooperative supported my various Catholic ministries within the Diocese of Miami. 
  • Give Jewelry Bracelets: What a lovely gift for the girls in our lives. Beautiful jewelry that provides a fair wage for the artisan and feeds an Indonesian orphan for a week. 
  • Ten Thousand Villages: unique, handmade fair trade items in a variety of categories. Someone in our  family wants a djembe drum for Christmas. I think I've found it.
  • The Hunger Site Store: Huge selection of items and your pruchase helps feed the hungry around the world.
  • Mudlove Bracelets: These bracelets with inspirational words look super cool and are a great gift for teens in your life. Each $5 band provides one person in Africa clean drinking water for a year.
  • Trade As One: I picked this one because there are a lot of lovely food choices for gift baskets, including coffee, tea and chocolate.
  • SERVV: This one is a pioneer in fair trade products and creating entrepeneurship in developing nations. I'm slightly obessed with this bag. And the aprons. And the table linens. Well, you get the idea. Good stuff there.
  • Shop Etsy: This is not a charity organization, but you can find all kinds of great gift ideas in Etsy and, for the most part, be assured you are supporting a home-based small business enterprise or at least avoiding the mass-produced consumer market. 
  • Shop the sponsors at your favorite blogs. Again, no guarantee that you are fighting slavery or poverty with your purchase, but they are likely to be family-run businesses who really appreciate support. I know Elizabeth's sponsor list is chock full of great Catholic and Christian businesses.
If you are not sure why it is important to look for socially conscience chocolate, take a look a this documentary to understand. Much of the chocolate sold by large producers is made by child slaves on the Ivory Coast of Africa. I wish I could say I had always understood and felt moved by this unconscionable fact, but I haven't. However, I now think it is one of the most important consumer decisions we can make.

  • This page offers a great comprehensive list of brands, facts, and links of where to purchase chocolate in good conscience. 
  • And this Costa Rican company is a great option for quality organic chocolate produced in a sustainable fair trade fashion. And it's priced quite reasonably. And, as you know, I'm partial to businesses that provide meaningful fair trade work in the indigenous regions of Costa Rica.
If you are looking for some alternatives to consumerism and would like to allocate part of your holiday budget to giving rather than receiving, here are some ideas that I am passionate about. Of course, there are countless others and I would encourage you to follow where your heart leads. The Spirit gives the gift of zeal. We all experience it differently. Use what He gives.

Alternatives to gift giving:
This is not an exhaustive list and just researching and thinking it through this much has taken me days on end. It takes time and energy to think and shop this way, and sometimes, as I can attest, you just need to run to Target (or PriceSmart) and get the job done. I beg for grace to be an intentional consumer if the times when I must simply purchase or consume for the sake of our collective family sanity.
But I am totally inspired by these links I have shared and I do hope that at least one of these links will inspire you and allow you to make a purchase or a donation that will serve your needs in a way that is good for your moral spirit. Please share your favorite links for conscientious shopping in the comments.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

World Mission Sunday

Today, the Church celebrates World Missions Sunday and the call of all Catholic to cooperate with and participate in mission ad gentes.

2005 Statement from U.S. Bishops:

However, this mission is far from complete. There are many young churches that need missionaries to develop and grow. There are many dioceses, eparchies, and countries struggling with poverty, persecution, oppression, war, and immense suffering that need missionaries to witness to the light and love of Christ, bringing hope for the fut

The Church can never “withdraw from her permanent mission of bringing the Gospel to the multitudes—the millions and millions of men and women—who as yet do not know Christ the Redeemer of humanity” (On the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate [Redemptoris Missio], no. 31, original italics). Therefore, all Catholics, by reason of their incorporation into the Church at Baptism, should fully participate and cooperate in Christ’s ongoing mission “to the nations.”

Check out what the St. Bryce Foundation is doing on our project funding page. And watch video updates from our mission on our Youtube Channel. Here's a favorite of mine, my awesome husband out evangelizing to the indigenous communities:

Happy World Mission Sunday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Let's Be Encouragers

Today I am offering us all a simple way to take action against trafficking and slavery and exploitation. It might not seem like it's even related to some of you, but, in truth, it's the most important thing we can do.

  • Today, let's offer praise and encouragement to the young women in our lives who are most vulnerable. It can your daughter or you sister, your niece or your neighbor. But I also invite you to think outside the box a bit. 
  • Is there a girl at your children's school is especially smart and a little on the outside of the crowd? Can you drop of an anonymous note with a treat to encourage her in her intelligence and individuality? 
  • Do you know a strong, sporty girl who feels a little different from all the other girlie girls around her? Can you encourage her to embrace her strength in some way today?
  • Can you send some teenage friends a note on Facebook reminding them that they are beloved daughters of the King? 
  • Is there a single mom you know? How about swinging by with a pizza and movie gift card tonight and a note of encouragement? Or asking her if there is anything she needs to accomplish this weekend that you can help her with.
  • Is there a pregnancy center in your area? Can you drop off some notes of encouragement to the expectant mothers there with a small self-indulgent gift like lotion or fuzzy socks or nice tea?
  • How about a Boys and Girls club or YWCA in your area? Call and ask if there is some way you can offer encouragement to the girls there.
  • Is there a health clinic or WIC office in your area? What if you just popped in with packs of mints and a smile, some "Great Job" stickers, and passed them around to the waiting mothers?
  • Bake a girl cup cakes today. Your girl or someone else's. When she asks why tell her she is a daughter of the King and you wanted to remind her that she is a beloved and well-respected princess.
  • Want to help me here? In the comments below of via e-mail (I finally remembered to post my e-mail in the sidebar), send me a note that I can pass on to Maria at Salvando Corazones as she plans to head for her fundraising trip to the States, or to her first trafficking survivor who is currently living with her, or to a woman in my community I know could use the encouragement. There is a beautiful teenage girl in our church who suffers from severe epilepsy and seizures. She sings in church when she is well, but I have not seen her in a while. Maybe you would like to write her a note? Send anything my way and I will translate it and get it to a woman who will be blessed by it.
We reduce the risk of trafficking, slavery and exploitation when we reduce vulnerability. The surest ways to make a big impact are through providing education and work. But stepping into the lives of vulnerable women and girls and offering them hope and encouragement is certainly worth while. And cultivating a habit of doing it regularly, letting yourself be gently (or brazenly) by the Holy Spirit further and further out of your comfort zone may well turn into something much bigger than you ever imagined it could. Just like my little friend in Nicaragua.

And let's not stop praying together, okay? When we pray, we change our own hearts, so that when we act, we can change the world.

Thank you all for standing with me and for having a heart for the oppressed. The earth looks just a little bit more like heaven because of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sharing the Good News

This topic I've been tackling and reading about and working for passionately, this atrocity of human slavery and sexual exploitation can be so dark and disheartening and hard to swallow at times. Sometimes it makes you wonder about humanity and how we're supposed to live in light and hope. But, I keep clinging to the inspiration of the Spirit and trying to remember that this is His work. And sometimes, He mercifully reminds me of that.

So in this post I told you all about my letter writing campaign and offering to help to do what I can to combat human trafficking. I also told you about my timidity when it came to writing directly to the hotel owner whom we had befriended in San Juan del Sur to inquire about him checking in on my beautiful little friend.

Well, I think the Holy Spirit might be telling me that it's time I recognize I am not all on my own in my concern for people and that there are plenty of really good people in this seemingly dark world.

Because within minutes after swallowing my pride and taking the leap to e-mailing the hotel owner (at his info address no less, because, of course, in my procrastination I had lost the personal address he gave me), I got this response back:

I haven't thought about San Juan being a danger point for trafficking in children and minors but share your concerns.  There are educational programs extant in San Juan which alert children and adults to dangers and problems.  They have had several seminars on this subject in town and the subject is often discussed in the schools.
In fact, it sometimes seems my neighbors are paranoid when it comes to their children going to school because even though the school is three blocks away, only the teenagers walk with out adult supervision.  The law in Nicaragua is particularly concerned with trafficking in children and the first lady Rosario Murrillo has seen to it that the word is out with several large signs and the law has been beefed up to punish transgressor harshly.
I don't know if the child you identify has a minder but I will find out.  There is a net work of vendors who look out for each other and this particular child goes to Gato Negro  often and several locals buy her wares to be sure she has sales.  There are two people in particular who will be interested in her welfare and I will bring your concerns to their attention.
Let me know when you are coming this way again and when I have more info I'll get back to you.


So there you have it. That's what God can do. I could never have imagined when I met that little girl on that beach that God was going to break my heart wide open for her. And then for a millions of faces I'll never see. But He did. And since then, I have tried to honor Him with the action His Spirit is prompting me to take. Even though sometimes it makes me feel a little silly and all alone in the world.

And then, He reminds me that I am not. Never, ever when I work for Him do I work alone. And when I work with Him, He always sends the right people at the right time to enliven and encourage and fulfill His plans. 

The little girl who broke my heart has someone making sure she is safe and has adequate sales to return home to safety. She is going to go to the beach to sell her sea shell creatures and go home and someone is going to make sure of that. I am going to try to figure out if there is more I can do to ensure her a safe future. 

But in the mean time, I think it only appropriate that the first real fruit I get to see from my efforts goes straight back to the heart and the start of the passion and makes a small difference for just that one beautiful little face of that beautiful little girl on the beach in Nicaragua.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Providing Meaningful Work: Helping Us Make It Happen

I want to say thank you to so many of you who are reading and encouraging me as I work to get the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative up and running. It is a blessing that keeps me moving forward. It is hard to find the motivation to think through big projects when you feel all alone. I am grateful that I do not.

Many of you are as excited and interested in this project as I am. And while I do not have many friends who can finance the operation single-handed, we have a lot of passionate supporters who are willing to do something to help out. So I am posting some ideas here of ways you may be able to help us make this outreach happen by organizing a group event or fundraiser to contribute to the start up costs for this project.

Obvious choices for groups are things like women's prayer groups or bible studies in your church or parish, youth groups or entire parishes who may organize a fundraiser for the initiative. But other groups could be your exercise class at the gym or your running group, a group colleagues from work, your child's school class, sport team or scout group, your homeschooling cooperative or even an internet list or group with which you are involved.

Fundraising ideas can be as simple as asking the group to each contribute what they can or to promote the initiative to others and ask them to contribute. Or the group could set their sights on an item on our Wish List to purchase together.

If the group is interested in hosting an event to raise money for the project, here are some ideas:

  • Bake Sales: Old news but they never fail to bring in a decent return for the investment.
  • Spaghetti Dinner or Pancake Breakfast: Again, these old standards are that for a reason, they're effective. Many Knights of Columbus groups will provide a Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser for a group looking to raise funds for a worth while cause. Why not ask yours?
  • Host a Mudlove or Give Jewelry bracelet sale and help two worth while causes at once
  • Host a Walk A Mile In Their Shoes event -- a one mile walk where we will provide you statistics and images to post along the way about the women we will be serving and your participants find sponsors to sponsor their walk. You can even encourage participants to walk in the rubber rain boots that are the common foot wear of indigenous women and then leave them to donate at the end of the event
  • Create a book club and read one of these inspiring reads together. During your the length of time that you study the books, have group members save and contribute their spare change to the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative. (I have chosen these books based on the effect they had on me as a reader. These are not all Catholic publications. Feel free to e-mail and ask about specific suggestions before making a choice for your group.)
  2. Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom
  3. Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption
  4. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
  5. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
  6. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
  7. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
  8. Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do
  9. Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux
  10. Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith
(If you purchase from Amazon using the links posted here or in the sidebars, I will receive a small amount of credit which will go toward purchasing other items on the Wish List, so if you do start a book club, please encourage everyone to order using the link here! Thanks.)
  • Host a Fast From Freedom event with a  group a group of friends or families. Choose something you will fast from for a month in prayer and solidarity with the poor and oppressed around the world -- fast food, eating out, coffee purchases, or certain grocery store indulgences and contribute the saved money to the initiative.
  • Spread the Word: Have dinner and a movie with a group of friends. Have everyone bring something to share. Gather and watch the Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide film and discuss it afterwards. Show the group the the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative page and plans. See what the Lord might do. Remember, building support doesn ot always have to be about raising a ton of money. When we create awareness and passion within the Church, the funds inevitably come.
  • Pray: Don't stop praying our prayer to end human trafficking. And keep praying for the success of our efforts here and for others who are working on our behalf in their home communities. Prayer will get us where we need to be when we need to be there.

If you think you might want to help in one of the ways listed above or you have your own idea about a way to help us get going, please let me know in the comments or via e-mail and we can talk more! Thank you again for walking with me and ensuring that I do not feel alone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Providing Meaningful Work: What We Need to Get Started

I have been working hard to put all the details together to get the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative I outlined here up and running in all its aspects. Or at least to know what I need to do to get to accomplish that.

I am ready to begin on the first aspect of the initiative by teaching English classes for women here in town. This I can start right away because materials and funds for the initial investment are not necessary and I can arrange to use a free facility. The U.S. Embassy provides free materials for teaching from the Peace Corps on their web site and since I am going to aim mostly for conversational English, I do not need a lot of materials to begin with.

The initial project for the second aspect of the initiative, micro-business loans, will be to help a young woman furnish the beauty salon she is building in front of her home. A women's group in Indiana is hoping to adopt this project and raise the funds to purchase her salon chair for the shop. Additional funds will be necessary for other needs to finish this project. If your women's group, bible study, or other group might like to help, please let me know by hosting a fundraiser, please let me know.

Missionary Rosary Design

The third and fourth aspects of the initiative are where we will need help getting going. The base projects for the women's craft cooperative will missionary rosaries and bracelets. In the mission rosary, each decade is a different color and represents a different continent for which you pray.  I cannot find any other vendor selling stone or gem versions of the rosary, only plastic. I think this will make a nice cornerstone product for the group, and learning the skill of stringing and beading rosaries can be transferred to jewelry making and other opportunities for the women. I would like to also create a bracelet version of the product with the various colored beads representing the continents and a cross dangle for Christians of other denominations who might want to join in prayers for the mission but do not necessarily pray the rosary. I am figuring start up supplies to create the first fifty rosaries and bracelets to estimate about $1000. Once these items are produced and we are able to begin sales, the cooperative should become self-funding, however, further donations of sales and materials will increase the amount of income for the cooperative members.

T-shirt Product Idea: Bracelet from U Create

Other products from the cooperative would focus on items that are both marketable here locally and internationally that we can produce from recycled t-shirts . I have gathered a numbered of project ideas on Pinterest and many of them do not require sewing. Eventually, however, we will need to have the ability to sew items in order to create a variety of products. The nice things about using t-shirts is that bulk of the materials for this product line can be obtained for free. I will, though, be creating a wish list of items we would like donated second hand or purchased, so as sewing machines, needles, thread, scissors, pins etc... I know there are lots of people with unused materials laying around  so if we ask enough, I am confident we can supply this part of the group's needs without much initial investment.

I would like to make Bible Study and lunch together a part of the days when the cooperative meets, so another aspect of fundraising will be to purchase Spanish Bibles, journals and pens for the women in the group and have a small fund to drawer from to purchase food for lunch each at each meeting.

After that will come the marketing and shipping of items. For that we will need a well-designed web site (I am hoping we can find a talented individual willing to donate his/her time for this) and the funds to cover the cost of an e-box from Mail Boxes Etc. to make it more feasible to get supplies and products in and out.

In the last aspect of the initiative, the craft cooperative for indigenous women, I would like to focus on a skill many of the women already have, which is beading with small pony beads. I would like to offer them the opportunity to take home and bead the cotton pouches in which we will package our rosaries and other products and then return with them and receive payment.  Because I am still working part time as a technical writer, I will tithe part of my income to cover this aspect of the cooperative. Eventually, I think we could probably make the bags ourselves, but I will purchase the initial materials for packaging the first 50 rosaries and bracelets so that we can launch all aspects of the cooperative at the same time.

That leaves the last aspect, partnering with the work of Salvando Corazones. This aspect, to me, is one of the most important of the initiative as it gives the women here who are receiving the opportunity to share and pass on the hope. So we will share part of what we raise in donations as well as tithe part of what we make in sales with the women in Costa Rica's first trafficking safe house so that they are equal beneficiaries of what we receive.

So, there you have it. Overwhelmed by the details? Yes, I am. But reading the book Half the Sky (Have you read it? Tomorrow, I'll be inviting you to come back at the end of the month and discuss the book and/or the PBS documentary at the end of the month.) I am inspired and convicted that this is an important effort and one I cannot back away from because it is overwhelming. God has given me a pocket of space in my days to devote to this ministry and the Spirit has continued to inspire and motivate me, so I will keep moving toward making it work. And we shall what He does with my meager efforts.

So, what can you do? What I am looking for now are women who might already be gathering with other women in Bible Study, mother's groups, book clubs, homeschooling groups, and even running clubs or recipe clubs etc. or who might be willing to gather a group of women or even a school class or high school club and work with them to help the me and women here get this initiative off the ground by hosting a fundraiser for the initiative. The idea is simple, choose an event, spread the word, share the stories and get us moving. I will be back to share event ideas in another post as this the details of this post have probably already put anyone reading on overload.

But start thinking of a group you might be able to work with to host an event and let me know via comment or e-mail if you are might be willing to host an event.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let's Offer to Help

If you want to be part of the solution in the anti-human trafficking efforts, the first thing you need to do is let people know that you are willing to help. So often we find a cause we are passionate about, see all the inspiring work others are doing, and fail to translate that into more than sentiment in our own lives. I am guilty of this as much as anyone else.

That is one reason I was totally struck and inspired when I read in Palmer Chinchen's book God Can't Sleep: Waiting for Daylight On Life's Dark Nights by his response to reading a NY Times article about the murder of albino mothers and their children in the African country of Burundi. He immediately wrote this open letter to Burundi's president:

Dear President Nkurunziza,
I write to you with a heart saddened by the tragic murder of a Burundian mother and her five year-old son.
 I write to say that these killers must be brought to justice. And I write to encourage you to pour every possible resource into protecting marginalized albinos in Burundi.
I know that you are a man of God. I know your heart is good. So I simply implore you to seek justice for the albinos of Burundi.
I write on behalf of Christians everywhere--please stop this senseless crime. I do not write to place blame or to judge; I write to encourage action.
I also write to offer the resources of every Christian in my country who cares about justice. I write to offer means to help educate a population that killing albinos in the worst kind of crime, the most senseless of crimes. Albinos, like all of us, are created by God, in His image, and they are loved and prized by God--it's just that their skin is a different color.
And only sheer ignorance would cause would cause anyone to believe that there is magic in their bones. 
I offer the resources of every Christian in America who cares about justice to help shelter and protect the albinos of Burundi.
I write to offer to partner with you to rescue those whose lives are threatened because of the color of their skin.
May God's great hand of blessing be on your life as you continue to lead with wisdom.
                                                                                                                    Dr. Palmer Chinchen

Whoa. That's how we as Christians are supposed to respond to the atrocities and injustices of this world. Now, I don't necessarily think it is prudent for all of us to run off writing letters offering the help and resources of all Christians at every injustice we read about. But I do think there are very real promptings from the Holy Spirit that can make us feel spurred to immediate, passionate action and that we ignore or wait on long enough to let doubt and fear rise up and quell the spark the Spirit was igniting in our hearts. I do believe that if every Christian responded this way to just one injustice that was his/her particular passion, that we would be doing a whole world of good without any one person risking too much. And I believe our brothers and sisters would be suffering less, dying less, starving less, killing less. Because God has given us the power to stop those things in His name.

Did you ever read the beginning of the book of Acts and wonder what it felt like to be the apostles, going out in public ministry for the first time without Jesus, and to find the courage and the faith to say to the blind and the lame to see and walk? It was risky for sure. And I'm sure in their humanity they were terrified. But in faith, they believed what Jesus had said to them when He told them to do just that. And so they followed the lead of the Spirit and reached out their hands. And the power was there.

I believe the Spirit is prompting all of us Christians to hold out our hands to someone and say "walk" or "see" or "be saved" or "take and eat" or "live". And I believe there are many if us who have stood far too long with itchy, sweaty palms wondering how we can possibly be part of the solution to something so very, very big when we are so small. And when we already have so much to do. And the whole hosts of other reasons we give for not taking action.

But the bottom line is, if we are to be part of His team, we must be willing to act. I have been meditating on the first letter of St. Peter in my prayer lately. Dense that letter it is. It's taking me days to get through one small paragraph. The one I've been stuck on lately is 1 Peter : 13-16:

"So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to  be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as the God who has called you is holy."

Why was Dr. Chinchen's response to reading the NY Times to write an open letter to the President of an African nation offering his help? Because his mind has been disciplined to be ready for action. I have begged God to make me alert and ready for action. I have begged Him to give me the grace to obey His leading. I have begged Him to free from the desire for approval and notice that I am prone to be motivated by in my ignorance and brokenness and sinfulness. And I have begged to be holy. As He is holy. And in His holiness, He acts. He creates. He communes. He reaches out. He sends messengers. He sends and becomes a Savior. He battles and breathes and He breaks bread and He multiplies when there is not enough. And He heals and He binds up the broken-hearted and He dies and He rises and He rules. This is the holiness of our God. The God of action. Because God is love and love acts and risks and is rejected and, when least accepted, opens a door for hearts to turn to Him.

So this week, I am taking a few risks and some action. I don't where this will lead me. I just know it is what the Spirit is leading me to do. If it goes out and never comes back, so be it. God is in that abyss. If it spirals into something big and beautiful and overwhelming, so be it. God is in that chaos.

This week, I either have already or am writing letters to people -- important people -- to let them know that I want to part of the solution to human trafficking and that I am ready to help with my time, my energy and my passion. Here's my list:

  • The Code: This is a code of conduct for the tourism sector to avoid engaging in business practices that promote trafficking. I think responsibility among the tourism sector is a big part of the solution here in Costa Rica. I have written to ask how I can be part of that work here.
  • Costa Rica's President Laura Chincilla: I used Dr. Chinchen's letter as a model to write the President and encourage continued action to end trafficking in Costa Rica, keep traffickers out of the country and provide programs to rehabilitate victims and reduce vulnerability. I offered my help in whatever capacity it is useful.
  • Regional Office of Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social: This is the government agency under which trafficking technically fall although I am not sure how much they accept it as part of their mission. I wrote to encourage them to make it a priority and to offer whatever help I can in the area of education.
  • Ambassador Anne Andrew: This one pretty much follows the pattern of the letter to the President too.
  • E-mail to hotel owner in San del Sur: I don't know why this was so hard and humbing for me to take the risk to do. But I e-mailed the hotel owner where we stayed in Nicaragua and told him of my concern for the little girl on the beach. I asked him if there was a local who knew whether there was an adult who accompanied her and if not, if they might know someone who could keep an eye on her or who could inform her family of the dangers and encourage them to send someone to accompany her. That was hard to do for reasons I cannot articulate. It made me feel very raw and vulnerable to criticism, or worse yet, indifference. But it was one bit of personal action I could take. I know it was important for me to do it because the Holy Spirit wouldn't leave me alone about it. 
  • Municipality of San Juan del Sur: Telling them of my experience, encouraging them to educate and protect their citizens and tourism sector, and again, offering my help. ( At this point, I am beginning to feel pretty foolish because I really have no idea what I will say if these people do accept my offer of help. I have no idea what I really can offer. But I do have some ideas. And if they're willing to talk to me, that one more person talking about this, right?)
  • Bishop of Cartago, Costa Rica: We know him personally and it is by his permission that we are working here. I wrote to ask him if he is aware of any area where the Church in Costa Rica is working  on this issue and how I might be able to be a part of this work. I informed him of the work I hope to begin providing meaningful work for women and asked him if there was any more I could to help the Diocese bring awareness and invite a response to this problem in the country of Costa Rica.
So there yo have it. Feeling not just a little silly, vulnerable and humbled, I did it. I have no way of knowing what the results will be. But I did (am doing -- still working on some of those) what the Holy Spirit has been tugging me to do. And I know it was right.

To whom can you write this week to offer to be part of the solution? Your local tourism commission? Your pastor? A local ministry to vulnerable women? One of the organizations I mentioned above?

Who can you ask to join you in your fight? Are you part of women's prayer group, book club, Bible study or other group that might want to host a fund-raising event for our Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative? Could you invite others to join to pray publically at your church or in another location for the end to human trafficking and slavery?

If you want more information about how you might organize an event or a fundraiser to support the St. Bryce Foundation's efforts to get the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative up and running and support the work of Salvando Corazones, please comment or drop me an e-mail.

Are you ready for action? If so, take it. If not, pray and meditate with the above verse from 1 Peter and ask the Spirit to make you ready and then to show you what to do. He will lead. He will answer. He will act. Because He loves. You and those who need what He is calling you to give. While you wait, why not write to thank and encourage and offer prayers to someone who is doing the work now? If you have an organization whose work you appreciate, write to the staff, let them know. If you would like to send a word of encouragement to the staff at Salvando Corazones, you can find their e-mails on the page, but I would also be happy to deliver it to them if you would like to e-mail it me or leave it in the comments.

Let's offer to help to be part of the solution with our time, our energy, our prayers and our encouragement today.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pray With Us

I am sharing a series of posts at Suscipio this month about praying the rosary for missions. Join us as we begin by praying for Africa?

From the post:

A great way to combine these two focuses in the month of October is by praying the missions rosary. In this rosary, each decade is prayed for one area of the world, the needs of its people, and the Church’s missionary outreaches in that area. One decade is recited for each of the following areas: Africa, Oceania, Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Pictures in this post were generously offered by friends who led the Life Teen mission trip to Ghana in 2012.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Let's Fast From Freedom

Are you, like me, beginning to forget the commitment to act and pray to end human trafficking? I admit I feel like a bit like a clanging gong that no one can hear. But I made a commitment and I WILL see it through. Why? Because last week Costa Rican papers reported that a man from reported being brought here under conditions of slavery to work in a restaurant in order to pay off a debt his family owed the traffickers. He was afraid to go to authorities because being returned to his own country would mean certain death. Because the other day Maria at Salvando Corazones posted that she was thankful for calm seas that day because you never know what thoughts, flashbacks or memories will rock the world of those who have been abused and exploited nor do you know when. Because the Costa Rican government has openly stated in the last few weeks that it does not know how to close the loop hole that allows drug and human traffickers to apply for residency legally by taking up temporary residency in a different state of the U.S. and getting their police report from that state, thereby covering up their criminal history. They have passed a new law that states that if at any time any of these items is found on a person's record, his/her residency can be revoked. And so traffickers of all types and sorts have an open door to take up residency here and the blue print with which to do it.

I have more to tell you and a growing list of ways you can help with the plan for the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative that I laid out here. . I am putting together some other actions that I hope you will help me with in the areas of government action and responsible tourism. I am planning a trip to visit the safe house for Salvando Corazones and put my head together with Maria about what we can do together.

In the mean time, as a family, we begin a circulating Holy Hour for the month of missions in the communities of our church parish. We will kneel in the presence of the Lord of Lords every afternoon for the next two weeks with our brothers and sisters and pray for the Church's call to missions. And I will beg that we embrace this as part of our collective mission as a Church, the call to act to end the atrocity of human slavery.

And while we are doing that, I offer you another action to keep us all focused on this fight. Let's fast from freedom this week. The victims of trafficking and slavery lose so many basic freedoms: the freedom to eat, sleep, use the bathroom when they want to, the freedom to speak to whom they wish, the freedom to call their bodies there own, the freedom to love, to trust, to hope. Is there a friend or a family member with whom you can share your desire to act on behalf of these victims? Might you enlist their help in a fast of sorts from a basic freedom you enjoy daily?

What if for one day, you did not go to the bathroom without asking someone's permission first? Or leave the house? Or go to bed? Or eat? Or drink? Or speak to someone else? I think it will serve as a poignant reminder to me of all the basic human freedoms I take for granted on a daily basis.

Over the course of the next week, I am going to enlist my husband's help (poor thing, I have no friends I can enlist as texting buddies here, he has to  bear the brunt of my crazy ideas) in this endeavor. I am going to choose a particular freedom listed above and get him to agree that I will ask his permission and he has to grant before I act. Every single time. And each time I go through the process, I will stop to pray for all the people on the world who live daily without freedom, who are begging for a basic mercy and being beaten or kicked or abused for asking, who are waking up at night in a terrified sweat, imprisoned by traumatic memories, who have been made vulnerable by poverty or culture or war or neglect.

If anyone decides to join me and walk beside me in this endeavor, I welcome the company. But if I go it alone, so be it. This is the call of my heart. A "yes" I offered to my merciful Savior. I will not, with His grace, take it back because I feel silly or lonely or like I am shouting into a dark abyss. I will cling to Him and seek the grace to continue on.