Thursday, 7 May 2015

Let's Love

So this update will be very short ms brief, mostly because it is 11pm here and I have to get on a plane tomorrow to fly out to Cambodia. So this is just going to be a quick update about what I've been doing for the second half of my time here in Thailand. So once we were done at the Thai church outside of Bangkok we came back into Bangkok to work with a ministry called Rak Teh, meaning "love authentic" in Thai. The building we stayed at was right in the centre of a major tourist area in Bangkok, an area surrounded by temples, but also a lot of homelessness, a large deaf community, and so many people to reach to. I really loved this ministry because they were so open to just doing what God called us to do and just going with what each day brought us to. What that looked like was a time of 36 hours of consistent prayer and worship, buying food for the locals, hanging out with the local deaf community and just living life alongside the people of this area. One major event we did was host a hair and nail day for the women of the neighbourhood. We basically took the time to treat them like royalty, from hair cuts, to pedicures, to manicures, to dinner, to desert, we did everything we could to make these women to feel special. It was a great experience just to serve those around so and let them know they are loved and cared for. In between ministry times my friends and I loved going down to the tourist backpacking area to shop, eat food, Skype our parents and hang out. I also may have tried eating scorpion and tarantula down there... One of the craziest things I have done. Anyways I will update you more as time goes on but until then thanks for reading! 

Cambodia Bound

   Well tomorrow I am officially done ministry and work in Thailand, and I am heading over to Cambodia for the next month to do more work and ministry. Honestly I don't have a ton of details about what exactly I am doing there but I will share with you the bit I do know. Like I said tomorrow we will be flying from Bangkok, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We will be in Phnom Penh for about two days before we drive for three hours to the province of Kampong Cham. The living conditions will be interesting with the 45 degree heat, and the upcoming raining season. At this point we are not expecting to have air conditioning, wifi, western toilets, or any sort of amenities. Honestly I'm okay with it. When you are living in very minimalistic conditions it forces you firstly to trust in God more and secondly rely and enjoy your time with the people around you. Once we actually start doing work (as far as I know) we will be working with local youth centres in two teams going out and teaching English, hosting kids programs, giving hygiene lessons, and setting young people up for success in a culture and place where it is all too common to sell your children for money. 
   Again because I don't know a lot about my time in Cambodia I thought I would just share a bit about the country itself as well as human trafficking and sex slavery within the country. Cambodia is a country where a lot of the population lives in poverty. With the major people group being the Khmer people. Major languages spoke are Khmer, English, and French. 95% of the population is Buddhist and the other 5% falling into the other major religions. In terms of human trafficking Cambodia is a major hot spot for sex tourism, child labour, and sweat shops. 2.5 million (that we know of) out of a population of 13.5 million are trapped in human trafficking at any given time, with 43% of that number being people used for sexual purpose, 98% of those people are women and girls. It's heart wretching to read about these things, but also drives me to do something. So that's what I'm about to do hop on a plane and spend the next month working alongside these people, changing lives, and doing great works through Christ. 
   That being said I am very thankful for all of you and your amazing support you have given me. I am very excited to continue this journey in South East Asia but just has excited to fly home to Canada and be with everyone of you who have supported me and helped me through this journey. So I thought I would just write out a few thank you's just to remind every single one of you that you are the reason that I am here, because of your love and support. So to my fantastic friends, my lifegroup, and to you awesome people who I get to do life with on a daily basis. I am incredibly thankful that you are in my life, and I am even more glad that you have continued to be my friend even when I'm on the otherwise of the world. Your readiness to text me, and see how you can support me has been overwhelming and I just want to say thank you. To my former teachers, youth leaders, and mentors you people are fantastic. I just want to thank you for helping raise me to be the person I am today. With out you believing in me, teaching me, encouraging me, and helping me grow I wouldn't be half the person I am today, so thanks a lot. And last but certainly not least by any means a huge thank you to my amazing, selfless, and incredible family. I love all of you so much, and if am so privileged beyond belief to have you in my life. Doing life with you every day is a blessing and everyday I am away from you I think about you and miss you more and more. So all of that being said thank you again to everyone for your emotional, spiritual, and financial support all of which is appreciated greatly. I miss you all and can't wait to share more about my crazy adventures. 


Stop the traffic

Well this is a huge topic I have been waiting to write about, which I'm sure you have guessed is human trafficking. One thing I've found very interesting is seeing and experiencing how human trafficking is different everywhere you go. From Las Vegas, to Tijauna, to Bangkok, to Phnom Penh every place is different. I think so easily we try to box in this issue and put labels on it, but it's so complex and deep it's almost impossible to do that. One thing that struck me in Bangkok is that they are open about selling sex but at the same time there is an entire other realm of sex slavery, and prostitution you wouldn't see unless you sought it out 
   So first I will talk about my experience in one of the red light districts here in Bangkok. Honestly it's crazy. Tourists are everywhere, parents with kids and all around the shopping, food, and excitement there are people exploiting and selling women and girls. We would be walking down the crowded streets while men would try to usher you into bars and clubs to see sex shows, and women do completely inhumane acts for others enjoyment. None of this is hush hush either, you can walk by and watch women dance half naked dancing on bars while men hassle them. When you look those girls in the eyes they just look so dead, and lifeless. All of them are so young and have so much potential but right now they are dancing on bars because they have no other options. Another big part of the visible sex industry are massage parlours and karaoke bars. Usually massage parlours in certain areas are used as means to get a prostitue or to have a place to "relax" sexually. And karaoke bars are places where you can rent a women to sing and have fun with which could then potentially lead to renting her for other purposes. It's honestly just sad, it's so sad. It's ridiculous to see how many tourists go to see these shows, and to take advantage of women, but it's also sad to see people sell other people. 
   Another form of human trafficking and at times freelance prostitution is some who work the streets without ties to a strip club, bar, massage parlour etc. this for the most part is the more hidden aspect of prostitution. It's interesting because we were informed that some of these women do it freelance for reasons like lack of a better job, need more money, pays better; and some women work for pimps and may be forced into what they are doing. We were also told that there are also a lot of freelance male prostitutes in the area, and that there are a lot of people who may not look like your stereotypical prostitute out selling their body. Another crazy thing we found out is the amount of pay by hour hotels which are used as places for prostitues to do business. Again going back to the fact that this is such a complex issue., it's so hard to wrap my head around all the different types of exploitation and how I need to respond to them. Although it's heartwrenching to see, I can't wait to see more in Cambodia just to get a better understanding of this issues and why it is something every single one of us needs to pay attention and care about.   

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Thailand take 2

Alrighty, so this is take two or three for me on this blog post... I literally have started and for over half way through on this post numerous times but each and every time I forget to save. So I apologize for taking a long time to update all of you wonderful people on my time so far in Thailand. Not going to lie after 24 hours of travel time, and running through the Taiwan airport, and then getting off the plane in Bangkok to find out it really is s hot as people say it is, I was a little bit skeptical about spending a month in this place (and two months in Asia). As time has gone on though I've realized being here isn't about me, or all the things that are against me, it's about God, people, and most of all love. So to kick off this blog post I'm just going to talk a bit about what I've been doing, some stories, and just about what's been up for me. 
  So right now (and up until now) myself and my team have been working and living in Bangkok, and the suburbs of Bangkok. The first place we stayed was at a local Thai church just outside the city, but let me tell you that place challenged everything within me. No joke. From the roosters crowing at 3am, the 5 foot lizards lurking around, the lack of toilet paper, the constant heat, humidity and lack of air conditioning, or even just being in a completely new culture, it was challenging. A lot of what we did was went out into slum like communities and encouraged the people, and invited them to different events we were hosting like kids camps, church, nights where we did dramas/music, and just inviting people for meals. Although what we did got redundant, and draining very quickly there was some pretty amazing things that came out of that week. 
   Firstly we prayed for a man with poor vision and restored his eyes and ability to see. Some people get incredibly amazed by those kinds of stories, I mean so do I, but I guess when you walk as a child of God every single day things like that literally just become part of your everyday life. Loving people, is a lifestyle, it's a choice not a feeling. I have also really been loving getting to show love through music and worship. More and more I have realized how universal music is. I honestly don't think you need crazy impactful lyrics to allow music to speak, so that has been a really amazing experience. 
   Another big thing we did throughout our time at the Thai church was most kids camps and activities. I really love kids, they are all so universally carefree and just have this wonder about them that is so amazing. We led songs with the kids, played games, did skits, but for the most part we just hung out and played with them. A lot of people are very quick to judge and write off kids ministries and setting up programs for kids but ultimately plugging them in to something in there neighbourhood sets them up for success and starts breaking chains of violence, abuse, drugs, and even trafficking within a family. It's honestly incredible to serve change is families simply from starting with their children.
   One other major thing we did was visit families in local slums or lower class areas. A lot of these families were poor, worked in factories, and had houses in living conditions we couldn't even start to imagine. It honestly takes me back to hear these people at God is good, and still be so happy even though life is completely against them. We met burn victims, cancer survivors, people who couldn't walk and every single one of them met us with a smile, extremely generous hospitality, and a positivity that I wish westerners would adapt. Hospitality is one thing so evident in Thailand, they treat their guests like kings and queens. We went to a families house for dinner and honestly I am still in shock to see a family that barely has anything give us, seemingly rich westerners their best. Before the meal they had our plates of 5 different kinds of fruit, bottled water, Thai rice crackers, and made sure all of us had a seat. Then they brought out some amazing pad Thai, and even then they weren't done because they brought out sticky rice and mango for dessert (literally my favourite Thai food). All of this seriously makes me questions myself as a westerner, how a Thai family living in a slum could give us all that but we are so quick to not love one another. 
   So anyways that has been my journey in Thailand so far... More to come later I promise. I am leaving for Cambodia on Friday, May 8 and will be there until June 4 which is when I head back to Las Vegas. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Names to faces

So after my last post about outreaches in Vegas I was going to make one last post just about things leading up to my outreach in Thailand and Cambodia. Yesterday I felt like I needed to make a post about the people here in Las Vegas. I'm not talking about people that I'm friends with, or serve with here on base, I'm talking about the people on the streets of Las Vegas who would never ever be talked about because they live on the streets. The area that I live in is a probably one of the highest concentrated areas in Las Vegas for homelessness, and poverty. It's honestly just so sad walking around seeing people on the streets, and know that although they are everywhere no one sees them, and no one stops to notice them. One guy (who I will chat more about later) said that out of all the people that walk past him less than 5% acknowledge him, and less than 1% actually stop for him. I can't imagine living a life where circumstances led me to the streets and then just have everyone pass you by. One major thing I have learned about people living on the streets, is that you don't know their story unless you stop and ask them. As soon as you start hearing about how they used all their money to help their dying mother, or they had cancer and their insurance wouldn't cover all the treatment so they lost everything they had, that's when you start thinking twice before placing judgement and not stopping. So basically my goal for this post is introduce you to some otherwise forgotten people that I have met over the course of my time in Vegas. 
   So the first person I want to talk about is named Russel. This experience and interaction with him has stuck with me ever since I met him about a month ago. So a few weeks back I was on Fremont Steet (in downtown Vegas) doing a general outreach like we do every week, just out loving people, blessing them, and praying for them. Then as I was walking I saw this man desperately trying to get someone to notice him. It wasn't like he was harassing them or anything in a negative way, he was one of the kindest beggars I had seen on Fremont. He kept saying "excuse me sir", "God bless you", "have a great day." I went up to him, asked his name, how he was doing, and then I just felt like I needed to buy him lunch. So I asked him what he wanted, and he said a filet-o-fish from mcdonalds. I told him he could get whatever he wanted, and then asked him what size fries he wanted, and drink, and let me tell you this entire time I could see how great duo this guy was. So I went over and got him his food, and came back. Before I left I asked if I could pray, and he was just as blessed by the prayer as he was the food. Anyways, a few weeks later I was out on Fremont again, and this homeless man stopped me, and said "you were the one who bought me lunch, thank you so much, that blesses me so much." I honestly was in complete shock that even like a month later this guy remembered me, and was hugely blessed by something as simple as a McDonald's meal. I also learned not to judge homeless people as they are just begging so they can get drugs, or alcohol, most of them have literally just been dealt a really awful hand at life and they are just trying to rebuild their lives with the little they have. Even though they are down, and things have taken a hard turn they still have so much faith that they will get out of this, they just need people to stop and care. 
    So another guy I met out on Fremont was named Emmanuel, and this guy I basically see every time I am out, whether it's during ministry time, or when I am just out with my friends. Prior to me speaking with him, I knew that other members of my team had also talk to him, bought him lunch, and really tried to show him love. So I did the same, we chatted, I just kind of gave him an outlet to say whatever he wanted to say land I would just listen. Then he started talking about how many people pass him on a daily basis, and how very few people even acknowledge he exists never mind give him food or money. This conversation went on for a bit and then naturally I asked him if I could pray for him and he didn't really respond, so we just kept talking. All of the sudden he said something that has stuck with me ever since, it was literally so simple but so crazy. He was talking again about how when people find out he is homeless they immediately pass him by, and can't even look at him, then he said "you need to pray for them not me." Like oh my goodness how true is that!! The problem isn't him, and the fact that he is doing something wrong and is an inadequate beggar, the problem is us not showing love to him, not stopping and saying hello, or buying him lunch, or giving him change. Like how true is that, the problem isn't so much that there is homelessness the problem is we aren't doing anything about it. 
   Last but certainly not least I have one more story for you, and this is a story of healing and faith that is literally inexplainable thing that happened, that can't be justified by logic so like I said you just have to disregard all logic and human understanding and just believe that this is true. So I was out with a partner in my group and our base director, praying for people, really with no plan just going wherever we were led. Eventually we were just walking and decided to stop and talk to this guy. He was homeless and in a wheelchair, and he went on to tell us he had a lot of lower body pain, so we asked if we could pray for healing and he said it was okay. Martin decided to see if his legs were the same length because sometimes that is the cause of lower body pain. It turned out that one leg was visibly like two inches shorter than the other. So martin held his legs and just prayed, "in Jesus name, let this leg grow up." And I kid you not he did not once touch his foot to pull it out, or reposition the leg to seem longer than another, then after he said that his heels were perfectly lined up. We were all seriously in shock so we checked in like three different ways and it happened. I think instead of believing in faith we are skeptic of what we can't explain, but when it happens right in front of your face you can't really deny it. 
   So there we have it, another blog post, and another post closer to my departure to Thailand and Cambodia! So I will make  one last prethailand post, and then it's all outreach. Thanks again for reading! 

Let's choose love

Well as you may have noticed my blog updates have been a little bit limited, and I apologize for that. At the same time it's hard to try to take indescribable experiences and place them into words. When you are constantly living a life full of amazing experiences you forget to take those and share them with others. So again all I am going to do is pick some stories I've had the opportunity to live out and share them with you. All I have to share with you is what I've experienced and lived first hand, and all you can do is decide what you would like to do with that information.
    One experience that we got to do was hold up signs on Fremont street (old Las Vegas) with stats about human trafficking. Honestly it's crazy to see how people who are out in vegas to party and have a good time respond to a bunch of young people holding up signs with alarming statistics. It just blows my mind to see how many people with read these signs and just walk by like there is nothing different. When you see how desensitized we are as humans, it's hard to believe that anything will change in these large issues like human trafficking. We let ourselves believe that it's okay to be apathetic and self focused but in the end we long for change and we talk about all the things wrong with this world but we aren't willing to step out in simple ways and say "no that's not okay." That's one thing I learned from this outreach, that in the end numbers to matter, and people binding together can and will change the world we just need to get there. This applies even more so to us as the body of Christ. We are called to love people, and go to the end of the earths to fulfill this. It's time that we step up and actually do that, instead of just talking about it. 
   Another cool outreach we got to do was serve with Hookers for Jesus. The outreach itself wasn't what was inspirational it was what all that simple work was going for, and the inspiration that Annie Lobert (the founder of Hookers for Jesus) gave to myself and our group. While we were serving we just did some basic yard work, pulling weeds and raking leaves. Although I would not say yard work is my calling, that entire time I just felt like everything we were doing was such a blessing to someone else. The entire time we were there we weren't really expecting to meet Annie (even though it would be so cool) then as we were about to leave she came outside and we got to meet her. Annie's story is truly inspiring and has really changed my views on women involved in human trafficking and what I need to do to make a lasting impact. Long story short, Annie is a survivor of human trafficking. She was able to make it out of the oppression of her pimp, and begin recovering. Annie started Hookers for Jesus to help other women like her off the streets, out of prostitution, into recovery, and back into being able to live a normal life. The ability to be able to pray for Annie, and bring blessings to her ministry was truly humbling. Statistics are changing, lives are being renewed and people are making a difference. It's so encouraging to see changes being made, because it is possible. Change is a happening and I want to be apart of it, no matter where I am in the world whether that's back in Canada or overseas in Thailand I will stop at nothing to make a difference, spread God's love, and bring the Kingdom of the Lord to this earth. 
   The lecture phase of my DTS has really blown my expectations, and I am literally waiting on edge to be able to take everything I have learned and seen here in Las Vegas and be able to change lives overseas in Thailand and Cambodia. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hola Mexico

Well hello everyone! First off I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart for my seamingly slow updates lately... Let's just say there is never a dull moment here in Las Vegas, which it makes it very hard for me to find time to sit down and blog. So, here I am trying to think of what I want to say and really I have I much I could say but really what it all waters down to is God is good. So I think what I will do is publish a few post right after each other outlining what I have been up to these last few weeks. So a couple of weeks ago I was in Ensenada and Tijuana, Mexico doing a mid DTS outreach. Instead of making a grocery list of all the things we did there, I thought I would share a few amazing stories. So one major thing that is a theme so every follower of Christ is miracles and spiritual gifts. For those of you who maybe aren't Christians what I mean by that is people who can heal others supernaturally, or people who know things about other people who hey have never met before, or the ability to predict the future and those predictions come through. Although those ideas are biblical, it's really easy to become skeptical when you don't see those things happen on a day to day basis. Let me just tell you, miracle ARE real. There was this one lady who had a hurt hand, and she was holding it in a fist because she couldn't open it, and had not been able to open it for a few weeks. A few people from my group went over to her and asked if they could pray. They prayed for her hand and right after she was able to open her hand completely. There is power in the name of Jesus. In the society we live in now a days it's so easy to question and justify everything and anything, but I'm telling you I saw a woman with a hurt hand, who's hand wasn't hurt simply due to prayer. I know for a fact this wasn't a just a coincident because I have seen things like this happen over and over again since I've been here. What I am not saying is that God is some genie that will heal anyone and everyone when we demand it. No, what I am saying is there is power in prayer, and there is power in the name of Jesus so much so that things that seem impossible can happen and you can witness it with your own two eyes. One other cool thing we did in Mexico was go to two different womens safe houses and rehabilitation centers (a picture with the girls is above). This was such a great experience because it adds such a real aspect to a problem that you hear about over and over and over again. It's so easy to get caught up in numbers and statistics and forget about the fact that there are real people, with names, and stories attached to those stats. We went into these centers and talked to the girls, and just knowing their name, even though most of them didn't speak English just made something that seemed so distant so close. At one point we were praying for the girls, and this one teenaged aged girl started sobbing in my arms, and the best part was she had no idea what I was saying, but just the fact that I took the time to care about her in that moment was enough. One last story was from the red light district in Tijuana. So before we went to the red light district one of my leaders was saying that this would be way beyond what we could imagine a red light district to be. For those of you who don't know a red light district is a place within a city where prositution is legal, and highly concentrated so men go there to get women, and women go there to get men. Let me just say that the realness and the depth of human trafficking just hit me hard in that moment. I literally saw dozens of women lined up against the wall of clubs waiting for a customer to pick them up. In that moment it's hard to know what to say or do seeing young girls probably younger than me waiting to be picked up. Although it was sad, and enraging at the same time it just lit this fire in me to keep pressing on. Even though this problem is huge I think people give up as soon as they realize how huge it really is. It's so easy to get caught up in the sadness and anger towards human trafficking and so many people allow themselves to dwell in that. If more people kept pressing on and fighting instead of just being sad then lives would change, and statistics would be reversed. So that's where I am at, pressing on because things will change when people step up. Overall my time in Mexico was a great experience in which I got to love others, and experience the world through God's eyes. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The great unknown

So today is Saturday. It's that one day between the day that Christ died, and the day He conquered all human understanding and resurrected from the grave. I never used to think much of this Saturday but a few years ago I heard a sermon on the significance of this Saturday not only in this season of Easter but the timeline of our lives from start to finish. So to explain what I mean I'm going to take this all back to New Testament right after Jesus was killed on the cross. So we know that Jesus had 12 disciples during His ministry on earth, and we know that they gave up everything to follow Him and His message. These 12 left their family, friends, jobs, homes, and lifestyle to follow Jesus simply because they believed He was the messiah that was promised, and that He was the Son of God. So think about it, Jesus, who the 12 disciples gave everything for was just nailed to a cross and killed. Think about how they may have felt; angry, broken, disoriented, lost, confused. Although they knew He was the Son of God and that He said He would leave them, they didn't know what was next. The disciples were in a season of waiting. All they had was what they knew to be true about Jesus, and the promises He made to them. This was Saturday. This was people who have everything for Jesus waiting for what would come next in God's plan. At some point in your life I'm sure you've been in a season of "Saturday", a time where your next step isn't clear, where you don't know what tomorrow will bring, and all you have to do is wait. Trust me, I know; waiting sucks. We all want answers of, and we all want to be in control of every single detail of our lives. Realistically this is impossible. We can't know what comes next, but what we can know is the promises God, our loving father has made to us as His children. Instead of living in a dark and hopeless "Saturday" season, always longing to know what comes next, we can live a life in full confidence that we serve a mighty and powerful God that holds you in your hand and knows everything about you, inside and out. We serve a God that is love and is faithful, and because of what Christ did we don't need to worry about tomorrow because God has an amazing plan for our lives. So when a season of "Saturday" comes remember that God knows you, and loves you and that He knows what's ahead of you all we need to do is lay down our desires and longings to know and just do in God's will. One last note on this topic, is that I got a lot of inspiration for this post from the song "Buried in the Grave" by All Sons & Daughters. I highly recommend you check it out and listen to the words and just reflect on where you are at, and what you need to do next to just bask in the amazing plan God has for you. Anyways thanks for reading, and I hope this Easter weekend has been a. Time to reflect and grow in all God has for you. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Because of Him

Well today is Good Friday. Some of you may view it as an extra day off school, or a day you don't have to go into the office, whatever you may think, I hope you take the time to read this blog post and just for a second think about what Good Friday is about. Before I get into what I wanted to talk about I want you to know, this is not about religion. This is not about me trying to convert you, or pull you into some religious institute. This is simply about me sharing about the greatest event in human history, with no strings attached. Good Friday is the day that Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world willingly submitted himself to a death so horrendous, that only the worst criminals were sentenced to it. Jesus had done no wrong, in fact He lived a life that was perfect, and blameless, but instead of fighting it, He took the penalty. Jesus was taken, beat, whipped, and mocked. The whip they used had pieces of bone in it so that every time it hit him it would rip his skin, they did that to him 39 times, because 40 is considered to be deadly. Finally they took a wooden cross, and laid Him down on it and nailed His hands and feet to the cross. Then they proceeded to lift him up for everyone to see, and that was when the Saviour of the world hung by nails in His hands and feet on the cross. Now just think about how painful that would be. All of your body weight is held on these nails, it is also impossible to breathe so in order for you to breathe you have to lift yourself up on these nails. Then if the Romans got bored of watching you hang there they would break your legs and you would suffocate. At this point also Jesus (being fully God on earth) who was in perfect unity with God the father in heaven was separated from Him as he hung on the cross as a sacrifice for all the sins of the world from start to finish with no strings attached. When I think about that all I can think about is "what the heck?" So you're telling me that someone who was perfect, and who was God, would just take the penalty for everything horrible I have ever done. Yes. Why you may ask would Jesus do this? Love. God loves you so incredibly much that He would even sacrifice His only Son, who was in complete likeness of Himself to live on earth and die a death only the worst of the worst die, because He loves you. Now I know this is usually the part where a million questions come up... But this is no strings attached, there is no catch. Jesus died so we have the opportunity to have a relationship with God, and have ever lasting life in unity with Him in heaven. So to kind of out this all in perspective, we are all sinner, we have all messed up. God being the perfect one that He is can't be surrounded by sin and imperfection. In spite of that God loved and longed for us so much that He sent Jesus as a perfect sacrifice to walk to earth and live a life with no flaw. When the time came Jesus was sentenced to death, not because he had to or wanted to but because God longed so much to be in unity with us. So Jesus was crucified and at that time all the debts for a wrongs of the world were paid in full and forever. Jesus paid for our messy lives, for our mistakes, for our guilt, shame, and catastrophic fails. Not only did Jesus die, he paid a price for you. He paid a price that was infinite and limitless, because that's how much you are worth to Him. Jesus's death was irreplaceable and nothing else could fill the gap and void that was placed between us and God. His sacrifice was priceless, and perfect, which makes you priceless and perfect in Him. You were worth it. You were worth Jesus dying on a cross. Just think about that. So that's really all I have to say, at first I was just going to make one long post for the entire weekend, but Easter and this time of year where we get to reflect on the love that God has for us is so humbling and beautiful that I am going to write a post for every day this weekend. So I hope all of you got something out of what I had to say, and again for any further questions I would be happy to email you or talk to you on Facebook. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Not for sale

So I have wanted to write a post for a while now specific to human trafficking and the sex industry but I just didn't know what to say. Honestly I still don't. What am I supposed to say about the fact that girls are treated like merchandise in sex auctions in Eastern Europe? What am I supposed to you about the girls in Cambodia that are destined to be sold from birth, simply because they are female? And what am I supposed to you about the fact that in Nevada there are legal and working brothels exploiting girls daily? This world is a crazy, messed up, broken place. Honestly I can't even fathom that this is going on. So many of us just choose to live in our own personal bubble and block out all the injustice that is going on around us. It's easier to just pretend everything is okay, because everything is okay for me, right? It makes me sick to my stomach to think that there was a time I had no idea that human trafficking was even a problem. So, because of that I know it's my job to educate as many people as I can about this issue, because  as William Wilberforce said “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” Today we watched the documentary "Nefarious: Merchant of Souls." I would highly suggest watching it if you would like a slap in the face of reality, because within the first few minutes your heart is broken into pieces by hearing the horrors of being a trafficked woman in Eastern Europe. Before I get into some really intense moments of this documentary I just want to let you all know that this subject is very heavy and hard to swallow, it will break your heart, but it should. You can't spend your entire life living in your little safe haven, you can't ignore reality. But I would like to for warn you that it is a heavy subject, and I am not really into watering down what is a shameful reality for us as a human race. In this documentary you get to experience and see the true reality of human trafficking in Moldova, Thailand, Cambodia, Las Vegas, and Amsterdam. I will start by talking about Amsterdam, and first you need to know that prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. There are legal brothels lining the red light district, and those brothels are plastered with women displaying their bodies in showcases waiting for a customer to come and buy their services. Another thing you need to know is that the majority of women that work at these "sex shops" are not Dutch locals, they are women which have been trafficked most likely against their will from Eastern Europe like Moldova, or the Ukraine. Once a girl is chosen she will then be taken into a room where the man has free reign to do as he wishes to her for his own pleasure. In those rooms the men are completely unsupervised, and many of the women will experience physical violence or abuse because they are only there for the pleasure of men. I don't know about you, but last time I checked women were not objects you can sell in a store window. Next I will talk about Moldova, as well as the general area of Easter Europe. I never realized the full extent of the sex industry in Eastern Europe, and honestly it is horrifying. Generally what will happen is a pimp will either get romantically involved with a girl, or promise her a job somewhere else (as due to current economic situations jobs are very limited) as a waitress, or a retail worker. Once the girl either agrees to go or even if she doesn't she will either be abducted or sent away to a brothel. Once she reaches the brothel she has to go through the "breaking in process" this basically involves being beat, raped, dehumanized, and forced to watch other women being beat or sexual assaulted. If during this process they decide to run away they will most likely be physically beat, but not enough to kill her as she is worth a large amount of money to these pimps. From there once they feel she is broken in enough they will take her to a "showing" where she will be forced to strip down and walk across a stage while buyers, and pimps decide if she is worth their money. Most buyers will decide to "test the merchandise" before purchasing and then if they decide to purchase they will transfer the girl they bought to a larger city where she will be forced to sell her body to dozens of men every single night. In Moldova alone 25,000 victims are human trafficked annually, and that is just a small number in comparison to the sales and trades of human beings all over Europe. Human trafficking is a worldwide problem that is just presented in different ways depending on where you go. In Thailand and Cambodia, there are huge issues of prostitution due to a massive cultural view of women. In Cambodia if a woman gives birth to a girl she is said to have "hit the jackpot" because she can sell her daughter in the sex industry to make money back. When a girl is born in rural Cambodia she is about 95% destined to be sold into a life of prostituon. It is said there that to measure the love you have for your daughter is dependent on where you sell her. If you make her prostitute in her own village or close by you love her, but if you send her away to be prostituted then you don't love her. As a matter of fact most Cambodia girls start grooming themselves from a young age to sell their bodies because they feel like they know that's the case for most girls, and that they need to do it to make money for their parents. How distorted is our world, and our view of love that a parent could sell their own daughter into slavery? This is not just a poor people problem, even more well off families in Cambodia will do this just to make more money. This is literally the screwed up world we live in, that we could allow a country to be host to over 2.5 million slaves due to human trafficking, with well over 100,000 (in which we can't account for) stuck in the sex industry with no choice, and no way out. In Thailand many families who live in rural areas can't obtain legal citizenship, so they can't get jobs. So to make money they will sell their daughters to pimps in larger cities like Bangkok. In Bangkok these girls, many of which are minors, are forced to dance in strip clubs, work in massage parlours, karaoke bars, and brothels. Another disturbing fact is that many men from North America, Europe, and Australia fly down to "vacation" in Thailand and spend their time renting underage girls for the night, using them for sexual pleasure. How have we as a human race allowed ourselves to believe it's okay to fly to another country to use a teenage girl for sex? We can't keep going on like this, and we can't keep allowing our daughters, sisters, and girls fall victim to sex slavery. If all of this hasn't given you a reality check yet, I thought I would post the going rate to buy or rent a human being world wide: 

Child in India: $12-$45
Teenage girl in India: $25 
Rent a child for a month in Thailand: $25
Girl in Kenya: $600 
Girl in Mozambique: $2-$1000
Woman in Pakistan: $400
Trafficker buying a girl in Canada: $5000
Woman in Moldova: $2686

These are just a few examples of how you can put a price tag on a human being. You can choose to shut your eyes and block this information out, but this is reality. This is actually going on to millions of human beings every single day. To close off this very long blog post, I would like to speak to the culture of prostitution here in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas you can't walk one block in the heart of the action on Las Vegas Blvd. without being offered cards with naked women on them and a number for an escort service, or seeing a billboard advertising an escort service, or simply seeing women walking around wearing very little clothing offering their bodies to men from all over the world. In Las Vegas itself prostitution is illegal, but in many other county's in Nevada there is legal prostitution with working brothels open. When I say it's illegal in Las Begas itself, all I mean is it's not allowed which makes it very shady and underground. The other night our group was doing a prayer walk of the older downtown area and we noticed these weird and really dark looking motels. The motels were all boarded up and had painted on doors and windows. Every single person in my group said they had this strange and heavy feeling while walking by, so we stopped and prayed for the motel and kept walking. While walking we noticed about four blocks of these motels. On our way back we stopped and asked why they were all boarded up and we were told that all of these motels were hot spots for prositution and were shut down by the cops. Even though they were shut down all they did was simply move locations and just a few more blocks down the street were motels in which girls would use for their "services". This is North America, and this is what is happening. This is not just an overseas problem, or a lower class problem, or problem outside our understanding. This is happening here, and it's happening every single day. I really don't know what else to say other than I hope you care about this as much as I do. I hope you care that millions of people are caught in human trafficking, and that so many of them of women, girls, and kids, that are literally forced to sell themselves. Any sort of innocence or dignity they is stripped away the moment they are forced to sell their bodies to their first client. So, I hope enjoyed this lengthly post. If you have any questions about human trafficking I will do my best to answer, and I can't wait to share more of what I am doing here in Las Vegas, and in Thailand and Cambodia to combat this issue. Thanks for reading and I will be sharing more soon!

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Prayer Project

So I know, you are probably thinking "Micayla you just posted on your blog yesterday." That is a fact yes, but I'm not your average blogger. I don't follow those blog rules, or some once a week guideline because I have to. What I say on this blog comes directly from what is placed on my heart, nothing more and nothing less. So I hope you can appreciate the fact that everything I write here is because I love sharing about what's going on in my life in order to be able to inspire others to follow their dreams, but not only that God's vision for their life. In my previous post I talked a little bit about saying "yes" to God on a daily basis, no matter what He may throw at you. As a follower of Christ it is our duty on a daily basis to take up your cross no matter how heavy it may be and say "yes" to what God has for you that day. This weeks topic of my DTS is "identity in Christ", and I am telling you just from day one that this week is going to be one that pushes me beyond where I feel comfortable. I could easily so no I don't want to do that, or no I feel uncomfortable but I would be cheating myself out of so many amazing things God has for me. Rewind about two days, I was at a church service here in Las Vegas like I have done every other Sunday since I first got here. The topic of the week was prayer and growing up in the church that seems to be a topic that comes up a lot. This time was different though. This time I heard something really fresh and new out of a message I'm sure I have heads dozens of times. What the pastor said wasn't some crazy radical concept that he just came up with. All he said was there is power in consistent prayer to God about those you care about most, and those things that seem to keep you awake at night. I really liked that concept and I knew that God was speaking directly to me through that pastor. I had forgotten to pray. I had forgotten to be consistent to continuously give everything up to God. There is literally immense amounts of power in the fact that I can directly communicate with God on a daily basis, so why don't I? Why don't you? Why wouldn't we give Him everything. He is sovereign. He is good. His hand controls the world. He has a plan. So why wouldn't I give Him everything? From all of this God laid on my heart to make a list of the people I care about most, or ones in which He will specifically lay on my heart (right now I am keeping it at a manageable number of about 8-10) then every day for the rest of my DTS I will pray for these people. So that's what I wanted the blog about, something I will be referring to as "the prayer project". A lot of people may ask "well what is prayer going to do?" All I can say is "what can't prayer do?" God is good, and He loves when we bring out messy lives before Him. He loves when we give Him room to be God. So many people skip over prayer because "God already knows, so why pray?" or "God already knows what will happen so why ask?" God's plan can only happen if you give Him room to be God, and that means yelling for help on a daily basis, saying "God I need you, I long for you." God knows what's going on, He knows what you need, He's just waiting for you to lay it all out before Him and let Him be God. So that's all I have to say, i hope you enjoyed, and I can't wait to post again soon. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Viva Las Vegas

Well I am at the end of my third week of DTS, it's honestly crazy how time flies. First off, I would like to apologize for my lack of blog posts. We are usually quite busy around here, and any downtime we have is usually spent relaxing, and enjoying the fact that we are in sunny Las Vegas. God is doing amazing things in Las Vegas through our base, but He is also doing amazing things in me and I can't wait to see where He takes me next. Every time I think about posting on this blog I debate about what to say because I don't simply want to list what I am doing here I want to be real and open and allow you guys to really understand how awesome our God is. Last week our topic was "the father heart of God". Going into that week all of our leaders said you know it's going to be really intense, and it's going to really challenge you, but who knew they were actually right! God can and will do amazing things when you just say "yes" to Him. I feel like a lot of Christians (including myself) forget that being a follower of Christ is a daily uphill battle of saying "yes". You can't just say "Jesus you are my Saviour" one time and that be it, you need to say "yes" to what He has for you every single day. That being said God has given me opportunity after opportunity here to step outside of my comfort zone and say "yes". One being an outreach we did called Viva La Worship. Basically what we did was busked on the Las Vegas Strip singing worship songs and praying for people who came by us. It was such a humbling opportunity to shamelessly worship Jesus, and get to play music in a context that was so foreign to me. Overall it was such an amazing experience and another really cool thing I can say that I have done. Another outreach that we did just this past weekend was hand out flowers to women on the street for valentines day. To put into context why this is so impactful, the area I am living in is not really the most put together area of Las Vegas. There are a lot of people around us who are not as fortunate as we are, and a lot of women who need to prostitue their bodies in order to make ends meet. The fact that we had the opportunity to just go out and love on some women who may never get that kind of love is incredibly humbling. Small acts done with great kindness have the opportunity to change this world and this was just a really amazing example of how that principle can be put into play. All in all I feel as though there is a lot of crazy change going on in our neighbourhood, our base, and in everyone's hearts who live at this base. I know a lot of people questioned the fact that I chose Las Vegas as the place to do my DTS, but I know that this is where God has called me to be and the cities that are the most broken need people who care and are compassionate that much more. So that's why I am here, I am here in Las Vegas because this city needs love, and this city needs redemption. Amazing things are going to happen in Las Vegas and I want to be apart of that. So until next time everyone, Viva Las Vegas! 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Change, growth, and new beginnings

Red rock canyon January 27, 2015

Well everyone, I am here. I am in Las Vegas, Nevada. Right now I can't even comprehend the fact that I am here. For the last four years I have known that this is where I would be after graduation, and although back then this seemed distant, here I am! I arrived here on Monday morning and I am not going to lie initially it was very overwhelming. When you walk into a room of strangers, walk into a dorm which will be your new home, and say goodbye to your Mom and sister all in one day that naturally leads to some anxiety. All that being said right away I knew that this place would become home to me, and the people I would have the privilege to serve with would most likely become some of my best friends. The first day was all really just a blur. A blur of emotion, a blur of remembering everyone's name, and a blur of just soaking in the moment of finally being here. Fast forward to day two, January 27, which also happened to be my birthday! My birthday was fantastic, for many reasons but for one in particular... It was my first birthday with no snow! Aside from the lack of snow it was just a really great day. We started by going to red rock canyon to hike in the mountainous region outside of Vegas, which might I say was barely a hike but rather an intermediate to advanced rock climb. From our lovely "hike" we headed over to a park and had a barbecue, and just had fun as a group playing volleyball, and on a playground. Overall our group is getting along so well, and I can't wait to see the growth we continue to have together. When we returned to our base we had a prayer and worship evening, which no matter how many times you do has extreme power and forces you to cross boundaries and comfort zones in order to grow. During this time we were invited to get a cord put on our wrist, which as I'm sure you are wondering is something done in India to represent a time in which you have had an encounter with God. At that moment I knew that any worry, fear, or anxiety I had about being here would melt away because my heart serve and my heart to change lives is so much more present than anything that could hold me back. This week so far has just been a lot of information and change so expect more posts in the very near future with more information about what I am learning here, the progress I am making, and what I am doing. I just want to let every single one of you knew that I appreciate all of your support, it really truly means the world to me. I would also like to invite anyone who has questions for me to feel free to post in the comments below, or if you know me personally to contact me through any other form of social media as I will be connected until at least April. One last thing (I know I'm rambling) is that if anyone, and I mean anyone at all needs prayer please contact me and I would be happy to do that for you. Other than that expect more updates from me and I hope you have a fantastic weekend! 

Friday, 16 January 2015

The night before

Well here we are, the night before I leave for YWAM, which happens to be one of the craziest, most exciting, yet terrifying thing I have decided to do. I'm sitting here at midnight, just a few hours before I leave for the airport thinking about the past few months leading up to this moment. For the longest time it's always been well in a few years I plan on going to YWAM, or in a few months I'm leaving for YWAM Las Vegas, and more recently in a few weeks I'm leaving, and now tomorrow this is actually happening. Even now I can't even fathom that the time is here, the time in which I leave everyone and everything I know and love to go do work in a very new and unknown place solely because that is where I've felt called to go for the last 4 years. Right now I feel sad, happy, excited, terrified, but mostly blessed, so incredibly blessed. So instead of taking this time to talk more about what I'm doing (which I'm sure you will all hear lots about) I want to take this time to say thank you. Thank you to anyone and everyone who have taken time out of their busy lives to support me in this journey. So many people have blessed me financially, emotionally, and spiritually. When I didn't think financial ends would meet, all of you blew my mind in how generous you could be. When I needed to be reassured that this was a good idea, and that it's all going to be okay, I've had my amazing friends and family by my side supporting me all the way through. So as I sit here anxiously waiting for this next chapter to begin what I'm going to miss is all of you, my friends, family, lifegroup, siblings, parents, Collide girls, co leaders, co workers, teachers, leaders, and everyone else who graciously blessed me in and through this journey. I feel as though I am rambling (which I probably am) but honestly I can't say thank you enough, I can't say thank you enough to everyone along the way who has supported this crazy, terrifying, and excited dream I've had since I was 14 to go and break out of my comfort zone and make this world a better place. You believed in me enough to invest your time and resources, and the only way I can begin to repay you is by taking this journey and let it rock my world so I can love others with no boundaries, and so I can come home and tell you all the amazing ways I had the opportunity to changes lives. So thanks, you guys rock.