Small things–and my dream job

Rez's New Name team members standing behind the gifts donated by WA girls' soccer team

Rez’s New Name team members standing behind the gifts donated by WA girls’ soccer team

I’ve decided what job I want in heaven.

It came to me as I sat with a few other women around a table covered in toiletries, jewelry, lotions, and other small gifts. These items had been donated by the girls on the Wheaton Academy soccer team my husband, Dave, coaches. An annual tournament they play in encourages every team to create a service project, and for the past two years the WA girls have supported New Name, a local ministry that partners with area churches to reach out to and walk alongside women in sex trafficking and adult entertainment industries. Last year they made cards to go into the gift bags that New Name teams deliver. This year they went a step further and purchased items to go into the gift bags. Dave gave up a practice for the girls to shop and then gather back at school to make cards and listen as I told them about New Name’s ministry.

gift driveA few days later the members of my church’s New Name chapter unloaded all the purchases at Church of the Resurrection, and we organized them and packed gift bags for outreach.

We oohed and aahed over the pretty soaps and the jewelry, and I told the group, “You know, one of these gifts may be used specifically by God to open a woman’s heart to Him. In a few weeks the girls who purchased these may not even remember what they bought; they might see what they did today as a small thing, but they may discover when they get to heaven that this very lotion”—I held up the bottle in my hand—“may make an eternal difference. Won’t it be awesome to trace it all back! To see how all our stories connect into the Big Story!” It hit me then, and I said, “That’s the job I want in heaven—to follow the stories of people’s salvation and growth in Christ back to all the ‘small’ things that played parts in it. What an awesome job it would be to write down the creativity of God in weaving it all together!”

In chapter 4 of Zechariah, the angel of the Lord visits Zechariah and gives him a vision that encourages the Israelites to keep on with the slow, laborious work of rebuilding the temple. This new temple is a very small accomplishment when compared to the temple that was destroyed, but the angel says, “Who dares despise the day of small things…?” and he goes on to tell Zechariah that the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth and see each act of obedience.

In Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage, he wrote, ”In God’s work the day of small things is not to be despised. Though the instruments be weak and unlikely, God often chooses such, by them to bring about great things. …Though the beginnings be small, God can make the latter end greatly to increase; a grain of mustard-seed may become a great tree.”

Don’t despise the small things you’re doing. Don’t get discouraged. Keep doing them! Encourage others to persevere as well. Listen as the Spirit leads into seemingly “small things.”

And maybe in heaven I’ll get to write down one paragraph of God’s great story, and we’ll see that each of our “small things” has great significance.

New Name checkBy the way, the tournament directors awarded the top three service projects with a cash prize, and the WA team won first place! They’re donating their $1,000 prize to New Name.

#Giving Tuesday

It’s “Giving Tuesday,” did you know? The link is to a cute Youtube video about this day that follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I thought today would be a great day to post what I hope to make an annual tradition on this blog: the “gifts that give back” post. I wrestle a lot with our consumer society in general and our “I have to buy everyone a gift” attitude toward Christmas, BUT more and more we have the opportunity to give gifts that give twice: to the recipient AND to a ministry that practices Biblical generosity. If you have already completed all your Christmas shopping, then this post isn’t for you, but if you’re just starting to think about it (I’m in this camp!), then I hope to give you some good ideas in this post.

GENERAL GIVING

You can use Amazon.com’s Smile program and choose a charity to receive a portion of your purchase price. (Mine is locked in at Compassion International currently, but there are thousands on Amazon’s list.) The link above gives more info, and this program is not just for the holiday season but operates all year.

IF YOU’RE SHOPPING FOR PRETEENS/TEENS

Check out www.mudlove.com. This company, based in Winona Lake, Indiana (home of my wonderful in-laws and my alma mater, Grace College), sells made-on-site clay bracelets and necklaces. The most popular version is stamped with a word or phrase, and you can even custom order a word or phrase that has particular meaning to you. Twenty percent of each purchase goes to provide clean water in Africa, and $5 spent provides an African with clean drinking water for a year. My girls (ages 10, 14, 15, and 17) ALL love them. (Honestly, I do, too!)

BIG-TICKET BEAUTY

Hand and Cloth sells gorgeous, one-of-a-kind blankets made from used saris by women rescued from the slave trade in Bangladesh. I’ve featured this ministry before on my blog (https://journeytojen.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/blankets-handmade-by-women-women-handmade-by-god/).  These are perfect buys for the person who appreciates beautiful, handmade artisan items (hmm—maybe that describes you yourself!). They start at $98 dollars and go up to around $200. Check out the blankets at the website—which itself is beautiful—and read their story while you are there. “Blankets handmade by women. Women handmade by God.” Wonderful work! (They also have stockings–each one unique! So cool!)

Renew Project is an incredible ministry. Based in my area (Chicago’s western suburbs), it trains and employs refugee women to make beautiful items from recycled textiles. Bags, baby items, tablecloths, etc., and their work is incredible (these women are artisans!). Best of all, each purchase helps a refugee woman thrive in her new home.

THREE FOR WOMEN AT RISK

If you want something other than blankets made by women rescued from the slave trade, visit WAR International. The acronym WAR, standing for Women at Risk, was started in 2006. You can find jewelry, accessories, home décor, and children’s items made by women in 13 countries, including the United States. AND, during the month of December, if you shop either online or at the Naperville, IL, store and mention New Name as you’re checking out, then 10% of your purchase supports New Name (the link takes you to a past post about New Name).

Narimon employs women rescued out of the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand. the woman make beautiful jewelry, handbags, and some clothing at The Well, where the women not only work but are ministered to. Narimon is the products division of Servantworks. Seriously, their work is beautiful (I just bought a pair of Treble clef earrings for my daughter’s piano teacher from Narimon).

www.stoptraffickfashion.com has t-shirts, jewelry, and totes/bags made from recycled materials. Many of their t-shirts express the heart of the women who run this website. One with a barcode also has the logo “People are not products” and several sport the logo “free.loved.radiant.”

LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Need to shop for kids, men, women—want to spend a little for this one, more for that one? Go to www.tenthousandvillages.com. Gorgeous jewelry, decorative items, and woven/knitted items for women; toys and games for children; even things like chess sets, bookends, and bicycle-chain frames for men. Their website is very easy to navigate and has some very helpful tools. If you click on the “gift ideas” tab at the top of the page, you can shop for holiday items, for men, women, or children, or by type of item.  You can spend a little (items as low as $4) or a lot. They also have shops (there is one in Glen Ellyn, IL) across the U.S. You can find a shop locater on the website.

FOR THE COFFEE LOVERS

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company has “Drink Coffee. Do Good” as its motto. It started with farmers in Rwanda (the founder saw the effects of the genocide and had to do SOMETHING) and now works with farmers in Haiti and Thailand as well. They sell 100% Arabica, fairly traded, fresh roasted coffee. They sell ground, whole bean, and decaf, teas, and coffee accessories.

If you’re in Chicago’s western suburbs, drop in at River City Roasters in Wheaton and pick up a few bags of their Venture blend, which supports Venture Corp (www.entertheventure.com), a small nonprofit started by some young friends of ours. Each bag purchased helps support two wonderful ministries in Africa. (I am privileged to have met both Mary and Ronnie, the leaders of the two ministries Venture supports.)

LOOKING FOR HANDCRAFTED CROCHETED ITEMS?

My husband just told me about this one, and I checked it out and love their website. What a great story! A group of high school guys learned to crochet simply because they wanted unique ski hats on the local slopes. Others dubbed them the Krochet Kids. Long story short (if you want to know the whole thing, visit the website), they taught these skills to women in northern Africa and then Peru, and they sell these handmade items at www.krochetkids.org. Each item carries with it the signature of the woman who crocheted it, and you can visit the website to learn her story.

AND, FINALLY, FOR THE PERSON WHO HAS EVERYTHING

Buy them a goat—bet they don’t have that. Seriously, go to World Vision or Compassion (the links take you directly to their online gift catalogs). They have items like school supplies, ducks, and clean-water wells. You can honor someone with your gift, and that person will receive a card telling about your gift and what it will accomplish. If you want to keep the idea of giving in front of you this season, request that a print gift catalog from either World Vision or Compassion be sent to you. It’s a fantastic tool to use with kids during this season when they are constantly faced with advertisements that fool them into thinking that their “wants” are actually “needs.”

ANY OTHER IDEAS???

If you have other ideas, please leave a comment and share! I’d love to hear and share other opportunities to give gifts that give back.

Thanks for reading! I sure enjoyed pulling the list together.

26.2 miles for a reason

The back of Dave's Refuge for Women shirt.

The back of Dave’s Refuge for Women shirt.

He did it! On Sunday, October 12, my husband, Dave, ran his sixth marathon (second time in Chicago), this one for women rescued from sex trafficking. His “Run for a Reason” shirt arrived too late (and too small) for him to actually wear it during the run, but his efforts still raised money for a safe house here in the western suburbs. A big thanks to all you who supported Refuge for Women, and, for those of you who still might like to contribute, visit this post I wrote last month to read more about the organization, its partnership with local ministry New Name, and Dave’s reasons for running for this particular purpose.

DSC_0759It was an awesome day–especially for us spectators
who were not slogging out 26.2 miles! We enjoyed funny signs, were inspired by courageous people (like the blind runner–also on crutches–we saw at mile four, far behind the others), and loved, loved, loved seeing runners’ faces light up when we hollered out their names and reminded them that, yes, they really could do it.

All seven of us went down to cheer Dave on (plus Em’s friend Abby), and we DSC_0767were joined by my friend Beth (who just ran a marathon last week herself) and her two kids. They were cheering on husband/dad Geof, who was running his first marathon on
Sunday. Dave and Geof ran the whole thing together (well, they lost each other in the last two miles, but that’s close enough), and
DSC_0781we managed to see them at mile 11 and then again at 17. We tried to see them at 26, but the crowds of spectators were too packed. So we met them just after the finish, watched their drawn, sweat-crusted faces light up when they saw us, and told them we were very, very proud of them.

If you’re in the Chicago area, and you’ve DSC_0783never watched the marathon, DO IT! It’s a great day, filled with chances to cheer on strangers and talk to fellow spectators and walk down streets that are actually empty (Patrick absolutely loved this!). You get to spend the entire day wandering around downtown without a bit of pressure to shop (sorry to all my shopaholic friends).

Other highlights: the band at UIC, the crazy DSC_0787outfits worn by some runners (it wasn’t that hot, but still, the full-length character outfits had to be toasty), getting ice cream, playing in the park, congratulating exhausted finishers who hadn’t yet met up with friends or family, and, most of all, going home all together after a wonderful, wonderful day!

At  mile 17, the guys got hugs from the kids.

At mile 17, the guys got hugs from the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0837

Patrick giving out high fives.

Patrick giving out high fives.

Finished!

Finished!

Going home on the el--not sure which one looks more tired!

Going home on the el–not sure which one looks more tired!

Dave, running for a reason on October 12

In four weeks, on October 12, my husband, Dave, will run the Chicago Marathon as a Run for a Reason participant.

His reason? To raise funds for a Refuge for Women safe house to be opened in the western suburbs.

What’s that? Refuge for Women, based in Kentucky, is an after-care home for women rescued from the sex trade industry, and it works with New Name, a ministry right here in the western suburbs that reaches out to women—right here in the western suburbs—who are trapped in the sex trade. New Name sends teams of women into strip clubs, massage parlors, and adult bars to form relationships with the women working or trapped in them; it also has a call center that contacts women—and even pimps—and offers to pray for them; and it bathes everything in prayer with both weekly meetings and teams that pray during the visitation and call center hours.

How did Dave find out about Refuge for Women? This is a long story that actually starts with me. I could skip it and cut to the chase, but I am always amazed at how God interweaves our stories and connects us with others, and then we can look back and see His hand in all of it.

So I’m telling the long version.

Two years ago Moody Radio kept running a promo bit on The White Umbrella, a book about the booming sex trade industry in Atlanta, Georgia, and an after-care home there named Wellspring Living. I read the book and thought, “I have to do something, but what?” Everything in the book was focused on the problem in Atlanta, but when I researched the issue in Chicago, I found it was alive and rampant here as well. I contacted the publisher (Moody) and said, “What do I do?” An editor at Moody invited me to a symposium Moody was hosting on this topic, and I listened to the leader of the Salvation Army’s Promise program (Partnership to Rescue Our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) as he shared how bad the issue is in Chicago and what Promise is doing about it.

I still felt helpless, but one of the messages I kept hearing at the symposium was that people needed to spread the word about this issue. I could blog on it, I thought.

So I did, enough that, a year later, when I joined the Redbud Writers Guild and met with Terri Kraus, one of its leaders, we talked about the topic of human trafficking as something I often wrote on.

“Well,” said Terri, “did you know that I’m one of the co-founders of the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition?”

I didn’t know such a thing even existed, but I began going to meetings and getting involved in a small way, and through the WCATC, I found out about New Name and got connected with Anne, its director.

When Dave wanted someone to speak to his Culture and Theology class last spring about sex trafficking in this area, I contacted Anne, and she agreed to come in.

She blew away any misconceptions the students may have had about women choosing to stay in the lifestyle of prostitution. “Almost all of these girls have horrific backgrounds,” she said, “with the kinds of sexual/physical/emotional abuse that makes you wonder how anyone even thought of it—really evil and horrific.”

One girl, Darcy*, was raped and then trafficked by her own mother. Another girl’s mother is a drug addict who began selling her daughter when she was young to pay for her drugs. Now the girl is trapped in the lifestyle. She doesn’t know any other.

New Name has connections with the Chicago FBI and calls the Bureau when a girl wants to leave the industry or simply is frightened. But the FBI doesn’t provide places for the girls following their rescue, so New Name partnered with Refuge for Women in Kentucky. Four girls rescued by New Name, including Darcy, have now gone to Refuge for Women and been involved in its 12-month, 24/7 program where sobriety, healing from trauma, rebuilding trust, and developing a relationship with Jesus are all essential elements.

Not long after Anne spoke in Dave’s class, I learned that Refuge for Women was raising funds for an after-care home here in the western suburbs, and then I learned it was part of the Run for a Reason program at the Chicago Marathon. When I told Dave, he signed up to be a Refuge runner.

So, my part was to do all the connecting.

Dave’s part is to run 26.2 miles (I like my part better).

Do you want to have a part?

Would you be willing to join us in this effort to bring healing to women?

First, please pray, for the ministries of New Name and Refuge for Women, for the fundraising for a local after-care home, and for Dave as he trains and runs the marathon on October 12.

Second, if you feel led to give to a Refuge for Women safe house in this area, you can do so in a couple of ways:

  1. You can donate online at refugeforwomen.org. Click on the “take action” button at the top of the home page and then choose “Donate-Chicago” at the bottom of the page that opens. When you review your donation, type “I am donating this in support of Team Refuge runner Dave Underwood” in the “add special instructions to the seller” box.
  1. You can write a check and send it to the address below. Please write “Dave Underwood” on the memo line of the check so they can keep track of his fundraising amount.

Refuge for Women

Attn: Run for a Reason

342 Waller Ave, Ste D

Lexington, KY 40504

Thanks so much for reading this. If you have any questions, please feel to leave a comment, and I’ll respond. I’ve also put lots of links in the post, so be sure to follow them to find out more about these ministries.

Jen

*I think Anne was already using a pseudonym, but I’m changing it again just to be completely safe.

 

Live in Chicago’s western suburbs? Want to get involved in the local battle against sex trafficking?

In a little less than a month, the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition will hold an event in downtown Wheaton. If you live in this area and have been wanting to get more involved in the local battle against sex trafficking, plan to attend. Area ministries will have booths set up and reps will be available to visit and talk. There will also be a panel discussion with key local leaders.

So come!

When? May 1, 7 p.m.

Where? TEAM’s The Mission Place, 370 West Front Street, Wheaton, IL

Want more information or to stay updated? Visit the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition’s Facebook page. If you want to be included on the prayer team, scroll down to an entry posted March 3 and respond to it.

There is also a training seminar on May 10 presented by Salvation Army’s Promise program (excellent training–I’ve gone to a shortened version of this seminar). Follow the link above for more information.

One last thing: New Name is a local outreach to trafficked and prostituted women. Each time the ministry makes contact with a woman, it gives them a small gift and a handmade card. Each card has a verse of encouragement and hope on it. The women LOVE these cards and sometimes even hang them up at work. If you live in the West Chicago/Wheaton area, enjoy doing crafts, and would like to make cards for New Name, leave me a comment and I can follow up with you and give you more information.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

 

 

 

The Real Battle: followup post

Dear Readers,

I have gotten so much response and information related to the last post that I’m writing a followup post mostly comprised of all the links/books/info I’ve been given through Facebook/blog comments.

First off, some continued reading:

I found an article, “The Super Bowl Could Never Not Be Breeding Grounds for Sexual Exploitation,” written by the Chief of Policy and Planning for NYS’ Unified Court System, Judy Kluger. She is also the Executive Director at Sanctuary for Families, the leading nonprofit in New York State dedicated exclusively to serving domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims, and their children. She wrote in response to several articles which said the hype about the Super Bowl being a “trafficking magnet” was not only overblown but was also potentially harmful to trafficking victims.

Then a friend suggested reading Half the Sky (the link is to its Amazon page) Without having read it yet (though it is now in my shopping cart at Amazon.com–my friend offered to let me borrow her copy, but I’m thinking I will probably want to mark it all up!), I can tell you that Amazon.com calls it “a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world” AND, only moments after my one friend posted the suggestion on Facebook, another friend called the book a “must read.” This friend should know, as she, with several of her friends, started the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition to inform and activate people about the issue right here in our area. While I’m on this topic, here is a link to the Coalition’s Facebook page and another to an article written about it.

And, on that note, more about this issue in my local area, the western suburbs of Chicago:

Over the weekend my husband forwarded to me a prayer email from New Name, a ministry of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, (that’s my area) that “partners with local churches to reach out to and help walk along side the women who are caught up in these industries.” I prayed my way through the message (heartbreaking stories) and then emailed its sender, asking to be added to the list of people who regularly receive it. I mentioned New Name to my Anti-Trafficking Coalition friend, and she wrote back: “New Name is awesome!” She’s used its videos when she has spoken about trafficking in the West Chicagoland area. If you go to the “New Name” link above, you’ll find more information about it as well as a contact email.

Another friend mentioned A21, which is an official coalition partner with End It, an organization I mentioned in the last post. Both these sites have great information.

I’m also sharing the blog site One Small Voice–which I found through New Name’s prayer email. The blogger says this about the site: “My goal is to post information about global human trafficking issues as well what’s happening right here in the Chicagoland area including strides that are being made by the government regarding this issue.” Right at the top of the site is information about a forum being held this Saturday on this topic.

Lastly, I just want to remind all of us why we should care.

Many years ago, when I was a very young middle-school teacher with no children of my own, I sat in a meeting that involved a student, her father, and our team of teachers. The father was overbearing and belittling to his daughter, and we left the meeting feeling discouraged. One of our team members, the lone male on the team, father to a young daughter himself, was more than discouraged. He was angry. “Any man can be a sperm donor,” he said, “but it takes a real man to be a father, and that girl doesn’t have one.”

Most of the girls involved in trafficking have never had a true father, one who protected them, cherished them, and honored them. God longs to be their Father. He’s angry and sad they’ve never experienced true love, and He’s called us to have His heart for them. He says He “will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them” (Psalm 10:18), and He’s called us to enact that justice in the here and now.

Let’s pray for some genuine religion, friends.

And then let’s do it.

Thanks for reading,

Jen