Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Dirty Laundry in the Background

I've noticed an odd thing recently. When something the least bit unusual happens, whoever's present says, "You should write a blog about this." As if I can pull a blog post out of the air on any topic imaginable. Maybe it's because I once wrote a story about the toilet paper in the church bathroom. Anyway...

One of the things that delayed the launch of Sam's Project was that I didn't have a good photo of Sam to put on the project page. Rory (our VP of Marketing) emailed me (again) to say he needed a photo, so I pulled one up on my phone and sent it to him. 

After I hit send, I realized that I'd taken the photo with an unsightly background. I rushed to Rory's office, which doesn't take much rushing, since he's just next door.

"You need to photoshop my dirty laundry out of this picture before you put it up."

Rory looked up with the most mischievous grin and said, "I don't think my photoshop skills extend to dirty laundry." 

It was something Ryan Hollis (my son) would've said. I knew how much success I'd have had with Ryan over something like this, since he once named a piece of pottery that was for sale on my website "elephant booger". It was on the website for weeks before I noticed it. 

I was doubtful I could sway Rory, but I had to try one more time. "Please, take the dirty laundry out before you post that photo."

"Nah. You should just write a blog about airing your dirty laundry." He laughed. Guys think this kind of thing is much funnier than I do. 

The photo stayed. 

The dirty laundry on the floor in the background stayed. 

In my defense, I was doing laundry when Sam arrived with his new Hope Church t-shirt. I stopped to take a photo and never noticed the pile of towels waiting to go in the washer in the background.

As I've thought about dirty laundry, I've realized my problem is not usually airing mine in public. The problem I'm more likely to have is to let my emotional "dirty laundry" (aka sinful attitudes) pile up in the background of my life and leave it there. Untouched. Unaddressed. 

To people who know me well, it may be evident on close inspection that there's something wrong. That a little "clean up" is needed.

So it is when we harbor ungodly attitudes. Judgmental, critical spirits. Anger. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. They're always in the background, marring the picture we present to the world. 

If we want a "clean" background in a photo, we need to deal with the dirty towels on the floor. If we want to present a "clean" image to the world, we need to deal with the "dirty laundry" of attitudes and sin that interfere with the picture of Christ we're supposed to present.

Let's stop for a moment and consider our own lives. Is there something in the background of our lives that mars the image of Christ? Why not deal with it now? Let's show the world a clear picture of the Christ we say we serve, not distract them by our sin.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 esv
In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Three Years and 1550 blogs Later...
#dirtylaundry #sin

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children

Thousands of Rwandan children are walking barefoot through the mud and rain to go to school. Sam Wiley wants to help, and he hopes you will, too.

Here's the story: 

Monique Ladosz was a 61-year old widow when she decided to do something bold and daring. She moved to Rwanda to spend the rest of her life as a missionary.  She's been there, serving God and the precious children of that country, and Uganda, ever since. 

When those children went to school during the rainy season, they went barefoot and without protection from the downpour. They literally trudged through the mud and rain to go to school.

For years, Monique enlisted donors to help provide school uniforms, rain ponchos, and rubber boots for the children. We're not talking about a few children. 
Monique provided for more than 4,000 children, but she didn't just "give" the uniforms and rain gear. She allowed the children to "earn" them by doing chores. Instead of feeling "entitled", these children felt pride in being responsible and earning their way.

On Tuesday, I emailed Monique and told her how much I loved her boot and poncho project. It's a tangible evidence of God's love, and gives her an opportunity to share Christ to thousands of people every year.

She replied back a few hours later.

This year, Monique, now 85 yeas old, has had a shortfall of funds. She had enough donations to provide ponchos and uniforms, but not enough to buy boots. She can't give boots to just a few. If she's giving boots, she has to buy for all the children. 

This year, none of the children will get rain boots. Instead, they'll walk barefoot through the mud.

That news broke my heart. 

Sam Wiley arrived for dinner about that time. If you don't know Sam Wiley yet, he's my 86-year-old neighbor who never finished third grade, but is wise beyond compare. He spent his life as a cowboy and farm hand. Other  than personal and household items, he's never owned anything more expensive than a second-hand car. 

His wife died a year ago. They lost one child to miscarriage and another one to a heart defect. She only lived three months. 

Sam's 6'4" tall and weighs 120 pounds on a good day. His health isn't good and his heart beat is all out of kilter (he has atrial fibrillation) but that old heart is full of love and compassion.

When I told Sam about Monique's children and the lacking boots, it broke his heart, too.

"I ain't never had nothing, but I always had shoes. Except for one time when I squandered my money on foolishness when I was a teenager. I went barefoot for a little while then, but Daddy finally bought me some shoes. I don't like them little African children not having those boots."

"I don't like it either."

Sam took a bite of potatoes and pointed his spoon at me. "How much do them boots cost?"

"Monique said she can get good boots for $12 apiece."

"Lord, have mercy. There ain't no reason those little ones have to be barefoot. We could all get together and get them some shoes. I'll buy two pair."

"I'll buy two pair, too."

"You reckon you could get on that machine of yours and get some people to help us?" Sam doesn't quite understand my computer, but he has an amazing faith in the power of a story and the willingness of people to get involved.

"I can try." 

He chewed a bite of peas and pondered the situation a few minutes. When he looked up, there was an expression on his face I'd never seen before. Grim determination. "Let's do it."

"Let's do what?"

"Let's get all them children some boots."

"Sam, she needs thousands of dollars to buy boots for all those Rwandan children."

"If everyone bought one pair, or maybe two, we could get it done. It don't hurt none to ask. I believe they'll do it." There was hope in his faded blue eyes.

"It's a God-sized task, Sam." 

"Yep. But I believe He's up to it."

"I believe He is, too, Sam."

Our conversation moved on to other topics as we finished our meal. Before he left last night, Sam stopped in the doorway and looked back at me. "I'll give $100 for them babies some boots. I know I've got that much, and I shore ain't gonna take it with me when I die."

He took a step out the door then turned back. "Don't tell people they have to buy $100 worth of boots. They might not be able to do that much and think a little help won't matter. It will. Ask them to buy one pair of boots."

I promised I would. And here I am, asking you to help Sam and Monique buy rubber boots for barefoot Rwandan children. They're $12 a pair. 

It will take thousands of people joining together, because this will cost thousands of dollars, but if everyone gives a little, we can do it. Sam's counting on us to help, and I can't bear to let him, Monique, and the children down. 

Actually, Monique knows we have an idea. She doesn't know we're doing this. It's a surprise!

We've set up a project page so that you can see pictures of Monique and her children, the little barefoot Rwandan feet, and the children getting their boots and ponchos. Have your handkerchief ready! They will touch your heart. You can also donate there.

There's a 100% pass-through on donations, so everything you give will be used to buy boots for children in Rwanda and Uganda. Any extra will go toward next year's boots. None of the money comes to me or to Sam. The account for funds goes straight to Monique Ladosz' boot fund. 

All your donations are tax-deductible.

Here's the link: Help Sam's Kids

You can donate to help Sam's kids (and Monique's) online via bank draft, or credit or debit card. You can also mail a check. Instructions are below.

You can mail a check to: (Be sure to put Acct # 4852 in the subject line)

Sam's Kids
c/o Global Outreach
P.O. Box 1
Tupelo, MS. 38802

Two octogenarians have a God-sized vision and they're not afraid to pray big. We have an opportunity to make their dreams, and prayers, come true. Thank you for helping Sam, Monique, and 4200 children of Rwanda. 

May you be overtaken by blessings for your generosity. 

"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!' Matthew 25:40 NLT
In case you missed it, here's the link to this morning's blog post: Three Years and 1550 blog posts later...

#makeadifference #samskids #bootsforRwanda #Uganda

Three Years and 1550 Blogs Later: Fig Trees and a Look at How Far We've Come

{NOTE: I expected to have Sam's project ready to announce this morning. My blog's ready to go, but the project page (photos, links, donate button) isn't ready yet. I expect them to be ready in a few hours... What better way to celebrate my anniversary than to help others? I hope to make the announcement mid-day today. Please check back.}

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 esv

Just over three years ago, I was happily practicing medicine. Things were going exactly according to my master plan, when I began to think God wanted to expand my borders. It turned out that He wasn't just expanding  borders, He was about to rock my world.

It started with a blog. I didn't know what a blog was, and I certainly didn't know how to start a blog. When that Still Small Voice whispered, "Google it," I thought I might be in for an adventure.

I was.

I wrote twice a day. Learned how to tell a story. How to organize my thoughts and write fast. How to write accurately and decrease the typos. 

Today marks three years since that first blog post that changed my life. You, my precious readers, have encouraged me, responded to my words, allowed them to change you. You've become a part of me, and I'm better for it. 

1,550 posts later, I know at my core that I was born to be a story teller, but I wouldn't be here without you, the sweet people who've read my blog, liked and shared posts, left comments, given encouragement. You helped me keep writing, because writers need readers. I'm grateful to God for you. Thank you. 

This is a day for remembering my beginnings and celebrating what God has done, so here's my first blog post. (It didn't have a picture, but I've added one.)

What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.” (Luke 3:9 MSG)

The fig tree at my home has been there for decades. When I first moved there, it bore a few figs, but gradually the yield was less and less. After a few years, there was essentially no yield at all. As the fig  count waned, my frustration with the tree grew. Nothing I did helped it. 

Finally, I just cut it down, nearly to the ground. Imagine my surprise a few years later when Sam, my farm worker, said, "Hey, have you seen that tree you cut down? It's loaded with figs!"

I'm not an expert on trees, but it seemed clear to me that all the non-productive parts of that tree needed to go. A severe pruning (to the ground) saved it.

It's easy for us to allow dead wood to accumulate in our lives, isn't it? It's not so much that it looks dead as that its non-productive. When I prune, I lop off the branches that look diseased, but also the ones that don't bear fruit. 

In our lives, it's not just the sin and hurt (diseased branches) that need to go. Those things in our lives that do not make us more like Jesus or demonstrate the love of Christ to a lost and dying world may need to go too.

Just about anything can be deadwood in our lives. I have a friend who says she didn't have time for Bible study until one day she realized how much time she spent reading the newspaper every morning. When she stopped beginning her day with the news and started it with the Good News through Bible study, she found she had plenty of time for God, and now has a life that bears much fruit for him.

Just about anything can end up being deadwood because it keeps us from doing what Christ intended. Internet browsing, Pinterest, Facebook, shopping can all be good things. They can also be time-stealers that keep us from something better.

What is the deadwood in your life? 

Take a serious look at your life today and at all the activities you include. 

Does it make you more like Jesus? 

Does it demonstrate Christ to a world that is perishing? 

If not, it's time for some pruning. Choose today to have a life that is "green and blossoming", then do whatever it takes to get there.


Here's a hint about Sam's big project:

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Hope Came to Hope 
#celebrate #Christian

Thursday, September 22, 2016

When Hope Came to Hope

Sam Wiley and I were assigned to greet the visitors at church last night, escort them into the food line, and help them to a table. It was "No Strings Attached" Meal Night. Visitors in our neighborhood had received invitations on Sunday.

We had a grand time and met some of the sweetest people imaginable. One lady's name was Hope. She's been living in our town for several months. She's moved here from up north, where she'd lived for the last few years, taking care of her daddy. 

One morning, she awakened to a terrible new reality. She had lost her hearing. Many doctors had examined her. No one could find the cause. No one could find a solution. She'd been on the waiting list for sign language classes for four years, but her turn had never come.

Eventually, she moved to Tupelo to be near her son. She'd passed Hope Church numerous times and wondered if it was the kind of church that she could attend. She'd been praying for a home church for a while. When the invitation arrived Sunday, she thought, just maybe, her prayers were being answered.

As we walked toward the back of the building to the dining area, she told me about the waiting list for sign language class. 

"We have sign language classes here," I told her. "They just started a couple of weeks ago."

"Would you say that again?" We both had tears in our eyes as she read my lips one more time to be sure she'd understood.

"We have sign language classes here. They're free. You can come." I spoke slowly. "Hope, you're not here by accident. God brought you here."

She nodded and blinked back tears. "I think He did, too."

We went through the line to get her food and headed into the gym to find her a table. Kelly King, who teaches sign language, was seated at a table across the room. There was an empty seat next to her. 

I introduced Hope and Kelly, gave Hope a hug, and headed back to my welcoming position, grinning all the way.

Hope had come to Hope and we had seen the orchestration of God in a fresh and beautiful way.

Today, slow down and look around you. God is doing more than you know. In you. Through you. For you. Watch for His hand at work and join in where you can.

You never know when God might bring Hope your way. When He does, it will be a perfect fit.

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" Jeremiah 29:11 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: The Interloper, The Charging Dog, and the Clear Glimpses of God They Gave
#hope #hopechurch

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Interloper, The Charging Dog, and The Clear Glimpses of God They Gave

Sam Wiley has a new dog. I'm not sure the dog doesn't belong to someone else, but it doesn't have a collar and it hasn't been neutered.

Sam had complained about being lonely, so, at dinner one night, I prayed that God would send him some company. Sam agreed with a hearty amen. I meant HUMAN company, which God knew, but it seems like He had a different idea. 

A few days later, Sam came over for dinner. "I think I got me a dog."

"You bought a dog? Where did you get a dog, Sam?"

"It just come up to my house and started hanging around."

"Don't you think that's your neighbor's dog?"

"Nah. If it were, they'd have bought him a collar."

I didn't have a good argument for that theory, so I asked to see the dog. "You can't see him unless he comes around. He just comes when he wants to."

"Sam, that's not much like having a dog."

"It's enough for me."

This went on for weeks. Sam bought dog food and started leaving it out. The dog started eating it and running off. Before long, the dog gained weight, "slicked off" (Sam's term), and started hanging around Sam's house. 

"That dog needs a name, Sam."

"Yeah, but I can't think of a name." 

I didn't have a ready name, so we asked Ryan. He couldn't think of a name, either, so he asked his girlfriend, Hannah. "She says name him Benny." 

We did. Benny learned his name pretty quick. Sam did not. Sometimes he called him Danny. Sometimes he called him Dog. It was a different name every time. 

Benny didn't seem to mind. In fact, he really liked Sam and started following him to the barn. That wasn't exactly a good thing, since Benny quickly developed a love for chicken-chasing, following closely by chicken-shaking, which always leads to chicken-killing. 

I'm down two more chickens. If it weren't for Sam, Benny would be banned from the farm.

Yesterday, Sam decided to spring a surprise on me. 

I had come home early and was working on my computer in the kitchen. The Wonder Dogs had gone outside to sun on the patio. We were having a peaceful and very productive afternoon when Sam opened the back door and motioned for the leashes.

"You taking the dogs for a walk?"

"Yeah, but I thought I'd let them meet my dog first. I'm just gonna let them loose together and see how it works out."

"Sam, I don't think that's a good idea. Maggie's..." Before I could say another word, Maggie noticed Benny sneaking up on her and went into Ninja-dog mode. She jumped up, every hair on her back standing straight up, started barking like crazy, and charged Benny, who's at least three times her size. 

He was so shocked that he stared at her for a few seconds. When he realized the crazed pint-sized Shih Tzu was about to jump on him, he turned and ran for his life. Maggie was right behind him.

Mamie was frolicking with the cat, as usual, and missed the initial exchange. When she heard Maggie bark, though, she took out to help her. 

Benny ran wide-open. Maggie was only a few feet behind him, a look of utter determination in her eyes. She meant business. That interloper was leaving her territory.

I ran after them, leashes dangling from my hand. When I rounded the house, I realized there was no hope of catching the dogs. I started yelling. "STOP! STOP!" 

All three dogs ignored me.

"Mamie sit." I didn't have much hope for this command, but I gave it a try. 

Miracles still happen. 

She was at least twenty yards ahead, but Mamie sat. I raced up to her and snapped a leash on her, then started running again. Mamie wasn't impressed with the pace, but she managed to keep up.

The sit command worked so well on Mamie that I decided to try it again. Maggie headed down the hill by the tractor shed. Only one little hillock separated her and Benny from the road. The very busy road.

"Maggie, sit."

She stopped, made a quarter turn, and stared at me. I stopped, pointed my finger at her and gave her the hand signal for sit. "Maggie, Sit." I stood as still as a stone and held my breath.

She completed her turn with the grace of a beauty pageant contestant in swimsuit competition, paused, and sat. As I clipped the leash on her (and rejoiced over the great obedience training school we'd attended), I saw Benny stop and look back. When he realized the chased had ended and he was safe, he loped off to Sam's house.

The Wonder Dogs and I walked back toward the house where Sam waited for us. 

"I didn't expect all that," he said.

"Well, it happened so fast I couldn't warn you."

"I thought she was gonna eat my dog up."

"Maggie would wade into a pack of coyotes if they got between us. She's born to protect her human. You can't spring a strange dog on her like that and expect it to go well."

Sam grinned. He loves just about everything Maggie does. "Yeah. I see that now."

There's more than one lesson to learn from this crazy story, but the one I'm teaching is about how ferocious a little dog can be about protecting her human. That ferocity didn't just happen, and it wasn't taught in obedience school. That fierce protectiveness is a God-given trait placed in dogs like Maggie before they are born by the One who created dogs in the first place.

Scripture tells us that nature declares the glory of God. I believe that animals, clearly a part of nature, also demonstrate the truth of God to a world that's often too blind to see. 

If dogs sense danger from an interloper and respond, how much more must God respond when His children encounter danger, even when that danger is self-imposed? 

Much more.  

If dogs respond immediately, how much faster does God respond?

Infinitely faster.

We do not serve a dog-sized God. We serve the God who keeps the stars in the sky and the earth rotating around the sun. He controls everything in the universe. The things we know about and the things we don't. 

He's too much for us to comprehend, yet He knows us. By name. 

He cares about us. Individually. 

He loves us. Unconditionally.

This God loved us enough to give His only Son to pay our sin debt. Despite that terrible price, He still cares about lonely old men and prissy, silver-haired women. He still cares about little children with no shoes (this is a hint for later) and mothers who struggle to make ends meet.

He loves us. 

When Maggie the Wonder Dog races around to try to save me from a danger that exists only in her mind, she reminds me of the unconditional love of a God that knows me, responds at the first instant I call, and cares about every moment of my future. And yours. 

Even if the only glimpse you've had of God is from a sweet dog, please know that the glimpse you've had is not even a sliver of the full picture of our great God.

If you've known Him for years, today, stop to thank Him for His incredible love and constant care. Remember that He has a plan and He wants us to follow it. It's made in our best interest and perfectly designed for our benefit. We can trust Him and His plan.

I don't always like how God's plan proceeds, but I'm always better for it. You will be, too. 

So, today, let's trust the One who uses the things of nature to show us His glory and thank Him for the glimpses He gives of His great love.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have ben clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When the Answer I Needed Was Already Written in the Margin

#God #Maggiethewonderdog

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When the Answer I Needed Was Already Written in the Margin

When Ryan was a little boy, he came home from TCPS one day, full of information. "Hey, Mom. Do you know why Psalm 37 says not to fret three times?"

"No, Ryan. Why is that?"

"Because God really means it. 'Don't fret.' You should read that Psalm. It might help you a lot."

Out of the mouths of babes.

I'd had quite a bit on my mind, and I'd done a bit of fretting. As Ryan tried to tell me, none of my fretting was really necessary. None of it helped anything. All of it was sin. (Originally, I wrote that it was "probably sin" but realized that, if God said do not do it, disobedience to that command was sin.)

I repented, but, over time, my concerns piled up once more and I fretted again.

I'm not talking agonizing, terrified, frantic worry. I "just fretted", but Psalm 37 strictly forbid it. "Fret not." How much plainer could it be? I repented again.

Last week, I had accumulated a mountain of concerns. My son, Ryan. Sam. Ministry. Spiritual warfare. Finding ministry partners. Making prayer cards. Connecting with senior citizens. Getting updates from missionaries. Fundraising. Sam's swallowing. My town. Vandalism at the park. Our sidewalk grant application.The list seemed endless. I was about to drown in concern. (AKA fretting)

I was like Martha (sister of Mary). Concerned about many things when only one thing was needful. You might think I'd remember Martha, but no. I didn't.

Fretting is exhausting work, and, by Sunday morning, I was worn out. I settled in for quiet time and got serious. "Lord, You have to give me some clear direction. I don't know what to do. I'm just worn out with worrying about all this, and I don't know what to do about any of it. Forgive me. Please speak to me today."

That seemed like a prayer God would want to answer, so I headed to church with expectation.  I needed an answer, and God was sure to give it before the day was out. 

Pastor Scooter frequently delivers the very word I've needed to hear, often before I ask God for it, so I expected an 11:00 delivery time. You can't imagine how surprised I was in Sunday school when my "word" arrived early.

"Let's turn to Acts 5," Steadman Harrison (my Sunday School teacher and CEO of Global) told us.

I missed a good bit of what he said after we turned there, because my answer was written in the margin of my Bible, just waiting for me. It had been there for years. Literally. 

"When God wants to do something, there is no demon in hell strong enough to stop Him. My emphasis needs to be on OBEDIENCE, and not warfare."

While Steadman taught with enthusiasm, I had a silent conversation in my heart with our Lord. 

"Just obey? That's the plan?"

"Just obey. That's not all the plan, but it's the part you're supposed to do. I've got the rest."

"So... you're talking about the prayer project with the senior citizens?"

"Yep. And the other things I've said. You just do what I've told you to do already. I can handle the rest."

I don't really want to admit this last part, but I might as well. "You don't need me to help you with that?"

I'm a little surprised about this, but God chose not to dignify that question with an answer. 

I gave Him the answer He wanted. "Okay."

It was what He'd been waiting to hear from me during the weeks I'd spent fretting. I quit trying to figure it out and simply committed myself to doing what He'd said. 

The peace I gained with that decision was monumental. 

There's great freedom in simple obedience, especially when it's not complicated with fretting. 

To make the issue of fretting perfectly clear, God has spoken very clearly in His Word. It's not from Him. We are not to do it. It's sin.

Because of my Sunday epiphany, I've altered my schedule. I still start my day at 5 am, and, whether at Global or working from home, I still have long hours. What's different is the self-imposed pressure to figure out God's plan and my part in it or to try to orchestrate the outcome I think He wants.

It's God's job to reveal the plan. My job is to seek Him. If He wants me to do something, He'll let me know. The Holy Spirit is an expert at conviction. 

Today, let's stop fretting about the concerns in our lives, give those concerns to God, and accept the peace He so freely offers. When we do, we'll find that peace doesn't come alone. It brings joy and contentment, as well.

" not fret, it leads only to evildoing." Psalm 37:8 nasb

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: What Becoming A Missionary Taught Me About Myself
#peace #worry

Monday, September 19, 2016

What Becoming A Missionary Taught Me About Myself

I've been a missionary for a month now. It's been four weeks of constant learning, but not all the lessons have been quite what I expected. 

For one thing, I've found that becoming a missionary didn't automatically make me a better Christian. I sure wish it had, because I'm not as dedicated a disciple as I thought. I've given up a little bit for the cause of Christ, but the missionaries with whom I've corresponded on a daily basis have given up so much more. 

Their faith and dedication are beautiful to behold.. 

One couple's housing allowance is considerably less than $20 a month. They live in a single rented room in someone's house. Dirt floor. Storage in boxes balanced in the rafters. "Stuff" is not their priority. Neither is comfort. Their priority is sharing Christ with those who are lost without Him.

I can't get their story out of my mind as I drive up my long driveway to the big house. It's fronted by columns and filled with stuff. 

I like stuff. I like comfort. 

I lived in a room with a dirt floor for part of one summer. I got used to the floor. I got used to the outhouse. I even got used to the chickens running in and out. 

I didn't get used to the food.

I had twenty straight meals of beans and rice. It was the best they had to offer me, and I was grateful. Until about meal eighteen, when I suddenly didn't think I could take another bite. After meal twenty, I took to the bed and claimed illness. I went without food until I could swallow more beans and rice rather than offend my hosts. 

I can't get my ridiculous attitude about the food out of my mind as I look in my stocked-to-overflowing refrigerator. 

I like tasty food. Fresh produce. Beautiful meals.

I've listened to stories about missionaries, visited with them, corresponded with them, learned about their lives. They don't have our conveniences. They don't have our health care system, educational system, or governmental system. They don't have our transportation, communication, entertainment, or shopping.

Their lives are hard by American standards, but incredibly rich by heavenly standards. They see God do things we'll never see in this country, and I can't get that fact out of my mind as I go about my very American life.

Every morning, we pray for our missionaries by name. I go back to my office and type out an email to let them know we've prayed. All from the comfort of my air-conditioned office. 

What still astonishes me is that these sweet people take time from lives I wouldn't dare to live to email back and thank me for my prayers, then ask how they can pray for me.

I can't get that out of my mind, either.

At least part of every day, I wish I was there instead of here. 

But I'm not. 

So, for now, I'll continue to pray the biggest prayers I can think of for people I've never met, living in places I've never seen, doing things I can't imagine, and speaking languages I don't understand. I'll do it because they're family, their lives linked to mine by our relationship to Christ.

To my utter amazement, those prayers will make a difference. It won't be because I'm a super-Christian (I'm not) or because I'm a master-prayer warrior (I'm not that, either) but because our Heavenly Father listens to all His children, including the ones, like me, who are unreasonably comfortable.

Today, as we enjoy our gourmet coffee, fancy cosmetics, lovely clothes, well-tuned vehicles, and wonderful air-conditioning, let's remember those who sacrifice all of those luxuries for the cause of Christ, as well as those brothers and sisters around the world who aren't just uncomfortable. They're in constant danger of persecution and death because of their faith. 

Let's pray for God's protection, His provision, His peace for them. Pray for their families and those to whom they minister. Pray for great joy in the midst of an often-treacherous journey of faith.

Let's remember that God has called us to step outside our comfort zone, too. So look for the one who's lonely and be a friend. Look for the one who's broken and find ways to help. Look for the one who needs our Savior and introduce them. 

Give freely. Spend less on ourselves and more on the needs of others. Love with abandon. 

Serve Christ wherever we are.

"You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Happy Anniversary: The Heartbreak of Human Trafficking
If you'd like to learn more about our missionaries, here's the link to our website: Global Outreach International. Click on "Our Missionaries"
(You can find me under "North America")

#mission #Christian

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Happy Anniversary Top Ten: The Heartbreak of Human Trafficking

I was rambling around on my blog yesterday and realized that Friday, September 23, is the third anniversary of Lines from Leanna. In three short years, my life has radically changed. I became a "real" writer. God extended my reach, literally, around the world, using only a digital touch. I've learned about topics I hadn't considered studying before. This is one of those topics, and one of the ten all-time-most-viewed blog posts of the past three years. 

I'm sharing it today because it's an important topic and because I've recently been in contact with a ministry to workers in "adult clubs". God has raised up people to minister in this area. I may not be able to join them on the front lines (because I can barely get all I'm doing done) but I'm happy to put you in contact with those who serve. The need is great. The workers are few. 

As you read, be sure to ask God, "Is this a place you want me to serve?" I'm pretty sure the answer will be yes. If we can't go, we can give to those who do. If we can't give, we can pray. 

For sure pray. For those who are trying to rescue the ones who are trafficked and for all who are trapped and can't find their way out. 

Last Saturday night at the Salad Supper, one of the ladies talked about the problem of sexual abuse and how often she saw it's wounds in the women to whom she ministers in the jail ministry. Our conversation wandered on a bit from there to the problem of human trafficking.

Some of the things I heard frightened me and broke my heart. I wanted to do something to help, but the doing required more knowledge. I've read more than I wanted to know about human trafficking this week.

Here's some of what I've learned:
- Human trafficking is the fastest growing activity of organized crime world-wide. 

- Human trafficking is a $32-150 billion industry. (estimates vary widely)

- The average victim of trafficking is 12 years old. 

- 100,000-300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked each year.

- The average cost of human trafficking is ~ $90,000/person.

The Polaris website estimates that 68% of trafficking involves forced labor. 26% of victims are children and 55% are women and girls.

- Trafficking involves more than prostitution. It includes forced marriages, labor trafficking, trafficking for organ trade, forced sex acts and performances, and child sex tourism

- Worldwide, according to Wikipedia, 2 million children are trapped in trafficking of child sex tourism. (I was stunned to hear that people schedule vacations in order to have sex with children. Fishing trips to the Amazon in Brazil. Trips to Thailand. You can include any brand of perversion if you wish.)

- Sex trafficking victim numbers vary widely, but there are at least 4.5 million victims worldwide.

Interpol rescued 2,700 victims of sex trafficking in July 2016 alone.

In Israel, six people were recently arrested for running a trafficking ring in which their victims were speech and hearing-impaired people kidnapped from the Ukraine and forced to beg.

According to the FBI, 750,000 predators are online at any given time, trolling in 40,000 public chat rooms. During a 10 week investigation, offers to pay for webcam sex performances were made to undercover officers from 20,000 different internet users.

- According to Wikipedia, 10,000 prostitutes (many of whom were victims of sexual trafficking) were brought from out-of-state to Miami for Superbowl 2010. The weekend of the Superbowl is one of the most profitable of the year for sexual traffickers. 

I did a Google search for "prostitution in Tupelo MS" and found a few news reports of arrests for prostitution over the last few years. It certainly didn't look like the problem you might imagine in a big city, but it wasn't non-existent in this area, either. Whether there is an organized structure to it or not, prostitution exists at some level in our area. 

If you're like me, you want to help. The first step in making a difference is to be informed. There are imbedded links above, as well as specific links below. The first link below will help you learn to identify a victim of human trafficking. 

It's also important to understand who is at risk of becoming a victim of trafficking. According to (accessed 8/26/16) 

"Possible risk factors associated with child trafficking include the following:
  • lack of personal safety
  • isolation
  • emotional distress
  • homelessness
  • poverty
  • family dysfunction
  • substance abuse
  • mental illness
  • learning disabilities
  • developmental delay
  • childhood sexual abuse
  • promotion of sexual exploitation by family members or peers
  • lack of social support" 
The risks for human trafficking are similar, no matter your age or gender. Those who are weak and unable to defend themselves are always at risk of falling prey to those who are stronger. (Here's the link to an article that discusses the risk factors in more detail.

It's easy to look at the facts and decide it's a problem for law enforcement officers, and it is. The reality, though, is that it will take all of us to make a difference. 

Internet pornography is highly addictive, and is one of the reasons the trafficking industry has expanded to such an incredible degree. People who use pornography find that, like a drug addict, they need more to achieve the same result. Deeper levels, worsened forms. 

If you dabble in pornography, confess your sin, repent, seek help if needed, and stop. (I was shocked to learn that a small but significant percentage of pornography users are women.) 

Get an internet filter.

If you know someone who uses pornography, urge them to get the help they need in order to stop.

Learn what to look for in trafficking victims and those who are at risk.(The link is below) There is a 1-800 number for victims of trafficking to call for help. I do not recommend trying to get between a victim and the trafficker. That's a job for law enforcement.) You can call the 1-800 number to report a suspected trafficking situation, as well as call 911. 

Volunteer. You can make a bigger difference than you realize by volunteering to help with the jail ministry. You might be the one who helps a person trapped in a terrible lifestyle to break free by the power of God.

Consider volunteering with organizations that serve at-risk youth. Prevention is always better than trying to extract someone after the fact.

Most important, don't underestimate the power in prayer, both individually and corporately. We serve a God who hears and responds when we pray. He cares about the women and children who are victims. He will not turn a deaf ear to our pleas. He will not fail to move.

Now that we're informed, we can begin by praying with insight. Today, let's start by making a commitment to do exactly that.

1) Pray for traffickers to be exposed and stopped.

2) Pray for those who are victims to be recognized, freed, and receive the help they desperately need.

3) Pray for at-risk women and children to receive help in advance that keeps them out of the hands of traffickers.

4) Ask God if you should volunteer with your church or other organization to help those victims who are incarcerated. (Expect a yes on that.)

5) Pray for law enforcement officers to recognize victims and get them the help and protection they need.

6) Many of the victims are held in bondage because of drug addiction, so pray for them to have a desire to be sober and clean. 

7) Pray that victims will find the freedom and healing only Christ can give.

8) Join me in praying that those who have taken, or are taking, a child-sex-trafficking vacation will be caught and arrested before they can traumatize a child, and that the children involved will be rescued.

9) When SuperBowl weekend rolls around, pray that those who are being victimized can be rescued. Pray for the law enforcement officers who are investigating human trafficking to be wise and recognize every instance. I'm praying that the next SuperBowl weekend will be the least profitable weekend for traffickers ever.

10) Pray about volunteering with at-risk youth and welcoming them into your home. (You can expect a yes on that prayer, too.) The organizations working with troubled and at-risk children and adults appreciate your donations, but they need your time equally as much. Volunteers are always in short supply. 

Be the one who loves those in need, just as they are, and demonstrates the love of Jesus to them. 

There is a worldwide problem, but boys and girls, men and women in our area are at risk of falling victim to traffickers, too. Sometimes, they are victimized. 

We can make a difference, if we will. 

When I wonder what Jesus would do about this problem, the answer is clear. 

He'd roll up His sleeves and wade into the fray. 

He'd stand up for those who need Him most.

He'd love with abandon, and invite them to follow Him. 

That's how Jesus loved me, and He revolutionized my life. The people in at-risk situations need the love of Jesus every bit as much as I did. If we are willing to lead them to Christ and help disciple them, He can revolutionize their lives as much as He did mine. 

In fact, that's exactly what He wants to do... and He's depending upon us. Let's be the ones who love like Jesus, give like Jesus, and rescue like Jesus.

Frank Pollard once quoted a poem by C. T. Studd. One line has stuck in my mind for decades.

"Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell.
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."

When I heard those words, I thought Dr. Pollard said, "rescue ship". I wanted to be a rescue ship, too. There are plenty of people living within a yard of hell. Let's run the rescue ship (or rescue shop) that brings them to the safety of Jesus.

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 
2 Peter 3:9 nasb

Here's a link to help you learn to identify a victim of trafficking.
Here's a link to the MS Attorney General's brochure on Human Trafficking.
Here's a link to the MS Attorney General's list of resources
Here's a link to the MS Human Trafficking Act of 2013. It provides for a relief fund for victims and forfeiture of assets for those convicted of trafficking.
photo above courtesy of

Here's a link to yesterday's post: Salad Supper Sweetness
Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD