A Chocolate Holiday

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It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us!  In all of our celebrating we must not forget those who are often used in slave labor to make the products we will be purchasing to give to our loved ones or place on our dinner tables.  It feels and often is nearly impossible to find items that are made completely without slave labor.  Yet, we can start in one simple area…chocolate.

According to the World Cocoa Foundation we consume 3 million tons of cocoa beans annually…68% of which is sourced from Africa, 17% from Asia/Oceania and 15% from Americas (Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia).  Simply put, that’s a lot of chocolate sourced on the backs of children, men and women who are paid nearly nothing (if anything) and live in horrible conditions, they are modern day slaves for our sweet tooth.

So during this upcoming holiday season, let’s take a step in the right direction of ending human trafficking and slavery and purchase our chocolate from companies who are sustainably sourcing their cocoa beans, using transparency in their supply chains, working to empower and create positive change in the communities they are sourcing from.  Here are some companies that are doing just that:

Lindt Chocolates 
http://www.lindt-spruengli.com/sustainability/sustainably-sourced/

Divine Chocolate Co.
http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/

The Endangered Species
http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18

You can also do a search on “Slave Free Chocolate,” for more options and don’t forget coffee too!

#untilallarefree #endmoderndayslavery

What ideas do you have to help fight slavery this holiday?  What are your favorite fair trade products?  Share with us!

 

Adopt a Month Campaign

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Adopt a month is a great opportunity to get involved in reaching the hurting and broken with the message “You are Loved.”  Individuals, groups, churches can all adopt a month in 2016 and provide the gifts for outreach for that chosen month.  For more details email us at illuminatingloveministries@gmail.com.

When Love Comes In

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This is a bit of a different blog for me. I haven’t written in awhile because I have been busy getting married and adjusting, quite nicely, to being a wife and mother.

If you were to ask me 10 years ago “when do you think you’ll get married?” I would have given you the Christian answer “In God’s timing,” all the while only my heart and closest friends knew I wanted to be married and having more children before 25.

25 came.
25 went.

30 would come and go in the same fashion yet in the waiting, and lets be honest; in the moments of frustration, loneliness, and the times of fun being a single mother God did something in my heart…all the while doing amazing things in the man He would bring to the door of my heart.

For years I, as some would say, wrestled with God, many times asking, nay pleading with Him to take from me the desire to be married, especially if it wasn’t in His plan for me. It is difficult to have a desire for something and not have it fulfilled. The only thing about the desire that would leave me was hopelessness. God had more in me that He wanted than for me to just get married. Being married is so much more than being in love and having babies. Being married means learning to be selfless on a whole other level, as a single mom I learned a mother’s selfless love, but marriage would be a love quite different. It would be learning to love in a different way. But that wasn’t the point, I needed to learn my worth and how to be loved, because past pain caused me to shrink back and view myself less than.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, love is like a ray of light that finds it’s way through the smallest of cracks, illuminates darkness, and causes good things to grow in the un-likeliest of places. In all of my waiting God’s love came in, deep into my heart, healing, refreshing, preparing, strengthening, and instilling a sense of belonging to Him…as His daughter. When we allow the love of God to come and fill us, heal us, strengthen us and when we wait upon Him…it is always worth it. It causes good things to grow in us. He would stretch me to have faith in Him and His promises, the things He spoke to my heart- I would cling to when doubt and hopelessness would come at me like a storm to knock me down, because hope needed to grow freely in me as did love.

In all that time the point was not to learn some “lesson,” or fix something on the long list of things that people concoct to understand why someone may still be single. The point was to learn to know that I was valued by the Creator, that His love for me would in turn help me to love myself and to love others deeply which would turn into a ministry (Illuminating Love). In that ministry I would meet a man with a great passion for God and turns out a great passion for me (and my children), so the old adage that good things come to those who wait is true.

So the greatest thing that happened in waiting was I learned to love and love is needed everyday. When love comes in, selfishness leaves, wrongs are forgiven, chains are broken, lives are changed, hope is renewed…from love springs forth so much that our soul needs to grow, that our world around us needs in order to grow. In our relationship with Christ, in our marriages (or other relationships) and in our daily lives love is what makes the difference and the world could use that difference.

Let love come in.

So, April 2015 I became a Mrs…
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her! Luke 1:45

(I love these pictures of the two of us before our ceremony. Dedicating our hearts, lives and marriage to God.)

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Because One is Too Many.

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One of my favorite parables told by Jesus in Luke 15 is the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in search of one.  It reflects His heart and character that He believes that one person is worth it.  It reflects that each life is precious and valuable.   To me it speaks the message that when there are more people entrapped in slavery now than ever in history, and it can be daunting to think about helping as many as you can, to focus on one at a time is a far greater encouragement.  We can all become weary and burned out, but when we carry the attitude that even just one is worth it because one is too many it can change everything.  Some food for thought:

*God would likely have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for one (Genesis 18).

*The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine for the one (Luke 15).

*Jesus would have died for one.

Can you imagine how many more lives would have been lost during the Nazi resistance, if people didn’t find it important to smuggle “just one more” out of the Nazi clutches?  Never think that one treasured life isn’t worth it.

As I prepare for outreaches this summer I know that even if one life is saved then it is all worth it.   If only one girl receives lifesaving information, then it is all worth it.  Because one person enslaved is too many.  You too can do something for just one.

Ways that you can fight human trafficking in your area:

*Support local task forces, join a coalition or group that is fighting trafficking
*Support organizations that are fighting trafficking, rescuing and aiding victims
*Volunteer at awareness events, fundraisers, etc.
*Educate yourself and spread awareness

You can make a tax deductible donation to help fund For Such a Time Ministries summer outreaches here.

Upcoming Events

Love doesn’t exploit.

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Characteristics of Love Series

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7  (emphasis my own)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and with more people enslaved now than ever in history we can safely say that we have a monstrous problem on our hands.  Human beings are buying and selling each other; men, women and little children.  While I say the word “human beings” I recognize what drives this industry…evil, pure evil.

Women and children are forced to sell their bodies (actually someone is selling it for them), forced to have abortions, and are becoming drug addicts just to try to mentally, emotionally and spiritually escape their daily horror.  There have been times when I have looked at what seems like an unconquerable situation, where heartache reigns and evil triumphs.  Then, I remember what love is and who love is and my heart is renewed within me.  Isaiah 61 promises that Christ came to set the captives free and God isn’t a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19) and it also says that He has given us what we need to overcome.

We can have faith, we can have hope, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corin. 13:13) and love is the greatest thing we can give.  Remembering, that real love doesn’t exploit and it is the action of love that will bring an end to this atrocity.  Love will not buy sex, love will not sell another human being, love will rescue, love will heal, love will reach out and love will not exploit because it always protects.

Next time you see a picture in the news of a woman arrested for prostitution, don’t skip by the article, don’t skip by the picture.  Look at her, have compassion and pray for her (act in love).  Next time you hear about a prostitution ring (trafficking ring) being busted, don’t ignore it…thank God (the One who is love).

I also urge you to get involved, even if it’s only for January…do something because someone needs you…heck the world needs you.  Be the love someone needs because they matter.  Make a decision to protect…make a decision to love.

Characteristic of Love #6…love protects (it doesn’t exploit) 

Want to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do?

Contact Us

Sharedhope.org

Polarisproject.org

Exoduscry.com

Books about trafficking:

Renting Lacy by Linda Smith

Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore, Kimberly McOwen Yim

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

Movies:
Nefarious, Merchant of Souls
Not My Life
Not For Sale
Born into Brothels
Half the Sky

The Miley Epidemic

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I cannot help but reply to the flurry of words hurled into cyberspace and social media airwaves, if you will, about Miley Cyrus’ risqué performance at the MTV VMA Awards.  I want to shout…

“WHAT DO YOU EXPECT!?!”

We live in a culture where nearly everything is hyper-sexualized.  We allow our daughters to wear shorts that should be known as denim underwear and watch music videos on MTV that are extremely sexual in nature.  We have an ever-growing problem in the United States where our daughters are being lured into sexual exploitation, while the majority of Americans decide to ignore this epidemic of sex trafficking (exempting those who are actually ignorant of this issue).

We take our daughters to places like Victoria’s Secret for their underwear…why?  Our boys are plagued with images of half naked women nearly all their lives and we have millions addicted to pornography.  We have a thriving billion dollar strip club/ and pornography industry that is visited by Christians and non alike…

So please, do not let this heartbreaking performance of a moment pass you by.  Instead of posting nasty words about Miley (all the while ignoring the married man on the stage), do something about it.  What can you do?  Stop shopping at places where they forgot to sew on the rest of the material on that skirt or pair of shorts.  Stop buying into the lie that our kids “need to experience” things in life that they have no business “experiencing” until they are in the right situation and it is a good experience.  Stop watching porn, stop visiting strip clubs and for crying out loud gain a little compassion for those trapped in it.

Talk to your kids, give them some boundaries, let them know they are made in the image of God and their bodies have great value…and not for the lust of another.

During a recent outreach to exploited women, my heart was broken to hear in their voices and experiences the hypocrites they have encountered.  These women have been visited by the very same people shouting about this Miley situation…people of faith, people in prominent positions, the average parent, and so on.  When have we become a society that embraces the devaluing of another human being?  Why are we spouting jargon from one side of our mouths and acting another way in secret?  Should we be outraged?  Yes, but we should be outraged by all of it.  Our words and our actions have weight and the world is paying attention…and more importantly, so are our children.

A little issue called hate.

Hate is nothing new and really isn’t a little issue.  It is bred in unforgiveness, prejudice, jealousy, and leads to one thing in particular…lack of value for human life or maybe lack of value for human life leads to hate.  I believe this grieves the heart of God to the deepest of levels.  God is love and He created us in His image, so we were made to love and care for one another.  We can see the opposite of this at work in our world today, heck it has been at work since the beginning of time, after all Satan didn’t deceive Eve because he had her best interest in mind.

We have seen so much of hate in the news lately and I see this issue operating successfully each day in my line of work.  In the fight against exploitation and trafficking I see human beings have a complete lack of value for their fellow humans.  At the core of it is a complete lack of value for themselves, to allow their own bodies into these situations where they abuse the body of another either visually or physically.

The answer must be in the love of Christ.  He, who laid down His own life and body for the lives of many to come because of love.  Yet, can we love unconditionally when we don’t even realize our own value?  Maybe.  Maybe not.   Change in the world does, however, begin at home and in ourselves.  I pray that we realize our inherent value and worth…what the Creator of the world thinks of us and in turn we begin to realize what our fellow human beings are worth.  I pray we begin to realize that God loves us unconditionally, without expectation and in turn we begin to love others unconditionally.  What a slap in the face to the enemy of our souls if we live as we were meant to live, loving others.  There is too much hate in the world, too much hate that people experience every day.

So please, never underestimate a little act of unconditional love…you may be giving someone a great thing that they have never experienced before.  A little act of unconditional love is a greater blow to evil and hate than you may make think.  A little love always outshines hate.

Love_Shines_Bright_by_xBAZAximage credits:deviantart

Unrestrained and often unrequited

Unrestrained Love.

To love someone unconditionally is something that changes your life.  I am not referring to a child or a family member.  To love unconditionally is to love without expecting anything in return and can be a challenge as a human being.  When we love we expect to be loved back.

While on an outreach yesterday, I had the privilege to experience unconditional love.  I was able to witness God’s furious, passionate love by reaching out to others.  Others who may have never experienced someone saying, ‘I love you’ or say that they are beautiful without expecting anything in return.  That is just like God though, He loves us no matter what, knowing full well that many will not love Him in return.  Jesus died on the cross for us knowing full well that many would not believe in His existence, let alone believe that He died because of a furious love.  It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s unconditional, passionate love for people who do not even know Him.  To give them love and gifts without expecting anything in return was a perfect way to experience what it is like to love without limits, without restrictions, without hope of anything in return…true unconditional love.

Remember, Christ loves unconditionally…you and those who do not know Him.

We as human beings cannot love perfectly, but we can know and experience a perfect love, an unfailing and never ending love.  We can also, despite our imperfections, do a simple act of unconditional love (without expectations) for someone and watch the world change one heart at a time.  I know my heart is full, and I wasn’t even the recipient in this case.

**For those whom I may have offended by using God’s love and furious in the same sentence: according to dictionary.com furious also means unrestrained energy….

God is unrestrained love.

Awakening the Heart of the Warrior

She is someone’s daughter, sister, and niece.  She is someone who needs a warrior.

It is said that in the United States every 30 seconds a young woman becomes a victim of sex trafficking, it is estimated that 100,000-300,000 minors are at risk every year.  The average age for entry into sexual exploitation is 12 years old.  Trafficked victims are forced into prostitution, escort services, pornography, strip clubs and more.  Prostituted women and children are forced to make hundreds of dollars each night to fill quotas set by their traffickers and pimps.

When a young woman is brought into the sex trade she is often forced to watch pornography and is often forced to participate in the making of pornographic materials such as movies and photographs.  “…Pornographers, like other pimps, learn how to exploit economic and psychological vulnerabilities to coerce them to get into and stay in the sex industry.  Other times they threaten or use alcohol and drugs to induce compliance…”    www.covenanteyes.com

She is someone’s daughter, sister, niece who has often been manipulated because of her vulnerability, threatened by violence, controlled by the choice of her pimp or trafficker.  She is not there by choice.

To effectively fight sex trafficking and exploitation we need men of valor to awaken the warrior heart within themselves, within each man, the heart that was created by God to stand up and become protectors of the vulnerable.  She is someone who needs a warrior to value her life, to honor her with his actions, to stand and speak for her freedom.

A covenant warrior’s promise:

*Pledge to value all women, regardless of background and history
*Pledge to teach sons, nephews and those who look up to you how to value women and protect them
*Have accountability outlets (for internet, etc.) set up for men of all ages in your home
*Sow financially into organizations who are reaching out to victims, rescuing and restoring victims
*Find ways to bring public awareness to what is happening to the daughters of America.

They need warriors…they need you.  Take the pledge.