Latest Event Updates

Turning Back: Mindfulness, Joy and Hope

Posted on Updated on

Slowing-down. Silence. Listening. These things are so rarely heard of in today’s fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle that enwraps our everyday schedules. Seldom do we stop and remain still enough (both mentally and physically) to recognize the beauty and significance people, places and things. With our busy schedules and consistent anticipation of our upcoming deadline – always being aware of just how much more work must be accomplished before finalizing a project- we are susceptible to missing many sacred moments. Moments  in which God is actually trying to reveal himself to us. Yet how can we hear his still and quiet voice (1 Kings 19:12) unless we ourselves are being still and quiet?

I recently completed my internship with International Justice Mission at their Headquarters in Washington, DC. My time there has been filled with countless examples of challenges and joys as I continued to deepen my faith and wrestle through questions that have plagued my mind over the past two years.  My goal during the internship was to continue to unpack and ponder three themes that have continually surfaced in my life since my previous internship with Open Door Foundation. This post is a culmination of the updates I sent to people during my time at IJM.

Mindfulness

The first theme to unpack was mindfulness: how has my lifestyle of the past 3.5 years impeded my relationship with God? And this question hit me like slap in the face on my first day of work. IJM has an incredible mantra of implementing spiritual practices and disciplines into the work schedule. Every morning from 8:30-9:00, the entire office at HQ sits in silent meditation so as to intentionally practice the presence of God. While what we do with this time is up to each person (and is not strictly enforced), it is a time of mindful meditation in which everyone puts away the distractions of the day -meetings, schedules, projects, phones- and sits in contemplative silence. For me, it looked something like the following:

  1. sitting in complete and total silence

  2. having a focus point

  3. letting go of the inner chatter in my mind

  4. paying close and quiet attention to the spirit

If you are anything like me, sitting in complete and total silence for 30 minutes where I don’t think about what I have to do the rest of the day is actually quite difficult. It seems simple enough but the first day I did it, I kept frantically checking the clock to see when I could start working again! I immediately realized: practicing the presence of God is difficult- and extremely counter cultural. How often does an entire workplace (especially in DC) take the first 30 minutes of the day to invite God to speak to them? How often do we invite God into our everyday lives and tasks? How often do we see God at work in and through us and the people around us? What is he trying to tell us (about himself, ourselves, and others) that we continue to miss because we are “too busy” with multi-tasking through our lives? What would happen if each of us took 30 minutes of our day to just sit; sit and listen?  As I reflect on these questions (and more) I am reminded of how countercultural a life following Christ is. Sitting and listening for extended amounts of time is truly abnormal, and yet I belied that it is so vital to our faith in becoming more like Jesus. I am also reminded of something Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in 1943:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender… ,

Joy

Working at IJM, I was confronted with the harsh realities and injustices of the world on a daily basis. With the research I conducted, casestudy I wrote and the daily updates from the field, sometimes the information seemed overwhelming. While I entered into the story of many underprivileged and desperate people, I started wondering how I was supposed to have joy in the midst of so much pain, injustice and oppression? Is it possible to be joyful when working in the field of human trafficking? More generally speaking, how can a community have joy when we know and see so many of life’s injustices? Why should we be joyful? It is much easier to let ourselves feel the pain and anger (at the world and at God), than choosing to have joy through it all.

There were a couple times when I stopped work in order to be still and remember why I was in this field of work. At one point, I recalled of a quote from a book I read last semester “Turn My Mourning into Dancing” by Henri Nouwen: “[I] have hope and joy in [my] faith because [I] believe that, while the world in which [I] live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world”. What a beautiful and eloquent way of voicing my desire to stand in the tension of seeing the darkness and remaining confident in my faith. While yes, I believe his words to be true, as I reflected on the quote more, I started to wonder: doesn’t joy and hope usually come after you have walked in and through the pain and a good circumstance (or something outside of your control) has shifted your emotions? I can hope and have joy in what is to come, but I really want to know HOW you are supposed to have joy in the midst of the reality of the world’s’ injustice?

I continued to mull this over, holding this question in an open posture to the One who longs for my deepest questions and doubts. As I was reading “The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance” by Bethany Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson and a significant portion of chapter 2 was dedicated to a discussion of Sabbath. I have always considered my Sabbath to be a break from all work related activities and essentially a preparation for the next week. Yet Hoang and Johnson do a wonderful job of relating Sabbath back to the work of justice, highlighting the fact that the Sabbath rhythms we engage on a weekly basis are necessary for us to experience true joy and rest. They assert that: “Sabbath rest is not simply about a break from the normal work week; it is about intentionally entering into and enjoying God’s presence in community” (51). After reading this, I started wondering if my definition of Sabbath was a little simplistic. What if Sabbath does not necessarily mean just a break from work, but also the end of striving? I came to realize that for me, Sabbath needs to be a celebration; on the days I purposefully set aside, I need to remember and recognize the good in the world (see also Genesis 1:31). If I trained myself to start seeing goodness, I may find myself no longer captive to the evil and injustice in the world. It may just open up my mind to be able to rejoice.

Hope

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:23

Hope.

Such a simple, short word and yet so difficult to live out. The question to wrestle with in regards to hope is: how do we live with the tension of seeing the present reality (oppression and injustice) coupled with this hope that we are to live out (at least according to the author of Hebrews)? I’m not positive I’ll ever have a satisfactory answer to this question, but as I flipped through a journal entry I wrote a year ago, I found a glimpse, or the beginning of an answer, into what living with hope looks like. Almost exactly this time last year, I wrote:

There are SO many injustices in this world and my heart is … breaking. This week after the Lectio Divina (read Psalm 46) chapel, I was trying to simply “be still and know”. And it occurred to me that if my heart was so disturbed and hurting how much more is God’s heart in pain!? He knows what is going on in this world and yet in the midst of it, He is God and is in control. This then lead me down a long path a questioning: in a lot of my classes it seems like professors are giving tools for us to make a change. That is the whole idea behind my theories of peacebuilding class as well as my development classes. Essentially, if we have all these theories of change and the right mindset for development, we can then change the way things are in this world. … [I am not blind to] the harsh injustices in this world [due to the classes I take and even more specifically, my major], but a lot of time this cognizance of oppression leads to cynicism…

But, like [one of my professors] said on Friday, we are privileged to attend a Christian university, so why aren’t we talking about how we on our own can’t really do anything? We can educate and do all the development work possible, but that really won’t change anything…. I feel like it’s only through God’s redeeming love and power that anything can alter the reality of the world we live in. And we have to get our hope from that truth. Rarely do my classes talk about that, yet I believe that makes the difference. If we try to do things on our own accord, we will find that we can’t. Even if we change people’s physical conditions, not touching on their spiritual life, then we aren’t really doing anything. The cycle will just continue. God is the only one who has the power to reach out to the heart of a trafficker and make him see that what he is doing is wrong (it has happened!). And only God can change the life of a prostitute and help her see that her identity comes from so much more that the amount of men she sleeps with. All the education and development work will not amount to anything if we do not also bring Christ into the picture.

Could it be that when I was at this low point in life, I was on to something? This questioning and pondering has only heightened during my time with IJM, as I am surrounded by people who are filled with hope in the midst of the work they are doing. As I  consider hope, I think I have some ideas to add to my previous reflections. Just like the joy I believe we can live with throughout this life, hope is also something that we can have now and it does not have to be this future idea or concept that we aspire to.

An important consideration I have come to in regards to having hope in this world may seem counter intuitive, yet it has become a very important discipline for me. In terms of living with and in that tension I brought up in the beginning, I have realized the importance of staying (intentionally or not, but now mostly intentionally) in that tension. This seems anti-climactic and maybe an even simpler answer to the question. Honestly, part of me wants to simply find the answer to having and living into hope so I can stop thinking about it and move on to something else. But now wouldn’t that be an easy solution to an extensively difficult question? I have found that if I am present in the tensions and fully engaging it on different levels, I enter into a space with a certain amount of ambiguity and complexity that most of the time makes me return to the Truth I have found and hold on to. This then allows me to stand confidently in the tension, but be oriented towards hope – the hope that all people, places and things are being brought into right relationship – making the present reality more malleable and able to change than I had once thought.

This leads me to a second reflection I have had on “holding unswervingly to the hope [I] profess”. The idea that all people, places and things are being brought into right relationship with each other (or what theologians call “shalom” or “just-peace”) I believe can offer insight/hope into our present lives. We can only see the current situation and depravity of the world because we are present and fully engaging with our context (context= oppression and injustice in the world). Yet, the idea of shalom is about constructing an alternative narrative to what we currently perceive and I believe it brings about the potential and ability to offer something new. This something new is about restoring relationships between all people, places and things. Shalom is not an end hope, but rather taking what might be perceived as a catastrophe and creating something beautiful out of the messiness. This allows us to vision something beyond us and our present situation; it relativizes the present and allows for a more holistic approach to viewing the world, where there is no “us vs. them” or “either this …or that…” but rather brings people, places and things together. Therefore, if we are staying present in the tension within our context, and are oriented towards shalom hope, we see that situations can indeed change and that little pieces of God’s Kingdom are indeed coming to earth. All of these little changes will culminate in the fullness of the Kingdom of God, when he returns and brings everything to perfect shalom.

These two ideas added to the Truth I journaled on have given me the ability to live with a little more hope each day as I am involved in the work of justice. Little by little, step by step, God’s kingdom of peace and justice is coming to earth. My prayer is that this hope will spur all of us to be more fully involved in His work while maintaining the vibrant endurance needed for lifelong service.

Advertisements

I’m Sorry, Christian, But You Don’t Get to Make That Move

Posted on

Critically important read. I could not have said it better myself. As I watch the reactions of my Romanian friends on FB to the Syrian crisis, my heart breaks. We are called to love…. to be on the side of the oppressed. For that is where Jesus is found.

Rumblings

I have a bone to pick with Christians this morning. Not allChristians. Not even themajorityof Christians in my (limited) circles. Not by a long shot. No, my concernis with a smaller subset of Christians that tend to make a disproportionate amount of noise. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Christian people about the Syrian refugee crisis. I’ve observed a lot of reaction and response from Christian people online. And I’ve noticed some of these Christian brothers and sisters buying into thefear and the hysteria that attempts to convince us that we need to keep our nation’s doors resolutely closed to refugees from this part of the world.

View original post 1,015 more words

The Many Faces of Slavery

Posted on

pablo_picasso_demoiselles_davignon_2

I am increasingly burdened as I keep up with world news and politics. I cannot fully comprehend some of the decisions world leaders have made nor can I begin to understand the rise and prominence of the human flesh trade (aka sex slavery) today. From the TPP trade agreement (which, at least for another year, will not pass), the release of the TIP report and the Malaysian implications (see previous post) and the decriminalization of prostitution (as voted by Amnesty International) to the theology of rape ISIS endorses – that only recently came to the surface – I continually come back to this conclusion: slavery has many faces. The painting by Pablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon comes to mind…

The faces of slavery…. a person? the kinds of slavery existing today? the history of slavery? Can you label one as more important than the other…? 

I don’t think I can express how important it is to put a picture to the concept of slavery- and by picture I literally mean a face: a face of someone {A PERSON} trapped in a brothel; a face of someone {A PERSON} stuck in bonded labor; a face of someone {A PERSON} crammed into a room with thousands of other young girls waiting to be raped in the name of religion. Without a face to the global and local problem of the human flesh trade, it can so easily slip from our minds.

Modern day slavery, and in particular the human flesh trade, is such a huge concept that the exploitation and crime against human rights gets lost in the discourse simply because it is so easy to hide the reality of the human flesh trade.

At some point I will probably write about how the term ‘human trafficking’ is being used to label multiple issues and how that in a sense invalidates each issue by being seen as one single problem; how realities like the European migrant crisis and the human flesh trade should not and cannot both be labeled as human trafficking. But for now know that the term ‘human flesh trade’ is used ONLY to describe sex slavery because there are indeed many forms of modern day slavery. The many (literal) faces of slavery is just as important as understanding the many forms (or faces) of slavery that exist.

It is easy for civil society to get up in arms after reading a story or article about modern day slavery or the human flesh trade, and yet difficult for some to actually do anything in terms of combatting the issue. I have had numerous conversations with people who tell me “Well, I am just one person so I can’t really do anything…”, or “It’s too big of a problem- it’s never really going to end”, and even once “Well that doesn’t happen here in America, only over there so what can we do?”. Yes, these conversations sometimes depress me because I wish everyone could understand that even the smallest action has potential to impact the world, but they also motivate me to never be silent in bringing this attack on human rights to the forefront of everyone’s mind. As much comfort as people get from telling themselves that slavery is not at issue (whether in the States of globally), the reality is that slavery did NOT end in America in the 1860s and laws that deem slavery illegal across the globe do not accurately represent reality.

In the globalized world we live in (note: I think this has become one of my most used phrases), the reality of human rights abuses like the human flesh trade are easily hidden – if we can’t see it, it’s not really happening and especially if it is not directly effecting us it can be easily brushed to the side. However, at the same time this globalized world has allowed many organizations and people become more aware of the many issues facing our world today, but also the reality of the human flesh trade. This has caused the many faces of slavery to become even more complex, adding more faces to the exponentially growing painting.

How are we supposed to have hope or optimism in the field when organizations like Amnesty International pass laws that seem to go against progress in making the human flesh trade less prominent? Or when trade policies and TIP reports do not take into consideration future (possibly unintended) consequences let alone human rights and dignity? When the voices of the survivors are not being heard or listened to I believe we have failed. We have failed in our duty, as those with voices, to stand up for those who do not have a voice. Hope and optimism may be fleeting, but that must not stop us.

I do not have or claim to have the answers or a full understanding in the “right way” to go about this work. But right now society is failing and the only answer I see to reverse this unfortunate historical path is to:

1) stop promoting agendas and policies in which personal desires and advancement are put above others’ basic human rights and needs, (unfortunately, history does not make this needed step look too promising)

2) listen to the voices of the survivors then use our voice to let their stories and desires be known,

3) stop the prominent thinking that we have all the right answers to development and finally

4) take an action step (a personal one- whatever that may look like for each individual person). Check out End Slavery Now for ideas about action points. 

These steps are just 4 that I see as needed to be made – on both the macro and micro level of development -in order to bring about change. There are many more to be added and maybe some of the steps above are too simplistic and/or not necessary.

But overall, let us not forget the individual faces that make up the modern day human flesh trade.

 

Globalization, the TPP and the TIP 2015 Report

Posted on Updated on

Recently, I have been encouraged to keep up with my blog. After a lot of pondering, I have decided to post at least once a month (hopefully this will last into the semester as well). I have been interning at ActionAid this summer as an “International Development and Policy fellow” under Doug Hertzler (senior policy analyst at AAUSA), and have come to recognize the importance of blogging as a way to “get the word out”. The posts within the next couple months will most likely consist of my analysis, reflections and thoughts on the many present injustices that are occurring right under our noses. Most of my writing will come from a human rights based perspective of development coupled with my deeply rooted faith.

As I sat down today to decide which injustice to give attention to and put my thoughts out for pretty much anyone to read and critique, I realized just how hard that was going to be. There are so many things going on right now in America and the world in general that it didn’t seem right to pick one – as if the one that I chose was somehow more important than the others. That is not what I am trying to say at all. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to write about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that was recently passed and the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report that is due to come out tomorrow. This should not come to a surprise for many, since this entire blog is dedicated to raising awareness about the human flesh trade. It is the attack on human rights that is closest to my heart, as well as the one that I feel most educated on and able to write about it.

I started following the TPP discussions in the beginning of the summer and immediately had hesitations about it. However, I did not want to be “that person” who simply disagreed with all free trade agreements due to what I had been learning last spring semester in my ‘Globalization and Justice’ as well as my ‘International Economics’ class. (My econ professor, Andy Miller, knows I am adamantly against free trade and economic liberalization, consistently telling me that he will get me back on the “right side” sooner or later 😀 ) So I decided to keep reading and following the talks to stay informed in an attempt to develop my own thoughts. To make a rather long story short, in which I went back and forth multiple times in agreement and disagreement, I can now truthfully say that I disagree 100% with the TPP trade agreement.

I have been impressed with the amount of activities Obama has been involved in during the last year of his presidency; one of the most powerful men on earth has been quite active the last couple months. No matter your political views, it is rather encouraging to see the leader of the free world not slacking off and “taking a rest” during his time left in office. While there are many reasons to rejoice in this fact, there are also reasons to stay highly informed and not simply agree with the many changes occurring. Below you will find one example of a change that demands the consideration of both pros and cons of the impending implications of the TIP Report in relation to the TPP trade agreement.

The fast track TPP trade agreement is something most informed people are aware of. Essentially, the Obama Administration has been negotiating (somewhat in secret) a gargantuan, “free trade” agreement. This TPP will give a lot of power to corporations by virtually eliminating consumer, health, safety, labor, privacy and environmental regulations (all of which is unethical in my mind). In essence, I feel as if this will result in a global Corporate coup. To get this to congress, Obama and powerful corporate lobbyists pressured congressmen to approve fast track legislation. Despite very loud and apparent opposition to fast track and the TPP, fast track passed both the house and senate. While I already have problems with open borders and free trade, this agreement is the worst of them yet (and I don’t say that flippantly).  Here is why: The TPP now has the power to affect the outcomes of the Trafficking in Persons report (TIP), that is scheduled to come out tomorrow.

The TIP Report is an annual report that ranks countries on three different tiers depending on what they are doing to combat human trafficking. Tier 1 means that the government is excelling in their actions to end the trafficking of persons with a Tier 3 being the lowest score, implying that the respective country is doing little to nothing. While I have many critiques of the TIP report (including how America is the country that publishes it using their own standards to rank other countries, as well as placing themselves as a Tier 1), it is what we have at the moment. There is always room for reform and research to make it more culturally sensitive as well as effective. All that to say, after the  passing of the TPP, it was announced that Malaysia would be ranked as Tier 2 (instead of 3) so that it can stay in the trade agreement.

In my eyes, this is abhorrent and one of the darkest sides of globalization.Malaysia has a huge human trafficking problem, with 140,000 people in slavery according to Global Slavery Index. The government is not doing its part in making efforts to combat the problem, and yet it is possible that the TIP report will rank Malaysia a Tier 2. To give the TIP report credit, it has indeed done a lot in terms of pressuring other governments to start taking the problem of the human flesh trade seriously as well as educating the public about the reality of modern day slavery. At the same time, however, a recent Huffington Post article asserts that even “members of Congress and human rights advocates say they fear the Obama administration may pressure officials in the State Department who are responsible for the report to boost Malaysia, even though it has shown no improvement since it was ranked at the bottom last year” (para. 5). If Malaysia were to be ranked higher, it would completely undermine the TIP Report and many of the efforts the US has made to bring about change in ending the human flesh trade. It will also make it even more difficult to free the 30 million plus people who are trapped in slavery. Secretary John Kerry (the person who released the yearly report) has/had a huge decision to make. With copious amounts of pressure from civil society as well as the US government to not make this unnecessary move, only time will tell what he chooses/chose.

So how can we put trade (i.e. money) over human beings? That is one of the most heartbreaking facts of free trade in general. Other frightening facts of the TPP include the inadvertent reward given to countries that systemically violate human rights (one example discussed above), the fact that this deal has no expiration date making it impossible to repeal, as well as many other negative implications for American citizens.  With the TIP report a month over due, the gravity of this problem is highlighted. Tomorrow will show us if our voices have been heard in an attempt to make sure that human rights are dealt with fairly and equally. (See my previous post on the director of Open Door Foundation being named the TIP Hero last year here).

NOTE: I do not claim to be an expert on the TPP trade agreement or the TIP report. This blog post is simply a reflection of the little research and analysis I have done over the summer in an attempt to do my part in raising awareness about modern day slavery. I would love critiques and push-back on everything and anything posted here. 

what is justice?

Posted on Updated on

Poverty. Disease. Pain. Trauma. Disaster. Helplessness. In a world that appears plagued by all classifications of injustice, how do we even begin talking about the work of justice specifically ways in which we can be a part of seeing God’s kingdom here on earth? It is such a huge conversation that asks some really strong questions with (in my opinion) weak answers [see “If God Were a Human Rights Activist: Human Rights and the Challenge of Political Theologies by Boaventura de Sousa Santos”]. Let me back up a bit. Last week, I took a Summer Peacebuilding Class at EMU called: Restorative Justice- The Promise, The Challenge taught by Lorraine Stuztman Amstutz and Michelle Armster. We began by attempting to answer this question: what is justice? We dove into conversation, trying to get to an answer we all felt (somewhat) comfortable with. That soon proved to be an enormous task that was almost impossible. Now that the class is over, I still do not feel as if I have an answer. We had the opportunity to hear Howard Zehr’s perspective (what an amazingly humble, generous and intelligent man). He asserted that the question of justice is one of society’s strongest: it will be the eternal question and in order to get us closer to an answer, we must articulate questions that lead us in that direction. While I was sitting in class listening to the perspectives of my classmates as well as input from my professors, I could not help but wonder if we were (maybe) approaching this discussion the wrong way. The definition of justice is not and cannot be absolute- every person and organization has their own sense of justice. To try and pinpoint one definition of justice will keep you up at night with your thoughts and ideas running in circles. But what if we attempted to answer this question of what justice is by looking at its opposite: what is injustice? In my class notes I had written “injustice is the coercive use of power by one person over another person with perceived less strength/wealth/power”. I realize that is not the most articulate way to put it but what I was seeing and hearing was that at the core of injustice (and even justice) is this concept of power. Whenever an injustice is inflicted against another human, the core of the issue can be found in the need and desire for power. Take, for example, the human flesh trade (because what else would I talk about?!?). The whole idea behind it is the use of one’s power over another in order to enforce and ensure submission. Whether this be from the Jons perspective (i.e human traffickers) or the ones buying the women or even the survivors themselves power is at the core. I could go into much more detail but I will refrain from this post becoming an academic/analytical paper about theories of violence and conflict. So back to the questions: What is injustice/justice? Can justice be seen as healing instead of punishment? Is it possible to have justice in EVERY case? What is God’s view of justice?

I have taken very few theology courses at my time at EMU (actually none come to think of it which is probably not a very good thing). However, I do try to search the scriptures for answers to hard questions because I believe God speaks to me through those times of quiet (sometimes raging) exploration in his word. In my perspective, God is indeed a God of justice but not necessarily the justice the world offers. In fact, I think the world and its systems sadden him when so-called justice has been served. That was not his intention nor the shalom that he created. Reading through the Old Testament has made this (crystal) clear to me. He is a God of bringing people back to right relationships, renewing the psyche, rescuing the prisoners and slaves and most importantly recovering the human relationship between Him and his people. Yes, he is a God of restorative justice and he has called all of us to join with him in his desire to “proclaim good news to the poor… freedom to the prisoners, … recovery of sight for the blind, [and] to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). I believe that God’s definition of justice has to do with the positive, empowering and constructive use of power to further his work of justice here on earth. Because he does care deeply about each individual caught in the trap of injustice – he hears and sees them and he will never turn their back on them.

the journey continues

Posted on Updated on

I cannot believe it has been almost  a year since I found out I would be interning at Usa Deschisa and wrote my first blog post. So much has happened since then, and looking back I wish I would have kept my blog up to date with the cycles I have gone through in the past three months. As I look towards graduating in less than a year, the reality of going back to Romania and working at the Shelter is becoming more and more real. I find myself restless to get back there, fighting against the evil powers of this world and spending time with some of the greatest heroes of today. Let me back up a little and talk about the ways in which God has been working in me and preparing me for the work I will be doing shortly (in my eyes, a little less than a year is a short amount of time, especially when looking back and seeing how fast the time has gone!).

This semester has probably been one of the hardest semesters of my time here at EMU. Looking back, I realize a lot of of it probably stems from my inability to process everything I went through during my summer at the shelter. In one of my classes “Globalization and Justice”, we talked a lot about the “widening, deepening and speeding up of global interconnectedness” (David Held) and the opposing sides to the globalization debate. I found myself getting increasingly angered by the readings that my professor, Peter Dula, assigned. This was something new for me, since I don’t get angry very regularly or easily – except when it comes to injustice. I did not know how to react to what I was reading: and had some extremely strong reactions to the authors who were “global optimists”. I could NOT find any positives in economic globalization as I see a direct correlation between it and the increase of human trafficking, child labor and present day slavery in general. Sometimes all I could do was cry after reading the articles. Maybe it was partly because I had directly seen the impacts of economic globalization in Romania and spoken to girls who had suffered horribly under its effects. So, of course (being my crazy self), I wrote Dula and LONG e-mail venting about some of my concerns and questioning how we are going to fight injustice if economic globalization is inevitable and will only keep expanding? Well, he probably thinks I AM crazy or something, but he responded in the best way possible- he asked if I’d like to grab coffee after class one day and talk about some of the things I was going through.

That proved to be helpful, just to verbally process all I was thinking about instead of keeping it in and letting it drive me insane. At the same time, it did not keep me from diving into this really dark place of anger, cynicism and depression. I did NOT understand how God could let these atrocities continue to happen and the fact that transnational corporations (IMF, WTO, World Bank, etc) that are supposedly devoted to development and ‘justice’ are in reality not achieving their goals in sustainable ways. Oh it was extremely bad for a couple weeks and I had no idea what to do about it.

Then one morning, when I was basically crying out to God begging him to do something, I came across Psalm 10:

Why Do You Hide Yourself?

10 Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?

   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;

   let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,

   and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.

4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;

   all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

5 His ways prosper at all times;

   your judgments are on high, out of his sight;

   as for all his foes, he puffs at them.

6 He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;

   throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;

   under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

8 He sits in ambush in the villages;

   in hiding places he murders the innocent.

His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;

9     he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;

he lurks that he may seize the poor;

   he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,

   and fall by his might.

11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,

   he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;

   forget not the afflicted.

13 Why does the wicked renounce God

   and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,

   that you may take it into your hands;

to you the helpless commits himself;

   you have been the helper of the fatherless.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;

   call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16 The Lord is king forever and ever;

   the nations perish from his land.

17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;

   you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,

   so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

 

I think this passage really speaks for itself – God hears their cries, He hears them loudly and clearly. And he is NOT standing by idly.

The craziest part of my semester was when one of my friends gave me a book called Terrify no More – which gets its title from Psalm 10! A couple days after I came across Psalm 10, my friend gave me the book and I was totally blown away. Obviously God was trying to tell me something. Who am I to get angry and mad at God when there are stories of young girls who have been forced into prostitution and they come out of it saying “PRAY! Not just for me, but for the traffickers as well. Because prayer is what brought people here to rescue me and prayer is what will end this cycle” (paraphrased from Haugen’s book, Terrify No More)?

Instead of getting angry, I feel compelled to get up and do something. My frustration and passion has caused me to be unable to stay silent about human trafficking. And right now, I feel as if I will not be able to truly rest until this violent cycle of oppression is no longer a reality.

 

\\ the certainty of leaving \\

Posted on Updated on

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
The beautiful gift given to me by the staff and girls at Open Door. An album filled with pictures from the summer, a jewelry box (signed by everyone) and a locket with a watch inside (set to Romanian time).

As the absoluteness of me leaving is finally starting to sink in upon my return to the States, I find myself feeling a vast array of feelings. Part of my feels like I am dreaming, soon to wake up from the nightmare-ish state and be once again living alongside those 6 amazing women. Another part of me is glad to have moved on, ready to start my junior year at EMU, knowing that it will fully prepare me for my future. Part of me is angry that I allowed myself to get so close to those women, knowing full well that in 2 short months, I would be leaving. An even greater part of me is heartbroken, agitated, infuriated and sorrowful that I am so privileged to have a family who loves me …. that I have the possibility to go to college….. that I live in a country/attend a school where I have EVERYTHING that I could possibly need… and more…. Why am I ‘lucky’ enough (maybe blessed is a better word) to have been born into a family who loves and accepts me just the way I am… “the right family”…. ??

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset                    Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

My days are no longer spent with Lore, Betty, Cristiana, Moni, and Simi. I miss the spontaneous fits of laughter, the hugs, the random tears….. Betty listening to LORDE Royals on repeat, baring it so the whole house could hear. I miss the long talks about life with Lore…. the long shopping excursions with Simi….  No longer are my evenings filled with laughter and endless rounds of Skip-Bo with the girls… of Vic’s amazing “mamaliga cu branza” (polenta and feta cheese– picture #1)…. of Dan’s endless jokes and hilarious stories. Everything that became so normal to me over the past two months is now a mere memory. A memory that lives so vividly in my mind, while the emotions flood my body, practically taking over me…..

Yesterday during my train ride from D.C. to Charlottesville, V.A., as I sat in my sleep in a half asleep/half conscious state, I kept asking myself “WHY did I have to leave the one and only place where I felt ALIVE? Where I felt like I was actually living? A place where I felt I could TOTALLY be myself?! A place where I was actually helping people, and not doing much for myself?” I was so angry and frustrated, even as I was dozing off. The lady sitting next to me (who was already on the train before I got on) looked pretty much the way I felt and maybe that’s why I was drawn to sit next to her. I did not want to talk to anyone and just wanted to listen to my music and get a wink of sleep (hopefully without missing my stop), so maybe I sat down next to her, hoping she wouldn’t wake up so I would not have to talk.  I’m still not exactly sure why I sat down next to her, but I know there was a reason. After about 30 minutes of travel, she woke up and I think I startled her, because she looked over at me and apologized for sleeping with her mouth hanging open. Well, we started talking and right when she opened her mouth, I knew there was something different about her. She ended up telling me her story and why she was so tired and I ended up telling her a little about myself as well, and even about my summer. During one point in our conversation together, she said something along the lines of “….I was just living and being human with her…. I felt so alive and really did not want to come back to America…” Right when she said that I gave a nervous giggle, touched her arm, looked her in the eyes and said, “You are totally speaking my language!”

It is instances like this one that make me realize why I had the summer I did with all the emotions that go along with it… why I need to come back to finish my degree…Why the stories I have of my experiences and hold so dear to me must be shared.  She was such a kindred spirit and I am SO thankful that once again I saw God at work: In a time of GREAT need, He brought a stranger to me, when I longed for someone who would understand me, be able to talk to me and meet me at my level. Who would have ever thought that a RANDOM woman on the train would be able to understand me at a level very few people are ever able to attain.

Who knows if I will ever meet her again or be able to talk to her again (she did get my email address, but considering the state I was in, I don’t remember how clearly I wrote it…..lol) but that moment we shared on the train will live forever with me.

****

This will probably be the last post that I will write until I go back to Romania either for a visit or to stay and work at the shelter. So I wanted to let all of you all know how much I have appreciated your support through this endeavor. Your prayers have been a huge help and I’m sure many of them have even been answered. Thank you ENORMOUSLY to those who supported me financially- it was a huge blessing and I will not hesitate to thank you on behalf of Open Door Foundation. Know that your gift is greatly appreciated. Each one of you had a part in making my summer internship possible and for that I am forever grateful.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset