Eyes of Hope

It is the new world-wide drug.  Easily accessible.  No cost to the seller. No needles or flames.  Find a supplier, use and walk away.  Child sex trafficking is the new drug spreading around the world.

21st century life destroying drug

Light morning reading – huh?  Frankly, I’d rather not write about it.  I’d like to say it was eradicated overnight by some big police dragnet, a highly focused simultaneously planned drone attack.  Or maybe some Special Ops Team can be dropped in on all the dens of abuse for a one world-wide conquest.

Not going to happen that way and we all know it.

For a family starving to death even while working 12 hours 7 seven days a week and not earning enough to buy food and pay rent.  The choices are few.

For a family who cannot pay their small rent in a small storage locker sized room after buying just a small amount of rice for a single daily meal, paying for education to get a better life is a pipe dream.

For a family living in a world where the value of a human life is measured by its ability to provide income then letting old folks die and selling children is logical.

Then along comes the Gospel.  Knowing that God created the heavens and the Earth and mankind is his special creation the families have their world turned upside down and often become outcasts within their own community. Options become even fewer.

In adult eyes I frequently see hopelessness.  But in the eyes of children, those not yet trapped and abused or those believing we will help them escape – there I see hope.  There I see a willingness to believe that there is a God who saves.  Saves for eternity and provides hope for tomorrow.

Child at risk

In the eyes of the young I see a desire to change their world and the future for their own children. That is why we are here.  Here fighting for strong education and honorable income opportunities and to show the Gospel is full of hope.  Hope for eternity and hope for today.

And that is why we need your help.  We can only do this if individuals, churches, businesses and communities help us be here to fight back.  Please pray for us and please consider spreading the word that you are a donor to Incurable Fanatics.

Host a Human Trafficking Event:  contact Madetwentyseven@gmail.com for info

Buy victim made goods for your school fund raiser:  www.made27.com

Join the battle!  Engage today. Cry for a moment, engage for a life.

It’s all about quitting

Garmet worker 1We all set goals.  Things we want to accomplish personally and professionally.  Steps that help us see where we are in the process of doing more with our lives.  I was trained in business in classic MBOs, Management By Objectives.  We used CSFs, Critical Success Factors, to measure progress along the way.  This became a habit for me and something that seems to be more natural now after many years of use.  The objective of Reintegration Programs is to vocationally train and assist in the recovery of victims of trafficking so that they can support themselves in honorable, self-sustaining work and thereby end the cycle of trafficking in their own family by taking charge of their own life.  In the process, we get to show them that we do this because Christ first loved us and commands us to love others, a command that has become a joy to follow.

We now operate four garment production training centers.  One produces custom silk screen t-shirts, polos, pajamas and anything else from a pattern for business, churches and events and can produce several thousand shirts a week.  One produces “part work” – connecting sleeves, collars, cuffs, etc. to bodies of sweaters – known in the industry as “linking”.  These garments produced here in Cambodia can be found in various major stores in the US and Europe but under the lead company’s label not ours.  One produces accessories such as bracelets, necklaces, ankle wraps and has grown into a substantial supplier to a US boutique called Apricot Lane.  One makes accessories like scarves, headbands and also provides creative design work for our local store “MADE” locaated along the riverfront here in Phnom Penh.

But here is my #1 Critical Success Factor.  Get the workers to quit!

I want them trained and measured for their level of achievement.  I want them to make a fair wage with us and feel loved and valued in Christ.  I want them to experience a personal relationship with Christ as their Lord and Savior and them I want them to quit.garment worker 2

Young children go into our school when they are rescued, but mid-teens and up come into our training centers within weeks of their rescue.  They are still recovering.  They are suspicious of everyone – rightfully so.  Scared and anxious are understatements.  But they walk into a training center and see other workers, some they might even know, and the faces they see are inviting, encouraging.  Some have even reached the stage of finding happiness for the very first time in their memory.  So in come the new workers and we interview them and begin the process of preparing them to quit.

You see quitting is the graduation day for many into a life reintegrated.  It is a day of celebration when they leave to fulfill a dream.  Sure we have some who drop out; many of those come back just days or weeks later.  But the ones who “graduate” by quitting represent a very important Critical Success Factor to this Incurable Fanatic.

In November, we had three “graduates”.  They came into our work with no self-respect, no hope for tomorrow, no belief in God, no concept of love.  We got to see the light come on for these graduates.  While with us, one developed a dream to become a baker, another to become a mechanic, and yet another, to independently run a sewing shop.  All three quit in November – or better said, graduated to pursue those dreams.  SUCCESS!  CRITICAL SUCCESS.

garment worker 4Thank you for being a part of the stories we get to engage in.  Lives are changing.  These stories are not ours alone but also the stories of those who support this work to fight a battle for the lives of sex-trafficking victims.

If you support us already, we are ever so thankful.  If you have not yet engaged this way, keep praying for us anyway.  If God provides, perhaps financial support will be something for the future.  Either way, stay with us for the stories and help us end this atrocity of our generation.

DONATE when/if you can to continue to work to Rescue|Restore|Reintegrate|Prevent child trafficking.

If you would like to promote awareness in your church, business or community we invite you to host a human trafficking awareness event in your area.  Bring churches, concerned citizens, schools and neighbors together to fight back for the lives of children.  For information on an event, contact Meredith W Ramsey.  It’s simple.  It’s effective.

Time to talk turkey

imageWe will be back in Cambodia and re-energized (and I will add, healed) in time to search for a turkey (albeit likely pretty skinny) and all the fixins’ and our own celebration of Thanksgiving.

This was not our schedule or plan. We had planned to be preparing to return to the states for Christmas with our family, but God had a different plan. It involved an unexpected blessing. His ways and plans are so much better than mine.

A year ago we spent Thanksgiving with an amazing family in their home in Jefferson City as we longed for our work in Cambodia. Now one year later, little did we realize what the next 12 months would entail.  Amazing, powerful, life changing work.  Cancer, healing, return to the task.

I am grateful for each day of life. I awake each morning and wonder why? Why did God choose to extend his mercy to me and cure my illness? There will come a day when my “cure” will be to graduate and go home to be with my Lord but right now that cure is to remain on this earth. So the answer to why seems abundantly clear to me. He still has work on His agenda for me to engage in. So, this morning I woke up here, on earth. The only answer I have to “why me?” is He made that choice. I know I have not earned it nor do I have any special thing to offer in my service to Him. He just willed it to be so. I need no other answer to why.

So the tickets are purchased. We depart for Phnom Penh on 11 November arriving in PP at midnight on the 12th. At noon on the 13th (we will sleep in a little) we will be back with our beloved friends in Svay Pak, Cambodia. Back to the work we are so wonderfully blessed to have in front of us, the Rescue|Restoration|Reintegration|Prevention of child-sex trafficking globally. We are in it to end it.

And we will give thanks to the Lord for confirming the work of our hands.

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭90:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬”

For your prayers and support, I extend my deepest appreciation. Please remember us for yet another year in your prayers and to your friends and associates as the topic of child-trafficking and the battle to end it emerges in our western society. This is a battle for which the Gospel has ready answers. We just need believers to respond, especially men who will lead other men into the light.

Blessings to you. May your Thanksgiving be a time of understanding even more fully that the great Blesser is even greater than the blessings He bestows.

If you are a financial supporter of our work, please know that we are unable to fully express to you the depth of our appreciation.  You make our continued work to Rescue|Restore|Reintegrate|Prevent child-sex trafficking possible.  This is when enabling is a good thing.

If you have not yet become involved with us financially, please consider this opportunity to engage with us to end this modern day atrocity.  Use the DONATE tab at the top of this page to see how you, your church or your business can sponsor us.  We welcome your support of any amount.  All donations are tax deductible when made through this page.

 

An Unexpected Blessing

2014-03-25 10.25.43Not always, but sometimes, God has given me the grace to see His mighty hand moving even as it is moving.  Such is the case now as I face, with Him, the first real medical challenge of being on the mission field.

About two weeks ago I was diagnosed with a medical condition that is compromising the quality of my life, ability to be active and if it becomes extreme my life itself.  This condition has likely been coming on slowly over more than a year of time.  Many early signs were quite minor and I remember saying more times in the last year, “I am just not 25 years old anymore”.   I was sure I was beginning to feel my age.  I accepted it.  Didn’t take the stairs when an elevator was available for multiple floor climbs – simple things that seemed quite manageable in America.

Then we arrived in Cambodia.

I have had few experiences in my life where I have seen God so alive as I do here in the work to Rescue|Restore|Reintegrate|Prevent child sex trafficking.  There are billboards across the U.S. proclaiming “GOD IS NOT DEAD HE IS ALIVE” but most everyday here I see people billboards.  Young people who are coming alive in Christ and seeing hope in their future. Preparing themselves for a life of serving their Savior.

To digress a little let me describe two “people billboards” I see.  One young Khmer man moved to Korea for 2 years to earn enough money to come back to his home city to build a small school and pay teachers to teach children.  A second young man who refuses to take a really good full time job with his employer and accepts part-time instead because he wants to lead a small church on the riverside in a village over-run with traffickers.  I could go on and on. In a country alive with sin, God is showing Himself bigger, stronger, more AWESOME as He raises up these “people billboards”.

Now, back to my smaller point.  When we arrived in Cambodia we faced an environmental stress like we had never known.  One of my doctors said to me, “in America, you live in a air conditioned home, drive in an air conditioned car, eat and shop in air conditioned places.  That is not the life in Cambodia.”  I made some adjustments to my routine but the course of events that fell into place aggravated my symptoms beyond ignoring them or viewing them as the result of getting older.

A droopy eye, some facial and muscle weakness, and at times significant fatigue pressed us for some medical answers.  Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with MG, Myasthenia gravis.  The search began.  What is causing this condition.  I had just completed my routine physical with the best numbers I had had in years.  To make a long story short, we entered an accelerated diagnostic program at an international hospital nearby in Bangkok.  Diagnosis complete.  I have an enlarged thymus gland.  It needs to come out.

Here is the unexpected blessing.  In obeying God in his guidance to come to Cambodia, a condition that was slowly progressing in the US as my thymus enlarged, emerged earlier.  Perhaps at a more treatable stage.  The conditions of heat, some standard meds used to treat such things as Montezuma revenge etc all intensified my symptoms resulting in me seeking medical attention sooner than I would have in a more comfortable environment.  But, in the more comfortable environment my thymus gland would continue to grow.  It is not the environment that caused the growth, it is the environment that caused me to notice the symptoms and that there was something wrong.

So, I have received an unexpected blessing in coming to Cambodia.  The underlying condition was not able to continue unnoticed.  Scripture always brings enormous insight and comfort.  I am so thankful for pastors who have encouraged memorizing passages.  They come to mind when needed and are such a blessing.  This has come to my mind over and over in these last few weeks:

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:6 ESV)”

Our path has been made straight.  Not in human eyes because we have crossed the ocean back and forth to get to this spot.  But, those changes experienced here result in earlier diagnosis.  We will return to the states 22 September and prepare for surgery tentatively the following week.  We are hopeful that a simplified removal will occur but that requires the thymus be just a bit smaller than the diagnostic images show.  If the simplified process is used, my recovery will be significantly shortened and our return to Cambodia can be more swift – weeks perhaps instead of a few months with the more invasive method.

But, the prospects are good.  With removal, my MG is most likely to be medically manageable with monitoring much like a diabetic.  It should not affect our ability to see the life billboards and encourage more to come a live in our work in ending sex-trafficking.

You, this group of blog followers, are our supporters.  Many financially, most with prayer support.  We know it.  We are grateful.  And we wanted you to know what is happening to these two Incurable Fanatics.

Blessings to you all.  Stay tuned for more great stories of God at work to spread His name and grace to all who will hear.

 

NEW NORMAL

new normal picSince arriving in the kingdom of Cambodia on January 12th of this year, you might say that a few teensy things have changed for us.  We call it the new normal….

barefoot all the time- teaching, church, friends, home
roosters, stray cows, filthy dogs, roasted pig heads, geckos, snakes, mosquitoes!
rice 3 times a day at least
no sour cream,  Starbucks or Chili’s chips and salsa
2-3 showers a day
can fill up our moto tank for $1.50 every 2 weeks
unlocked I-Phones FINALLY
data on my phone for $1 a week
sounding like a 3 year old when speaking
year round school with children in uniforms
tuk-tuks, cylos, mopadops, and motos
gorgeous fruits and vegetables- rombatans, lychees, pomelos, dragon fruit
filtered and bottled water
dust, dust, dust, dust, dust, dust
air conditioning ONLY AT NIGHT
Spraying your whole body with OFF before you jump in bed
Bug bites everywhere
kilometers and kilograms instead of miles and pounds
wishing you had paid better attention in math when they discussed the metric system
no mail
3 English speaking channels- America’s Top Model, American Idol and BBC CNN
no Ohio State football
Whole series of Downton Abbey for $1.25
beautiful, colorful weddings that last for days
even longer funerals with monks chanting round the clock for days
pepperoni  pizza is “hot dog” pizza
right hand turns from the farthest left lane ignoring opposing traffic
being pointed and laughed at
very patient Khmer teachers and co-workers
language tutors who speak better English than you do
red lights and greens are merely suggestions
police?
being  the only one stopped by the police amidst hundreds of Khmer on motos
banged up knees and elbows
learning to submit to husband when riding a moto at 59 years old
will we have internet this week?
getting up in the middle of the night to see our kids and grandkids faces on Facetime
power outages
no hot water- everything washed in cold
no dryers- hard crunchy towels
helmet hair
wanting to take home every child sex trafficked
poverty, filth, trash, sewage, decay
pleading with God every day to deliver this nation from sin and pour out His salvation
did I mention, Ohio State football?

I hate waiting!

I hate to wait.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…..
Ever since the Lord told us to move to our beloved Cambodia to work restoring children from the evils of sex trafficking, our primary ministry has been waiting.

Did I say, I hate waiting?

Remember when you were a kid and you counted the days until Christmas or until that last agonizing day of school? Or as a teenager you anxiously waited for that driver’s license, your first boyfriend and college freedom? Then as an adult, your first job, then your first child, then your first home and the list goes on and on. As now as we prepare to live overseas and the next grand adventure of our lives, what do we run into? Waiting, waiting, waiting….. Waiting to be accepted for the job, waiting to tell our church, waiting to raise the seemingly impossible funds, waiting to sell our house, and the list continues (big sigh inserted here).

If most of life is an exercise of patience and is strengthened through waiting, why do I still get so anxious, discouraged or frustrated? Maybe I should look at waiting as a GIFT from God.

Huh?

psalm27-14

Pastor Charles Stanley says, “ To wait for the Lord means to remain in your present circumstances or environment until He gives further instruction. Far from encouraging passivity, this verse calls for an active choice to be at rest, trusting in God and His timing. It’s not a cessation of daily activities but an internal stillness of spirit that accompanies you throughout the day”.

Oh, so now I get it. Lord, help me to wait patiently for your further instruction and glorify you! I can wait on You.

Bring on the waiting!

4 Kinds of Poverty

As we prepare for work in the world of child sex-trafficking, as we consider life in another country in very different living conditions, as we mentally try to wrap our thoughts around a community of people where it is culturally acceptable to exploit children; it has become increasingly important to us to learn some perspectives that will assist us in reaching those lost in the idea that human life has no particular inherent value.  What is it that would lead a person to think that it is “OK” to entrap, enslave, coerce or by any means force a child to be abused by another person? Something is missing in a person so disposed.  What is the missing thing(s)?

trafficking stat photoWe know that man is created in the image of God and thereby each man has intrinsic value as a God created being, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 ESV”. Without this basic concept, there is no reason we can expect someone to view the life of another as something of value.  If one man is to see something other than monetary or exploitive value in another man it must come from this basic biblical principle. Man was created to “subdue the earth” and it is an easy leap to include his fellow man as something to be subdued, unless there comes that knowledge that my fellow man has some higher level value.  Without the knowledge of God, his creation of all things, his order for all things and his plan for all things, without a correct view of God, man has no particular or unique value.

This is why we, as believers, must share the Gospel.  We simply must.

As this journey of preparation continues for us, we are trying to gain perspective and insight.  We cannot expect someone to behave as though they understand God and his creative and redemptive plan when they simply don’t know.  Gaining some tools to understand the perspective of those we will be seeking to work with seems invaluable.  Let me share something that we have come across that has impacted my thinking enormously.  A book titled, “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

I am not going to give a book review here but I simply want to point out four kinds of poverty that I see from these authors (I am simplifying for sake of this post – the authors use different terms)

  1. Spiritual Poverty – not knowing the one true God.
  2. Internal Poverty – not knowing that “I” have value just because I am made in the image of God.
  3. Community Poverty – groups of people living as self-serving agents where exploitation is a means of survival and no one is responsible for working for the general good of all.
  4. Material Poverty – lacking the substance of goods necessary to survive.

If real change is to occur, if exploitation of people in slavery, in this case children entrapped in sex-trafficking is to be abolished, it will not be through the law alone.  It will not be through hunger elimination alone, it will not be through only changing what we see.  It will come from collectively addressing all four kinds of poverty and it will only be sustained by addressing Spiritual Poverty.

The work of AIM (Agape International Missions) as I see us engaging is to Prevent|Rescue|Restore|Reintegrate children from sex-trafficking and while doing this, to bring a sustainable, reproducible change to the culture.  That is the work we are called to engage in. That is the work we are committed to seeing happen. That is why we will shortly leave for a two-year assignment in Asia.

We are thankful for your support.