Tuesday, December 11, 2012

3 huge little letters

Carlos and I got a phone call from a Izzy in the mid morning saying that he finally went to the doctor. We have been trying to convince him to let us take him for over a week. He finally went- and apparently went alone. He called us as soon as he walked out of the appointment.... he didn't want to tell us on the phone and asked if he could come over. We hung up the phone, and hoped that our worst fear was not a reality. We dreaded every minute as we waited for him to get to my apartment.

He sat with me on the couch. He couldn't speak.... Carlos finally asked him what the doctor said.... I felt like he delayed for half an hour before he finally burst into tears as he said that dreadful word, HIV.

I hugged him, and he fell into my arms like a terrified child. He sobbed. For hours he sobbed and sobbed. We all cried. That seemed like the only appropriate response.

Carlos prayed for him. I prayed for him. And then I asked him to pray. His prayer broke my heart into pieces. He uncandidly shared how terrified he was...how desperate he was for help... he begged God to help him understand because he had no idea what to think.

After he prayed, I began to help him process through his immediate emotions and reactions to the news- you can only imagine what those can be.

      This boy became a transvestite prostitute at the age of 15 after years of living on the streets. He got on the streets through circumstances that seem unreal, foreign. His step-father was abusive and a raging alcohol/drug addict. He would beat him severely. One day when the boy was 5, the step father decided that he didn't want him in the house anymore- "he wasn't his child anyways". He kicked him out onto the streets. He was 5.....5 years old.... wow. He went to his only family members- an aunt and uncle. The situation was the same if not worse there- he was beaten, raped by men, starving..... a few years later he finally ran. He was alone, he was a child, he was desperate... he was on the streets.
The only person who finally helped him, who took care of him, who watched out for him was a transvestite. Like all children, Izzy was easily manipulated and tricked. He found himself on the streets.... and later as a transvestite prostitute...
           Often times when people first see a transvestite, their immediate reaction is disgust. How horrible, what terrible people, that's so nasty; among other things. Thanks to Izzy, I now see a scared little child. I now see a life full of injustice. I now see the missed opportunity of someone to have made a difference. I see God crying hysterically over this victim.

    I still remember when I first met Izzy. He was a dressed as a woman. But I immediately wanted to be his friend. I was blessed to work with God in taking Izzy off of the streets. I was able to witness the LORD moving in his life. God allowed us to walk with him in this incredible transformation.... in his search for his identity.... in his search for God. I will never forget the first time he came to a missionary event and cried his eyes out because it was the first time he had the opportunity to be in the presence of God- and it was overwhelming. God has spoken so much into this boys life in the past year. It's incredible. There is absolutely no way we could ever take credit for this.... it is undeniably God. It has grown my faith to watch God move in Izzy's life. God has spoken to him in such radical and undeniable ways. God has helped him leave the life of a transvestite and find TRUE freedom.... He still has a LONG way to go. But he has come so far. Izzy is SO confident of how God has been speaking to him. He was ready to do an intensive Christian training school that our ministry was going to pay for him to do this coming year.... he had dreams to work in missions and one day serve alongside us as we go to the streets. He wanted to bring hope to others and help them get off of the streets as well.

Now, you can imagine how hard the news of HIV was for all of us. You can imagine how the enemy used this to plant lies (so typical of him when we pass through traumatic situations). Lies: "obviously God had no plan for your life, because you're now going to lose it. everything you thought was real was fake. Why doesn't God help you now if he is real?" lies upon lies.
But this is where God is the hero again! He fought back on behalf of Izzy. God began to speak to people and give them words for this young man. Izzy clung to God.

Carlos and I were at lunch with him the day after the news. We had just left the hospital where we went with him to his appointment. Over lunch, Carlos was pouring into Izzy about God and God's heart; God's voice, His will, His nature, missions, dreams... the list goes on and on. Izzy stopped and said, "you know, I want to use this for God. I want to help other people. I still want God to use me. I still want to be in missions. I want to reach others".


He gets it. He gets what so many of us don't get for years. He has profound understand that God calls us ALL to take part in missions in some way, shape, or form. Not the "most holy people"- in fact God's  power is made perfect in our weakness. I see that in Izzy. God is making His power perfect in this boy's weakness.... Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Work program photos

At the house preparing all of the jewelry for the work program! 

Some volunteers with our ministry who are working with the children of the women we minister to. 

The women that we have been blessed to work with- they are all part of the work program which allows them to get off of the street- giving them the option of freedom from exploitation and to find freedom in Jesus. 

Carlos leading worship with a small group of women who are in the work program. 

One of the girls in our program just had her baby. We are so excited about what God has done in her heart and her life as she has walked through this difficult and complicated situation. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

street kids & broken hearts

Divine appointments

As I walked around the corner, a little boy yelled out to me that he wanted a cup of coffee. I turned around to see a familiar face. The child said, “hey you look like another American girl that I know that helps women.” Then it clicked. This 8 year old little boy standing by another child of maybe 12 was the same child we had been trying to help for months. And I found found him. God led us to him. We had been working with the Costa Rican child protective services trying to help his entire family. When I first met his family, his mother was lying on a mat in their tiny, dirty house deathly sick. The little boy was actually in “foster care” because he had been taken away. The purpose of my visit was to help a 13 year old little girl who had been being sold as a prostitute. Little did I know God had even larger plans. 
The crazy thing about seeing this child this particular night was that we had literally just left the hospital where we had met the mother to pay her bus fair as she left the emergency room. That morning we had seen the daughter at our work program for rescued girls. What a sad and dark reality. 

As Carlos took this child aside to talk to him, the other boy (who was in the streets with him) who is around 12 years old caught my attention. I sat beside him on the curb and made small talk. I then felt that I had to ask him if he felt alone.... if he felt abandoned.... both of which he told me were true. As he began to pour out his story, my heart broke. His father died when he was small. His mother can not recognize him because she was so severely beaten by the step-father that she has serious brain damage. If the step-father beat the mom, I hate to imagine what he did to this little boy- his stepson. Often times when we see these “bad guys” on the streets we quickly turn our eyes. We are either filled with fear or we don’t want to let the reality of what we are seeing affect us, or we are too busy to care about the ‘bad guy’ on the street corner.... any number of things. However, to see that “street guy” as a little boy, right at the beginning of his life on the streets... it truly changes how you look at ‘street people’. This poor child.... abandoned, abused, neglected, alone. Alone in one of the most dangerous places. A place where literally no one cares about you. I could feel God’s heart break. Just feeling my own heart break was heart enough... but to think that I was only listening to his tragic story, while God had to sit and watch his little boy live through these things. Indescribable. 

                                                     Paths to brokenness
A woman at the work program on Saturday morning sat down across from me and looked me in the eyes. I’m not sure how she started but what she said kept me thinking. She began to tell me how drastically her life had changed since she came to know Jesus. Last week, we talked with the women in the program about how lies come into our lives and how those lies affect our lives. We asked them to think of which lies they believed about themselves and when those lies entered their lives. At the age of 9, this woman was raped. Her mother never believed her. This is when the lies began.... ‘you are worthless’, ‘no one believes you’.....the lies go on and on. 
From that day on, she began to grow more and more bitter. She was angry, didn’t understand, closed off, defensive, and isolated. As an adult this bitterness because her identity. The father of her children was terrible with her. She could not relate to her kids; she was so afraid that the same things that happened throughout her life would happen to them that she didn’t even let them have a life. Her bitterness was all consuming. She was completely isolated and harder than stone. Because she felt she had no value, and because her rights to her body were always just something that was taken from her; prostitution was an easy option. She continued to grow harder and fall farther. 
However, she told me that now her life has been completely transformed... that through the work program & discipleship, she has come to know the Lord personally. Her life is radically different in every aspect. She has hope, she smiles, she actually comes out of her house. She said that every day of her life, she used to wake up and think “ugh, I hate life..it’s going to be a terrible day...and I have nothing worth getting up for”. She said that one day a friend called her saying, “it’s so cold and rainy outside. It’s such an ugly day”. She in turn replied, “no, this is a beautiful day because the Lord made it just for me. And you can always put on a coat”. 
Seeing people like this is one of the things that keeps us going. Hearing someone just say out of the blue that God’s work through our ministry has radically changed everything about their lives makes it worth it. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sing along

I'm home in GA for a few weeks visiting family and raising support for the ministry!

Carlos was left alone as the only leader of Freedom Street for a few weeks! Please keep him in your prayers as he balances the MANY, MANY things that God is doing in and through Freedom Street!

I have loved reconnecting with old friends...and can not get over how gorgeous Georgia is. Wow. I have no words other than God is beautiful...and He surprises me every day.

As I sit here, I can almost understand how easy it is to be in this beautiful country of ours and never want to leave. It's easy to forget about the dying world on the outside.

But today I heard a song that totally touched my heart. It's written by Christy Nockels.... she wrote it after hearing about human trafficking... the thing is, it's asking God to spread His arms around the world which is a cry of my heart as well. However, I believe that God calls us to join with Him in that. To spread our arms around the broken world; to answer His command to go into the world and to bring  hope to the prisoners and free the oppressed. To go into the nations and make God known through our works.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shaking the doors of darkness

One important aspect of our ministry is prayer. We believe and have seen the power of prayer to change lives, nations, hearts, to reach the most unreachable people. 

On Friday nights, we lead a team down to the biggest brothel in Costa Rica and hold a prayer vigil. The point of this vigil is to pray... but we always end up doing ministry to some of the most unlikely of people. We speak to pimps, to traffickers, to Americans who are coming to buy women, to drug dealers, to people in the mafia, you name it. It is incredible to see how our presence on this corner (where absolutely no one expects to see us) allows God's presence to work in the lives of the people down there.

A few weeks ago, we went out on a Friday night to have our prayer vigil. Carlos and I were leading a YWAM in which most of the people don't speak Spanish. As soon as we arrived to the corner, in front of the brothel, one of the biggest drug dealers in all of Costa Rica walked directly up to me. His name is Claud, and we have known him for quite some time. He is always there in front of that brothel, selling and doing drugs. However, over time we have developed a relationship with him. We entered into a very intense conversation, a very deep conversation that lasted about an hour. He began by saying that "you guys are the only people in the world who really love me. I know you love me, even though I'm so bad. You guys are my only real friends, the streets can't offer you real friends..everyone comes to take. I spent a lot of time in prison and the streets... well they don't ever forgive me for that." He told me how he was so thankful to God that we don't care about that, that we aren't scared of him, and that we truly love him for who he is. As I began to speak truth into his life about a 'better life and God's plan', he stared at me in complete shock. It was the first time in his life that someone had actually believed in him. Someone had actually been able to see the good in him. 

The conversation just got deeper and deeper... I could see the desperation in his eyes. He knew that we loved him.... he could see there was something different. He even told me that a few weeks ago when we were there, he got into a fight defending us. It had begun to rain and we all ran across the road to get shelter under the brothel's overhang. Apparently some other drug dealers and pimps were laughing at us, and he fought them because he knows "we are good people". He knows that we are the only people down there on the corner who want to give. 

Isn't that what God has done for all of us? Despite the filth in which he found us, he was able to find something good... he was able to see our potential. Everyone is a candidate for the kingdom of God... even these people on the darkest of corners. 

A song of praise
For the past year, we have been working with this one young man on the streets who is so young and so precious. He has been prostituting himself as a transvestite for over 5 years, and he's only 20. We have been walking very closely with him, especially over the past 4 months as he has made the decision to finally leave the streets to look for God. Last Wednesday he came with us to the YWAM base's family night. This is a night where all of the students in the training schools, all of the missionaries, and people from the community get together at the base to worship God and to listen to a teaching.  This young man stayed glued to me in the back corner of the room. During worship, I was standing with my arms raised, and he was sitting beside me in the seat. At one point, I looked down at him and he seemed like he was just zoned out, but looking towards the stage. I laid my hand on his shoulder to pray for him, and he bent forward. He began to weep. After the worship ended, Carlos, Ryan and myself took Israel outside to pray for him as he calmed down. God was doing something huge in his heart. He was completely moved by the powerful presence of God. He was amazed. He was touched. 

Please pray for this guy as we walk with him through this process. After so many years in such a dark lifestyle, there is a HUGE spiritual battle over his life. We are the only Christian people who he knows. He is desperate for God. However, his is continuing to struggle with the lies that hold so many people to the streets... and the money that the streets provide to feed himself and to help him get an education. We of corse, are willing to help him in any way that we can. 

A few of the people from our work program

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A beautiful mess

Last Saturday night on the streets, we experienced something huge at literally every stop. Each person was begging for us to start our church again, which is temporarily on hold until we can find a new building to rent. We heard from the guys we work with about the crazy abuse that is happening by the men who are exploiting them. We had incredible conversations at every stop.

The one that caught my attention the most was also the most surprising. As you know, we have been working with transvestites since this ministry began. Carlos now has a ministry with the guys who are trying to get out of this lifestyle and find who "they really are". However, Saturday night I got out of the van to go and talk to one guy (who is a transvestite) who I have seen before, but not weekly like we see most of the other people. This particular guy, I will call Kevin, has come to our church before.

He began our conversation on Saturday expressing how desperately he missed our church. Because of the circumstances in his life, he has never believed in God. But he told us that at our church, he had to believe in God because when he walked into the room he could "feel God in there".

Kevin has always been one of the guys who has quickly defended his lifestyle even though we have never asked about it. He is always taking the initiative to tell us that "this is just the way I am" and has been very expressive about his lifestyle as a transvestite. This was all obviously just a cover-up for his true feelings, which we discovered on Saturday night.

He broke down in tears. I don't even remember how we got into this conversation as we stood talking on the street corner. I just know that very quickly, the conversation got very deep and very intense. He began to say how much he hated his life how it was... I wasn't sure if he was talking about the life of a prostitute or being a transvestite. He said both. He then added, "do you think that anyone REALLY wants to be a transvestite. I know we pretend like we do, but do you think that in the very depths of someone they want to be a transvestite." He had never shared any of these thoughts of feelings with anyone before. NEVER. And that night, he cried and poured out his heart to us for an hour. As he cried in my arms, I could feel his heart breaking. He shared about his past, his life of abuse, the poverty he grew up in, the abusive and later absent father, the rape and fear. He wants out. He wants a new life. And this desire for repentance and change can only be brought by God. He had never believed in God, but like he said over and over again; he now does believe in God because he "can actually feel him".

As a ministry, we want to always meet people exactly where they are. We want to radically love them exactly where they are and how they are. We believe that the kindness of God will lead them to repentance. What the world is desperate for is to be loved, and God has that love to offer.

Friday, September 14, 2012

God dreams over you... God dreams over them too

As I sat on the curb for 35 minutes, talking to my friends, God gave me a small glimpse of His heart for them. These 2 guys, my friends who are transvestites, have lived dark and damaging lives. Their stories are unbelievable... and unjust.. starting with rape and abuse as very small children.
One of them, Nicole*, introduced me to the other one, Isabel*, a few weeks before. When we walked up, Nicole said, “no, don’t worry, these are the ‘real’ ones. These are my friends who love us and are here to help us. They don’t judge.” She went on to explain that we were the only people who truly loved and cared about the people who work on the streets; and that God sends us to them. 
Now a few weeks later, I sit beside the two of them on the ground and talk about life and identity. Nicole told me how everyone goes around trying to fill a hole they have inside... and in the process they all end up hurting and abusing others. I told her that that was true; and that after that hole is filled with God, you are free to engaged in relationships where you can bless the other person by giving instead of always taking. Nicole looked at me, and agreed saying, “that’s why I love when you come here. You always come to give.” 
We talked about identity... and God gave me an image.. an image of Him as He was forming them, and He was creating an original masterpiece. I wondered what it was that God was thinking when He created these guys. I wonder what dreams He had for them; what gifts He decided to plant in them; what blessings He wanted to lavish upon them; what He wanted them to be ‘when they grew up’; how desperately He wanted to walk that dream out with them.
I know that this is not the life God has for them. I know that the enemy did so much damage to rob that life from both of them. As I spoke truth into their lives about their value and worth as people, and I told them that their value is unquestionable, not matter what life choices they had made; Nicole got goose bumps. 
We talked for a long time sitting on that street corner. A bus drove by and people hatefully threw things out the windows... and I saw the hurt in their eyes. They shared with me that their entire life has been filled with rejection; beginning long before they became transvestites. 
As we prayed over them, tears gently rolled down their face. Nicole told me that she always feels something when we pray for her... she feels an energy and she gets goose bumps; she feels this presence like she has never felt before that she says she is unable to explain. 
You begin to see people differently when you have a relationship with them... when you take the time to hear their stories that are so filled with pain... when you allow God to share a little piece of His heart for them with you. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Working the way to their hearts & mine

The new work program- providing a way out
The work program that we have began as a part of our ministry has truly been a joy. We started this program as a means to help a group of women and young girls get off of the streets. We first met these girls when working on the documentary... a 16 year old girls introduced us to this group of girls saying, “I know some young girls in your area, you have to help them”. (This 16 year old was once a victims of exploitation as well). 
These girls shared their stories on camera, through streams of tears. Each one of them expressed their desperation to escape from this life of fear and darkness. 

Today I just got home from working with them for 3 hours. They worked so diligently. While they were working, Carlos and I pulled them aside one by one to have a “one-on-one”, (more like a 2-1, since Carlos and I were mentoring together) or a time to do discipleship. It was beautiful. 

I was so moved by these women’s hearts. Our program is just now starting out, and we are helping them with food at this point (with hopes to do more once we get more established in the program). While I was meeting with one lady, she expressed her deep gratitude to me. I had just finished telling her that I knew that she had needs other than food, and I wanted to know if the food was helping. Her response almost brought tears to my eyes. With a sparkle in her eye, she explained how deeply she appreciated the help, that food was their most immediate (urgent) need and was lasting them the entire week. Without having to worry about food, the money that would have been spent on food can be used to pay bills and meet other needs. She continued expressing how much it helped her, and then added “the thing that means the most to me about this program is that I know that you care for us. I know that I have someone walking with me. I know that I’m not doing this alone. It’s such a fight to get out of this lifestyle that is so dark that it ties you to it, but knowing that I have someone fighting with me means everything. Just knowing that I can do it because I’m not alone.” 

As we did the discipleships, my heart for these women grew and grew. So many people have certain ideas about prostitutes. But, those are the people that Jesus hung out with. I totally see why He did. Some of them are such beautiful people who are just in desperate need of a savior. They have had the most horrible lives, and many of them are being exploited. They live a life of otter fear. We were even able to experience a small part of that fear later Tuesday night. 
Carlos and I were doing our usual street ministry but took a team along with us who is at the YWAM base for a few months. The night was just spiritually heavy, to say the least. The first stop started it all. We had just finished talking to some of our friends on the first corner and were loading up in the car to leave when a wild man came to the window. He was on crack and was basically crawling through Carlos’s window while talking to him. It was scary and weird. However, as I looked into his frightening eyes, my heart broke. I knew that behind those eyes was a completely broken heart and lost life. But not only what was happening in the physical world, our ‘Freedom Street’ team could sense more. 
A few stops later, we encountered something terrifying. On the same block where some of the exploited women prostitutes stand, a man was murdered. He was stabbed right in front of their eyes. They were completely filled with fear. They were alone. 
This situation was obviously something that was not from God. However, God still did bring good out of this. We were able to minister to tons of people on the block who had witness the even and were in desperate need of comforting. The Lord sent us there. This incident opened a HUGE door for us to talk to people from every walk of life, and to speak to people about God. We were able to pray with bystanders. We were able to help a brand new security guard who was in shock as well as a foreign exchange student to name a few. And of course, the women we work with in our ministry. I can’t imagine being forced to stand on that dangerous corner in fear all night long... in fear of the danger of the streets, in fear of the man who is controlling you.... in fear of being kidnapped by a “client”... in fear of the crazy homeless man of crack. 

The one who is in us is greater than the one of this world. God has been doing beautiful and incredible things. More to come soon!
Thank you for your prayers! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

there is POWER in the name of Jesus...

Sunday night, Izzy arrived at church. He is a sweet young 19 year old guy. He and I have been friends for awhile. It started off like most of the friendships I have through this ministry... I put almost all of the effort into the relationship. But slowly, things began to change. He began to call me, to text me, to look for me, and to ask about my life. We have grown really close over the past 8 months. Israel started to prostitute when he was 13 years old. His home situation was horrible. His step father was extremely violent. His siblings were scattered among family members. Izzy ended up living with an aunt who later threw him out of the house after her husband became a raging alcoholic. With nowhere to go, and being just a young boy, he found himself on the streets. He hated life on the streets. His first night on the street he asked God, “If you are real; take me away to be with you.” Being a young boy, he grew angry with God and began to search to fill what was missing in his life. He was manipulated and swooped up and converted into a victim of child sexual tourism in Costa Rica. 
To keep up with the demand, he found himself prostituting as a girl... and for years was sold as a transvestite. 
On his worst night of his life, he had a radical encounter with God. He broke down in tears. A boy whose heart had become harder than stone, who didn’t even think he was able to cry; broke down in tears before the Lord. He began to have flash backs of words people had shared with him from God. And this is where his new journey began. 
After 5 years of working as a transvestite prostitute, and after years of encouragement from our ministry, and after having the truth spoken over him, his life is finally taking a drastic change. Just hearing him talk yesterday was a huge confirmation of answered prayers over his life. He was filled with hope, something I have never seen in him before. He was confident that God has something big for his life. He told me that he knew there was something different about us, his friends, and he wants it. He has not been on the streets in a month now... he has decided that he never wants to go back. He has retuned home to live with his mother (who is no longer with the stepfather). This life on the streets for the past year has been his way to support his mother... leaving this lifestyle means leaving his source of income. 
However, Izzy now believes in himself... and he desperately wants more of God. Yesterday, he asked me if I could take him to a movie to get him out of the house. He even told me that he so deeply desires to be around Godly people who can help him walk closer to the Lord. It’s incredible. It has been a process of years... I’ve known him for 8 months and have cried my eyes out for him many nights. But finally, we are seeing the fruit... and we are seeing God’s miraculous transforming power. There is still a TON of healing to take place, a lot to learn, a lot more to change; but the desire is there. 
        We know that when the streets are involved, it is always a process. At times we wonder if we are making an impact on the lives of others, and at other times God allows us to see that we are. We invest all that we have into these relationships, and this makes it worth it. Sometimes we do get frustrated... we pour all we have into these friends for years and see the trapped in this world. But it's a process. And this is God's ministry. But, it's SO worth it...To see a young guy have the opportunity to start over in life... to see a soul saved... to see a spark put back into an eye... to see someone get a glimpse of true love... to see a life transformed... to see a friend find himself. 
We are looking at the best way to help him walk away from the streets for good. He is scared that he will fall back because of the need for money. But he is determined not to. He may be a part of the work program we will be starting soon! If you would like to help support the work program, please let me know! 

There is POWER in the name of Jesus.... to break every chain! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What are little girls made of?

It is estimated there are up to 27 million slaves worldwide, and that 99% of victims are NEVER rescued. Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime. A UNICEF report says up to 2,000,000 children are currently being exploited around the world for purposes of sex or pornography. In some cases, children are forced to work as prostitutes serve as many as 40 men per day.

This week, we met some of those little girls. As I looked at the sweet faces of these little girls, I thought of the children that used to be my students, I thought of my little cousins, I imagined what it would be like if they were my children. I listened to them pour out their hearts through tears. 

We visited the house of one sweet little girl....I listened to one sweet girl who was only as tall as my elbow tell me about her entrance to prostitution in order to help her mother who was dying (but was later manipulated by men involved). I looked at her mother lying on a mat on the floor and could tell she was close to death... Elizabeth and I decided to call a lady who is a nurse that we know to come and help her mother. The sweet little girl immediately connected with us, desperate for help. I'm excited to see what God does in her life. 

God has truly expanded our ministry to whole new levels. We have our hands full and are more and more need for a safe house for these sweet girls. 

We had a team come pray with us last week in front of the biggest brothel in San Jose. As we prayed, one of the team members asked me to comfort her because she was overwhelmed with the complete darkness. As I listened to her speak, I remembered the promises of God for this very type of darkness. And although our ministry does take us into some of the darkest places, we have seen God's light in the midst of that. It's an honor to carry Light... it's because of grace we have that light. 
Working in such a dark ministry has made me love the Lord and love His Light more and more. 

There is hope. As Christians, we hold the hope. 

Connections, ministry, friendship

A few nights ago, I received a phone call at 10:30 as I was going to bed (obviously one of the few nights we aren't out on the streets). On the other end of the phone, I heard the voice of one of the women we work with, Sarah. I have been visiting her on the streets and mentoring her for the past few months; but she has never come to the church services or other things we do in the ministry house. God's timing is incredible... truly incredible. When we are obedient to Him, He does the coolest things! This is one of those things. A few weeks before, I asked Sarah about her brother and she lost it... she began to share with me about his life. He had been in jail for the past 10 years, but before going to jail had contaminated many women with AIDS without their knowledge. She told me that she thought that was a sin and I agreed. She then told me that she might just go and tell him that he needs to repent. I told her that would be a fine idea, encouraging her in her endeavors to help mentor her brother. Why hadn't she thought of this in the past 10 years since he has been in jail? God's timing!

A few days later, her brother died of AIDS. I was the first person she called when she heard the news. She said that the only reason that she had peace, was because she knew her brother had repented after she shared with him what was on her heart... incredible. 

I cried as I listened to her speak on the other end of the phone.... what an honor it is to be the person that someone calls when they are in their hardest moments. What an honor. That is why we go to the streets. To reach hearts. 

The 'pimps' miracle continued

I know I blogged a few weeks ago about a pimp's wife being healed after we prayed with him in the park. We saw this man again last night and he asked us to come to his house and pray for his wife once more. God has saved her from death, and now she is at home, but still has pain. We gladly agreed and Carlos and I went to see her this morning. Carlos took his guitar and we sang and prayed over this woman. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Pimp's encounter with God!

        Last week, as we stood on the streets talking to some of the men prostitutes; a car came flying by and then slammed on the breaks right in front of us. One of the most well-known pimps from the biggest brothel in the city got out of the car. He was looking for us frantically (we had just passed him a few minutes before). He asked us to pray for his wife of 30 years who was "FOR SURE" going to die. She was in ICU in a coma with a swollen brain, the doctors wouldn't even let him enter. We cried out to God for a miracle. We wanted this pimp to see God.
       The next day he went to see her and she was awake and recognized him. With tears in his eyes he screamed, "He did it. God did the miracle!"
Wow! Pray for this man's life to be transformed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Called to Cry

In the past few weeks, I have been awaken in the middle of the night. I sit up in my bead as tears stream down my face and I feel the urgent call to pray, to intercede. I have been asking God about how to pray for these victims, and He has been teaching me a lot about prayer through experience. As I begin to pray for these men and women and children, some I barely know, I can feel the heart of God. I can feel His heart break for these hurting people. I feel his desire to redeem them and to rescue them. I can feel their pain and their desperate need for someone to fight for them. I believe that a lot of that fighting happens through intersession.

God has my heart completely, I am madly in love with Him. But what I want to search for is His heart. His heart for these men and women and children.

I think we are all called to cry out to God. We are all called to come into agreement with God's heart and to pray. Let's cry out for these victims of exploitation.... these parentless children who have no one interceding for them.

Arise, cry out in the night,
    as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
    in the presence of the Lord. 
Lift up your hands to him
    for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
    at every street corner.
-Lamentations 2:19 

I am thankful that there was someone praying for me in my hardest moments. I believe that through their prayers, battles were fought and won. 
Although I do not understand how, I have seen it first hand. 

It's an honor that God wants to take the time to share His heart with us. 

Who are you crying out for? 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's in the small things!

"When you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes."
Jeremiah 19:12-14 
We are claiming this promise for the men, women and children who are coming to our church service at Casa Ágape every other Sunday. There are a lot of hearts being turned toward Jesus & seeking God, this is one of them... please pray for him. 

Last week Carlos and I planned a soccer game for the male prostitutes and some of the guys from our YWAM base. It was incredible. These boys see men as people who take, who abuse, who use, and who see them as objects. The soccer game was powerful because the guys were able to be around and enjoy time with people who wanted to take nothing but give friendship. The guys we minister to were so impacted... they actually looked people in the eyes... and if for a brief few hours got to live like and to relate to others as 'normal people'. And they knew without a doubt, that there was something different about these men they were playing soccer with... something they had never seen before. For a while, they were able to relax and enjoy the freedom in playing. For a while they were able to feel on the same level as everyone else; not as a slave. They want to continue to have soccer games, they absolutely LOVED it! Pray that we can find a cheaper place to continue building trust and discipling these guys! They have called Carlos throughout this week to talk to him about another game! Some of the guys who showed up for the soccer game are guys that we never dreamed would actually come! 

We have been pouring into one lady, Laura*, from the streets for some time now. We have a very strong relationship with her and she accepted Christ alongside the girls from our ministry. She comes to church each Sunday, brings her niece and nephew, and she sometimes knows our ministry schedule better than I do! :) She is a sweet girl who deeply desires a different life but who has had a horrible and terrific life. For the last 2 weeks, Carlos and I have been driving around taking her to doctor appointments for her teeth. At the first appointment, she sat holding my hand as I talked to the doctor. She just looked from me to the doctor, then back to me. She is older than I am, but acted like my daughter. The insecurities in her were so obvious even in this little situation. Laura acted like a 14 year old. I felt like her mother. And then I realized that she was first abused as a child... and from that moment forward she stopped growing emotionally. She feels so unworthy; it was evident in her eyes and her trembling voice. But what a privilege it is for us to disciple this girl in a process to get her off of the streets and to declare the truth of God over her life. We listened as the doctor told her that every one of her teeth had to be pulled out as soon as possible.... she has literally never even valued herself enough to practice any 'self-care'. The ministry is paying for these emergency needs of hers. Please keep her in your prayers in this hard time. 
*Name changed for protection.

Next week we will be having meetings with some government officials about the 'Safe House'. Excited to see what God does. These victims, these children, need a home and need love and need a savior.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

God's hand at work!

God’s Power in the Park
On Thursday night our team went to the streets with a youth group that is here on a mission trip to pray on the streets. We prayed for about 2 hours, and as we were about to leave, a man ran up screaming. He had the wildest look in his eyes like he was literally about to ‘lose it’. He was urgently asking for candies.... he was not even listen to us as we responded to his questions but pushingly continuing to beg for candies. Carlos and Johnny laid hands on the boys back and just began to pray. As the pray, the holy spirit interrupted the situation completely. Both Carlos and Johnny were being led by the spirit, and began to pray and declare truths over this young man’s life. As they prayed, the entire demeanor of this guy changed. It was incredible.... his shoulders began to relax, he stopped yelling, he let his head hang relaxed.... and then he put his hands to his face as he began to weep. The power of the Holy Spirit is incomparable, when he moves and speaks, things change. This was a huge testimony for me just to witness the power of God’s touch.... at the end of the prayer, Carlos talked to the boy for a while and poured into his life. The boy shared that he was a drug addict and very young... and after that experience something changed in his heart. Before we left, Carlos got his phone number and will continue meeting with him to help him change his life.
I was really impacted as we were leaving; God told me to speak to him about his father. As I told him that he had a father who loved him, he said through sobs, “I don’t have a father! I’ve always been alone”. I explained to him that he had a loving father in heaven who has and will ALWAYS be with him, who loves him and who desires to help and to bless him. We continued talking about this and then he asked, “If God is there, why can’t I ever see him”. I told him that he CAN see God... he CAN feel Him... he CAN hug him.... that God sent us as his representation here on this Earth. God has chosen us Christ-Followers to be his hands, to be his voice, to be his arms, to speak through us to reach every person... and GOD himself sent us that night to love that boy. What an privilege as christ-followers that we get to be God’s representation on Earth... what an awesome Father we serve. 
Amazing Freedom Street Ministry Church Service on Sunday
On Sunday we had the church service at Casa Agape. This is the church service that we hold for the prostitutes. 35 people showed up for church! I was so thrilled with the turn out! Some of the transvestites that we work with who have always ‘hated church’ came. Some women who are victims of exploitation whom we have ben helping for months came! Carlos was our preacher for the service and he shared about ‘our value and how we see ourselves affects our dreams’. It was such a powerful message. The entire church was almost in tears (some of the transvestites were crying as God spoke to their hearts). At the end of the service, one young boy who is a prostitute and victim of exploitation (and has been since his early teens) accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior! It was SO incredible to see God speak to his heart and see him find freedom! Of course, getting off of the streets and out of this horrible situation will be a long process; but he has found the start of a changed life. He was beyond emotional as he poured out his heart to God in front of the entire church through tears. It is amazing to me to watch people who are in the very darkest and ‘hopeless’ situations find the transforming love of Christ. I am so honored to walk this process with him.  
God is in the HEALING business
On Saturday night we went to the street to minister to the prostitutes as we do every Saturday night. At one corner, we came across a young transvestite who has a sad, horrible, story... he is not on the streets out of his own will but by force. The week before he told us that he was diagnosed with hepatitis and that it may be fatal. We prayed for his, that God would heal him. When we saw him on Saturday, he came running up to the van. He could not wait to tell us his news. He was in shock, declaring that 'God healed him'. He had returned to the doctors who were in shock to announce that it was just completely gone... that he had been healed....  they were all in shock and called it a 'miracle'. Although this miracle was amazing.... the most amazing part is the Miracle Giver. God goes to such great lengths to show us his love and his pursuit on our lives... 

Friday, June 29, 2012

coffee, fire, freedom, missions, trafficking....

The past few weeks have been busy but beautiful. God has brought me to this place at the perfect time, and He is beginning to show me more and more some of the desires He has for me through the mission work in Costa Rica. I am involved with many different things here at the base (since there is SO much going on here). It's amazing to be a part of a vision that was truly birthed in the heart of God. 
The ministry with the prostitutes (the ministry in which I am working full-time) has been incredible. God has been preparing hearts; making them ready for a pure, healthy relationship with members on our team... which will hopefully lead to a freeing relationship with the Lord. Most of the women and men with whom we work are victims of exploitation... those who are not victims of human trafficking all have a very dark history. 1 in every 3 children in Costa Rica is a victim of sexual abuse. In this country with costs of glorious beaches and beauty, the deep darkness is often covered or hidden. 
On Tuesday night I went to talk to one of the women to whom I have been ministering to on the streets. She had been waiting to see me. As we talked, she suddenly changed subjects. Through a crackling voice she whispered, “these streets strip you of every bit of dignity”. She continued to pour out as I listened to both her and to the Holy Spirit, hoping he would speak into her life. As I closed my eyes to pray, He took over and spoke directly to her heart. I don’t know this woman’s entire life, but I do know that God has been pursuing her as he does with each of us. There are some nights when I am discouraged and wonder if I’m accomplishing anything ministering to and taking a ‘cup of coffee’ to these people.... and then God reminds me that I am only a part in the long process of His pursuit on their lives. 
‘A cup of coffee’. Can a cup of coffee change a life? I believe so. 

Last week there was an electrical fire at the ministry coffee house where we hold our Freedom Street Sunday church service. This happened on a Saturday night... it was evident that Satan was angry with us. Praise the Lord that we are accomplishing some kingdom work! :) We spent a lot of time cleaning and it is still not finished. But one thing is for sure; the One on our side will always be stronger than the one on the ‘other side’. God has already overcome. And no matter how dark the places are that He calls us to go into; I know that darkness always flees just ahead of the light. 
Two weeks ago I worked with a short term missions team (a youth group) that came down for a week. God did incredible things in them and through them. It was a blessing for me to have the opportunity to share God’s love and his heart for missions with people from my own nation! We went and worked at a girls home for young girls who have babies or who are pregnant. God took me there for a reason. The girls at this home (the youngest one was 10) were almost all victims of rape. Most of them had been raped while being exploited as sex slaves (prostitutes). As I held a 20 day old baby (that was born at just 6 months), I thought of what the mother of that child must feel when she looks at that beautiful baby. Imagine seeing a precious baby that is part of you... but is the fruit of violation and slavery. I so often get to see the brokenness of a life sold into human trafficking.... and this place allowed me to see the restoration that God can bring. Only through God can there be healing. Of course that healing is a long, long process.... but there is healing... 
I’m still praying about what God wants me to do with this new revelation. I am praying that my hearts desires will catch up to His hearts desires. 

                                   TRATA- the documentary 
A week from today my small team will be leaving to film the human trafficking documentary "TRATA". We know that the most powerful way to transform a nation is through media. The versatility of film serves as a powerful means to educate and expose the reality of this huge injustice that is growing not only in Costa Rica but also around the world. 

Our purpose for the film is to show the Costa Rican people these realities that they do not know exist in their neighborhoods, homes and communitities. While the film will have a North American audience, our main audience is the Costa Rican public. 

The film will be produced in both a Spanish and English version. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Called to Serve- Slavery is on God's heart

The DTS is over and I will now be working full time with ‘Freedom Street Ministry” and with “Metro Ministry” here at the YWAM San Jose, Costa Rica base. 
Freedom Street ministry in the ministry that I was involved with before outreach. This ministry works with prostitutes, victims of human trafficking and exploitation. As I have sought God's heart over the past few months, my God-given passion for children's justice has grown exponentially. Through talking with the men, women, and children who line the streets at night; I have been able to hear their cry of desperation behind the words they speak. I have seen their need for a savior... and I have felt God's heart break for these victims of slavery. 
     God has been moving in huge ways the past few months with this ministry and I am so excited to see where He will take the ministry next. God has been opening doors for the ministry to be more effective; connections with the government as well as increased interest from the prostitutes with which we work. 
With this ministry, I will be going on the ‘streets’ 3 nights a week to visit with the prostitutes and further develop relationships with them. Through these relationships, we create comfort and trust which opens the doors for them to share if they are indeed victims of exploitation. We can then work to help free these people who are basically slaves, or human trafficking victims. We also have a church service on Sundays where the prostitutes can come and hear about the biggest freedom we have to offer. This church service has truly been amazing. We have already seen men and women make decisions for Jesus and choose to change their lives. This service is an awesome opportunity to sit and share, disciple, and help these men, women, and children.
Last Sunday at this church service, God spoke so strongly about guilt an shame. This was powerful not only for the prostitutes, but also to me. It is so hard to imagine God as someone who takes away all of our guilt and offers us forgiveness; so often we limit him by human standards. 
Another part of this ministry is English classes that we offer to the prostitutes so that they can have skills to help find a new job after they are rescued. Also, on Friday nights we have a prayer vigil in front of the largest brothel in Costa Rica. Prayer is so powerful to break spiritual chains of injustice. Through prayer we can call God’s kingdom to be done here on the Earth. 
This July, Carlos and I will be traveling with Elizabeth (with Freedom Street Ministry) to make a documentary about human trafficking and exploitation. We are praying that this documentary can bring awareness and change to help end slavery. 

Saturday  Night  with Freedom Street- Short story
Driving downtown to deliver coffee to the prostitutes is always a time when my mind is running wild; praying to God and asking for His guidance. On Saturday night before going to the streets, we spent some time in prayer. Carlos prayed that God would just give us His eyes for these people, His heart for them, and His love for them. 
After talking to a couple of prostitutes who are victims of exploitation (brought here unwillingly as slaves), we got back in the car to head to our next stop. On the way, we saw a young girl (probably 17) who was dancing for a man standing on the street. We were stopped at a stop light seeing this girl through the window. My eyes began to water as I heard God say, “imagine how I feel as her father watching her do that”. My heart shattered. 
Later while talking to a beautiful young girl (probably around the same age), I felt God crying over her. This girl who was unwilling sold to be used and abused by men; feeding their lustful cravings. I only have to see these girls while they are on the streets waiting for a ‘client’; God has to be with them in those dark rooms... God is omnipresent; and I’m sure that at some times He wishes He wasn’t...

I’m not a mother yet, so I know that I can only partially begin to imagine what it must feel like to watch a child live through injustices... to go to bed at night knowing that my daughter is being abused and taken advantage of by a grown man... I’m sure one day that thought will hurt even more than it does today. 

Metro Ministry 
METRO ministry is another ministry with which I will be involved. This ministry focuses on reaching children in the ghettos of the city. These children are surrounded by drug trafficking, sexual exploitation, poverty, and gangs (among other things). These children are desperate for a positive role model. We want to offer them the opportunity to KNOW and live for God. While our goal is to reach children, this ministry also ministers to their families through discipleship and home visits. In the 2 communities we visit each week, we are reaching more than 100 kids. We are also in the process of training local churches so that they can began implementing the program around the country to reach even more kids.

Around the base
Another fun thing about living on a base with 30 other missionaries is "family contributions". On the base, we are a family. For me, it is an honor to serve my fellow missionaries in the kitchen or cleaning the base! I have also loved playing with the children at the base... these future leaders in missions bless my life each time I get to spend time with them. 

  • Prayer- Please keep me in your prayers as I follow God into dark and dangerous places. Please pray for safety and wisdom. Pray for my spiritual, physical, and emotional strength! Also for God to open doors for the victims of exploitation as we build trust with them. 
  • Financial needs- I am in need of people who feel called to missions through supporting. Please pray about becoming a monthly missions supporter and help make God's work in this ministry possible. As a YWAM missionary, I am living a 'faith-based/donation based' lifestyle!  There is an easy link to 'donate' through paypal on this blog!