Out of the Ashes

I don’t know my age, but I remember my kidnapper. “I’ll help you find your family,” he said in a soothing voice. That was the last morning I’d seen my Mother and Father. He told me I belonged to him now as his laborer. This was the beginning of my nightmare. Repeated rapes followed. I hated him. And because my body brought bad luck, I also hated myself. He “trained” me to become a sex slave while annihilating my innocence. Then, like a commodity, he sold me to a brothel.

The polluted stream of drunken men, handling me like a cheap toy, is a memory I’d love to bury. “Whore!” they’d scoff before discarding me in the ash pile. When I refused to cooperate, the brothel owner punished me with beatings, electrocution, and starvation.

No more,” I yelled, “let me die!” Darkness, steeped in vinegar, clung to me. Death’s finality taunted me like a mirage. If the grave meant freedom from this rotting prison, then I’d find a way. But something miraculous happened instead.

I’ll never forget the loud hammering on my shanty’s lock. Nor will I forget the face of my hero; he risked his life for mine. Praise God! I’ve been rescued! God not only raised me from the ash pile, but He also placed me in a new family.

My new name is Agraciana, which means “forgiveness.” Dignity greets me on her royal road.  Peace is finally mine. I refuse to step foot on selfishness and deceit’s low road. Nor will I adorn my head with weighted lies: raped women are scum below men’s feet.

My new passion is to rescue, restore, and educate similar young girls at the shelter where I work in Cambodia. There is nothing as beautiful as a little girl’s innocence: her ability to love, laugh and play. My shelter seeks to restore some of these girls’ childhood; love empowers.

Consider the following facts: brothel owners force 10-30 clients upon these girls daily, for the owner’s selfish bounty. Much of the outside world either turns away or isn’t aware of the frequency and enormity of sex trafficking. Families seldom come forward when their child is abducted for fear of retaliation.

Men have gotten away with this injustice for years. They think it’s noble to take away a girl’s virginity. Even local authorities won’t aid in rescuing if military personnel capture these girls. Most perpetrators are drunk, thoughtlessly spreading sexual diseases. When a girl becomes pregnant, her baby is aborted.

Please pray that these girls will overcome their trauma. Some are only infants when stolen and/or sold into brothels, some by their own parents. One of my dying girls asked, “Agraciana, when you speak, will you tell men: ‘A few moments of your pleasure kills me?’”

Please pray for the project workers and those who seek justice. Pray that our culture will turn from this evil. Pray for the offenders, for they will answer to Almighty God. Finally, pray how God might use you to help in this work. One person can’t do everything, but one can do something. Together, God can move mountains through us. With funding, my shelter can rescue, restore, and educate these precious girls. Like me, they’ll educate others and effect change. For these girls, I stand tall.

*This story is fictitious as told from Agraciana’s point of view; however, the circumstantial happenings are not. I gathered most of my information from the documentary, Half the Sky. Sex trafficking is a horrible reality in many places of the world.

Want to help and make the most impact in a situation like this? What if one hundred percent (100%) of your donation went directly to those in need? Wellspring International is an arm of Ravi Zacharais International Ministries. Ravi is a well known International speaker and defender of the Christian Faith. Administered by Ravi’s daughter Naomi Zacharais, Wellspring covers their own expenses, investigates all requests for funds thoroughly, often going to the location. They do the research so you can be confident that your money goes where you want it to. One Hundred Percent (100%) of your money goes to help women and children in crisis. Here is Wellspring’s website:  http://www.wellspringinternational.org

These two videos, (not connected to Wellspring), help put our hearts in the right place:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0L7NH48BWE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0njTvTpOBSA

Don’t Forget Your Helmet

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“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Ephesians 6:17.

Satan wants us to doubt God, Jesus, and our salvation. The helmet protects our minds from doubting God’s saving work for us through His Son, Jesus.

My boys often think they are invincible. With only a skiff of snow and being near their school, they think gym shorts are suitable for watching basketball games. “All the kids do it, Mom. Besides, the gym’s hot.”

“It’s below freezing. And if you get stuck outside you’re asking for frostbite!” My reasoning settles in their minds like snow flurries in the wind. Time to switch tactics. This time I put on my Commander hat.

“You will wear your jeans and your coat. NO shorts.” My battle ready stance tells them I’m not backing down. After a few grunts and rolling eyes, they comply.

God often uses my children to drive home a point. How many times do I react like my kids to God’s instruction? How often do I skim over a Bible passage while my mind is distracted with daily tasks? Or I’ll read, ponder it, but then fail to apply it throughout the day. Like my boys, do I wave it off by reasoning: I’ll be fine … everyone else does it (or isn’t doing it)?

Ephesians 6:10-18 commands us to put on God’s armor. Like a parent who knows what’s best, Paul illustrates how we can be strong in the Lord so we won’t get knocked over by the devil’s schemes. Four times, he writes “stand firm.” Why? God shows us our struggle is not against people, but against the spiritual forces of evil, (vs. 12).

Don’t neglect wearing your helmet of belief, for “whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son,” John 3:18b.

Do you have any additional thoughts about God’s armor, (Ephesians 6:13-17)?

Bad News, Good News

Care to join me for a steaming latte? It’s 12 degrees fahrenheit in my neck of the woods. Brrr. Reason enough to enjoy the crackling fire with a hot drink within reach.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, God’s first call in our lives deals with salvation. In fact, most of the Bible centers around John 3:16 (NIV), “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The word salvation appears 164 times in the Bible. According to Strong’s Concordance, salvation is “mattâth” in Hebrew and Aramaic, which means “a present: ― gift; reward.” The Greek translation “soteria” means “rescue or safety.”

Salvation can be summarized as follows: deliverance from the power or penalty of sin.

Whose sin? Both yours and mine. We’ve all done wrong things and failed to obey God’s laws (Romans 3:23; 5:12).

The result? Separation from holy God, our Creator. This separation―the penalty of our sin―is eternal death (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:10-15). Our best efforts–moralism–fall short in our attempts to unite with God (Isaiah 64:6). That’s the bad news.

The good news: Jesus–God’s unique Son–never sinned (Hebrews 5:9). He alone bridged the gap between sinless God and sinful mankind when He freely died on the cross (1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 John 5:9-12). He took our place in order to save us from sin’s consequences―including God’s judgment and death (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 5:8-11).

The result? We can have new life because Jesus took our past, present, and future sins upon Himself, forgiving all our wrongdoing (Hebrews 10:5-18). Thus, He reconciles us to God (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 10:19-22). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the proof that His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross was acceptable to God. His resurrection has become the source of new life for whoever believes Jesus is the Son of God (John 11:25; Romans 10:9). He grants eternal life, giving union with God to those who believe and receive Him (Ephesians 2:4-7; John 1:12).

Do you believe Jesus is God’s Son? If so, have you confessed your sins to Him and asked Him for the gift of eternal life and forgiveness?

*This article is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC at http://bit.ly/17RG5UK.

God’s Call

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Wouldn’t it be nice to receive a phone call from God–advising you where to live, whether you should work outside of the home, whether you should marry or remain single, etc.? Although God doesn’t speak audibly to us these days, He doesn’t hide His will for our lives either. This is found in God’s eternal Word, the Bible (Psalm 119:89, 105).

(This post article is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC at http://bit.ly/13Lnbwt.)

Hebrews 4:12 says, “the word of God is living and active.” The Bible isn’t simply a collection of words. It is life-changing through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. In a searching, sincere heart, God’s Word spurs on faith. It penetrates to the core of our moral and spiritual life.

The Greek word of “called” is kletos. This means: invited, ie. appointed. We are invited to participate in God’s plan.

Knowing God’s general will leads to knowing His specific will for our lives. What does God call us to?

  • SALVATION
  • SANCTIFICATION
  • SERVICE
  • ACCOUNTABILITY

The call in God’s Word isn’t a light matter, it requires decisions. God’s work in a person’s life requires a demonstration of trust in His character and promises. His call often brings discomfort at first. Just as an athlete must train if she wants to win, likewise God’s call pushes us spiritually. But we will be the better for it, not only now, but for eternity. And, His rewards are unrivaled.

My next post will center on salvation.

Food for thought:

  • Do you believe in a heaven and hell? If so, where will you go? Why?
  • If you died today and stood before God, and He asked you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say?  

Day Three of 2013

Mmm…sparkling red grape juice cocktail. This sweet bubbly, packaged in red with white confetti, reminds me it’s New Year’s. Congrats, we’ve reached 2013! I’m so glad to meet you at this intersection. Life certainly is an adventure―twists, turns, detours and all.

The following sums up my “Out” and “In” list.

Out with: worn socks; stained pillows; spoiled food in the fridge; cluttered drawers; stacks of magazines; VHS tapes; clothes I haven’t worn in a year; my lime green kitchen sink (strange, but I hardly think about it anymore, at least not as often as when my husband and three children moved into our 1968 ranch style home seven years ago—I even have a quaint, little teapot that matches—hmm, not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse); excess sugar and fat (belly fat); gray, frizzy hairs―oops, now you know I’m forty­-something; kids who talk back; and flu germs. I promise not to send virtual germs, although they are virtually everywhere.

In with: good health; excellent physical condition; clean, organized home and clothes; lavender scented bedding and pillows; kids who appreciate menial household tasks; delicious low-fat meals; a larger kitchen table (maybe I’ll take that before my new sink); sleek, shiny hair; learning two new art skills: blogging and outdoor photography; and two new husband relational skills: dirt biking and mechanics.

Alright, you have me pegged. I’m an idealist. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to God. He’s perfect in every way, unlike me and my current condition. And I wonder, why or how God might use ordinary me?

My seven year-old helped take down Christmas ornaments. They’re strewn across the living room. Our kitchen faucet decided to spring a leak today, probably because I fixed a big breakfast with lots of dishes, which are soaking in the laundry room’s sink. My laundry pile is competing with my dish pile as I struggle to keep up with exterminating my husband’s and kids’ flu germs. And, my head feels full. I still declare: “I will not get sick!”

Yes, I’ve posted two days past my intended date. But it’s okay. I’m learning to loosen my grip on my ideals: me, family, dream home, etc. When I invest my time to read the Bible, God meets me there. His truth and presence bring rest and newness of life. I’m reminded God is not only extraordinary, but He also never grows weary. He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11). I’m reminded the army of angels’ Commander stands in front, behind, and beside me (Psalm 139).

I love 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he [she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Okay, drawing near to God through prayer and Bible reading is my number one priority. Thanks for reading and allowing me to sort that out.

As you sort through your “In’s,” “Out’s,” “Up’s,” and “Down’s,” I pray you’ll find time to communicate with our Creator. May you find refreshment and fulfillment this New Year. I hope we can share our journeys together as I plan to post updates weekly.

Blessings,

K.D.