The End: Day 5 of Broken Hearted

It was graduation day for the children who had gone through the anti-trafficking day camp. The administrator says, “This is a big deal. We want to have lots of their family there. We want community leaders to be involved. We want the kids to realize that they have been empowered and that it is a really big deal!” Then…nothing. No planning, no delegation of details, no meeting to say what will be done and by whom.

I was told that  s’mores would be good. I told the teacher, administrator and the teacher’s husband that I would be happy to get the supplies for s’mores if he would bring the fire to roast them. All 3 said that would be great. He said he’d be in charge of the roasting. I said I would bring a knife to make sticks for the roasting. The graduation was going to be under a picnic pavilion in the woods behind the church.

I said I would make bouquets of wild flowers for the tables and cover the tables with plastic cloths and bring the leftover paper plates, napkins and cups I had from the last graduation. I came an hour early and began to decorate. IMG_2638 The picnic pavilion turned into an elegant setting with a graduation feel to it. I laid out the s’more fixings and placed the weighted balloons. I had bought enough balloons so that each graduate could take one home. I sat alone waiting for people to arrive. The administrator came first. She did not say anything about the setting. She brought the punch and a pan of brownies. We made small talk.

About exactly on the hour, a car drove up and 2 of the girls came running up. There were no parents. They told me they were supposed to call when it was over and their parent would come pick them up! Really?

I had the wings the kids made in the trunk of my car. I asked the administrator if I should get them out. I don’t remember what she said, but I opened the trunk of my car so the kids could grab them on cue from the teacher/administrator. There was no plan to the program so who knew when or if they’d be needed.

The teacher and her husband came right on the hour – with no charcoal for grill. There would be no s’mores that night. There was one parent there and two of the children had not shown up at all. I asked the kids to sit in a row facing the one mother who came and all of us helpers surrounded her to make an audience. The administrator began to ask the kids what they learned this week. They did not talk. The administrator assured the mother they did learn something, but “You know, that’s how kids are. If they don’t want to talk, they won’t.” She had the game helper play a game with them. I told the kids to put on their wings to play the game. Once that was over, the administrator handed out their graduation certificates (once she found them) and that was that. Silently, I thanked the Lord that more parents were not there.

The teen helper picked up the balloons to rip them off the weight they were on. I told her to use the scissors I had brought and that were laying near them to cut them apart making sure everyone got one. I went to gather up my unused groceries and started to dismantle the decorations. When I made my first trip to the car, the teacher asked me if I was leaving. I turned to her and said, “No, I was the first one to come, and I will be the last one to leave. I have to take all of this down.”

On my way back to the picnic area from leaving off the first load of decorations in my car, I witnessed a horrible sight. The kids were standing in a circle destroying the mylar graduation balloons. I lost it. The tears started streaming from my eyes. I couldn’t help it. IMG_2650.jpg

The beautiful mylar balloons were being pressed till they popped, trampled and punched. The strings were pulled from them and they were laying all over the grass. The ones in the picture here are the 4 I rescued and quickly put in my car and took home. It is almost a week since the graduation and they are still fresh and lovely (in my bedroom). I couldn’t speak, I was too upset. I finished dismantling each table. Two of the children began to help me. They could see what the adults could not, and they were sorry.  I told the administrator that I could no longer help with their program.

That is the end of the story. I saw the administrator yesterday to return all the leftover craft materials and supplies I hadn’t used. She didn’t understand why I was so upset. I don’t understand why she doesn’t understand. I will continue to work the Born 2 Fly program. I just need a different team. I reminded the administrator that that was her vision: 50 – 100 programs all over our county. I would be her first offshoot.

The end is the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sacrifice: Day 4 of Broken Hearted

This is the fourth day of a series entitle “Broken Hearted”. If you missed the first 3 days, you can catch up by clicking the link. My heart broke teaching teen and elementary-aged girls strategies to avert child predators should they make advances into their young lives. On this particular day the students were to draw an oval in the middle of a piece of letter-sized paper and make a frame out of 1 – 2-inch bits of brown yarn by gluing the piles of cut yarn to the paper to look like a frame made out of twigs.

Once the yarn frame was completed each girl was to draw people they could trust into the frame. This was someone they could tell if someone were making advance on them that made them feel uncomfortable. The teachers talked to them about situations in which that could occur and how feelings that something is not right need to be heeded shared with a trusted adult they believe can help them.

The girls worked for the better part of a half hour. At one point, the teacher noted that yarnone 11-year-old had no one in the center of her picture. She was asked who she was going to put there. She said, “I have no one to put there. There is no one I know who would believe me. Everything I do is wrong in my home. My step-mother never has anything good to say. I am new here so I have no friends.” Much to my shock the teacher said, “It’s ok if you have no one. Sometimes that is the case.” Really?

Everyone else had figures drawn into her circles and they were asked to share who was in their frames if they wanted to do so. Another 11-year-old had 3 people drawn in her oval. She explained, “These are my imaginary friends. I talk to them when I have problems.” There was no real person she could talk to so she made up a group. The teacher said, “How creative!”

Those of us who were activity leaders waited for a good debriefing of this HUGE elephant in the room, but it was not addressed. Rather, the teacher and administrator turned to us and said, “I think it would be a good time to transition to games now.” I was beyond mortified! Young people without anyone to talk to are the very ones traffickers choose and groom!

I took the girls to make butterfly wings. While painting fabric, we talked. Each girl was told they could call one of the leaders if they ever got themselves in a situation where they needed to call someone for help. The other activities leader made a list of leader phone numbers and they were posted in the cover of each of the girls’ journals. The one young woman who was leading games is working on her Master’s degree in Psychology. She said imaginary friends at this age could be the beginning of a dissociative disorder. Certainly the girl with no one in her oval frame is at high risk for any number of unhealthy situations. Feeling like one does “not belong” is the number one reason kids get into trouble. My doctoral dissertation was entitled “Intimacy as a Lived Experience of Health”. If children cannot name one person who cares if they live or die, they form alliances in very unhealthy ways: through gangs, traffickers, pedophiles, youth armies and crime rings. Love and belonging are fundamental needs. There is always a manipulative person willing to offer them a cheap substitute–for a price.

My heart was broken. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17 I know this is a bit of a twist on what this verse intends, but it speaks to me this morning about the sacrifice involved in giving oneself up for others.

The end –  tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

In Our Cell – Day 3 of Broken Hearted

This blog is the third in a series about a tough week I had as a helper for two consecutive Born 2 Fly day camps teaching teen and elementary girls human trafficking prevention strategies. From my perspective, the weeks did not go well and I am writing to try to figure out why in my mind.

The second day after we dismissed the teens, one of the girls’ aunts picked her up to take her home instead of her mother. I said to the director that this was something I hadn’t thought of. Perhaps we need a password so people cannot have the child unless they know the password. At the very least we should have a permission slip with a list of the people the primary guardian says her child can go home with. The director said she felt this was not needed and dismissed the idea even though I had brought a copy of such a permission from another agency for ease of use in our program.

This was one example of the many administrative oversights I witnessed during the preparation phase and subsequent pilot of the program. The director came 3 days out of the 5 each session. She had to be away 2 days every week to work, and when she was at the Born 2 Fly sessions, she was always on her cell phone. “I’m multi-tasking,” she’d say. The teen helper had her cell phone, too. Many times during the course of an activity she’d be in the corner of the room texting her boyfriend instead of helping the children. Because the director and the lead teacher used their phones all the time, they did not see why it was a problem allowing the teen helpers to use theirs.

A fellow adult activities helper noticed the disruption of the cell phones, as well. She told me that when she would do a corporate meeting, she would have a basket at the entrance to the meeting and tell everyone to put the phone in the basket until after the meeting. If they did not feel comfortable doing that, they could keep them with them, but if anyone answered their phones during the meeting, they had to give her $20.00, which, she told them, she’d send to their favorite charity. Wise woman!

One thing I have learned about traffickers: they focus – intently. They do not pickWatching children at random. They scout out for an “easy” child. They will sit in one location and learn the patterns of that location. They will watch for children alone, for those who exhibit behaviors of low self-esteem and for those who can be easily manipulated. They will select a child and watch them over weeks, months until they know each and every nuance of the child. They will know that child’s triggers and vulnerabilities, and then, they make their move to befriend that child. This “phase” of the grooming may take another long period of time, but that is of no consequence to the trafficker. He is shoring up his cash cow.

Contrast this with an anti-trafficking educator who cannot “be with” her class of children for a full week, and, when present, keeps disrupting her conversations/activities with them to answer her phone. We helpers made many significant connections with the children during activities and conversations we had throughout the days, but they could not be built upon because the leaders missed them. Tomorrow I will share the most significant miss. It will break your heart.

 

 

 

The Waste Can: Day 2 of Broken Hearted

Waste CanIt all began with a waste can. The teacher had just completed the anti-trafficking lesson from Born 2 Fly on how all choices have consequences and how to make right choices. There were 5 children in the class with 2 teen-aged helpers who had gone through the class the week before and were taking turns telling the story and practice-teaching. Craft time came next. Crafts were choreographed to complement the lesson. I expected the teen teachers to ready the tables for the craft, to help students gather their materials for the craft and to help those who may need help with scissors or using the glue gun during the craft, and, at the end, clean up after the crafting was over. Instead, the teens sat down to do the craft, too. An adult would, once in awhile, tell them to do something, but most of the time they would craft. They would switch back and forth between being a student again and taking responsibility for the lessons. As I look back on it now, this was the beginning of what was to become, for me, a big problem. Their role had not been defined from the beginning and the lack of boundaries confused them. Lack of boundaries makes it easy for traffickers, they have nothing to break down to get a child to do what they want them to do. This was a big miss-step on the part of our team.

After craft time, scraps of paper had to be cleared away and taken to the trash. One of the oldest elementary-aged kids gathered her trash up herself and took it to the waste can which was clear across the big social hall of the church where we were meeting. I said to her, “Good job! Please bring the waste can across the social hall so it is close to the craft table and then everyone will not have to walk as far as you just did.” She shook her head “no” and said, “I’m not doing that!” I stood up to talk to her about it and the head teacher and director of the program both got up after the girl returned to the craft table and pulled the waste can to the craft table themselves.

I met them halfway across the social hall as if to say, “You are going to let her get away with that?” The director said, “We can’t insist. She didn’t want to come to this and her mother made her come. We just need to love her.” I said, “What she did was completely disrespectful, I would not let her go on this one. This is the first day, and you get your best behavior on the first day. If you don’t correct this, it will only get worse, but I defer to you. You are the minister and the director…”

The girl came back the next day. Her mother said she had a great time. She had learned a lot her mother said. She had not learned respect and boundaries, though, as we went into day 2. Day 2…tomorrow.

If you were not here yesterday, this is the second installment of a series I am doing about my experience helping coordinate 2 pilot sessions of Born 2 Fly anti-trafficking day camps this summer in my hometown. I type here to deconstruct what happened during this heart wrenching week for me. Thanks for leaving your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken-hearted

The last time I began to blog regularly I had gotten fired from my job. I needed to write my thoughts to get it all sorted out. I was walking my dogs this morning with a broken heart and I realized I should open my blog and type a bit. I think it may help.

I have been reading stories about human trafficking since the early 90’s. I am a firm supporter of International Justice Mission (IJM) and tried to keep up with the latest news from those working in the field. Lately, the news about human trafficking has escalated exponentially and I went to hear a young woman in her late twenties speak about her 2 years being trafficked from ages 8 to 10. She would get off the school bus and immediately go to the park near her apartment. Her mother was at work. One day a man moved into an apartment near the park and began to groom her to deliver sexual favors to clients.

Born2FlyWhat I was hearing and reading was overwhelming. I wanted to do something about it. That is when my sister, who is a church secretary, sent me an e-mail she thought I’d be interested in. The person wanted to bring a sex-trafficking prevention program to teen and elementary-aged girls in our county. My sister was right. I was very interested. I made contact right away and became part of a 5-woman team to set up a Born 2 Fly  prevention program in our country.

This was the beginning…

Hate Didn’t Elect Donald Trump; People Did

I am reblogging this because this needs to be read by everyone. It is well thought out and well-written. Tori also leaves links for further perusal. This is quite excellent on all levels. Let me know what you think.

Also, I’d like to add that Trump was not elected by whites males. The while male vote was only up 1% from Romney’s numbers. Black votes were up 5% and Hispanic votes were up 7% from Romney’s numbers. Race played a role but it wasn’t negative. Thank you my sisters and brothers.

Tori's Thought Bubble

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Over the summer, my little sister had a soccer tournament at Bloomsburg University, located in central Pennsylvania. The drive there was about three hours and many of the towns we drove through shocked me. The conditions of these towns were terrible. Houses were falling apart. Bars and restaurants were boarded up. Scrap metal was thrown across front lawns. White, plastic lawn chairs were out on the drooping front porches. There were no malls. No outlets. Most of these small towns did not have a Walmart, only a dollar store and a few run down thrift stores. In almost every town, there was an abandoned factory.

My father, who was driving the car, turned to me and pointed out a Trump sign stuck in a front yard, surrounded by weeds and dead grass. “This is Trump country, Tori,” He said. “These people are desperate, trapped for life in these small towns…

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I wrote about Max and Beth to defend Christian Trump supporters

Mario Murillo speaks for me. I reblog it for you.

Mario Murillo Ministries

I wrote about Max and Beth to defend Christian Trump supporters

By Mario Murillo

As I write you, 50,000 people have read the blog that mentioned Max Lucado and Beth Moore. Today I want to clear the air about why that happened.

For me to mention the name of a fellow minister is like getting a root canal.  I only do it when all other remedies have been exhausted.  We are family.  We are all on the same team.  Christian unity is a witness to a dying world.

So then why did I put out the blog?  I did it to defend Christians who are going to vote for Trump.

Whether Max and Beth intended it or not, their remarks had the effect—I am being delicate and kind here—of questioning Christians who support Trump.

Max openly wondered how any Evangelical could follow Donald.

Beth did the same to Christian men…

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Leveling the Playing Field

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Politics seems to pervade every segment of American life this election year. There are two very extreme philosophies coming from the two dominant political parties in America. The one party wants a government-mandated redistribution of wealth so that all live on the same playing field. The other party wants everyone to have a chance at doing the best they can for themselves so that the playing field is naturally leveled by their own efforts. Jesus would certainly agree with both parties that the poor need help. He was very clear about that. He cares deeply for the orphan, the widow, the misplaced and the oppressed. That is why He calls those of us who have more to take action and He modeled the action.

Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT) Though He was God, He did not think that equality with God was something to cling to. Instead He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

He came to earth in the womb of a vulnerable teenage girl who was suspected of betraying manger-crossher betrothed and was birthed in a stable because there were no rooms available for a human baby. It occurred to me that Jesus became poor to show us how to be poor. He showed us how much it may cost to accomplish His will on the earth. He experienced everything a poor person in society experiences and He did not let it stop Him. He did what God asked Him to do even when it became increasingly unpopular, even when it caused His death.

God’s word is clear that the way up is down, that we stand best when we are on our knees, that in humility we are a formidable presence. He modeled that. What does that mean for a Christian on the eve of a very serious presidential election? Seriously, let’s seek Him and do what He calls us to do.

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Dawn

 

 

 

Fruit Flies and the American Presidency

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This morning at breakfast, my husband and I were reading Jeremiah 25:

You would not listen to me, says the Lord. You made me furious by worshiping your idols, bringing on yourselves all the disasters you now suffer. And now the Lord Almighty says: Because you have not listened to me, I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy.

Whoa! My husband and I looked at each other when we read that last phrase “whom I have appointed as my deputy.” The ungodly, arrogant, self-centered  Nebuchadnezzar was God’s deputy.

Evangelical Christians are at a loss as to what to do about voting in this upcoming election. Neither candidate has a life of integrity. Neither is a Bible thumper. Either one could be Nebuchadnezzar or the president whom God’s Nebuchadnezzar will come against. America is in sad shape. She has turned her back on the Lord and, though warned repeatedly to do so, American people do not turn from the evil road we are traveling or from the evil things we are doing. God will restore America if she is repentant, but she is not. I can’t help but think that the judgment slated for Judah may foreshadow America’s future.

I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever. I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your businesses will fail, and all your homes will stand silent and dark. This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. Jeremiah 25:9-11

fruitflies Priscilla Shirer in her book “The Armour of God” uses the fruit fly as an analogy for satan and his minions. Fruit flies don’t need an invitation to invade your house. All they need is an environment conducive for them and they invite themselves in. Rotten fruit is their opportunity. In the same way, satan and his minions cluster around the unrighteous environment that is America. They see our mess as their opportunity to push their way right in and take over. No wonder we do not have a clear choice in a presidential candidate! Satan has free reign in our country.

My son asked me the other day what God had to do with the election. I sent him to Romans 13:1. “Obey the government for God is the One Who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God.” God has everything to do with everything. We need truth to know what is the right thing to do. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:17 Without it, we cannot walk in righteousness. We cannot do what is right. Indeed, we cannot even know right living. Truth comes from the Lord. We need a righteous leader. You cannot guide someone from a framework of error and expect right results.

I think a lot about what the Lord might have in store for America. I can’t dismiss the idea that He may have an evil fruit fly named Nebuchadnezzar in the wings. [No pun intended!]

 

 

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Glory: Light We Cannot See

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My husband and I are reading John Owen’s “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” and we were reading a bit in Chapter 12 today about how little mankind can really know God.

Owen writes, “We speak much of God, can talk of Him, His ways, His works, His counsels, all the day long; the truth is, we know very little of Him. Our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of Him are low, many of them unworthy of His glory, none of them reaching His perfections.” *Owen, p. 111

Moses was said to have seen God, but only His “hind parts” for God said he could not see His glory and live (Exdous 34). What is this glory? God describes Himself as invisible, incomprehensible, immortal, infinite. “Who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen, nor can see.” (I Timothy 6:16).

His light is such as no creature can approach unto. He is not seen, not because He cannot be seen, but because we cannot bear the sight of Him. The light of God, in Whom is no darkness, forbids all access to Him by any creature whatsoever. We who cannot behold the sun in it glory are too weak to bear the beams of infinite brightness. On this consideration, as was said, the wise man professes himself “a very beast, and not to have the understanding of a man” (Prov 30:2)–that is , he knew nothing in comparison of God, so that he seemed to have lost all his understanding when once he came to the consideration of Him, His work, and His ways.   *Owen, p.114.

As I read these words of this 17th century scholar, suddenly it occurred to me that perhaps this is how God is: with me all the time, yet I can’t see Him. He is right beside me, but He is on a spectrum of light outside my ability to see. God made me finite, and, as such, I have eyes that can only see a part of the visual field He created. There are many other wavelengths of light, I just cannot see them. Perhaps that is where He is: on a wavelength I cannot perceive. Why would this be? I can only guess that, once the fall happened, I became damaged goods and my sin nature could not bear the glory: the full spectrum of light where God has His being. He had to keep me from this light to save me. As He said to Moses, “…no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:20

Instead of coming to me as God, He came to me in a way I could understand. He took on flesh. He became Jesus. He walked on the earth. That I could understand. Love will do this: bend low to capture another. Jesus is now with the Father and both are spirit, but, because of Jesus, I can learn how to walk on this earth as He did. It is Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27).

*Kapic, K & Taylor, J. Eds. (2006). Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Pondering today,

Dawn