Tag Archives: culture

Go and Do

Things are about to get craycray round here!

In 6days150hours9276minutes556500seconds [and counting] the World Cup hits the stadiums in Brazil. Our fam has been counting down to June 12, 2014 since the last World Cup!

You can feel the intensifying anticipation and excitement, as store shelves are lined with noisemakers, crazy hats, jerseys, fireworks, and all sorts of green and yellow. This country pretty much shuts down in order to live up their World Cup games! Literally…grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, banks, post offices…shut down. Even schools are dismissing a month early, in order not to disrupt the games with studies. Last time we were in Brazil for the World Cup, our flight was delayed (ironically, until after the game ended).

I have been so preoccupied with teaching long division and conjugating 501 portuguese verbs that I almost forgot…
Then THIS happened! Scrolling through news, I come across “it’s a penalty” campaign.
That familiar lump in my throat and pit in my stomach returned
…as I remembered.

While the rest of the country enjoys a day off from work and school to watch the World Cup, there are an estimated 250THOUSAND children engulfed in prostitution, bound by drug addiction.

While we gather with friends and family to cheer on our team, innocent children are forced to sell their bodies every night for the price of a cup of coffee.

While we tuck our children in all comfy cozy, other mommas feel the constant sting of wondering where their children are, and how, and with whom.

I don’t think you need convinced what a real-life nightmare this is.
You know this is not a modern-day “Pretty Woman” fairytale, where the girl is treated with dignity and respect and shopping sprees. It’s real. And it’s devastating.

There are estimated 29.8 million slaves in the world today. |Source
Human trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery. |Source
About 70 percent of individuals trafficked internationally are female, about 50 percent are children. |Source

This is nothing new. It’s not just Brazil. It’s not just the World Cup.
It’s just that now there is no way for this tragedy to avoid the spotlight.
It’s allover the news.

Last June during the Confederations Cup in Brazil, underage prostitutes and street children were swept up by police and taken to a shelter outside of town. But after the tournament was over, they were turned loose. Police refused to speak with CNN for this report. “They aren’t worried about these children growing up in a healthy environment, with jobs and housing, health and education. They’re worried about hiding them.” |Source

Up to half a million children as young as 11 are abused with the consent of their families, and pimped out to tourists or truck drivers. Brazil’s government has launched a new drive to remind visitors that child prostitution is illegal, but tourists are rarely prosecuted for having sex with minors. |Source

“These girls come from extreme poverty, a culture of social exclusion and a tradition of profound disrespect for women,” says Antonia Lima Sousa, a state prosecutor. She says the desperation is so great, some parents even put their own children on the street. |Source

The desperation is so great.
So great that Rose was forced to sell herself for sex on the main streets of Recife, a city in poorer north east Brazil, late at night outside a motel with a group of other very young girls dressed up to look older than they were. Rose was 11 years old when her mother sent her to the streets to beg for money because there was no food at home in the favela where they lived. On the streets Rose, like other street children, was vulnerable to the pimps and soon became a victim of the child sex trade. Her clients came from Europe, America and Africa as well as from Brazil. By the age of 16 she had given birth to two babies who she had given to her mother to look after in the favela. Rose had to keep on ‘working’ to provide money for her family. She had lost all sense of self-worth. As night fell her pimp expected her to sleep with as many clients as possible to make as much money for him as possible. Rose was a silent voice in a world that couldn’t hear her cry for help. She had no hope, no future and knew no other way of earning a living. |Source

That’s what desperation does. It doesn’t think down the road. It only feels in the moment, the empty pit and knows no limit to fill it. Child prostitution is the tragic result of a greater problem. If you take the girls off the streets, it doesn’t solve the problem of how did they end up there. And thus, an international event given the chance to showcase a nation’s stunning features is showing its devastating flaws. And really, this could be a very good thing. Giving a voice and shedding the light on what has been kept silent in the dark for way too long. We don’t have to read much for our stomach to churn over this. It’s disturbing!

What if it were…my son?? daughter? sister? neighbor? friend? you?
The thing is she is…someone’s daughter, sister, neighbor, friend, someone!
Precious soul created with the ability to laugh from her belly and love from her heart.
Knit together with a voice to sing and joints to dance.

We don’t have to imagine how the Creator feels about those who mess with His creation.
He has made it very clear: If you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.|Matthew 18.6
Judgement is coming.
The wrath of God will be poured out upon those who lead His little ones astray.
I’ve been asking this question for months. I mean, what can a mother of 3 like me do? Really?Really. I don’t know where this will go, but here’s a start.

You must love the LORD your God with all your heart,
all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.
AND Love your neighbor as yourself. |
Luke 10.27 

Jesus talked about a man alongside the road who had been beaten, bruised, left for dead. Some people stumbled on the scene…good people, best of the best, neighbors and priests. But they just didn’t have the time of day to help. So, they passed by, pretended like they didn’t see.
Then along comes a foreigner. An outsider. An outcast. The most unlikely hero. He wasn’t the most qualified. He simply was the one who took the time to care. The one who showed mercy. Jesus said “now go and do the same.” |Luke 10.37

I just love hearing stories of people going and doing! People who won’t look away. This world is a better place when good people take the time to notice. stop. care. help. When they refuse to simply pass by, pretend like they don’t see. But stop and do something! 

– British Airways will be airing this video on all flights to Brazil during the World Cup to raise awareness.
– Nuns will be passing out pamphlets at airports and key tourist areas to encourage people to report suspected child prostitution or enslavement. |Source
– German authorities have established a website “nicht wegsehen” [translation: don’t look away]. On the website witnesses can fill out where and when they saw what offense. German authorities are allowed to investigate German perpetrators once they return home, even if the criminal act occurred in a foreign country. |Source
Happy Child International works to not only rescue kids from the streets of Brazil, but rehabilitate and reintegrate them back into families and communities.

Awareness of the crime of human trafficking is the first step to eradicating modern slavery. |Source

You may one day stumble upon someone along the road who needs your help. You may one day be in a position to spare a young child from a life of torture and pain. In case…write down these numbers. Put them in your phone. If you see something, say something!

There is nothing the criminals involved in the modern-day atrocities of human trafficking and slavery [the recruiters, the traffickers, the pimps and others] want more than for decent people to remain ignorant about what they do. All they ask is that we do nothing. Simple silence. If the myth that “it doesn’t happen here” can prevail, they have won. |Source

In US, call 1-888-3737-888 [National Human Trafficking Resource Center] to report a suspicious situation that may involve the prostitution of children.
In Brasil, call 100 from a Brazilian line. The call is completely free from any local or public telephone in Brazil and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, 
“Yes, now go and do the same.” |Luke 10.36-37

Mercy may take different forms according to another’s need and our ability.
But the moral of the story is now go and do the same.


Miss ‘Merica

I squeezed 6 Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Via packets into my suitcase to pull out on those “I miss America” days. Almost 3 months into our life here in Brazil, and I just opened my 2nd packet.
That’s pretty good!

As I sip on this instant pumpkin spice latte, that is really hardly anything like a pumpkin spice latte. But the longer it goes between now and my last “real” pumpkin spice latte, it doesn’t matter – it’s a fragrant and delicious taste of the freedom of driving myself to a Starbucks and ordering my own cup of coffee without the baristas straining their ears to understand the words coming out of my mouth.
As I sip on this instant pumpkin spice latte, 2 lists emerged.
What I miss. What I don’t.

The “what I miss” list will probably get added to randomly…when all of a sudden I remember there’s a vegetable out there called celery and how good it would taste with peanut butter. Right now!

During this adaptation to living overseas process, we can wake up feeling like “something just isn’t right about my day…oh yeah, it’s because EVERYTHING has changed.” But when I really started to boil it down, it was surprisingly fun and therapeutic to encapsulate what it is we truly miss.

Of course, we miss friends who have become family. Family who are our friends.
I would trade this whole list to have any of them here. But *besides* that…

I miss:
Tortilla chips.
Spaghetti squash.
Grocery stores having what you need. or want. or what they usually have.
Being able to talk to the lady who is cutting my hair.
People praying in English.
Life group.
Dropping my kids off at school. (Really, just the few hours of quiet.)
“Alone” time (I did just start to drive here!! Still don’t feel comfortable driving anywhere by myself until I can communicate better. But it’s a step!!)
Joann Fabrics.
Modern conveniences: dishwasher, dryer, crockpot, mac and cheese in a box.
Not rationing out my Tazo Zen tea bags, or KIND granola bars.
Feeling capable {insert… to hold a conversation, to order coffee, to take my kids to the dr.}
Letting our kids be kids in public and not having to hush their English (for safety reasons).
Watching the Olympics.

But! That’s not all!!
As I started to pen on paper what it is we miss, a different list came with it: what we don’t miss!
No doubt because of many prayers for our sustaining grace and our resolve to love it here.

I don’t miss:
Texting…maybe it’s more the “What to do when I’m making dinner, or reading to my kids, or talking with my husband, or having quiet time, and someone else enters into the moment…should I pause and write them back now, or write them later…can the world really wait?”
The speed at which is normal life as a mom in America.
All the peripherals that kept me from my priorities.
Needing to be places on time.
Wondering how my kids are during the day.
Missing them.
Having to plan out my week to see people. I love that people just stop by!
Flatlands. I really really really like looking out at the mountains.
Driving in snow.
Chapped lips.
Fruits and vegetables from the grocery that don’t taste like real fruits and vegetables.
Wondering if we are where we are supposed to be.

I really love seeing Andre do what he was made to do.
I love getting to know the students and needing to learn Portuguese.
I love that our kids are growing up with a bigger worldview.
I love to hear their gasps from the backseat when we pass a house that is barely more than cardboard and plastic.
I love that they understand now what abandoned children are, and ask when can we adopt some.
I love picking them up from Sunday School, and they share about their class in Portuguese.
I love that we met the pastor of a church on Saturday, and when he heard Andy worked in a church in the US, he asked him to preach the next day.
I love that when we visited the church the next day, he said “Is that pastor from the US here? Could he come up and pray for this man?” LOVE THAT!!
I love not caring that I wore this shirt twice already this week.
I love that I wrote tortilla chips on the top of my “MISS” list, and the next day we went to the grocery and they had TORTILLA CHIPS!
I love seeing the simple ways the Lord cares for us.
I love feeling sustained by Him.
I love no longer wondering if we are where we are supposed to be.

We’re here.
While we may miss ‘Merica, there is much to love here.
So, I might as well sip on this quasi-pumpkin spice latte and focus on that 🙂

Note to Self

24 days until we board that plane! Which brings all sorts of excited, nervous, teary butterflies.
For a few months, I’ve been praying about how to keep perspective when culture shock hits. Somewhere in there, a note to self was started. It has been in process for awhile. But it’s big enough on my heart that I would love to hear your insight as well!

I would like to be an idealist. I can do a really good job at ignoring reality. Like right now, I am relaxing at our dining room table while someone drills through our concrete walls downstairs. The crazy thing is I hadn’t even noticed how ridiculously loud it is until Andy decided to meet someone outside because we can barely hear each other speak. Perhaps it’s the effect of having 3 lively boys, but I’ve gotten used to tuning out inconsequential noises (you know..farting sounds, mild squabbling, elephants dancing to Toby Mac in their room upstairs, drilling through concrete walls below me).

But when it comes to moving overseas, I am more of a realist.
I will do my best to block out how ridiculously-loud cultural differences can be, to relax and embrace and adore. To laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31). But let’s face it, culture shock can be fierce. We have read enough about what happens when well-meaning Americans make their home among a completely-different set of rules. Tragically, we have sat with dear friends and have seen and heard its effects. The outrageous stress levels it created. The havoc it wreaked on their marriage. The destruction it brought to friendships.
It’s been enough to know we will probably not be an exception.
Missionaries can get funky.
In other words, we may get funky.
And when we do…

Dear future funky self,

  1. Remember it’s not about you.
    If it were, Lord help us all! Considering all that has passed and all that is to come, your life is such a microscopic part. An itsy-bitsy seed in the middle of all of the fields in this world. And you could choose to spend these days in a way that seems “easier”–a place that has hot water or seems “safer” or speaks English. Or, you can think beyond your personal comforts. That maybe, just maybe, God would use your minuscule seed of a life planted in a foreign field, dying to yourself, to reap a harvest of worshipers. That His grace may be made known in a land it has yet to be sown. Isn’t that what this life is about? However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20.24).
  2. Remember why you are there.
    You didn’t leave to escape to a better life. You left because you could no longer sit comfortably on that brown leather chair next to your fireplace in your living room with 10 lights and everything you ever wanted. You left because I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light (John Keith Falconer). This is your teeny-tiny part in making it possible for others to know the Truth that will set them free. You are not the hero. You are just there to shine the light on Jesus Christ–the Author of life, the Perfector of our faith, our true Hero! And yes, you may miss all the comforts you once knew, but you will never regret learning learning what it is to Live simply so that others may simply live (Mother Teresa).
  3. Remember this was not Andy’s idea.
    That dear husband of yours waited 13 years! He would have waited even longer until you knew for sure this is what God is calling you to! God led you to take these steps. He showed up. He made it clear. Over and over again. Jonah 2.8. Revelation 21. Matthew 10.28-31
    I mean, He even gave you TWO cast iron skillets down there when no one knew you even wanted ONE! The One who called you is faithful. So, don’t hold Andy responsible for the difficult. You are in this together. You need each other. There are enough battles to face – tearing each other down should never be one of them.
  4. Remember Whose you are.
    You are a daughter of the High King of heaven! He has given everything to purchase your salvation, to free you from a life enslaved to sin. He has withheld nothing. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe only seems fitting. He did not send you there on your own. The more grace you need, the more He will give! He never meant for you to go through this alone. He is WITH you! Italicized. Bold. Underlined. WITH you!! So do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31.8).
    All fear is the lie that God’s love ends. Untie that lie.
    Untie that lie that strangles you by circling your life with Truth: Give Thanks to The Lord, His Love Endures—endures cancer, teenagers, laundry, infertility, sleepless nights, debt, despair, betrayal, broken dreams, toddler tantrums, a thousand pressures—His love Endures Forever (Ann Voskamp).
  5.  Remember to look up.
    When you just can’t make sense of a situation… When you feel unable to face what is going on around you… When you start to lose your bearings… look up.
    His faithfulness reaches to the skies (Psalm 36.5).
    Until you find your way, look UP!
    He must increase, and I must decrease (John 3.30). Sometimes all it take is to gaze into the grandeur of the skies for Him to become greater. And sometimes that is all it takes to regain perspective.
  6. Remember also to look around.
    Look into the eyes of those around your dinner table and let your heart fill with affection for them. Each one of them that you share this life with is a gift from God.
    Look into the faces of those you encounter. You are not the only one struggling right now. Everyone has something that’s weighing on them. Yours may seem “heavier” or “harder” than everyone else. But it’s not. You never regret turning your attention to others. The more you focus on your burden, the heavier it will get. The more you look within, the more pitiful it will seem. Cast those cares upon our caring and carrying God. Then consider how you can care for others. Be a bridge, not an island.
  7. Remember your priorities.
    Sometimes you just need to get back to the basics.
    Let the peripherals go if they are getting in the way of what is priority. 
  8. Remember you have 3 little people watching you.
    All day. Every day.
    You may start to think you are there to serve those outside your home, but the greatest influence you are having is on those in your home. You are raising 3 observant boys. Intentionally or not, you are shaping how they view their world and how they will respond to it. The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice (Peggy O’Mara).
    Be learners together. Don’t be afraid to show your failures. But always model for them how you will make it right.
  9. Remember to laugh.
    It’s pretty hard for me to imagine I would need reminded of this, but the joy of the Lord is my strength. And if the enemy is all about making us feel defeated and weak, he will attack your joy. So, do what you can to laugh. Let JOY live loud in your soul! Watch old Kristin Wiig skits. Call a friend. Read some comics.
    (Feel free to comment with ideas to invoke laughter! 🙂
    Never let go of the ability to laugh at yourself! Don’t ever take yourself too serious. Loosen up and laugh a little. Or alot! That should be easy…just try to hold a conversation in Portuguese. And continue to learn what it means to Laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31).
    Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy (Anne Frank).
    If she can, you surely should be able to. Which leads me to the last, but never the least.
  10. Remember to give thanks.
    It is impossible to be filled with fear or anxiety when your heart is already full of gratitude.
    Today. Right now. Our present…It is a gift.
    Let go of fear and inhibition. Tear into the gift of today! Unwrap what is before you.
    Let your heart fill with gratitude for this present.
    There is always ALwAYs ALWAYS something to be thankful for!
    Don’t wish a moment away. You’ve been to the nursing home enough to know what the “end” looks like. Enter into the moment. Fully engage the right now. And enJOY!

I would love to hear anything you have to add to my note to (my future-funky) self.

Some of you have been here. Worked through these things. I am a firm believer that God doesn’t waste pain. While we may not always know His purposes for it, we can encourage others with the lessons we learned while hurting.

Some of you know someone in a funky state. (Gee, I hope it’s not us :))
I just have 2 more notes to (your) self.
1. Proceed Cautiously. I can’t imagine being offended by someone reminding us of these truths. But that’s me, now, when my mind is clear and my back is massaged. This can be more complicated and messy than a quick quote-a-scripture-and-hang-up conversation. Especially when it involves years of isolation mixed with culture confusion and ministry exhaustion.
May we be slow to formulize and quick to empathize, because life is so very hard and until God makes all things new, people are dying for a cold cup of water in their suffering (Jen Hatmaker).
2. Don’t Walk Away. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to be there. Patiently listen to the layers of pain and misunderstanding. It may be as stinky and teary as helping someone unpeel layers from an onion. But, isn’t that what our Father does again and again? He doesn’t wait for us to shine ourselves up for Him. He meets us where we are. In our stinkin’ rotten mess, He doesn’t walk away.

May we have more of His kind of love.
The kind that never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13.7).

Bit by Bit

Feliz Dia da Independência!Brazilian-flag-Pigment

Brazil celebrates its Independence Day today.
It would be fun to share some of our favorite Brazilian recipes and traditions. If you would rather that right now, feel free to head on over to a yummy cheese bread recipe. It’s a little taste of Brazil. And a lot less “heavy” than what’s on my heart on a day like today.

There is a disturbing reality that we cannot ignore.
Thousands, possibly millions of children have never tasted a Brazilian Independence Day.
Today is like any other, as they are bound by the chains of prostitution, drug addiction and poverty.  Instead of having freedom to build sandcastles, play futebol or grill churrasco, they answer to the demands of perverse, often brutal strangers to satisfy their fantasies.

Part of me envies my ignorant days. When we could celebrate with our yellow and green, sip on Brazilian limonada and stuff our faces with pão de queijo, unaware. When I thought being a little girl was about playing Strawberry Shortcake and dollhouses. When I checked on my peacefully-sleeping boys and didn’t realize so many moms don’t have this luxury.
But now we know. And we cannot turn our backs.

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. 
Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1.17

What in the world is going on?
Unicef estimates 250,000 children in Brazil have been forced into prostitution.
Some estimate the number could be up to 2 million child prostitutes in Brazil.[1]
As in, 17 and younger (many of them 10-13 years old). Children. As in, they should be at school learning to read or at home playing Legos. Children. As in, they need a parent who would shelter them from the oppression that preys on them. Children. As in, they are so valuable and vulnerable that Jesus says it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. (Luke 17.2)

BBC World reports Thailand has been the world leader up until now, but “Brazil is overtaking Thailand as the world’s most popular sex-tourist destination. Brazil at the moment is on a high trend of child sex tourism and is all geared to take up the first spot beating out Thailand.”

With the 2014 World Cup and Olympics in Brazil, this problem continues to spiral out of control. More tourism=More child exploitation.
This video shares the shocking reality:
“It’s very easy to buy a girl in Brazil. It’s like buying chocolate.”

How in the world did this happen?
Child sex tourism is tourism for the purpose of engaging in the prostitution of children, that is commercially facilitated child sexual abuse. The children who perform as prostitutes in the child sex tourism trade often have been lured or abducted into sexual slavery.”[2]

“Pimps get children high on crack, then offer the children’s tiny bodies to the men for a few dollars.”[3]

One BBC World reporter wrote: Taxi drivers work with the girls who are too young to get into the bars. One offers me two for the price of one and a lift to a local motel. “They are underage, so much cheaper than the older ones,” he explains as he introduces me to Sara and Maria. One clings to a bright pink Barbie bag, and they hold each other’s hands looking terrified at the possibility of potential customer.”[4]

This breaks my heart and makes my stomach churn.
How did a fingerprint of God end up becoming a bartering object?
How do we even wrap our minds around this issue?
And how can we ever begin to make a difference?

Where in the world do we go from here?
Awareness is a start. We must begin to unwind the binds that our silence has held on these precious souls. More than simply talking to each other, we must bring these concerns before our Almighty Creator, the Author of Life. The One who sees and knows and hears.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
love and faithfulness go before You.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You,
who walk in the light of Your presence. 
(Psalm 89.14-15)

Nothing is beyond the Lord’s reach, not even the long arm of oppression. I believe when we want to take part in the very thing that is central to His character: righteousness and justice, He hears. And He will reveal how we are to be involved.

International Justice Mission and Destiny Rescue are among the organizations that are making a huge impact in the lives of the enslaved. They work to rescue the captured and prosecute the offenders. We admire and applaud their work around the world. However, neither of them are currently in Brazil.

Compassion International is in the fight against child sex trafficking for the long haul. They are reaching into the poor communities in Brazil, providing a place for the children to come to avoid the streets. Sponsoring a child provides holistic education in hopes of breaking the vicious cycle poverty creates.

The need seems overwhelming. Seems easier to go back to passing around the pão de queijo, unaware or unaffected. But if it were our child, could we rest until they were found and freed?

Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. 
The spell must be unwound, bit by bit.
C.S. Lewis

Whatever we feel led to do may seem insignificant. But, it is something!!
I picture it like a Lite Brite. Remember poking those plastic pegs into that brand new sheet of black paper for the light to shine through? The more we poke into the canvas of darkness, the more light we allow to escape.

Bit by bit, we can each do our part in loosening the binds of oppression on these children.
Let’s join together in asking God how we may help make a difference in someone’s tomorrow. That next year, more may have the chance to taste a Brazilian Independence Day!