Sunday, November 29, 2009

The earth is the Lord's

Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." This Scripture has become quite the living word to me. The world really just isn't that big of a place when it comes right down to it. You can get anywhere you want to go in the world in just a matter of hours. There are so many things that are universal--from smiles to pain.
I am now in Cambodia, and I love it. It feels as much like home as any other place I have ever been. As strange as it may seem, any time I have ever left the USA to go to another country, I have never felt that I was somewhere foreign. The food may be different. The language may be different (and I may not understand a word of it). The people may look slightly different. The streets and traffic may look different. I have come to look at myself as a global citizen rather than a US citizen. It is not that I am anti-American, but it is rather that I am pro-God's Kingdom. Because really, the earth is the Lord's. And, as God's child I want to bring other people into His Kingdom regardless of what their passports or birth certificates say. The only citizenship that really matters in the end is being a citizen of heaven. God holds the entire world in His hands. He knows every person that has lived, is living, and will live on the face of the planet. Even though I only occupy a tiny corner of the world on a microscopic dot within the continuum of eternity, I don't want to limit myself in the ways I can expand God's Kingdom.
I have been asked countless times over the last several weeks where I am from (country, state, town, etc.). This has forced me to think about my place in the world--where I came from and where I am going. Who would have thought that a girl from a small farming community in Indiana would be traveling to the other side of the world to actively fight against sex slavery in a country that is fighting to battle back from years of war and genocide? How are these kind of connections made? Quite simply the answer is God. God orchestrates our lives to bring fullness to His world and His Kingdom if only we listen and are obedient to His call. So often I think we doubt God's calling to us because it doesn't make logical sense or He seems to be calling us to do something that we are clearly not trained or equipped to do. It is those times that we forget that the earth is the Lord's. How can we ever dare to doubt that the God who holds the earth in the palm of His hand is able to use us in spite of us?
This has been quite random, but I will try to convey my point simply. The same God who created us in His image with a purpose also created the earth and holds it in His hands. My challenge to you is to look at the world with God's global eyes. I assure you that when you do, your perspective will shift and with it a deep love for those you may never have met who live on the other side of the world.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jesus doesn't want us jaded

I don't want to live my life jaded.
However, I realized the other day that in some ways I have been. I am speaking specifically in regard to the Church. Until I came to Australia, I hadn't realized how much I had allowed many of the negative things I have seen within churches to cloud my perception of the Church. Honestly, I am a pretty difficult person to offend, at least I have become that way thanks to the grace of God, but I have seen a lot of ugliness in churches over the years. What you may ask? My response: it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what I have seen, what I have experienced, or how it all happened. Over the last couple years God has really done a work on the inside of me to really think about what it looks like to live sold out for Him, to take the Bible and live it. The Amplified Bible translation of Luke 9:23 reads, "And He said to all, 'If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse, and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to my example in living and, if need be, in dying also]." Those are some pretty powerful words and require some serious self-evaluation. If I really want to follow Christ as I claim to, I have some real work to do. It is my heart to examine how Jesus lived His life and to follow in His footsteps, to live as He lived. I really can't do any less. But, I have realized over the last couple weeks that for some reason I have come to expect less of the Church. Somewhere along the way I have made allowances for the Church to fail at being Jesus to the masses, even though I may not have given up on being Christ-like myself.
I had allowed myself to become jaded and without expectation for the Church. Maybe it was some sort of defense mechanism to avoid pain. I am really not sure, but I do know that it isn't right. Jesus does not want us to be jaded or dulled or apathetic. He wants and expects us to be earth-shakers, world-changers, mountain-movers, barrier-breakers. He wants us to love radically and live justly.
I have become tired of hearing people saying that they admire what I am doing and they wish they had the courage to do something like that. Why? I don't deserve to be admired anymore than the next guy. I am simply being obedient to do what God has called me to do. I can do no less. When people ask me why I am doing what I am doing, I simply think, "How can I not?" I was created for such a time as this...and so were you. No, maybe you were not called to hop on a plane and fly halfway around the world to serve. But, you were called. God has called each and every one of us. It is our responsibility to choose not to live jaded, going through the motions in a humdrum life.
My hope in the future of the Church has been restored not because of any massive movement or revival but because I know how much God wants to reveal Himself to this world, and I am choosing to have confidence that His children will rise to the challenge. So, if you haven't heard it before, here's your call! "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 Here is your opportunity to take any blinders off. Here is your opportunity to find out where God wants to you to be and to do it full on! Whether that means that you invest yourself wholeheartedly in raising God-fearing children, in educating the next generation with Godly truths, in stocking the shelves of your local food pantry, in providing a family-less child a family, in using your business smarts to bring finances into God's kingdom, in baking cookies for your neighbors, or even flying around the world to help others find the wholeness that comes in Christ. You are never too young or too old. If we are doing God's will, He will never fail to equip us.
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Wrapping up my time in Australia

First of all, I apologize for my lack of updates over the past few days. I have been away from Internet for the past several days, so I have been unable to update. So, I will give you a bit of a picture update to show you how I have been spending some of my last days in Australia.

I sampled lamingtons, which are an Aussie special. Lamingtons are sponge cakes that are dipped in chocolate and then rolled in coconut. They are quite delicious.
I went to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary last week with my friend Dani. It was so much fun!!!! You can get super close to the animals, and it was beautiful. I even got to cuddle a koala!!!
So, that is not the greatest picture. I was talking to the koala handler. I have a much better picture that the professional people took, but this gives you the idea. This koala's name was Pepsi, and she was lovely (and she even sneezed all over me!).
How cute is this?!?!?
This is a sleeping wombat.
Yes, I got to pet and feed the kangaroos and wallabies. This is a footyoung (a baby kangaroo that doesn't get to go into the mommy's pouch anymore).
This is a big red kangaroo. I love that he is laying like a person and just hanging out.
This is the beach at the Gold Coast. It is gorgeous!!!! It was voted one of the best beaches in the world, and I can see why.
This is the view from my hotel at the Gold Coast. I was on the 15th floor, and it was beautiful.
And, this is Milo cereal, which is delicious. I am a huge fan, and it is somewhat like crack in that it is quite addictive!

So, there in a nutshell is what I have been up to for the last several days! More to come soon...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
~ Romans 8:2-4
I just wanted to give a little bit of explanation for you behind the name of my blog. Eleutheroo is the Greek word for "made free." It means to liberate, to acquit, to set free, to deliver. It is the Greek word used in the New Testament for Jesus setting believers free from the dominion of sin. Eleutheroo brings life. It embodies everything that Christ has done for us. And, this idea of being made free is exactly what the world needs. We all deserve to be punished, to be condemned, yet Christ came that we might be free instead. That, my friends, is beautiful. This freedom is exactly what I am trying to take to the world around me. I want to bring this freedom to the hurting, the broken, the lonely, the lost. This freedom is why I am doing what I am doing. It is my motivation to step out in faith and reach beyond myself and my comfort to do something greater.
I encourage you to embrace the freedom you have in Christ. You have been made free! How amazing!
"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." ~ John 8:36

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just the beginning...

"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

I have thought quite a bit over the last several weeks about the absolute absurdity of what it is that I am doing and how I have been given complete peace about every bit of it. I mean, let's be honest. I am a young single woman who decided to travel halfway around the world to meet perfect strangers to hang out for a few weeks and then head to another foreign country to meet more perfect strangers and stay for six months! Crazy? Maybe. But, really it is not crazy at all. It is really just following Jesus and saying "YES!" when He calls. I was talking to one of the pastors at Citipointe this week about how it was that I ended up here, and as I was saying that I really had total peace about coming, even though in all honesty they were all strangers to me. He was quick to point out to me that we really weren't strangers. We are all part of the same family, and just because we had yet to meet in the flesh, we were united as sons and daughters of the Most High God. Isn't that beautiful? The family of God. It truly is a beautiful thing, and I am so grateful for my brothers and sisters across the globe.
So, here I sit. I am undoubtedly beginning the craziest journey of my life thus far, but I cannot even communicate how much peace the Lord has given me. I cannot think of a time that I have been more confident that I am right where He desires for me to be. Sometimes I wonder if the "freak out" is coming, but it's not. God has orchestrated too many things in order to make this a reality. He had to do it. There was no way that any man could have done it.
I am here in Brisbane for the next week and a half, and I still have a lot on my plate while I am here, including some intense ministry time with graduating seniors. But, on November 26th, I will be hopping on another plane to head to my new home where I simply want to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting, lost people. I am still not sure how everything is going to unfold, but that is ok. I am really at peace about it. Why? Because the Word of God promises that He will finish the good work He has started in me, and I know He has started a good work. Now I just want to sit back and allow Him to work. I'm looking forward to the end result...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A bit of Brisbane

I had a little opportunity to see some of the beauty of Brisbane last night thanks to my friend Danielle! She understood my burning desire to get out and see something that I don't get to see everyday and to explore a bit, so she took me to Wynnum Bay where we got some fish and chips and enjoyed the beauty. Then, we went to the top of Mount Coot-tha, so we could see the city lights of Brisbane. It was beautiful!
This is just a picture of a cute little shop/cafe on the bay where I got my fish and chips.
We got to the bay right around sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous!
This is me and Danielle. Danielle has been to the SHE home before doing the very thing I am preparing to do, and in mid-January she will be coming back to the SHE home as the project director and will be there for a year. She is beautiful, and I am so excited and blessed to be working with her!
There was a bit of wind...
I just really like this one, but it certainly does not do justice to the beauty and tranquility.
This is a picture of the city lights in Brisbane from the top of Mount Coot-tha. It isn't a great picture, but you get the idea!
I am hoping to get to see some more uniquely Aussie things in the coming days.
And, I have a few people who have made it their personal mission that I try all foods that are uniquely Aussie. I have tried vegemite and was less than impressed, though I am told I did not eat it properly. Some others on the list are lambington, vanilla slice, poplova, and whatever else they set in front of me!

Monday, November 9, 2009

God is there...

God is so incredibly good. Even in the midst of darkness and evil, He is faithful and just and righteous. In preparing to volunteer in the midst of the human trafficking arena in Cambodia, I sometimes find myself forgetting about God's ultimate goodness. Don't get me wrong. I do not for even one moment doubt God's goodness, but I do find myself sometimes wondering if God knows what is going on in this world. Then, I am reminded of Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." God knows. God understands. God has it all in the palm of His hand. Unfortunately, evil still exists, and one of its many forms is that of little girls in Cambodia being prostituted, having their virginity negotiated and sold, having their spirits broken. Through all of this, I know that God's love prevails and His healing can mend every would and restore every soul. He is more than able. Luke 1:37 says, "For with God nothing shall be impossible."
All things are possible with God. I really think He is just waiting for His people to truly realize that because I think that when we do, the whole world will change. Quoting Bono, "God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both of their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunities and lives, and God is with us if we are with them." Yes, God is there...and I want to be, too. 
Just the other day, I watched a film called Holly.
It is essentially the story of thousands of Asian girls. Holly is a Vietnamese girl who has been trafficked to Cambodia where she is sold into a brothel. This movie tells the story of how she is able to narrowly escape with the help of an American man. I was really impressed with this film because of the accuracy with which it presents information. There are a couple of quotes from the film that I want to share to give you a bit of a better perspective on why exactly I am doing what I am doing and why it is important. A volunteer at an aftercare facility in the film first informs the American man that there are 30,000 sex slaves in Cambodia (which is a conservative number from everything I have read and learned), and that if he intends to buy them out of slavery, within a year's time there will be 60,000. It would be great if it was as easy as walking into a brothel and telling the manager that you would like to purchase every girl there and take them home with you. However, what that really allows is for twice as many girls to be trafficked and sold and raped repeatedly. Thus, my second point is this quote: "It takes 5 minutes to rescue a girl from a brothel, but it takes 5 years to reintegrate her into society." Truly, it does not take long to bust a brothel and bring a young girl to "safety," but the damage that has been done to her physically, emotionally, and spiritually will take years to mend.
That mending process is what I have been learning a lot about, and the reason I am giving my life to young Cambodian girls for the next several months. While in Australia I have been going through a course called Hands That Heal, which is designed to train caregivers of trafficking survivors.
It has been such a valuable course thus far, and I am sure it will continue to be so. We have discussed everything from the definition of trafficking to God's view of women and sexuality, from the importance of understanding culture to the whys and hows of restoring dignity to these beautiful survivors. Yes, they are survivors, not victims.
My greatest desire is simply to point these lovely girls to Jesus--the only One who can heal their brokenness and restore all that has been stolen from them. I am entrusting them to God's care, and I will just be His representative in the day-to-day happenings of their lives for a time. My prayer is that beauty and freedom would be restored to these girls. I want them to feel like putting on a pretty dress and just twirling, because really isn't that what every little girl wants to do?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fire up the barbi!

Surely, you cannot be in Australia without going to a barbecue, right? Well, my new friend Peta didn't think so. Thus, she invited me and some friends over to her place to fire up the barbi and watch a movie. It was a great time! However, the other nationalities actually ended up being more prominent than the Aussies at this event. 
This is Craig grilling up all of our food. There is some chicken, some steak, and some sort of soy patty on that grill. Craig is actually from New Zealand but moved to Brisbane about a year ago.
This is (from l to r) Peta, Cimone, and Cristin. Peta is a born and bred Aussie, but Simon and Cristin are both from South Africa. 
This is a picture of our phenomenal meal--salad, chicken on a stick, garlic toast, and cheesy potato bake. It was delicious!
And, this is me and Peta. We are both exhausted after watching Casablanca.
Peta is the one who picked me up from the airport, and we were definitely quick friends. It did not take us long to find out that we have similar interests and perspectives, and it is amazing how fast we have become comfortable sharing with one another. She is definitely a blessing from God in my life!

Australian wildlife?

So, I am sure you are all expecting pictures of some real Australian wildlife. Well, I would love to show you some, but unfortunately, I have not been able to capture any great photos as of yet. I see cockatoos just down from my house nearly every morning, but the one day I had a camera with me they were nowhere to be found. I am told that there are sometimes wallabies behind our house here, but I have yet to see them. And, I am quite sure that kangaroos are not the Australian deer because I have yet to see a single one. I will, however, find all of these animals and more and take wonderful pictures of them for you all, but, until then, you will have to settle for what "wildlife" I have had time to capture.

This is Bailey. He belongs to the family I am living with and recently had surgery on his tail. He is wonderfully sweet, and we have become quick friends.
This is Bacardi. He also belongs to the family I am living with. He is really a gorgeous cat, and he has a pretty typical cat attitude. He sleeps a lot and disappears for long periods of time when he doesn't want to be bothered.
So, you can't really tell what this is, but there is a mouse there. Apparently, they had been trying to catch him for awhile and were finally able to trap him between the screen and the window here. Then, the hope was to force him into this container, slap a lid on it, and take him out to the woods behind the house. This was much more humane than what I would have chosen. You can kind of see the mouse at the bottom of the tupperware.
Here is a better picture of the mouse. He isn't dead, just stunned. 
And, my final wildlife picture is this. Yes, it is a dead toad. You can't really tell in this picture, but it is really huge for a toad. I should have put my foot or something in the picture for a size comparison. I bet this toad is at least as big as my foot. 
There you have it! Some real Australian "wildlife." If nothing else, I hope these pictures provide you with a chuckle!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Settling into the land down under...

I wanted to post a little bit of information about what I am doing in Brisbane, Australia. I am currently doing training for my upcoming stint volunteering with SHE Rescue Home. SHE is an outreach of Citipointe Church. I don't have a wonderful story about how I heard about this ministry. I really inadvertently stumbled upon it through a friend (thanks Laura!). I had done a lot of research on human trafficking and forced prostitution and all the things this ministry was working to stop. My heart was moved with compassion to do something, and that, in a nutshell, is how I am where I am. This post is going to be pretty short and sweet, but don't worry, I have some much deeper posts brewing that will be posted soon!

This is just outside the main auditorium at Citipointe and to the left is a bookstore and cafe.
It is a really beautiful church filled with lovely people. I can honestly say that as soon as I stepped in the door, I felt the love of the Lord and an earnest desire to bring Him honor. Everyone I have met here literally point others to Christ simply by the way they choose to live their lives. It is truly a beautiful thing. This church is quite large and seeks to really reach out to the community. There is a Bible college, grade school, and high school all on the property. They have multiple services, including a Mandarin Chinese service and a South African service.  
This is a picture around the front of the main building. It really isn't the best picture, so sorry. But, it really is a beautiful facility, and God is definitely present here.

A South African family from the church has invited me into their home while I am here. They are an exceptionally beautiful family, and it is quite evident that God has gifted them with hospitality. I felt welcome from the moment I entered the door. They have a beautiful home and family, including a super adorable 6-year-old son who will talk your ear off if you let him! He happily informed me on my first evening at their home that he was not shy, and he was happy to tell me anything I wanted to know as well as ask me a heap of questions. He makes it a point to tell me to have a good day each morning before he leaves for school and seeks me out at bedtime to tell me to have a good night. I think I might be falling in love with him...
Anyway, here is a view from my bedroom window. It is taken through a screen, so it really isn't the best picture. However, the picture doesn't really do the view justice anyway. It is beautiful, and I can sometimes see cockatoos or other cool Australian wildlife. By the way, the birds here are all HUGE! So, if you would like to remember me in your prayers, I would appreciate that there are no swooping birds while I am walking around. Thanks!
This a view of my room. Yes, there is a pirate ship on my wall. This is normally the 6-year-old's room, but he has so graciously lent it to me for the next few weeks. 
There you have it! That is just a basic rundown of where I am staying and training. I am doing really great, and I have adjusted well to the time difference and everything. The only problem is that the sun comes up here around 4:30am, which makes sleeping past 5:30 or 6 nearly impossible for me (and everyone else it seems!). I have gone for runs at 6am the last 2 days, and you would all be amazed at the heaps of people who are out and about at that time of the morning! I will be sure to update again soon with what God is teaching me while I am here as well as some pictures of some good old Australian fun...there's an Aussie barbecue with some of my new and wonderful friends on the agenda for tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How many flights does it take for your smile to disappear?

It is like asking how many licks to the center of a tootsie pop! My long-awaited departure date was Saturday, October 31st. I departed from Chicago O'Hare at about 6:10pm (Indiana time). My super duper wonderful friend Laura took me to the airport (and gave me some white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies for the journey!).
This is me at the airport in Chicago getting excited about my flight!!!!
This was my gate for the first leg of the journey, heading to L.A. At this point I am still feeling pretty good, even though I did not sleep well the night before. I had been going over my packing list about a million times in my head to make sure I didn't forget anything important, which probably was not as important as I thought, but more on that later.
I think I look a bit more tired here. This is me in L.A. My flight from Chicago was pretty uneventful. I had a window seat, so I could watch us fly into the sunset (literally) for most of the flight. And, an added bonus was that there was no one in either of the 2 seats next to me. Yes, folks, that's right, I had a row of seats to myself! Phenomenal! However, I was expecting to get dinner on this flight, but that did not happen, so I was pretty darn hungry by this point. The cookies Laura gave me didn't make it much past here. I forced myself to stay awake, so I would be able to crash on the next flight.
After about 2 hours in L.A., I boarded the plane heading for Auckland, New Zealand. And, 13 hours later, here I am!
I'm still smiling, but I think this is the smile that says, "Praise the Lord I can stretch out and not sit on an airplane for a few hours!!!!"
I only had to wait about 2 more hours for my final plane to depart to Brisbane. In the meantime, I sat next to a huge window and looked at this view.
I am pretty sure that New Zealand is quite beautiful, and I would have loved to have been able to see more than just the view from the airport terminal.
My plane left Auckland right on schedule, and I arrived in Brisbane a few minutes earlier than expected. I then blasted through customs without even a hiccup, grabbed both my suitcases from the baggage claim, and then headed on out to meet a woman named Peta who was supposed to be waiting with a sign that had my name on it.
Unfortunately, there was most definitely not anyone with a sign that had my name on it when I exited into the waiting area. I had a slight moment of panic, but I didn't let myself get worked up since I was a little earlier than anticipated. I doubt it was even 10 minutes that I waited before I found Peta. She was splendid! We loaded up my baggage and took off for the city. We grabbed coffee and went on a drive/walk around Brisbane, headed to the church where I am doing my training, grabbed lunch at a cafe (which I can't tell you the name of because Peta swore me to secrecy since it is her favorite place to get away!), dropped my stuff off where I am staying, and went back to her place to watch a movie. It was a crazy long day, but it was lovely!
These are some trees growing in downtown Brisbane. The roots grow up, not something you see in the States!
And, I really just took this for my mom. Neither I nor Peta knew what kind of flower this was, but it was gorgeous. It is in the middle of a huge garden/park in the middle of Brisbane where anyone can go walking any time. 
So, there you have my journey to Brisbane! I will be sure to update again in the next couple days to let you know about what I am up to and how training is going, but I will tell you that I am super pumped about what God is going to do!!!
"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10