When God Breaks Your Heart With Giving

      “…{the poem} raises an important and again characteristically modern issue about how faith is known and shared. In the end, everything depends on trustworthy human relationships.  A person who has been damaged and betrayed in one set of ‘horizontal’ or secular relationships may be genuinely prevented from opening in the ‘vertical’ dimension to the Divine.”  Malcolm Guite, December 11th reading from ‘Waiting on the Word’(emphasis mine)

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 My friend Jill and I volunteered six weeks ago to co-lead the charge of organizing, planning and staffing our church’s annual Christmas Store this year. This is a two-day, nine-hour event where we serve our community by providing an opportunity for guests to ‘shop’ for household and personal items, clothing and best of all, toys, completely free of charge.

All of the items in the Christmas Store were new donations to our church from the surplus of a large relief organization here in the Seattle area, along with toys and cash given by members of our church over the last few weeks. People gladly gave and we gladly spent.

Organizing, staffing and scheduling this kind of undertaking is an enormous task, but Jill and I know each other well and have complementary organizing and communicating gifts so we were game for pulling it all together.  There were hours on the phone, email conversations, texting each other, in person meetings with volunteers and our Pastor—all the necessary elements that go into an event this size.

Prior to the Friday/Saturday store hours things seemed to be going swimmingly. Volunteers stepped in to add their muscle—as only volunteers can do–of hauling boxes, moving furniture, schlepping tables and the like.  The Scripture about “outdoing one another in doing good” (Hebrews 10:24) kept running through my mind; some of the guys lifting tables and boxes exhibited a healthy competitive spirit in getting the job done.

Six hours into the unpacking and set up process, however, Jill and I sat back and watched as tables filled up with merchandise. Our stealth bomber sorting team were piling items atop tables that seemed to be spilling over into every available space, including the floors around the tablecloth-skirted tables.

She looked at me and said, “This was a lot more fun until right about now.”  We were both overwhelmed at the visual input of the space around us and I for one felt buried at the enormity of what we were going to do. There were plush blankets and 8 million pairs of canvas shoes and men’s body wash and all manner of balls and books and dolls and pillows and…..you get the idea.

I confessed I felt like crying myself.  I was waaaaayyyy outside my comfort zone—I like organizing things on paper, but in actuality, the stuffing and piling and sorting of STUFF made me feel like I was going to drown. When Jill made the statement she was actually an introvert who liked being alone, we both laughed out loud. We had 35 families coming with over 100 family members to serve, there was no turning back.

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It’s funny how God shows up to do what only He can do after you say that first “yes” then commit to serve  it out. The realization dawns you actually ARE in over your head; the only way out is to look up to let God do the work and get glory for doing the impossible.

When we opened our doors at 6 p.m. Friday night, there was a quiet kind of magic in the air along with the Cambridge Singers Christmas music in the background. The apartment residents we welcomed were also overwhelmed, but in a good way.

While guests shopped, we heard stories of hard times, challenging job situations, homelessness and want. But these people who seemingly had so little? Not only did they give back to us with their thanks and their hugs, but with the openness with which they received our prayers, inviting us into their brokenness with open arms.

Guite’s line above, that “everything depends on trustworthy human relationships” was certainly borne out in the time we spent with those folks we got to know while we all plugged in to that ‘vertical dimension.’

Not in My City-Sex Slave Trafficking

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view from the Vashon Island Ferrry, Seattle WA, July 2020

This small corner of the interwebs began over eight years ago with a different name, Three Way Light. I chose it because light has three properties: it warms up cold places, reveals what is hidden and shines and reflects on what is seen. 

Processing the world through words gives me a chance to do that–pour a little light on the virtual page, so to speak. So today I want to shine light on the scourge of our lifetime–the prevalence of sex slave trafficking and its presence in cities like mine all over the country.

I attended an event two years ago featuring the film ‘Rape for Profit’, a gritty recording by two young Christian men committed to exposing the sex trade in Seattle.  But it could be in any city–Phoenix, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Memphis, Las Vegas.

In the year of our Lord 2020, sex slave trafficking has grown to include the business of selling children’s bodies. Although it makes me sick to my stomach to say so, we are called to be light bringers in the world, so what can I do about a huge, horrific industry?

Pick up my (virtual) pen. And pray.

Here are some frightful statistics from a faith-based outreach–REST Real Escape from Sex Trafficking— here in Seattle. REST ministers to girls on the street, providing them with support and protection, job skills and a safe place to live.

First Aid Arts is an organization I’ve written about before also.  They are a faith based outreach also in my city which uses Healing Arts Toolkits to bring healing to women coming out of the human slave trafficking industry.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith started an organization, Don’t Sell Bodies, and partnered with the Rape for Profit filmmakers as an Executive Producer for their film.
What Can YOU Do?
:READ PRAY GIVE SAY:
As believers we are called to be the voice for the oppressed 
in our day, moving in our spheres of influence. Begin where you are–
speak up, shine the light, dispel the darkness.
 
“For the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18
 
Will you ask our Jesus how you can do that today?