Help us give the gift of education to children in Bangladesh

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Help us give the gift of education to children in Bangladesh

In remote villages in Bangladesh children as young as four or five are forced to work in the fields or to make products like soap, sandals or clothes to sell at local markets to support their families.

They have little hope of ever going to school.

But Freedom Challenge is working to change this. With your help we are currently supporting 30 grade schools in these villages, helping 900 children to receive an education that they would otherwise never have.

One teacher said: “The families are very happy and very involved. They are taking what they learn at school and teaching their parents and older brothers and sisters who have never had a chance to go to school.”

But there are so many children that are still being forced to work instead of going to school. With your help we can prevent these children from being trapped in a cycle of poverty and help them develop into the people God intended them to be.

Between now and Nov, 27 (Giving Tuesday) you can double your donation when you give to Freedom Challenge

We are thrilled to partner with Christian Community Credit Union to raise money to provide education and development opportunities for women and children in Bangladesh. Through a special matching offer, the Credit Union will double what we raise up to $10,000! The funds come from the Credit Union’s “Cards that Give to Missions” program.

What is the best gift that you could give this Giving Tuesday? $150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom, but any gift you give will make a difference.

Education isn’t just breaking the cycle of poverty one student at a time; it’s changing the face of villages.



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“We were able to speak truth into her life” 

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“We were able to speak truth into her life” 

Ruth’s moving story highlights exactly what life can be like for a young woman who has been trafficked into Europe. But our faithful outreach teams play a vital role in making a difference to these women’s lives. Here’s how…

Ruth* is always standing at her corner of the street, waiting for customers, when our team comes to visit at night. 

She has a smile on her face and shares a few polite words with the team. She accepts what we offer her, whether it is tea, biscuits, handwarmers, or an Easter or Christmas gift. She will reply vaguely to our conversation without ever giving anything personal away – and then she makes it very clear that the interaction is over. 

This has happened almost every week for six years.

Faithful prayer

One night, after praying for meaningful opportunities, our team went on outreach to the streets of Athens as usual.

Ruth was at her corner, and accepted her tea and biscuits, and was about to turn away… then she turned back and, suddenly, the flood gates opened. Out poured the story of her home in West Africa, of being brought out of her country, finding herself pregnant, brought to Greece, put on the streets, of being hurt and scared, missing her child, being attacked by abusive customers. We were amazed at God’s answer to prayer. After six years of being politely shut out, we were able to speak truth into Ruth’s life. 

Building trust

The following week, and the weeks to come, Ruth retreated back into herself and put her mask back on. We continued to pray for her more specifically because we knew better what she was struggling with. A few months later, we were on the streets one night when she was very distressed by something that had happened – she felt able to bring her fear and grief to us and ask for our help and to pray for her. 

This isn’t a story with a happy ending – yet!  But God is working, slowly, quietly, in his own time. We haven’t reached the final chapter. We are trusting him with Ruth.

Trafficking in Athens

There are over 300 brothels in Athens, as well as studios, hotels and stretches of open road filled with thousands of victims of trafficking. Nearly 40,000 women and children are trafficked into Greece each year from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. These young women are often lured to Athens with the promise of a job. Some are sold into trafficking by family members. Others are manipulated into the work by men they consider their romantic partners. 

Our partner project in Greece provides a 24-7 helpline and they have a network of people who can offer help as it is requested – in the form of doctors’ visits, language lessons, or shelter and support to enable woman to escape forced prostitution.

How you can make a difference

It is for women like Ruth that we are taking on our Grand Canyon Wilderness Backpacking Challenge in just over one week. Your support could bring much needed shelter, rescue, or just simply someone to talk and pray with, to let them know how deeply they are loved by their heavenly Father.

Will you help us reach more women like Ruth? You can donate today!

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom

*Name changed to protect identity

 

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Expect the unexpected

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Expect the unexpected

Connie Hallof shares how travelling to the Philippines to visit Freedom Challenge projects gave her and her team mates more than they bargained for…

Poverty and Wealth. Giving and Receiving. Those were the “biggies” I was preparing myself for before embarking on the Freedom Challenge’s mission trip to Cebu, Philippines in July. It had been 30 years since my last visit to the Philippines and I was so excited to return. Having been there before I knew that the sights, smells, and sounds of another culture can overwhelm at first, no matter how much you prepare ahead of time. Freedom Challenge is all about, well, the challenge. Putting you in a place to lean in to God and let Him reveal Himself while putting yourself out there for others. So I arrived in Cebu City with an expectant heart. Not knowing exactly what to expect besides expecting the unexpected. God did not disappoint!

The Unexpected #1 - Inspiration

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I had been tasked to give an “Inspirational” talk at the 10 year anniversary of the scholars program of Operation Mobilization Philippines (OM is the organization of which Freedom Challenge is a part). This is a ministry that Freedom Challenge has been involved with in the past. We were overwhelmed with story after story from the students. Their enthusiasm, smiles, and determination were contagious and left us feeling inspired by them. This was our first taste of what a tremendous work is being done in Cebu. Lives are being forever changed. My anxious thoughts on giving an inspirational talk were dispelled when I saw that these students were all providing that to each other in their daily courage and determination. 

The Unexpected #2 - The hike to the mountain school  

We were a team of seasoned Freedom Challenge hikers and set out to hike up to one of the schools operated in the mountains. The hike was the one thing that none of us thought would be a challenge - we were wrong! We found ourselves ill prepared for the rainy season trail and scrambling up rain soaked rocks. I think I speak for the entire team when I say we were humbled during that trek. Our gracious OM guides helped us over the waterfall and up the valley walls.  

The Unexpected #3 - Student Assembly

We were anticipating meeting 40 students at the end of the hike and we were greeted by approximately 400! We were tired, hot, covered in mud and overwhelmed. Yet we were so blessed by the Hudlon School and their welcome assembly. Our time with the students and their mothers was rich. They never seemed to give it a second thought to look past our outward appearance (muddy and sweaty) and into our hearts.

The Unexpected #4 - Redirected Prayers

Next was a prayer walk through the city.  Sweet precious time was spent with the OM team as we split up to cover the city in prayer. While my focus was on Cebu that day, I later found out that as an OM staffer was praying for my family during the walk, a miracle was taking place at home thousands of miles away.

The Unexpected #5 - Poverty Simulation

Thinking we would experience an evening of role play, we came away wrecked, having experienced for a brief moment, a couple of hours at most, what it was like to be so very vulnerable. I find it difficult to put it into words how that experience changed me. The panic and stress that people go through on a daily basis just trying to make ends meet in a manner that never occurs to most of us. We got to experience, ever so briefly, the trials and tribulations of a family trying to make enough money for basic needs to be met while running into obstacles that required heartbreaking decisions to be made. It emblazoned my heart anew to be a champion for those who have no voice.

The Unexpected #6 - Kinitarkin Island

Witnessing the beauty of God’s creation, sleeping with chickens, the wonderful lack of insects (yea) and then there was the AIDS awareness talk followed by a salvation message! It was the sweet time with students that was my favorite part of the entire trip. Seeing their hopes and dreams of the future, trusting God for provision, and the gracious generosity of the island families was tremendously moving.

I went to the Philippines thinking about poverty and left with an imprint on my heart of the tremendous wealth of relationship, character, and love of Jesus that I experienced there. I went with a desire to give of myself yet came away being on the receiving end of so much kindness, grace and love. I was inspired by the staff of OM Philippines and the students they minister to. I have come away challenged and strengthened in my resolve to continue to do what I can to combat social injustice and assist others on to a pathway of freedom.

Connie Hallof

You can find out more about our mission trips here.

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Obedience before understanding

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Obedience before understanding

Larissa Wiens, one of our Freedom Challenge participants in Bryce-Zion in June, shares her story of learning to fully rely on God, even when what he's asking us to do seems almost impossible!

When I signed up to be part of the Prayer Team on the Bryce/Zion Challenge this past June, I didn’t know what God was going to do, but considering it felt like a miracle for me to actually be going, I was very expectant.

Saying 'yes'

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It felt like a big step forward for me to say ‘yes’ to this challenge, as just to physically travel there was something I knew God was going to have to really help me with.

Three years ago I got very sick. From that time I have been on an interesting journey with God, where I have learnt to remain thankful despite 24/7 (and many times unbearable) nerve pain.  My ‘work’ since 2013 has been in Zambia with Operation Mobilization (of which Freedom Challenge is a part), developing a skills training and discipleship center for vulnerable and marginalized women.  However, last year the pain from nerve damage became so debilitating that I had to return to Canada for further medical care.

Not losing hope

Throughout the past year there were many times when I didn’t think I would ever be pain-free enough to be able to walk beyond five minutes at a time. If it wasn’t for Jesus, I really would have lost hope. When a trial starts to span a few years, there may be moments when we start to shift our eyes onto ourselves and our weaknesses, rather than onto God and who He is.

I think that is what was starting to happen with me, but God had a plan.

Throughout different types of involvement with the Freedom Challenge over the last number of years, I have always seen how God is not only using the movement to bring healing and hope to those who are oppressed around the world, but also to each of us who say ‘yes’ to participate in the challenges.  I knew God wanted me in Utah for this challenge, maybe even for a boost forward in my own healing journey.

An unexpected conversation

Being part of the prayer team was so amazing, but after the first few days of the challenge I had the urge to experience God on the hiking trail…but how would that happen?  A few minutes after having that thought, I somehow found myself in conversation with one of the hiking guides.  She said to me “So, are you going to join us on the trail tomorrow?”  I felt a surge of nervous excitement go through me, but proceeded to remind her that I am on the prayer team and am still recovering from a recent back surgery.  I said I feel God might be asking me to try hiking, but I have not yet walked for more than about 20 minutes at a time, and would really hate to slow the whole team down just because of me. That didn’t seem to bother her, she was so gracious!

It almost felt surreal. I had zero fear, just expectation. My mind was focussed on God and his strength. I didn’t know how I was physically going to hike the next day, but I knew that taking this step of faith was an act of obedience, and that He would make it happen.

Totally relying on God

So there I went – I ended up hiking with the beginners group for a total of almost five miles. This was a miracle! It was an incredible day, where God proved that if we stay focussed on Him, he will keep showing his power through us. I realized that if I had doubted God and let fear control me, I probably would have not made it very far at all. Each step that I took turned into an act of worship. It was so rewarding to totally rely on Him to give me the power to keep going beyond what my body was previously capable of. 

I am still on the healing journey but will not forget that day and how I experienced our faithful God walking with me. During that Freedom Challenge God really blessed me with a deeper understanding of His love for me, plus physically blessed me with a boost forward in my healing. I am SO thankful I responded to His invitation to go!

Through this journey, especially in the chapters of much challenge, I am reminded to continue walking faithfully together with Him, to be obedient and trust the route He’s taking me on even if I do not fully understand ‘why’ – this is when it gets exciting!

Larissa Wiens is a career missionary with OM in Africa. She grew up on her family farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, but after spending the last five years in Africa has found Zambia to be her second home.  
Empowering vulnerable and marginalized women through skills training, discipleship and small business is where she finds some of her greatest joys. Yet in the midst of great joy and exciting adventure in Zambia, sickness and pain have more recently added a new chapter to Larissa’s story. Despite the challenge, she is fuelled by ‘answering to His call’, even when it seems to be humiliating and impossible.

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Living water

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Living water

Shirley Turner works with one of our Freedom Challenge projects in  Zambia training teachers - she also took part in our Bryce-Zion Challenge in June. Here she shares one of the highlights of the trip.. 

The high for the day was predicted to be 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It was six in the morning and I could already tell it was gonna be a ‘warm one.’ I had over 4 liters of water in my pack and hoped it would last.

Our team took on the cool and shaded 21 switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles at a steady pace with a few breaks here and there. At Scout’s Landing the terrain changed completely. The last half mile to the top was lined with chains bolted into the rock formations so hikers had a steady hold over the narrow, steep and drop-off lined footpath to the top. At this point all poles, water bottles and cameras were stowed so hands could be free to grip as needed.

Facing personal challenges

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Our team, the ‘Scarlet Warriors,’ started off, each with our own personal challenges to face along the trail. Some facing a fear of heights going up, others facing the fear going down, a mother was nervous for her daughter, some nervous about the balance and strength needed on the trail…we each had our own individual trails to hike…but we were doing it together. Well, most of us were. After offering to help one team member face her fear as far as she could and turning back once she had gone her farthest, I started up the trail a bit behind everyone else.

I have been a fairly independent person most of my life. Experiences during this Freedom Challenge hike had begun to crack a bit of that and show me the beauty and joy of sisterhood and doing life together. Although I still had an inner determination to make it 'on my own' as I followed about 20/30 minutes behind the group, I was also keenly aware that I would really enjoy hiking with my teammates. I knew I was missing a dimensaion of life while on the trail 'alone'. I did frequently remind myself that I am really never alone because the Lord is with me and that truth brought steadiness, strength and joy all along the way!

Unforgettable moments

Reuniting with my team at the top with a shout out of ‘Scarlet’ from me and a surprised (somewhat confused, where is that voice coming from looking around before seeing me) and enthusiastic call back of ‘Warriors’ from them followed by big smiles and hugs was a moment I’ll never forget.

We enjoyed the stunning views, had lunch, took our selfies and photos, set our justice doll free, prayed together and began our descent. This part of the trail had its unique challenges as well…fears, wobbly legs and all.

The heat took its toll

We regrouped at Scouts Landing and began our final descent. What I thought would be a ‘breeze’ was actually the most challenging part for me-with absolutely no breeze. The sun came out in all its fury and seemed to draw out every bit of energy and strength from me. I felt like my arms were literally frying and I finished my water completely, leaving my mouth dry as a desert. Even though my body didn’t have to strain to manage this part of the trail, the heat took its toll on me every step of the way. Once we got to the bottom I refilled my water bottles and took a bit of a break before we hit our next trail-the Narrows.

We only had one mile to walk on fairly flat terrain, but I felt I could completely relate to David when he said,

‘God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is,’

Even though I was drinking water my mouth and throat continued to feel dry and I kept thinking, ‘How in the world am I gonna make it back?’ As I looked around most of my team members had a similar expression-we were exhausted, heat-seared, sapped of strength and wondering why we didn’t just take our Angel’s Landing hike as a win and call it a day.

Keeping on going

One more step and then another, with no idea why, we kept going. When we reached the river many of us made comments like, ‘let’s just walk in the water about 5/10 minutes and then head back.’ We began wading through the river, filled our caps with water, doused ourselves and splashed each other. As we took step by step on unsteady stones into the water past our ankles up to our knees, even to our thighs in some places… something changed. We started smiling and laughing and playing. Our weariness faded and our joy and energy and strength were restored. It was mind boggling.

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It was a very eye-opening moment for me as I saw the effects of water. What a very physical and visual reminder of an invitation Jesus gave…if any man thirst let him come to me…and again a declaration…I am the Living Waters…

Many times we feel weary in our hearts and minds and this amazing experience reminded me of the beauty that Jesus is always accessible, His invitation is open. In the midst of the dry days that we experience we can choose to be in His presence; this does the very same thing for our hearts that the Narrows did for our bodies. May we continually seek and find the Living Waters and find refreshment for our souls.

You can find out more about Shirley and her work in Zambia on her blog: https://shirleysjourney.wordpress.com/about-me/

 

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The Comeback Run

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The Comeback Run

At one point in her life, Marathon runner Deena Nunes was told she would never run again. So how did someone who was suffering incredible physical pain start climbing mountains? Here is Deena's inspiring story...

MY STORY:

Health and fitness has been a huge passion of mine since I was a child. When I came home from college and started my career in the Health and Fitness industry, I needed a new hobby to keep me motivated so I turned to running toward the end of 2013. I became serious in 2014 and began a 742-day run streak.

Shortly after reaching the second year, and three months after running my first marathon, God had other plans for me. For the next several months, my body was rebelling against me and no one could figure out what was wrong.

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By now, it was 2016 and I was told there was a good chance I would not run again. That crushed me! I felt like I had lost a huge part of my life and I honestly felt trapped inside my own body. Day after day of excruciating pain, worry, and the unknown took a great toll on me. For 10 months, I went day to day not knowing what my future would look like. It was hard because many people did not understand it.

Fortunately, I had and still have to this day, an incredible support system that never left my side and my strong faith got me through. Without God, I would not have had the strength to endure the journey.

ANSWERED PRAYERS:

In March 2017, I finally saw a doctor who figured it all out and took the time to listen to me. I ended up having my gallbladder removed at the end of that month. I felt instant relief of pain after my surgery and can’t thank my surgeon enough.

FAST FORWARD TO NOW:

My health is so much better, and I give all the glory to God. Having no more excruciating pain is a wonderful feeling. A couple months ago, God put it on my heart that I was ready to train again. This is an opportunity I thought I would never be able to dream about doing again, so I knew I had to make this more than just about myself. The struggles I face today are minor compared to the struggles and challenges faced by the women and children we help rescue and save from modern-day slavery.

MY WHY:

When God speaks, you listen to him. He has provided me with so much insight and has taught me many lessons I probably wouldn’t know if I didn’t endure what I did. Challenges are all around us. They come in all sizes and in many different forms. You do not need to travel very far to find one. I have been blessed to journey on three climbs with the Freedom Challenge: Jackson Hole, WY in 2016, Estes Park, CO in 2017, and Machu Picchu, Peru in 2017. I will be back in 2019 to climb mountains, however, this year, I was presented with a special opportunity I could not pass up.

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Running has been a passion of mine for quite some time and before I got sick, it came easily to me. With this second chance at running, it is far from easy these days, but it still brings me the same joy. I am also running for God and not myself which makes all the difference. Although this half marathon training is a big challenge, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Challenges make us stronger and show us that our weaknesses end up being our greatest blessings.

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My eyes have also been opened to a much bigger and more important picture: Running does not define me. It doesn’t matter how fast or far I go or how many miles I accumulate in a month. What matters is the fact that every time I take one step, I appreciate the freedom knowing I am no longer trapped inside, and I have full control of what’s going on with my body. And that is a huge burden lifted off my shoulders.

It is my hope that through my running journey, it will inspire and encourage others to take the individualized fundraising approach to do what they love and help bring awareness and financial support to all the women and children around the world who are oppressed and enslaved.  

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God has taught me so much through the valleys and on the mountaintops both figuratively and literally and He has shown me to never stop trusting Him. He makes things happen in our lives to slow us down and really appreciate and value what’s in front of us. Let God be your focus!

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

In December, I will be running the Palm Beaches half marathon in aid of Freedom Challenge. You can help make a difference and be a blessing to these incredible women and children who have been through far worse than I can ever image. $150 saves a life!

Hebrews 12:1: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Deena Nunes lives in South Florida. She is the proud Auntie to her adorable niece, Melina. She works as Director of Training for a Health and Fitness company. Deena worships at Advent Lutheran Church in Boca Raton and is also very involved with Gold Coast Via de Cristo. Three of her biggest passions include: running, writing, and supporting the Freedom Challenge. She spreads positivity and smiles wherever she goes, and she loves Jesus.

 

 

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Observations of a Blown Mind

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Observations of a Blown Mind

Sonya Finley has a great Freedom Challenge story to share...

This past June, I had the opportunity to participate in the Bryce/Zion Freedom Challenge 2018. I was unprepared for the unexpectedly awesome experience it would be. Who’d a thunk hanging with a bunch of women in the canyons of Utah would be so mind blowing?

Who’d a thunk. . .?

. . . A great love could be displayed in so many small ways? From the very beginning, I felt like God was reminding He loved me in very small, special ways. From being upgraded to Premium Class on our departing flight, to the “I got you” attitude of the young lady working the counter at the car rental office, to the sweet ride (Nissan Armada, fully loaded, leather seats, sunroof…you get the idea) I drove in to Utah, to the women who supportively listen to my story without judgement, to Ms. Barbara whose prayers reminded me to be me because “the who” that I am has purpose, to finding the perfect cluster of trees with a wooden “bench” that made it easy for me to “take care of much needed business” on my first hike, to the surprising connections made, to Pastor Tracy who sought me out one evening to make sure I was okay, to the care shown by the prayer team as they prayerfully massaged the aches and pains from our feet after each hike.

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And even though I felt a wee bit discombobulated (well a lot discombobulated), my Beauty for Ashes painting presentation was well received and gave the ladies a much needed “lightness” after a very heavy day. I gotta say, I left feeling very loved indeed.

. . . A single word could be so powerful? This year the prayer warriors gave each hiker a word. One word prayerfully considered and totally applicable to the woman who received it. These words resonated with the women all week long and, for some, was the difference between giving up and finding strength to keep pushing.  There were also a few ladies who latched on to an “unexpected” word spoken in a manner of power and joy. Hallelujah! Now, I do not recall the context in which I was asked to say it, but say it, I did. And while the women responded in kind, I thought that was the end of it. But for the next few days, I was told several stories of how that word was spoken from the “mountain top” and how it inspired songs of praise. I saw it being intoned at the beginning of prayers and I, myself, used it before my presentation to bring focus in a moment of perceived chaos. A simple word, so full of power, praise and joy. (I have now been dubbed the “hallelujah hiker”.)

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. . . That challenging yourself for someone else’s freedom would lead to your own? We were there to fight for others who were in no position to fight for themselves, but much was said about how we are all overcome with our own versions of enslavement. Issues that hold our identities hostage, filtering everything we believe about ourselves through a lens so dense we lose sight of our purpose, our power, our possibilities. The challenge of the hikes provided an opportunity to put a very physical action to a very spiritual deliverance. The act of pushing oneself beyond your comfort zone put the women (including myself) in a vunerable place, open to healing and deliverance. For the Level 1 group, the “Sassy Silver Sistahs”, we each picked up a burden at the beginning of our second hike. We named it and then literally threw it away when we reached the top, an action that symbolized a burden being released and given to God. There were tears and the released burdens were weighty. We all came down the mountain a little lighter that day.



. . . Someone calling me sunshine would remind me of so much? We met the previous night when I joined her and some old friends for dinner. We had similar tastes in humor so of course we hit it off, right? So it should have been no surprise that the next evening she greeted me by saying “Hello Sunshine”. But it was. I used to be called that a lot, by a variety of people in a variety of circumstances. In that moment I realized that I hadn’t been called that name in a while. It had been explained to me a long time ago that that nickname reflects the light and energy I bring to the room, so if someone new was calling me that, then the light dimmed by less than wonderful circumstances was now aglow again.  It wasn’t until I started writing my prayer in the great book of Freedom Challenge prayers that I clearly understood what God was reminding me of: I set the atmosphere…Me. My emotions, attitude, and perceptions are not dictated by what is happening around me. I am the reflection of God’s heart towards His people and I must shine accordingly!  And shine I will!

. . . Stories of enslavement can be found in our back yard? We were blessed to hear the story of an American woman’s journey from being enslaved by her mother and stepfather to finding a life of freedom that included a long-lasting marriage, children, and a passion to help others out of where she used to be. Her strength to endure being locked in a room where she was practically starved and sexually abused daily and her courage to share her story was powerful. It reminded us what we were there for.

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. . . A professed non-athlete would stand proudly and call herself a hiker? Shortly after I said yes to this challenge, I realized the magnitude of what I had agreed to. Did I agree to hike for three days in a row?! Not one, but three?! Say what now? But I’m good, right? I walk 5ks, 10ks and half marathons, so I should be okay. I thought, until I began training. I felt well out of my depth—unqualified and unable to complete the challenge. I professed this lack—often! I’m pretty sure I annoyed my teammates to no end. My anxiety around this event was high. But I’m no quitter, so I showed up and faced my fears. Fears, which, I must be honest, did not abate until I sat with our Sherpa (Roxy Hicks—she’s awesome!) and she let us know what to expect. I will even admit I got a little excited …what?! And yes, I hiked three days! And three very different types of hikes! It was not a walk in the park (literally), but I got through it and I actually enjoyed it. Our leaders’ approach went far to make all of us feel less self-conscious about our level of abilities and kept our focus on enjoying the journey (and taking pictures!). On the last day of the conference I proudly proclaimed, “I am a hiker”. This declaration received a round of applause, a standing ovation from my dear Sherpa, and I became the proud recipient of the proverbial (and literal) “big girl panties”!

. . .that I am capable of far more than I think? What I didn’t think I could do, God showed me I could. Simple as that.

Who’d a thunk indeed…
A Freedom Challenge hiker, that’s me!

Sonya Finley is a mother of four fabulous young men who "love their momma". She currently works for the San Diego Airport Authority but is active in her artistic pursuits. She is on the verge of a new season in her single life that now focuses on a journey not centered around child-rearing. This journey includes stretching beyond her comfort zone and opening herself up to new challenges...like hiking for three days. 

Find out more about our next Challenge - The Grand Canyon in October.

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"Who you climb with matters"

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"Who you climb with matters"

Lauren Stark shares three lessons that she learned from taking part in our Freedom Challenge in Utah last month

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If Jesus hiked up Double Peak with us today, I wonder what kind of hiker he would look like? Would he use poles? Would he have Merrill hiking boots? What kind of trail mix would he be munching on? Would he carry an extra pair of socks or bring a holy can of mace?

I believe Jesus was an expert hiker. He holds the record for completing the hardest hike ever. But he looked differently doing it. He didn’t have supportive, protective boots. No change of socks. Was he even wearing sandals? Maybe he did it barefoot? Feeling every sharp pebble or stick. Stubbing toes, getting hotspots. I don’t think he had an Osprey backpack full of water. He had an unbearably heavy piece of wood splintering into his already beaten back. The pain of the pressure of that cross on his shoulder makes me gasp! A face unrecognizable beaten to a pulp. His beard ripped from his cheeks. A crown of prickly thorns digging into his head. World's worst migraine. No electrolyte gummies to keep him energized. No, what kept him going was my face. Perhaps even this very moment as I write a blog to bring life to others: “He lost his life so I can find mine here.” He hiked and died so I can live and live abundantly. How great is our God!

But he doesn’t stop there. He hiked again. He was on every hike as I trained. And he hiked with me in Utah. We had three main hikes and as I was giving my attention to pray for freedom for the oppressed he brought his attention back to me. I learned three things:

Hike 1

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Elevation 7800 - Air pressure is different when up this high. Your lungs aren’t used to it. There is a “panic” feeling that can set in as it feels like you can’t catch your breath. A fellow hiker described it as running a marathon while breathing through a straw. I started to freak out in my mind: “God calm me down, I want to enjoy this hike.” God replied “And I want you to enjoy your journey with me.”

You see for the past year and a half I’ve been living with this secret vision of me running/operating a rehab facility. A place of complete healing and restoration for people who are trapped with addiction. I pray and pray for some sort of door to be opened. I get frustrated waiting on him since my current reality doesn’t match what's in my heart. Through the elevation change in my lungs the Lord brought to my attention that we go through “spiritual” elevation change as well. If he takes me from spiritual point A to point B too fast and I’m not ready I will freak out, panic, suffocate and run for the hills. He knows what he is doing. His timing is important and he wants me to enjoy the process. 

Hike 2

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Before we move on Lauren we have to knock down some idols you've built.  We started our 2nd hike with a big rock in our hand. We couldn't put it down, even if we had to get into our packs we had to ask a friend to hold it. We carried it for four miles. At the top of the mountain we were told to lay our “something” down, something we needed to be free from. God revealed to me that I have an unhealthy appetite for the need to feel important and the need to be recognized in the eyes of man. If we are going to build our dream rehab then it can't be about me. He needs to get all the glory, not me. 

Hike 3

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Who you climb with matters. Our 3rd hike was the hardest yet. 12 miles in triple digits. I was doing great until about mile five. I couldn't get my body cooled down and I started to feel like I was going to pass out. I couldn't shake that feeling. Trying to remain calm for about another mile or so didn't work and I had a little meltdown. I can't do this!! I just balled in my hands. My lady hiker friends gathered around me, prayed and encouraged me. They helped cool me down, lightened my load and nourished me. Something in my attitude shifted and I put my big girl panties on and got myself out of there! It was no beauty pageant but i'm pretty sure God framed it somewhere in heaven. Who you climb with matters -who you do life with matters. 

So if you have not done freedom challenge before I beg you to please sign up. You just might be freed from something too!

You can sign up for our next Challenge to the Grand Canyon here.

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Breaking walls down

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Breaking walls down

Hannah Collier shares about her first experience of a Freedom Challenge hike in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park...

On June 22, 60 women arrived at Zion National Park to fight for the oppressed and broken hearted.

As these 60 women came together, my heart grew full; 60 women saying yes to the challenge. While any single one of us may not be able to bring down the sex trafficking industry, our unity in the fight will break its walls down one by one. These 60 women who are willing to walk (or climb) through discomfort that they may bring freedom to the women, children, and men who live in conditions that mimic hell, are just one example of that.

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This past week chains were also broken in the lives of the freedom fighters. Susan Howard of LoveWorks ministry joined us as our conference speaker. Through her, the Holy Spirit brought freedom to our hearts—freedom from sin, freedom from victimization, and a freedom to love others well. She spoke, “There is nothing wrong with recognizing pain, unless it leads to hopelessness. Our pain should always bring us to the cross…we must give God permission to minister to us through our pain.”

It is hard to fight for the freedom of others without recognizing the ways Satan has enslaved us.

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I was given the privilege of capturing these moments on camera. Through this role, I had the opportunity to join a different team each day and I was amazed by these women’s consistent willingness to be vulnerable, their desire to see victory be had for Christ over the trafficking industry, and their desire for growth.

A willing heart often is the vehicle of God’s miracles. Through willing hearts, mountains are moved.

In the midst of the deep emotion and tears over the reality of enslavement, laughter was also had—and a lot of it. We were given the opportunity to participate in a paint night led by Sonya Finley where we meditated on God’s redemptive power and ability to bring beauty from ashes. There was much laughter in the room that night as women conversed and giggled over their artistic abilities.

Overall, the Bryce/Zion climb was a beautiful representation of how God works in our lives. Pain and suffering come with our fallen nature, but through the joy of the Lord we can still walk with joyful spirits. We can both laugh and cry, just as we can celebrate victory and hit our knees daily in prayer for the Lord to continue to work in the dark areas of the world.

Chances are, you have heard the statistics of sex trafficking, you have seen the horrific pictures of children not being taken care of well and subjected to the awful decisions of another. The remaining question is: “What are you going to do about it?”

This past week, women fought for freedom by putting one foot in front of another. Through pain, heat, and fear, victory was had in more ways than one.

This is the Freedom Challenge. My challenge to you? Get involved. Ignorance is not bliss, use your voice to advocate for those trapped in slavery.

Find out how you can get involved in our next Challenge.

Hannah Collier is an intern with The Freedom Challenge.

 

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"You care about us when no-one else does"

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"You care about us when no-one else does"

Worldwide, 14 million girls are married as child-brides each year. That is 38,000 young girls every day. Research shows that if girls receive a formal education, the rate of childhood marriages falls by 64%.  

Your support is enabling our project workers and teachers in Central Asia to work with entire communities in remote mountainous villages, where child marriage is common, advocating for and promoting the education of girls. Here is what some of the people involved in the schools have to say:

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School chairman:
"We saw some girls wandering around outside and thought, ‘Why aren’t they coming to school?’ The problem is that some of the old people still have closed minds. They say it is not good to educate girls.  We have only recently started this work.  Until we are educated, our problems will not go away, so we are going to keep bringing the girls. We have begun telling people that their children will get free books and supplies to attend school, maybe even up to middle school here and that getting an education will be easy!”

Parent of a school student shared: "Many changes have happened in our lives.  It is different because we are very poor people. We couldn’t afford the fee of $5 to send our children to school. I only studied until fifth grade, and then there was no teacher for higher levels, and no money to travel to another school. We were poor, so I stayed at home. Because of education, we are very thankful. Those who brought education have given us free pencils, textbooks, notebooks, and uniforms. It was all free. The school is completely full and you brought teachers.  Now there are so many girls studying! What is the reason they are studying? It’s because of the care that people have given.  We are very thankful. You care about us when no-one else does. No-one else comes here. No-one else is working here.”

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School principal shared, “Many changes have happened. Many government teachers just pass the time. But by the grace of God, the teachers who have been posted here are working hard, coming on time, and doing their best for the children. And then two female teachers joined us and they are also doing a great job. Because of this, we have seen many changes in the students. However, there is still the problem that parents here are illiterate. When the children go home and open their books, the parents can’t help them to understand. So, we are doing our best to teach very strong basics to the children up to class three. We are also helping the older students who have some weak areas as well.  Since I have been here, from the time I came until now, I feel that there are many changes.”

The difference your support is making is incredible. Only with your help can we continue to prevent child marriage and give girls all that they need to be able to achieve their dreams.

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom but any gift you give will make a difference. Thank you!

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We need your help!

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We need your help!

The start of our Utah Challenge is only a few weeks away - and we need your help in a few ways.

  • Pray: Our Challenge hikers will be pushing themselves to their physical limits every day – they need our prayers to keep them strong mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Pray too for God’s kingdom to advance in the countries where we are working to set women free. You can find more topics for prayer here: https://www.thefreedomchallenge.com/prayer-challenge/

  • Share: Tell others about The Freedom Challenge. Share our posts on social media. You can follow the action throughout the week of June 22 - June 27 on Facebook and Instagram. And encourage your friends, family and colleagues to give, to pray and sign up for our next challenge.

  • Go: There is still time to register for our Grand Canyon challenge in October. We’ll be hiking rim-to-rim in this glorious national park. You can find more information and sign up here: https://www.thefreedomchallenge.com/new-events/.

 

We're excited to hit the trails in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park to raise awareness of human trafficking and to raise funds for our vital rescue and restoration projects around the world.

Thank you for standing with us as we take on our next challenge. We couldn't do  any of this without your support!

 

 

 

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"I want you to know that these projects are changing lives!"

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"I want you to know that these projects are changing lives!"

Ginger Martin, President and CEO of American National Bank, and a Freedom Challenge supporter who's taken part in five challenges so far, shares how visiting our projects in Zambia has impacted her

As a woman, a mother, a female CEO and a survivor of sexual abuse, I am passionate about raising funds and awareness to fight human trafficking. In February 2018, that passion and commitment was elevated to an even higher level when I, along with four other women, visited four Operation Mobilization (OM) projects that Freedom Challenge supports in Kabwe, Zambia. 

 Ginger Martin, Lisa Rose, Jennifer Brockway, Tracy Daugherty, Elaine Ellis arriving at OM Zambia

Ginger Martin, Lisa Rose, Jennifer Brockway, Tracy Daugherty, Elaine Ellis arriving at OM Zambia

In case you don’t read any further, I want to make sure you know that I’ve witnessed first-hand how these projects are changing lives! The funds you give and your participation in Freedom Challenge events raises money that meets the immediate needs of women and children in desperate situations, but even more importantly, OM is providing skills, training and education that will allow them to build a better future. If you are considering participating in or donating to a future Freedom Challenge event, let me encourage you to DO IT! 

Bethesda Mercy Ministry

 Children at Bethesda Mercy Ministry

Children at Bethesda Mercy Ministry

Our first stop was Bethesda Mercy Ministry. Here, we met the husband and wife team from Zambia that oversee this program, Henry and Brenda. They shared that the disabled were an unreached group. They are rejected by society, the parents feel shame and the father often abandons the mother and child, leaving them destitute and poor. Bethesda’s mission is to provide daycare and education for disabled children from toddlers up to 21 years of age, in the hope they can live an independent life. They also help the mothers develop a business plan to earn a living.

 Ginger with Deborah

Ginger with Deborah

We went to the various classrooms to meet the teachers, volunteers and children. We saw children that were crippled, wearing leg braces, on crutches and in wheelchairs. Some had Down's Syndrome. The amazing thing is that many of the children were so full of joy. One class sang for us. The class for the older group (18 – 21), was learning life and social skills like personal hygiene, being on time, and how to be a good worker. One little girl that captured my heart was deaf.  Her name was Deborah. 

 Business proposals

Business proposals

We met ten of the mothers of the disabled group who shared their one-page business proposals. Most plans involved the selling of vegetables, charcoal, cooking oil, etc. These women were given a $4 loan from OM to start their business. 


Mercy House

Our next stop was Mercy House. It is located in the poorest community in Kabwe called Makululu. The OM missionary that runs Mercy House is from Scotland, and her name is Ann. Mercy House provides the $40 it costs for a school uniform, which allows a child to attend public school for a year. The kids go to Mercy House after school and are provided a meal and Bible teaching. Most of the kids in Mercy House are being raised by a single mom or a grandmother. We met one mother who was 21 years old with 3 children; her oldest was 11 years old. Do the math! 

 Bernadette teaching sewing

Bernadette teaching sewing

Tabitha Skills Development

Mercy House also has a program where the mothers can learn how to sew, so that they can make money. Bernadette from Zambia teaches the program. She received her training from another OM program supported by Freedom Challenge called Tabitha Skills Development.

 

 Pharen, leader of the Tabitha project

Pharen, leader of the Tabitha project

We also met 37-year-old Pharen, who is the leader of the Tabitha Project. She shared her story of becoming an orphan at age 14, the hardships she endured and how God took care of her. The pain and hurt she suffered inspired her to want to help other women, so the Tabitha Project seeks to empower vulnerable women by teaching them skills and mentoring them. They learn to sew, knit, crochet and make beaded jewelry.

 

The leaders of the Tabitha Project are committed to expanding their efforts to reach more women in the community. During our trip, we saw a new building under construction that will facilitate this, and we also met two other young women that were being developed as leaders so that they could go out to other Zambian villages and teach more women the skills to make a living.

Makwati Community School

 Makwati community school - kids at recess

Makwati community school - kids at recess

The last project we visited was the Makwati Community School, which offers elementary school classes. Here, we spent time with the Principal, visited several of the classes and talked with many of the teachers. We enjoyed having recess with the kids and interacting with them. Next to the school was a field planted with sweet potatoes that we learned was purchased with Freedom Challenge funds. The sweet potatoes are sold to raise money to support the school. Isn’t that a perfect example of your donations being used for real-world, sustainable solutions?

In the OM house we stayed in hung this very simple sign: “Beloved is your deepest and truest identity.” For me, this sign sums up what OM projects are accomplishing. These projects are showing the oppressed and vulnerable women and children of the world that they have value, they matter, and that in God’s plans, they have hope and a future, thanks to the time, talent and treasure of people like you!

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Ginger Martin, President and CEO of American National Bank

Ginger’s passion for fighting against human trafficking has led her on a mountain climbing journey with The Freedom Challenge since 2014. With five climbs under her belt thus far, including 7-Summits Colorado 2014, Mt. Kilimanjaro - Africa 2015, Grand Tetons - Wyoming 2016, Estes Park - Colorado 2017, and Machu Picchu - Peru 2017, Ginger has tirelessly raised funds and awareness for the women and children who are victims of human trafficking. As a result, Ginger has been asked to speak to a multitude of different groups throughout South Florida to tell her story of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and the leadership lessons learned along the way.

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'I was not your stereotypical hiker'

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'I was not your stereotypical hiker'

Since becoming a Christian, I have been taught about, and I am learning to embrace, the reality of God as my Father. It was difficult since I grew up in a fatherless home, but over the years I am slowly learning how much God loves me as His cherished daughter. He is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5-6).

Besides growing up in a fatherless home, I lived with a mother who was emotionally absent.

This week I experienced a side of God that I never have before.

I went on a three-day hike with 160 other women, all hiking for the ministry of Freedom Challenge. Freedom Challenge is a ministry that rescues and restores women who have been victims of human trafficking or modern-day slavery.

Upon entering the auditorium, I quickly became aware that I was not like many of the others. There were many fit, young women. I did not meet the stereotypical model of the avid hiker. Being the largest woman in attendance made my insecurities resurface. What was I doing with a group of women that were there to stretch themselves physically? I had trained to do this but I was feeling very intimidated. I was not in my comfort zone. It was as though I was living on a whole new planet.

From the time I had left Ohio, I had been asking God to show Himself to me. How was He going to do that in this very uncomfortable scenario?

Day one – no turning back now

It all began on day one of our hike. We had 16 women in our beginning hiking group. Even on the shuttle bus on the way to our hike, the tears started. Would I make it the whole six miles? Will the group have to compensate for me because of my physical pain? There was no turning back now.

As we started out on our first hike, our leaders shared that no one was going to be left behind. Each person on the team was important and that their goal for us was to experience God and His community of women. Each one of us have value and they challenged us to learn about each other’s stories. Their words brought me comfort and I longed for them to really be true.

Sharing my story

The day proceeded along excellently. The hike was very doable and I was asked to lead for most of the hike. During our lunch break and after our time alone with God, I was asked to share my story with the rest of our team. Women were challenged and God was glorified! Blessed be His name! My feet were in such physical pain when we were done that I could hardly walk after we had rested. But this was the first time in my life that I had walked six whole miles. And to think that I had two more days of this. I limped to dinner that night and hoped that it would not be too obvious how much pain I was in. I did not sleep well that night because of the pain and I so dreaded the morning when it arrived.


Day two – feeling vulnerable and weak

I went downstairs the next morning to a group that was eager to go. I was approached by JoAnn, our spiritual leader and told that if I needed to take the day off and rest that it would be OK. She told me that there was no shame in resting. They wanted me to be able to attend the third day’s hike. I decided to risk it and go on Day two’s hike.

The tears again started as we rode in the shuttle bus. What in the world was going on in me? Again I felt vulnerable and weak. That’s right where God wanted me. When we arrived, I started out strong but the hike was not as level as the day before. I found I was tiring easily and was experiencing the altitude difference.

'I was not in control'

Daria, one of our sweet leaders from SROM (Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries), offered to carry my backpack for me. It didn’t seem right that someone else would have to carry my load. This was my responsibility! I am the one usually helping others. But in this new element, I was not in control. My load was wearing me down quickly and my heart was beating out of my chest with each hill that we climbed. I humbly handed over my pack.

Our group ended up breaking into two and there were five of us who walked behind the others. Our little group was encouraging and allowed the hike to be more fun and less regimented. We continued to make slow, forward progress.

On top of the world

At one point we came to a very large boulder and Benthe, our Netherland girl, climbed it quickly. We took her picture along with the others. Daria asked if I wanted to get up on the rock and I told her that I wasn’t going to be able to because of my knees. She assured me that I could with their help. She step by step showed me where to put my feet and, as a team, they helped me up this rock. I felt as though I was on top of the world!! I sat on the rock with arms of victory as they took my picture. Little Daria ran up the rock and sat down right next to me and we celebrated.

Getting off the rock was a challenge too. Daria knew exactly how to help me and she asked another one of the women to help. We worked together and I got off just as easily as getting up it. That experience gave me a sense of dignity and I really began believing that these women did care.

In our time with God that day, we were asked to contemplate the phrase, Retreat, Pray, Hear, and Obey. One verse that God also had impressed on my heart that week was,

Psalm 27:14. “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous, wait patiently on the Lord.”

Waiting on God

The verse did not seem to correlate with any of the verses that we talked about during our group time but I still went with it, waited on God, and contemplated the phrase, Retreat, Pray, Hear, and Obey.

What did obeying look like for me during this hike? God impressed on my heart that obeying, most times, includes taking risks. “Will I trust Him to be enough? Will I trust His provision?” One way I had exercised trust on this particular day was to allow the expertise of others to show me how to climb a rock. What seemed to be too difficult became easier when I submitted and trusted their judgement. It was another way I had to lay down my self-sufficiency, and allow others to help me.

My main take away for the day was, “Will I choose to trust God when it seems like what He is asking is too difficult or impossible? Will I trust in His wisdom and allow His daughters to enter into my weak areas? Will I allow myself to admit to my weaknesses so that He can make me strong?”

I felt challenged by God that day but I did not feel as though I had experienced Him in the way I was longing to. Again, I was reminded of the verse that God had impressed on me.

Psalm 27:14, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous, wait patiently on the Lord.”

 

Day three – facing my biggest physical challenge

Day three arrived and, with two days of successful hiking, I was excited about this third day. We were going to Inspiration Point and I was excited to see what God had in store for us.

I was told that the majority of the hike was fairly level but that we would climb the last I/3 about 800 ft in elevation. In my ignorance I did not comprehend how much 800 feet actually was. Benthe quickly offered to take my pack but I was feeling good and chose to carry it myself.

'Would I be able to do this?'

The hike was going along so smoothly with gorgeous views of waterfalls and mountains. The trail was busy with people which slowed us down a little. We hit the last third, ugh! I climbed up a lot of stairs, turned at the curve and climbed a whole lot more. There was switchback after switchback. My backpack was taken off my back and was handed to Benthe once again. We climbed and climbed and climbed. We saw people far up the mountain and I was told that was where we were headed. This was my biggest physical challenge. Would I really be able to do this?

My team cheered me on with each switchback. Daria kept telling me that I was doing a great job. Mia would hold her arm out to me to lean on if I needed to. Then we hit the most difficult, rocky part of the path that was all solid rock wall on one side and straight down a few hundred feet on the other side.

Relieved and in shock

All I can say is that it was a good thing that I did not know ahead of time what we were going to face. One foot in front of the other, trust my experienced leaders, trust God’s wisdom and protection. After what seemed to be hours, which really wasn’t, we made it to the top. I was relieved and in shock. Are we really here? It was glorious being so high up and overlooking the lake from a totally different view.

During our time with God, we were asked to contemplate several questions. One of them was, “What have I learned in this temporary community to take back to my permanent community?”

Before we had our time of sharing how God spoke to each of us, JoAnn anointed us with oil and spoke over each one of our lives. Our SROM leaders then told us that they wished to wash our feet if we were open to it.

Being ministered to

I have never been a part of a foot washing before. My feet were filthy but I put my pride down and asked Daria if she would wash mine. As she did, she spoke into my life and I, in turn, had a chance to speak into hers. It was a humbling, beautiful experience. It was another opportunity to allow myself to be ministered to. I had nothing to offer these beautiful women except vulnerability, weakness, and to reflect the strength, love, and healing of God that I had received from Him.

It was at this point that my eyes were completely opened and I realized I was experiencing the other side of God. He clearly manifested Himself to me through this community of women.

The other side of God

When it came time to share our hearts with the group, I shared what the other side of God was for me and how He used this community of women to be a part of that.

By not receiving motherly nurturing growing up, I never experienced, in totality, what female love, and nurturing really was. I had a husband and two boys but they could not offer what only healthy women can. These past three days, God used his community of women to physically, emotionally, and spiritually minister to me in such Godlike, pure ways. There were no strings attached, there was no demand that I be a certain way. I was accepted, challenged, encouraged, and “loved on” in a way that could only be from God.

Nurturing love

Sure I have had friends minister deeply to my heart, but what I experienced this weekend was much more profound. I was never made to feel that I was their “special project”, but they offered help if I wanted it. They didn’t force their agenda on me and I never felt that they were trying to rescue me. They cared enough to help me experience God in a more, complete and refreshing way. I experienced the motherhood and sisterhood of God. The nurturing tender hand of His love.

Their love was strong, yet gentle. Their love was not dependent on how well I performed.

Feeling more complete

I experienced what only a nurturing mother could have given me growing up. This week helped me grow in a way I would have never dreamed of. I feel so much more complete and I feel I know God in much more of a holistic way. I found Christ’s tender, loving side with a community of women who reflected Him so well.

“God sets the lonely in families….” He set me in His family of women that perfectly reflected His other side.

“Wait patiently for the Lord” I waited and He made Himself known to me. I am changed by His perfect and complete love.

Then at the end of the week, they honored me with an award for outstanding effort. They were the ones that needed to be honored because of how well they reflected the love, mercy, and tenderness of Christ.

Ginger Taddeo took part in the Wyoming Freedom Climb in August 2016.

You can join our next hike in Machu Picchu - sign up here.

 

 

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Loved at last

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Loved at last

Your support is helping teenagers like Anita* recover from the trauma of rejection and abuse and discover what love and family are really meant to be like...

Anita's parents abandoned her when she was five. Although she was taken in by her grandparents the rejection affected her deeply. The very people who should have protected her, loved her and cherished her didn’t want to know her.

The wrong crowd

Her early teenage years were incredibly hard as she tried to negotiate life without a parent's guidance. She looked for acceptance in all the wrong places and fell in with a destructive crowd who she thought were her friends.

Instead, they sold her repeatedly for sex.

Then Anita found out she was pregnant. At that time she was living with a man, the father of her baby. But when she told him she was pregnant he said he had never loved her and was actually engaged to someone else. Finally, he agreed that she could stay with him until the baby was born but after that he never wanted to see her again. When her waters broke he threw her out of the house and told her not to come back. He refused to take her to hospital, so in desperation Anita called a taxi.

A stark choice

With her new baby in her arms Anita's choice was stark. Her grandparents had said she could come back only if she gave the baby to an orphanage. The alternative, so Anita believed, was homelessness but she already loved the baby and refused to abandon it. The hospital took her to a local shelter where they taught her to care for the baby.  But when the government funding for this shelter was cut it had to close and Anita had nowhere to go with her tiny baby.

Thankfully, she remembered someone telling her about House of Joy, a Freedom Challenge-supported project in Kosovo that provides shelter for vulnerable young women, many of whom are fleeing domestic violence or have been rescued from traffickers.  

Part of a new family

With just a tiny shred of hope left, Anita got a taxi from the shelter to the House of Joy. The staff were surprised to see a teenage girl with a tiny baby in her arms standing on the doorstep but Anita and her baby were warmly welcomed in and have been part of the House of Joy family ever since.

Anita is doing incredibly well. Her baby has given her the motivation to really change her life around and commit to everything that the program at House of Joy has to offer. She is determined to give her daughter a better life than her own. She is studying hard and hopes to finish her school exams and then to continue her education.

House of Joy is a real family for her; the staff and other residents love her, and she knows she has a home there.

There are so many girls like Anita in Kosovo, trapped in a cycle of abuse and rejection. House of Joy is the only long-term reintegration center in the country.

*Name changed to protect identity

Thanks to your prayers and support we are able to continue to provide life-changing intervention in the lives of young women.

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom.

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Captivity on the open road

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Captivity on the open road

The lure of paid work is overhwelming when the alternative is desparate poverty. But many young girls in Ghana are being lured into a life of captivity and mistreatment. Asana had no idea what awaited her when she moved to another part of the country looking for work

On the corner of the street, a girl stands balancing an empty metal bowl on her head. She greets Portia, our Kayeye Ministry Coordinator, with a smile. They exchange conversation for a minute or two before parting ways.

“We’re trying to help her out before she gets pregnant,” Portia says.

The girl is 18 years old. She, along with many others like her, lives on the streets of Kumasi, Ghana, where the promise of a paying job drew her from the northern regions. But what she found, as most women who moved south in search of decent earnings have, has left her alone and trapped in a cycle of abuse and struggle.

The empty metal bowl will be filled with heaps of maize meal, wood, fruit—and any number of other heavy items. Without the bowl, she will carry bags of rice on her head, or car parts, such as tires; anything she is ordered to carry by the people in the market who pay her.

It may seem like a fair deal: do your work, get paid. But for nearly every girl, the loads get heavier and heavier, and the money rarely—if ever—comes.

Weighed down

For the Kayeye (a slang term originating in southern Ghana, meaning “going [to carry]” and used uniquely for the girls who carry heavy loads on their heads), the cycle begins in the predominantly-Muslim north.

Asana came to the south out of necessity. The third of six children, she watched her parents divorce because of her father’s mental illness; her mother and older sister travelled south to work as Kayeye. At 10 years old, Asana did the same.

Asana’s sister recognised immediately that Asana was too young to carry such heavy loads on her head. Instead, she found Asana a job as a dishwasher for a woman who sold waakye, a popular Ghanaian dish, on the side of the road. The woman agreed to pay Asana 5 cedis (approximately US$1.25) at the end of each day. As time went on, however, Asana learned that the woman had no interest in paying her more than once a week—and even then, she only gave her whatever spare change she felt like giving her.

Cheated of her payment and alone, Asana found herself trapped on the street for more than a year, caught in a web of abuse and mistreatment.

A better future

But then one of our project workers introduced herself to Asana and told her about our home for girls in Kumasi where she could live free from fear and where she could go back to school. Her family agreed that she could go.

Now 12 years old and living at the home, Asana is once again in school and is at the top of her class. She is starting to dream of a better future; she plans to become a nurse and return north to help the mentally ill, like her father, where basic health care is inaccessible.

This home for girls in Ghana not only provides schooling to young girls, it also offers young women the chance to learn a skill such as hairdressing or tailoring to keep them off the streets and to empower them to live as freely and independently as possible.

Asana is now thriving. It is your gifts and the gifts of many other Freedom Challenge supporters that make this possible. Thank you!

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom but any gift you give makes a difference!

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