'The only thing that kept her alive was prayer'

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'The only thing that kept her alive was prayer'

This is the story of Ruth. Her story is such a powerful example of why The Freedom Challenge exists and why your support is so vital in bringing an end to human trafficking. Ruth and her baby are free at last...

On a cold winter’s afternoon, Ruth, six-months pregnant and scared for her life, boarded a dangerously overcrowded inflatable boat on the coast of Turkey, desperate to escape her past and hopeful of a new life in Europe.    

As they set sail for Greece, Ruth held on to the memory of a dream she’d had the night before; in it, God told her that she would be safe. 

Despite the rough seas, Ruth and all on board arrived unharmed on the Greek island of Chios.

A safe haven

For Ruth, the refugee camp was a safe haven after all she’d been through. But she didn’t know how she would manage to care for the baby when it arrived in such basic living arrangements and with little support.

Ruth grew up in Nigeria with five siblings; every day was a struggle for her mom to feed and take care of Ruth and her other children, especially after Ruth’s father walked out.

A chance to succeed

So when a local woman offered to take Ruth to Turkey and employ her in her shop, her mother agreed, believing that Ruth would have a much better chance to succeed in life away from the poverty and hardships of their village.

Of course, when Ruth arrived in Turkey there was no shop. Only a room with a bed. And no customers, only ‘clients’.

Running for her life

Ruth was heartbroken and very scared. She was locked in the room for hours on end. The only thing that kept her alive was prayer.

One day, the owner of the house invited some men over; they spent all day drinking and for once took little notice of Ruth. She knew that this was her chance – she escaped through the open front door and ran for her life.

As she fled to the nearest town, she was stopped by a Nigerian man called Adam; he asked her why she was running and took her to a local café where Ruth spent the day telling him her dark story. Ruth trusted him and he invited her to live with him.

Short-lived happiness

A few months later, Ruth discovered she was pregnant, Adam was delighted that he would soon be a father. But their happiness was short lived when the woman who had enslaved Ruth found her and started threatening her and her unborn baby.

Terrified, Ruth and Adam decided it was best for her and the baby to escape on one of the migrant boats to Greece.

New life in Greece

After spending just over a month in the refugee camp, the birth was imminent. When UNHCR realized that Ruth was close to giving birth they contacted one of our projects in Greece – Damaris House which cares for refugee women and their new born babies, giving them shelter, food and quality bonding time with their babies away from the hard living conditions of the camps.

Now, Ruth’s baby is three months old. Through the counselling and training she is receiving in Damaris House, Ruth is learning to trust people and experience God’s unconditional love.

She is already making plans for her son: “All I worry and care about is making sure my son has a better life than I had.”

Your support is providing a lifeline for pregnant young refugee woman, some who are escaping trafficking and enslavement. This is such a vital project and we are so grateful that you have made it possible to give Ruth new life and new hope. Thank you!

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

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Learning humility on a mountain top

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Learning humility on a mountain top

Karis Williams, first-time Freedom Challenge hiker and US Navy Vet, shares her story of the joy and challenges of taking part in our recent Estes Park climb, and how God used the event to speak to her about her future... 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6).

I am not a patient woman.

I am a stubborn woman, and that often means I have to learn my lessons through life experiences.

God’s disciplinary tool this time was the Freedom Challenge’s Estes Park hike in July.

Is this what God wants me to do?

At first the idea seemed cool, but I debated with God if this was truly the one and only thing he wanted me to do. After all I have spent the last six years doing research on human trafficking and I had already devoted my career to aiding victims of trafficking so for some reason climbing a mountain to raise money did not seem like the next step.

This is where the journey began. I agreed to do the Freedom Challenge and for months I fundraised, built awareness and trained.

Ready for the challenge

The months flew by and soon I was on my way to Colorado. During the flight and drive to Estes Park I was excited and anticipating the fun I would have climbing, the friends I would meet and I was confident that I had trained for the climb and I was ready for the challenge.

We began the Freedom Challenge with an acclimation hike. Each step I took made me tired, the air grew thinner but I was confident that I was going at a good pace, until my body decided to betray me.

Due to a combination of the hardships of being a women mixed with my naivety that I would be able to acclimate to an increase of about 8,000ft, my body began to do things that none of you would want me to go into detail about.

Facing my biggest fear

I was so upset at the weakness of my body, that I barely paid attention to the women around me who took time to take care of me and pray for me. My biggest fear was that I would not be able to climb.

Later that night our group leader tapped me on the shoulder and told me that I was going to be moved to one of the beginner groups. She told me that due to my previous episode it would be better if I would not over stimulate my body, but she consoled me by telling me that the leader of my new group was the most amazing women she knew.

I should be going more!

The following two days, I hiked through some beautiful trails, I sighted some bears, even a moose and I had some of the most spiritually stimulating conversations in my life, but in the back of my mind I thought: “I could…I SHOULD be doing more than this!”

I was promised a Mountain! I had trained for a Mountain!

Although the trails were not as physically demanding I assured myself that there was a reason I was there. I searched deep inside and knew God was working out the characteristic of humility in me. I knew that I was where I was, because there was a lesson to be learned. This was not just about the physical mountain I was promised but that this was about my purpose and my calling.

Revelation from God

This was the revelation of the question I had been asking God.

For months before the climb I had been asking God when was the proper time? When would I be living the manifestation of my calling?

Just like with the climb I knew I could do more but things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to.

I told God I am ready, I am trained, I am healed, I am educated… so what now? How much longer would I have to wait?

This is when it all began making sense; God was showing me that He was the one that gave me my desire and my purpose.

Learning to be humble and wait

He was the one who had made me a promise. He was the one who called me to the Mountain top and it would be Him that would bring that into fulfillment – all I needed was to be humble and wait.

Wait to be lifted up.

On the second day my new leader looked at me and said, “I can tell you’re doing well, and that your body is strong do you want to go back up a level?” I tried not to seem too overly excited and said, “Yes!”

The next morning as I woke up at 4am I thanked God for the opportunity to do what I had come and set out to do. I thanked him for fulfilling his promise and I prayed that I would get to that top of the mountain in VICTORY.

Each step I took I took with GRATITUDE. The air was cold and the trail we walked upon was slippery but we kept going.

The more we walked the quicker our pace became and so did my excitement. After all this is exactly what I had expected.

Living out a promise

The climb progressed and there were a few moments as we climbed in silence that my eyes filled up with tears because I was living out a promise that was given to me.

 I remembered Micah 6:8, “Seek Justice, Love Mercy, and walk Humbly with YOUR GOD.”

This verse was on repeat throughout the year, every season enveloped with a new characteristic that needed to be developed and I had finally gotten to Humility, but I was not alone… God was walking with me.

I looked at the progression of the last three days and it was simple; Pain, Healing, Serving and Triumph. It was a summarization of my life and the picture God saw.

Getting to the top came quickly, and the moments at the summit where few. I did not contemplate the amount of time it took me to get there, the conditions or the exhaustion. I just basked in the glory of it – I was standing in a Holy place!

 A place you only arrive to through obedience and humility.

The mountaintop was surreal, if it were not for the photo I may not believe I had gotten there.

Remembering God's faithfulness

But we could not remain on the mountaintop (mainly because we were freezing). The mountain top was a momentary place, a symbol, a lesson.

It would always be there for me to look back at and remember God’s faithfulness.

That everything God had spoken, He will bring to pass. That what He has purposed, He will do [Isaiah 46:11].

Karis Williams lives in Plantation Florida with her husband and dog. She is a US Navy veteran and currently works for a non-profit doing immigration / trafficking advocacy and has just graduated from a Masters in Global Affair. She loves going to the gym and the beach and is enjoying her new found hobbie of hiking!        

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'Open your heart to share and learn and love'

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'Open your heart to share and learn and love'

With our Estes Park hike a little over a week away, we asked seasoned Freedom Challenge hiker, Debbie Dingle, to share her story and offer some advice for new climbers

As we draw closer and closer to our climb at Estes Park its funny all the different emotions that one can go through. If this is your first climb the feelings are coupled with anticipation, excitement, possibly fear or fear of the unknown.  

If this is not your first climb you are completely relieved that your fundraising is over and now hoping that you trained enough for whatever level of climbing you have obligated to. I am blessed to have partnered with Susan Hagen and Advent Lutheran Church in prayer and teamwork and have been involved with Freedom Challenge from its first climb to Kilimanjaro in 2012.  

Opening eyes to see

Funny how God works to open our eyes to something He wants us to see.  Honestly, before Freedom Challenge I didn’t know anything about Human Trafficking.  Recently I didn’t know anything about AFIB (Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular and often very fast heart rate.) I have been dealing with an irregular heart beat for many years but never took it very seriously.  A couple weeks ago I ended up in the hospital and soon faced the fact that I may not be able to do Estes Park or Machu Picchu climbs. The worst-case scenario of AFIB is stroke. AFIB is a very common condition and affects millions of people but all of a sudden it was very personal to me.

Open your heart

Looking back to when Susan and I joined Freedom Challenge, one of our first prayers was “break our hearts for what breaks yours.” And boy did He! Make time to read the heartbreaking stories about human trafficking as hard as they are to read. We have connected our hearts with India and have been blessed to visit that amazing country twice.

On this climb in Estes Park you are going to meet some amazing women that God has hand-picked to be on this mountain with you. Open your heart to share and learn and love on the women on this climb. I recently got the OK from the doctor to participate in both Estes Park and Machu Picchu and my heart skips a beat thinking about it!

100% capacity!

Lastly, I would encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit to empower and encourage you in your final preparations for this climb. I am currently reading a book called IF by Mark Batterson and he nailed it on the head when he said “if you ignore one-third of the Godhead, you function at two-thirds capacity.” Father, Son and Holy Spirit…let’s all work for God against Human Trafficking at 100% capacity!   I look forward to meeting you all in just a few short days!

Safe travels to all traveling to Colorado. In His service,

Debbie Dingle

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These women have lost all hope

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These women have lost all hope

One of our projects in India is working with some of the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls in the world. And yet there is hope. Laxmi's* story is a shining light in the midst of overwhelming darkness...

When she was just seven years old, Laxmi’s life changed drastically.

Her parents took her out of school and sold her to the local temple where she was dedicated as a Jogini (temple prostitute).

Tied to the 'goddess'

Very quickly her life became one of duty to the temple ‘goddess’ and, when she was older, her duties extended to serving local men, performing any sexual acts they demanded, unable to turn any man away.

Even though the practice has been illegal in India for 30 years, little has done by law enforcement to curb it, particularly in rural areas. This is why, in one State where Freedom Challenge is supporting an anti-human trafficking project, there are 80,000 women enslaved as temple prostitutes.

Enormous risks to health

A Jogini’s life is indescribably hard.  Joginis are not allowed to marry and due to the nature of their work they are prone to serious disease; they are 10 times more likely to die from HIV than any other women in India. Unsurprisingly 93% are illiterate, but what is perhaps even more concerning is that 92% are clinically depressed and 57% have attempted suicide. These women have lost all hope.

But that doesn’t have to be the end of their story.

The chance to be free

Laxmi was 35 when our project workers visited her village for the first time. They explained to her that it was possible for her to leave, that she could be free, that she didn’t have to suffer any more –  words that Laxmi could scarcely believe.

Laxmi was given all the help she needed to overcome her fear of leaving.

A changed woman

Today, five years later, she is completely unrecognisable from the woman she once was. Her past has given her a passion and determination to see other Jogini women set free. Now she works with our project to teach local communities about the reality of the Jogini system, and she meets government officials to lobby for the rights of women trapped in such an horrific form of slavery.

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What’s more, in 2015 Laxmi was given an award by district government officials for her role in stopping the dedication of a 12-year-old girl. And recently she was elected as a council member for her town. 

This is a story of true transformation – and it’s one that your support has made possible.

We long to see these oppressed and forgotten women experience freedom, love and compassion in the same way that Laxmi has.

Will you help rescue more women and children like Laxmi?

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

*Name changed to protect identity

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'Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together freezing? Nope, not for me!'

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'Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together freezing? Nope, not for me!'

Brandi Richardson took part in our Freedom Challenge trip to the Grand Tetons, Wyoming in 2016. During the trip Brandi and fellow women from her church, The Father's House in San Diego, climbed almost 30 miles and raised more than $525,000 for Freedom Challenge projects. Here, she shares more about her biggest challenges and how God tugged on her heart to go on the trip...

How did you hear about the Freedom Challenge?

When I heard about the Freedom Challenge through The Father's House, it seemed a little crazy to me. Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together freezing? Nope, not for me! However, I was interested in the local hikes they were training on, and I wanted to train and encourage the women who had decided to do the Freedom Challenge.

How did you end up taking part?

I actually didn’t want to sign up at first. I had gone on a mission trip to India in January 2015, and this year, 2016, our family had planned a family vacation, so all funds went to this. We had nothing. I wasn't sure I could raise the money or take more time off work as I had just done the trip to India the year before.

After a couple hikes and talking with the women on the trails, I started seeing/feeling that God wanted me to take on this challenge. He put peace in me thathe would make this possible for me. On my trip to India, I had seen what The Freedom Challenge funds went to, and now I wanted to be part of raising more funds to help. I felt God wanted me to complete the circle, so to speak.

What were your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge for me was the hours of training and being away from my family. I loved the physical part of hiking but missed being with them. I'm so blessed to have the support of my husband; he allowed me to focus on the physical aspect of hiking and training for the hours I did. I physically challenged my body and mind and accomplished so many things. I learned a lot about what I am able do physically and mentally. I learned how to fuel my body and mind. The months of training allowed me to see the beauty of God’s creation all around me. This calmed my mind and brought a sense of peace to my spirit. To take life in, slow down and enjoy the beauty around me.

What lessons did you learn from going on The Freedom Challenge?

Fundraising and bringing awareness to everyone I came in contact with sparked a fire in me to make a difference in this world. I knew the funds would come in and allow me to take this challenge. I knew I would have to work hard for it, and I did because the fire was burning strong to fight for this cause.  

Now, looking back, what have you learned from your experience?

I'm so glad to have taken this journey. The friendships I've made and experiences I've had is something that I will cherish for years to come. I'm glad I listened to God and did what He called me to do. We are His hands and feet. He asked me to speak up for the voiceless, so I did and will continue to do so.


California native Brandi Richardson has been attending The Father’s House for almost 11 years. She’s been married to Steve for almost 15 years, and has two sons (Tyler, 21, and Zakary, 12). She works as a patient care coordinator for a home oxygen and respiratory company, and as a massage therapist. She’s lived in Illinois and Germany, and currently lives in Escondido, Calif.

 

 

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A simple guide to slave-free shopping

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A simple guide to slave-free shopping

Sadly, too many of the products we buy and consume on a daily basis have their roots in human trafficking. Whether its fish caught in Thailand, or clothes made in Bangladesh, we can’t always be confident that big retailers are making sure their suppliers are not using slaves.
 

So, we’ve compiled a short list of some independent retailers that are committed to ensuring the products we love to buy are made ethically and by people who are paid a fair wage for the work they do.

Our choice of footwear, handbags and even chocolate can make the world a better place and bring an end to the oppression suffered by millions of people around the world.  

1.       Buy survivor-made goods

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This is such a great way to support women or children fleeing trafficking, abuse and slavery. Freedom Challenge’s own shop includes unique gifts made by women who are being given a new start in life through our projects. Please do check our shop out and tell your friends about it:

https://freedomclimbmarket.myshopify.com/

But also check out these great websites for inspired gifts that give women the chance to change their lives and provide for their families.  

https://www.shopforfreedom.com/

http://www.tothemarket.com/

2.       Clothing

http://www.indigenous.com/

These clothes are absolutely gorgeous but their real appeal lies in the fact that you can rest assured that you are purchasing products that are completely slave free. The artisans who make these clothes have been paid a fair wage and work in safe conditions. This company works with some of the poorest communities in South America to produce stylish, perfectly-crafted, environmentally-friendly clothes.

3.       Chocolate

http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/ethical-chocolate-companies

Check out this list of ethical chocolate companies. Is your favorite chocolate snack featured? You may be surprised at the companies that make the list, and those that don’t! But the good news is, there are lots of businesses out there dedicated to making chocolate eating a truly guilt-free pastime!  

4. Shoes

http://www.toms.com/

For every shoe purchased from their range, Toms gives away one pair of shoes to a child in need. They’ve also now expanded their range of products to include things like eyewear and bags and coffee which means they now also provide eye care, safe births and other essentials to vulnerable people around the world. We love this business model and the philosophy behind it, especially when the shoes look so cool and fit so well.  

5.       Electronics

shop phone.png

This phone is only available right now in Europe, but we love the idea of this fair-trade, ethically produced cell phone.

https://www.fairphone.com/en/

The End Slavery Now website gives lots of information about shopping smarter and how to find businesses that are transparent, examine their supply chains and buy fair trade or locally-sourced products. You can also check how many slaves could be helping to make the regular products you buy. 

http://www.endslaverynow.org/act/buy-slave-free

Happy Shopping!

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Tracy Daugherty: What Freedom Challenge means to me

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Tracy Daugherty: What Freedom Challenge means to me

We are excited to have Freedom Challenge's new director introducing herself on our blog this week

Hello!  I’m Tracy Daugherty and I’m thrilled to be joining Freedom Challenge as the new director.

I have been in ministry alongside my husband Dan in various pastoral roles for all of our 25 years of marriage.

Currently we pastor The Father’s House Church in San Marcos, California. We planted this church with a handful of friends and family 11 years ago; it is thriving and has grown into a healthy, missions-minded church.

Together we have three amazing children and one incredible son-in-law! They are remarkable human beings that love Jesus well and are walking out their individual destinies in Christ.

How I caught the vision for Freedom Challenge

The Freedom Challenge originally entered my life when my dear friend the late Cathey Anderson (founder of The Freedom Challenge) was attending the Father’s House. After seeing Cathey’s enthusiasm for the cause it didn’t take long for me to catch the vision and join her to gather women from across Southern California to pray, climb, raise funds and spread the anti-slavery awareness.

Quickly, I realized that this was not just about the women we were supporting, but also about “this woman” God was longing to transform. There is something powerful about the simple combination of fellowship, exercise and mission with purpose! It is a winning combination for personal growth and spiritual transformation. 

Creating confidence

The weekly fellowship spent hiking with like-minded women – praying, talking, laughing and crying, the accountability to train and prepare physically, and finally the personal challenge to courageously share the mission by raising the funds to support the projects creates a new confidence that becomes contagious to family, friends and church communities.

I am deeply humbled to build upon the solid foundation of the amazing visionary women who have gone before me to establish this ministry.

Choosing to be inconvenienced

Over the years I have watched a company of women from all over the world intentionally choose to be inconvenienced for others, bodies trained and bruised, mouths open courageously speaking into the face of injustice, spending hundreds of hours, raising millions of dollars, climbing impossible mountains and traveling the globe to spend on people not things, choosing to comfort others over comfort of self. I have seen ordinary woman make an extraordinary impact.

What I have seen has changed my life! It is now my privilege and honour to lead this company of woman to impact – with God’s help – thousands and, I pray, millions of vulnerable woman and children all over the world.

Mother’s day: May 14

Tracy family2.jpg

As a mother of three wonderful children, I love Mother’s day! And I love receiving the thoughtful gifts my kids pick out. But nothing would make me prouder or happier than my children giving me a gift that will change the lives of other mothers around the world, moms trapped in poverty, in slavery and weighed down by their circumstances. I’m sure you feel the same!

So this year, give your own mom a unique and meaningful gift – set one woman or child on the path to freedom.

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Just go for it!

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Just go for it!

If you're thinking about signing up to our Estes Park hike, there is still time, but registration closes on May 1! So if you're in need of a little encouragement, read these inspiring quotes from previous hikers. Watever's stopping you from taking part, these ladies have experienced similar barriers. But here's what happened when they made the decision to just go for it!


Not your stereotypical hiker

‘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 not in my comfort zone. 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?

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.’

Ginger Taddeo took part in the Wyoming Freedom Climb in August 2016, read her story here.


Enjoying creation

'The view of this high Alpine lake was beautiful. It was there I recalled what my Ugandan pastor friend would say when he sees something of great delight, “God made this just for me to enjoy it. He knew that I would come someday.” That is exactly how I felt. God brought me here to show me His creation, His majesty, and His omnipotence.'

Janice Munemitsu, Wyoming climb 2016, read Janice's story here:


A dream come true

‘I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, triumphant, and most of all relieved.  It felt like a dream come true.'

Sarah Bradfield, Mount Kilmanjaro 2016 and Wyoming 2016. Read Sarah's story here.


A team effort

‘I can’t fully express how the hiking affected me, I am still processing the lessons I have learned. It was amazing to sense the team effort. Even though each of us had to put one foot in front of the other to get up (and down) the various peaks, there was a real sense that we were in this together.'

Shirley Turner, various climbs, including Wyoming 2016


Just do something!

'My motivation is based on the song by Matthew West – “Do Something”. I know God created me to “Do Something” about the social injustice of modern-day slavery. I am committed to be a voice for those women and children that don’t have a voice. Climbing mountains to raise funds and then sharing my story about the climbs as an inspirational speaker is my way to “Do Something” '.

Ginger Martin, President and CEO of American National Bank and part of the Wyoming 2016 team, read Ginger's story here.


And if you still need persuading, watch this video:

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Small things make a big difference

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Small things make a big difference

In Russia, your support is helping children at risk experience a safe place – adults who support them, care for them and share God’s love with them. Recently the team ran a winter camp for nine children. Here one of the team members shares how the simple things that we take for granted are giving these children a sense of their worth and value

‘It's so important to give these children a place where they can spend time together without pressure from their parents or guardians. A place where they could have fun, go sliding down ice slides, go bowling, do craft and be free to be a child again.

So excited

One of the girls, Olga* (10) had a dream come true while she was at the camp; eating lunch at KFC. KFC is the most popular fast food restaurant in the city. Olga said she was so excited about eating there because she had never been before. She had seen the TV ad many times, and every time she saw it she wanted to go there. It seemed cool. Many of the other kids in her school have been. Now she is so happy that she can tell her friends that she has also tried it.

We also had a visit from Father Frost and his helper ‘Snow girl’, who gave the children presents. We will never forget the reaction from Anna* (5) when she opened her present. “Wow! It’s just what I wanted! Wow! Toothpaste! I will brush my teeth every day now!”

She was also given shower gel that smells like bananas. During the movie she wanted everyone to smell it. If someone didn’t want to smell it she just shoved it in the person’s face anyway!

Tough lives

But it says a lot about how tough the children’s home situation must be that they feel so happy about things that are so small and part of most people’s daily life.

It meant so much to Anna to receive something that was her own; her own toothbrush, her own soap, her own candy that she could share with whoever she wanted (which, in this case, was everyone!). But the thing that amazed us most was that as soon as Anna received her gift she said that we needed to pray and thank God for it.

As we get to know these children and teenagers through the camps and the weekly day care sessions, they are becoming more open about what’s going on in their lives and are interested in our lives too. Most importantly they are interested in hearing about our faith and about God. Please pray with us as we continue working with these precious children!'

Your support makes a huge difference to the lives of vulnerable children like Anna and Olga. Thank you! 

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

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'Giving her a hug set her free!'

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'Giving her a hug set her free!'

Benthe, our project leader in Costa Rica, shares how she is sharing God's love with women in very poor communities and how this is bringing fresh hope to many families

I love to do visits one-on-one with women in the villages because I notice that they really enjoy this contact and helps them to open up. When we show interest in them it gives us opportunities to share truth with them.

Lost everything

One woman I visited told me how, a year and a half year ago, she lost everything in a fire. She explained that God helped her to start over again and showed her that He was with her. She has never been married but has four children with two different men.

After that she told me that she is asking God if the man who lives with her now is to be her husband. If the answer is yes then she says they will get married. If no, she believes that they should separate. What a big decision! But that’s what God wants. It’s great to hear that she wants to be obedient to Him and wants to live more for Him.

God can change him!

Later, I visit another woman and her husband came and joined us. He is known as the alcoholic of the town. She cannot read but he can. I got to know them and I shared God’s truth and love with them. I prayed with them and invited them to church that evening. For the first time in a long time, he came to church. How great it was to see him there! God can change this alcoholic man into a big man of God.

We recently went to visit a village we’d not been to before. All of a sudden one of our volunteers gave her testimony; she shared how she had been abused and that she had never shared this with anybody in 58 years.

Let them feel God's love
 

After we got back to our base, I had a good conversation with her. I prayed for her and gave her a big hug, which is something I do a lot with the women in Talamanca! Let them feel the love that God has for them. Later she shared with the group that the hug had given her such a good feeling –  it had set her free. It was very special! God wants us to share and show His love in this way.

Your support helps Benthe and others like her to show God's love in practical ways to women around the world - thank you!

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

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'A beautiful journey with Jesus'

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'A beautiful journey with Jesus'

This weekend, as we reflect on the meaning of Easter, Natasha Schoultz, one of our project workers in Europe, shares how she came to have a faith in Jesus, and how she felt called to work with women in brothels

'I grew up in South Africa in a strong Baptist family. I attended Sunday school every Sunday and knew most of the Bible stories well by the age of eight.

At that age, I understood that Jesus loved me and I wanted to follow and please Him. So I prayed telling Jesus that I believe He is the Son of God, that I believe He died on the cross because of my sins, and that I want to be His child and have Him “live in my heart”.

As I continued going to church and growing older, I learned more about what this means – it means a relationship with God, where we talk to each other through prayer and reading the Bible.

Shraing my heart

When I pray, I talk to God and share my heart, and when I read the Bible He talks to me through the Bible and I understand how He loves me and what makes Him happy. I try to live my life finding His way for my life, and following that way, because I love Him and know that He loves me.

I also know that He knows better than me what is good for me. In the Bible it says the heart is deceitful, so I know that it is not best to follow my heart but better to read the Bible and see what God says on any given topic.

To me having Jesus in my heart, means having Him change my heart to be more like His heart, to love the things He loves and to hate the things He hates. As I read the Bible, I see where my heart needs to change.

When I was 14 I was baptized in my local Baptist church, and shared my testimony with the church.

'Like a desert'

After my baptism, I went into a “wilderness period” (meaning my spiritual life was dry like a desert, rather than full of life as God would want) where I still prayed and read the Bible, but where I did not fully try to obey God. The less we obey God the more like a desert our lives become – we feel empty and dry inside.

When I was 23 and living in London I realized that I would never be happy until I completely surrendered my life to God, meaning not just believing in God, reading the Bible and praying, but really following Him every day in everything! I call this giving Him “Lordship” of my life. Around this time He became the Lord of my life.

Called to missions

A few months after this I felt called to missions; I wanted to see people all around the world also have this beautiful relationship with Jesus. I moved to South Korea six weeks after making Jesus my Lord!

When I was 28 I started studying at seminary (M.Div) to become a pastor. I want to pastor women – especially women in brothels. I graduated at 31, and moved to Eastern Europe to do this ministry (in brothels) which is where I have been since.

It has been, and continues to be, a beautiful journey with Jesus!'

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'I just wanted to give him a hug and cry with him'

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'I just wanted to give him a hug and cry with him'

South Africa has the highest number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in the world - 5.6 million. The AIDS Hope project, supported by The Freedom Challenge, is providing opportunities, education and hope for children and families affected by the disease. This is the story of how one volunteer was impacted while working at the project

When Monika, one of our volunteers, joined AIDS Hope, she found it very tough. The stories about the kids’ backgrounds broke her heart causing her to spend time alone in the prayer garden crying and praying to God.

HIV is a real problem in South Africa. It is not just about statistics or stories on social media; it is real people and families who are being affected.

Afterschool program

Each afternoon, Monika worked with a small group of children in the afterschool program to help them with their homework. One boy in her class was doing very well in school even though he struggled with certain subjects. He had a positive attitude and was generally well behaved in class.

One day, Monika picked up that something was bothering him, but she wasn’t sure what was wrong. Later after class, he shared: “Mam, I’m afraid of dying.” His uncle had become quite ill at home and the young boy was afraid that he would also become sick.

Feeling heartbroken
 

“I just wanted to give him a hug and cry with him,” Monika said, feeling heartbroken after hearing the boy’s story.

Many of the children that AIDS Hope is reaching out to, have seen their family members and caregivers become ill. It’s hard to imagine what kind of fears they go through, especially when they are just seven to 13 years old. On the other side, the difficult situation isn’t hopeless; it encourages Monika to give them hope and share about Jesus. “Because Jesus is our hope, you don’t have to be afraid,” she told him.

No longer afraid

This young boy believes in Jesus and lives a life that is not defined by sickness or fear. God is amazing. He makes everything beautiful in His time and causes all things to work together for our good.
 
Doubt and struggles may come, as we are human, but let’s learn how to trust God even when life is hard. We can hold on to the living hope and salvation that God has given.

Your support really does make a difference to so many people in so many countries. Thank you!

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

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'I thank God that mother and baby are both healthy'

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'I thank God that mother and baby are both healthy'

Razia is a member of a Freedom Challenge-sponsored pregnancy care training group in Western Asia. Each week she has been learning all about pregnancy and birth, but she never expected to be putting her training to use so quickly and so dramatically

‘My sister’s labor pains started on a day when there was a demonstration in the city over the fighting in a nearby area. Because of this, it was difficult to find a car, but eventually we did, and we started the journey to the hospital.

Road blocked

‘I took all the clean things which I had prepared for my sister. On the way to the hospital we had many problems because the road was blocked and there was lots of police and army security.

‘On the way, my sister’s labor pain increased. The driver stopped the car and got out and my sister lay down on the seat of the car. I used the clean things I had prepared for the delivery and the baby was born.

Cutting the cord

‘I remembered how I should help mother and the baby. I dried the baby, cleaned baby’s mouth and nose with separate cloths and then I cut the umbilical cord. After 30 minutes we carried on to the hospital. 

‘When we reached the doctor, he looked at the baby and said, “I cannot believe that you could do this delivery. Where did you learn this?”  I said, “I learned from the training lessons in my group.” 

So thankful

I thank God that the mother and baby are both healthy and that there were not any problems. I am very glad that I could help my sister in this emergency and for all that I learnt. I want to thank those who prepared the lessons for my group.’

Razia’s story demonstrates just how much of an impact your support for Freedom Challenge projects around the world has. Thank you!

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'They have no education, no skills and very low self-esteem'

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'They have no education, no skills and very low self-esteem'

Este has been working in Panama on a Freedom-Challenge supported project for the last four years. Here she shares why she felt called to serve God in Panama and how this project is giving women back their dignity

How did you end up living and working in Panama?

My husband and I are from South Africa. Our very first short-term mission trip was to Iran. There the Lord changed our hearts to serve Him full-time as missionaries. A couple of years later, in 2008, I went on a short-term mission trip to Afghanistan. There I saw the widows of Afghanistan, living in poverty, without food, with no education and no skills. And there I engaged with a ministry that teaches women to sew and to support themselves. There the Lord changed my heart for the unprivileged, women with no skills, women lost without Jesus.

The Lord prepared my heart for a ministry with women, for one day, somewhere and that day happened when He called us to Panama in 2013. We live in Volcan among the indigenous tribe, the Ngobe Bugle Indians. Poverty, alcohol abuse, drugs and teenage pregnancies are part of their daily lives.

Children as young as 12 or 13 years old with their own little babies is a common scene. They have no education, no skills and very low self-esteem. So Joya de Esperanza – Jewel of Hope – was born.

Tell us a bit more about the project that you lead in Panama

I didn’t actually like sewing at all until after I came back from Afghanistan. All of a sudden, I just wanted to make quilts. Starting with baby quilts. And that is exactly what I do and where we start with each new lady that joins Joya. All of them start by making a baby quilt by hand. Most of them don’t have sewing machines. I want to teach them how to do it properly by hand, so that they can go back to their community and teach others to do the same.

The first quilt they make, they can keep for themselves. After they complete their first quilt, I give them a certificate. Then, I teach them how to use a sewing machine. Then little by little we start making aprons from men’s shirts. I want to teach them that you can make things from ordinary items, instead of buying fabric.

We then sell our items – mostly to visiting mission groups – where 60 per cent of the selling price goes to the lady and 40 per cent goes back into the ministry.

And of course, along with all the sewing we have devotion time every day, which involves chatting, building friendships, sharing women’s love, joys and sorrows, and where we can share God’s love, mercy and truth.

Can you share any stories of how this project is changing lives?

Sonia said:

“I like Joya de Esperanza for the way Este treat us. Este is a kindly person that treats people with love and she is friendly. She reminds me a lot of my mom, my mom used to treat us the same way that she does. I started to come to Joya de Esperanza because I was lonely at home. Coming to this ministry I met new friends, but more important I gave my life to Christ.

First I went alone to church. I invited my husband to come with me, first he don't want to, but later he joined me and also gave his heart to Christ.”

Now, both of them are fully involved at the church.  Sonia's husband, Jacobo is part of a soccer ministry at the church, with the youth."

Stephanie said:

“Coming to Joya de Esperanza my health improved significantly. I have toxoplasmosis; some of the symptoms include constant headaches, cough and blurred vision. I was home alone, and very anxious about my sickness and my situation. I met Este and all the other ladies, who are very loving.

While sewing, I got so distracted from my symptoms that my headache, cough and anxiety faded away. I like to come every day to learn about quilting but, at the same time, I like the fact that I have a group of ladies that I can talk to and have friendship with.”

What are some of the challenges you face here?

For sure the most challenging is commitment. Commitment by the ladies. Our ministry is growing, little by little. Nearly every week a new lady turns up who wants to join Joya de Esperanza. We have interviews with each one and have certain criteria and we ask that they attend for at least three months.

To encourage the ladies to attend regularly, we give an incentive every other month for the lady who has attended classes the most regularly and on time. We rent an apartment that is spacious, airy and light, and a safe place (in not such a safe area). We also have a kindergarten for the little ones while the mammas do their sewing. A challenge is the monthly rent of $350. As well as more sewing machines, quilting fabric, scissors etc.

How can women in the US make a difference to the lives of these women?

Este.jpg

Give thanks to the Lord for this ministry and pray that He will use Joya de Esperanza to bring Hope where there is no hope, that He will make Jewels out of women who see themselves as of no value and who have little self-esteem.

Together we can make a difference. Together we can take hands, together we can be His hands and feet, together we can serve Him – the King of Kings!

I thank you.

Este de Nysschen
OM Panama

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

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"We give them unconditional love and respect"

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"We give them unconditional love and respect"

Sarah* works for Freedom Challenge-supported projects in Europe, building relationships with women and men caught up in prostitution. We asked Sarah to share some of the joys and challenges of this type of ministry

How did you end up working for Operation Mobilization (the organization that Freedom Challenge is part of)?

George Verwer, one of the founders of OM, came to our Bible college in Switzerland. I talked to him and went on a summer mission trip first. A year later I joined a team that worked among Asian immigrants in Britain. Then I spent three and a half years in the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan and India).

There, I met my husband Brian* and we got married. After three and a half years in the US we moved to Europe which is where we have been for 27 years. We arrived just as the iron curtain of communism came down and we travelled extensively in Eastern and Central Europe.

Unfortunately, the economic situation in many of these countries is so bad now that young girls and women with children end up on our streets and in our brothels. Many are victims of human trafficking, but poverty is also “a pimp”.

Tell us a little more about the project you’re involved with.

I am a so-called street worker which means I spend a lot of time in brothels and on the street. I teach others how to visit the women and men caught in prostitution and what is important in this ministry. We also visit the source countries (the countries that many of the women caught in prostitution come from) and run awareness and prevention sessions. I follow women up who come out of prostitution and build friendships with those who are still doing “the job.” We also write and produce literature that is appropriate and attractive for the ladies we meet.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I love people and spending time with them. I enjoy being out there knocking on doors and getting to know the women, trying to install hope and share possibilities when they have lost perspective and are caught in a terrible hamster wheel. We give them unconditional love and respect and meet them at eye level. Often, we see some life return into “dead” eyes that portray dissociation and despair.

What are some of the challenges in this ministry?

“Do you have another job for me”, is the question we hear the most. “Do you have a flat I can move to so that I don’t have to live here in the brothel?” In most cases we cannot help in this way, but we encourage them to learn the language of the country they are living in and help them with courses as a first step. We help them write CVs and make calls to other organizations. A partner organization take women when they have room and another group is providing training to those who want to learn to sew and learn some other skills.

Can you share any stories of how you have seen God working in the women’s lives?

There are stories every day when we are out. Once in a while a woman has a dream or a vision which empowers her to believe in God. One woman had the same dream every night that she walked into the ocean and a wave washed over her. Every time she did this she felt cleaner and cleaner.

Another one was still in the brothel. When we came to meet her she told us to not come into her room as she was leaving and not returning. She had felt the presence of the Lord there; he had touched her face and heart. She knew she was clean and felt that she could walk out and start something new at this point. She went back to her home country.

How would you encourage women in the US to support this type of ministry? How can they make a difference?

Prayer and finances. Without continuous prayer, we would not get far. It is a dark environment and the enemy is active. But Jesus is stronger. He gives us wisdom, strength and the stability to keep going and become a steady friend for some of these women. There are so many needs. Many cannot make it on their own when they get out.

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

*Names changed to protect identity

 

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