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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On the road to healing

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On the road to healing

Freedom Challenge’s Director Tracy Daugherty is in Zambia this week so we wanted to tell you a little about how your support is making a difference in this country, reuniting vulnerable young girls with their families and giving them the chance to get a good education and discover their potential. This is Nessa’s story…

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On a grey rainy day, Isaac, a teacher from a Freedom Challenge project in Zambia, found a young girl lying on the side of a road, covered in dirt. She was weak and disoriented and appeared to be in shock. She had clearly suffered some kind of trauma but couldn’t explain where she was or what had happened.

Isaac was shocked by the sight of the girl; then he realized he knew her – it was Nessa*, a 13-year-old girl who’d been missing from her home and school for four months. Nessa was known to many of the Freedom Challenge project staff in Kabwe. As a child she’d suffered severe injuries during a fire, including burns to her head which had left her with a slight mental disability. She also had a tendency to wander and would then struggle to find her way home.

Crisis care

Upset by Nessa’s condition but relieved to have found her, Isaac took her to the project base for some much-needed care. Ketty, the manager of the base kitchen, stepped in to tend to Nessa; bathing her, providing her with clean clothes and giving her something to eat.

The staff were concerned that Nessa had been sexually abused. A quick check-up with the doctor revealed that she had malaria; the fever had caused her to faint next to the road. The doctor gave her medication and happily reported that Nessa was not HIV positive.

A heart-warming reunion

Karen, one of the counselors at the project offered to take Nessa home. On the way, Nessa asked if they could fetch her belongings from the market. This is when Karen realised that during Nessa’s time away from home she was likely forced into prostitution. When they reached Nessa’s home village, Nessa’s mother was in awe at the return of her lost daughter. It was a heart-warming reunion.

Nessa is now back in school and only leaves the house with a companion.

Without this Freedom Challenge project in Zambia, Nessa may never have made it back home. But now, thankfully, she is receiving counseling with Karen and is learning how to move forward after such a difficult start to her life.

All of this is only possible with your support – your gifts are essential to enable these projects to keep going and to keep caring for children who are in such desperate need of security and protection.

Thank you for the difference you are making to girls like Nessa!  

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

 

 

 

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Shop for Freedom

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Shop for Freedom

This month we have been on the hunt to bring to you our top pick of online shops that are impacting women’s lives by supporting survivors of human trafficking and preventing slavery. These businesses are teaching new skills, paying a fair wage and some are even giving women shares in the company – all of which mean women are not only surviving but succeeding and flourishing!

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They are also producing some of the most original, creative and desirable products on the market including clothes, bags, jewerly and natural beauty brands.

Here’s our pick of the top shops where you’ll find meaningful and original gifts, as well as a little something for you!

Sudara

We love their Punjammies – pajama and lounge pants, they are so colorful and look so comfortable!

“Every purchase invests in job creation and skills training for women in India who are working to remain free from sex slavery.

 

https://www.sudara.org/

Relevee

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Elegant, sophisticated and beautiful – Relevee’s jewelry is made by trafficking survivors using ethically-sourced diamonds. If you’re looking for a piece of statement jewelry or something for a special occasion, give their collection a browse.

https://relevee.com/

To the Market

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Jewelery, bags, kids’ clothes, home goods, there is so much to choose from here, including Bath and Body products such as soap, perfume, body lotion and fragranced candles. You can even shop by causes you feel passionate about, including human trafficking and refugees.

To the Market is “helping vulnerable women artisans become economically empowered through the dignity of work”.

https://www.tothemarket.com/

Freeset

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The founders of Freeset began working with sex trafficking survivors in India to give the women a way out of poverty. The women create gorgeous handmade scarves, tees, bags, jewelry and more. All purchases support anti-trafficking initiatives in China, Nepal and India.

https://freesetusa.com/

 

Shop for Freedom

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Your purchase from Shop for Freedom fights slavery and funds anti-trafficking efforts in Asia. You can also find out on the website what your purchase will give back – one scarf equals one week’s worth of wages. They have everything from gift bags to purses to tees to ties and tech cases.

https://www.shopforfreedom.com/shop/

You can also purchase Freedom Challenge branded-kit from our online shop; you’ll find everything you need for your outdoor adventures. And you’ll be supporting our projects at the same time.

Happy Shopping Freedom Fighters!

 

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Taking part in grace-filled action

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Taking part in grace-filled action

Miranda Sprague, Freedom Challenge's new missions coordinator shares her story, her heart for missions and how being a new mom is showing her how God can use every season of life for His purposes...

“In the Bible, we never find Jesus telling us to pray for more money, only to pray for more laborers.”

These words, spoken by a Brazilian Missionary, are the words that the Lord used to bring me on the Freedom Challenge team as Missions Coordinator.

Hello there! My name is Miranda Sprague and I had the honor of participating in the Freedom Challenge Climb in Wyoming during the summer of 2016. It was there that I heard this powerful statement.

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Desperate need

During one of the conference days, a panel of missionaries updated us on Freedom Challenge projects in the countries where they work. One was a missionary from Brazil. With tear-filled eyes she informed us of the great need for laborers. She said God can always bring the resources and they have plenty of vision for their myriad of needs, but they don’t have enough people to help make them happen. The mission field is in desperate need of more laborers to help reap the harvest.

Her cry for help brought tears to my eyes. The Lord has so many people to reach and so many things He wants to do. He has chosen to use His children to execute His will on earth as it is in heaven... but what are His children doing? Are they actually going? Are they actually participating in the Great Commission as all Christians are commanded to do (Matt. 28:16-20)? Sadly, I think not.

Getting uncomfortable

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Many of us, me included, get wrapped up in “MY here-and-now” which distracts us from the bigger reality of a hurting world in desperate need of the Gospel and people to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We go to church, we raise our hands in worship, we pray before meals, we give to charity, but we often don't stretch beyond that safe Christian lifestyle. We don't get uncomfortable. We don't put ourselves in those unfamiliar places, situations, and cultures. We don't allow God to really use us beyond our safe circles.

Now, I'm not saying the only way to fulfill the Great Commission is to literally go to the ends of the Earth; we can fulfill it in our homes and our communities. But are we even doing that? Are our ears receptive to hear the call to go abroad and across borders if He asked? My spirit has been challenged and convicted by this missionary’s statement ever since.

The Lord doesn't just ask for my money; He asks for me.

Jesus pleaded for His disciples to pray earnestly for laborers to be sent. What if I AM the answer to that prayer? What if YOU ARE?

God wants to use us in every season of life

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I have an eight-month-old baby boy named Jeremiah. It’s been an AMAZING journey so far as a mother; one of the greatest joys already! But being the mom of a little one has made me feel like I'll need to be ‘on the benches’ for a while when it comes to missions. I feel that traveling abroad and doing missions at this stage of life just isn't possible. For the most part, that may be true, and the Lord honors my role as a mother and holds it in the highest regard. But the Lord is also amazing at making ways in EVERY SEASON to fulfill the Great Commission.

So, when Tracy Daugherty, the Freedom Challenge Director, asked me to prayerfully consider taking on the Missions Coordinator position, I was hesitant. But the Lord brought me back to the verse which that missionary’s statement was inspired by: "Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’ ” (Matt. 9:37-38). And when I read that, the memory of the missions’ panel came flooding back along with the conviction. I felt a firm YES from the Lord that He wanted me to take this position. 

Using God-given gifts

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After talking with Tracy more, I realized that this position would be a way I could fulfill this conviction and the Great commission. I will not necessarily be a physical laborer going out into the literal fields, but I can help SEND those laborers. By using my God-given gifts of coordination, organization, and leadership, along with my passion for missions, I can help plan and coordinate these trips so laborers can be sent. The Lord was working everything together.

And, to make it all so completely clear that the Lord wanted me here, when I met with the former Freedom Challenge Missions Coordinator via Face Time, I realized she was the SAME WOMAN at the conference who said that first statement! Gil Moromisoto from Brazil, one of the sweetest and most inspiring women you'll ever meet, was the one on the missions’ panel at the Wyoming climb. She has done an amazing job starting up the Freedom Challenge Mission Trips and coordinating them all thus far. So, as you can see, God is at work here and has been in all of this.

Grace-filled action

Now, I say all this for a couple reasons. First, to explain how God brought me on this team and how faithful He is, working all things together for good in every stage of life. Second, I hope to stir up your spirit and maybe even bring about some Holy conviction that would not lead to guilt but to grace-filled action. To encourage you to reflect on your current spiritual state when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission and to see if just maybe God is calling you to the harvest, whether that be local or abroad. If so, I’d love to invite you to join us as a laborer on our Freedom Challenge Mission Trips.

Freedom Challenge Mission trips 2018

This year we have two short-term Freedom Challenge mission trips. In July we will be going to Cebu in the Philippines to serve the Freedom Challenge projects. Then in November we will have the opportunity to serve Freedom Challenge projects in Moldova (more info to come). 

Our trip to the Philippines will be an amazing opportunity to see firsthand where some of the funds the Freedom Challenge raises goes to support. One of our projects here works with underprivileged children to give them education and skills to set them up for success. This is a preventative project. It aims to keep these children out of Human Trafficking by enabling them to go on to university, get jobs, and provide for their families in freedom. We call these children the "young scholars".

During this trip we will serve the children of this program as well as do many other outreaches with them. The team will spend five days participating in hill trekking, visiting schools and communities, prayer walking through the red light district, sharing or giving sessions on life skills and crafts with youth who are not in school, and much more. By going on this short-term trip, you'll help meet the needs of our projects and hard-working Missionaries, needs that can only be met with more laborers.

Most importantly if the Lord has called you, He will equip you for specific powerful and good works through the power of His Spirit and the message of the Gospel for the people of the Philippines. It is His Gospel through your actions and words that will transform the lives of these people and bring true and everlasting freedom. That is what it means to use your freedom to give freedom!

We so hope you can join us this summer or fall on one of these trips. If not, we hope you hear from the Lord and see the doors He has opened in front of you to share His Gospel and participate in the Great Commission.

Find out more information about these trips and register here. You can always email me if you have any questions: miranda.sprague@om.org

The harvest is plentiful my friend, but the laborers are few! Are you the answer to this prayer?

Blessings,

Miranda Sprague

Freedom Challenge Missions Coordinator

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Miranda Sprague lives in Southern California, with her husband Joey and son Jeremiah. Miranda studied Biblical Studies at Calvary Chapel Bible College and Life Pacific College. She and her husband served on staff at the Father’s House Church in San Diego as the directors of the School of Ministry called Immersion for a few years. Miranda has participated in numerous mission trips throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. She and her husband have always felt called to go on trips and support missionaries as God leads them.

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Let's fly!

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Let's fly!

Hello Freedom Fighters. I found this blog I wrote a year ago. At the time I had no idea what the future held or that I would be taking on the assignment of directing the Freedom Challenge a few months after this jump. It’s amazing what happens in a year.

I am expectant and eager for what 2018 will bring! I encourage you to take a step and a risk this year. Challenge yourself – get above the things that can immerse you and pull you down. I can’t wait to get on the trails with you, your friends, your sisters and your daughters, (check out what is coming up for 2018). Let’s step out and up into faith this year and then stand back and see what He does.

It's an honor to lead this movement of passionate woman. Let’s Jump, Fly and Climb!

Why did I jump?

On January 1, 2017 I jumped, but WHY? – By TRACY DAUGHERTY

It is very interesting listening to reactions after proclaiming to friends and family that you plan on jumping out of an airplane. I know from personal experience. Input, interest and concern came out of the woodworks when I announced I would be skydiving for the new year.

Surprisingly people are not passive about this topic or their opinions concerning it. A variety of comments ensued, such as, “I have always wanted to do that, maybe I will someday,” and “Are you nuts? Why in the world would you fall from a plane?!”

I also heard, “You know, I heard a news report, read on the Internet or watched on YouTube…” then the horrifying story began. There were also the more rational groups of people who advised me by saying, “Okay, here is what you need to know; when you jump, arch your back, drop your chin, throw your feet back, shut your mouth and plug your nose.” Tips and tools for the novice jumper came in intervals. I loved every minute of it — learning a lot about people and even more about myself. Feel free to keep the pointers coming. One thing is for sure: I enjoy them far more than I ever imagined I would.

To answer everyone’s questions as to why I jumped:

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1. I wanted to

For years, I have thought about it, read about it and talked about it. It was finally time to put those thoughts into actions. I dream about flying at least once a week. For anyone who knows me well, you know that I truly do believe I will fly in heaven. Many people have no interest or even a thought about it, but for as long as I remember I have had no question that it will happen. I will FLY in heaven.

A few years ago I read and was inspired by the words of young teenage poet, Erin Hanson:

There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask, What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, What if you fly? What if? Therefore, I determined that this year I would start getting some early practice for heaven. This jump, this year…LET’S FLY! I flew because I wanted to. Joie de vivre — Joy of Life!

2. 2016 was challenging

I am one of those people who value and welcome pictures and ceremonies that create Memorials to help bring meaning and insight to seasons and life experiences — they help me process. I still remember hiking in the Genesee Valley in the fall of 2015 with my husband. We were both strongly impressed that 2016 would be a year of pruning, change and much transition. At the time I had no idea how deep those cuts would go, nor how much stronger I would be after they healed.

Between the college gradation of our daughter, a marriage, a high school graduation, many deaths of dearly loved church and family members, sending beloved church staff members off to assignments with new destinies to fulfill, finding and purchasing our first owned church building and the growing pains that come with that, unfamiliar twists and turns, nips and tucks from people, aches and pains and even some disappointments to boot - it was a year of lessons learned.

All that said, walking in the midst of a dimly lit path feels disillusioning at best sometimes. In spite of all this, I knew this was the time to jump. It was time to fly, see higher, get a clearer vision and remember what the Bible says: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” Colossians 2:1-4. January 1, 2017 marks the day and is a memorial reminding me of the position I am invited to. A position where He is in control and has a clear view to navigating my tomorrows with precision and expertise.

3. Keep it Spicy

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Pastor Honey (my husband) and I have been together 27 years, married and in ministry for 25. This means we have been on many dates, adventures and joint ventures. It takes effort to maintain the balance between mystery and fun. This year we needed this date. Just the two of us. As we are transitioning and kids are growing and we are more aware of this tribe ending the way it began – just the two of us.

At first I was reluctant to ask him to join me, knowing how he feels about heights. Knowing I have dragged him on other thrilling adventures (hiking, zip lining, ropes course etc.), however, gave me faith. To my delight and surprise, he said yes! Everything about the day was spectacular. There was so much suspense and unknown between driving, training, taking off in the janky little plane, and strapping to our tandem trainer we barely new and now know very well – (hello Felipe from Brazil!).

As we waited, strapped up, wind blowing, door open to jump, we said our last “I love you” and then there we went… He jumped!

Best date EVER.

To close, I want to leave you with a short exhortation for the new year! I am certain that many of you do not share the same passion about skydiving, however my encouragement is this:

•    Joie de vivre – Don’t forget the joys of life — what you love and what you dream. Do something because you want to; it produces wonder. In the grind of life, we forget what we want to do or what we love. This year, do at least one thing that brings joy, makes you feel alive and even feels wasteful and extravagant. It revives the heart.

•    Don’t get stuck in the long middle. Remind yourself through scripture where God wants your head and heart. You have a daily invitation found in Colossians 2:1-4.

•    Keep it spicy – keep dating your spouse, your friends and yourself. Mystery is important to life — don’t lose it. Take a risk. Surprise your loved one, a friend or yourself.

I love you, my sister friends and fellow daughters of the most high God. This year, live like royalty. We have so much to look forward to, and if anyone wants to jump with me I might just take you up on it. I LOVED IT. I AM GONNA FLY IN HEAVEN.

Let’s Fly,

Tracy Daugherty
Freedom Challenge Director

 

 

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Goodbye 2017 ... Hello New Year, New Chapter, New Possibilities

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Goodbye 2017 ... Hello New Year, New Chapter, New Possibilities

As we reflect on the last 12 months and look forward to the next, Tracy Daugherty helps us to say goodbye 2017 …. hello New Year, new chapter, new possibilities, new direction, new Season!

A New Season is a merciful gift to humanity from the heart of our creator. God is outside time and space and doesn’t need seasons, yet He has graciously set up these markers to help us turn the page, provide us with a blank canvas, giving us an opportunity for a fresh start.

"Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years," Genesis 1:14

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven," Ecclesiastes 3:1

Remember, “nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Because of this, I am grateful for the close out of the year!

As I reflect on 2017 I wanted to share a picture God gave me to help end strong and start new. I hope it will encourage you.

The Picture

I was carrying a backpack (you know I love to hike). In my pack were many rocks I had collected from my year’s journey – varying sizes, and values. Some of the rocks were beautiful polished rocks representing amazing victories and memories I had collected. Other rocks were heavy, dirty and represented difficulty and disappointments from the year.

Most of the weight in my pack came from many small pebbles I had unintentionally swooped up a little at a time throughout the year attempting to be helpful and responsible. As I came to the close of the year and started planning to collect new provisions for my next journey I became concerned because my backpack was already very heavy. I reflected on how I could move forward with my shoulders weighted and my bag full. This quote came to mind, “the beautiful journey of today can only begin wen we learn to let go of yesterday.”

The Practical

In response to the visual symbolic picture I wanted to get practical. My husband and I made a decision to build a rock memorial to offload the “weight” in a year-end exchange with God. My life had become filled with the miraculous and fabulous, exciting and victorious, daunting and treacherous, trivial and small. It was time to both celebrate, commemorate and cast all of the years happening on the Lord.

On an ordinary day just a few weeks ago we gathered rocks and built our memorial.

“So, Jacob picked out a stone and set it up as a memorial. Then Jacob said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a mound, then ate there by the mound,” Genesis 31:45-46

I chose a location that I frequent at least three times a week as I walk my dog. Spending a good hour, we placed the stones in a pile praying over each representing the good bad and ugly of 2017. At the conclusion of this exercise I felt light and free and ready to fill my life with new direction and provision for 2018. Each time I walk past the memorial I remember the goodness of God and choose to forget what I need to leave behind from 2017 – ALL!

I'm so glad Dear Fellow Daughter of the King that we're all beginning this new season together. Let’s travel light and go to where we have never been before!

Moving Forward,
Tracy Daugherty
Director of Freedom Challenge USA

P.S Why not make 2018 the year you take on a new challenge? Join us to hike in Utah in June or in the Grand Canyon in October!

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The Cathey Anderson Memorial Fund

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The Cathey Anderson Memorial Fund

On December 22, 2015, Cathey Anderson, Beloved friend and founder of The Freedom Challenge, passed away. Today in her honor along with her family I want to announce the Cathey Anderson Scholarship Fund. Please watch the video below to hear from Cathey and read from her daughter Callie Carson as she explains the heart behind the scholarship Fund. The ability to apply for a scholarship for one of our 2018 Challenges as well as the opportunity to give to the fund will begin Monday, January 8. Cathey loved women and enjoyed seeing the inner transformation in them as they gave to their sisterhood throughout the world. I am grateful to keep her legacy alive through this Scholarship fund

"At a summer conference in 2010, my mom (Cathey Anderson) was posed with the question from a speaker: “Where are you allowing your fears to stifle your faith?” She knew immediately the answer-her fear of heights. Multiple times in her life she had attempted to summit Mt. Whitney and was never able to because her fears held her back from achieving that goal.

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The following September, my mom tried yet again to summit Mt Whitney one last time. This time she knew that she would not allow  anything to sway her resolve. God and my dad, would faithfully get her to that peak. It was on the drive home after this breakthrough   that the Lord planted the vision of the Freedom Climb (now known as The Freedom Challenge) in my mom’s heart, mind and soul.

Fighting for freedom and justice

The first thing she said to my dad upon receiving the vision was: “God wants me to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with women to fight for freedom and justice.”

And so it began. In January of 2012, 48 women from around the world gathered to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to be a voice for the voiceless and fight for justice for vulnerable women and children around the world.

Since 2012 there have been many more mountain peaks summited by hundreds of climbers and thousands of women and children are being set free. God’s heart and the vision continues to expand and grow as the battle for freedom and justice is fought.

Memorial Fund

The Cathey Anderson Memorial Fund is specifically for women who have a passionate desire to be part of this movement by sharing their own stories, raising support and helping educate the world on the devastation of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. 

My mom’s heart from the very beginning was that this call to women would be a daring experience for them that would encourage growth. Signing up for a challenge would mean putting themselves in the shoes of enslaved women and children imagining the pain they face each day. Because this vision was born from a place of being freed from a fear that she battled her entire life, my mom also desired that those invested would learn to face their fears and experience the same freedom. Freedom from the lies they believed their whole life. Freedom to speak up and use their voices to be a beacon of hope, love and perseverance.

Stepping out in faith

My entire family desires to keep my mom’s memory, legacy and heart alive. We pray that this fund motivates women to participate. We pray that whoever receives assistance would be encouraged to step out in faith and work hard to raise awareness about modern-day slavery. We also pray that they would receive freedom in areas of their lives where they have been in bondage.

Ultimately my mom wanted every man, woman and child to understand that Jesus is the Lover of their soul and came to bring salvation, redemption and freedom to this world. -Callie Carson

Cathey Anderson explaining her vision for Freedom Challenge:

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The true meaning of Christmas

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The true meaning of Christmas

With just 10 days to go until Christmas day, we bring you a wonderful story from Asia; a story of how the true meaning of Christmas is being told in counties that have never heard it before and how it is changing hearts and lives

Lucy* was 12 years old when she realised that Christmas was not just about parties and presents. At the time, she was studying at one of the Freedom Challenge-supported schools in south-east Asia.

The true meaning of Christmas, explained to her by teachers at the school, touched her heart.

A reason to hope

"Before I knew Jesus, my life was filled with worries,” says Lucy. “Now that I understand what Christmas really means, I have a reason to stand firm in Christ and hope for the future," she enthuses with a bright smile.

Each year, teachers at the school provide truly special Christmas celebrations for 300 children and adults. Each child receives a gift bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, exercise book, pencil, erasers, towel, cup, bowl and spoon.

One of the project workers describes the atmosphere at the school on the day of the festivities:

Brimming with excitement

“As our vehicle pulled up into the school compound, the children were running all over the school, brimming with excitement. The evening's celebration was a fitting reward for their year of hard work. As school finishes for the holidays, most of the children remain in the village, spending their days climbing trees, jumping ditches, fashioning toys out of whatever they can find and helping their families in daily chores.

“More truckloads of children arrived from partner schools and churches. Some arrived dusty from the ride through the dirt track. Those who lived in the school looked freshly scrubbed and groomed as best as they could.

“When the concert finally started, the children, parents and teachers filled up the classroom and spilled out into the corridors. The twinkling fairy lights and colourful garland laced the hall and created a cheery Christmas atmosphere.

The programme started with worship. Choruses of “Hallelujah” rang out from the hall into the village, as if heralding the birth of Jesus years ago on the first Christmas.

Music, dance and songs

One of the project workers shared a message of hope that is found in Jesus. The message is especially poignant for the parents in the community as many of them live in abject poverty and despair, but desire a better future for their children. Thereafter, we were treated to a myriad of performances, ranging from traditional dances and songs in different languages, to modern hip hop dances to English songs.

Lucy’s story and her growing understanding of what Christmas is all about is a huge encouragement to the teachers. They serve the children and community so faithfully, providing quality education that will give the children a better future and strong spiritual foundation.

Sharing Jesus' love

As the Christmas story is told again and again in this community, our hope is that more people will come to know the love of Jesus and find joy and hope amidst their daily struggles and challenges.

This Christmas you could help to bring the message of Jesus to more and more people around the world.

Every $ you give makes a difference!

*Name changed to protect identity

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"I didn't think our trip could get any deeper, but it did"

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"I didn't think our trip could get any deeper, but it did"

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If I had to give a title to the mission’s trip I just finished in Moldova it would be:

“Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”.

I have been on several missions’ trips and have traveled to many nations but it was on this trip to Moldova that my soul was rocked and challenged to look at my own spiritual life on a much deeper level. I knew I would receive blessings on this trip; all missions trips end up blessing us so much we often wonder if what we received was more then what we gave. 

Our team attended and helped Operation Mobilization (The Freedom Challenge’s parent organization) with their vulnerable girls’ conference that they hold once a year at the OM headquarters in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital city. 

Vulnerable girls' conference

Fifty-seven girls aged 10-16 who live in some of the most vulnerable areas and situations are invited to attend this very impactful weekend. 

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At the conference they hear stories and testimonies, hear about the love of Jesus, and are challenged to break the chains of dysfunction and generational sin that have been cast onto so many of them. They are challenged to rise up and become leaders. They are challenged to forgive the most horrendous family members and situations so that they may find true freedom and healing. They are challenged to serve others and look for ways to serve the elderly and those who suffer in their villages. 

Powerful survivors

It was incredibly convicting and overwhelming to hear what these young girls’ lives have been like and to see OM teaching them how not to be victims, but powerful survivors who can use their pain to transform their homes and villages.  

In the villages of Moldova they do not have a foster care system, family counseling, or a program that can rescue these children from some very abusive homes. Teaching these girls and educating them on what is right and wrong and more importantly about a life that can be theirs knowing Christ is what OM’s mission is. It was an honor and privilege to take part in this conference for our whole team.

Seeing their homelife firsthand

After the conference ended and all the girls went back to their villages, we were on the road with Tamara, an OM project worker. Now it was time to actually go and stay in a village and see with our own eyes and hear for ourselves what these girls’ home lives are really about.  I didn’t think our trip could get deeper than it already was, but it did. 

This was the first time I have seen or been to a country that was left in ruins after the fall of the Soviet Union. Not only was Moldova left in despair with incredibly corrupt politicians, but they went from every decision being made for them by a communist government to complete abandonment. 

No hope, no rest, no help

With 80% unemployment so many working age adults have left the country to look for work leaving behind the most vulnerable, the elderly, and children to fend for themselves. Perfect conditions for predators and abuse to ensue. It seems that in these villages there is no hope, no rest, no help. Alcoholism ravages homes with their toxic home brews and many young people are left to raise themselves and their siblings. The suffering is daunting and dark.

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We visited the village where Tamara was born. Tamara had a rough life from birth. Her story is a mirror to so many others in her own village which gives her a heart full of compassion for the children and elderly there. 

Using her pain

After she met some Christians as a teenager and received Christ, she never dreamed God would call her back to her own village. It’s not what she wanted, but she knew it’s where God wanted her.  She is using her pain and damaged soul to not only show Christ’s love to her village, but to transform it.  Tamara has built a church and a care home for the elderly. She has plans to build a girls’ home so that she can take in girls who live in horrendous and abusive situations.

What was most impactful for us as a team was the forgiveness and servant-heart that Tamara taught us. The forgiveness and love she has for those who treated her so badly as a girl is a true testament of her heart. She truly understands Christ’s love and forgiveness in a much deeper way than I can comprehend.

A powerful prayer meeting

The other extremely touching moment was a prayer meeting we attended in a village home.  Nothing fancy, very basic. No food, no music, no fanfare of any kind.  Our team entered the home and covered our heads and sat in the tiny home packed with wall-to-wall Moldovan Christians. 

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The prayer meeting was in Romanian but that didn’t seem to make a difference to our team. The presence of the Holy Spirit was powerful as the people sang, wept, bowed down on their knees and cried out to the Lord. I don’t remember there being a dry eye on our team. 

During this prayer meeting that I could not understand, I felt utterly poor.  Here I am, an American.  I have so much!  Everything and anything to take care of my every need. A spa day if I had a rough month, weekly pedicures if I so desire to pamper myself, binge watching Netflix just to escape a hectic week. A warm home, nice cars, amazing health care and as you can imagine, the list went on and on in my head. 

Rich in Jesus

These people just have JESUS when they are sad, JESUS when they are lonely, JESUS when they have a bad day, JESUS when life is hard.  I had HOLY JEALOUSY if there is such a thing. I felt utterly poor in my relationship with the Lord.  These Christians were rich in Jesus because it’s all they have. 

Coming home from a trip like this is always hard.  You really have to take some time to process and articulate all you saw and learned. 

The richness of God's presence

Again, I come home broken and beyond blessed by people who have so little but are so rich.  I want what they have!  What will I turn to when I have a rough day?  What will I long for when I’m feeling sad?  I will forever take myself back to that most blessed village home and remember the richness of God’s presence and the beautiful and authentic relationship those people have with Jesus because He is all they have and He is all they need.  And that needs to be the same for all who claim Christ.  Jesus first in everything is all we need.

I challenge those reading this to go on a mission’s trip. Be prepared to have your soul rocked and stretched. Yes, we are able to bring help and blessing to so many in this world, but see for yourself how much Jesus is alive and well in some of the darkest areas of this earth. His light shines brighter in the darkness and it is something all believers should see for themselves if they have the opportunity.

Roxanne lives in San Diego, California. She has been married to Brian for 24 years.

Brian works for Secure Works and manages the West Coast sales team.  Brian participated in the 2015 Kilimanjaro Freedom Challenge Corporate climb.

 They have 3 daughters: Kaylin is 21 and works and lives in Australia; Kendall is 20 and is currently studying at the University of Kent, Canterbury, England. Kendall also participated in the 2016 Wyoming Freedom Challenge and went to India with Freedom Challenge; Kirra is 9 and is a 4th grader and enjoys ballet and her friends. She’s also a great hiker and has participated in our local Freedom Challenge events.

Roxanne is a stay-at-home mom and has been active with The Freedom challenge since 2014 when she did her first challenge in Colorado, 7 summits event. She also participated in the Wyoming challenge in 2016. She has also been to India and Nepal with the Freedom Challenge.

Roxanne is currently an OM Volunteer and loves to challenge women to step outside of their comfort zone and challenge themselves by hiking mountain’s or going on a missions trip. She hopes to lead many more mission’s trips in the future.

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Forever Changed

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Forever Changed

Canadian Denise Heppner shares how hiking can teach us so much about how to overcome those mountains in our lives that can stop us moving forward and reaching our potential

Looking up to the towering mountain tops above was daunting.  My breath was coming in heavy gasps, my legs cement pillars protesting each step forward and upward.  “Just one more step,” played over and over in my mind. 

More intense than the pain in my legs was the terrible heartache for the women and children I was climbing for. Beautiful people, children of God, trapped in horrible circumstances beyond their control. The nightmare of the sex trade where darkness, despair, and pain rules.  How could I make a difference in the lives of those suffering such atrocities? 

Breathing God's name

Pausing on the mountainside, a sharp intake of breath (“Yah”) and it’s exhalation (“weh”) reminded me that with every breath I take I am breathing God’s holy name: “Yahweh”.  And God is love, light, and hope. Through participating in the Freedom Challenge I have the incredible joy of helping to bring love, light, and hope to those who are suffering! 

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The Freedom Challenge has indeed challenged me, stretched me and changed me; the love and support from family, friends and even strangers is part of this incredible journey. Every cent raised makes a huge difference in the lives of others. And every step taken on the mountain leads to freedom and empowerment of those who are climbing. With empowerment God has created, in me, a passion and drive to press on and to continue helping others in need. Through participation in the Freedom Challenge I have been forever changed.

Overcoming the mountains in your life

By taking part in the Freedom Challenge God has given me the strength to climb my own mountains, whatever those may be.  Overcoming the mountains in your life involves the proper trekking gear: 

  • Good boots are the key to a journey with minimal pain. They provide the foundation of your walk. As with good boots, a life with Jesus is sure, simple, and steadfast. 
     
  • Backpack: We are always going to have some baggage, however, you can choose what you want to carry around with you.  Jesus desires to love and to heal – He will be your porter, carrying your burdens so that you can move forward in your life.
     
  • Toilet paper: Life is messy. It is sometimes explosive and sometimes an easy clean-up. Thankfully, God promises a fresh start, a clean slate. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come!”
     
  • Water bottle: To prevent against altitude sickness we were advised to drink a lot of water and think of it as extreme hydration. Just as our physical bodies need water for life, so does our spirit. Our souls are thirsty and we may try to quench that thirst with a lot of different things, often with unhealthy choices, but eventually we thirst again. Jesus is the living water, and by looking to Him each day, He is the only thing that can truly quench the thirst of the spirit.   
     
  • Trekking poles are a necessity as they offer balance and support.  Life will never be without sorrow or troubles and, with God’s help, we can maintain a balanced perspective in our life and our attitudes. We can experience joy even during difficult times. The Lord brings balance to our lives which gives us hope, which in turn gives us strength.  
     
  • Headlamp: If you need to find your way after the sun goes down you had better have a light. The terrain is rocky and it is easy to misstep and fall. In John 8:12 it says, “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” 
     
  • Sunglasses: These are important on the mountain to guard against the sun’s harsh rays at altitude. They are a good reminder to keep our eyes focused on what is important in life and not get side-tracked by the little things. “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken” Psalm 16:8.
     
  • Warm, water-proof clothes: As you trek through life and get hit with the cold, the rain showers, the messiness, know that you are surrounded by God’s warmth and comfort. And know that it is okay to reach out to others to borrow pieces of their gear to get you through a cold spell.  
     
  • First aid kit: A first aid kit is useful in learning to dress your own wounds. However, I found much joy in assisting others. Helping others makes you feel connected, it takes your mind off of your own worries for awhile, and gives a sense of meaning and purpose to your life.   
      
  • Camera: to capture those amazing moments in life!  We can look back and reflect on those moments when things are difficult. 
     
  • Merino wool socks:  Merino wool is known for being odour-resistant. And, quite frankly, when you kick those boots off at the end of the day and crawl into a tiny tent with your tent mate it ain’t gonna be pretty!
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Proper trekking gear – make sure you are equipped!  Climbing your own mountains will never be easy but it will be an incredible journey.  Following Jesus provides hope and transformation of the likes that we can’t even imagine. 

Beautiful in God's sight

God has something beautiful in store for each and every one of us. We are beautiful in His sight!  I wish that we could all see ourselves the way He sees us, His beloved children!  My prayer and goal for my participation in the Freedom Challenge is that we can help free oppressed women and children, that they can experience a transformed life, and truly feel the love of Christ, and see how beautiful they are. 

The Freedom Challenge truly changes lives – of those whom we serve, and indeed, in the very lives and hearts of all who participate. Step out in faith and you will be forever changed. 

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Denise Heppner teaches online for the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in the area of Special Education. She accepted the Lord’s call to the Freedom Challenge in 2013 and has completed Everest Base Camp, Colorado 7 Summits, Fernie Canada, and most recently Machu Picchu. As Denise climbs mountains for the freedom of others, she leaves behind on the flat prairie her wonderful husband and three fantastic children aged 6, 9, and 11.  Her goal is to encourage people with the idea that they can indeed make a difference – helping one person at a time! Denise hopes that in addition to creating widespread awareness of the horrors of human trafficking and raising money for enslaved women and children, that participating in the Freedom Challenge will allow her to show how God’s love has helped her to overcome the challenges in her life and inspire in others the strength to climb their own mountains.  

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"Hope is always present"

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"Hope is always present"

Jessica Sherwood took part in our Machu Picchu hike in September. Here, she shares in a creative and beautiful way what this experience meant to her

Inhale.

Exhale.

I can do this.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

Every step feels important.

Heart beats fast.

Deep breathes in and out again.

I look up at the sky.

Tiny droplets forming. Now falling.

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Turning quickly into ice.

Am I walking alone?

The question comes up in my heart and mind.

But then laughter. People calling out my name.

The guide running down the mountain toward me.

“Let me carry your pack.”

I shake my head no.

Isn’t it my burden to carry?

My chest aches.

My lungs burn.

I take two more steps and then I see them.

All lined up.

All calling out my name.

“You’re so close Jessica!”

Walking through the line of their arms raised high.

My team leader embraces me.

“I’m so proud of you.”

My face is wet.

I think I am crying.

The moment feels surreal.

My trail friend and support takes a photo with me.

I smile at him, “I did it.”

“No...we did it Jessica.”

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And then understanding falls on me.

He’s right.

We did it.

It was never a burden I was meant to carry alone.

Their names and faces rush to my mind.

The stories I’ve heard.

The ones I’ve imagined.

The times I’ve woken up in a cold sweat in the night thinking of her fate.

Only 2% rescued.

My deep sorrow on display.

But my sorrow is met with great belief.

I see it on each of my new friend’s faces.

“Jessica, we walk alongside of you.”

So often hope is veiled.

I can’t always see the beauty.

Yet somehow on the mountain, I begin to see it.

Only a glimpse.

A moment when we were walking and the sky pulled back.

Lush green mountains.

The fall and rise of sloping hillsides.

My ears ring from the silence.

I am in His presence.

And He tells me there is hope.

The immoveable presence of God in the mountains.

Victory awaits.

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Hope is always present.

It may not always be seen.

But God takes my faith so small and moves these mountains.

God saw my every step.

I discovered a shared mission and burden.

We can do this.

You are not alone.

She will not be left behind.

He will go to great lengths to find her.

My privilege and joy is to walk on her behalf.

To dedicate a year.

To meet others who share the same passion.

The journey to rescue and restore won’t be easy.

It will be a long road.

But I trust that in some sense she will hear us.

Hear all of the voices of the women who believe in her rescue.

Calling out on the mountain.

There is hope.

Rescue is on the way.

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He can restore every part of you.

Come out of hiding.

And when the clouds pull back just for a moment, I pray that she will see it.

The story waiting for her.

The hope, belief, and beauty that surrounds her.

And more than anything I pray that she will behold the One who sees her.

Who has so graciously poured a piece of himself into each of us to fight for her.

Her rescue is inevitable.

Hope will not disappoint.

Jessica grew up in the Midwest, but now lives in South Florida where she works for an international non-profit called OneHope. She serves on the Advancement team developing creative strategy and content. She attended Oral Roberts University with a double major in French and Public Relations. Jessica is a lover of books and stories and creative writing. She's had a passion to help in the fight against human trafficking since she was in a high-school. Since then she's had the privilege of working with varying non-profits to advocate and fundraise on behalf of women and children caught in slavery.

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"The doorman mistook us for ladies working in the brothel"

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"The doorman mistook us for ladies working in the brothel"

Anna*, one of our brothel outreach workers in Eastern Europe, shares about a recent visit to a brothel and how she and her team are reaching out to some of the broken and desperate young women there

“When we entered the brothel, ladies began waving at us and calling out greetings to us; the doorman mistook us for ladies working in the brothel. Their conduct was very warm, friendly and familiar... until we explained to them why we were there. Immediately the doormen became more formal and called the manager; he knows us well and let us right in!

Complicated relationships

Ava*, a Romanian/Italian woman that I know very well waved us over; we went to sit with her and started chatting. We talked about her family. She is very close to her mother, even though her mother encourages her to have a relationship with a man that she recently broke up with, a man who I believe is her pimp.

Ava told me that she plans to meet her ‘ex-boyfriend’ in two weeks’ time. I asked her (indirectly) if she thought he might try to persuade her to get back together and whether she thought she would be able to resist his charm if they were face-to-face.

Hiding the truth

She told me she knows it is not a good idea to meet him but that she does not want to disappoint her mother. She has not told her mom everything that he has done to her (he has physically and verbally abused her), and she told me that she has kept the truth secret from her mother.

During our conversation she passed pills to another Romanian lady. The security guard spotted this and told her there are no drugs allowed in the brothel. She insisted that they were headache tablets. When they were not looking she passed the pill to the Romanian lady who quickly took it.

Bad customers and drugs

 A gift for the women in the brothels to help them know they are loved.

A gift for the women in the brothels to help them know they are loved.

Then Ava told me that she is not feeling very good, that she has had some bad customers; ladies regularly get beaten and customers do things that are very dehumanizing, both physically and verbally. I think the ladies take pills (which are technically prohibited by most of the brothels) to cope with the physical and emotional pain of what they do.

I was not very comfortable that pills were being passed around while I was talking with her. At the same time, I did not want her to feel that I am judging or accusing her. The lady she passed the pill to has only been in prostitution three days and was clearly both uncomfortable and scared.

Knowing the right words

Please pray for us to know what words to say to share the truth of the gospel with the ladies, and for open hearts and the right timing. We really want the Holy Spirit to lead us in all we say and do.

Thank you very much for your prayers. Our God is The GREAT and ALMIGHTY God, and nothing is too hard for Him!”

Your support means that we can help more and more women like Ava to have hope and know that they are loved. Thank you!

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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Free to Live

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Free to Live

Sabina* lost her desire to live when she found out she was HIV+ - she thought her life was over. But thanks to one of our projects in Central Asia, she is learning to live again

Sabina was given little support from the doctor who diagnosed her; in fact, he told her that she only had six years to live. In some parts of Central Asia, a diagnosis of HIV is still seen as a death sentence and little is known about how the right treatment can prolong life.

So Sabina, a mother of two, was left feeling desperate and very depressed.

Overwhelmed with fear

Her life had lurched from one struggle to the next; she left home when she was very young with little education and no way of making a living. She got into a relationship with a man who was in and out of prison. Each time he went back to jail she promised she wouldn’t take him back, but each time she felt overwhelmed with fear; her partner was aggressive and demanded that any money she earned should be given to him.

She was struggling with her health, struggling to make ends meet and worrying about the future. She didn’t know where to turn. She feared for her two daughters, and began making plans for her eldest daughter to get married, even though she was still quite young.

Learning to cook

Then a friend told her about one of our projects – Dorcas Kitchen, which provides training and helps develop women’s self-respect. Women learn cooking, food handling and budgeting.

Sabina loved attending Dorcas Kitchen – it was the one high point in her week. As she slowly began to grow in confidence, her new friends at the project, and the team leader, encouraged Sabina to seek medical attention. At this point she hadn’t seen a doctor for two years – not since she was told she didn’t have long to live.

Getting her life back

The team at Dorcas Kitchen put Sabina in touch with an organization that provides HIV+ people with advice and support. She was incredibly relieved and overwhelmed to learn that she could live a long and healthy life now that she was receiving good medical care.  

Sabina told her friends at Doracs Kitchen: “I am not going to die with this infection. If I take good care of myself and get the medical care I need, I can live a long life.”

Dorcas Kitchen is doing an amazing job of changing the lives of vulnerable women like Sabina – bringing them to a place of greater hope and freedom.

But none of this would be possible without your support!

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

*Name changed to protect identity

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Safe in the Father's arms

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Safe in the Father's arms

Two of our Estes Park Climbers, Laura Wagner and Shannon Perry, share their very different experiences of climbing with The Freedom Challenge in July

Laura Wagner: Safe in the Father's arms

The Freedom Challenge Estes Park in July 2017 was my second time hiking for women and children oppressed, enslaved and in danger around the world.  I raised money and I trained to be able to keep up with the other ladies on the mountains.  But I was there for even more.  I was there for God Himself.

Beautiful mountains

Not only has God given me a burden for people who don’t know Him and don’t know He sees them in their situation and has freedom waiting for them.  But He has drawn me each year to his beautiful and very high and vast mountains to meet Him and know His love for me.

This year, I couldn’t wait to go and see Him working and align my heart with His for His people. But, He also had a work He wanted to do in me and that was to truly trust Him.

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Feeling frightened

My story started on Monday evening after our first day of hiking. There was talk of a difficult snow field we would have to cross on our hike the next day.  I began to worry and feel weak and frightened.  Not my usual way as I usually try to be strong, positive and encouraging to others.  Tuesday morning, I woke up excited for the hike to Chasm Lake and amazed by the glorious day.  

When we were about a mile away from the lake I saw the snow field and fear stopped me in my tracks.  I thought seriously about not crossing and our guides said it would be fine if we hung back.  I was at a crossroads! This was, after all, the Freedom Challenge – we were hiking for those who faced tremendous fear and uncertainty in their lives.  What would it look like if they decide to trust Jesus and see Him work in their lives? Would their lives be different? What about me?

Weak but secure

I asked the Lord if I should go across and I felt that He said, “I will be with you” and so I started across so slowly and fearfully.  Then, this is the amazing part.  As I planted my hiking poles in the snow each step, I felt as if the Lord personally was standing strong behind me, holding my hands and planting my poles for me. I had an image in my mind of a Father teaching his daughter to walk, holding her hands as she toddled and sometimes walked on his feet.  I felt so gloriously weak in my Father’s arms.  My Daddy had me and I could feel weak but secure in His arms. 

When I had crossed, I found this verse from Isaiah in my mind:

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Since I returned, I’ve been able to pray even more passionately for the women and children who need to know that their heavenly Father is with them. I pray that they would experience the same God who embraced me in the midst of my fear and that they would rest in the safety of His strong and loving arms.

Laura Wagner


Dr Shannon Perry: Keeping going when it's tough

As a nurse with an interest in women’s health, supporting a cause to rescue women and girls (as well as men and boys) was dear to my heart. From my first encounter with the Freedom Challenge on Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012 until the more recent climb in the Rocky Mountains, I have followed the Freedom Challenge and supported their efforts to create and support programs that benefit those affected by human trafficking and other atrocities.

The oldest climber

As the oldest of the climbers (at age 79) at Estes Park, I worked to prepare and then to meet the challenge of the daily climb.  After the first day, the climbs seemed to be a little easier or we were a little better acclimated to the altitude and the terrain. Teresa, our group leader, provided inspirational moments as we rested and spent quiet moments with our thoughts.

We had some wonderful views and spectacular scenery. We encountered some wildlife. On the first day, we saw a bear with two cubs, elk, deer, a marmot, and a moose. Other days, we saw some ground squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and a variety of birds including the ouzel which we saw dive into water seeking food.

Suck it up and keep going!

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When the hiking became difficult or we tired, we were reminded that the women we were hiking for were undergoing challenges.  By overcoming our own difficulties, we could empathize with their challenges which were much more serious, in other words: suck it up and keep going!

I would encourage and challenge others to participate in Freedom Challenges. One of my challenges was raising the money to participate. I am often asked to contribute to various causes and I do so. It was much harder for me to ask others for funds. And I have not yet perfected any fundraising techniques such as involving a church or other group in my efforts. Others are much more successful in that respect.

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Keeping active

What I try to do is to keep my mind active, exercising (encouraged by my more fit daughter and husband), reading extensively, keeping involved with a book club and a writing club, traveling, participating in church activities, playing with my grandchildren, and taking Spanish classes. I have heard that learning a new language is one of the best ways to keep your mind (and memory) active.

And for the next Freedom Challenge, I plan to cheer the hikers on from my armchair!

Dr. Perry is a nurse specializing in maternal-newborn nursing. She has taught maternity nursing and child and adolescent development courses. She is co-author of three maternity nursing textbooks and numerous articles on maternal-child topics.

 

 

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