Friday, April 1, 2016

Protective Walls

This week I was visiting women who are still working in situations of exploitation.  For over 3 years I have been visiting women in their work places.  I have seen a lot of things over my hundreds of visits.  Due to my exposure to direct exploitation, it takes a lot to rattle me when I visit.  

This week I was shaken to my core.  My two friends and I were visiting a shop and talking with a women we had known for a few months. I have never met any of the women in the shop, but my coworker did.  She was introducing me to the women that we have existing relationship with, Miss Wang.  After talking with Miss Wang, I introduce myself to her coworkers.  After giving my standard introduction* I asked for their names.  Without pausing, the 2 new women introduced themselves by a number.  [As a way to protect their privacy and make things fair in the brothels, the women are assigned numbers.  The numbers rotate and the customer is served by the next person up on the rotation.  When talking in front of a client the women will address each other by their number, not their names, as a form of privacy and anonymity.]  I met #16 and #8.  No names, not even a made up nickname to pacify us.  

It broke my heart how in the month the new employees had been working there had adapted to being referred to as a number.  The thick walls they have put up as means of survival have penetrated their very identity.  They have accepted the reality that they can be referred to a number and seen only as a thing to be used.  During the course of our 45 minute visit, I heard the women refer to each other as a number the entire time.  I was on an emotional roller-coaster as I went from being on the verge of tears that these women are looked upon so poorly, to sad for the fact that their personal histories have made this seem acceptable, to admiration for the fact that these women have figured out a way to cope with circumstances that I would never survive, to prayer as I asked the One who can shatter the walls to do His work.

I don’t think I will ever get used to starting injustice and exploitation directly in the face. I am not sure what I can do personally that will chip away at the protective walls these beautiful women have put up.  I know that I have the most powerful weapon, asking our Loving Father to meet them where they are and woo them to Himself.  However I can help in that process, I am thankful I am in a position to do so.  Until that day, I am going to do my best to build trust and learn these beautiful women’s real names. 

*(Hi I’m Jennifer.  Yes, I’m American.  Yes, I am tall and this is my natural hair color.  If you want to study English I can teach you free lessons if you agree to teach me free Chinese lessons.) 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beyond Our Control

At 5’9 (1.8 meters) I stand out in Asia.  It is not uncommon for me to be one of the tallest people even on the subway.  Today as I was walking in the subway, I passed 2 people who I am at least a foot taller than.  I passed one grandma who I was easily a foot and a half taller than. 

Seeing these shorter people got me thinking about how blessed I am.  I hit the genetic and family background jackpot which allowed me to be so tall.  I could not control my genetic heritage which contributed to my height.  Equally, I could not control the socioeconomic or geographic reality of the family I was born into.  I was blessed to be raised in America by parents who were financially stable enough to provide 3 meal (with protein) a day.  The people I passed in the subway are genetically inclined to be shorter than I am, but their family background not afford them the same nutritional opportunities that I have.

The height difference between me and the grandma were entirely out of our control. She could not control being born in the Chinese countryside any more than I could control being born in suburban, middle class America.  It got me thinking that human beings are very good at judging people for things outside of their control.  Look at the news and the main immigration platforms coming out of the US Presidential election.  The rhetoric of fear is pervasive.  The vast majority of the things that people are afraid of are things that are uncontrollable (place of birth, economic resources, parent’s religion, access to education).  It breaks my heart to see so many people being judged for things outside of their control, things they could not change even if they wanted to. 

My hope is that as the human race we will stop categorizing people and criticizing them for genetic realities.  Instead of broadly condemning entire classes of people as other and evil, I hope that we will being to build relationships and see that despite all the differences of background we have more in common than we can ever imagine.  I hope that our definition of “neighbor” will expand to look more like the story of the Good Samaritan.   May we see people like us and help others like we would want to be helped.  May grace be extended to everyone, regardless of background.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Stewarding Your Call

One of the big takeaways I got from attending my annual conference is the call to steward my gifts and dreams well.  Over the weeklong conference, I was reminded of the many dreams and desires that He has placed in my heart. I have always loved history, have been drawn to study systems and how they affect government decisions.  It is a dream of mine to testify before the United States Congress or be a keynote speaker at a United Nations conference.  I want to be able to knowledgably speak into government decisions, to encourage policy makers to bring Kingdom principles into reality.  What does that look like?  How will I do that?  When will I do that?  Absolutely not clue.

What I do know is that He is calling me to steward that passion and dream.  What that means in the short run is to devote my time to learning more about global politics, spending more time reading the news and understanding situations that I am not familiar with.  It means doing what I can (learning) until I am given more clear direction for the future.

So while I was in Bangkok after conference I spend the afternoon browsing the bookstore and purchasing books to help me be a better global citizen.  Here is the pile of books I amassed in Thailand, 8 in all.  My suitcase barely shut but I am 
excited to learn all that I can.  I’ve already finished 3 of the books in this picture!