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Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

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Photo from Compassion

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My whole being will exclaim,
    “Who is like you, Lord?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
    the poor and needy from those who rob them.” – Psalms 35:10

A huge hotbed for child slavery is at Lake Volta in Ghana. The Volta reservoir is one of the largest made-made lakes in the world and where many children are forced into hard labor by the local fishermen there. Fishing is the main economy of many of the communities in the surrounding area. Children (as young as 5 years old) are usually deceived into long hours of very dangerous work with no pay. Many are subjected to intense violence from their “masters” if they don’t keep up with the work. They are either abducted by the fishermen or sold by their families to them for little money out of desperation because they are poor. Many are deceived because they are promised a good wage and meals upfront by the men who recruit them. The work is hard because the fishing nets get caught in the dead trees that are all over the lake. These children struggle to bring up the nets or they drown trying to free the nets from the trees. In the Lake Volta region, 1 in 3 children are labourers and more than 20,000 are considered in slavery today.

Prayer IS the work!

Organizations like IJM (International Justice Mission) seek to rescue these children out of slavery. They work in the communities and with the local authorities to detain and arrest the fishermen responsible for taking these children as slaves. They work with the local lawyers to prosecute these men. They provide a safe house for the children that are rescued so they can heal and rehabilitate and eventually be reconnected with their families.

Ways to pray:

  • Pray for peace rehabilitation, healing, hope, strength, and good health for the rescued children of Ghana.
  • Pray that God would lead the right people to apply for the positions available and that those doing the recruiting and hiring would bring the right people on board.
  • Pray for the upcoming conferences that they would lead to changed hearts and repentance with the local fishermen.
  • Pray for IJM and their offices on the lake. Pray for new satellite offices and their presence in the area. Pray that they reach out to regions where children are still trapped in slavery.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. – Hebrews 13:3

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CNN Freedom Project recently did a documentary called “Troubled Waters” about the situation at Lake Volta. You can watch it below. (Note – I know there are other reporters out there that say not all the children that work on the lake are in slavery. The point of my post is to raise awareness to the situation and pray about it. Only God knows the details of the situation and will bring justice to where it is needed).

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International Justice Mission was just here in Phoenix doing some promotional work and showing their movie At the End of Slavery. I’m a huge advocate for what they are doing and always willing to share how God is using them to help abolish slavery.

“If history has shown us that the monster of slavery assumes new forms, it has also shown us that its oppressive systems crumble in the face of those who heartily oppose them. It is our collective responsibility to oppose slavery in the time given to us. History is on our side.”

-At the End of Slavery:
The Battle for Justice in our Time

 

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Granite Mountain Hotshots

I had the blessing of knowing Ron Merrell as a Pastor, mentor and a friend.  He is a hero of mine. He has since moved on to California and now recently God has him back in Arizona in Prescott at Heights Church. My first reaction to hearing about this was – why Prescott? I have nothing against Prescott. It’s a beautiful little city about an hour north of Phoenix and it definitely has that small town feel to it. But that’s my sin nature saying that God can’t do something amazing in a small town like Prescott. God is always working. 

On June 28, 2013, lightning ignited the Yarnell Hill Fire. Yarnell is small community next to Prescott. Prescott Fire Department’s interagency Granite Mountain Hotshots were there to respond and the fire overran and killed 19 of the firefighters (only one survived) two days later. According to the National Fire Protection Association, it was the greatest loss of life for firefighters in a wildfire since 1933, the deadliest wildfire of any kind since 1991, and the greatest loss of firefighters in the United States since the September 11 attacks (Wikipedia). This was a horrible tragedy and the nation grieved with this community over our fallen heroes.

As horrible as this was, it opened the opportunity for the church to be the church. Led by efforts of Ron and the staff, Heights church was able to provide comfort and love to the families of the victims. They helped organize the memorial services and community gatherings to honor the firefighters. And my good friend Ron was able to lead the opening prayer for the nationally broadcasted memorial service in which Vice president Joe Biden attended.

I love how God works and I love His timing in situations. I love how He gives us (the church) opportunities to partake in Kingdom opportunities that point people to Christ. A lot of things in this broken world don’t always make sense, but knowing God is in control puts situations like this into perspective and gives us a sense of hope. I’m sure even Ron wondered why God called him to Prescott. Six months later, He used him and the church to bring glory to Him in the face of tragedy.

Pastor Ron Merrell leads a prayer during a memorial service for Yarnell firefighters at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley Arizona

Pastor Ron leads the memorial service in prayer

Ron’s message on the Yarnell tragedy and a promo video for some of opportunities he has had to speak at other churches

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A year ago while checking out the Phoenix ministry Apprenticeship to Jesus, I took a photo of this art work on their fence. Little did I know that I would get to know Steve Malakowsky of Hope thru Art not more than a year later. Steve organizes all the wonderful art work at 8th Day Coffee & Culture – a coffee shop in downtown Phoenix that serves up community-trade coffee from Rwanda. He is well known in the local art community and works with many of the homeless people here by promoting their art work. Hope Thru Art’s motto – no politics. no religion. simply art with a message. Steve passed away last weekend. I got the message while in Philly at the Justice Conference and was blown away. Tonight at the First Friday art walk, 8th Day honored Steve Malakowsky. He had a beautiful memorial service and it was touching to see all the people come out to share how his art touched their lives. God Bless you Steve.

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After community groups, all 60,000 of us gathered around the Georgia Dome in front of the large End It structure that had been displaying our photographs all week. Many of us were singing songs of praise with candles as we were waiting to see what Passion had in store for us. Then the words SHOUT for the 27 million came on the screen and we all started to shout as loud as we can. A beam of light shot straight up into the night sky as we were all shouting “Freedom” and “End It”. Even though the light source was made up of forty lights, one unified light was seen – just as we all gathered as one unified body to stand up for injustice. I heard the light could be seen as far as 15 miles away. The light stayed on all through the night and it was all over the news the next day. I had several people ask me what the light stood for as I walked back to my hotel. They could even hear our shouts. I told them that it was a beacon of hope for the 27 million people held in modern-day slavery.

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Greg Haugen and Louie Giglio

If there is an organization making a difference in the world with the issue of slavery and sex trafficking, it is International Justice Mission. IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Their vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible. IJM was founded in 1997 and works all over the world. I have been looking forward to this part of Passion all week as they had President Greg Haugen come and speak to us.

Greg spoke to us about how his heart was turned onto justice. In 1994, Rwanda experienced their genocide in which millions of people were murdered in a matter of weeks. The world watched and did nothing. People were asking the question “where was God?” Greg asked the question “where were God’s people?” Here are some key notes from his talk:

The World will know we are His followers if we have outward love for each other

Some facts: 27 million people in the world are being held in slavery. These people are being forced to work all day. In sex trafficking, abused and raped children are being sold. And it is in our own backyard…

We can be the generation that ends slavery. Not because we are awesome, but because we have an awesome God. We need to make the 27 million people in slavery a priority. The world needs to see that God is present and those in slavery need to know that our God is a God that saves.

DO JUSTICE, LOVE MERCY, WALK HUMBLY – MICAH 6:8

What is God’s plan? – WE are the plan (God’s people). He gives us the power.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis – The Four Loves

Christ offers five things to us (because we don’t have a chance to change this on our own)

1. Extravagant compassion – God opens our heart to a hurting world. We wants to transform our hearts of stone to a heart of flesh

2. Moral clarity – Evil is confusing. God gives us His Word to tell right from wrong

3. Sacrificial courage – We will have to see and tell hard things. Jesus grows the courage in our hearts

4. Tenacious hope – We will see more defeats than mercy. God is the ultimate Lord of this world and justice will prevail

5. Refreshing joy – Joy is the oxygen to do hard things. He gives us good things to refresh us to do the hard things

Greg showed this video from the civil rights movement of 1961. I was very moved by it. Jim Zwerg (a white man) and John Lewis (an African-American man) rode these Freedom Ride buses together to fight against segregation. Jim was beaten up for his stance. This video of him in the hospital was recorded right after the attacks. Jim would also go on to say that he meditated on Psalms 27 the night before and that he gained his strength to stand up for justice from his faith. Hundreds would later join the Freedom Ride after this video was shown.

God can do immeasurably more in us

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Advent – Day 18

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I spent the day at Starbucks today reading a book and a letter that I got from my Compassion child that I sponsor. I have been supporting him since my birthday of 2006 – it was my gift to myself. As I was writing Ladouceur (who is now 11), I was trying to put myself in his shoes in the country of Haiti and what his everyday life is like. This is when I appreciate all the countries I’ve been to and how I’ve seen with my own eyes what poverty-stricken countries go through. Not too long after that, my buddy Kory Kredit posted this video of an India trip I took with him and Cornerstone two years ago. Even though I love the ministry of Harvest India, that was a one time trip for me (unless He calls me back). But it was a trip that came at the perfect time of my life. I saw the power of God and the power of prayer in a country dominated by Hinduism. I was able to share my testimony to hundreds of lepers, dedicate a water well and saw scores of people come to Christ. Harvest India has made a difference in the Kingdom because of prayer. I needed a boost to my faith during that difficult time and I can now look back at that spiritual marker as a source of hope. God has always used my life for extraordinary things and I time and time again forget His faithfulness. I needed to see this video. Later today I got an amazing out-of-the-blue email that just blew me away, but yet not surprising because it is how God works. Watch where God is working and join Him thereExperiencing God. Try not to figure what He is doing and just take a step in faith. As I join in this new partnership, I look forward to sharing this awesome God story as it unfolds. God is working and He loves us enough to ask us to join Him.

2011 Team to India

2011 Team to India

Hundreds of Indians coming to Christ at a crusade

Hundreds of Indians coming to Christ at a crusade

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The leper colony I shared my testimony with

Lots of people wanted to be prayed over

Praying for the people of India

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