#116. Darkness Into Light

 Artwork by Jacob Cecil

I grew up the daughter of a pastor, the oldest of six kids. Ever since I can remember as a child, our family was involved in international missions. The first time I went on a mission trip I was seven years old. This shaped my heart with a global perspective. One year on my birthday my dad encouraged me to have an adventure. “You’ve always had a heart for the nations. Don’t stay here in the United States and miss out on pursuing your dreams.”

I was working as a nurse at time. I had no debt and nothing tying me down. His challenge took me by surprise and I wasn’t quite ready at that time. But the idea kept playing over and over in my head and I began to seriously pray about it. I quietly explored mission options in different nations, though I didn’t feel called to a specific country. After weeks of praying there was an opportunity to serve in Central America, and God confirmed that this was the opportunity I was to take.

I contacted a specific ministry I felt led to serve and they were willing to have me. I signed up to work with them for five months and I thought that would be the extent of my adventure. By month four I began to hear stories of little girls working in prostitution in the country where I was serving. I started exploring why this was happening.

At that time, in 2009, there was limited information on sex trafficking and its impact and pervasiveness. So a friend and I went to a little town close to the border where we had heard this was happening, trying to understand the complex nature of this problem and if there was a way to help. We took multiple trips to this border town and developed relationships with churches and local authorities. Through those relationships we learned more about what was happening and the factors that led to the exploitation of women and children. We decided to throw a Christmas party for the women and children who were working in prostitution near the town where we had been establishing relationships. This was at the border of two Central American nations. Our purpose was to establish relationships and let people know we were there to help. It took a lot of hard work, fundraising, and prayer to plan that party. We worked with border patrol and immigration officials from both nations. We partnered with local churches from both nations, and churches in the United States also supported our effort. We brought food, presents, games, and generators. During the planning, we had not met one woman that could attend our party, but we continued to pray and trust God that women would attend. The weekend of the party we passed out flyers and waited with expectant hearts for what God had in store.

On December 5, 2009, 25–30 women and children showed up to our party. They couldn’t believe that someone would want to throw a party for people who worked in prostitution, and we were overjoyed that so many people came! We had spent months of prayer and fasting preparing, and it was the most amazing feeling to see God show up this way! We were able to share the love of God and Jesus, and for two to three hours the women and children were simply our honored guests. We were just there to let them know they were loved and seen. One of the head immigration officials who was there said, “There’s so much light here tonight—and I’m not just talking about the generators!”

This party was the catalyst of my journey to help men, women, and children involved in and affected by sexual exploitation. The party furthered our understanding of the great need to help. That weekend launched our ministry. We developed a vision and passion to end exploitation not only in that area but in the whole nation I was serving as a missionary. After that event, while I was so encouraged by what I had seen God do, I was also fully aware that if I committed to help in this way, I would be staying longer than five months, dealing with dangers, and learning a different language and culture. I recognized the complexity of this type of ministry and my lack of experience in this area. I knew that I would be away from the support of my family and church community back home. When I said yes, I weighed the cost and I did so with much prayer and fasting. But I felt that God was truly calling me to this type of ministry in this particular place, and I knew that what I lacked, I could rely on God to provide.

Over the years God has sent countless amazing people to help—people with experience, knowledge, talents, resources, and strengths that I don’t possess. I wasn’t drawn to help survivors of exploitation because it was sad and terrible; I was drawn to the redemptive side, partnering with Jesus to see freedom come. It was a journey with God of learning lessons and learning from mistakes. I had a photo of the little legs of the children of the women in prostitution from the night of our first event, the Christmas party on the border. I often looked at that photo and thought, “What if the world looked different for those little legs. What if they could have a different future?” I became passionate about prevention, ending human trafficking before it could ever start. I had a passion that a child would never have to be exposed to it. There was much trial and error in such a huge task. We did much research and outreach to inform our programs. At that time there were limited resources on how to do prevention of exploitation in a programmatic, replicable way. We were pioneers of sorts. We started to learn all the factors that put people at risk and make them vulnerable. We tackled the prevention side through a relational lens because this is the way we felt God was calling us to work.

That was over seven years ago. And the photo of those little legs on the bench has been my constant reminder of why I fight. Today I am amazed at the number of people God has allowed our team to serve. I have met many wonderful men, women, and children. I have seen God make crooked paths straight. I have seen God turn the seemingly impossible into possible. Enemies have become friends. Dark has become light. Hopelessness has transformed to hope. I have witnessed the power of love against shame, hate, and violence. I have seen love bring freedom.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:11–12

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#115 Gaining Confidence

Photo by Erin E Photography

Ten years ago my son died by suicide. He shot himself and I found him. There really are no words to describe the pain, trauma and sadness of this. It was truly horrible. 

Within the year, my husband wanted to sell our house – the house where our children grew up. He wanted to build a big new house. I didn’t want to do this, but we did it anyway and it added to my stress. In fact, I was so stressed that I lost all my hair. The big new house did not heal our sorrow or make us happy. After two years, my husband and I were talking less. And then one day, after not speaking to me for two weeks, my husband told me that he thought I should move out. We had been married for 30 years and this was very hurtful and shocking to me. I learned later that he had found another woman that he wanted to make a new life with and that she had moved into our new house with him. 

I moved into an apartment and one evening I was crying uncontrollably in my room. So much had happened. I was devastated, broken and lost. I was crying so hard I felt like I couldn’t breathe. But then I felt a warmth, like hands hugging my heart. It was a very a physical presence. I had never experienced anything like it before. A tremendous sense of peace came over me. Someone explained to me later that this was the Holy Spirit comforting me. There was a shift in my attitude after this. Whenever I encountered a problem, I felt like I could handle it. 

Not long after this experience, a leader in my church told me about a new shelter for the homeless.  He suggested that I volunteer there. So I began volunteering at the Center and from the start, it felt right. 

After about a year at the Center, I knew in my soul deep down that I was supposed to buy a house and make it into a home for men in recovery from addictions. That was the first time I ever really felt God speaking to me. I was obedient to what I felt God wanted me to do. I bought a house and made it into a recovery home for men with addictions. After I did this, God always provided. There was always enough income to pay the bills. This was confirmation to me that I had done the right thing.

As I have became more confident in my ability, I have been able to connect in deeper, more meaningful ways with those I serve at the Center.  On a practical level, I register new clients and see what services we can connect them with. I help manage a grant that helps homeless clients get into housing. But a lot of what I do is to just LISTEN and care. Many of the homeless clients  I work with are divorced, some have experienced the tragic death of loved ones and many have experienced deep rejection, trauma, and brokenness. All of the tough parts of my life have prepared me for relating, understanding and empathizing. I can connect with clients in a special way because I have experienced some of the same difficulties they have. God put me in a place where I could use the painful experiences of my life to help and encourage others – a place that would also be a great blessing to me.

Throughout this journey there’s been a lot of heartache, but I’ve also learned to trust God. I know that He is always there with me even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. But when I stop and breathe…. I just know God is there and that gives me peace.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Corinthians 1:4

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#112 Life of Revision

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

God likes to do a little revision.  

This new jolt of confusion, however, was a long-laid plan. It was one that had begun years earlier, while working in garbage-dump living conditions in Peru. He’d fallen in love with those people. And, at that moment, he’d known his life was meant for people of Hispanic descent. To that end, as a young man, he’d pursued degrees in Spanish and international politics. To that end he’d begun teaching ESL. To that end he’d lived his life. It was the right career. It was the right path.

Everyone said this new change would be the worst mistake of his life. But that day, sitting across from a poster of himself as a debt-free college student who had planned to enter missions, he signed papers to pull out of his education. Re-education began—not an erasing of anything but the mysterious pulling of form out of void.

A few weeks earlier, prayer had led to this moment. A touch of intention. A moment of admitted fear. Tension began to grow. It was a decision that more than one person thought was foolish. At the beginning, even he’d thought it’d just been the regular fatigue of college hitting him with thoughts of escape. Quit school?

Who quits school when they have good grades and no debt? But that was the raging message beating in his heart. He didn’t really want to do it. He didn’t. It wasn’t him. He was scholastic; he was cut out for school. He was going to serve God with his degrees. He was. So, they wrestled. They wrestled to see if this unheard of and impractical change really was from God.

To him, though, God was Friend. There was close trust there. But this was asking him to do something not only unconventional, but something seemingly unwise. The words, however, kept coming: “Listen, I have some really cool things for you, and you can have them if you want, but you’re going to have to obey me.”

Suddenly, it felt like a big, enjoyable surprise was waiting for him—like he was already holding it in his hands. He just didn’t know what it was yet. So, there he sat, expelling himself from college, from dreams, from future. Wide-eyed secretaries and advisors stared him down in an office meant to offer education—and there he sat, denying it all. And there God sat, right with him, condoning it all. Staring back at stunned office workers was the God of Future. Dwelling in unknown, the Knower began to rise.

And hope began to grow like a child—full of the not yet, but already present.

The next day, however, was frightening. Had this young man just given up the rest of his life for an unknown vision? Had he given in instead of giving up? And which one of those was really right? Known path was instantly traded for something intangible. Was it really God he’d trusted?  

He realized he’d been sharing his identity with the world’s view for a long time and giving that up made him feel about as tall as a mouse. Now, instead of “successful, debt-free student,” his label was “college dropout.” And it was for no tangible reason—only a prayer: conversation that gave direction from a persevering Friend.

And God was with. God was Best Friend. In that, there was calm trust and excited anticipation.  

He asked God for a small sign. His heart wanted to know again the faithfulness, to know the Carrying Power. He wanted to know he’d obeyed. On that day, however, there was a void of Presence. On that day, there was no sign. On that day, there was vast hope, but hope was not made real.

“Oh, my goodness, I am not prepared for this!” was his first thought on the following evening. And then, seconds later, he remembered the words of the Lord for him, “I have amazing things for you.”  

That night, instead of just a few teens arriving for the youth group he led, over 25 Hispanic youth arrived. Kids whose first language was Spanish. Kids who had absent fathers, not enough food, no sense of safety—they lived with a heartbreaking understanding that they were an afterthought to family and society. Kids who, without having broken any law themselves, were dragged into becoming the product of their parent’s huge and uncaring choices.

He had no degree, yet every class and every experience from Peru to that moment had been in preparation for this. But it hadn’t been him. Of course not. He hadn’t planned this. It was God’s bend in the road, carefully prepared years ago—in fact, eons ago.

Along with attending school and working full-time, he’d never have been able to love those teens the unconditional way they needed. So, quitting school paved the way for this God-given and miraculous ministry. God hadn’t stopped carrying him. God’s friendship had prepared him.

The story, even now, continues to become. Hearts are given to Jesus, baptisms take place, teens choose to drastically change their life’s trajectories. Just a few weeks ago, a youth walked 25 miles in the rain to come to a safe place. And in between the lives of youth and leaders, another Friend lives.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#105. Missionaries in the Mountains: A Light in Adversity

 

Photo by Amy Wallen Photography

My husband and I moved from Central Florida to become full-time missionaries in the mountains of Kentucky. God has been so faithful to us. We have many stories we could share! 

Last summer, my husband found out he had throat cancer. We prayed, “Lord, we don’t know why this has happened but let this be for Your glory. Let us be a light for You.” A line from Lauren Daigle’s song Trust in You really resonated with us: “I want what you want, Lord, and nothing else.” 

In September, my husband’s treatments were successfully completed. But on December 26, he began coughing up large amounts of blood. We went to the nearest hospital, but 5 pints of blood later we were on our way to the bigger regional hospital where he spent nine days in ICU. Thankfully, God got us over the mountain in time to receive care from the right doctor at the right hospital. 

This was such a frightening time for me, but God reassured me. I felt the Lord impress upon me these words: “He is my child. I will take care of him.” I received a peace that passes understanding, and I released my husband completely to Him. 

God answered our prayer to be a light. He gave us the opportunity to love on people. We met many hurting people in waiting rooms who needed hope. We were able to encourage and pray with them. We also had the opportunity to encourage and pray with some of the health care professionals we met during this time.

In the midst of adversity, God did more than we could ask or imagine. He provided comfort, peace, healing, provision, and many opportunities to minister to others. We are grateful.

How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.

Psalm 31:19

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#103. Missionaries in the Mountains: Surrender and Abundance

 

Photo by Amy Wallen Photography

My wife and I had both worked at a stable in Mississippi, and then God led me to attend seminary. I attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina and I can remember some of the faculty asking me what I wanted to do after I graduated. I told them I wanted to use horses to share God’s love with kids! This was met with some raised eyebrows and “not sure about that” expressions on their faces. I have to admit this was a non-conventional path for a seminary graduate. In fact, I had no idea of how this might come to fruition. It was September, with graduation approaching in December, and I didn’t even know where to begin looking for this kind of ministry opportunity.

Shortly after this I was able to attend the Equestrian Ministries International conference where I met the man that led this ministry. His insights were very helpful to me. This was followed by my attending a conference at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, where I learned of an equine ministry in the mountains of Kentucky that was looking for a director. My wife and I spent a week in the mountains meeting the founders of this ministry. It was wonderful and I felt drawn to take the job. 

But after I returned home I began to doubt…it was 2008 in the middle of the financial crisis and this job did not offer any pay. I had a wife and a child to take care of. I sent the founder of the ministry a very long email about my concerns, but essentially my question to him was, “How can I take this job with no pay?” He emailed me back with only one sentence:

“If this is where God wants you, then God will take care of the rest.” 

A simple but profound answer that spoke powerfully to me. My wife and I agreed to pray separately that night about what the Lord would have us to do. At this point, I was ready to lay it all down and give up my idea of ministry through horses. I wanted what God wanted, and I prayed earnestly for God to reveal His will to me. It was then, through my complete surrender to God, that I received clarity and direction. By midnight, I knew the mountains of Kentucky was where we were to go.

My wife felt the same direction from her prayers that night. I accepted the position of director and we moved to the mountains of Kentucky.

God has continued to bless our family and the ministry since we moved here eight years ago. We now have four children and God has provided in every way, including financially. He has provided a beautiful place for the ministry with 25 acres, 3 stables, 24 stalls, an arena, trails, and a classroom. God has given us the opportunity to share the love of Jesus while on horseback. At our Lil Buckaroo Boot Camp, kids learn how to care for and ride horses while also singing songs and participating in scripture reading. We also work with a local elementary school to love, encourage, and teach children who have autism about riding and caring for horses. 

I was on a journey to find out God’s will for my life. I had to step outside of my comfort zone to do so. His ways were much different than mine. I received the call and was a bit resistant initially. As a man, I was looking for security, as I had a family to provide for. But God was looking for me to surrender to Him and all He had for me. When I did, He showed up and has provided for us abundantly.

I appeal to you therefore, brother by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#101. Missionaries in the Mountains: Multiplying of Food

 

Photo by Amy Wallen Photography

Two-and-a-half years ago my wife and I left good jobs, a nice home, and our friends and family to become full-time missionaries in the mountains of Kentucky. The first six months were so hard. We moved to a small house in a rural community with approximately 100 homes. I remember looking around our house and there were buckets everywhere—our roof leaked badly. I wondered if we had made a mistake. My wife and I were feeling so discouraged and not sure if we had made the right decision to leave everything behind. 

Shortly after this, in January, my wife and I were at the grocery, and I felt God urging me to buy water. We bought 60 gallons of water that day not knowing what God had in mind, but trusting He had a plan for the water. For a month, this water was stacked on our living room floor and we had no idea what we would do with it. Then in February it got down to 17 degrees below zero. We opened up our community center as a warming center for the people of our town. Water pipes in the town were freezing and busting from the cold. Everyone wanted water and the stores were all out. There were families who did not have water to make formula to feed their babies. This was the reason for the water! We gave the water away to our neighbors and witnessed to and prayed with them.

Then God did something else amazing. During this same time, we had 15 families that came to us needing food. They told us they had nothing to eat in their house. We had a pantry of emergency food, but after we had given the third family food from the pantry, I told my wife we weren’t going to have enough for all of the families in need. There wasn’t enough food for five families, much less fifteen, but God multiplied the food like He did in the story of the loaves and the fishes in the Bible (John 6). We just kept filling boxes with food, and in the end, we had filled enough boxes for all 15 families!

Not only did God miraculously provide food and water for the people of our community, but He also used this experience to show my wife and I that He was with us and He was guiding us. This was affirmation that we did NOT make a mistake in leaving everything behind to become full-time missionaries. God encouraged us and showed us that we could depend on Him and that He would use us to help the people of our community. Over and over we have seen His faithful provision for us and the people in our community. God is a faithful, loving Provider, and we put our trust in Him.

 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 

Philippians 4:13

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#51 He Knows The Way Through The Wilderness

Photo by Stephanie Susie Photography

Misunderstood. Isolation. Unpredictable. Imprisonment. Exhaustion. Debilitating.

This is how my life felt from 2000–2006.  I was sick. I was in pain. I wanted answers but no one had them. I was continually told the pain in my arms and joints were from too much tumbling and cheerleading. I never agreed. Through high school and college I had been misdiagnosed, and it wasn’t until 2006 when I found out I had mono. While doing bloodwork with mono, they found some levels to be very off. I still remember the doctor telling me to go home and pray that it was MS and not lupus. I was shocked that he would say something like that, but also shocked that he would instill that fear in me. Once asked if I had any history of lupus in our family, it all started to make sense. Yes. We have a history of lupus throughout my father’s side of the family. Finally some answers that I wanted.

After all tests came back positive, they confirmed I had active Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. This affects many internal organs in the body. SLE most often harms the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and nervous system. You would think I would have been devastated at the news, but like many others I was just thankful to finally have answers. Before this I always felt like people thought I was crazy or a hypochondriac—when in fact, I was too busy hiding and playing down my symptoms because I kept thinking it couldn’t really be happening to me. I looked fine on the outside, but it felt like my body was killing me from the inside out.

After trying many medications of methotrexate, imuran, plaquenil, benlysta, steroids, multiple pain meds, and every holistic method—vegan, vegetarian, paleo—you can try, I am still trying to understand the mysteries of lupus. We are still working to find a combination of the drugs that will hopefully slow down the disease and manage the chronic daily pain. Currently I go every four weeks to get an infusion, which I get through a power port placed in my chest, and I do chemo weekly. It has saved so much time since my veins finally quit participating. Each day I take a mixture of pills and vitamins along with a gluten-free diet. It is time-consuming and very humbling, but I am still alive and I still have a chance to show my family and friends that I won’t give up this fight.

Because of lupus and its many complications, I have experienced a corneal transplant, a hysterectomy, kidney infections, pleurisy, major brain fog, breathing problems, heart issues, extremely dry eyes-skin-mouth, loss of hair because of the disease and meds, rashes on my face and arms, and sensitivity to sunlight, along with many other fun adventures. I also experience complications of other autoimmune disorders that like to attach themselves to you when you have lupus. I have been diagnosed with several—such as Sjogren’s, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis (symptoms/not deterioration), Raynaud’s, anemia, vitamin B and D deficient, alopecia, along with chronic fatigue. With having so many things go wrong at any given time, I have learned what it means to be patient, how to simplify my life, how to build my faith, and how to appreciate the time that is given to me. I know I can only handle a certain amount of tasks each day and I am finally learning the limits of what that means. I am so thankful to have family and friends that understand this now and encourage me throughout this challenge.

I am hoping to share with others the beauty and the positive things this disease has taught me and many others. Lupus is devastating, but it has also taught me not to take things for granted—to enjoy the little things each day and to be thankful for the parts of my body that are working that particular day. I love that my son has learned about compassion and what it means to pray for those when they are sick. I love that I am able to share my peace with others and where my inner strength comes from. I am trying to look at lupus as an opportunity. It is an opportunity for me to share my story in a positive light rather than a negative one. I am a mother, a wife, and an artist. The Lord has blessed me with the ability to share my art by photographing weddings and senior portraits (Esther Bloom Photography). I am so thankful that I am able to have a job with hours I create and am able to provide for my family.

My aunt shared this with me recently before passing:

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,

All I have to do is follow, strength for today is mine always

And all that I need for tomorrow.

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness

All I have to do is follow. (by Sidney E. Cox)

I know that no matter what happens in this journey with lupus, I will not be alone. God’s character has proved time and time again that He is in control. All I have to do is trust in Him. I am thankful for these experiences because through them I have learned what it means to trust in Him. I have learned how blessed I truly am. You can have a family, you can have a career, and you can have a life which is pleasing to the Lord. It may not be anything like you once planned, but it is still beautiful—because He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in His time.

I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  Isaiah 46:4

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#37 I May Not Understand, But I Trust

Photo by Shining Light Photography

This story was written while I was working in the Philippines with the International Justice Mission to free slaves.

600,000-800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80% are women and girls. Up to 50% are minors.

     US Department of State Trafficking in Person Report 2007

Slavery is the second largest global-organized crime, generating $150.2 BILLION Per Year. That’s more than the combined revenues of Amazon, Google, and Ebay every year. 

     International Labour Organization

The average cost of a slave today is $90. The average cost of a slave in 1850, in the American South, is  equivalent to $40,000 today.

     Free the Slaves

Nearly 1 in 5 victims of slavery is a child. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the United States is 12-14  years old. Four billion people are living outside the protection of the law. 

     The United Nations

Discouraged. Dispirited. Disheartened. This is what my soul feels as I read these facts. With out-of-this-world statistics like these, how am I ever supposed to have hope? Working in this fight against human trafficking has almost left me feeling useless, worthless, and hopeless. These statistics aren’t mere numbers, but a harsh truth and reality in our world today. What are you to do when you live in a world where slavery still exists? When you actually witness women being sold—SOLD—for sexual acts against their will? How am I supposed to feel when I hear stories of pimps getting away with their dehumanizing actions because they are not facing any consequences, WHATSOEVER? High profits, low risk? Why not? They are not being punished or held responsible for their unlawful acts and are left to exploit even more women and children. What am I supposed to do when I see a foreign man walking down the street alongside a girl that is less than half his age? He has traveled far and wide just for one night of temporary pleasure and satisfaction, by paying for a girl that could be younger than his very own daughter. What about the stories I hear over and over again of actual families exploiting their very own children on the Internet? What are we to do when we provide every resource possible to a rescued victim, that promises her a new life and future, but yet she believes she is nowhere near worthy, and wants right back where she began? She doesn’t even want to be rescued.

You know what you are supposed to do? Have hope against all odds. Guess who is on our side? JESUS CHRIST! The Savior of the world. If God is for us, who can be against us? Whom shall I fear? NO ONE. When I feel as though nothing I am doing is making a change; when I feel like I have to keep doing more or figure out the answer to this global tragedy, I am reminded that this is not a “Brianna story”…. this is a “God story.” And the best part about this story is that we already know the ending. GOD WINS! Though I feel incapable, I feel worthless, and I am confused out of my mind, God has made known to me His promises. It’s nothing that I can do, but all that He will do.

Just read the story of Abraham.* Abraham received the promise of God that he would have a son when he was 100 years old, but Sarah was old and barren. Despite his old age and weak body, he still believed that the Lord would see His promise to him through. And He did! “Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say ‘it’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.’ Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said” (Romans 4:19-24).

Abraham became the father of many nations because he had faith in God’s promise. Though it seemed impossible, God came through, as He always does. This is no surprise. “Abraham was first named father and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding not to live on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do” (Romans 4:17-18). I want to have faith like that. When I stand on a mountaintop overlooking God’s mighty, intricately designed and crafted creation, how could I ever doubt His overarching power and sovereignty? How can I doubt Colossians 1:17 when Paul claims: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together”?

In His timing, justice will reign. Slaves will be rescued. And God will have the victory once and for all. I may not have the answers. I may not understand why the world is so broken. But that doesn’t shake the faith I have in the Lord. The odds may be against us, but God is for us. I will never stop believing or trusting that. I am banking my life on it. One thousand percent. Join with me in believing this. When all seems impossible, when you’re at your breaking point, believe that God has already won. Say yes to the mission He has called you on, and don’t look back. Have faith and hope in Him. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1Timothy 6:12).

Let’s pray for the girls God has rescued. The ones that are healing. The ones deciding whether they are worthy of His love. And the ones we have yet to reach. Pray for the abusers, the perpetrators, the lost, and the broken. Pray for their heart to lean into Christ’s and to break free from the bondage in this world. Words will never describe how thankful I am to be part of such a massive mission. And no matter how big it may be, how impossible it may seem, I will not give up! Because Christ has not given up on me. In due time, we will see the glory of the Lord prevail. And I can’t wait for that day! He has shown me His glory through His people and His creation. Because of what He has shown me, I will trust Him for that which I cannot yet see. Because of what Christ has done in my life, I have joy, assurance, confidence, complete trust, and surrender, despite the odds the world keeps throwing my way. I encourage you all to hold on to your hope against all odds. I promise, you will not be left disappointed.

“What do you mean, ‘if I can?'” Jesus asked, “Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23).

*This message of hope through the faith of Abraham was brought to me at a breaking point while serving with the International Justice Mission combating human trafficking. A dear friend wrote me a letter before I had even left for the journey to the Philippines, and in God’s timing, I opened it when I was feeling hopeless. God is with us, everywhere we go, friends. Into the darkest corner of the world, He is there, making it light.  

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#23 What Was Missing

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was first introduced to the idea of having a relationship with God when I was 14 years old, but I didn’t really comprehend the incredible blessing it was to have and build a strong relationship with God. I went to church and youth group meetings, but eventually stopped going and didn’t really think much about it. I wasn’t necessarily a rebel during my teenage years, but I definitely had my moments of selfishness and unkindness.

Fast forward to my freshman year in college where I was faced with many different challenges and obstacles that I never had to face before, and I knew that I needed something more in my life. I started going to church with a few close friends while living in Portland, Oregon, for the summer. The church we attended was amazing and I knew that this was what was missing in my life for the past five years. Over that summer, my relationship with the Lord grew and grew, and I accepted and trusted in the Lord again. Something I vividly remember was taking communion for the first time; I’ve never felt more at peace than I did in that moment. I knew when I moved back to Utah that I only wanted to keep building my relationship with God.

I decide to be baptized on February 14th, 2016, and since then my life has been so abundantly blessed. Without the relationship I have built with God, the trials that I face would be nearly impossible. I’m so grateful for God’s grace and the blessing to have such a loving and amazing God to serve.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.