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SENDING LOVE ACROSS THE GLOBE:THE ENERGY IN COMPASSION

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The room was filled with whispers and giggles. As I looked around me, the kids were all sprawled out on the floor of the church sanctuary. Some had concentrated looks, others were squealing in delight at the progress being made-yet others were waiting anxiously for me to come and see their poster boards they had just finished.

You see they had all just learned about other kids across the globekids just like them. Except there was a huge difference, the kids they had just learned about were living in refugee camps, or fleeing as refugees to other countries-leaving behind clothes, toys, friends, a life.

My friends-the kids in Tres Rios community do not have it very easy either. They are growing up in a neighborhood where poverty, drugs, and crime are the norm. But I wanted them to know that the atmosphere surrounding them does not have to define them. They can be world changers, right where they are- even in this neighborhood.

We explained as gently as possible the crisis in the Middle East to all of the kids. At the end, I asked them their thoughts on what they had just learned. One child raised their hand and said- “We need to pray for them.” Yes, oh yes how spot on.

I asked them if they knew of ways we might help make a difference amidst the crisis. Shouts of ideas began to bubble up out of them as they took turns talking over one another. “They need clothes, we can fill a big truck with clothes for them!” Others said, food, toys, water, medicines, etc.

I was grinning from ear to ear as I heard their ideas. I loved them all. However, one very sweet voice suggested the one thing we all know is needed most. It’s the one thing that makes all the difference. It’s the one thing that shatters darkness.The sweet voice called out ever so simply- “love.”

Doesn’t that just mark you? No long winded answer on love and how and why-just simply stated. It came from a place of pure innocence, a perfect resting place of hope.

So we got out the poster board and crayons and let their imaginations take them away.Tears sprang to my eyes as they were met with smiles, enthusiasm and creativity.

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I was so impacted. They weren’t sad, scared or consumed with a dooming sense of helplessness. There in the midst of glitter and glue, crayons and markers- change was happening.  A change coming from little minds working away and I saw what God sees- faith like a child.

To a child, faith is so easy- so simple. In one child’s mind, why not drive a truck full of clothes to Syria from Costa Rica?! To him, this child-distance, money and time have no factor. Their hope was contagious. They were not focussing on their own lack of clothes, some even suggested they could run home and grab (what little they had) of their own clothes to give away.

What would the world be like if children were consulted more on world affairs? The innocent responses while so simple, are often the most accurate. We forget that some of the greatest answers are found within a simple idea.

Oh I know there seems to be a lot of complexity in the world today. Between social media, world news and local news-anger and hate are loud. But not this day, this day the kids chose hope and love. At the end of the day-hope and love are louder.

The energy in the sanctuary was exciting as the kids of all different ages were full of ideas, of hope. And there, I felt it. I mean I really felt it-the energy in compassion. It’s transformational. We stop thinking about the sadness and the despair. We stop thinking about the lack and the worry. We simply start thinking like Jesus. Our hearts beat hard for Him-for His hope.

We are praying and loving our family in Iraq all the way from Tres Rios Cartago, Costa Rica. And we are excited to announce that in December, we will be sending our small gift of love over to our friends at Love Does to sponsor their work with kids in Iraq!!

 

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Post by Executive Director, Anna Carroll

Vessels of Freedom

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Writing papers about literary works, feminism, and cultural issues for college was part of my routine for several years. I tried so hard to convince my professors that my writing skills were worthy and my arguments were valid. I graduated from college some weeks ago and many things have changed so far. But honestly, even writing for you seems difficult because it makes me feel vulnerable. So, if I turn my vulnerability to Jesus, I feel free. He whispered “Fabi, write to me, express your thoughts to me,” then the creativity flowed like a river. I just needed to touch base with him and let him know how thankful I am for what he has done.

His ways are incredible because they are not as limited as mine. It’s interesting to look back to the time God taught me about human trafficking and modern day slavery for the first time. It was through a school project that I knew about this issue and about LightForce. I love the way God brought me to LFI, although I had no idea about his plans. The way he introduced some beautiful strangers to me; strangers that I consider my family now and encourage and champion me every time I need it. And even though I had many misconceptions about prostitution or human trafficking, he trained me through his mercy and his love.

I feel so grateful because God has been giving me a new identity as his daughter while I love on and grab coffee with these men and women who are slaves of fear and sin just as I once was. When I feel frustrated he reminds me he cares more about them than I can possibly care in my imperfection. He is working on their lives as he works on mine.

I appreciate how God brings words like – process, story, vulnerability, justice, freedom – to my mind because they become stronger every single morning when I open my eyes. He has been giving me a new understanding of his word. Jesus said that blessed are those who mourn and suffer because they will be comforted by him. How grateful we need to be for those struggles and trials because he takes us by his hand through this journey while he refines our hearts as gold with the other hand. And although this healing process might hurt, it’s okay because he is making us new creatures, new vessels.

I want Jesus to be the protagonist of my story. I want to get rid of this filthy ego. Now I understand that we are called to love on people no matter their sins and conditions. No matter if they are pastors, prostitutes, pimps or politicians. It really doesn’t matter who gets the recognition of “saving victims” because God saved everyone equally. We are his instruments; he invests in us with an everlasting love so we can invest in others. We just need to starve for righteousness and justice, so we can be filled with him.

In the last weeks he has reminded me the way he loved David; the way God chose him to lead his people. Even though David was only a shepherd to the eyes of the world, David truly knew who he was in God. He understood the process of strengthening his faith by killing the lion and the bear before he killed the giant. We just need to love on people and destroy our ego and fears in order to kill this giant called slavery. This is God’s battle and we are part of it.

Es una lucha dura/ It is a hard fight.

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I recently had the privilege to spend a few days with our sister organization, in Atlanta, Georgia. The fellowship and collaboration with Beloved, as always, was so refreshing.

In Atlanta, sex trafficking and abuse abounds. Children are bought for sex and then are forced to live on the streets for survival, selling their bodies to support themselves. As I meet women in Costa Rica, and the BeLoved team works with women in Atlanta, I’m reminded that this fight extends from minute villages to multi-million dollar cities. It spans continents.

One day, a few of us went to visit a little fishing village upon the request of a friend. It seems this beautiful, quiet village tucked away off the beaten path had an extreme problem. Sexual abuse, rape, and prostitution were rampant through the village, as well as drug trafficking. A school psychologist, desperate for change, began to share her stories with us of heartbreaking situations she encounters with the children of the local school.

After she tells the final story, she becomes silent. We all do for a moment. It’s over 90 degrees outside.  The one little fan in her office is making great attempts to cool us off, but to no avail. I break the silence to look at the director and say, “You have a difficult job, and I am going to be praying for you each day.” I can tell she feels hopeless. I squeeze her hand to let her know she is not alone. Sweat drips down both our brows as she says, “Es una lucha dura.” Her words echo my thoughts of the last month: “it is a hard fight”. However, a hard fight I refuse to quit fighting. We left the school with a plan to embark on a joint project with this school and LightForce.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, women flood a waiting list to get into BeLoved Atlanta’s residential and restoration program, seeking help to get out of the life they wouldn’t have chosen as 12-year-old little girls. Little girls dream of being princesses, not rape victims. Each story is similar–sexual abuse as a child–but equally heartbreaking each time. These women are precious in God’s eyes, and through Jesus’ vision we see their value, but they don’t know it themselves. What hope is there in a life of prostitution?

Our drive home from the village that day was met with silence, as each one of us was lost in thought upon what we had just heard.

That evening I sat on the beach to spend some time with the Lord. I needed to look at something as powerful and magnificent as the ocean to be reminded of God’s ability to create and control. As I was praying, the Lord brought to mind the verses He had been laying on my heart every day prior:

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever….” Hebrews 6:17-20

I have been memorizing this passage and saying it to myself everyday since that moment on the beach.

I do have this hope and it is an anchor for my soul.

“And we have this hope…”

A brothel shut down in the Caribbean after one brave girl took the opportunity to present the Gospel to the owner and pimp.

“And we have this hope…”

We offered coffee and cookies to a woman on a routine stop but she said no and instead requested prayer.

“And we have this hope…”

A resident from our BeLoved Atlanta program pulled two staff members aside with tears in her eyes, and said, “I never knew people could be genuinely kind.”

“And we have this hope…”

We collaborated with another organization to see one amazing young girl receive love and freedom.

“And we have this hope…”

The first little girl that we ever had the privilege to meet and rescue is still to this day free.

The blood of Jesus rewrote history and now we have this hope.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate With Us

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Joy To The WorldNew branding, expansion of our US and Costa Rican Office and Staff, and a growing restoration program are only a few of what LFI has been able to accomplish this year and we are even more excited for what’s to come in 2014! As the holidays approach and we wrap up an amazing year of growth at LFI, we wanted to share some of the highlights with you and say a huge  “THANK YOU” for your involvement! Without your prayers and financial support we could not continue the ministries of LFI.
This year LFI has:

  • Received Julie* into our restoration program and have begun to see transformation and healing in her life (See the side bar as to get involved)
  • Facilitated interviews with trafficking victims to aid the US Embassy in Costa Rica
  • Aided in the investigation of several trafficking cases in Costa Rica
  • Trained over 30 individuals and multiple churches to further grow our street outreach in San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Our staff in Costa Rica received an internationally recognized survivor care curriculum training, Hands That Heal; and will receive certification to train other care givers in this curriculum in the early part of 2014
  • Finalized our Costa Rican legal papers to be officially recognized as a non-profit throughout all of Latin America
  • Raised over $21,000 to purchase a ministry van for our outreaches in Costa Rica
  • Completely rebranded our marketing materials and launched a new website

Again THANK YOU for your prayers and support this year. We are ecstatic about what the Lord has entrusted us with this year and wanted to celebrate and share the joy with you. Stay tuned for a look into what’s coming in 2014 where we hope to bring further restoration and hope to the lives of sexually broken and freedom to those enslaved! To give a year-end tax-deductible gift to help us move forward into 2014, Click Here.

*name has been changed for her protection

Embracing Space

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Band Of BrothersComing back to Costa Rica after so long of an absence, yet knowing I’m only going to be here for a short time has made space for some serious reflection. It’s been more than humbling to see all that’s happening in Costa Rica. It has been almost overwhelming at times to watch the LFI staff own the vision, confidently engage the broken on the streets, and open their hearts to those that are in need of belonging. For what we may lack sometimes in monetary resource, LFI more than makes up for in the richness of the lives of our staff and volunteers.

After two weeks of feeling overwhelmed and graciously humbled, I remembered Psalm 18:19,

He brought me out into a wide open place; He delivered me because He was pleased with me.

Other versions say “spacious places.” Nonetheless, spacious places sound good and picturesque in the Bible; however, when you start to think about the reality of a spacious place, it doesn’t always give us the same warm feelings. Maybe I’m weird, but I immediately pictured a scene from the miniseries, Band of Brothers. A USA military unit is out in the woods during the winter fighting back the Germans, and while everything is quiet, you see Major Winters running along the line telling everyone to get ready. Then you see the enemy tanks coming up through the other side of the woods, out into a wide open space. Maybe that isn’t a pretty picture, but here is my point: wide open spaces are sometimes hard places. They’re places where you feel the tension of victory while also being keenly aware that struggle is right along side. Rescue, however, is the promise of these spacious places.

The day after I landed in Costa Rica, a precious life needing restoration was dropped into our laps. Although I can’t say much about her personal story, this young girl at just 18 years of age had experienced more trauma in her life than many people have encountered in their entire lives. She was desperately in need of a wide open space. Over the weeks she’s been with us there’s been struggle. She’s happy to be safe and starting a new life, however, the sense of fear and vulnerability is there too.

The unknown of wide open spaces is sometimes the very thing that keeps us from being rescued.

It’s when we choose to embrace the unknown and take that risk that we truly feel the delight of rescue. God takes pleasure in walking with us through these spaces. The question is do we really believe that to be true, and are we willing to walk with Him even when we feel afraid?

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