Stop The Cries

I saw her tears. I heard her cries. She clutched the stuffed animal to her chest as I lightly tapped the door and peeked into her room. “Mari,” I whispered, “Are you okay?” No response. Just the whimpering sounds of a torn heart.

I moved closer, “Please come to breakfast.” She was usually the first at the table, it was strange to sit at the breakfast table without her that morning. “Would you like to call your mom?” She nodded a yes as the whimpering sounds quickly transformed into sobs.

I grabbed my phone and began to dial as I held back my tears. I knew this phone call would be the beginning of the end of Mari’s time with us. I had a signed consent from her mom where I promised to send her home as soon as she wanted to leave.

I dreaded making the call, but I had made a promise and had to come through.

“Hello Pastor Vicki. Is Mari okay?” Our telephone calls were always about her daughter.

Those welled up tears began to fall, “No.” Sob, sob, sob, “she won’t eat or get out of bed. She wants you.”

“I don’t think that she should come back home yet. I’m not ready.”

The psychologist in charge of this case told me that she would be better off at home once her abuser was arrested. He would be in jail soon, I needed to let her go.

“I don’t want her to leave, but you are her mother. No one could ever take your place. She wants you.”

Her mom began to break down, “I miss her so much. I want her home. I’m just afraid that this is all my fault. I’m such a terrible mother.”

She belted out a cry from deep within. I could hear the regret of the choices she made. The sound of unfulfilled dreams, generations of abuse that reached down to her baby girl filled the phone’s receiver.

“It’s not your fault,” I could barely get the words out. “You have always done the best you knew to do. Now we will teach you how to move forward. You have to take her back. Allow her to see you fight for her. She needs to know that you will always have her back.”

“Okay. Put her on the phone.”

I stepped back into the room with Mari and placed the phone by her ear, “It’s your mom honey.”

She tried to talk, but the words wouldn’t come out. All she could do was bawl.

I told her mom that we’d call back later and I spent the rest of the morning holding Mari in my arms as she cried.

“It’s okay sweetie, cry. Let it all out.” She had been with us for two weeks and had not cried. She tried so hard to be strong. She spent her days playing in the pool, on the trampoline and watching movies with my girls. I kept waiting for the tears to flow, but she refused.

Today was her day. “He hurt me. So did the others. When my friends found out, they said that I liked it.” The sobs were consistent, “I never liked it.”

“I know honey.”

“I miss my mom. I want to go home.”

“You will soon. We want to make sure that home will be safe for you.”

She began to cry more at this point. My heart had taken enough and needed a break so I asked Selina to take over. She held her in her arms until Paola, our future Safe House Mother, took over.

Paola is a Godsend for sure! She cared for Mari as is she were her own child. Mari’s problem with Encopresis didn’t stop her. She treated her as if she were her own. We all did.

But today was the beginning of our end with her.

She is back home now. Her trafficker will be sentenced soon. Today a mother and a child have been reunited and one more child trafficker has been halted.

There is so much more to say. So much more to do. So many more girls out there. So little time to save them. *Every two minutes a child is being prepared for trafficking. The tears burning my eyes won’t let me write any more. Stay posted. Let’s stop their cries. We can do this.

*UNICEF

He Knew It All Along

We had a nice, peaceful day yesterday. A precious new missionary family visited us on HOPE Mountain. After a simple lunch and a short walk around our property, we sat on our front porch to talk while our children played.

As the trampoline springs rattled and laughter resounded, we opened our hearts a little. We talked about the joys and the not-so-joyous realities of our lives. These missional lives in which we’ve engaged connected our families.

IMG_7454As I talked about missing my seventeen-year-old son, the one my husband and I allowed to stay behind in the U.S., my eyes swelled with tears. I’ve learned to hold them back. It’s a trick that involves a combination of blinking and looking the other way. I was not willing to let them see the pain my heart encounters at the mention of his name. I had just met them. I didn’t see the need to be completely real.

Initially, I was excited to find that this family is African American. While this rare find on the mission field made me feel that I could relate to them at another level, there was an attachment that linked us more than what I saw on the outward. We are filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and He causes us all to know one another at levels where we aren’t willing to go. My new friend looked at me peaceably and said, “You know Vicki, God knew that Josiah would be away from you during this time, and He provided for this season of your life way before you knew this time would come.” She poured such wisdom and such peace to my wistful heart, which completely caused my perspective to shift within a moment.

The truth is that God did know. He knew it all along.

This morning as I sat on my bench in my prayer room, I asked God about the most difficult event of this summer, our girls’ illnesses. IMG_0200

His response was the same, “I knew that it would happen way before it appeared. I made provision for you all prior to the situation. I wanted to teach you a few lessons. I wanted to teach them a few things. I was glorified, and lives were transformed by my power, all because of it. I used it for your good, and I’ll continue to do so.”

He then reminded me of the Israelite families who traveled through the wilderness. He could’ve taken them another way, yet He chose to take them through the wilderness. He knew the Red Sea was up ahead, and He had a plan in place for them way before they arrived.

He knew that Haman would want to kill the Jews way before Hadassah became queen. He placed the newly named, Esther, in an unknown and uncomfortable environment all because of His plan to save His people. He had a plan in place for them way before the threat.

He knew that Pharaoh would kill the baby boys before Jochebed found herself with child. He had a plan in place for Moses way before he was conceived.

He knew it all along. He was in it all.

He knew that Paul would suffer severe persecution for reaching out to the Gentiles. He had a plan in place way before Paul became a convert.

He knew that I would spend most of my days on this mountain with the sincere intent of reaching those who don’t know Him while my son is miles away. He had a plan in place way before I ever knew this mountain existed.

So we can trust Him. We can rely on Him. He walks with us through the fire. He keeps us in the storm. He shows Himself strong while its hard, and He reveals Himself when its easy. He is always with us.

Wherever you find yourself today, know that He is with you. Know that He had a plan in place for your situation prior to the onset of it all. Stop for a moment and ask Him about His plan for you right now. Don’t wait until it’s over to see it. You can see Him at work right here, right now, if you choose.

Hopefully I’ll have more opportunities to spend time in the presence of those with whom I can connect my heart, by the Spirit of God, as I live this missional life that takes me from HOPE Mountain to the United States then back again. In the midst of it all, I’ll be sure to cherish each moment knowing that He knew it all along.

I’ve Come This Far…

Hebrews 4:16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Gospel music has always been my most favorite genre of music. I remember sitting in the pews as a child, mesmerized by the Gospel choir. They would march down the aisle with dignity as they clapped and sang glorious melodies. When tryouts for the youth choir approached, I secured my spot.

We practiced every Wednesday night. Songs like, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name…” and “I love the Lord, He heard my cry and pities every groan…” still stir emotions deep within and help me to remember my roots. My mind and heart are full of the sounds of my people. “He’s an on time God,” and “I’ll call on the rock of my salvation, I’ll go to the stone that the builders rejected, I’ll go to the mountain and the mountain stands by me…” all resound deep within.

Hand clapping, foot stomping, deep cries for help and loud expressions of joy make a really good church service for me. That’s the atmosphere where I sense His presence the most. He meets me in the secret places of my heart in the midst of the sound of Gospel.

One song in particular easily glides off of my tongue. “I’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord-trusting in His Holy word-He’s never failed me yet.” Oh how that song brings an assurance to my being. So much truth is wrapped up in those words. I’ve come far. I’ve had faith. I leaned on Him. I trust His word. He has not failed me.

Lately, I’m realizing that the validity of those words stem from God, not me. My faith has brought me far because He empowered me to believe. I leaned on Him because He made Himself available when I was falling. I trusted Him because He proved Himself trustworthy over and over again. He never failed me because He is faithful.

My hearts interprets the song this way these days, I’ve come this far by mercy and grace…still standing because He holds me up…knowing without a shadow of doubt that He will take care of me because He is trustworthy…He will always be there, won’t ever leave, He will continuously do as He has promised.

You see, He was faithful when I wasn’t. He pushed me, pulled me and stretched me to believe when I couldn’t do so for myself. He is the substance of my faith. I’ve come this far because of Him.

The words in this song have more meaning for me now. I sang them as a little girl with a set of burdens that no child should have to bear. He carried me through that season. I sing them now as a woman who has trekked through some serious valleys and deep waters. He carries me now. I’ve come this far because of Him.

Spend some time embracing the beauty of a music that originates from a place of deep surrender. Music that causes us to remember that we have no other choice but to hold on to Him. Music that glorifies the magnificent nature of our Father God. It’s a music that tells of His story of hope, redemption, peace and love. Hold on tight and don’t let go.

We’ve come this far…

Empowered Women

Women are powerful. Eve demonstrated her strength as she carried a baby for the first time. She had no example to follow and no mother to hold her hand during the birth. I’ll even bet that Adam was in the dark as to his ability to give her what she needed during that first pregnancy. Eve was cast out of her perfect home into a life of pain, agony and despair. Yet Eve survived.

History books are flooded with stories of women like Eve. Women who fought wars, overthrew kingdoms, defeated enemies and battled for their homes.

Women like you and me.

The unfortunate reality is that so many women still struggle with their own ability to wage war for themselves. We oftentimes feel empowered when we wage war for others. We feel useful when we help someone else shine. We have not understood how to use our strength in a way that would create a ripple effect of change in the lives of those we touch.

We somehow have allowed ourselves to put one another down. We don’t stand together as we ought. Gossip and lies have taken the front seat in so many ways that many of us would much rather not have friends than be bothered with the reality of “female drama”.

Since our determination to connect with one another is vital to our progress, I’ve come up with a few tips to help you empower yourself and the women in your lives.

1. Take care of yourself first. Spend time alone with God every day. Be sure to record the memories of those everyday meetings in a journal or with a digital voice recorder. Once your time with God has been established, seek out activities that you enjoy. Experiment until you find what you like. Remember this is your time, no one else is invited!

2. Clearly define your goals. This works for a stay at home mom and for a working mom. You will never get anywhere if you don’t have a plan. Write them down or make a dream board. Do what is necessary for you to clearly see where you are going each day. Make sure that those around you understand where you are headed. This is a good way to determine whether or not they should be a part of your life. If your “girls” aren’t in your corner, move on.

3. Stay away from gossip. Gossiping has an ugly way of destroying people. I live by the following rules: 1. Determine someone’s character by how they treat me and my family. 2. I really don’t know the full story unless I’ve spoken to everyone involved. 3. It’s none of my business. 4. Treat another’s reputation the way I want them to treat mine. 5. Oh…and did I already say, “It’s none of my business!”

4. Accomplish Steps 1-3. Truthfully, you can’t really move on in empowering others to become their best if you can’t accomplish the first three steps. They are learning by watching you. Your life is an example for so many. Choose to take it seriously.

5. Accept all women. Don’t cling on to clicks. There are so many women who simply want to be accepted. So accept them. So many want to be loved. Love them. Love them as they are. Don’t judge. Don’t try to make them become you. Simply let them know, by your actions, that they are welcome in your huddle. None of us is perfect, no matter how nice our social media posts seem. None of us has it all together. You will be shocked, the woman that you’ve been rejecting will teach you a thing or two, so open up your heart and let her in.

6. Be brave enough to tell your truth. Your perspective is truly your view of this world. At the moment, that’s the only truth you know. It’s okay to open your mouth, even if you are wrong. I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth quite often, but I learned so much by not remaining silent. Talk ladies. Let those around you know how you feel and what you see. You will grow and so will the rest of us.

7. Make time for friends. If you are far away from friends, use video chat and phone calls. Do what you must to spend quality time with the women who really know you. If you can honestly say that you don’t have a friend, do some souls searching. The Bible tells us that a friend makes him/herself friendly. Go to events that cater to your place in life and force yourself to get to know people. It’s scary if you are an introvert like me, but it’s worth it in the end. It takes time to develop true friendships, so give it time. You actually have to give (notice the action in that verb) time to your friends. They won’t all possess the same rank in your heart, but each are necessary.

8. Become a part of something that is bigger than you. Don’t let yourself become self centered. Give to a cause or start one yourself. There is so much need in this world and I’m sure that if each of us gave something, we would see less suffering and poverty. If you are looking for a cause, check out our ministry in the Dominican Republic.

9. Forgive. We are free when we forgive. Unforgiveness is a heavy weight that simply holds us down. Let it go. Really. Forgiveness does not mean that you must allow those who hurt you back into your life, but you must stop binding them to your heart with bitterness. It’s not worth it. Let.them.go. I’ve had to forgive some doozies throughout life, but now I’m free. I’m empowered to use my wings and fly. When I held on to the hurt and thought about what they did over and over and over again, I couldn’t fly. My wings were clipped. I was bound to them and they were bound to me. Freedom is so worth the agonizing process of forgiveness. Be free and forgive right now.

10. If you are married, love your husband. The only scripture that I could find about loving your husband comes with a command for the older women to teach the younger women how to do this. It’s really hard to respect what you don’t love. Now don’t get theological about this please. I didn’t go to seminary. I’m just realizing that it takes lots of love for empowerment to flow. It would just be awful for us to love and to accept everyone else, then treat our husbands as second class citizens. So ladies, love him. Love him when he is weak. Love him when he fails. Love him when he isn’t lovely to you. Love him immensely. Love him with great intent. Those younger women are watching and it’s your job to teach them.

So let’s use our power correctly. Let’s overthrow the kingdoms of gossip and backbiting that tend to hold us down. Arise today ladies and strengthen the life of another. You can do it.

Masterful Creator

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

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Life is a bit like Genesis chapter one. Had the author of the prestigious book written my story it would’ve sounded something like this, “In the beginning God formed a baby girl. She unfortunately believed that she was formless and void or a waste and empty, and darkness pervaded the deep recesses of her soul. Nevertheless, the Spirit of God was moving, He hovered and brooded over those deep recesses of her being. He declared with strength and authority, ‘Let there be light,’ and she began to see the Truth. God had already believed that she was beautiful was thrilled that she could now see. He was pleased with her new revelation of herself and declared His work good from its inception. He affirmed her and He sustained her. He separated the light within her from the darkness that wanted to overtake her life.”

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My favorite part of the creation story is the fact that chaos existed, yet God was there. Order was non existent, then He showed up. He made a grand entrance into a hopeless situation.

A bundle of difficult circumstances can surely feel like a dark atmosphere that’s covered in water!

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My past is proof of His order and design. He took a little girl who was broken beyond man’s repair and put each piece in its proper place.

He was able to let the light shine through a darkness that overpowered my being.

He became my filter.

I stopped seeing myself as that broken little girl and I began to see myself as His loved and precious treasure.

That.Is.Who.I.Am

I belong to a Masterful Creator.

I truly believe that I’ve arrived! I will always be a work in progress, don’t misunderstand me. I’ve arrived at His love, I’ve been here since the beginning.

Just as the disordered, dark space needed His intervention, so did my heart.

He loved me when I was a mess. He didn’t even focus on the messy parts of me. My behavior didn’t cause Him to love me any less.

His love for me was settled way before conception. In that dark place where two teenagers entered into a moment they were not prepared for-God.stepped.in!

His vision, His dreams, His hopes and His aspirations for me became realities as He formed me in my mother’s very young womb.

He didn’t focus on the circumstances of my existence. He didn’t decide who I’d become based upon the nature of my conception. The creative Artist and master Builder went to work. He closed His eyes and began to create what lies deep within His creative self. His fingers swiftly joined the bodily fluids of the young man with those of the young girl who lost herself for a moment. His hands quickly and beautifully worked to create the masterful work of His imagination. “Dark skin, short stature, absolutely cute,” I’m sure He declared. “Strong and able to withstand the arrows that fly by day and able to resist the fears of the terrors that come at night.” Only He knew I would face those terrors. He created me with the tools to overcome them.

His love made me.

His love keeps me.

He is my strength all day and everyday.

At times I fall into a space of forgetfulness. There are moments when I don’t remember who I am or who He is. Days have come when I simply forget about each “Red Sea” He’s parted on my behalf.

Yet, He remains close. He patiently draws me near and receives me with open arms.

He continues to create me, He isn’t done. His love for me is secure.

He loved me as He formed me with His hands and nothing I ever did or nothing I’d ever do could ever change that. He looked at me then and He looks at me now and declares, “You are good!”

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Listen up! He loves you the same way. You can’t stop His love. You can’t make Him turn away. His love keeps you going each day. He loved you while the hurt was happening. He didn’t cause it, but He was there loving you through it.

He looks at you every day and declares your beauty. You won’t change His thoughts towards you. Why not join Him in thinking the same? See yourself as He sees you. It’s a daily choice.

The way you see yourself will greatly affect the way people treat you. Your opinion of yourself has a lot to do with the choices you make in life. Choose life. Choose to believe that you are loved right now, right where you are.

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I’ll never forget a phone call I received in the middle of the night during our early years of ministry in Dallas, TX.

“Vicki, I did it again,” the muffled and ragged voice on the other end let me know that she was high again.

I held the phone close to my mouth, I didn’t want to wake up my sleeping baby, “Where are you?”

“I don’t know. God hates me now. I know He does. I will never get this right.”

My heart was heavy, I just wanted to leap through the telephone and hug her. I just wanted her to feel the love that filled my heart for her. “Honey, you could never do anything to make Him stop loving you. He will always love you.”

I leaned over to Ruben, “Honey please get up. Please go to her house and get her husband. Find her, please bring her home tonight.”

My sweetie immediately jumped out of bed and called her husband. He gladly took that fifteen minute drive to his house as I kept her on the line.

They found her. She was more strung out than ever, but she was loved by God. She was loved by me. My husband loved her and her husband loved her too. We were all just expressions of the Father’s love.

It took her a few years to get her life together. She fell a few more times, but we kept loving her.

I could go on and on and on and on with stories like hers. My own story is proof of His love.

I want you to be absolutely convinced of this truth today. Please respond to His love. Do it now. It’s simple. Just ask Him to forgive you for your sins and ask Him to take over your life. Jesus Christ died for you, declare that out loud-then He went on to rise for you! He is still risen. He continues to rise for you each day.

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Your life is a lot like Genesis chapter one. In the beginning God created you, then looked at you and said, “My creation is so good!”

Rewrite Their Stories

H.O.P.E Dominican Republic

Bad stories surround us all. Our typical reaction to a negative situation is usually one of sadness or despair. It’s sad to see a young girl who is sold by her mother to the neighborhood men for tricks each day. It can be a bit overwhelming to visit a family living in a shack made of tin with holes in the wall that expose the outdoors.

Truthfully, these heart breaking experiences were like heavy weights to me a few years ago. It was too much for me to see pain that I could not cure. Women beaten by the men who promised to love them tore at my heart. Some of those women believed they had no other choice but to accept the harsh treatment.

One of the girls at our center walked in on her dad as he was cheating on her mom in their own bed. That…

View original post 840 more words

Rewrite Their Stories

H.O.P.E Dominican Republic

Bad stories surround us all. Our typical reaction to a negative situation is usually one of sadness or despair. It’s sad to see a young girl who is sold by her mother to the neighborhood men for tricks each day. It can be a bit overwhelming to visit a family living in a shack made of tin with holes in the wall that expose the outdoors.

Truthfully, these heart breaking experiences were like heavy weights to me a few years ago. It was too much for me to see pain that I could not cure. Women beaten by the men who promised to love them tore at my heart. Some of those women believed they had no other choice but to accept the harsh treatment.

One of the girls at our center walked in on her dad as he was cheating on her mom in their own bed. That…

View original post 840 more words