Tag Archives: poverty

Major Changes

They say the average undergrad student changes their major about five times.  I’ve always regarded this statistic slightly pridefully, with the air of smugness that comes from “having it all planned out.”  I’ll graduate from Moody in 3.5 years with a degree in TESOL (and Bible, of course), and move to Central/South America. (Hopefully getting married somewhere in there.) There, I’ll teach English fulltime as a missionary and, on the side, work with teenage/young adult girls who have been abused or involved in the sex trade.  Sounds like a good plan, right?

Let me back up about four years.  I was reading the book “Zealous Love” by Mike and Danae Yankoski, and came to the chapter on human trafficking.  Tears poured down my cheeks and my stomach turned as I read the accounts of girls, often as young as 5 or 6 years old, who were sold into the sex trade.  An overwhelming feeling came over me as my heart broke for these women.  As a 14 or 15 year old, I didn’t really know what to do with that feeling, but I bookmarked a few blogs and vowed to pray for the women and children caught up in that sickening industry.

Last year, on a whim, I picked up a $5 CD at Family Christian Bookstore.  It was called “Freedom: Artists United for the International Justice Mission,” and it featured several bands I like.  As I looked over the packaging, I realized it was a fundraiser for IJM and included a DVD.  I watched the DVD one night and cried again as the stories of women who had been rescued from prostitution and slavery… but all I did was cry.  After all, I already had my plan (see above).

My plan started out really well.  I came to Moody.  I declared TESOL as my major.  I started Intro to TESOL.  I observed some classes, wrote some lesson plans… and… little by little, realized I don’t really want to spend every day of the rest of my life in a classroom/writing lesson plans.  Rather than being super excited for my upcoming classes, teaching for PCM, and my internship, I would kind of slump my shoulders and resign myself to the coming realities.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about feeling convicted and not knowing what to do about it.  After I wrote that, I started to pray a lot about where I was going with my life.  The books I’ve been reading, things I’ve been studying, and discussions we’ve been having at Gospel Community have made me realize I need to do something different.  I’ve been slapped in the face a lot lately with the reality that, while it is an incredible door into lives, English is not a basic need.  Those who are starving, being sold, without homes, or in desperate need of true love do not need to learn English.  They need food, freedom, shelter, or love.

As I prayed, I began to realize something.  When I think about my true dream – the thing I’m the most excited about when I tell people “my plan,” – it’s not standing in front of a class or writing lesson plans.  It’s the part I always refer to as “on the side.”  It’s the reason I attempted to interdisciplinary (basically a minor, for those of you who don’t go to Moody) in pre-counseling.  I want to work with girls who have been wounded, sold, and stolen.  Girls who had their innocence ripped away from them, who were so desperate for money that they sold their right to themselves.  I want to teach them that they have worth, that they are beautiful.  To LOVE them.  To show them the One who will never, ever abuse them.  From the first time I read about the issue of sexual exploitation, I have had a burden in my heart for those girls.

Yesterday, in chapel, one of our professors stood at the podium and said she had a “very exciting announcement.”  She announced that Moody was beginning a new major: Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.  As she explained the details, tears pooled in my eyes and my mind began scrambling.  The first conscious thought I had was, “I have to do this,” followed shortly by about six reasons why there was no possible way I could do this.

One at a time, throughout the day yesterday, God countered each of those points.  In fact, He didn’t just counter them, He gave me even more reasons why I needed to lace up my shoes and run.  I called my mom, who had been sitting in a chapel at Bo’s school while I was in chapel.  Their speaker was a missionary from Peru (of all places!) who runs a shelter for battered women… many of whom have been rescued from sexual exploitation.  The first class for this major fit PERFECTLY into an hour and fifteen minute hole that just happened to be in my fall schedule. 9-12 more credits from Mott would transfer in with the switch.

I got my change of major form this afternoon and filled it out.  When I went to the Missions Department to have it signed, the hallway seemed deserted.  “Okay, God,” I whispered.  “I’m 99% sure this is what I’m supposed to do… but if it REALLY is… just give me one more sign?” (Oh, me of little faith…)  I walked to the end of the hall, towards what I was certain would be a deserted office, and there was Dr. Sisk.  He signed off on my major change as chair of the Missions Department, and I was gone in about 30 seconds.

I could easily write another 900+ words about all of the tiny details, “coincidences,” and neon signs shouting that I should go ahead with this that have happened in the last 48 hours… but I’ll spare you the extra reading.  As of next week, everything should be approved, and my major will be officially changed from TESOL to Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.  Do I have a 5 or 10 year plan?  Nope.  But He does, and I know that there’s nothing better for me than His plan.

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Convicted

“That Jesus did not command all his followers to sell their possessions gives comfort only to the kinds of people to whom he would issue that command.” – David Platt, Radical

Tears sprang to my eyes as I read these words last night.  There I was, lounging on my bed in my dorm room, eating popcorn, and reading a chapter of Radical about global poverty and the church.  For me, it was nothing out of the ordinary.  But to a child whose parents are struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day? I was lounging on my bed complete with four pillows, a down comforter, and a fleece blanket.  I was in my dorm room, which implies not only a roof over my head, but that I am participating in higher education.  I was eating popcorn… not for dinner, even, but just because I was a little hungry and had a craving.  And I was reading, an activity which is unfathomable for children and adults in many parts of the world.

I’m so blessed, and I know I am called to share those blessings with the less fortunate.  More than called, in fact, I know I am commanded multiple times in Scripture to give to the poor, to care for the orphans and widows, and to make less of myself.  I generally think I’m doing okay.  After all, I tithe, I go to Peru, I give my old clothes to Salvation Army, and I’ve never cared about brand names or big spending.  In fact, I think of myself as a fairly frugal person most of the time.  The lifestyle of the rich has never been appealing to me.

Then I decide to “treat myself” to a milkshake “just because.” I walk back from Chick-Fil-A, sipping on my creamy, cold $3.49, right past at least 15 people who will have no dinner tonight.  I buy a new shirt “because it’s on sale,” when the children I have loved and held in the villages of Pucallpa are overjoyed to receive the shirt I wore for two years then decided to throw to them.  I send two suitcases of winter clothes home with my parents because there’s not room in my dresser for two seasons’ worth of clothing, as refugees a few Brown Line stops away lack even one pair of gloves.  I throw away an entire plate of food in the SDR because I don’t like it, then read stories of brothers and sisters in Africa who eat a half a cup of rice A DAY.

How? How is this possible? How can I continue to read those Scriptures, to read chapters in books like this, and remain unmoved?  Sure, my eyes filled with tears when I read that quote.  Yes, I looked through my pictures from the orphanage in Pucallpa and prayed for those children.  But I looked through those pictures on my Macbook Pro while painting my freaking fingernails.  Kids are starving, dying, impoverished, and I was painting my nails while crying over them.

There is something wrong with me.

What is wrong with me?

I’m no monster.  I don’t sit stoically in the face of these statistics.  I can readily admit that it is my Christian responsibility to do something about it.  I cry, okay? I CRY OVER THEM.  But the truth is, these tears don’t matter if they don’t lead to action.  I can cry all I want.  I can feel guilty for years.  Until I am moved to actually do something, I might as well be laughing in the face of the dying children.

I don’t know what this means.  I’m comfortable in my Middle Class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant lifestyle, complete with an iPhone, a meal plan, and a 2007 Ford Taurus.  I like having clothing and entertainment options at my fingertips.  I enjoy the luxury of having study Bibles in multiple versions, books for fun, and the occasional midnight snack.

It’s not bad to live a content, comfortable life, thankful for the blessings God has showered upon me.

But where is the line?

I truly don’t have the answer to this question.  All I know is for the last couple years, God has very steadily been making my uncomfortable with my level of comfort.  He has been placing books, speakers, sermons, and documentaries in my path to shake up my way of thinking.  He has used my trips to Peru and experiences with rescue missions to begin breaking my heart for those less fortunate.

As I stand here, teetering somewhere between terrified that He’ll call me to literally give up everything and hopeful that I’ll have the chance to prove my faith in such a tangible way, I am convicted.  Where this conviction will lead, I don’t know.

But Jesus is worth it.

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