Friday, November 21, 2014

Becoming Aware

The past two weeks have been pretty busy. It's been good things, all really great opportunities to see where the Lord is at work and how we can join Him there in our small way.

Last week, Adam and I had the privilege to host a table at the Immerse Banquet.   Almost all of my old Bible study group was there so we had to take a moment for the photo op!
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We invited people to sit with us, most of whom had never heard of Immerse nor really given a thought to what happens to these "kids" after they turn 18. I know that before a few years ago I'd never stopped to think about what happens after years of waiting for a family and none presents itself.

Immerse is a ministry that seeks to come along side and help kids who "age out" of the states foster system. We've partnered with Immerse for the past four to five years, when Adam's sister, Molly and her husband Joseph were some of the first "house parents". It has really been amazing to see how God has grown this ministry from a family room informational meeting to a full blown banquet, the third annual one in fact! The stories shared were gut wrenching and hard to hear at times, and there was one line that Pastor Jackie Flake said that I'll never forget. He said, "it's easy, when faced with these hard stories and the overwhelming magnitude of the crises around us to not just shake our heads in discouragement, thinking, this problems is too big, too great. What can I do?" But it's ministries like this, that bring a face and a name, a video with these kids hard stories, that helps us to see that whether or not we choose to engage with these kids or not, the reality is, they are still living these horrors, going through these hardships, with no help, no home to call their own and certainly, no hope.

So we were challenged to consider what we would do if we had been in these kids situations. In the following video they share questions like "who's going to help me learn life skills like cooking, who's going to help me apply for college or fill out a job application, who's going to walk me down the aisle?" Click here to see a video that helps to share these kids stories and their point of view.

The statistics are overwhelming:
-75% of homeless teens use drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face.
-46% of homeless youth say they left home because of physical abuse, 17% left because of sexual abuse.
-5,000 young people die every year because of assault, illness or suicide while on the streets.

Each year in the United States, 30,000 youth will "age out" of foster care after not finding a permanent family. Too old for foster care, but unprepared for adulthood, these youth are confronted with harsh realities. By age 24:
-40% will have experienced homelessness.
-58% will be parents, 1/2 the young men and 2/3 of the young women
-Only 48% will be employed
-39% of women and 81% of men will have been arrested

To turn our heads away is to ignore God's people, to turn our heads away is to be hard hearted and judgmental. I'm so thankful for Eric and Kara Gilmore, who have followed God's call on their lives and who have vigorously fought to empower and help these kids and who brought to our attention a huge need that Adam and I didn't even know existed five years ago. If you have been moved by the video or any of the statistics and would like to help support the ministry, you can click here.
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This past week, we also got to participate in Global Village, a time at our church where many of the missionaries that the church supports were available to share stories, experiences and worship the Lord in their native languages. (That is always really powerful to sing one song in many languages…our God is truly a great big God!)
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We started off in the model building that was similar to what the bunk rooms look like at the labor camps in the United Arab Emirates, where many migrant workers from all around the world come to live and work. These small rooms often house 12-15 people and are crowded and unsanitary. The woman you see was sharing stories with the kids like she would share with the workers about who God is, how powerful He is and how we can have a personal relationship with Him.
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A few weeks ago our church helped to pack 5,000 Compassion Kits that will be sent to Nepal, where there are labor camps like this, in hopes that the small act of kindness, would be seen as a gift from the Lord and would cause the people to have their hearts and eyes opened, for the first time, to who God is and their need for His saving grace.
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There were "booths" (for lack of terminology) set up throughout the plaza for our kids to experience what people in other countries deal with on a daily basis. There was the "tippee tap", which was a large laundry detergent bottle with a tiny whole in the lid, that was filled with water, tied with a rope to a stick that when "tipped" acted as a place to shower, wash hands, clean pots, etc. The hole in the lid only allowed a small amount of water to trickle out so as not to waste the precious commodity. Then and there I once again realized, I am so spoiled! I LOVE LOVE LOVE my piping hot, long, high water pressure showers, and this "tippee tap" was a far cry from that! My boys also got to experience what it is like to carry many gallons of water a short distance…I'm so thankful we don't have to do this! I cannot imagine having to carry all my water for cooking, bathing, washing dishes and clothes, what a real convenience and blessing it is to have running water thats even heated!
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We ended the night by hearing from the Sengoga Family. Joel and Annie are some friends of ours who we've gotten to know through our D-Group. They came over from Rwanda for a year to do the Fellowship Associates church planting residency program. It has really be fun to get to know this family and to hear their stories and share life together.
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I enjoyed exposing our kids to Global Village to help them see that what we have here in America is NOT normal, it's not what everyone gets to experience. We talk to them all the time about "to whom much is given, much is required". Adam and I hope to give our boys a view of the world outside of Little Rock, AR and look forward to taking them places in the future that are very different from what we know here but until then we hope that through the letters they regularly get and send to our Compassion International kids in Tanzania (Amlan and Robert, who share our big boys ages) and through experiences like Global Village, that they will begin to get a sense of how big our world is and how much God loves all the people who live in it.

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