Tangible Bright Redemption – Indonesia Part 2

We rounded the corner of the narrow street. Our van honked outside a large iron gate, and it creaked abrasively as it slid open. Even before our van could pull inside the gate, we heard squeals and screams of delight and anticipation, all in very bold unison, coming from the home in front of us.

As our van parked a swarm of beautiful, excited and super loud (like, sensory overload volume) girls surrounded the van. I had never received such a warm and ecstatic welcome. Each girl took a moment to welcome me, “Hi SIS-TER!!!!”  They all greeted me in English with the most precious accents I have ever heard. Even now as I type, their faces flood my memory one by one.

Their faces are precious memories I strive to hold on to. For security and safety reasons we didn’t bring any phones or cameras into Sarah’s House. So, I tried to memorize each of their bright and beautiful faces. I pray that the memory is seared in my mind forever – I never want to forget.

I had been praying for months leading up to this trip that God would prepare my heart to love well and to be able to carry whatever weight I felt in the safe homes with grace. I didn’t know how I would emotionally respond to being face to face with girls who had been rescued from the sex trade. I had no frame of reference. All that I did know, was that the girls I was going to be with were the same ages as two of my daughters… and that weighted heavily in my spirit as I prayed and prepared for this part of our trip.


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A little backstory.

Before our time at Sarah’s house, our team had the privilege of visiting Compassions First’s new safe home – Grace House. They have incredible staff that are working tirelessly to get this space ready for their first rescued girl.

As we walked through the amazing facility we could see all the effort that had already been poured out – every detail had been anticipated and prepared for to the best of their ability. It was all hands on deck. You could sense the unity and camaraderie of everyone on staff as they were getting so close to being ready.

Being able to observe the all the effort and hard work that goes into preparing the homes for their girls was in and of itself an incredible and inspiring thing. There are about 30 staff required to operate each home; trauma counselors, case workers, teachers, cooks, and around the clock house mom’s, and guards.

It is an astounding feat of an operation.

The work that all of these beautiful humans do is definitely a calling. It requires strength, resilience, and perseverance. It is heartbreaking, exhausting, detail oriented, hard work. What was absolutely astounding to me, is that even with the weight of their roles in these girls lives, each staff member serves with enthusiasm and immense joy. It was a blessing to be able to interact and engage with the staff as our team helped with projects around the house. There is already so much life and laughter in that home – they are certainly ready to embrace and lavish love on the girls who are to come.

The staff strive to make the homes safe in every possible way, but also work hard to create a space that feels homey, warm and comforting. As we walked through Grace House they explained each and every aspect of security. When entering the home you have to pass through two security gates, a tall cinder block and cement wall surrounds the home, there is a locked door that leads to the offices upstairs, the balcony upstairs has floor to ceiling decorative iron bars, there are no mirrors, nothing sharp, no standing water, no metal or glass dishes or utensils (they use tin cups and plastic plates and cutlery) – every aspect of the home is carefully and tediously thought through. All of these precautions and safeguards are in place to provide healthy boundaries, safety, protection and security for the girls.

There is so much more that goes into every single rescue then I could have ever even imagined. Most of the girls have been so grossly manipulated by their traffickers that they are heartbroken when they are seperated from them. There are invisible chains that tie them to their traffickers. There is a period of grief and confusion as they process their feelings of being taken away from the person who has promised to love them (may have even married them illegally, as the girls are under age), promised them security, protection and provision. Many of the precautions put in place are there to keep the girls from trying to run back to their traffickers. Other precautions are there because once the girls begin to adjust to a new normal the process of unpacking where they have come from and the truth of what their experience has been can be overwhelming for them. Unfortunately, some of them try to end their lives.

There are 6 requirements that must be met to be brought into a Compassion First Safe house.

  1. Must be a girl
  2. Under the age of 18
  3. She has been sexually and commercially exploited
  4. She has experienced multiple sexual trauma
  5. She has been legally rescued by the police
  6. She cannot return home (Either a family member sold her into trafficking or she has no parents to go home to.)

Throughout this trip I became more educated and aware of all that goes into the rescue, after care and rehabilitation of each girl.

It is A LOT.

Compassion First has 30 staff in place and ready to serve at Grace House the very moment that their first girl is rescued. It takes all 30 staff to facilitate the rescue and aftercare of one girl.

Is it worth all of the man hours, all of the effort and all of the expense for one girl?

YES, it is. Without a doubt.

I have never seen a more tangible example of the love of Jesus. He set the standard – HE always comes after the ONE. That message in and of itself communicates the value and worth of each and every human. All the staff in the safe homes communicate that same invaluable worth to each girl that enters in. They are worthy of rescue.

Back to Sarah’s House.
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The girls immediately put me at ease. They watched my face carefully when I spoke. I could see some of the girls studying my movements out of the corner of my eye. A couple of them immediately invited me to join in whatever they were doing in the moment. The newer girls were a little more reserved, the ones that had been in the safe house for longer were confident, curious and inquisitive – asking me questions in their broken English and taking me by the arm to show me things.

“Sis-ter, sis-ter, come see!”

“You play? (pointing to a guitar) You sing?”

“You have pretty lipstick, sis-ter. I like makeup!”

“Why you not wear your hair straight sister? You should maybe try wear your hair straight.”

(I learned you can always count on these girls for complete honesty when it comes to beauty tips.)

“Sister, You like chicken? You like spicy?”

I am not going to lie – what I thought would be heavy was so joyful. You could not be in their inquisitive presence and not laugh, smile and feel so warmed by their kindness and enthusiasm. The girls were just content and happy to be in our presence and we felt honored to be in theirs.

The second day that we visited the girls, the squealing welcome was the same. We all gathered in their family room and sat in a circle on the hard tile. Each of us on the team had brought our own skill/gift to share with the girls. As a collective, we had set aside time with the girls for basketball skills class, painting, a card game and makeovers. Day two began with the painting class led by my new friend, Ed. We passed out canvases and papers and Ed gave them a few instructions and we all watched their creativity flow. They all began painting their canvases, while one of our other team members, strummed his guitar. I was watching them paint, each picture unique – some dark, some bright. One graveyard was painted, a beach scene to my left, and the girl across from me painted the lyrics “You unravel me with a melody, you surround me with a song.” across her canvas. As she painted the lyrics, all the girls began to sing ‘No Longer Slaves’. Not quietly – without any inhibitions, they were wholeheartedly singing with all that was within them. The melody and harmonies filled the air as they continued to stroke paint across their canvases. It was one of those moments in life that you just sit in, absorb and take in deep. No one on our team even dared to make eye contact with one another – the beautiful tension in that moment highlighted the reality of where they had come from and it was almost too much. What we sing every Sunday about our spiritual chains – they sang literally, powerfully and sincerely. They meant every word.

We quickly found out how competitive the girls were during the basketball clinic and the card game. It was hilarious and precious all at the same time. Their intensity and the sheer volume of their voices kept us all laughing and engaged with their enthusiasm and joyful spirits. So much life, so much character – they were bright and beautifully brave. Shy at first, but not afraid to try new things. Refreshingly vulnerable.

Lastly, was Sarah and my make over time with the girls. Sarah sat on the tile floor with the girls while they all took turns picking out nail colors and painting each others nails. I sat on the couch and did makeovers one girl at a time. These moments were absolutely precious to me – Maybe some of my favorites of the entire trip. As I gently brushed sparkly eye shadow over their eyelids, I prayed. As I swept bronzer under their cheekbones, I prayed. As I applied blush to their cheeks, I silently prayed specific prayers over each of them. One at a time, as I held each girl’s face to carefully apply glistening pink lip gloss, I prayed. I prayed sincere prayers, big prayers, brave prayers. For those God ordained moments, that I had each girl sat right in front of me, I prayed my heart out for them. I spoke truth over them. I looked each of them in the eye and told them how beautiful they were. It was protected, sweet and powerful time together, doing fun and girly things in the presence of Jesus.

The rest of the afternoon was spent circled up on the couches letting the girls lead us in worship. All the girls play instruments, and they love worship music. So we sat together and sang our hearts out. One of the girls clearly has an extraordinary gifting in leading worship. It just exudes and flows from her effortlessly. At the end of one of the songs, I looked right in her eyes and said, “Sister!!! You are a worship LEADER!!” She took my hand and smiled. Then in her raspy voice she replied, “YES sister! If Jesus wills!!!!  He is SO good to me. He IS good! Right sister? SO good!!” Her face was bright and her eyes sparkled.

That was the thing.

The remarkable thing.

The shocking thing.

All of the girls faces reflected the beautiful glory of God. It was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. These girls have been through more devastation, brokenness and pain then any human should have to endure in a lifetime.  Here they are, bravely processing their pain in a safe place, surrounded by incredibly dedicated staff and dreaming of who they will be and all that their futures hold.

These girls are absolutely in love with Jesus. They have experienced His love coming after them, pursuing them, rescuing them. They know their worth, value, and preciousness.

Each girl knows what it was like to be the one that He relentlessly came for, never gave up on, found in the darkness, and brought into the light.

They are evidence of a powerful Saviour, a miracle worker, a God who pursues each of us. A God who can heal our deepest wounds and bring freedom to every aspect of our lives.

Each one of them are worthy of rescue and valuable beyond measure. Their joy is inspiring, their laughter contagious, their worship is pure and their faces beautifully reflect the love of a Savior.

My sisters at Sarah’s House are the essence of tangible, bright redemption.

On our last day, the girls gathered around us, hugged us and held us as we said our goodbyes. As our van pulled out of the driveway, we all sat in silence for awhile. Our hearts were heavy. We had all seen, with our very own eyes, the transformative power of Jesus’ redemption – and it had changed us all. I don’t think any of us really wanted to drive away that day. We all fell in love with our sisters. I think it’s safe to say, that we also left their beautiful presence more in love with Jesus Himself then ever before.

He rescued them – and He is rescuing us. 

He came for them, He came for me and He is coming for you.

 Bright & tangible redemption is for all of us.

Our team. Love them! 
Our team and some of the Grace House staff painting a classroom.
Ed and Sarah’s mural in the quiet room at Grace House.
Andy and I making mash potatoes and pies for our celebration.
Grace House security measures to keep girls safe.

The staff at Grace House celebrating Thanksgiving

Psalm 5

“Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Psalm 5:1-3 ESV

Every time I read Pslam 5 it takes me back to my childhood days. My parents worked at a beautiful Bible camp in southern Oregon. I spent most of the 80’s (from birth to the age of 7) tromping around the campground, making friends with all the staff, getting beauty tips on teased bangs and blue eye shadow, sitting in on all the chapel meetings and campfire nights. To this day one of my very favorite things is the sound of voices accompanying a guitar, under the stars, with the glow of the fire illuminating all the faces circled around the flames. One of the most popular songs that we sang every week at camp was from Psalm 5. It is the chorus that truly taught my little heart how to pray. As a little girl every time I was worried, anxious or afraid it became my practice to sing my little heart out. Psalm 5 was one of the songs that I learned to pray in those moments.

Pain, anxiety, fear, loss, and grief are all part of the human experience. They touch all of us. There are moments that we have adequate words and can pour out our heart’s cry to a living and attentive God. There are other moments where we aren’t even able to articulately match words to our feelings and heart break. In those moments – can I just say – We have a King who bends His ear and listens to our groans and cries. He sees our tears and knows exactly what our hearts long and plead for. He hears our voice, He gives attention to our cries. He is good.

I love the author David’s confidence in the Lord and practical application to his prayers. He asks the Lord to hear him and turn His ear, then David states and believes – in the morning you hear my voice. Then David acts. He prepares a sacrifice for the Lord. This is an act of surrender – a physical representation of an inward conviction. David believed that God heard him, He trusted his King with the depths of his heart and the inner workings of his life. He prepared an act of surrender and then David watched. He watched, he waited, he anticipated God moving.

GOD MOVED.

The God of the universe is longing for us to turn to Him. He is available and attentively present. He longs for us to pray to Him and to trust Him with the inner workings of our lives. The things that move the deepest parts of our hearts to cry – those things move Him too. He wants to be invited in.

Come before Him.

Speak. Pray. Groan. Cry.

Then, gather all of it – and surrender it to Him. Trust. Believe. Anticipate.

And… watch.

 

Psalm 5 ends beautifully. Are you ready for it?! It’s a promise that comes for those who run to Him, love Him and choose to walk in His ways…

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult you. For you bless the righteous O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield.”  Psalm 5:11-12 ESV

Sometimes the way He moves is tangible and directly effects our circumstance – other times it’s internal and His powerful presence moves and transforms our hearts and minds to walk through our circumstance with Him. When you are a child of the King you can be certain of this – you are never without His presence.

God Almighty bends low to hear your voice. Are you praying?

The King of the universe knows you- at the depth of your being. Do you trust Him?

He is always moving. Are you watching?

Community

 

Community

What comes to your mind when you think about the word community?

Does your mind fill with people you love and live life with on a regular basis? Or maybe your thoughts go straight to gatherings, events, parties and potlucks where people come together in a consistent way that fills you and brings you life. Many people that I interact with on a regular basis have told me that community is what they long for, but find unattainable.

You may have had seasons that were full of deep and authentic community as well as seasons where you looked around and felt isolated and alone. I think we’ve all been there and maybe every place in between. We’ve seen a glimpse of what we long for coming to fruition in every new beginning with high hopes of finding a place to belong. We scroll through social media and ache when we see that other people are surrounded by what appears to be deep and authentic relationships. We sit around tables and glance at the faces of people we love, know and feel safe with – and just take it all in…  because that authentic, deep, beautiful fellowship is what we long for.

God has created us with a desire to be fully known and unconditionally loved.

We all long to belong.

The purest and truest form of community is when we meet Jesus and experience the depth of His miraculous love that covers all the known, wretched ugliness in our hearts with His perfect forgiveness. The essence of who we are, in our sinful state, is laid bare before Him and we experience the most beautiful thing about His love – it is lavished on us in our most known depraved state. We often feel like we need to become perfect before seeking acceptance from God – but that is not the case, the reason why His great love is so vast, deep and completely life changing in every way is because His love pushes past all our sin, and filth and runs right to the core of our beings and embraces us there – in our absolute worst state. If we could not experience His love until we were perfect – we would never find it.  If we hide behind a front of our good deeds and hoped that would be enough – or put only our best before Him, hoping that would be enough – it never would be. It feels empty and lonely to be loved for an image you are projecting instead of your true self. The richest, purest and most authentic community is experienced between us and God when we realize that He loves us and accepts us with the fullest knowledge and understanding of our sin and brokenness. Our sin and brokenness does not change, alter or waver His magnificent love for even a moment – ever. That is the essence of community – being fully known and fully loved.

Once we have experienced the depth and richness of God’s unconditional love and grace we can invite others in and share it with them. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. It can be as simple as that. That is how we build true community. We are able to replicate the purest and most lavish love and build authentic community by then extending that beautiful love and grace to others. It takes courage to let people in. It takes immense vulnerability and humility to to be authentic. It is scary. We all fear rejection. However, the right people will see your mess and not be afraid to come in and love you anyway. True community doesn’t look like everyone sharing all their sin, embracing it and celebrating it because it feels free – that actually creates more mess and leads to immense brokenness and destruction. Healthy relationships  = growth and sharpening of each other. Community looks like sharing yourself for who you really are, struggles and all, and having someone say, “Let me link arms with you and walk through this with you. We can walk towards healing and wholeness together.” There is nothing more beautiful than that my friends. Nothing.

My top 6 essentials for building community

  1. Know the truth of God’s Word and walk in it (even when you don’t feel it – it is absolute truth). – You are fully known, unconditionally loved, unequivocally accepted in your most depraved state, and seen as righteous ALWAYS because of our beautiful Savior who stands with us.
  2. Be a safe and trustworthy person
  3. Discern safe and trustworthy people to invite into your life (This is not a free pass to exclusivity. Be loving and kind to everyone! But only share the inner workings of your heart with trustworthy people – that is wisdom.)
  4. Love extravagantly, always be willing to lavish extra grace (because even trustworthy people will fail), and be quick to forgive (forgiveness frees us from viewing life through a broken lens- we are the ones held captive by unforgivness, not the offender).
  5. Be willing and open to letting others speak life and correction into your fears, insecurities and brokenness. This may feel like death to you – it does to me – Oh humility! We have a love/hate relationship. It can be so devastating and embarrassing to see my flaws and brokenness.  However, with the power of a resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ, and a community that is willing to walk through the brokenness with you, we get to a point where we actually long for the sin in us to be put to death so that new life giving, healthy and whole habits, patterns and desires can emerge and flourish.
  6. If you don’t already have a place where you belong and are doing live with people – be the person that invites others in! Start being the person you long to find in community to the people God has put right in front of you. Maybe you are just what the people around you need – someone brave to intentionally begin cultivating authenticity and community.

May all your longings be met in His love, and may that sense of security and belonging flourish into a community around you that brings the life and love of Jesus to the world in a powerful way. When we are truly loving others the way God made us to love – the world sees Jesus. Our desires to be known and loved are met and the world is introduced to a Savior as they watch us love each other.

Nothing more beautiful than that.

Roasted Corn Pico De Gallo

This recipe has not only become a family favorite it is a crowd pleaser!!! Whenever we host events I often get asked if I am making this dish! It certainly never disappoints!

Roasted Corn Pico De Gallo

1 package of frozen sweet corn

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 green pepper

1 medium sized sweet onion

1 can of black beans

2 large tomatoes

2 avacados

1 – 2 minced garlic cloves

1  small can of diced jalapeños (sometimes I put two cans in – I love it spicy!)

1/2 a cup of cilantro

2 TBSP of Olive oil

4 TBSP of vinegar

1 lime

salt and pepper to taste

 

Spread the corn on a large cookie sheet, and broil on low until it starts to get slightly browned. Then dice up all the veggies, I like to chop them up small, then I get a little bit of everything in each bite! Drain and rinse the beans and the jalapeños and add them to the chopped veggies and roasted corn. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar and squeeze the lime over the top! Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat immediately with tortilla chips or store in fridge until your company comes. I hope you LOVE it as much as the Libby Family!

Much love, Rachel

a Note from Rachel

Miraculous Love

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:10-12 NIV

I am a questions person. Everyone that knows me, knows that to spend time with me = me asking questions that take us below the surface and into meaningful conversation. I’m definitely not the friend you want to meet for coffee if you are wanting to talk about the weather – I’m a depth girl. I want to know you – what drives you, what you love, what brings you joy, and even what your trials look like in this season. One of the very best gifts I’ve ever been given is a book of 5,000 questions to get to know anyone. If you come to my house, chances are good… that I’m bringing that baby out. One of my favorite things to ask others is, “If you could sum up what you want your life and legacy to be in two words, what would it be?”

My answer: Miraculous love. That is my life calling, my purpose, my why, my inspiration and the passion and force that drives me.

Who I am today and how I love is a miracle.

I grew up on the mission field, my family moved almost every two years and change became my life norm. I was constantly starting over relationally, in school, in churches and in life in general. For most people that would have been a challenge but for me – it was (mostly) a grand adventure. I am an eternal optimist and always focused on the good in my life without giving much of the negatives a thought. Through the years, I grew to love different cultures, and people everywhere we lived. Those changes were so beautiful and life giving, but being a ministry kid was difficult almost everywhere – that is one thing that didn’t change. I was expected to be perfect and felt constant pressure to be the very best representation of Christ – everywhere and always. That is a lot of weight and for any child to carry  – but especially for this people pleasing, strong willed, free spirit who LOVED to have fun. I found myself developing a coping mechanism to handle being a ministry kid. I learned to live behind walls of protection. I was put together, poised, always had my best face on, and only let a select few behind the walls, into the fortress that protected my heart.

When David and I felt certain we were being called into full time ministry the Lord slowly and gently began dismantling my fortress. As we raised our support to go on the mission field He grew in me a desire to do ministry in a vulnerable and authentic way. That desire drew me out of my fortress of self protection, togetherness and poise. It brought me to a place where being real and honest was relatable and life-giving. It wasn’t just freeing for me – it beautifully ministered to others and drew them in. By the time we landed in England, God had done so much work in my heart that when I walked through the doors of our church, my life purpose and calling was evident and effortlessly began to flow from me. It was to LOVE – To love lavishly, to love grandly and to love miraculously.

That is the gift He gave me as we entered into full time ministry. A capacity to love in a way that I had never known or experienced, that flowed straight from Him. I knew it was greater than myself, and it is. Over and over again I remind myself, especially in the most difficult of moments – when choosing to love is gut wrenching and sacrificial  –  that Jesus, the Savior of the world, who is the ultimate example of the truest love – LIVES IN ME. His love is miraculous. When His love is flowing out of my life that makes my love miraculous too.

That love is what propels me, drives me and inspires me every day to extravagantly love whomever He puts in front of me. Whether I’m at a coffee shop, in line at the grocery store, getting my oil changed, welcoming my church family into His presence on Sunday morning, loving on the broken hearted, going on missions trips or writing you – it is all because of His miraculous love.

Friend, I would love to hear from you! If you could sum up what you want your life and legacy to be in two words, what would they be? Comment below! I love that God made each of us uniquely and purposefully! It would be such an honor to know what makes you…YOU!

Yours truly, Rachel

This is Happening

 

Friends!! We cannot even believe that this day has come! We are launching!!!

These last few months have been extraordinary. We have seen God move powerfully in us and through us. We are humbled, exhausted, excited and feeling extravagantly blessed by God’s perfect leading, orchestration and assembling Arise Ministries Collective. Every decision we have made has been bathed in prayer, we have sought wise council, and put in hours of hard work – mixed with lots of laughter, side pain, a few tears and many sleepless nights.

We have received much support and help from wise, knowledgeable and capable friends. Without them – this day would not be possible. God has assembled an amazing board. We can’t even! Such amazing women. We can’t wait to share them with you! He is GOOD. Lastly, words cannot even say how thankful we are for our families (especially our hubby’s) that have been excited and on board with us every step of the way – through a lot of crazy moments, ups and downs – and they still love us and believe in us… GOD IS GOOD.

And now we are here!!!! This is happening!

We believe that when women have an authentic and growing relationship with Jesus, truly know God’s Word and are dependent on the Holy Spirit – that they become powerful and influential vessels for the kingdom.

As women, our spiritual ferver is far reaching and deeply impactful. It sets the temperature of our homes, influences and transforms every single person and place that we encounter as we walk out our faith. Our deep rooted faith is far reaching and generationally influential. Women, full of the love, light and life of Jesus are world shakers, barrier breakers and culture changers. We have the opportunity to leave grand legacies of knowledge, faith and love. We don’t just have the ability to change this generation – we have the privilege of shaping the next.

This is why Arise Ministries Collective exists. This is why we feel called to speak Truth, to provide resources packed full of God breathed Truth – His Holy Word, and to encourage and equip the saints in this season. We believe that God has called us to use our gifts to minister to women in a greater capacity and calling than before. That is greatly humbling, a weighty responsibility and also a God-orchestrated and ordained season in time for us to step up and pour out our gifts and passions in a greater capacity.

This is the beginning of a grand adventure. We are not sure what to expect but we are here, openhanded and anticipating that God is going to move as we seek His direction use our gifts to minister in whatever capacity He calls.

Please join us on our journey to bring God fame as we write, speak and live on mission to equip, encourage, resource and share our stories and lives here and overseas as God opens doors.

With deep gratitude and a whole lot of love,

Rachel & Lisa

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