Sunday, January 19, 2014

Christmas Letter

Hello and Merry Christmas from South Korea!  Yes, that’s correct, I said South Korea.  Last year I was unable to make a Christmas letter because I was busy working 2 jobs and preparing for a move to Seoul, S. Korea.  I have been here since mid-February, teaching English at an after school academy.  I just re-signed for another year.  My goal is to pay off my student loans so I can have more freedom to do work as a missionary.  What a mind-blowing experience this has been.  Never in my life did I have any desire to visit, much less live, in Asia (with the exception of the Great Wall of China).  Here is a brief background of how I ended up here and the journey I have been on the past 9 months.  If you would like more details feel free to email me.  I don’ t want this letter to be too long.

            Back-up to Fall 2009, I was reading the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  When I finished that book I was really touched by the story.  I was convicted about sharing the love of Christ with prostitutes but how could I do this?  What way would be effective.  I also, through my studies at Liberty, knew there were a large and growing number of child sex slaves throughout the world.  How could I reach those?  I wasn’t sure what to do with this.  So I prayed. 
            May 2010, I went to Brazil for my internship.  While there I met many street kids.  These are children who live on the street because their parents kick them out or because they are orphans.  I met girls as young as 10 who were already selling their bodies for sex because they were lied to, thinking it was the only way they could survive and earn money.  They didn’t want to do it, but they believed the lie their pimps fed them. 

            I came home from Brazil and began looking for jobs with Trafficking organizations.  I couldn’t get the faces of those girls in Brazil out of my head.  For a year I looked, applied, interviewed…. nothing.  I decided to apply for Seminary but felt none of the programs I looked into would have prepared me for a career in Trafficking.  I found everything equivalent to my undergrad at Liberty so I didn’t go. 

October 2011, I became a substitute teacher.  I loved it!  I subbed in a lot of the poorer schools in TN with many different ethnicities and the thought occurred to me, what if I use teaching as a way to get in and help prevent students from joining gangs or becoming prostitutes?  I decided to go get my Masters in teaching…. too much money.  My undergrad student loans were preventing me from so much.  I applied to begin teaching with Teach For America…. denied (to my surprise and the surprise of many TFA teachers I subbed for).

            Thanksgiving 2012, I received an email from a recruiter looking for people to teach English in Korea.  I was curious as to how they got my information and thought it was a scam.  Turns out TFA had given them my information and they thought I would be a good candidate.  Reluctantly I decided to go through with the process just to see what happens.  I had no desire to go to an Asian country.  I loved to travel and had pretty much given up on my desire to work with Trafficked victims.  Within 1 ½ months I had all my paper work and been hired with a school in Korea!  Everyone I talked to that had been to Korea was surprised at how fast it was happening, including myself.  With everything that happened in that 1 ½ months I began to realize that this was a door that was WIDE open and if I didn’t go through it I would miss out on a HUGE blessing, so I said yes.

I had no idea what to expect because I really didn’t do research on Korea before leaving.  I was scared to death and hid in my hotel the first day.  My first day on the job I had an atheist tell me how stupid and ignorant I was for believing in all that “Jesus Crap” (to put it nicely).  I was horrified.  I knew I needed to find a church and fast.  I was the only Christian at my workplace.  I ended my first week in Korea saying to myself,  “What am I doing here?  51 more weeks to go.”

I asked the lady that hired me if she knew of any English churches I could go to and fortunately she was a Christian.  She invited me to her church.  My second Sunday in Korea I was sitting in church and the pastor began to poor out his heart and reveal his passion for Justice especially in the areas of Trafficking, Orphans, Homeless, and Abortion.   My heart leaped for joy as I realized this could be my opportunity to get involved.  Maybe this is why God brought me to Korea.

Over the past 10 months I have joined Onnuri English Ministry volunteering with their Hope Be Restored Justice Ministry.  Every month we go to a Durabang, a Restoration House outside of Seoul that helps women who have been victims of Sex Trafficking.  We spend several hours visiting with the ladies and have really developed some good relationships with them.  We also do a lot of prayer, research, and awareness on the issues of Trafficking.

Recently I have partnered with Pastor Choi and his Love Neighbors Mission.  He goes out every week to several Red Light Districts in Korea and passes out snacks to the ladies working there and praying for those that request it.  He has been doing this for 5 years.  While in Seminary, he said he wanted to reach the unreached people groups in Korea and asked God to reveal to him who they were.  God revealed to him the people working in the Red Light Districts.  At first he was hesitant and didn’t want to do it but he did.  These woman love him coming to visit and look for him in anticipation on the day he is suppose to come.  Recently, I got my Korean Drivers License so I can help Pastor Choi drive twice a week to a Red Light District that is far from Seoul.  On Christmas Eve I got to go out with him to the Red Light district he visits frequently to hand out Christmas cards and gifts to the ladies.  It was such an awesome experience and I loved seeing their faces light up! 

I’m not really sure what the future holds but I know who is holding my future.  I still desire to go back to Brazil and work with those kids but I feel for now, God wants me to do some more work in Asia and I’m praying about Cambodia and Thailand when I finish my 2nd year contract.  When you think of me will you please pray for these things:

*Student loans will be paid off by February 2015.
*Guidance and direction on the next steps
*More opportunities to continue being trained and educated about Trafficking issues
*****Protection of heart, mind, and spirit for me and the team that is ministering in the Red Light Districts.  (This is the biggest one because it is so dark in those places)
*That I will be a good leader at work as I was recently promoted to Head Teacher!!!  (Many of my co-workers aren’t saved so I am also witnessing to them.)
*Courage and strength to continue witnessing to non-Christian co-workers

            I’d love to hear back from you.  This letter is just the beginning of what is going on so I’d enjoy sharing more with you.  We can email, Facetime, Skype, Facebook, G-Chat, whatever.  I’d love to hear what is going on in your life or answer any questions you may have.

Daegu Journal Entry: Volume 1 Issue 2

Daegu Journal Entry: Volume 1 Issue 2
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Today was the second time I went into the Red Light District in Daegu, South Korea.  The team consisted of 4 members that went inside and 3 who stayed outside the RLD, praying in their car while we handed out the gifts.  We handed out mittens and QT sheets to the madams. The verse on the gift today was Psalm 20:4, which reads, “May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!”  We prayed that God would give them the desire to come out.  We prayed that God will provide all their needs and that when they do come out, they will be thankful and not want to return. 
This is what we prayed for them however, the next verse, verse 5, is what really stood out to me.  It says, “May we shout for joy over your salvation and in the name of our God set up our banners!  May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!”  This is why I go in to the RLD, to bring salvation to these precious ladies.  God loves them so much but they don’t see their value or worth because the voice of the world is louder than the voice of their Creator.  I can tell this by their empty, blank, stares that they don’t feel valued.  They look out the glass windows, into the streets, but it’s like they are staring into an empty abyss, sitting like Manikins in a shopping window.  They may be alive physically but there is not life inside of them.  Only one thing can bring them life and that is the salvation of Jesus Christ.  I want God’s voice to be louder than the Worlds and so I go.
As we walked around I could see the girls in the windows applying makeup, doing their hair, and getting ready for another night of work.  There were many spots that had the shades pulled down still, unlike last time when everything was open and ready for business.    As always, I try to make eye contact with the girls in the windows who are already sitting and waiting for customers.  Usually when we make eye contact I will smile and bow to show respect.  I don’t like just giving things to the Madams and then walking away, ignoring the girls.  This time most of the girls ignored me or just stared blankly at me.  One girl smiled and waved.  She was really happy for me to acknowledge her.  I recognized a few that were there last time but most of the girls were different to me.
We handed out gloves with the verse and QT sheets from the daily bread, written in Korean.  The madams were extra smiley tonight and so happy to see us.  When Pastor Choi asked the madams about sharing the QTs with the girls, they said they would give them to the girls for sure!!!  Praise God!!!  Normally they tell us no or say yes with some hesitation.  Today they said yes, and a full on one at that!  Pastor Choi’s hard work and dedication is finally making its way into the girls.  Before we left Seoul we prayed that God would open the Madam’s hearts to be open and cooperate with us, sharing what we bring with the girls.  We gave so many that we ran out of QTs this time!!!  This is such an improvement from when Pastor Choi first came, even from when we came 2 weeks ago! 
A lot of the madams felt they didn’t deserve to receive these gifts we brought them.  They recognized we are doing such a good thing and expressed their guilt to us.  One madam shared a little of her story with us.  She said she grew up going to a Christian church.  When she was young she received Satan while experiencing some sort of witchery meeting with friends.  She said she hates going to church but would accept our gifts.  Pastor Choi invited her to church and said she could still visit even though she hates the church.  She said, “When the right time comes I will go.” 
I have a new friend.  She calls me American Friend.  She lights up the minute she sees me and tries talking to me in Korean.  (I gotta work harder on my Korean).  A lot of the madams wanted to hold my hands tonight.  Pastor Choi says it is because they cannot believe an American is coming all the way here to visit them regularly.   I’m happy to know my presence is appreciated.  I was a little worried about how they would accept me at first. 
There were many men walking around tonight and many cars driving through.  The madams are pretty aggressive, going up to moving cars, knocking on the windows, and pulling on the men’s arms to get them in the doors to see the girls.  I didn’t see any go in this time.  I wonder what they are doing walking through that place.  They have to know what it is! Maybe they have intentions to visit the women but are detoured by our presence.  Maybe they just want to look.  I don’t really know.  One thing I can say is that I pray for every man that I pass, that God will convict them of their lust.  That the conviction would burn so badly inside of them they repent and then fight for justice.  These men are driving the sex industry and keeping women in bondage to this sort of life style. 
As I mentioned at the beginning of my note, there was a group sitting in a car outside the RLD praying while one of their members joined us in the RLD.  This is a group from Masan.  They have expressed a desire to serve with Pastor Choi.  One of the girls in the group heard about him when he spoke at her church and she told her friends.  They want to be trained by Pastor Choi so they can go and do these same things on their own.  They will join us the third week of every month, praying outside and sending one team member in with us.  Hopefully they can prepare the gifts for the third week to help alleviate some of the cost Pastor Choi’s mission uses toward purchasing the gifts. 
Prayer Request: 
Pray for the girls and the madams to escape this line of business and never have a desire to return.
Pray for the Masan team’s training and involvement with Pastor Choi over the next year. 
Pray for the Korean church to be more involved and speak out more about justice issues.
Pray for laws to be established in Korea that would make prostitution and human trafficking more difficult.  There are laws in place but police don’t enforce them the way they should be enforced.  In fact, they frequently visit these places.    
Pray for God to protect the team from the spiritual warfare that we may encounter because of this ministry.  Already I have been attacked at work.  It got so bad that I actually looked into booking a flight back to America because I was so frustrated.  Then I remembered what I was doing in Korea and why I was here and I prayed for strength.  Also, another member that will be joining us after his application process, fell down 2 flights of stairs a month a go, cracking his skull, breaking his nose, and having some minor brain damage.  Please pray for his healing so he can join us as soon as the application process is complete. 
Pray for Pastor Choi’s ministry, that God would continue to provide finances, man- power, and continue to bless it.
(Below is a picture of Vanesa, Pastor Choi, and Me decorating his office for Christmas.

Daegu Journal Entry: Volume 1 Issue 1

Daegu Journal Entry: Volume 1 Issue 1

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Today was the first day the Hope Be Restored (HBR) Restoration Team went into the Red Light District (RLD) in Daegu, South Korea.  The team consisted of 4 members, Pastor Choi, Vanesa, Rachael, and Angela.  Pastor Choi has been going into this particular RLD in Daegu for 6 months now.  In the beginning he was criticized badly by the madams for going to hand out gifts.  As of December the tide has turned.  Because of his dedication to visit on a regular basis (twice a month), the madams realize that he is different and they are now more open to him coming.  This time they were grateful for his gifts and kind words.  Also, some asked for prayers!!! 

We arrived ahead of schedule, which gave us the opportunity to walk around the RLD while it was still light out and pray before we did the mission.  As we walked around, Pastor Choi explained the area to us.  He mentioned that there was a lot of witchcraft that went on in the area.  Also there were witchcraft chants written on the doorpost of some of the buildings.  Witchcraft is done in these areas to scare the girls from leaving.  Sometimes they will do dances and chants to appease the spirits and for luck. 

We were also informed that the head pimp and many of the madams in this particular RLD attend protestant church regularly, some are even deacons!  This information broke my heart.  The ones that do attend church are more accepting to let Pastor Choi in and even willing to give things to the girls inside.  This is important because the only way to gain access to these girls is through the madams.  Hopefully they can convince the other madams to do the same for us.   

At 8:00 pm we went inside to hand out the gifts.  We gave away disposable hand warmers.  Before going into the RLD we prayed again in the car.  The bible verse 3 John 1:2 was written on the packages.  It reads, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”  We prayed this verse over the girls, the madams, and the RLD before we set out.  We prayed that God would protect them, provide for their needs, and give them good health.  We prayed that God would work in their hearts and they would believe in this verse and live their lives as the people God intended them to be.  We prayed that their souls would be released, freed from bondage that keeps them there.

After praying, we went and walked around the RLD distributing the gifts to the madams.  We asked the madams if they would give some to the girls inside.  Some were willing; some rejected it saying the girls didn’t need them.  The first set of buildings was located on the outskirts of the RLD.  The buildings were 3-5 story hotel looking buildings with no windows.  They were decorated very nicely on the outside with gold trim and marble walls and stairs.  We couldn’t see the girls in these buildings.  One of the madams asked for prayer.  Pastor Choi prayed 3 John 1:2 over her.
When we went inside the RLD the girls were visible to us in the windows.  Most of them were getting ready.  Some were already ready and posed in the windows.  Most of them were playing on their cell phones to pretend like they did not see us walking outside.  Hardly any were smiling.  I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful these women are, perfectly created in the image of God, deeply loved by God, trapped from knowing God by the evil that surrounds them.  I know that God has such a special plan for each one of them and I wanted to tell them all, but I couldn’t.  I know that God loves them as much as any person in this world and I wanted to show them, but how?  I wasn’t really sure how to respond as they watched us walk up and down the road but then I remembered a smile speaks more than words sometimes so I smiled at them and bowed.  Some of the girls rolled their eyes; most gave me a big smile and bow back.  One girl waved at me with this huge smile on her face.   

As we continued walking Pastor Choi and Vanesa kept sharing with the madams and I just smiled and bowed at the girls in the windows, praying for them to be rescued.  One of the buildings didn’t have a madam outside.  That was our opportunity to sneak gifts into the girls.  Pastor knocked on the door with a huge smile on his face, holding the gifts in hand for them to see.  The girls were hesitant at first to unlock the door for us, but Pastor Choi’s smile won them over and they accepted the gifts, gladly. 

The mission took 50 minutes.  When we returned to the car we prayed over the madams, girls, and RLD again.  The gifts were distributed, the gospel was shared, and love and acceptance were given to people who are very much looked down upon by a large majority of cultures, societies, and unfortunately even the Christian church. 

In closing, I ask that you pray for the church in Korea.  Pray that it rises up to become more involved in the injustices that surround the church walls.  This particular RLD happens to fall in the shadow of many churches yet they are doing nothing, while customers and people who run the RLD attend their church.