Today is one of the “memorial days” for our journey to Nigeria. March 22, 2012 was the fateful day that we were on our way back to the airport to embark on our “missionary adventure”. After deciding that, Yes, this is where God wants us, we can’t do it ourselves, the job is too big for us, for anyone. Art and Dorothy assured us that what they have done the past 10 plus years was listen to God’s leading and people were helped and God was glorified. We decided that, yes, we could do that!
We were excitedly talking about the mission trips we would have and the groups we would get to come help us when we rolled up to that fateful “check point” that wasn’t a check point. It was an attempted robbery. I was shot and two other people were injured as well!
It was a confusing day, it was the longest day of my life thus far, BUT it was a good day. Let me tell you why March 22 is a “pile of rocks” memorial in our lives. That was the day that God spoke to each of us clearly and loudly amidst the confusion, fear, and blood He said, “This is where I want you, I will take care of you”. Immediately we were assured of His plan and we knew we were going to be okay.
Even amid Boka Haram violence, Ebola scares, and tribal riots we have not had fear. God already told us and showed us that He had our backs and He was in control of EVERYTHING.
Tomorrow Dan leaves to pick up our first short-term mission group coming from that same home church that we came from 5 years ago. Those dreams we dreamed about the things that could be done with a mission team are coming true. I have to tell you the funniest thing that happened after the “incident”. Dan (my 0% empathetic spouse) said, “No one is going to send a mission trip here now, they are never going to send any youth EVER!” I’m thankful that God works in spite of what seems “prudent” to our human minds.
My point for today is this: If God is in it, He always finds a way and He makes that way very clear to those that listen. Are you taking time to listen. Please pray for these 10 people making their way to Gembu this week and the work we have to accomplish while they are here.
This week I want to tell you about something I have recently committed to. I took the “Fair Pledge Challenge” from a non-profit group that Dan and I love called “Stories Foundation”.
Here’s why I love this so much, here is the pledge I took.
I pledge to think before I buy. To consider what the cost of an item is for the people who made it. I pledge to not add to the demand of labor trafficking with my choices. I acknowledge that I will not be perfect. But I pledge to do better.
Why do you think I took this pledge? Here is a fact for you: Human Trafficking is a $32 billion industry. I always thought “fair trade” was a hippy thing. Sorry, I am not an activist sort of gal. I was ignorant that millions of people are enslaved all around our world today. Kidnapping and slavery are real and our choices can and do make a difference.
So what started this journey? I attended the Global Leadership Summit in 2012 when Sheryl Wudunn spoke. She and her husband, Nicholas D. Kristof wrote the book, “Half the Sky.” This broke but also spoke to my heart. I started getting informed. I could no longer say I didn’t know.
Although slavery is commonly thought to be a thing of the past, human traffickers generate hundreds of billions of dollars in profits by trapping millions of people in horrific situations around the world, including in the U.S. Traffickers use violence, threats, deception, debt bondage, and other manipulative tactics to force people to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor or services against their will. While more research is needed on the scope of human trafficking, here are a few key statistics that we do know:
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.
- 68% of them are trapped in forced labor.
- 26% of them are children.
- 55% are women and girls.
- The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
- The U.S. Department of Labor has identified 139 goods from 75 countries made by forced and child labor.
My friends at Stories Foundation and Love2Hope are raising awareness of this tragic fact, helping people understand this industry, empowering people to bring awareness to their communities and giving people opportunities to mobilize to make a difference. I also have friends working directly with women being brought out of slavery, counselling, teaching skills and rehabilitation.
This is evil and HARD, but I want to be informed about how I live my life. I will make shopping choices that value fair wages and working conditions for all people PERIOD.
My point for this week is this: Do you sometimes feel helpless with all of the evil in the world? This is something YOU can do and something you can also teach your children about.
The year was 1996, we were moving from Rural Minnesota to “City Life”. I was a bit scared, excited, and nervous. I was moving into a whole lot of change. As I have said before, I don’t do change well. I would be homeschooling and staying at home. My years teaching AWANA and Sunday School, as well as Kids for Missions at the church I grew up in was over. The first Sunday at our new church, Edinbrook Church, I met Phyllis Hedberg at the door, she was the Christian Education Director. I said to Phyllis, “What do I need to do to volunteer here at church?” She smiled and said, “I have been praying for someone like you to come along.”
I started volunteering 2 months before we even moved into our new house and Phyllis was my mentor and very special friend. She taught me about the difference in teaching and caring for children in a rural setting to a more urban setting. She introduced me to resources, people, and training. But the biggest thing she did was be my friend. We met every week for 17 years, there were of course, times that we missed because of vacations, work, appointments. But our first appointment on our calendars was Coffee on Thursday mornings. It didn’t matter where we met, or what time it was as long as both of us were there. We had our rituals at different places and we would each review our past week, things that were coming up the coming week, and our prayer requests. We also did many other things together, but this was our MUST. Phyllis was a big part of our children’s lives even if they didn’t realize it. She prayed for them every day, I prayed for Phyllis’ children and grandchildren, her and Roger as well every day.
Roger, her husband was also a very special friend and I absolutely loved to just sit and talk and after a while I think Roger came to think of me as another “daughter”. When he passed away eight years ago it was after prolonged challenges and Phyllis was just plain tired and at a loss for a while. She loved her library team at church, her children, grandchildren, and being creative, her life was full, but she no longer had “Rog” to care for.
When Phyllis had a mastectomy, and had to stay home for quite a while we decided we were going to do a “project”. Being a pastor’s wife most of her life, she was a frugal women. In the 60’s when their children were young, they had their pictures on slides. Her children had no pictures from their Christmas’s growing up and that bothered Phyllis. She went through her slides and pulled out the slides I could make into pictures on my computer and print them. As soon as she felt ready to start working on it after her surgery we started. One or two days a week we would work on her Christmas presents to her children. We had so much fun! She told me all about so many things in her life as a young pastors wife, working at the Baptist General Conference, Girls Guild. Each stage of her kids lives, and how grateful she was for the family God gave her. She hand-wrote the details (she was a very detailed woman) and because we made them together and her children could have Christmas memories now she was so excited to give them to her children that Christmas. I was thankful for the extra time and we loved being creative together.
We were very special friends of the heart. She and I talked at least 2 hours a week and after we moved to Nigeria we emailed our prayer requests and how God was working in both of our lives, I still have her last email to me saved and will not be able to delete it ever I think. Her last words of love and encouragement to me are treasured. I don’t know if she got to read my last email to her or not as she had a new computer and was trying to learn how to use it. We did not get to have much of a visit last year when we were in the States and so were planning on one this year for a special time together.
Phyllis and I talked about dying a few times. She did not want to be in pain or a bad testimony and also did not want to lose her mental capacity. I am thankful that is not the case. She had a stroke, hit her head on the bathroom floor triggering a brain injury and we are saying our goodbyes to a woman of God who taught me so much in the 20 short years we have known each other.
I know she has looked forward to meeting her Jesus, and I know the words he will say to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. I wonder if she will ask all the Bible Characters the questions she wondered about all of these years? I will have to wait to find out.
Thank you Phyllis for showing me how to live out loud – love, grace, and joy in ALL circumstances. I love you.
Until we meet again.
P.S. Phyllis met Jesus face to face the early morning of March 4, 2017