Thursday, 7 May 2015

Let's Love

So this update will be very short ms brief, mostly because it is 11pm here and I have to get on a plane tomorrow to fly out to Cambodia. So this is just going to be a quick update about what I've been doing for the second half of my time here in Thailand. So once we were done at the Thai church outside of Bangkok we came back into Bangkok to work with a ministry called Rak Teh, meaning "love authentic" in Thai. The building we stayed at was right in the centre of a major tourist area in Bangkok, an area surrounded by temples, but also a lot of homelessness, a large deaf community, and so many people to reach to. I really loved this ministry because they were so open to just doing what God called us to do and just going with what each day brought us to. What that looked like was a time of 36 hours of consistent prayer and worship, buying food for the locals, hanging out with the local deaf community and just living life alongside the people of this area. One major event we did was host a hair and nail day for the women of the neighbourhood. We basically took the time to treat them like royalty, from hair cuts, to pedicures, to manicures, to dinner, to desert, we did everything we could to make these women to feel special. It was a great experience just to serve those around so and let them know they are loved and cared for. In between ministry times my friends and I loved going down to the tourist backpacking area to shop, eat food, Skype our parents and hang out. I also may have tried eating scorpion and tarantula down there... One of the craziest things I have done. Anyways I will update you more as time goes on but until then thanks for reading! 

Cambodia Bound

   Well tomorrow I am officially done ministry and work in Thailand, and I am heading over to Cambodia for the next month to do more work and ministry. Honestly I don't have a ton of details about what exactly I am doing there but I will share with you the bit I do know. Like I said tomorrow we will be flying from Bangkok, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We will be in Phnom Penh for about two days before we drive for three hours to the province of Kampong Cham. The living conditions will be interesting with the 45 degree heat, and the upcoming raining season. At this point we are not expecting to have air conditioning, wifi, western toilets, or any sort of amenities. Honestly I'm okay with it. When you are living in very minimalistic conditions it forces you firstly to trust in God more and secondly rely and enjoy your time with the people around you. Once we actually start doing work (as far as I know) we will be working with local youth centres in two teams going out and teaching English, hosting kids programs, giving hygiene lessons, and setting young people up for success in a culture and place where it is all too common to sell your children for money. 
   Again because I don't know a lot about my time in Cambodia I thought I would just share a bit about the country itself as well as human trafficking and sex slavery within the country. Cambodia is a country where a lot of the population lives in poverty. With the major people group being the Khmer people. Major languages spoke are Khmer, English, and French. 95% of the population is Buddhist and the other 5% falling into the other major religions. In terms of human trafficking Cambodia is a major hot spot for sex tourism, child labour, and sweat shops. 2.5 million (that we know of) out of a population of 13.5 million are trapped in human trafficking at any given time, with 43% of that number being people used for sexual purpose, 98% of those people are women and girls. It's heart wretching to read about these things, but also drives me to do something. So that's what I'm about to do hop on a plane and spend the next month working alongside these people, changing lives, and doing great works through Christ. 
   That being said I am very thankful for all of you and your amazing support you have given me. I am very excited to continue this journey in South East Asia but just has excited to fly home to Canada and be with everyone of you who have supported me and helped me through this journey. So I thought I would just write out a few thank you's just to remind every single one of you that you are the reason that I am here, because of your love and support. So to my fantastic friends, my lifegroup, and to you awesome people who I get to do life with on a daily basis. I am incredibly thankful that you are in my life, and I am even more glad that you have continued to be my friend even when I'm on the otherwise of the world. Your readiness to text me, and see how you can support me has been overwhelming and I just want to say thank you. To my former teachers, youth leaders, and mentors you people are fantastic. I just want to thank you for helping raise me to be the person I am today. With out you believing in me, teaching me, encouraging me, and helping me grow I wouldn't be half the person I am today, so thanks a lot. And last but certainly not least by any means a huge thank you to my amazing, selfless, and incredible family. I love all of you so much, and if am so privileged beyond belief to have you in my life. Doing life with you every day is a blessing and everyday I am away from you I think about you and miss you more and more. So all of that being said thank you again to everyone for your emotional, spiritual, and financial support all of which is appreciated greatly. I miss you all and can't wait to share more about my crazy adventures. 


Stop the traffic

Well this is a huge topic I have been waiting to write about, which I'm sure you have guessed is human trafficking. One thing I've found very interesting is seeing and experiencing how human trafficking is different everywhere you go. From Las Vegas, to Tijauna, to Bangkok, to Phnom Penh every place is different. I think so easily we try to box in this issue and put labels on it, but it's so complex and deep it's almost impossible to do that. One thing that struck me in Bangkok is that they are open about selling sex but at the same time there is an entire other realm of sex slavery, and prostitution you wouldn't see unless you sought it out 
   So first I will talk about my experience in one of the red light districts here in Bangkok. Honestly it's crazy. Tourists are everywhere, parents with kids and all around the shopping, food, and excitement there are people exploiting and selling women and girls. We would be walking down the crowded streets while men would try to usher you into bars and clubs to see sex shows, and women do completely inhumane acts for others enjoyment. None of this is hush hush either, you can walk by and watch women dance half naked dancing on bars while men hassle them. When you look those girls in the eyes they just look so dead, and lifeless. All of them are so young and have so much potential but right now they are dancing on bars because they have no other options. Another big part of the visible sex industry are massage parlours and karaoke bars. Usually massage parlours in certain areas are used as means to get a prostitue or to have a place to "relax" sexually. And karaoke bars are places where you can rent a women to sing and have fun with which could then potentially lead to renting her for other purposes. It's honestly just sad, it's so sad. It's ridiculous to see how many tourists go to see these shows, and to take advantage of women, but it's also sad to see people sell other people. 
   Another form of human trafficking and at times freelance prostitution is some who work the streets without ties to a strip club, bar, massage parlour etc. this for the most part is the more hidden aspect of prostitution. It's interesting because we were informed that some of these women do it freelance for reasons like lack of a better job, need more money, pays better; and some women work for pimps and may be forced into what they are doing. We were also told that there are also a lot of freelance male prostitutes in the area, and that there are a lot of people who may not look like your stereotypical prostitute out selling their body. Another crazy thing we found out is the amount of pay by hour hotels which are used as places for prostitues to do business. Again going back to the fact that this is such a complex issue., it's so hard to wrap my head around all the different types of exploitation and how I need to respond to them. Although it's heartwrenching to see, I can't wait to see more in Cambodia just to get a better understanding of this issues and why it is something every single one of us needs to pay attention and care about.   

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Thailand take 2

Alrighty, so this is take two or three for me on this blog post... I literally have started and for over half way through on this post numerous times but each and every time I forget to save. So I apologize for taking a long time to update all of you wonderful people on my time so far in Thailand. Not going to lie after 24 hours of travel time, and running through the Taiwan airport, and then getting off the plane in Bangkok to find out it really is s hot as people say it is, I was a little bit skeptical about spending a month in this place (and two months in Asia). As time has gone on though I've realized being here isn't about me, or all the things that are against me, it's about God, people, and most of all love. So to kick off this blog post I'm just going to talk a bit about what I've been doing, some stories, and just about what's been up for me. 
  So right now (and up until now) myself and my team have been working and living in Bangkok, and the suburbs of Bangkok. The first place we stayed was at a local Thai church just outside the city, but let me tell you that place challenged everything within me. No joke. From the roosters crowing at 3am, the 5 foot lizards lurking around, the lack of toilet paper, the constant heat, humidity and lack of air conditioning, or even just being in a completely new culture, it was challenging. A lot of what we did was went out into slum like communities and encouraged the people, and invited them to different events we were hosting like kids camps, church, nights where we did dramas/music, and just inviting people for meals. Although what we did got redundant, and draining very quickly there was some pretty amazing things that came out of that week. 
   Firstly we prayed for a man with poor vision and restored his eyes and ability to see. Some people get incredibly amazed by those kinds of stories, I mean so do I, but I guess when you walk as a child of God every single day things like that literally just become part of your everyday life. Loving people, is a lifestyle, it's a choice not a feeling. I have also really been loving getting to show love through music and worship. More and more I have realized how universal music is. I honestly don't think you need crazy impactful lyrics to allow music to speak, so that has been a really amazing experience. 
   Another big thing we did throughout our time at the Thai church was most kids camps and activities. I really love kids, they are all so universally carefree and just have this wonder about them that is so amazing. We led songs with the kids, played games, did skits, but for the most part we just hung out and played with them. A lot of people are very quick to judge and write off kids ministries and setting up programs for kids but ultimately plugging them in to something in there neighbourhood sets them up for success and starts breaking chains of violence, abuse, drugs, and even trafficking within a family. It's honestly incredible to serve change is families simply from starting with their children.
   One other major thing we did was visit families in local slums or lower class areas. A lot of these families were poor, worked in factories, and had houses in living conditions we couldn't even start to imagine. It honestly takes me back to hear these people at God is good, and still be so happy even though life is completely against them. We met burn victims, cancer survivors, people who couldn't walk and every single one of them met us with a smile, extremely generous hospitality, and a positivity that I wish westerners would adapt. Hospitality is one thing so evident in Thailand, they treat their guests like kings and queens. We went to a families house for dinner and honestly I am still in shock to see a family that barely has anything give us, seemingly rich westerners their best. Before the meal they had our plates of 5 different kinds of fruit, bottled water, Thai rice crackers, and made sure all of us had a seat. Then they brought out some amazing pad Thai, and even then they weren't done because they brought out sticky rice and mango for dessert (literally my favourite Thai food). All of this seriously makes me questions myself as a westerner, how a Thai family living in a slum could give us all that but we are so quick to not love one another. 
   So anyways that has been my journey in Thailand so far... More to come later I promise. I am leaving for Cambodia on Friday, May 8 and will be there until June 4 which is when I head back to Las Vegas. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Names to faces

So after my last post about outreaches in Vegas I was going to make one last post just about things leading up to my outreach in Thailand and Cambodia. Yesterday I felt like I needed to make a post about the people here in Las Vegas. I'm not talking about people that I'm friends with, or serve with here on base, I'm talking about the people on the streets of Las Vegas who would never ever be talked about because they live on the streets. The area that I live in is a probably one of the highest concentrated areas in Las Vegas for homelessness, and poverty. It's honestly just so sad walking around seeing people on the streets, and know that although they are everywhere no one sees them, and no one stops to notice them. One guy (who I will chat more about later) said that out of all the people that walk past him less than 5% acknowledge him, and less than 1% actually stop for him. I can't imagine living a life where circumstances led me to the streets and then just have everyone pass you by. One major thing I have learned about people living on the streets, is that you don't know their story unless you stop and ask them. As soon as you start hearing about how they used all their money to help their dying mother, or they had cancer and their insurance wouldn't cover all the treatment so they lost everything they had, that's when you start thinking twice before placing judgement and not stopping. So basically my goal for this post is introduce you to some otherwise forgotten people that I have met over the course of my time in Vegas. 
   So the first person I want to talk about is named Russel. This experience and interaction with him has stuck with me ever since I met him about a month ago. So a few weeks back I was on Fremont Steet (in downtown Vegas) doing a general outreach like we do every week, just out loving people, blessing them, and praying for them. Then as I was walking I saw this man desperately trying to get someone to notice him. It wasn't like he was harassing them or anything in a negative way, he was one of the kindest beggars I had seen on Fremont. He kept saying "excuse me sir", "God bless you", "have a great day." I went up to him, asked his name, how he was doing, and then I just felt like I needed to buy him lunch. So I asked him what he wanted, and he said a filet-o-fish from mcdonalds. I told him he could get whatever he wanted, and then asked him what size fries he wanted, and drink, and let me tell you this entire time I could see how great duo this guy was. So I went over and got him his food, and came back. Before I left I asked if I could pray, and he was just as blessed by the prayer as he was the food. Anyways, a few weeks later I was out on Fremont again, and this homeless man stopped me, and said "you were the one who bought me lunch, thank you so much, that blesses me so much." I honestly was in complete shock that even like a month later this guy remembered me, and was hugely blessed by something as simple as a McDonald's meal. I also learned not to judge homeless people as they are just begging so they can get drugs, or alcohol, most of them have literally just been dealt a really awful hand at life and they are just trying to rebuild their lives with the little they have. Even though they are down, and things have taken a hard turn they still have so much faith that they will get out of this, they just need people to stop and care. 
    So another guy I met out on Fremont was named Emmanuel, and this guy I basically see every time I am out, whether it's during ministry time, or when I am just out with my friends. Prior to me speaking with him, I knew that other members of my team had also talk to him, bought him lunch, and really tried to show him love. So I did the same, we chatted, I just kind of gave him an outlet to say whatever he wanted to say land I would just listen. Then he started talking about how many people pass him on a daily basis, and how very few people even acknowledge he exists never mind give him food or money. This conversation went on for a bit and then naturally I asked him if I could pray for him and he didn't really respond, so we just kept talking. All of the sudden he said something that has stuck with me ever since, it was literally so simple but so crazy. He was talking again about how when people find out he is homeless they immediately pass him by, and can't even look at him, then he said "you need to pray for them not me." Like oh my goodness how true is that!! The problem isn't him, and the fact that he is doing something wrong and is an inadequate beggar, the problem is us not showing love to him, not stopping and saying hello, or buying him lunch, or giving him change. Like how true is that, the problem isn't so much that there is homelessness the problem is we aren't doing anything about it. 
   Last but certainly not least I have one more story for you, and this is a story of healing and faith that is literally inexplainable thing that happened, that can't be justified by logic so like I said you just have to disregard all logic and human understanding and just believe that this is true. So I was out with a partner in my group and our base director, praying for people, really with no plan just going wherever we were led. Eventually we were just walking and decided to stop and talk to this guy. He was homeless and in a wheelchair, and he went on to tell us he had a lot of lower body pain, so we asked if we could pray for healing and he said it was okay. Martin decided to see if his legs were the same length because sometimes that is the cause of lower body pain. It turned out that one leg was visibly like two inches shorter than the other. So martin held his legs and just prayed, "in Jesus name, let this leg grow up." And I kid you not he did not once touch his foot to pull it out, or reposition the leg to seem longer than another, then after he said that his heels were perfectly lined up. We were all seriously in shock so we checked in like three different ways and it happened. I think instead of believing in faith we are skeptic of what we can't explain, but when it happens right in front of your face you can't really deny it. 
   So there we have it, another blog post, and another post closer to my departure to Thailand and Cambodia! So I will make  one last prethailand post, and then it's all outreach. Thanks again for reading! 

Let's choose love

Well as you may have noticed my blog updates have been a little bit limited, and I apologize for that. At the same time it's hard to try to take indescribable experiences and place them into words. When you are constantly living a life full of amazing experiences you forget to take those and share them with others. So again all I am going to do is pick some stories I've had the opportunity to live out and share them with you. All I have to share with you is what I've experienced and lived first hand, and all you can do is decide what you would like to do with that information.
    One experience that we got to do was hold up signs on Fremont street (old Las Vegas) with stats about human trafficking. Honestly it's crazy to see how people who are out in vegas to party and have a good time respond to a bunch of young people holding up signs with alarming statistics. It just blows my mind to see how many people with read these signs and just walk by like there is nothing different. When you see how desensitized we are as humans, it's hard to believe that anything will change in these large issues like human trafficking. We let ourselves believe that it's okay to be apathetic and self focused but in the end we long for change and we talk about all the things wrong with this world but we aren't willing to step out in simple ways and say "no that's not okay." That's one thing I learned from this outreach, that in the end numbers to matter, and people binding together can and will change the world we just need to get there. This applies even more so to us as the body of Christ. We are called to love people, and go to the end of the earths to fulfill this. It's time that we step up and actually do that, instead of just talking about it. 
   Another cool outreach we got to do was serve with Hookers for Jesus. The outreach itself wasn't what was inspirational it was what all that simple work was going for, and the inspiration that Annie Lobert (the founder of Hookers for Jesus) gave to myself and our group. While we were serving we just did some basic yard work, pulling weeds and raking leaves. Although I would not say yard work is my calling, that entire time I just felt like everything we were doing was such a blessing to someone else. The entire time we were there we weren't really expecting to meet Annie (even though it would be so cool) then as we were about to leave she came outside and we got to meet her. Annie's story is truly inspiring and has really changed my views on women involved in human trafficking and what I need to do to make a lasting impact. Long story short, Annie is a survivor of human trafficking. She was able to make it out of the oppression of her pimp, and begin recovering. Annie started Hookers for Jesus to help other women like her off the streets, out of prostitution, into recovery, and back into being able to live a normal life. The ability to be able to pray for Annie, and bring blessings to her ministry was truly humbling. Statistics are changing, lives are being renewed and people are making a difference. It's so encouraging to see changes being made, because it is possible. Change is a happening and I want to be apart of it, no matter where I am in the world whether that's back in Canada or overseas in Thailand I will stop at nothing to make a difference, spread God's love, and bring the Kingdom of the Lord to this earth. 
   The lecture phase of my DTS has really blown my expectations, and I am literally waiting on edge to be able to take everything I have learned and seen here in Las Vegas and be able to change lives overseas in Thailand and Cambodia. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hola Mexico

Well hello everyone! First off I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart for my seamingly slow updates lately... Let's just say there is never a dull moment here in Las Vegas, which it makes it very hard for me to find time to sit down and blog. So, here I am trying to think of what I want to say and really I have I much I could say but really what it all waters down to is God is good. So I think what I will do is publish a few post right after each other outlining what I have been up to these last few weeks. So a couple of weeks ago I was in Ensenada and Tijuana, Mexico doing a mid DTS outreach. Instead of making a grocery list of all the things we did there, I thought I would share a few amazing stories. So one major thing that is a theme so every follower of Christ is miracles and spiritual gifts. For those of you who maybe aren't Christians what I mean by that is people who can heal others supernaturally, or people who know things about other people who hey have never met before, or the ability to predict the future and those predictions come through. Although those ideas are biblical, it's really easy to become skeptical when you don't see those things happen on a day to day basis. Let me just tell you, miracle ARE real. There was this one lady who had a hurt hand, and she was holding it in a fist because she couldn't open it, and had not been able to open it for a few weeks. A few people from my group went over to her and asked if they could pray. They prayed for her hand and right after she was able to open her hand completely. There is power in the name of Jesus. In the society we live in now a days it's so easy to question and justify everything and anything, but I'm telling you I saw a woman with a hurt hand, who's hand wasn't hurt simply due to prayer. I know for a fact this wasn't a just a coincident because I have seen things like this happen over and over again since I've been here. What I am not saying is that God is some genie that will heal anyone and everyone when we demand it. No, what I am saying is there is power in prayer, and there is power in the name of Jesus so much so that things that seem impossible can happen and you can witness it with your own two eyes. One other cool thing we did in Mexico was go to two different womens safe houses and rehabilitation centers (a picture with the girls is above). This was such a great experience because it adds such a real aspect to a problem that you hear about over and over and over again. It's so easy to get caught up in numbers and statistics and forget about the fact that there are real people, with names, and stories attached to those stats. We went into these centers and talked to the girls, and just knowing their name, even though most of them didn't speak English just made something that seemed so distant so close. At one point we were praying for the girls, and this one teenaged aged girl started sobbing in my arms, and the best part was she had no idea what I was saying, but just the fact that I took the time to care about her in that moment was enough. One last story was from the red light district in Tijuana. So before we went to the red light district one of my leaders was saying that this would be way beyond what we could imagine a red light district to be. For those of you who don't know a red light district is a place within a city where prositution is legal, and highly concentrated so men go there to get women, and women go there to get men. Let me just say that the realness and the depth of human trafficking just hit me hard in that moment. I literally saw dozens of women lined up against the wall of clubs waiting for a customer to pick them up. In that moment it's hard to know what to say or do seeing young girls probably younger than me waiting to be picked up. Although it was sad, and enraging at the same time it just lit this fire in me to keep pressing on. Even though this problem is huge I think people give up as soon as they realize how huge it really is. It's so easy to get caught up in the sadness and anger towards human trafficking and so many people allow themselves to dwell in that. If more people kept pressing on and fighting instead of just being sad then lives would change, and statistics would be reversed. So that's where I am at, pressing on because things will change when people step up. Overall my time in Mexico was a great experience in which I got to love others, and experience the world through God's eyes.