Over a year ago, I left Romania shaky and weepy. My three-ish month stint serving at a survivor shelter for vulnerable women and children was watershed, seismic, and numinous. My eyes had been opened to a deep running river of Christ’s love, weaving in and around heartbreak, abuse, trauma, and exploitation, ending in assured restoration, empowerment, and hope. The people I met and learned from had an intoxicating spirit of survival, faith, and love. They were brave, uncompromising, and if time stood still, I would’ve stayed tucked in the rolling hills of Campîna.
But I had known that God had given me that time as a season of peace and preparation. I had no idea what for, beyond just a siren call of a life dedicated to justice.
I left Romania with uncertainty and the gift of a journal. On the cover was a Bible verse from a book I had literally never known outside of Veggie Tales.
“Perhaps you were born for such a time as this”.
These words were spoken by Mordecai, the uncle of Esther, as he told her to be brave and stand up when other queens had gotten killed for doing less. Nonetheless she was called and used by God to save her people from genocide and oppression. It’s a beautiful passage about how God puts us in areas of influence in the time that is needed to do what we can for His vision of righteousness.
It was a moving reminder of my time in Romania and I treasured it, thinking “wow, that is such a powerful verse…..for someone else”. I had such a hard time believing that what was transcribed could have ever been lovingly spoken over me.
After Romania, I went home and lived with my family in its transition from a family of eight to a family of ten. I got to experience the beautiful process of adoption in one of the most priceless seasons of my life. I was also getting ready to serve with International Justice Mission in the Philippines with little more than courage in my convictions and the support of my community that raised me.
When I arrived in Southeast Asia, I couldn’t have known the transformation that would come. The culture shock and lonely nights, the friendships built over hours in traffic and tears of heartache, the smiles of children who were rescued from unimaginable evil, the joy of community and celebration as a spiritual practice, the hours of worship, the hours of prayer that began with the lament of “God, how can this be?”. I wouldn’t have believed the insane things I got to witness, from the tentative beginning of implementing foster care in the Philippines for our young clients, to getting to be in the Senate, listening to a speech I helped create.
I’ve sat in precincts, lecture halls, survivor safe houses, churches, and the humble offices of our sweet local partners, looking around them all, wondering in awe why God is so good to me to let me witness His fight on the frontlines.
Time has played such a role in this year. We live in a digital age that makes crimes of exploitation, especially cybersex trafficking of children, untraceable and immeasurable.
But we also live in an age of justice. In 2017, we saw the rescue of 101 victims of online sexual abuse, the majority under the age of just 12. There were landmark convictions both in the Philippines and in Western countries; in America, a predator who directed the livestream abuse of a child was sentenced 330 years in prison. We had more advocates step forward, more doors opened, more interest piqued in this work than ever before.
Over and over again I heard “there was no other time than this” and “God will do this work with or without me”. I, too, just chose to accept.
That’s what Esther 4:14 is. An invitation. For all of us. There is no other time to be a part of God’s plan. There is no one else to do this task. Our time is now.
We will be asked one day what we did with what we had. What did we do about all these crushing things; about the abuse in the foster care system, modern slavery, online sexual abuse of children, corruption, homelessness, oppression, and the people in such despair that they felt like they couldn’t even turn to the Church? What did we do for those trapped in violence? What did we do for our hurting neighbor or the least of these?
God invites all of us, in all of our spheres of influence, no matter how big or small, to join Him. It may be as scary as Esther interceding with a king, or forfeiting your reputation or complacency, or even the futures we plan for ourselves. Maybe it’s leaving your hometown, maybe even for good *sorry, Mom, omg don’t panic*. Maybe it’s seeing where you are with new eyes and staying rooted. Maybe it’s opening the doors of your home, or befriending someone with whom you have little more in common than the fact that you’re both a child of God. Maybe it’s using your voice, your connections, your time, your business, your job.
You’re invited to it all and if my blog is anything besides being a quirky source of snark and thirsty pictures of hot world leaders, then it’s to share this bizarre, amazing journey of accepting my invitation and a request to hear your own story.
Perhaps it’s not surprising at this point when I tell you that it’s been put heavy on my heart that my “time such as this” is not yet over in the Philippines. I will be extending until September. While it may only be three short months past my original departure date in June, it’s a scary step of faith and vulnerability as I will be fundraising for the extended time as well.
In these next three months, I will help continue the culture of interns and fellows as more arrive and all my friends leave (*crying*) and continue my position in both Government Relations and Communications. I’ll help partner on an initiative with World Vision for community education to teach about the warning signs of online sexual exploitation to those who are most vulnerable. I’ll also continue aiding the rescue operations and supporting our Aftercare with their Bible study with former clients.
If you feel inclined, would you consider donating to my service of IJM in its fight to end the online sexual exploitation of Filipino children? If you’ve ever once thought “I’d love to hang and grab Chipotle with Maggie” but obvs can’t because I’m here, would you instead give what would be that Chipotle burrito (not even with extra guac!!)?
If you would, please click here.
But most importantly, will you continue being a part of this crazy invitation with me?
As always, I love you all greatly (even you, rando readers!),