Directing us in the way we should go

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The adventure of a lifetime.  Riding in an SUV through the mountains of Nepal, looking ahead, seeing this rocky river rushing towards us in all its terrifying beauty. I didn’t know which way we were supposed go.  Fortunately, I wasn’t in the driver’s seat.  We made it to the other side, after our driver moved some big obstacles out of our way and carefully put the right rocks under our tires for traction.  He was calm and cool as the vehicle slipped and slided.   As we laughed and shouted.  Until finally, we all exhaled in relief and jubilation.  What a story we’ll have to tell!  But chances are, our words won’t do it justice.  Nevertheless, we tell the story because it is amazing!

Recently, like many of you, Phil and I encountered a crossroads.  There was a choice.  A beautiful opportunity in front of us, to go to a new place where we could serve the Lord.  A more comfortable place.  A bigger job.  And somewhere we have always dreamed of exploring.

We started seeking the Lord and wondering, does He really care which way we go?  Both places are good — stay in Nepal and serve the Lord here or go to this new place, to serve the Lord there.  Couldn’t God simply bless either choice.  So we asked God to show us His way, if there was a particular direction and one morning he gave us this scripture:

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  Isaiah 48:17

It was clear, God wanted to ‘direct us in the way we should go’ … but which way was it?  We talked for hours.  Circled around countless scenarios.  Really used our brains.  Until they hurt and we were exhausted.  And another scripture came:

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Mark 11:24

We prayed for guidance.  Direction.  Faith to believe.  Phil fasted.  And I prayed in communion with a friend.  Then, it happened.  God got our attention.  A massive Trade for Freedom order came through that blew our minds away.  And accompanying it, came a message from a stranger saying:

“I know it is hard and you may want to leave, but hold fast.  The reward is great.”

You may want to leave, but hold fast.  Don’t leave yet.  Stay.  As we read the message, we laughed.  We knew it was from the Lord.  God spoke to us through a complete stranger, directing us in the way we should go.

So, we’re on this terrifyingly beautiful journey.  We’re not in the driver’s seat.  God is directing us.  He’s making the way.  We’re just holding tight, along for the ride.  Enjoying what we can, when we can.  And trying to tell the story.  Trying to give God all the glory!  He is amazing.

MODERN SLAVERY: Nepal 5th in the world

Where does Nepal rank in terms of modern slavery?  It ranks 5th according to the Walk Free Foundation.  Trade for Freedom works directly to change this…giving Freedom, Dignity, and Hope for tomorrow.

 

Modern Slavery is Defined as: 

WHAT IS MODERN SLAVERY?

Modern slavery takes many forms, and is known by many names: slavery, forced labour or human trafficking.

- ‘Slavery’ refers to the condition of treating another person as if they were property – something to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed.

- ‘Forced labour’ is a related but not identical concept, referring to work taken without consent, by threats or coercion.

- ‘Human trafficking’ is another related concept, referring to the process through which people are brought, through deception, threats or coercion, into slavery, forced labour or other forms of severe exploitation.

Whatever term is used, the significant characteristic of all forms of modern slavery is that it involves one person depriving another people of their freedom: their freedom to leave one job for another, their freedom to leave one workplace for another, their freedom to control their own body.

Reach (5 min friday)

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We reach towards the goal for which God has called us.  We put our hands out and strive forwards, and God leads us. Praying that we wouldn’t go anywhere other than where He desires.  Trusting Him each step of the way.  Grateful for the opportunity to go beyond that which is comfortable for us, reaching for that which is glorifying to Him.

I watched my daughter reach for her sippy cup that was on the dining room table this morning.  On tippy toes, she grunted.  She couldn’t quite reach it without my help, so I came over and gave it to her, happy to help.  Somehow enjoying the fact that she needs me for the little things.

I feel like God wants us to reach for those things that we can’t achieve on our own, so that He can come alongside us and help us.  So that He can joyfully give us things.  Enjoying the fact that we need Him.

Trade for Freedom is a reach for us.  On tippy toes, we reach and stretch and are very aware that we can’t achieve anything meaningful on our own.  We are very aware that we need and want God in this venture.  We want it to be His.  Surrendering it to Him everyday.

A successful day’s work

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I (Mel) accepted a short term position with World Vision, working together with Phil’s team to improve the lives of children in Nepal.  Yesterday, I had a meeting with community members to talk about some of the ways they have collaborated with government to make positive changes for children such as improved educational opportunities and functional health clinics.

After the meeting, Phil asked me how it went, and frankly it was a total bomb.  Not because there aren’t great things happening for children in their community, but because I wasn’t able to communicate with my translator very effectively.  Dang — I should have practiced more with him.  I should have had him translate the facilitation guide in advance and explain it to me in his own words.  We should have done this and that … the list goes on.   I was disappointed.  And I told Phil all about it.

Then an hour later, I remembered that I got to share my testimony with a seeking colleague on the taxi ride home.  How could I have forgotten something so important?  I was so focused on the unsuccessful meeting, that I allowed it to over shadow that amazing opportunity!  It was the first time I have shared my full testimony to an unbeliever in Nepal.  And God was there.  Planting a seed in my friend’s heart.  Expressing His great love for her.  And I had the beautiful privilege of being his vessel.  Why wasn’t that the first thing I shared with Phil?

Today, I’m thankful for God giving me that amazing opportunity.  And I’m praying that praises to God would always be on the tip of my tongue.  And for a heart that remembers that a successful day’s work in the kingdom of God is about being faithful to my Lord — sharing his love in word and deed, where, when, and however I can.  

Part 2: How I can have an impact?

So we sat in Soma Cafe on a hot, sticky day in Kathmandu, Nepal.  Our one year old daughter Abyala ran around with her boundless energy as one of us toddled after her.  Eventually she decided to hang out with us and drink a banana lassi.  It afforded a precious fifteen minutes of day dreaming together.  One of our favorite pastimes.   We dreamt about creating a business. One that would provide physical and spiritual hope.  A business that would loose the chains of injustice.

We thought about the businesses that inspire us most like Beauty for Ashes Nepal who provides employment and Christian discipleship to women coming from difficult backgrounds.  How could we further their mission and enable them to impact more lives?  Ideas were flying around in our heads, and finally Phil landed one.  Connections!  What if we started a business that impacted lives on both sides of the sea.  Connecting what is happening here in Nepal at Beauty for Ashes to our friends around the world who sincerely want to help. Just then…Trade for Freedom was born. A business that would sell beautiful, handmade items from all around the world, which are sourced from artisans and manufacturers providing both dignifying employment and Christian discipleship.

Trade for Freedom provides an outlet for individuals, churches and businesses to become part of a revolution to ethically employ women and men around the world. We work exclusively with manufacturers in developing world countries who in addition to paying fair wages and ensuring safe working conditions, provide benefits such as health care, savings plans, literacy classes, counseling, and Christian discipleship.

If you would like to have an impact today, visit our website www.tradeforfreedom.com and join us in fostering dignity, freedom and hope for tomorrow.

Part 1: How can I have an impact?

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I was a full-time mom raising our newborn daughter Abyala in Kathmandu, while my husband was working for World Vision. I loved being home with Abyala. However, I quickly learned I was not a great stay-at-home mom. I was a better on-the-go mom. So off we went. To prayer meetings, play groups, bible studies, and anywhere we were invited, frankly. At prayer group, we would pray for the end of human trafficking in Nepal. We heard heart-wrenching stories of violence and exploitation, combined with joy-filled testimonies of rescue and healing. These stories and celebrations would echo through my mind each week, and I would ask myself “how can I do more?” I yearned to be a more intimate part of it all. For a long time, God simply wanted me to be faithful in prayer.

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Then one day, I heard that a social business employing women who are survivors of exploitation needed some help. The business’ name is Beauty for Ashes Nepal. I volunteered, but quickly realized I didn’t have much to give with a baby in my arms. So I counted beads. For days and weeks, I counted and prayed and simply spent time with the Beauty for Ashes family. I fell in love with this family. With their jubilant greetings for Abyala. With their boisterous laughter as they teased. With their miraculous stories shared over lunch about how God had given a mute woman speech the day before. I laughed with them and cried with them, but still wondered, “am I really having an impact?”

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God answered me with this scripture.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
 to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
 and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
 instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:1-3

It was clear, I was to be at Beauty for Ashes Nepal, regardless of how much impact I felt I was having.

Months later, my husband and I were in a café dreaming about a business of our own.  Trade for Freedom was born that day.  Stay tuned for Part 2…