I have some exciting news to share – in June, I will be going to Cambodia for 10 days!
Before I get into the details, let me back up a little bit…
My attitude toward life has really been transformed in 2015. I started off this year feeling that my focus in 2014 was fun. And I definitely have great memories from last year. But this year, I felt convicted that my focus should be less on fun and more on fruitfulness. I wanted to be less selfish, and to spend more time serving others. I picked Philippians 2:3-4 to be my key verse for 2015:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
So, I began taking small steps toward this. I began serving at every opportunity that came my way at church. I sought out organizations (Christian and secular) in my neighborhood that needed help and began applying to volunteer. For so long, I put off volunteering anywhere because I wasn’t sure it was “the right organization” for me. At some point, I realized that God doesn’t really care where I serve, he just cares that I do it!
Human trafficking also got put on my radar at some point. I didn’t know much about it, but I decided I wanted to learn more. I realized it is not only a big problem in Chicago, but globally – human trafficking is the second most lucrative criminal activity behind drug trafficking world-wide, generating profits estimated at $32 billion per year.
It turns out a friend of a friend was part of an anti-human trafficking cause group here in Chicago, which I decided to get involved with. It is still in its infancy, but I am incredibly excited about the future of this group and what we may accomplish, by the grace of God, including building a safe house for women leaving a life of prostitution (there are currently only 12 beds in the entire state of Illinois designated for sex trafficking victims, despite the fact that somewhere between 16,000 to 25,000 women and children are prostituted every day in Chicago alone).
The cause group recommended a book to me, Half The Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They warned me it would be a difficult read, but I was still unprepared for the stories contained in that book. There were times I wanted to cry and times I want to be sick. The way in which women are forced to live in most of the rest of the world is just appalling. Everything from sex trafficking to female genital mutilation to honor killings to acid attacks to mass rape. It is absolutely horrifying. I had been so naive about the atrocities that millions of women are subjected to every single day. There are also two, 2 hour documentary films about Half The Sky, which I streamed on Netflix. At the time I was reading this book, I also was reading in the book of James for a church study. Three verses in particular convicted me:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. –James 2:14-17
My pity and my sorrow over what these women experience was worthless if not accompanied by action. As I continued to pray and to educate myself, I felt so strongly convicted that it wasn’t enough to just write a check and let someone else do the dirty work – I wanted to go see this first-hand for myself. I wanted the reality of what these women face to be real to me. It’s so easy to be removed from what is going on in the rest of the world – you see something on the news or on Facebook and you think, “Oh, that’s terrible,” and then you move on and forget about it. You don’t truly comprehend that these are human beings, just like you, that live their lives like that every hour of every day, not just for the 5 second film clip or 5 minute news story.
And oh how I was humbled as I realized how utterly blessed my life is. How the things I take for granted are really extravagant luxuries compared to how most of the rest of the world lives. I felt compelled to take the ways in which I have been blessed and use them to help those who are less fortunate.
And, through divine guidance, I found this mission trip. We will be in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from June 18-28th. Cambodia is one of the places that really tugged on my heart, particularly when watching the documentary.
Sobering Facts About Cambodia
- Cambodia is situated in South-East Asia and is home to 13.5 million people. It is estimated that only 36% of the population has access to safe drinking water, and 32.7% of the population is illiterate.
- Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking and has a significant child sex tourism problem.
- Rape is increasing in Cambodia, and most victims of rape in Cambodia are children. The median age of rape victims in 2010 was 12 years old.
- A UNICEF survey concluded that 35% of Cambodia’s 15,000 prostitutes are children under the age of 16.
- Some children are sold by their parents, while others are lured by what they think are legitimate job offers like waitressing, but then are forced into prostitution.
- Young girls working in brothels are in effect, sex slaves; they receive no money, only food, and armed guards stop them from running away. Children are often held captive, beaten, drugged, and starved to force them into prostitution.
This trip to Cambodia is a medical mission trip. We will be having daily clinics, teaching community health and trafficking prevention, and starting small discipleship groups among the followers there. Those are really all of the details I have right now, but I’m sure June will be here before I know it.
And now, humbly, I ask for your help.
The cost of this trip is $3,200. I feel like God is leading me to Cambodia, but that is still a large sum of money. I have begun reaching out to my networks to ask for support, but it is never easy to ask for others to financially support you. Although the trip is not until June, half of the money is due by March 16th so that they can purchase our plane tickets.
For those of you who are moved to help, any donation, even of the smallest amount is so incredibly appreciated. If you’d like to contribute or get more information, my fundraising page is here.
This is going to be a life-changing trip, that I’m sure of. And of course, I will be writing all about it when I get back so I can share it with you all!