Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

3 April 2012

A Letter

Hi dad.

Starting last Monday and until this Sunday, I’m fasting. Drinking just juice and water, praying, meditating, dreaming about you waking up one day and knowing that God is real. It’s been tough, but He reminds me how much I love you and mom, and it gives me the motivation to keep going.

The other night God gave me a vision of you sitting at the kitchen table, saying the words “It’s like I’m living for the first time,” and I knew that you were talking about the fact that your life was transformed because you let God in. I can’t believe that I can even imagine scenes like that in my head. I used to not even be able to pray out loud for you and mom, because it seemed like such a distant possibility that you would ever encounter Him.

A few weeks ago I went to a thing called “Walk Thru The Bible” at Highrock. At the end of the day, the kids walked in to show us what they had learned that day. We stood and cheered for them as they walked up, and their faced beamed as they recited the 77 key words that sum up the old testament, knowing that their parents were watching with pride. As I cheered, my eyes filled up with tears. It seemed so unfair that I don’t get to experience this. Why couldn’t you have been a christian before I was born? Why do these kids get to grow up learning about God and spending Sundays at church? Why was I burdened with this? Why can’t I have a family that prays together? That worships together? I asked these questions to God as I looked at these 5 year old kids with jealousy. Jealous of the kind of Love and Happiness that they get to have while I only got love and happiness.

I know that you love me. I know that mom loves me. I know I had an amazing childhood. There is no question about that. But nevertheless, I had those questions bubbling up inside me.

There’s nothing that I want more than to be able to talk to you about my relationship with God. To really and truly express to you how I live, how I think, how I make decisions. You know me so well, but I hate the fact that I have to hide this giant part of my identity from you.

When I went home last spring break, you and mom told me that you think of me as “Elaine Kim,” not your daughter; that you love me and support me, but ultimately I am my own person. I am so lucky to have parents like you, that offer me this rare and remarkable relationship, but I long for the day that you see me as a child of God.

I try to picture us praying and worshiping together as a family, and it still feels like a distant dream. I am learning to be patient. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I get angry at your stubbornness. I get angry at the fact that you don’t understand Jesus the same way I do, that you make fun of the church, that you think christians are this or that. I get angry, but I love you more than that.

I wish I could actually tell you these words in person. That I could actually send you this letter, but I don’t have the courage. I’m afraid of what you would say, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t have the proper arguments or defenses of this God that I say I believe in. I’m afraid that you’ll say something that tears down my faith, I’m afraid that you’ll just see me as a brainwashed product of the church. I’m afraid that you’ll say that this is just a phase in my life, that I’ll grow out of it. I’m afraid that I’ll feel inadequate because I can’t say the things that miraculously and instantaneously make you a christian.

As I continue this fast, I’m reminded of how much I actually love you and mom. I know that I don’t tell you guys that enough, and I think that I am realizing that I wasn’t actually aware of how much I did love you. I am willing to skip all my meals for two weeks, to fall asleep with my stomach complaining, to give up on my personal indulgences for you. I don’t think that I realized that I could actually love this selflessly. All this is to praise God, and not myself, because I know that I definitely did not go through this or learn these lessons on my own.

Dad, I don’t know how long it will take for us to read this post together and praise God together. I don’t know how long it will be until our next conversation where I get to tell you about my love for God. I don’t know if that day is going to come at the end of this fast, or in 10 years, or maybe even on your death bed. I don’t know, and to be honest, it takes all the hope and faith that I have to not say that I don’t know if that day will ever come. It takes all my hope and faith to actually believe that there will be a day when you and I get to pray and worship together. It takes God to teach me how to even dream of a day when that will be a reality.

I love you. I love our family. We are all so broken, and I want so much for us to be able to come to God together in our brokenness.

Love,

Elaine

1 October 2011

El Amor Verdadero

Real love feels different when you receive it. This week, I received a package from the wonderful folks at Love146 full of homemade brownies, candies, and cards with encouraging words. Real love crosses boundaries, and real love passes through customs.

Real love feels different when you give it away. This week, I’ve been convicted to live out the things that I’ve been reading. The fact that I’m not taking action every day to love someone (genuinely) is starting to seem more and more insane. In fact, it’s starting to look downright illogical. Real love goes past laziness, social norms, language barriers, and selfishness.

Real love is really really difficult to discover and deliver. I’m always shocked at how easily I push back the day that I’ll actually live out what I know God is commanding me to do. Oh, I’ll give some money to the next homeless person I see on the street. I’ll write that letter to my friend later. Whenever I find these thoughts in myself — which is rather often — it sucks. There’s really no other way to say it. It sucks, and yet I’m not changing it. I know it’s illogical, yet I try so hard to say it’s logical. I need God’s help not just to serve, but to really, truly, want to serve.

Real love is embodied. The people who hold the Love of Jesus in their hearts just ooze with a certain kind of love. There’s a light in their smiles that can’t be found in any tooth whitening kit. They serve as if it’s what we were built to do. They see everyone for the beautiful creation that they are. In other words, they live like we’re all supposed to!

22 September 2011

Gafas de Dios

It’s silly to think that God is contained within borders. Try as we may to divide up our lives into different sections or periods, the truth is that it’s extremely brief, and the entire thing belongs to God.

Yes it’s one semester in Spain– and it’s one short part of my life. So far on this trip, He has constantly been challenging me to make decisions that have longer lasting impact. To not chase after the things that satisfy instantly but momentarily, but purse the things that will bear fruit for years to come. To build relationships even when it makes everything more complicated. To love when it’s hard. To see each person for the beautiful brother or sister that they are. Oh, what a challenge it is.

I feel like it’s a time of being slapped in the face. A time of coming face to face with my ungodly habits, limited capacity to love, pride, stubbornness, and selfishness. Of course, our Father isn’t one to put us through a challenge without walking with us every step of the way. He’s held my hand through comforting songs, loving spanish amigos, wonderful new communities, great novels (Crazy Love by Francis Chan).

I’m striving to see everything through gafas de Dios (God glasses), including myself. It’s embarrassing how many times I try to take them off to try to look more hip, or to try to convince myself that it’s better to see a blurry reflection than one that shows my crystal clear flaws. Whether it be duct tape, krazy glue, rubber bands, or discipline, I’m determined to keep these glasses on.

9 September 2011

Communicación

Being (almost) totally immersed in another language has made me realize how many forms of communication there are. We talk with words, but we also talk with our eyebrows, our hands, our smiles, our legs, our sound effects. As I try to navigate my way through conversations with the program staff, my madre española, and even my fellow estudiantes, I am aware of how grateful I am that facial expressions are universal. I think God wanted to make it a little easier for us all to communicate– also the universality makes me wonder just how literal the idea of being “made in His image” is. (Hmmm. What does He look like?)

Last night, a handful of the Universidad de Autónoma and Tufts students sat on the grass and talked– or rather, communicated. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of smiles, and a fair share of awkward glances. We played telephone with silly sentences and spanish tongue twisters, and no matter how radically the palabras changed as it was passed from ear to ear, it was clear that we were all sharing in something together. Expressions cross cultures; there is the confused look of total cluelessness as the mensaje goes from an estudiante español to an estudiante americano, which is exactly the same as the expression displayed as the message gets relayed to another Spanish student.

After asking God for guidance on what I should be doing this summer, He led me to this group — syncronations.org. They are a group that helps students studying abroad in Madrid communicate with Spanish students the story of Jesus Christ and His incredible, relentless, powerful Love. That motivates me to master this mountain called español. What better story to tell in any language?

3 September 2011

El Comienzo

Currently– sitting on my bed in Spain.

Todavía no parace real que yo estoy en España ahora. Hay muchas cosas similares y a vaces yo siento como yo estoy en un barrio de Los Ángeles donde hay muchas signos en español.

While I was typing that I was debating wether or not I should keep my blog in spanish or english during my semestre here. Pues, there will probably be a strange version of Spanglish that results. Hopefully– or not, depending on wether or not I actually have readership– there will be more ‘Span-‘ than ‘-glish’ in the posts towards the end of the semester.

Spent the first night exploring La Latina with Jeselín– una aventura to remember. The lights on the stone streets and handsome buildings are lovely; maybe it’s the enchantment of traveling or the image of Europe, but even the graffiti looks beautiful here. I’ve decided that the día I can understand the jokes and commentary hidden in the graffiti is the day I have fully understood the Spanish language and culture.

My mamá is a sweet 60 year old woman with a gentle spirit and kind smile. She bickers about her son’s awkwardness and her husband’s obsession with fútbol. I can’t wait to get to know her better and become her híja for the semester.

I want to be captivated by the signs of God in this country– I’m always left in awe when He reminds me of His omnipresence in this world! I hope to carry His light in me as a guide (especially because I already lost my Spanish Lonely Planet guidebook in the Atlanta aeropuerto).

21 August 2011

Summer of Love

What I shared this morning at Numa. Unfortunately & fortunately not word for word, since the phone I was reading off of died after the first few sentences.

 

Today, I’m going to talk to you about love.

I think that there are lots of different kinds of love. I’m sticking to the English language for today, so I’ll be using different typefaces to illustrate the various kinds of love that emerged in my life this summer.

For starters, there’s Love146. Love146, the home of my internship for the summer, is an organization that works to abolish child sex slavery and exploitation. Although I was a communications intern, mainly working on graphic design, I frequently came face to face with the painful and unfortunate reality of the modern day slave trade.

As I found myself delving deeper and deeper into this heartbreaking issue, I was especially struck by the stories of trafficking here in our own backyard—the United States. The “pimp and ho” culture that is so often glamorized in our music and movies is actually a thin and sickening guise for the trafficking and exploitation of children, and I do mean children under 18, for sex.

The stories behind these exploited girls are unfortunately, very predictable. They run away from broken homes of sexual, physical, substance and emotional abuse, and are approached by a smooth, handsome and seemingly loving man who tells them that they would like to be their “boyfriend” and “daddy.” I’ll save the rest of the story for personal conversations…

Whenever I hear this story, I hear this— a child, coming from a home with only distorted shadows of love, is charmed by the offer of a more full, tangible definition of love.

In other words, the problem of sex trafficking isn’t about “good and evil.” It’s about love & it’s potential for it to be twisted and distorted into something that is actually quite painful. The only solution? Love. And who is Love, but God?

There are several characteristics of God’s Love that is unique to Him. I’m constantly experiencing more and more dimensions of this love, but this summer, I’ve specifically learned about three— His love is: nonsensical, never-ending, and action-inspiring.

His love is nonsensical: Jesus loved even when it was awkward, inappropriate, and just plain bizarre. He talked to the woman at the well, even if He wasn’t “supposed to.” Jesus’ nonsensical love is the only solution that would ever consider offering Love to both the traffickers and the victims of sex-trafficking as the solution.

His love is never-ending: Jesus never ever stopped loving, even when He faced direct opposition. Our capacity to love is limited. His isn’t.

His love is action-inspiring. When we come face to face with God’s love, we don’t sit around with hearts in our eyes, we go out and act! We tell the good news, we share our own stories, we heal, we sing, we play, we abolish slavery for the second time.

I’ll end with this last note about love—

In my life, I can identify three main “loves”: my love for art, my love for social justice, and my love for God. This summer, I have finally seen a glimpse of what it means for all three of these paths to cross. When all three loves collide— my nonsensical love for art, my action-inspiring love for social justice, and my never-ending love for God— I begin the journey of understanding the immensely complex reality of Jesus’ Love.

11 August 2011

The Life

The meaning of love is fascinating in its infinite flexibility and ability to be modified and re-defined. At Love146, “Love is the foundation of our motivation.” I think that the same sentence could be used to describe a lot of things—all people are motivated by love, just different versions of it.

When I read the words of commercially exploited girls, I’m struck by the overt and powerful presence of love in the situation. In most cases, the girls come from situations in which love was seldom present, and when it was, was present in the form of fleeting visitations with foster parents, physical and emotional abuse, or in the concerned yet judgmental eyes of a neighbor. I think that we all have a deep craving for love—family, friends, romance. When a pimp approaches them with smooth and flattering words, luxurious gifts, and most importantly, unprecedented attention, the girls are understandably drawn towards him. This single man or woman, their trafficker, becomes the person that fills all the holes in the girls’ hearts—they become the single source of a love that should come from multiple people and relationships. They are simultaneously their boyfriend and their “daddy.”

There is a temptation to be appalled and frustrated when survivors say that they loved, or even still love, their trafficker. Upon a more careful observation however, it makes sense. Of course they love them— that relationship is what defined ‘love’ for them. In perspective, it was the most perhaps the most beautiful and tangible version or love that they had come across in their lives.

Both the survivors and the traffickers often refer to the commercial sex trade as “The Life.” The more I learn about this issue, the more appropriate this name seems to be. The girls and the pimps share “The Life,” or in other words, a functional and unique society nearly independent of the society it’s embedded in. Those involved in The Life have their own versions of the things that are unique to every other culture: economic systems, family structure, language, view of outsiders (those outside of The Life are often referred to as “squares”), and definitions of concepts like power, protection, and love.

Like all other groups of people, those in The Life, both the girls and the pimps, share an understanding of what ‘love’ is. This became apparent to me when I read the research done by Jody Raphael and Brenda Myers-Powell titled “From Victims to Victimizers: Interviews with 25 Ex-Pimps in Chicago” (September 2010). While I was reading the report, I found myself constantly forgetting that the interviews were with ex-pimps, not ex-prostituted girls. At first, I was mildly horrified—how could I confuse two completely different kinds of people? As I began to process the information, however, I realized that that wasn’t true: they weren’t two completely different kinds of people. Statistically, both the girls and pimps involved in The Life share similar household characteristics: domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, family members and neighbors involved in prostitution, and childhood physical and sexual abuse (Family Law Center Report, 2010). Even beyond the statistics, the ex-pimps are strikingly similar to the girls in their craving for respect, sense of importance, family, and love.

“First, it gave me power. Then it gave me respect, because everyone couldn’t do it and it gave you a sense of love.”

“I was attracted to the girls. I liked them and they liked me. We all had one main thing in common. We were hustling hard and wanted nice things. We came from sh—y places. It’s like we needed each other.”

“I created my own family, not the bas—ds I came from.”

This isn’t to excuse the actions of the traffickers— their actions are incredibly hurtful, inexcusable and leave a long lasting and painful scar in the lives of the girls. The realizations of their similarities helps open my eyes to the truth of what is needed in order to move towards the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation.

Love146 defines love as something that defends, protects, restores and empowers. Its mission is not to achieve abolition through punishment, but to serve justice through a stunning version of Love. I think that the most effective way to achieve abolition is to plug in this version of Love into the lives of those who do not receive it from another source. To give everyone the kind of Love that they deserve because a love that defends, protects, restores and empowers is powerfully transformative.

8 August 2011

Nonsensical Love

In my ongoing journey of learning more and more about the truths of sex slavery and exploitation, I feel like I’ve been hit with a barrage of information. Each documentary I watch or book I read, I’m faced with perspectives and potential solutions that are presented to be thoughtful, well-ground, logical. Of course, some of them are more well thought-out than others. The strange thing is, there aren’t any plans for solutions that I’ve come across that seem complete. There’s always one approach or another– not one clear solution but opinions, laws, programs, and organizational missions that clash and contradict one another. I’m left pining for my initial black-or-white view of the situation for the sake of having solid hope in a solution, relative ease in deciding which programs to support, and personal peace of mind.

What I’ve received is pretty much the opposite. I find my heart aching more and more for the traffickers and the pimps. The first “Tell Your Friends” session that Nicole led on the first day of my internship, the sentencing of Jarell Sanderson and Hassana Delia, the concentrated reading of Girls Like Us, the watching of Very Young Girls, the Task Force meetings with Jo and the other interns. They have all left me with the powerful, and quite frankly, sometimes unwanted conviction to offer love to the “bad guys” in the situation.

I’m constantly blown away at how Jesus loved, loves, and will love in the most inappropriate of times. He loves when it really, seriously, just doesn’t make sense. He also loves through actions that seem outrageous and bizarre.

How am I going to turn this conviction into action? I don’t know. I’m finding my place in the abolition movement and the kingdom of God, and I’m not sure that I’ll get to the end of that journey anytime soon. His unhindered creativity is immensely complicated, and I can only imagine what joys, passions, interests, challenges, and hungers He tucked away in my nooks and crannies of my soul when He created me.

There are so many offered maps on how to arrive at the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation. Love, more specifically the way Jesus defined and demonstrated Love, is the only one that rises beyond the locally logical solutions of the many separate groups of people who are working towards the same cause. It seems nonsensical, to offer Love to all, but His Love is the only solution untouched by the nonsense of our human hearts.

10 July 2011

Originality

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always embraced “different” as the best possible compliment I could ever receive.

The idea of originality is absolutely enchanting to me. It’s my siren song.
But like the siren song, it’s a myth.

I’ve come to learn that there is no such thing as true originality, at least not for us. People draw on what they know, what surrounds them, what they have experienced. So much of what forms our decisions are results of decisions that have been made for us, before we could walk, talk, or even breathe. As I dig deeper into sociology, it’s an interesting challenge to reconcile what I am learning in the classroom with what I am learning about God.

I find myself believing wholeheartedly that God has made me unique and placed specific passions in my heart. Simultaneously, I find myself believing wholeheartedly that the ways I am unique are the product of the of my socio-historical position. The problem is, I don’t have two hearts. It’s definitely not a zero-sum game though. Who’s to say that it wasn’t God who placed me in the societal location I was born into, moved into, and am currently living in now? I’m fearful of the idea that “God is in full, total control.” That He controls all things, and that it is He who is the reason why anything happens. To be honest, it sort of freaks me out because ultimately, that line of thought leads to the question of predestination.

For a long time I saw life as the image of two roads– there’s the one that was created by you and the world, and one that was created by God. You can create your or road, sure, but when you decide to become a Christian, that’s when you start walking on the other road. God has it all ready for you, but you’re the free-willed traveler that gets to choose which trail to hike.

Now the image I carry is more like a timeline. There’s our life here on earth, and then there’s our life in heaven. Life on earth is about living for yourself. Life in heaven is about living for God. What’s great is that I can take the second part of the timeline and dragggg it on over to the point on the timeline that I’m in now. I can begin to live my life in heaven, here, on earth.

There’s a line in the song Beautiful by Phil Wickham that reads “When we arrive at eternity’s shore / Where death is just a memory and tears are no more.” That’s incredible to me. To think of death as not the definite end of one life and the beginning of another, but as a passing moment, an event like any other, something will become just a memory. If I live my life here on earth as if I am in heaven– with eyes pointed to Him and not myself– I imagine dying and arriving at eternity’s shore just being like any other day. Maybe that Wednesday I watched a movie and then went to a restaurant with my family, and then on Thursday I died and then went to eternity’s shore. I want to live on earth in a way that is so much like the self-less, God-centered life in heaven that there is no moment of transition.

28 June 2011

Sticking Around

It’s easy to find hundreds of people to are willing to click a couple a buttons to “show support” for a certain issue.
It’s incredibly rare to find someone who is willing to stick around.

This weekend, thanks to Love146, I’ve been able to meet many striking individuals who are willing to do that– to stick around.

Glenn Miles, the head of Asia Preventions, has been living in Cambodia since the late 80’s. He’s committed to the protection of children, and to finding a solution to the problem of child sex trafficking. He doesn’t want to just put a band-aid on the problem, but dig deeper and work towards true healing. In his brief presentation of his work in Asia, he mentioned that one of his big roles is to ask and answer the difficult questions. Especially in dealing with a dark issue like child sex trafficking, many are too afraid to go beyond the basic questions; none of us are all too eager to expose ourselves to stories of pain, heartbreak, shocking truths. It’s amazing to meet someone who is willing to struggle with difficult questions, to take the time to actually understand different perspectives, and to stick around long enough to turn that tangled mess into a collaborative solution.

During Glenn’s 50th birthday party, I got to wander around and listen to people talk about what they know and love. One of these conversations was with Jay, Stephanie’s husband. He works with YWAM, focusing on outreach into Native American communities. We got into a conversation about short term missions, and what actual benefits and, perhaps more commonly, harm comes from them. When a small team of 10 are just rush through a community, what change do they actually create? Sure, maybe the trash is cleaned out of the back yard, but have the people in that community actually seen a representation of His love?

Often, it seems as though short term missions are more beneficial to the missionaries than the people at the “mission site.” I must admit, I have loved my two short trips to Cambodia. I remember those two summers as times of spiritual growth and a time when I get a tiny taste of what it’s like to be outside my comfort zone. When I think about the way Kakada, Srey Mai, and all those other wonderful, adorable children were crying as I left however, I question the benefits of my trip. I had a great time, but what did I put those kids through? Okay, maybe I gave them a week of fun games and worship songs, but I also gave them one more reason to cry, one more reason to say goodbye, and maybe– although I sure hope not– one more reason to think that no one loves them enough to actually stick around.

Jesus asked his disciples to “love as he loved.” I’m beginning to realize that this means to love even when it’s difficult. To love even if it means we get hurt. More than anything, what stands out to me in the story of Jesus and His travels is that He loved even when it didn’t make sense to love. He was willing to love even when it was probably not “appropriate” for the situation.

It’s the first day of my fourth week as an intern at Love146. It’s definitely been a process of learning even when I don’t want to go any further. I’m delving deeper and deeper into the current state of child sex trafficking, the broader issues of trafficking and poverty, the creative process, but I know I have so much further to go. I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who have made the commitment to go that distance, and are continuously, courageously, going.

 

– Edit –
Here it is posted on the Love146 Blog: http://love146.org/blog/sticking-around