I cannot believe I am starting my third week here in Tauranga. I honestly don't know where to begin. Although it's only been a couple short weeks, SO much has changed with how I think and see this world.
My base is one of the most beautiful places in the world! To be honest, this country is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Everything here seems magical. The grass is softer than grass back home (I'm not kidding), the rollings hills are lush and green, the sun seems to be shining constantly, there are sheep EVERYWHERE, the people are kind and genuine, in our backyard is a valley and in that valley we have a beautiful waterfall, the trees are majestic, the way the stars illuminate the night sky here is stunning and that's only my initial observations.
I live in a room with five INCREDIBLE human beings!! I am not kidding. I have no idea how I got so lucky. I feel like I have known these ladies my whole life. We are some of the most sarcastic human beings on the planet and it rules! I love them so much. It blows my mind that I get to live life with them for the next few months. It already makes me so sad knowing it's possible we won't be together on outreach. Actually, it's very likely we won't be together on outreach, but that makes me appreciate the time I have with them now even more.
We spent the first week getting to know the layout and function of the base, shared life stories with one another, and discussed the role of Justice Reach (my specific YWAM school). The three days we took to tell life stories was heartbreaking. Hearing the situations people have found themselves in throughout their lives was rough for someone whose initial reaction involves empathy. Throughout these mentally challenging days, one thing seemed to keep jumping out: You are not alone. I don't know how many individuals shared the fact that they felt isolated. They thought they were the only ones to ever experience and feel the things they went through and felt . When they shared what was really on their hearts they were automatically supported. Their feelings were validated and they were encouraged by the group, but most importantly by those who experienced the same type of pain. Incredible bonds were made throughout these three days. We became a family who valued vulnerability. I know this is a blessing and that not every person or group will be so kind, but I want you to know there is freedom and peace involved when you have the courage to be vulnerable. So find a group or specific person to be open and honest with, don't let the Devil trick you into keeping everything inside. Be vulnerable, allow your experiences to change you not define you.
There's so much I could talk about, more details and stories to be told, internal convictions and revelations to be discussed, but there's one experience that broke me, shaped me, and opened my eyes in a way nothing else has yet to do here. This is what I like to call HungerGames2K15: Justice edition. This past Friday my Justice DTS group was told to gather outside. From there our leaders proceeded to tell us we had five minutes to grab a garbage bag, pack a select few items (12 to be exact), and come back to our meeting place before the next task. From there we were taken down to the valley and split into three families. The only information given to us was that we were all refugees taken away from our homes to live on an island together, then we were left to fend for ourselves. We had beans and rice for food, sleeping bags for protection at night, pots to boil water from the river to drink and each other for entertainment. We had no idea how long we were going to be there or what situation would present itself next, but it was very clear to us the purpose of the simulation: make justice personal & allow God to break your heart for those who aren't being heard.
I could simply give you the short version of the story and tell you we spent 48 hours "living off the land," two very cold nights sleeping under the stars with one another, we all smelled due to not having deodorant, showers, or toothbrushes, we learned a lot about ourselves and others, and everyone survived, but that wouldn't be fun or completely honest. In all seriousness I have never learned so much in a few days than I did during this experience. I am SO grateful for the time I spent "being" a refugee. We each had roles within our families to play. I was the oldest daughter at age 19 and my role was to provide for my family by selling my body. Staying in character was easy for some people, but needless to say I had NO idea how to act out my character's role. So I did the only thing I could do, I asked God to show/take me into the heart and mind of a prostitute. I spent over an hour at the base of the waterfall writing everything down in my journal, sobbing over the heart our Heavenly Father shared with me about those who are exploited and abused. He showed me a lot during this time. Along with giving me a deeper passion for justice. Here are a few adjectives I wrote down during this time that I felt God was using to show me the heart and mind of a sex slave: dirty, unworthy, lost, neglected, forgotten, hopeless, afraid, abused, ugly, stuck, judged, frustrated, exposed, alone, misunderstood, mistreated, worthless, violated. These women are broken, physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Their bodies aren't seen as a beautiful temple. They are seen as an empty vessel where the only sole purpose is to allow men to do whatever they please, whenever they please, in order to get a few minutes of satisfaction. While in return these women receive what feels like a lifetimes worth of pain, shame, guilt, hate & hopelessness. They are only seen for what beauty they portray on the outside, the possibility of immediate satisfaction, and the ability to extort power and control, not for who they are or the beauty they hold within. Sex is an act of love and love is something that should fill you up, change you for the better, make you whole. Jesus is the perfect example of perfect love, but we fail to love like Him, to love well. These women are raped several times a day and that takes something away from them. Every single time. It leaves them emptier and emptier until they have nothing left. Their identity has been stripped away and they feel nothing. They are hollow and numb.
God wrecked me in a very real way. He broke my heart all over again for these women. Although this was a "game" for us, it's not for a HUGE amount of individuals in our world today. This is their life. This is what they were born into without a choice. This is their reality. They are faced with unthinkable circumstances and impossible decisions every single day. For those of us who are privileged enough to be born in a first world country, I hope you know we were born in extraordinary times with extraordinary resources. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE REALITIES!!!!!! Justice isn't making people pay for what they have done. Justice is taking action to make people see what they are doing is wrong and demand a change. I am in love with justice, because God is a God of justice and I am SO thankful for that part of His character. I have no idea what is next here for me, but I am beyond grateful for these incredible first two weeks I've experienced.
I love you all. I will write again soon and try to share photos with you of my time here so far.