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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We're Baaaaacccccckkkkkkk!


You could say it's pretty cold and chilly here in Melbourne right now, but from our perspective, we've experienced nothing but WARMTH!

Okay it's true the weather is not quite as hot as what we've become accustomed to in Thailand, but the hearts and homes of our family and friends have been radiating so much love that it's been easy to overlook the temperature outside and simply soak up the goodness and familiarity of our Australian home.

We've already had our first few speaking engagements this week, in fact David is currently out speaking at a Leadership Training Night as I write this.  It's been so wonderful to share about our work in Thailand and the lives that are being transformed at the ZOE Children's Home.

If you want to catch us, we'll be at the following churches this Sunday July 1st.

Narre Warren Baptist (10am) 
Narre Warren Baptist~ Latin American service (1pm)
St John's Anglican Church Cranbourne (6.30pm)




Monday, June 25, 2012

Our Actions Count... Part 4


~Help Stop Human Trafficking at the Source~

Well here it is- Part 4.  I hope you’ve been following along because we’re at the end now of a four-part series entitled ‘Our Actions Count’.  It’s for parents, teachers, care-givers, grandparents and anyone really with them aim of thrashing out some ideas that will:

4.   Help stop human trafficking at the source.

In Part 1, I wrote about exercising delayed gratification.  I believe that when we practice this, we are also learning self-control.  In such an instant world, where we can have what we want, when we want it ... this skill is actually a difficult one to develop.
Media, such as magazine ads, TV, video games, and music videos leave lasting effects in our minds.  Most of the messages we receive tell us that we don’t need to wait… we can have it all and we need it all now!
I really like these ideas adapted from www.freetoshop.org that outline some of the many ways that we can stop human trafficking at the source.
1.  Understand that human trafficking victims are often forced to participate in pornography and prostitution against their will.  They are the victims of criminal activity.
2.  Recognize the danger of pornography as being unhealthy and addictive.  Pornography, time and time again, sexualizes women and instills the belief that the sex acts portrayed are normal.  It also repeatedly degrades and humiliates women with acts of violence coupled with pain and suffering.
3.  Realize that prostitution inflicts enormous physical and psychological damage on the victim and that sexual abuse is the norm.
4.  Educate your children about better entertainment options than going to strip clubs, raunchy bachelor parties and x-rated movies.  (Encourage your sons to find other ways to express manhood and male bonding that doesn’t involve male dominance or control over women).
5.  Just like discussed in Part 2 of this series, parents should “raise the bar” for their sons by having a high expectation of how their sons show respect for women, sex and their family.
6.  Be a good role model for your children in your actions, words and deeds.  Fathers and older brothers should drop the “good ole boys” view of sexual exploits and attitudes that are often found in male dominated environments such as sports bars, golf courses, fraternities, locker rooms, etc.
7.   Find a resource, suited to your family, that would aid in the discussion and education of what sustainable, loving relationships and healthy, fulfilling sex should look like for both your sons and daughters.  Parents really shouldn’t avoid talking about sex, pornography and choices with their children otherwise they will simply get an unhealthy view of these issues from someone else.  For a starting place, check out the Focus on the Family website. 
8.  Learn more about human trafficking and educate others while engaging in activism that supports the end of modern day slavery.
9.  Support anti-trafficking organizations (like ZOE) as well as policies and laws that help to stem the tide of modern day slavery and human trafficking.
10.  YOU CAN create change using your gifts, talents and knowledge through the use of the written word, public speaking, volunteerism and responsible consumerism.
11. Help your child/teen protect themselves from being exposed to unwanted pornographic material by setting clear, consistent rules with them around the use of technology.
12. Get familiar with technology. If your kids are using it, so should you. Make sure you understand concepts like email, texting, IMing, gaming, social networking, phone features and web cameras.  Discuss Internet safety frequently with your children and at every age level.
13. Ask your kids about Facebook and MySpace. Check your child's privacy settings.  Many people still have personal data exposed and they don’t even know it.
I’m hoping this series has encouraged you, as much as it has me, to keep working on both developing self-control and practicing delayed gratification within your family.  
I desperately want to raise boys that don’t treat women as objects but learn to be real men with pure motives. 
I am excited to see what will happen as we keep talking about these sensitive issues like pornography and sexual exploitation and how (if we can change the moral fiber of our communities) we can bring about real change and decrease the staggering numbers of people being trapped in modern day slavery.
OUR ACTIONS REALLY DO COUNT!
Please raise awareness of these issues by SHARING this series with your circle of influence.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

He Loves Me!


Some thoughts from last week...


Tired-three-year-old.  Check.
Frustrated mother.  Check.
Multiple tantrums.  Check. 
I needed Spencer to have a sleep on Friday if there was going to be any chance of going in to ZOE for church.  So, I literally tried everything I could think of to “encourage” him to a state of slumber- but NOTHING worked {sigh}.
After all my efforts failed and I felt like my tried and true calming methods had completely let me down; I began to realize that getting him to sleep actually had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him.  His choice to be disobedient to my repeated commands to lay still, close his eyes and stop wiggling made me see that in the end, you can’t actually force anyone to sleep if they won’t comply.
And so, after a good couple of hours, I let go of any hope that sleep would come and conceded to let him get up and return to playing.
I then sat back and watched the trail of destruction as one tired, frustrated, determined, feisty, Hulk-like child re-entered the lounge room to attack play with, his older siblings.
If I thought he’d seemed worn out and cranky before rest-time, he was ten times more grumpy and out-of-control afterwards!
And I was left feeling really mad.  Why didn’t he just let me snuggle him, pat him, listen to me explain why he needed a sleep… or at the very least just lay still and listen to the soothing music I had put on and just have had a rest?
I gave him time to fall asleep by himself, I offered to sit in his room with him, I showed him every way that I could think of to encourage him to do the right thing … because I love him so much and I know what’s best for him.
But in the end, he made his own choice, used his free-will and went against both my advice and the command to do what I had asked.

I don’t know what shocks me more though, the thought of my child completely refusing to do what I had asked or the realization that me {as an adult} still has times where I totally refuse to do what God asks of me.
When I read in the bible the ‘why’ behind what He requires or when He gently reminds me that He’ll stay by my side or when He provides blessings and shows me in so many different ways that He knows what I need and that His requests are out of an unbelievable, unending, mind blowing love for me.
How do I, after all that, still completely go against His advice and His commands and just totally do my own selfish thing?  … thinking I know better… than God… the Creator… of the whole universe.
Now just to clarify, I haven’t stolen or murdered or coveted my neighbor’s new car BUT there are still times when I meet a stranger and never “get around” to sharing my faith.  There are times when I’ve driven past the needy and not stopped to share what I had.  There are times when my desire for “good behavior” from my kids exceeded my display of understanding and compassion.  And when idols {no I haven’t converted to Buddhism} like Facebook and blogging and my family’s needs and the pursuit of a tidy house have distracted me from keeping God as number 1.
And this saddens me more… much, much more than my son’s disobedience.
But thankfully this is not where ‘it’ ends.
I am looking at my little boy who even as he refuses to say sorry to his sister for his rough handling of her, even as he throws another toy in anger and pokes out his tongue AGAIN… even though he does all these things - I still love him.
I’m madly in-love with him.  He’s my boy.
There’s nothing he could do or say that would make me love him less.

And even more than I can fully understand right now is the head-knowledge that I have a Heavenly Father who is crazy in love with me too.
That even through my selfishness, my sinful nature, my lack of self-control; the creator of the UNIVERSE loves me.  He really does.

AND there’s nothing any of US can do or say to make Him love US less.  I really believe that!

My kids memorized John 3:16 a few weeks ago.  It's been a nice reminder.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Actions Count... Part 3


~How Pornography and Sex Trafficking are LINKED~




If you’ve just joined us, we’re mid way through a four-part series entitled ‘Our Actions Count’.  It’s for parents, teachers, care-givers, grandparents and anyone really with them aim of thrashing out some ideas that will:

1. Help kids learn to delay gratification.
2. Steer boys to manhood.
3. Show how pornography and sex trafficking are linked.
4. Help stop human trafficking at the source.

Today we’re looking at Part 3 in this series, which shows the links between pornography and sex trafficking.  You may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Do you ever wonder what a day is like for the girl who finds herself with a price over her head, abandoned by a relative who said they cared? 
What's it like for the teenager trapped serving clients, who has never known what it feels like to {really} be loved and protected? 
What's it like to be viewed as nothing but a commodity?  Useful only for the amount of money you make?
Do you?

These are the cries that ZOE Children’s Home responds to.
We hear so many testimonies from children who share how being rescued by ZOE totally transformed their life.  
How being loved unconditionally gave them freedom beyond just the physical sense and how being accepted in to a family has provided a chance to develop in to the person they were created to be.

And yet my heart still breaks for the tens of thousands of children who know no love right now.
The little ones who need a breakthrough... who need rescuing AND who need us to keep fighting for the their rights to be loved and cared for…

Just for the record, this topic of pornography and how it links to sex trafficking is not something that I usually go around talking about.  However, considering it is such a significant problem in today’s culture and so many people shy away from speaking about it, I think it needs to be discussed.
We must understand that unless our society’s beliefs, values and actions towards women undergo a massive change; sex trafficking will continue.
Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and its affect on trafficking urges me a stand up and say, we HAVE to be aware about what is going on around us…. AND not just that, we have to do something!
“While the statistics can seem overwhelming, it is important to remember that every number {of people trafficked} represents the life of a victim”. (A21 Campaign)
I recently read this book called, Porn Nation by Michael Leahy. 
Woah! What an eye-opener.
Michael is the founder of BraveHearts whose mission is to educate people about sexual addiction and the sexualization of our culture.
It’s also to inspire those who struggle and give their loved ones hope to be able to seek help.  The author Michael is a recovering sex addict who was exposed to porn as a child by some school-yard bullies.
I finished the book literally shell-shocked and wondering, “How on earth do I protect my boys from this?”
But the truth is, it’ll be hard for them to escape. 
We live in a world drenched with images that sexualize girls and women. And where (despite parent’s best efforts) it is not always possible to control what kids view through print, the media, computers, magazines, books and movies.
Media, such as magazine ads, TV, video games, and music videos can leave lasting effects on children.
I read that on average children aged 13 to 18 spend more than 72 hours a week using electronic media—
defined as the Internet, mobile phones,
television, music and video games.

But more disturbingly I saw a statistic that said over 75% of parents actually have no clue what their kids do online. (xxxchurch.com)
To those who say pornography is victimless, I would wholeheartedly disagree.

Pornography reduces women and even children to mere sex objects and has the power to destroy individuals, families and communities.

HOW? 

 It is so addictive!

Adult pornography creates a trap that is difficult to escape. It entices viewers to consume more and more smut and to delve deeper and deeper into more graphic and obscene material.   (J. Matt Barber)
It is so easy!
Being accessible, affordable, and anonymous makes Internet pornography especially destructive. 
And it’s never too hard to find sites either; spam emails find ways of luring Internet uses to porn sites all the time!
I didn’t know this, but there are more than 260 million pages of pornographic content on the Internet. 
But, what’s the link with sex trafficking?
Laura Lederer, former Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons for the U.S. State Department, thinks there is a vital connection between pornography and sex trafficking.
She says, “Pornography is a brilliant social marketing campaign for commercial sexual exploitation”.  But goes on to clarify, “Not all, or even most, pornography is created by traffickers. But a key ingredient to commercial sex is the belief that people (women especially) are sexual commodities, and Internet pornography is the ideal vehicle to teach and train this belief”.
Noel Bouche, Vice President of pureHOPE says, “It drives people to the place where they become comfortable with commercial sex”.
Not saying that all porn consumers endorse human trafficking, but Noel suggests that by their actions, they do silently endorse the objectification of women.
“Pornography promotes rights violations not only of the female partners, friends, acquaintances, and relatives of the men who consume pornography, but also of the women who participate in its production. This is because the acts caught on film in much pornography are allegedly coerced through intimidation and money: sex forced on real women so that it can be sold at a profit to be forced on other real women”.  (Catharine MacKinnon)
Focus on the Family, outlines 5 Stages of Addiction.
            Early exposure. Most guys who get addicted to porn start early. They see the stuff when they are very young, and it gets its foot in the door.
            Addiction. Later comes addiction. You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You're hooked. You can't quit.
            Escalation. After a while, escalation begins. You start to look for more and more graphic porn. You start using porn that would have disgusted you when you started. Now it excites you.
            Desensitization. Eventually, you start to become numb. Even the most graphic, degrading porn doesn't excite you anymore. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again but can't find it.
          Acting out sexually. At this point, many men make a dangerous jump and start        acting out sexually. They move from the paper and plastic images of porn to the real world…
I’ve also heard it said that when travelling overseas, in a foreign or exotic country, some tourists feel more of a sense of freedom and anonymity that seems to make being sexually irresponsible somehow okay.
A Call to Action!
In the final part of this series, I’ll look at some ways we can help to stop human trafficking at the source.

Please check back soon for the fourth and final post in this series.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Our Actions Count... Part 2

~Steering Boys to Manhood~

At the moment I am posting something close to my heart.  It’s a four-part series entitled ‘Our Actions Count’.  It’s for parents, teachers, care-givers, grandparents and anyone really with them aim of thrashing out some ideas that will:

    2.   Steer boys to manhood.
    3.   Show how pornography and sex trafficking are linked.
    4.   Help stop human trafficking at the source.

Today we’re looking at Part 2 in this series, Steering Boys to Manhood, but you may want to read Part 1 first.

From an early age, our eldest son has loved listening to stories about how my husband and I met. 
He eagerly tunes in when we reflect about how we "courted", the dates we went on, Dave’s proposal and how his father went about “wooing” his mother
We give him both perspectives; Dave’s recount of the effort he went to before a date and mine from that of a young woman looking to be valued and romanced. 
Bit by bit, over the years, we’ve revealed more stories to him and each time he sits wide-eyed and laps them up and bursting to ask questions. 
I love seeing how my husband is demonstrating to him what it means to be a gentleman and how he teaches both our boys about how to treat others. 
The other day I walked in to overhear Dave describing to our sons in detail how he’d wash and clean out his car before picking me up to go out, how he'd make sure he'd showered and made himself presentable. How he'd always come to the front door to pick me up… and the list went on.  He also told them the why behind his actions. 
And he continually uses words of affirmation towards me, building me up and honoring me in front of our children.
We also have a daughter and what better person for our sons to be able to practice on than her?  
Even from very young ages, both our sons have always noticed when Eliana and I make an effort to get dressed up nicely, have a haircut or wear something new. 
When their sister gets dressed up in a pretty party dress, her tutu or something fancy, they go all out to treat her like their princess. 
Part of this may be inbuilt in the way they’ve been created but I believe a big part of it is also the example that is set to them each day from their father.  My husband’s actions towards both our daughter and I are always tender, loving and protective.
It is often said, "the way a boy treats his mother is the way that he'll treat his wife."
I recounted a story to our boys just the other day about how one of the first things that really stood out to me about their dad on our very first date was the way he so respectfully greeted and treated his sisters.  Soon after I also saw the way he honored his mother and grandmother too and without him knowing it, his actions spoke volumes to me. 
As parents of two young boys, it is our responsibility and desire to teach our sons how to respect the girls and women around them in their lives as well build relationships with pure motives
In our opinion, it’s never too early to start instilling integrity, politeness, consideration, courtesy and gentleness in preparation for their lives ahead.  Manners are both "caught" and "taught" as children observe the way their parents show courtesy and express gratitude to each other.
Our sons are watching.
Let's prepare our boys to be men. Real men.
“Daily examples of respect, kindness, consideration, honor, generosity, empathy, charity, compassion and grace are the most profound gifts you can bestow upon your children” Kay West.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our Actions Count… Part 1


~Helping kids to delay gratification~

It’s easy to see how instant gratification has become the norm isn’t it?  We live in a world where we want everything and we want it straight away

I know I’m guilty of this.

Dave still teases me about how when we were newly weds and we’d be looking for furniture or something. 
After ordering the piece we wanted we’d be told we’d have to wait a month or so until the order was ready, and all the while, he just knew I’d be wondering,
“How much is it for the one on display?  The one that’s different… in the wrong colour…and not quite the right size? ... Could we take it today... now ?”

I’ve been mulling over a few things lately.  
Reading and stewing and trying to make sense of a lot of things.  When I started to try to put it all in to words, I realized it was a LOT! 

So I have divided up my thoughts in to a four part series entitled ‘Our Actions Count’.  It’s for parents, teachers, care-givers, grandparents and anyone really with them aim of thrashing out some ideas that will:

     1.   Help kids learn to delay gratification.
     2.   Steer boys to manhood.
     3.   Show how pornography and sex trafficking are linked.
     4.   Help stop human trafficking at the source.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

We get used to living in an “instant” world: instant messaging, texts, emails, fax, Internet, food, banking, information, wealth… the list goes on. 

We want it all NOW!

I’m know when we got married, we had way more than what our parents started out with as newly weds.  Now a days it’s very common to see couples beginning married life with brand-new everything.  They instantly have all the things that their parents and grandparents worked a lifetime to acquire. 
As parents, we must ask ourselves, are we guilty of relentless giving to our children who feel entitled to have it all now and yet never really seem grateful for what they do have?


Every day, little children are bombarded with media messages, cleverly created advertisements to cause them to hunger after all the latest games, toys, technology and fashion.  
As they get older, they become drenched with messages telling them how to be cool and what to do to be acceptable and “normal”.

Susan Linn, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says, "Parents and children are living in a commercially driven culture that glorifies conspicuous consumption, and that's harmful".

“Those messages persuade parents and kids they can't be happy without certain brands or products”, she said.

"People are buying into that belief that what makes a child happy is buying them things," Linn said. "But the research tells us that things don't make us happy."

And so I’m left wondering…what are we teaching our children?  What messages are we subtly sending if our phone beeps during dinner-time and we race to see who sent us a message, if we insist on same day delivery, if we give our kids everything they want straight away.

Having it all now cannot possible teach a child delayed gratification, can it?
A precious friend sent our children a generous amount of money last year.  Well, Dave and I knew that our eldest son had outgrown his bicycle.  His friends knew it too and had occasionally teased him about how small his old bike was compared to their newer and bigger ones.  So when this money came through, with the specific instruction to buy something for each of the children, we instantly wanted to go out and buy our son that new bike he needed and put his suffering to an end.
After some discussion though we reconsidered, deciding to postpone the purchase of the bike until Christmas time (a few months later) to help our son learn about this very issue of delayed gratification.  
Those few months of ‘enduring’ what he’d outgrown definitely made him all the more thankful when the time finally came to own a bigger bike. 
So what else can we do to help our children in this area?
Here’s just a few ideas:

-Create opportunities that will allow your child to interact with other children less fortunate than themselves.  This will help to keep their needs and desires in perspective.  Villages, slums, poor communities, foster care, orphanages, camps for disadvantaged kids… there’s opportunity all around.

- Spend time playing games, cards, going on dates or just hanging out and talking with your child.  This way they will learn that “getting things” isn't the only way to feel loved and special.

-Recycle or fix toys and clothing that break, wear out or become outdated.   Model this by doing the same with your belongings.  You don’t have to update your phone every 6 months for a better one.

- Limit consumption and help your child set goals and save up their money for earning desired things.

- Examine your own buying habits and values, because your children can't help but inherit them.

- Steer away from always buying store-bought toys that do everything. Challenge your kids to create a game from two pencils, marbles, a ruler or scraps of paper.

I’m sure there’s more… What others ideas have you got?  Please leave us a comment.

And stay tuned for Part 2 of Our Actions Count. 
It will be all about ‘Steering boys to manhood’.