Advent Week One: Shelter (Luke 21:25-26, 28)

By Rev. Angel L. Sullivan1stAdventlemur


This series of posts for Advent is based on the lectionary readings for each Sunday.

Luke 21:25-26, 28

 

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a man share his life story. He said, “I lost everything. I lost my job, home, my wife left me, and I have not seen my siblings in years. I have no children. I have nothing.” I could see in his eyes and hear in his speech that he was scared. His present life had much uncertainty, and that life was not the one that he had ever envisioned for himself.

Advent 1 pic 1Everything that was familiar to him was gone. As I listened to him, I thought about the passage in Luke 21:25-26 that tells us that we will have a sign of the coming age where our nations will be in anguish, people will faint from terror, and “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” We have a here a foretelling that, as individuals and a collective body, all that we are familiar with will vanish. Our physical world that was set in place long before our existence will one day cease to exist.

When that day comes the Lord Advent 1 pic 2reminds us that he is near: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” (Luke 21:28). We live in a physical world where our bodies and our minds cry out for comfort, but it is our spiritual beings that are of most value. When all is stripped away, all that we have left is our spiritual selves. When we are scared, in pain, our bodies and world decaying, it is an opportunity for our souls to embrace God on a deeper level. It may possibly be in that moment that we begin to have real certainty, because all that we have is in God. So, as the seasons change, as the oceans roar, and as the stars begin to fade be of good courage, because the Lord Jesus Christ is near.

 

AngelSullivan2013smRev. Angel L. Sullivan serves as national president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries and is Staff Chaplain at St. Joseph’s Hospital-Bay Care Health Systems, in Tampa, Florida.

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Partnering in the Abolition of Human Trafficking

Fields of Mudan Production Still

Human trafficking. We all are aware of the devastation, pain and greed associated with this atrocity and the mark it continues to make on our country, whether in cities or small towns. As American Baptist Women, you had a four year emphasis with this focus (“Break the Chains: Slavery in the 21st Century,” 2007-2011). I know God is using you in mighty ways as you band together to make a difference as women who care and who exercise God’s heart in a broken and hurting world. Now you can join with several million Baptist women as you continue to wage war in the area of human trafficking! Let me explain.

American Baptist Women’s Ministries is one of the member bodies represented in the North American Baptist Women’s Union (NABWU) consortium. We are a collaboration of the women’s departments of 17 Baptist denominations/organizations across Canada and the US (see www.nabwu.org for more information.) If you consider all of the women who make up these groups, we connect well over four million women! Our mission statement is “encouraging women to live out kingdom life, especially in the area of helping the vulnerable.” There are many vulnerable in our society and we have numerous wonderful Baptist women who are reaching out in God’s name and for God’s sake, to share God’s love with those who are less fortunate. The area of human trafficking is just one of those areas.

Your executive director, Virginia Holmstrom, and your president, Angel Sullivan, are on the NABWU board. At our meetings in April of 2015, we as a consortium decided to join forces, to join hands, so to speak, to continue to fight this scourge. Imagine what it would be like if all four million of us did one or two small things? Even if only half of us stepped up to do one or two small things, that is still two million women all shining our candle against the darkness! Many candles together are the “city on the hill” which Christ talked about!

Here’s what we are doing together: We are challenging each woman to take one step or even two! It’s quite easy, really. We are calling our women to help educate the public about the problem so when there is suspicion it can be reported, or some captive woman will see a sign with the right number to call to give her freedom from her captors. For us, it’s as simple as clicking a link found below, downloading a brochure or poster and bringing it to the manager at your local hotel, motel, truck stop or gas station or handing to a taxi driver. When you bring it to a business, you can ask them to use this information to inform their staff about what to look for and what to do or to put posters in their public restrooms.

Please download any resource you choose to use from the highlighted word/links:

Poster (available in 20 languages)

Brochure for truck stop managers and employees

Poster for men’s restrooms

Poster for women’s restrooms

Wallet cards to give to truckers

More posters, brochures, etc:

If you are interested in more resources, such as a speaker’s bureau, books or movies on the topic, etc. please see www.nabwu.org.

NABWU: Four million women…each doing something. Can you picture it? Exercising God’s heart, giving a voice to the voiceless as God calls us to do!  We can make a difference because together we are stronger and can make a larger impact! Please, for the sake of that one…

Moreen SharpMoreen Sharp is president of the North American Baptist Women’s Union and Vice-President of the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department. If you are leading a ministry to those who are trafficked, please let NABWU know and they will connect you to their human trafficking networking group designed to encourage and support those in that ministry. Contact Ruby Fulbright at networking@nabwu.org.

 

Vean . . . / See . . .

By Alejandrina Ortiz (in Spanish and English)

See logo esp 72VEAN…mujeres elegidas para cumplir el propósito de Dios.

Génesis 7:13 En este mismo día entraron Noé, y Sem, Cam y Jafet hijos de Noé, la mujer de Noé, y las tres mujeres de sus hijos, con él en el arca;…

7:23 Así fue destruido todo ser que vivía sobre la faz de la tierra, desde el hombre hasta la bestia, los reptiles, y las aves del cielo; y fueron raídos de la tierra, y quedó solamente Noé, y los que con él estaban en el arca.

7:24 Y prevalecieron las aguas sobre la tierra ciento cincuenta días.[1]

Nos debemos de preguntar, ¿si yo hubiese sido una de esas mujeres, cómo me hubiera sentido al dejar atrás a toda mi familia? ¿Cómo transcurrieron esos 150 días de aguas sobre la tierra? ¿De qué hablaban estas mujeres? ¿Dónde quedaron los sueños de que al nacer sus hijos, hubiera una abuela materna que los arrullara? Ni siquiera sabemos sus nombres ni de la familia de la cual formaban parte. Lo único que sabemos es que fueron mujeres dentro del plan de Dios para volver a poblar la tierra.

Hoy día, muchas mujeres atraviesan situaciones parecidas. Para salvar sus vidas o en busca de sueños, todo lo dejan atrás. Son mujeres sin nombre, sin rostro, que nuestro Padre celestial en su misericordia, tiene planes para con ellas.

La esposa de Noé, es una mujer apenas reconocida en la lectura bíblica. Pero fue una mujer que creyó que su marido hablaba con Dios. Ella creyó que la salvación de ella y de sus hijos estaba en aceptar el llamado de su esposo para subir al arca. Es una mujer que reconoció que a pesar del sufrimiento de dejar atrás unos seres amados, cargaba con la gran responsabilidad de hacer la voluntad de Dios. Sus nueras, se convirtieron en las nuevas Evas para poblar la tierra. También fueron mujeres de fe, dispuestas a dejarlo todo cuando la salvación llegó a sus vidas. Ellas posiblemente vieron a Dios como su sustento.

Muchas mujeres viven en anonimato junto a sus esposos, siervos de Dios para misiones difíciles. El anonimato es para con el mundo, porque jamás están sin ser reconocidas por el mismo Dios. Según llegan las aguas que todo lo destruyen, llega la esperanza de volver a construir. No es importante, si tu nombre no aparece en los libros terrenales, lo que es importante es que esté escrito en el Libro de la Vida.

A cada mujer sin nombre, que todo lo deja atrás por hacer la voluntad de Dios, la Gracia de Dios sobreabunde en sus vidas.

*****

See logo eng 72SEE… Women elected to fulfill God’s purpose

Genesis 7:13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark.

23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.[2]

We must ask: what if I had been one of those women? How I would have felt to leave behind my family? How did those 150 days of waters upon the Earth pass? What did these women talk about? What were the dreams that they had for their children at their birth? Did they have a maternal grandmother who lulled them to sleep? We don’t even know their names, nor the family of which they were a part. The only thing we know is that they were women living out the plan of God to re-populate the Earth after the flood.

Today, many women go through similar situations. To save their lives or in search of dreams, they leave everything behind. They are nameless, faceless women for whom our Heavenly Father in his mercy has plans.

Noah’s wife is a woman who, most of the time, we don’t focus upon when we read the Bible. However, she was a woman who believed that her husband spoke with God. She believed that her salvation and that of their children was to accept the call of her husband to get on the ark. She was a woman who recognized that, despite the suffering of leaving behind some of her loved ones, she was burdened with a great responsibility to do the will of God. Her daughters-in-law became the new Eves to populate the Earth. They were also women of faith, willing to leave it all when salvation came into their lives. They saw following God as their livelihood.

Many women live their lives in anonymity alongside their husbands but are God’s servants for difficult missions. Their anonymity, however, is only to the world because they are always recognized by God. When the waters appear that destroy all life, they arrive hoping to rebuild. It is not important if your name does not appear in earthly books; what is important is that it is written in the Book of Life.

To each woman without a name, who left behind everything to do the will of God, the Grace of God will be in their lives.

[1] Versión Reina de Valera -http://antipas.net/read_bible_spa.htm

[2] [New International Version – UK (NIVUK)] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%207&version=NIVUK

Alejandrina OrtizDr. Alejandrina Ortiz, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, is a member of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Yauco. A university professor of criminal justice, Alejandrina has also been working with male batterers, teaching and motivating them to live without violence. She founded the program Restaurando Portillos: No a la violencia based on Isaiah 58:1-12. 

Healing Arts

By Mylinda Baits

IMG_7548_0193We were informed 15 minutes before our training session was to begin that one of the participants had attempted suicide the week before. She was struggling with multiple family issues and deeply depressed by her current life situation. Thankfully supportive staff was surrounding her, but we needed to know what was happening so that we could be prepared to address whatever reactions that might come up to the material we were presenting on trauma and its affects. There were indeed some rough moments for her during the three-day Healing Arts Toolkit training that I co-facilitated for rural and urban health promoters at AMOS, A Ministry of Sharing, in Managua, Nicaragua. Understanding the effects of trauma on the body, mind, spirit, and relationships helped us to create a safe and secure space for grace and growth in spite of the difficulties she and the other participants were experiencing. When trauma or extreme stress happens, normal coping strategies fall apart, but there are ways we can learn to help us regroup and heal from life’s inevitable losses. The creative process of healing demands risk-taking, resilience, and messiness.

Recently I received training and have been using the Healing Arts Toolkit in my work with various national partners and colleagues throughout Mexico, Central, and South America. The Healing Arts Toolkit was created by First Aid Arts: an artist-founded organization to equip and train aftercare providers working with survivors of trauma like human trafficking, violence, and forced displacement, to use the expressive arts in recovery and healing… helping wounded hearts heal beautifully. Their vision is to use what they love, ART, to undo what they hate. The devastating effects of evil expressed in violence, greed, and exploitation are worthy of hate. The proven healing effects of creativity and beauty as expressed through visual art, music, movement, drama, symbol, and storytelling shared in community can be used to hold and heal the wounds that break our hearts.

I have heard the stories of women who have been told most of their lives that they didn’t matter. I have seen the scars and downcast stature of women who have suffered physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse. On occasion I have held some who have been berated, manipulated, and isolated. I have also witnessed glimpses of transformation, grace, and empowerment in those same women as they learn to breath deeply, move intentionally, draw, write, or sing their stories to make some kind of sense out of their experiences while reconnecting with themselves, others, and the very Source and Hope for their lives.

Using the Healing Arts Toolkit has allowed me to provide safety and structure to the creative experiences I have been leading as an International Ministries global servant in Latin America. Repetition and ritual create a trust-filled space where participants can take creative risks to explore and express their feelings, practice self-reflection and awareness, and form relationships while building community with others. One of my favorite songs is “I Will Change Your Name” because it describes what God has promised all of us and what I have witnessed with my own eyes. It says,

“I will change your name

You shall no longer be called

Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid

I will change your name

Your new name shall be

Confidence, joyfulness

Overcoming one

Faithfulness, friend of God

One who seeks My face

On the last day of our Nicaragua training, as the small groups were sharing how they experienced the symbolic imagery activity that we use to facilitate personal story sharing, the same woman who entered the workshop quite depressed pointed to an image of a burnt-out tree and shared the following insight:

“This tree represents my life.

From the outside, all looks dead,

but I am still standing.

There is still life within me.”

All of us witnessed a glimpse of grace, a hint of healing, an affirmation of hope, a reason to rejoice. Thanks be to God.

Mylinda-Baits-2015-webMylinda Baits is a pastoral artist, activist, advocate, and co-laborer in ministry who is passionate about the prevention of all forms of exploitation, particularly human trafficking, the healing and transformation of trauma victims, and the resilient witness of the people of God in the Iberoamerica-Caribbean region. Traveling extensively throughout Latin America, Mylinda partners with International Ministries colleagues, national church leadership, and social change organizations to address and eliminate the exploitation and trafficking of women and children in and from Latin America. Compelled by Jesus’ invitation to come, grow, and change, she strives to embody grace and seek justice through accompaniment, mentoring, and modeling the use of the expressive arts in community worship, trainings, and trauma care for victims. Mylinda uses her gifts of hospitality and pastoral care to create sustainable and safe spaces where the souls of servant leaders and direct service providers who do the hard work of rescue, relief and restoration can be nurtured and renewed.