Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Looking Back on London

10:42 AM

Our London outreach has come and gone. As I wrap up final details from the trip, it seems like a whirlwind 2 weeks. It was such an incredible experience that I don't even know if I can put into words how to describe it. But I will try.

We arrived in London with few contacts, and a lot of unknowns. Anti-trafficking outreaches to London are not a normal YWAM Orlando trip! But I was confident God would meet us there. And did He ever. We had INCREDIBLE host homes and ministry partners. From the Salvation Army to Stop the Traffik, to Now Believe and City Gates Church in the red light district, to community groups like ACT Lewisham and City Gateway, everyone was a blast to work alongside. One of my favorite parts was just how international London is. We worked with, ministered to, prayed for and evangelized to people from over 40 nations [Brazil, India, Pakistan, Switzerland, Argentina, Japan, Nigeria, Canada, USA, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Scotland, Iran, England, Northern Ireland, Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, France, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Malta, Albania, Jordan, Egypt, Cuba, Jamaica, Italy, Australia, Nepal, Hong Kong, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Hungary, Philippines, Netherlands, Romania, Ethiopia]. It was pretty epic.

The focuses of our outreach were awareness, education, prayer and evangelism. And those 4 things kept us very busy! We raised awareness and educated over 300 people about human trafficking in our 2 weeks there. As we shared with them about the injustice, they began to open up sharing stories of past exploitation and trafficking they experienced, or trafficking they witnessed in their home country, but didn't know about the issue within London. We encountered several who just had no idea it was happening, much less in London or in their own nation.  It was a powerful time.

We prayed with and shared the gospel of God's Kingdom with over 50 people while in London, most of which were in the darkest of places, Soho, the red-light district of London. The district draws an eclectic crowd, from club-goers, to bar hoppers, to those seeking illegal drugs and sex, to a strong gay community. It was here that we recognized the need for the Kingdom of God to be established more than anywhere. Most were receptive to our prayers, and even grateful for conversation, and one man even received Christ that night in Soho! It was truly beauty in the midst of darkness.  

I'd go back to London in a heartbeat. My heart has been captivated with that city. But mostly I just loved how God used our team to bring freedom & justice there.

"But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" - Amos 5:24


Monday, July 30, 2012

Life Lessons from The Lorax

11:08 AM

On the flight home from London, while browsing the endless movie selections, I decided to watch Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. I'm a Dr. Seuss fan, and had missed this one when it was out. And I knew I wouldn't have to think too hard to watch it [because I was up at 4am and the last thing I wanted was a heavy drama!]. But I was surprised by how this movie did make me think.

The story is clearly aimed at environmental protection issues, as the main character lives in a town of all plastic, where all the trees have been destroyed and fresh air is bottled & sold. The boy, Ted, hears about a real tree, and sets off to bring one back for the girl of his dreams. Along the way, he mets the Once-lor, who tells him how through greed & materialism the trees & the air were destroyed.

Now I'm sure by this point, many people were rolling their eyes at heavy-handed agenda pushing in a children's film. But I wasn't. The character, The Lorax, the One Who Speaks for the Trees, had some pretty wise statements in the film that didn't remind me of tree hugging, but in fact, this fight against human trafficking. He says, "Which way does a tree fall? Whichever way it leans. Be careful which way you lean." I don't think people just fall into bad decisions overnight, nor does slavery & oppression appear overnight. But it comes from a lifetime of leaning. Which am I leaning? I aim to lean towards freedom, justice & truth, with the hopes that that is where I will fall. 

As Ted was complaining about not being able to change the situation in the town with the trees, the Once-lor tells him, "Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.". Everyone has a voice, and every single person can be part of demanding a better world. I'm not saying everyone has to pick up the fight against trafficking, because God has broken each of our hearts differently. For some of my friends it's hunger & clean water issues around the world, for others its the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and for others it's the orphan crisis. Whatever it is, don't be silent. Care about something. Talk about something. Change something.

As Ted announced before planting the last remaining tree seed, "My name is Ted, and I speak for the trees!", I challenge you to speak for something. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensuring justice for those who are perishing. Yes, speak up for the poor & helpless and see that they get justice." - Proverbs 31:8-9.

So, "My name is Joy and I speak for the enslaved!"


Sunday, July 29, 2012

A GIFT Box Experience to Be Remembered

9:19 PM

Want to see the world and get an education? That's just one of the false promises on the outside of the 7ft. GIFT Box that my team and I worked at Westminster Abbey for the past 2 days. GIFT Box is  a partnership between Stop the Traffik and the United Nations, and it's purposes is draw attention while raising awareness about human trafficking. Each Box features a different kind of trafficking. From sexual exploitation, to  labour trafficking to street crimes to domestic servitude, each Box features stories, statistics, indicators and solutions. 

It was an interesting   experience working at the Box. Tourists and locals came from all over to see the beauty & history of Westminster Abbey. And we had to capture their curiosity enough to hear what we had to say. Some people walked right by, and some avoided us altogether. But a lot of people actually stopped. Some to just stare, and some would come inside and actually engage. 

Westminster Abbey sees about 6,000 - 7,000 tourists every day, and with the increased Olympics tourists, we probably saw even more during our time there! The most important thing we did, I think help people realize that this terrible crime is happening there in the UK, and where they are from too.  So many people didn't even realize that their own nation was contributing to the injustice. Many people were inspired to sign a pledge card committing to  be part of the solution to STOP the traffik. 

It was a challenging and rewarding outreach opportunity, as we served alongside many volunteers from the UK and were able to encourage them in their fight against trafficking. We also met several believers from around the world that were concerned about the issue and we were able to pray with them  and share God's justice with them as well. I think every one that left the Box understood on a greater scale the issue and what their role in it should be. And to us, that was successful.



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hotel to Hotel

12:29 PM
This past week, we had a couple opportunities to raise awareness about human trafficking with local hotels here in London. It was a really productive outreach activity! Hotels are significant in the fight against trafficking, as they are on the front lines of tourism. Girls who are being exploited may never seen a street corner, but instead be confined to the walls of a hotel room. It's important to have hotel staff looking out for these potential victims.

We printed up flyers [or, leaflets as the Brits say!] from Stop the Traffik about how to identify trafficking and how to contact proper authorities. We then strategically targeted Romford Road in Stratford, not far from the Olympic Stadium and Earl's Court in Kensington & Chelsea, which contains a lot of hotels in a little space AND an Olympic venue. After 2 afternoons of this outreach, we had spoken to over 30 hotels and left information with each of them. We were reminded of our significance in this fight when a few hotels told us they actually had seen suspicious activity in their own hotel, and called authorities as a result!

After seeing the success of doing this in Tampa and Miami before the 2009 & 2010 Super Bowls, I was curious as to how it would be received in London. But the staff was really receptive and I believe we just inspired quite a few new abolitionists!

Praise the Lord!


Monday, July 23, 2012

VIDEO: Redemption in the Red Light District of London

10:00 AM

Our video from Soho, the Red Light District of London and God's redemption that happened there!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

VIDEO: First day in London at Westminster Abbey

5:49 PM

Meet our team and hear about some of our amazing upcoming ministry!



Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Red Lights of London

6:10 PM
My heart is broken. No matter how many times you read a statistic, watch a documentary, or talk about an issue, the names & faces will always break your heart.

Our London outreach team has spent the last 2 days in the red light district of London, called Soho. It's right in the middle of the city, just one block from all the West End theatres and shows. Just one turn from the bright lights of theatre stages to the neon marquees of bars & brothels.

Our first night down in Soho was very eye opening. It's much more sexually explicit than what I've seen in America, but I've almost learned not to be shocked by anything. It just saddens me now. We were partnering with a ministry called Now Believe. They spend every Thursday night in Soho, handing out coffee, tea, and snacks to anyone who will stop. Often it leads to conversation, prayer, and sometimes salvation & healing. It was a great night for our team. We broke out of our comfort zones and really engaged with those on the streets, looking for pleasure & escape. God burdened our hearts for so many. It was almost hard to go home that night.

But we found ourselves back in Soho the next day as well. We were working with a ministry called City Gates Church, who has a coffee shop right in the heart of Soho, sharing an alleyway with a Chinese Tattoo Palor and a British Adult Sex Shop. We spent the afternoon with Heidi, who runs their ministry to the red light district. She has been living and working among the prostituted women in Soho for over 20 years! Her perseverance inspired us all. She recounted her stories of victory and heartbreak among the red lights. She explained more of the culture of prostitution in London, and helped us understand the environment we were entering. But most importantly, she reminded us where the fight was.  "The biggest battle isn't for the prostitutes, the red-light, or the ministry, but for our hearts." Our job is to be completely focused on intimacy with Christ, and He moves us and uses us, and things change on earth. But it's a spiritual battle that only God can win. It was a good reminder to those of us who try to do things in our strength...just to watch them fail. How reassuring to sit back and remember the battle is His, and all I have to do is lean on Him to fight it.

Heidi showed us around several of the brothels in Soho, where prostitutes, called models, service their clients for sometimes 12 hours a day and up to 30-40 men a day. She said many of the girls in Soho these days are foreign...Albanian, Lithuanian, Romanian, and so many more. Girls who signed up for jobs to get out of their poor living conditions or just in hope of a better life, and wound up in a brothel. Many knew partial truths of what they were signing up for, but maybe not the extent. And some feel trapped by the language barrier and the allure of cash. It's a complicated cycle. I'm so glad to serve a God of justice and eternal solutions.

That night, we once again prayed for people on the streets, but this time with fresh eyes and fresh passion. We prayed over homosexuals, homeless, tourists, and party-goers. One man even gave his life to Christ! Salvation on the streets of Soho! It was a beautiful moment of redemption in darkness.

Our continued prayer for Soho is for God's kingdom to be established there. That the kingdom of the enemy will fall, and God's presence will invade. That is the prayer of our hearts.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

London Ministry: Day 1: Towers, Bridges & Palaces...Oh My!

6:00 AM
This morning we visited the Salvation Army's Cambria House in King's Cross. It's a men's hostel [shelter] which helps once homeless men get back on their feet, find jobs, deal with any substance abuse, and hopefully meet God in the process! We led a time of prayer for the staff of this House, and were able to really encourage them and the work they are doing. Then we got to cook breakfast for the residents, and hang out with them and invite them out to a BBQ next week that we are hosting! We had some great conversations, and I'm hoping many show up next week for our movie night and BBQ.

After our morning at the Salvation Army, we spent the afternoon doing a Justice Prayer Walk on the streets of London. We started at the walk at Buckingham Palace and praying for the royal family. From there we walked to Westminister Abbey, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Royal Courts of Justice, Temple Church, St. Bride's Church, Old Bailey, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London! It was quite the walk. But in each place we just prayed that God's justice would prevail, His presence would be made known and His word would reign. It was an incredible way to really launch our time in London by getting HIS heart for the city! Here are some pics from the day...

Buckingham Palace! God save the Queen!

Parliament buildings, Big Ben [not pictured], and big red bus! Hello, London!

Westminister Abbey. Oh, so beautiful...

Trafalgar Square, geting all ready for the Olympics!

Royal Courts of Justice. So great.

St. Bride's Church. The most epic wedding church ever!

St. Paul's Cathedral. Speechless.

Tower of London!

Team at Tower Bridge!

The beautiful Tower Bridge!!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Travels to London

6:50 PM
So we made it safe and sound to London! So excited to be in this great city, and it was quite the journey to get here!

Our departure from Orlando was planned to leave Monday at 7:30pm to our connection through Atlanta. But Atlanta had some crazy storms, and ALL flights in were delayed. So we were able to switch our flights to ensure that we could make our London connection, but it was gonna be tight! We got to Atlanta and RAN to our connection, hoping and praying at 20 minutes to make a connection at that crazy huge airport! But we got there! And boarded! And then sat there....and sat there..and sat there. For 3 hours, we sat in our plane while they figured out what was keeping our plane from flying. About 2am they got everything fixed up, and we were finally off to London! We got in much later than planned, but we are here! And in our new friend's flat in the borough of Tower Hamlets, on the East End of London.

Love my team & love this city. Can't wait to see God's love unleash in this city!!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Together as a Team

1:46 PM
Our London team is here! Our London team is here! This weekend, Creagon and I picked up our teammates as we finally got to gather as a team for the first time today. We have a full day of training and team time today, before flying out tomorrow. We've already had great times of praying for one another and for our ministry in London. So excited for the rest of our training time today, and our final preparations tomorrow! More updates to come!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sew London

11:00 AM

I'm kinda sorta maybe a little definitely obsessed with fabric. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I stumbled upon an Etsy page for London fabric that I'd be buying it. Immediately. I didn't know what I wanted to make yet. But I was going to London and wanted that fabric. So it arrives and I'm faced with the "what will I sew" problem. Thankfully, there's a Pinterest page for that! I really wanted to make something for my teammates, not just as a fun little gift, but as something I could pray over while making. So here's a journey of my sewing with London fabric, ending with my teammate gifts at the end! 



Friday, July 13, 2012

Surely Sherlock

8:00 AM
In the effort of immersing myself in British culture to prepare for outreach, I've had a recent obsession with Sherlock Holmes. No, not Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and the BBC hit, Sherlock. Both winners in my book. The BBC show [now on Netflix] is what really got me hooked. It's a modern-day retelling of Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson. Brilliantly edited, incredibly written, well acted and just plan fun. Here's a season one teaser that you MUST see:

So I've watched both seasons of this show, and have then proceeded to download the original novels and short stories on my Kindle [because they are pretty much free!] and have been devouring those as well. One of my favorite things in entertainment is a well developed character. And Sherlock is just that. Enigmatic, witty, clever, arrogant, and charming....all in one! How can you not just love him?

So needless to say, I'll be visiting 221B Baker Street soon, and maybe uncover a mystery of my own...


Thursday, July 12, 2012


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Just Days 'Til London!

9:00 AM
I can't believe we are in single digit countdown days till our London outreach!! Thanks for all your prayers, encouragement and support. We couldn't be doing this without our faithful friends, family & supporters. Our team arrives so soon, and I've been putting last minute details in place. We've set up some great ministry with Stop the Traffik, ACT London Forum, City Gates Church, and more! We'll be staying the Tower Hamlets borough, which is super close to the Olympic Stadium, and the City itself. Can't wait to see how God is going to use our team to bring FREEDOM to London this month! 


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Family Time

7:00 AM
This past week and a half have been spent with family. We've been in Michigan and in Tampa, it's been a blessing to reconnect with our loved ones! As we preparing for London, it was a really great time to share with everyone about our upcoming outreach. Most [if not, all!] of our families are our biggest fans...praying for us, cheering us on, supporting us and blessing us. I already had that on my side, and I just love that I married into that same culture.

Our week in Michigan was beautiful, yet warm. So thankful for lake breezes, that kept the temperatures out of the 100's! In addition to spending time with family, we were able to connect with Creagon's home church, Road to Life. They are such a great community of believers in southwest Michigan, and I love worshipping with them! We shared about our outreach with the Sunday night youth group, and those fierce prayer warriors were lifting us up! Fantastic! We also traveled to see friends, which was wonderful as well. One thing that I've loved about missions is how it's "forced" me to stay in community. There's no way we could do this job alone, and I love that. We celebrated the one-year anniversary of our engagement while we there. We are such saps! And we also celebrated the Fourth of July in Michigan! Creagon's neighborhood goes all out, with a parade, a "petting zoo", a picnic and games. It's a blast! Can't wait to bring our own kids back one day....

It was sad to say goodbye, but it was great getting over to Tampa as well. As we roll up with dirty laundry, my parents are always happy to have us! We celebrated my little sister's 20th [!!!!!!] birthday, and had the whole Engdahl/Hittinger/Rhoades clan over. So fun! I love my family and the journey they've been on with me. We visited my home church, Watermark, on Sunday as well. Which always feels like coming home. No matter how long I've been gone, it's like I never left. Love love love worshipping with them! So many friends, and so little time is the usual feeling of a weekend in Tampa. But we saw several, and are so blessed to have their prayers sending us to London.

It's been a whirlwind, and it's great to be back at the Muldoon Camper preparing for our team to arrive later this week. This week will be a blur, no doubt.

I'll blink and I'll wake up in London. I hope.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Power of Prayer

9:14 PM

"The 2012 Olympics will be here in less than a month, and the London is getting ready!! Flights are being booked, tickets are being bought, stadiums are being built and athletes are hard at work training their bodies and dreaming of those days to come and how many medals they will win for their country.

But they are not the only ones getting ready.

As the country gears itself up for the biggest sporting event around, the sex industry is busy strengthening its own supply chain of women, readily available to service the needs of men: before, during and after the Olympics. Although it is impossible to gather any accurate estimates on how many women will be sexually exploited as a direct result of this sporting event, it is nevertheless the case that many of the men who come over to work on building the stadium or the tourists who come over to see the games will purchase the body of a woman to meet their sexual needs.

There is much to enjoy and celebrate about the Olympics, however the Games can also work as a reminder of the injustice that occurs with those exploited through prostitution and trafficking for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation (among other things, such as labour exploitation and domestic servitude)."

Creagon and I are preparing to leave for London in just 2 weeks, and we want you to join us in prayer while we are there. Download the prayer pack from Gathering Voices to join us in fighting this injustice in London this summer!