This week I met a 17 year old girl at the social welfare office who was running from being forced into marriage with an older man. This older man already had one wife. She had run to the police station, and the police had taken her to the social welfare office. She had been there sleeping on a bench for two days.
In talking with the girl, her story went like this.
She practices voodoo, In fact her grandmother handed down all her powers to her before she died, so she is one of the spiritual matriarchs in her village. Her body showed this as she had shell bracelets covering her wrists and ankles. Her neck was also adorned with similar necklaces. All these were earned from doing things within the secret society within the voodoo rituals.
It is custom that when a man wants to marry you, they will do a type of sacrifice to the gods to earn your hand in marriage. The young man who she wanted to marry began this sacrificial process to the gods, but got in trouble with the law and was put in jail for something. While he was in jail on a temporary sentence, another older man with one wife, decided he would finish the sacrifice to be able to marry her as his second wife. He made this agreement with the girls mother without her knowledge.
The man completed the sacrifice and came to retrieve his bride. At the same time the young man was released from jail and showed up to finish his sacrifice, only to find out this other man had already completed it. The Men got into a huge fight and the girl escaped to the police station for fear she would be forced to go with the older man. The whole village was prepared to carry her forcefully to him, as he earned the right to have her.
I asked her if I could pray for her. She said no, I practice voodoo you cannot pray for me.
I shared with her about a God of love, and how practicing voodoo will destroy her and the power she carries within her from voodoo will be used against her as she grows older. It is a trap that is used by satan to show us power and to entice us, but there is no love in this religion, it is only about power. That kind of power does not operate in love. It only destroys.
In looking me in the eyes, she asked if there is voodoo in America, I said yes, but not as much as here. She said, well then, you do not know much about voodoo, you white people do not understand our voodoo. It is just how we live here.
I let her know that one day when she is in real trouble, I want her to remember this conversation and to remember that the God who created her in her mothers womb is waiting for her. He loves her so much and so wants a relationship with her. He is the God who created the Universe and has the ultimate power over all the whole world including voodoo.
She looked at me and said okay. I thanked her for sharing her story then walked away. She clearly did not want to talk anymore.
When I returned to the orphanage/safe home I could not help but think of all these kids who have been rescued from that kind of bondage in the villages they were living in. Not only were many used as domestic servants with huge abuse, but many of them were also deeply apart of the voodoo rituals that daily occurred. This was a way of life for them. They knew nothing else.
Not too long ago a grandmother of one of the older girls we have, tried feverishly to get her back to the village so she could transfer her powers to her grandchild before she died. She was the spiritual Matriarch (which we call the village witch in America), of the whole village and needed to turn her powers over to her only female blood relative who was her age. Her powers would be lost forever if she did not do this.
The house mother refused to let her go to the grandmother by making the excuse that she had to stay in school. Her education was very important to the future of her village. The social workers backed the house mother, and the girl was rescued.
This particular girl is completely oblivious to the fact she was spared from such a life. All she knows now is about a God who loves and values her incredibly. She is thriving in Christ.
This girl on the bench was a good reminder of where many of our kids in this home would be had they not been rescued from this other life.
It is 5:45 in the morning, and I am awakened by the sound of 61 children singing and praying their little hearts out to God. This has become more than a ritual for the children in the House of Hope orphanage/safe home in Benin; it has become a way of survival in this spiritually dark place.
Each morning I lay in my bed, thanking God for such resilience and such grace in each of these children’s lives as their prayers echo into my room. Around half of the children in this home were rescued from being domestic servants who were terribly abused. Others have seen parents murdered before their eyes, and others have watched parents wither and die from AIDS and other illnesses.
This morning, I had to get up and look out my window in order to breathe in God’s redemptive story as I watched them in action. They are praying for their villages and for all of you who keep this dream alive. They take these prayer times very serious.
These children are the game changers in this very dark place known as the voodoo capital of the world. Last night from midnight to 2 am, I could hear the voodoo drums pounding in the distance. A reminder that the presence of evil is alive and active in the surrounding areas just outside these sacred walls.
Before arriving in this home, many of the children did not know a God of love even existed. Thanks to your partnership, these precious children are able to break free from the cycle of abuse.They will one day return to their villages to share about a God of love, mercy, grace and a God who values every life incredibly. Please continue to give towards these efforts as well as keep us and these kids in your prayers. You are a critical link in their lives. Thank you!
As I head to Benin tomorrow, I am asking for extra prayers for safety, protection and Angels to be encamped all around our family and staff. Tim is in Liberia with a team of six, and i will be traveling to Benin on my own and meeting my friend there, who is running the orphanage/safe home. She will take me 3 hours upcountry and I will stay at the orphanage/safe home in our guest housing. I will then be traveling daily along side my translator who is a national pastor and dear friend. He also serves as my cultural advisor and body guard, as he watches my every move. Where I am going, is one of the darkest places in the world spiritually. Crazy things happen and I always need extra prayers for protection and grace during these trips.
My highlight is always seeing the kids. It will be great to be with them. I will be delivering letters from their sponsors, which they are always so excited about. This is one of their highlights in life. I also bring a round of clothes, underwear and toys, that they expect from me as a mom. Thank you all who provided these items. You are so wonderful.
The goals for this trip is to get updated profile pictures and progress reports of each child as well as I will have them write a letter back to their sponsors. Logistically this is a process because the children only speak French and a tribal language of Fon. So I keep my translator very busy while I am there.
Each morning I will go to the social welfare office to download and send my emails, as this is the only place in town that has wireless internet.
On my last visit the social welfare department pleaded with me to go to some villages with them where children are in some horrible situations. I have been putting them off for a while on this, as financially we are already maxed out, but I can't hold them off any longer or our relationship with them will suffer. So If they ask again on this trip, I will be checking a few things out with them, even if all I can do is value those in front of me and to pray for them. Sometimes that is all that God asks. We will see what God does with all this. I never know what God is going to do in advance, I just walk forward in all that He asks. If you have read my book, "Inspired to Action", you have seen how God is just looking for those who are willing and available, then He does the rest as we walk forward. So I walk forward with no expectation except to watch Him show up. And oh how I am always surprised and in awe of how He ALWAYS shows up to bring, Redemption, Restoration and Rescuing to his beloved people.
Benin being one of the largest child trafficking export in all of Africa, we see some awful stuff happening to children, which is why we opened the orphanage/safe home there. We are making a huge difference in rescuing children, as well as influencing policies for how children are treated through our relationships with the social welfare office and people of influence.
Looking at our Orphan Relief and Rescue accounts before I leave, we are in a huge need financially in our operational budget to keep this dream alive. We need some miracles from God at this time for provision. So this is definitely another prayer point. This is not an abnormal situation, as our faith is regularly stretched, but God does ask us to pray and God has to be the one to prompt different ones to give for this work to keep going. We are so grateful for all of you who do give, as you have been such a huge blessing to these kids and this work. Consider being a monthly financial partner if you are not already.
Another goal is to meet with the Judge who I became friends with on this last trip. After my visit with him in August he freed 3 of the 4 innocent women who were in prison with their babies for crazy allegations. This all came about as a a church on Whidbey Island prayed fervently for these women and their babies though a very corrupt judicial system. You can read those details in my facebook notes. It was a huge miracle. I will be checking on that 4th women to see why she is still in prison, as well as I will bring more clothes to the little children who are in prison with their mothers and touch base with these new friends of mine.
Checking on some of our precious kids from the past to make sure they are still doing okay is also on my agenda.
This trip will be a full one, so I am thankful for all of you who breathe prayers regularly for these endeavors. We are so grateful for you!
In speaking at a ladies luncheon in Phoenix Arizona a couple weeks ago, I was asked by the ladies how I determine if God is speaking to me about something He wants me to do. How can I be sure it is not something I have made up in my own mind?
They wanted to know for their own lives how they can clearly know the difference between God’s voice, the enemies voice, and their own voice.
I shared with them some ways over the years that I have used to determine whether God is speaking to me about something or not.
In using these steps, I also let people know that as you get closer and closer to God in your personal relationship with Him, you will learn to hear his voice more clearly. He is always speaking, and it is a matter of quieting our lives to hear his whispers as I wrote about in one of my previous blogs.
Determining if it is God’s voice.
This is how I personally evaluate if God’s spirit has truly spoken to me about something He wants me to do.
1. The first voice or strong impression I get about something God wants me to do is usually God. The Second voice is usually me disputing that is was really God speaking to me. The Third voice is usually the enemy telling me that It for sure is not God.
2. If it is not normally something I would have thought of myself, it usually is God.
3. If it aligns with the Bible, and has to do with Redemption, Restoration, or Rescuing of people, it is usually God. Because that is the business God is always in. (It could be as simple as praying healing for someone, or doing something for someone you normally would not think of doing). We can even add animals and His creation in this, as I felt I was to pray healing for a cat who had clubbed feet and couldn't walk. God healed that cat completely. So God's business encompasses so much more than we can imagine.