Scribbles of Hope

In highschool English class we watched the movie Amazing Grace, and ever since then I have had this dream that I will grow up to be someone like William Wilberforce.  Someone who fights against all odds to battle the injustices of our world.  The older I get the more crazy and unrealistic this dream has become, but it is still there I just silence it with reasonability and responsibility.  But now I have this idea that I love but think is stupid, crazy, and will never work. But isn’t that how changes starts?  When someone dares to hope that their stupid idea but just be crazy enough to work.  No one can ever be practical when attempting something crazy life changing venture.  I mean Esther didn’t just go up to the King and ask him to only save one or two of her close Jewish friends. So I am sitting here thinking about my idea and how ridiculous it is that I could believe this could work.  But I bet Esther probably thought that too.  Worse case scenario at least I won’t get killed.

So here it goes.  Many of you may not know this, but I am a very passionate person.  If passion could be a spiritual gift then it would be one of mine.  And one of my passions, which is the injustices and horrors of sex trafficking, has been growing like a fire in my soul. I guess as a bruised and broken woman my heart goes out to women who are even more bruised and broken than I.  And then recently I stumbled upon this book Undaunted by Christine Caine .  I haven’t finished it yet, but she addresses the issue of sex trafficking and our belief that we are too insignificant for God to use us.  Boy did that one hit home (Isn’t it crazy how God sneaks the right things into our laps?).  Over the last year I have been telling myself that once I start my career as a tough criminal justice something or other then I will join the fight against sex trafficking.  But what about now?  Am I just suppose to ignore the cry of my heart that aches for the women who have been silenced and reduced to a commodity? Well I can’t wait anymore.  Only I wasn’t really sure what I could do.  I can write . . . kind of, and I can paint . . . kind of.  But I am not very good, and I am just me what could I really do?  Only I am not just me now am I. That is the point of trusting God to use us.  We give Him our scribbles of words and paintings and hope that He can use them to impact someone.  so are you ready to hear my crazy idea?  Are you sure??  Good.

So I can write, that is a start.  This is start to me writing about this issue I am so passionate about, and hoping that some of that passion wears off onto you.  Secondly I can paint, and I plan to paint about sex trafficking.  And here is where I need your guys help.  My hope is that you guys will actually want my paintings.  I have this crazy idea that you will “buy” paintings and I will donate all the money to The A21 Campaign which is an organization that fights against sex trafficking (more info on this in later blogs).  I figured this way everyone wins.  I get to paint and share about something I am passionate about.  You get a painting that can remind you to pray for all of the victims around the world, and yes even here in Sioux Falls.  And some women will get the hope that someone somewhere cared enough to help her.

So that is my crazy idea.  I still have a lot of kinks to work out, mainly being I still don’t know if I like my first painting.  But I wanted to throw my idea out there.  As I mentioned my first painting isn’t done, but I have one I have already done that I feel fits quite well. So while I keep praying and figuring out the kinks I want to leave you with a few lyrics from the song Boston:You don’t know me and you don’t even care. You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains. No one knows my name.

These lyrics gave me chills after I thought about how real their meaning is for so many women.  My hope is that I can change that for at least one woman. Want to help me?

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Jean Valjean in 21st Century America

I recently just watched Les Miserables, and I was so moved by  John Valjean, a criminal whose crime was stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving niece.  Stealing is wrong, but so is children starving.  We can punish a thief, but we have no one but ourselves to blame for the staring child. After being released, John Valjean is ready for a clean start, but no one will hire him because of his criminal history.  So what does a starving and cold John Valjean do?  In a moment of desperation, he robs a priest.  It was only when he felt that he had no other options that he chooses to turn back to crime. It was not until someone showed him mercy and helped him that he began to turn his life around.  Jump ahead six years, and we see John Valjean as a completely changed man, a successful factory owner who helps those that no one else would care for. Yet the town’s police inspector Javert refuses to see John Valjean as anything but the criminal that he use to be.

I wish that I could have passed this off thinking well that was back in France almost 200 years ago, that would not happen here in America. However, a year of working around inmates has shown me that John Valjean is just as real today as he was in the mind of author Victor Hugo in 1862.  Before I go on, I want to say that I am not trying to justify their crimes.  What some of these inmates have done horrible things, things that make me wish I could shut my eyes and forget.  But Jesus loved everyone, even criminals.  In fact it was the lowly and the criminals that Jesus tried to love the most.  Jesus also told us to love as he has loved.  So that leads me to believe that the criminals are the type of people that we should be working the hardest to love.

I am no expert on psychology, sociology, or criminology.  But it does not take an expert to talk at an inmate and see how horribly wrong their life went.  Drugs, abuse, and a life on the street with no one to care for them at age 7 is commonplace among many of the inmates I work with.  It doesn’t take a psychologist to look in their eyes and know that no one ever loved them.  And if we take one moment to look past their crime, we will see a child that learned at too young of an age how cruel this world can be.  Who are we to judge what we do not understand?  If we were in their shoes, who is to say that we would not have ended up where they did?

Please do not think of me as naïve.  I have been lied to, whistled at, sworn at, and yes even barked at by many inmates.  If I can be barked at by someone and still believe in their humanity, then I think that you can too.  Inmates are often stigmatized by society, holding the view that they deserve the punishment they received and more.  It is easy to stigmatize inmates when they are just a collective group, but that view changes once you have not met the inmates and know their stories.  Knowing the life situations that the inmates come from makes it harder to believe they are getting what they deserved.

I am not writing this to just vent about the generalization of criminals and inmates.  Rather, I hope you read this and think before you assume the worst about criminals.  I hope that instead of judging them you will stop to show them that someone does care.  Never take for granted the power of an act of kindness.  If Jesus can feed 5000 with two fish and five loaves, then I think he can change someone’s life with an act of compassion.

“Take responsibility for nurturing the precious lives of the abandoned, abused, and wounded children who, by no fault of their own, become lost in the system, fill up the juvenile centers, and eventually overflow into the most hardened prisons.  These are the people most likely to end up on death row.” – Jarvis Masters