A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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Run for 24 Hours of Justice

Dear friends – just a reminder that the Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 hour Endurance Run is just 10 days away! I’m making this an opportunity to raise funds for RELENTLESS by asking people to pledge a monetary amount per mile (or kilometer) that I run. More details can be found on this earlier post. Whether or not you donate, please do think of me and my friends as we push ourselves to the limit for a good cause!

HTT Trek flyer


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RELENTLESS!

I’m happy to announce the launch of Relentless! As I move in this new chapter of life and work, I’ve developed, with a lot of help, a new professional identity. Hopefully, this website, introduction and information will help sort out all the things that I’ve been doing and the places I’ve been going. While my main focus is in counter-trafficking interventions, I remain committed to serving at the intersection of health and justice, no matter what form or issue is leading. Here is the site for Relentless.

Relentless, as you can see, is really just another blog on WordPress (I’m not able to manage the inner workings of a website) and I’ll post everything about work there. I’ll continue to post updates here, and of course link to Relentless for the work-related posts. I’m not exactly sure how that’s gonna work out, but I’ll find a way. Anyway, A Just Walk readers won’t miss out one bit! But you may consider signing up for both blogs just in case. 🙂

More to come!

 


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Moldova, At a Glance

A glance, it seems, is pretty much all I got in the nine days I was there. Even so, there is much more to say than I can fit into a single blog post – but I will try!

Eric Weiner, in  his book “The Geography of Bliss”, claims that Moldova has the world’s most unhappy people. Another article states it this way: “Landlocked between Romania and the Ukraine, Moldovans lack a solid sense of identity, pride of nation and hope for the future. That, along with grinding poverty, help explain why as many as one-quarter of all Moldovans live and work abroad, sending back the remittances that keep this country afloat.” I will add that this sentiment was corroborated by my Moldovan friends. The Moldovan emigration may keep people going back home, but it represents a brain drain of epic proportions. Moreover, it is really hard for people to want to invest and develop in a place where everyone’s dream is to leave.

Church workers harvesting corn for the elder home picnic for lunch

This trip was different than most I’ve taken in that it was purely a vision trip. I was invited by a businessman colleague who is interested in integrated holistic development in Moldova – health being one component of that approach. We met with MANY many leaders, pastors, and organizations addressing various issues and needs in the city and countryside.

The human trafficking situation in Moldova is dire. Because of poverty and the myriad other “push” factors, Moldovans are at great risk of being trafficked (for sex and labor), and many many are. There aren’t any hard and fast figures to post, but it is known as one of the major source countries to Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. There isn’t much of a “red-light” district in Chisinau, the capital. As one Moldovan (who runs an after care facility and a trafficking prevention program) put it, “Why would the men pay for sex when there are many women in bars willing to give it for free?”

Look at this guy! I know that the junior high students take him seriously when he discusses sexual violence!

One of these organizations, Beginning of Life, also has a robust trafficking prevention program, with access to all the schools in Chisinau for teaching on subjects such as sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, etc. Check out their website – I don’t have to write it all here!

From what I could see, there are two aftercare shelters for trafficked women run by NGOs, and I was able to spend time at both. There is one shelter for minor girls that is run by the government, and possibly other government shelters for women as well – will have to look into this on the next trip.

In 2001, there were 12,000 children registered as living in “orphanages”, a.k.a government institutions for children with “special needs” or from families who are unable or unwilling to care for them. Some are children “left behind”: their parents have gone somewhere to work and no family is left (or willing) to care for them. Only a few of these have significant special mental or physical needs and they are put into separate institutions. Most of the children come from environments of abuse or neglect, and have minor mental or emotional or learning problems. Due to pressure for European Union “readiness”, there is a push for de-institutionalization of at least half of the children cared for by the government. While living in one of these “boarding schools” is wrought with problems, simply dumping children on the streets is not exactly a good solution. Many organizations are currently working with children within these institutions, as well as providing “transitional care” for children over 16 years old – when they “age out” of the institutions, but are not ready to be fully integrated to society. These young people  have the greatest risk for being trafficked.

I took my medical kit, but there seemed to be no acute interest in having me do any medical evaluations on anyone. I thought it was strange, but I suppose the medical system and attitude toward medical care is different.

There is some amazing work going on in Moldova – but it seems

Highlights of  the week include:

  • Meeting a kindred spirit in a new Moldovan friend: a single woman physician involved in full-time ministry.
  • Getting lost in a Moldovan forest and how I found my way back! This story is good for it’s own post.
  • Vineyards are EV.VER.RY.WHERE! Got handed a bag of grapes fresh off the vine by friendly harvesters. Another time, gleaning grapes with a local pastor as we walked through a vineyard post harvest.
  • A visit with a countryside pastor who is doing amazing work mobilizing his church to care for the “left-behind” elderly in the surrounding villages.
  • Invitations to return to provide more in-depth training on health issues to the human trafficking aftercare and prevention work being done on the ground. Anyone want to join me? Let me know!

A harvester gave me a pair of snips and invited me to take my own cut! Fresh grapes - never better! But since Moldova has the highest alcohol consumption in the world, Christians are sensitive to alcoholism and I never got to try the fermented fruit. No matter - these were so delicious!

The Orthodox Church casts a dark shadow over Moldovan society


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The Work of the Week

I know what I’m gonna face when I do certain things and go certain places, and it is always uncomfortable. I’ve learned to recognize the lies, and understand the darkness that I feel, but that doesn’t mean I have any magic words to make it go away. It takes training to endure and press on and in and go ahead.

Sometimes it is discouragement and I question my being there. I often suffer from sleeplessness and sometimes I get uncharacteristically anxious about a lot of different things not even related to the work at hand. I just press into the Father, as hard as I can; and understand that these thoughts are unbidden, these anxieties are not truth, these feelings are false. I plead for and receive peace, joy, and strength.

This was a return trip to this place for me (click here for past note) but I was so grateful to have Betsy, my friend and colleague , along with me this week. She agreed that the place felt dark and oppressive, and both of us struggled a bit. We worked together so well and helped me so much!

We traveled to a place in central China to spend a few days with an organization (99.5% indigenous) that does outreach, aftercare, and long term social and vocational development for women in the entertainment industry. I am told that 100% of these women are trafficked by horrible means, some as young children, to work in “the business”. One woman, the office assistant, college student (journalism major), and our “go-to woman” for the week was once a trafficked person. You would never know it now!

Betsy taught about reproductive health matters and her props and models were outstanding! I wish I could post the look on the faces of the women as they were shown photographs of a baby in the womb at 8 weeks old, then 12, then 20… Astonishing!

I taught a little on faith and mental health, as well as some specific topics on substance abuse, PTSD, and depression. One (very) full day was spent doing medical examinations for the staff, the girls in the shelter, and other “family” members. Betsy was busy doing female exams and I took care of the other problems, including a seriously bad asthmatic 1 year old. Sometimes it wasn’t so much of a physical problem as it was of anxiety, or other worry, so I reassured them physically then asked Father to help with the rest.

Every place in China has a different environment of the “entertainment industry”. This time around, I did not go to these places, but it was evident that this business is thriving there. When we checked into the hotel (of a reputable national chain), within the envelope that held our electronic keys there was also an advertisement for, umm, certain services. Every night we got similar cards shoved under our door advertising the same thing.

The cards say things like, "one-night stands"; "college girl, elegant, pure, and fun..."; 'credit cards accepted" Note: these girls are NOT advertising for themselves!

caught ya!

One evening, I heard someone at our door. I opened it up and there was a young man crouching down trying to pass more cards under our door! A-HAH! Wow was he surprised! Good thing I don’t know very strong words in Chinese but he certainly knew that I was scolding him and very angry and disappointed in what he was doing. He apologized and tried to take back the card. I grabbed my camera as he went on to the other doors and snapped this photo of him running down the hall.

It is truly a tremendous blessing and encouragement to serve these people in this way. They are hard-core followers working hard and sacrificing more than I am to push back the darkness and bring as much of the Kingdom to their city as they can. Of course there is opposition. We expect it and train to deal with it. The blessings are also magnified in the process.

PS: don’t forget to think about that guy and the women he is selling.


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Why are you moving to Thailand?

I’m overdue to answer this question well. As the title of this blog suggests, I do consider this to be a format in which to journey with you, and you with me. Life seems to be going so fast for me this year, but I do need to take some time to help you catch up with what is going on.

Recently, I asked some friends to give me some FAQs about my work, and how it is emerging. I’m in the process of developing a new professional identity to reflect this change of work venue and focus. I’m very excited about this but it is still in process and will be rolling out in the next few weeks and months. However, this one question needs to be addressed ASAP.

Next month I will be wrapping up a six year stint in China. WOW. Another post on what that feels like is already brewing, but for now I’ll stick to the question of why I’m leaving and why Thailand.

Over the last few years, you have noticed that I’ve been increasingly more involved in addressing human trafficking as a health professional. I’ve still been involved in teaching medicine and caring for orphans all this time in Shenyang (2.5 years), but this work has significantly dropped off as I’ve devoted more time to new projects. The more time I’ve given to the counter-trafficking work the more the opportunities have grown.

The move from China to Thailand will better facilitate my work in addressing the health consequences of trafficking in persons in several ways. For one, I’ll be in much closer proximity to other organizations that are actively working against human trafficking and I will be more available to them and more intimately involved in their health care projects. This is true for Thailand, but also for Cambodia and other neighboring countries. Because of my emerging leadership role in counter-trafficking efforts, I travel more often and it is much easier to travel from Thailand (a more central location) than from NE China.

While trafficking in persons is very big business in China, the political climate here prohibits much in the way of open and collaborative work. I still have ongoing projects here and plan to make trips back to the PRC regularly, but living here limits my effectiveness elsewhere. Yes, there is much work to be done here, and I’d love to get more involved in the thick of it here, but that is not where I’m led to be at the moment.

One of the major bonuses of moving to Thailand is that it already feels like going home when I visit and I can already speak the language. I have friends there and because it is a central location for meetings for Asian expats, I’m sure to see friends from all over China when they swing through Thailand. YAY!

I hope this answers your questions regarding the move. If you want to submit your own question for my upcoming FAQ page, please let me have it!

Thanks for hanging with me on the blog! Love the feedback!

Me with a good friend and colleague - I will miss her dearly!