Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Inspiration of Conversation

I like to chat.
Big surprise, I know. *hello sarcasm*

I enjoy talking with friends, acquaintances, and just about anyone else I happen to randomly meet. You never know what kind of conversation you will have if you allow yourself to be open to the idea that every conversation, every word spoken, can change a life, change a heart, or even simply change a mood.

Obviously you can't expect every single thing you say to change the world, or have a HUGE impact on someone, but if we spoke to others with the mindset that what we say has the potential to influence them I think we would choose our words more carefully and even just be pumped to talk to people!

The first time I went to a night called Women of Beauty put on by Let Go, Let God ministries, one of the main points that stuck with me was how what is in our heart, is on our mind, is what we speak. Our words have power and we need to be conscious of what we say. I had heard messages on this before but that night it really stood out to me. From that point on I have made a conscious effort to choose the words I say carefully-- knowing they can give life or do just the opposite.
Picture by Lani Elias

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with an absolutely lovely young lady. She is smart and spunky and her appearance is quick to reflect how she is so full of life and creative energy! The hangout was instigated when she approached me asking if we could chat one day about Not For Sale and my involvement with them...
As someone who enjoys chatting...
We chatted about a lot more than my time with Not For Sale.
In the classic coffee shop setting, over coffee and too much green tea then should be consumed in a two hour period, we spoke of travels, human trafficking and other injustice, how faith and love play into all of it, and what our dreams turned into goals are.

I think sharing your passions, dreams and goals are important. It helps bring them to life and seem more real and attainable. I have a goal to one day, open a bakery and teach baking classes to survivors of human trafficking as therapy while they are going through their aftercare program. Those that show talent could then be hired-- they have skills, a job, and best of all, a future that doesn't involve them being caught up in the same unimaginable situations that lead them to being trafficked to begin with. On top of that, I'd love to provide delicious baked goods that use all natural, organic and as often as possible, local ingredients! I would also want to ensure every thing I use is ethically sourced-- from the adorable cupcake liners to the ovens those scrumptious cupcakes bake in! Sharing this with someone makes it seem real, attainable, and like it can really happen!... Even if the goal seems so far in the future.

To hear her share her ideas, goals, dreams and passions is encouraging! Partly because she is going to do amazing things using her God given gifts and talents. Partly because she believes that God and love are crucial to seeing the end of injustice around the world! I was 100% being inspired by our conversation!

Being inspired by the words others speak is easy if you allow yourself to find the optimism and love in the smallest words. A simple "Thank-You" can change your day if no one has yet to appreciate an act you've done. Someone sharing their dream can inspire you that your dream maybe isn't so far fetched, that your dream is worth sharing and pursuing.

I have learned that you do not choose the moment you will influence someone. You must seek to have your actions and comments consistently inspired by Love. You never know when God will use even the smallest comment to change the direction of someones life or inspire them to further seek relationship with Him, which can and will change the world.

When have you been inspired by a conversation with someone? 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Freedom Sunday and the days that follow.

Freedom Sunday.
A day where the faith community as a whole comes together in their place of worship and devotes their time to learn what it means to end slavery.

This is incredible.
As a Christian I truly believe that we, as the church, should be leading the movement to end slavery in our lifetime.

The night before Freedom Sunday my wonderful husband and I were hanging out with some friends and we chatted most of the evening about faith. We chatted various aspects of faith and at one point my husband said something absolutely wonderful. He mentioned that doing good things like feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, helping the widow and orphan, shouldn't be something of special mention for a Christian. When you die people at your funeral shouldn't be like "Aelea was awesome. She helped the poor, the orphans, etc...". That should be commonplace. That is a given if you are a Christian. It would be like saying "Aelea liked to breathe air to survive everyday." That is just a part of what we do, how we live every single day.
It should have no honorable mention.
We should all be living this way.
Those words have stuck with me.

The next day, Freedom Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at Pathway Community Church. Since I had worked with Not For Sale as the Tour Fellow, and Not For Sale created Freedom Sunday, it was a pretty good fit. I gave a quick Human Trafficking 101 lesson then their pastor spoke an amazing message on Compassionate Justice. He used the story of the Good Samaritan and I can't even begin to re-tell his message. One of the bottom lines is that compassion doesn't just mean loving God and loving your neighbour, it means going above and beyond to treat your neighbour with the passionate, incredible, never ending love that God has for them.

...And to clarify, your neighbour is everyone.

Talk about no honorable mention... everyone is our neighbour... this is what we should all be doing.

Pathway also showed the documentary Nefarious: Merchant Of Souls that evening, open to anyone who wanted to come. Talking about the sex trade is a tricky thing-- especially when a good chunk people would rather live "safe" faith. Nothing about Nefarious is safe. It's dirty and in your face about the harsh truth and realities of human trafficking and the sex trade around the world. From women treated as cattle, sold to the highest bidder, and even children sold by their own family members. I spoke before the documentary about my time in Thailand in May 2012 (which you can read about on my blog-- check the archives) and how hard it is to wrestle with the emotions that you face while there. These are the same emotions people who saw the documentary are living through right now and they all end up doing the same thing; fuelling a fire to do something.

Doing something about injustice is rarely safe. It requires you to go out on a limb, challenge the comfort of your every day life and stand up against issues others want to turn a blind eye to.

I saw people looking for what to do next. Passionate individuals who want next steps. And this is where my own personal struggle comes to play:
Yes, helping those in the sex trade is huge, but helping EVERYONE involved in slavery is SO IMPORTANT! It's easy to watch a documentary about those being exploited in the sex trade and want to do something, but please don't forget about those in exploitation making your clothes, your food, your toys. Toys for kids, made by kids? The food for your family meal picked by people being abused and exploited? I think it's easier to feel the heart tugs of the sex trade because, for the most part, our view of sex is of how meaningful and special it is in the marriage relationship. To remove someone's choice from sex is unacceptable. One thing to also keep in mind is that those being exploited in domestic servitude, labour, and other forms of slavery are also raped, beat up, taken advantage of, and made to feel worthless... just like those in the sex trade.

I want to encourage you to take steps forward with your new passion to not only end sex trafficking, but work to end slavery all together. Here are a few of my top practical application steps:

1) Pray. So often we look at prayer as a last resort but prayer is huge! Pray for those held captive-- those being trafficked, the traffickers, the johns, and everyone else involved in the process.

2) Support organizations already standing against slavery! International Justice Mission does amazing work, same with Not For Sale and Love 146 to just name a few that I personally know are awesome. Even organizations like Kiva-- providing loans so individuals coming out of exploitation have a future, and those vulnerable never become exploited.

3) Educate yourself, then educate others! Read the book Not For Sale by David Batstone and Disposable People by Kevin Bales. Share what you learn! Tweet about it, share it with friends and family on facebook!

4) Shop smart. Seek out ethical options for your every day purchases using resources like Free2Work, and also know that a lot of artisan made goods (think Ten Thousand Villages) are made by survivors or those at risk for exploitation. Buying their products can ensure they don't end up exploited.

5) Pray some more. Gather with others passionate and pray. If you ask God what you can do to end slavery, and you are willing, He is sure to move you to meaningful action.

We, as individuals with passionate hearts to live out lives rooted in love, can end slavery. Every prayer, every Facebook or Twitter post, every dollar donated, truly makes a difference in creating more activists that will come together to see slavery ended in our lifetime.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Where am I supposed to buy clothes?"

I was recently on vacation with my family in Hawaii.
When I say family I mean my husband, mom, dad and two older brothers.
The last "family vacation" we took was when I was 16 years old to Disney World.
Needless to say, it was an interesting time to see how our personalities, interests and lifestyles meshed and, at times, didn't mesh.

I'm sure we can all agree that people are in a state of constant development. Consistently growing, changing, evolving into the product of their beliefs and surroundings. Every person in my family is very different. It was quite interesting for us be together for just over a week, and I am consistently grateful for my husband being there as someone I could escape the generic "family craziness" with.

While on this trip, you best believe my family is on the prowl for deals. You're on vacation-- you take in markets, touristy shops, and all the big shopping centres and outlet malls. As a girl on vacation, it's often essential to at least go into a store and see how expensive the high end brand names items are (Coach, Prada, Tiffany's, etc) and compare that with how reduced the prices are at the outlet malls.

But something else occurred.... I found myself standing up for the "over priced" products.

Now I'm not talking overpriced Prada and Gucci purses, or Armani suits, or Channel clothing. I'm talking about the $7.95 chocolate bar and the $24.00 bag of coffee.

These are the items we most often, without a doubt, consistently try to receive the best bargain on. When you go to the grocery store, when you hit up the dollar store, you are looking for the best deal on the little extras we casually supplement our lives (and even our waistlines) with. Should a chocolate bar be only $0.65 or should we be paying $7.95? When you consider the supply chain, $7.95 seems like a small amount to pay for fair wages & labour practices, codes of conduct, transparency, and a company that cares enough about the people making their product to treat them fairly-- from picking cocoa to getting it on the shelf. And while I can't say the company that produced these $7.95 chocolate bars are taking all the necessary precautions, it is a lot harder to imagine that the $0.65 you pay for a chocolate bar is providing even close to the same.

As I make mention of how I now choose to take my business from a clothing company that has a poor. or no, Free2Work rating to a company that does, I am being asked more and more "What is Free2Work?" and "Where am I supposed to buy my clothes?". People ask those questions sometimes in a mean way-- how you get offensive when you are being informed something you have always been doing is not seen as "right" by everyone around you.

Moments like this are a turning point.

You now have the opportunity to share with people about modern day slavery and how it's literally in the fabric of our clothes. It's an opportunity to plant a seed with them that their every day choices-- the bargain they hunt for, the deals the try so hard to find, are contributing to something they may not have even known existed. To put it simply, you could change someones life by sharing with them the choices you are making and the reasons why.

\When people ask where I shop, I love sharing with them the amazingness that is Free2Work and their most recent Apparel Industry Report | From Farm to Factory. Being with NFS at the time this was released and doing their social media posting was a blessing. While the report doesn't feature strictly Canadian brands, it highlights so many of the brands we all have access to (brands like H&M, American Eagle, Lacoste, Forever 21).

I encourage you to take a look through the report and do two things:
1) Put your new knowledge to action.
Be a more conscious consumer when shopping. The hardest thing can be applying the knowledge you have-- when you have a chocolate craving, buy the A or B rated brands, not the D or F rated. When you go shopping for clothes, buy items from stores with A or B ratings, not D's or F's.

2) Share your knowledge with others.
The more that people know they can make a difference when they are purchasing their wants and needs will hopefully result in more people making that difference and shopping smart.

When have you explained to someone why you are a conscious consumer? Has this inspired others to do the same?

Polices | Company Performance from the Apparel Industry Trends | From Farm to Factory Report

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I like Cats and Ending Slavery.

When you meet someone have you ever wondered why one of the first questions is often, “What do you do?”. Most of us answer with our occupation. My question is, why do we let our jobs define us? I have learned that your job does not define who you are. Your actions, your beliefs, your experiences – those things define who you are. I work in radio and in retail. If you ask me what I do, I'll answer with “I help change the world. I'm a humanitarian.”

When writing to friends and family to gather financial support for our second Hero Holiday to Dominican Republic in July of 2011, that blurb above was my opening paragraph. I thought it was pretty darn good. I was defying social norms and sharing a valuable lesson; your work does not define who you are. When I look back now, I realize I was also doing something else-- telling people who I am. For people I may not have kept in touch with after my move to Winkler, or for those who thought they knew who I was, I was re-defining their image of me in their mind. Regardless of what people knew, I was redefining myself as a humanitarian.

Defining who you are to people is an interesting thing-- from first impressions based solely on your looks to only having a brief conversation, or to generalized assumptions taken to the extreme because of one fact people learn, it's definitely something that has been of great interest to me lately.

One thing I have learned over time is that while you can choose what you put out there of yourself to show to the world, the world will attach itself to various things. These things might be exactly what you'd like them to be, and then again, they might attach themselves to things you don't necessarily agree with or place as much value on.

An example of the above, and in my opinion a perfect example, is my total of five months with Not For Sale. While there you live with people, start to work with them, and get to know them immediately. My time was spent focused on the professional, work aspect of the Fellowship. Keep in mind,  you are not only working with an entire staff and fellow fellows but also living with and literally 'doing life' with the other fellows. In these situations, and to a certain level, people can cling onto little facts that will show they know you (they listen to you, they are making an effort to become friends, etc). You may share a random fact or two and those facts become who you are...

For me in this situation the fact was that I like cats.
I have a cat at my parents house.
Her name is socks.
I think cats are cute, cuddly, and adorable.
You look at my Facebook wall from my time with NFS and...

An example of a post on my Facebook wall.
And while that's not a bad thing, it is certainly something that I reacted to in a few various ways: I thought it was funny at times, some what annoying and even heartwarming.

How did these people pick this one random fact to be their main point of "knowing me"?

While living with these fine fellows there were other things that stood out to them; my love of baking, my inner grandma, the fact that I love Jesus. But the cat thing was unlike any other.

To this day I still receive pictures and other hilarious articles to do with Cats posted on my Facebook wall. I absolutely love it now. It is more heartwarming than ever, never annoying, and always funny. It's nice to know that while cats were the random point of connection then, to this day the picture of a too adorable cat reminds them of our time together, working to end slavery.

My life with cats and cupcakes with NFS.

What is it about you that others tend to cling to when they think of "knowing you?" What do you think of the connection between you and that one "random fact?"