Thailand+Anti-trafficking+Fashion + NYC= God

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I would have never thought that a divine connection I made in Thailand, two years ago, would have such an impact on my life in NYC today.

When I came back to NYC, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be doing here. I just knew I wanted to continue to do work in the field of anti-trafficking, and I most definitely did not want to do it alone.

I was introduced to Elegantees, in February of this year, by a friend that I went to church with years ago. His wife, Katie, was putting together a fashion show on the upper west side, and he was wondering if I could help out, but I was in Florida at the time. So I told him I couldn’t.

But after I said “no” I felt it was the wrong decision, and so I contacted him a couple days later and asked him if they still needed help. He said they did, so I booked my ticket and flew back to NYC to help out.

I instantly fell in love with everything Elegantees stands for. Promoting modesty in a world where fashion screams that nudity and sexy clothes equate to beauty, and not only that, but providing sewing jobs for survivors of sex trafficking.

When I was in Thailand, I saw first hand how difficult it was to find jobs for the women who left prostitution. It was so discouraging to have companies, even Christian companies, unfortunately, tell us “No” over and over. I love that Elegantees’ desire is to meet that financial need, of the restoration process, for as many survivors as possible.

I knew I wanted to be on Katie’s team, and I told her to pray about me joining in any way that I could. So I joined end of February as Promotions and PR Manager.

So how did the person I met in Thailand come into play in NYC?

Well he happened to be David Batstone, the founder of Not For Sale, which just happens to be one of the largest NGO’s in the fight against human trafficking. We met at an Asian Pacific Forum on Human Trafficking, there. I contacted him when I came back to the states, and asked him if I could talk to someone from NFS when I went to visit the west coast in March.

He ended up giving me the Director of Merchandising’s email address… and one email led to another..and now Elegantees is partnering with Not for Sale to donate profits of certain tops to them, and support them in the amazing work they’re doing!!  At the same time, we’re being introduced to thousands of new people through social media.

I’m now focusing more on Events Coordination with Elegantees, and, thank God, we are growing. We are still a small team of volunteers, but we desperately want to provide more employment for NGO’s helping to restore survivors. Right now we’re working with Restore NYC, in our own backyard, and Nepali Rescue Project.

I feel so blessed that I get to spread the word about a company that is looking to bring justice, enhance true beauty, and help restore precious women. I look forward to seeing Elegantees grow, we even have a men’s line that we’re debuting this fall!

Of course, it would be nice to be able to live off of this blessing (and not have to substitute teach), but more importantly I want Elegantees to grow so that we can see more women employed, and provide a new sense of dignity, and worth to the women who have come from a life of being used, abused, and feeling worthless.

I’ve sometimes battled with guilt of not being overseas, not living in a small bedroom that has a bathroom in it, and not eating pb & j every day, but I’m also learning that guilt doesn’t come from God. Also, I want to always be wherever God wants me to be, whether it means overseas or back home. It’s not so much about WHAT you do and WHERE you do it.. but whether or not you’re IN the Father’s will.. because THAT’S what He will bless…wherever you are. Oh I pray I will always be where and do what He’s asking of me.

I don’t really know what the my future holds, and how all this will span out… but I know this is just a part of all that God is going to do, in NYC, regarding this evil of human trafficking, and I am so humbled, and privileged to be a part of it.

Below is the Elegantees video promotion for the Not for Sale top, and this is the link you can go to to purchase the Britni top. Your donation will go to Not For Sale. So go ahead and shop for a cause. Fashion with a purpose..and what a beautiful purpose it is.

Agenda: Love,

Bethsaida

What Happens in Vegas?

Well.. as I’m sure you have seen, or experienced.. a lot.

A lot that probably includes pictures of blackmail…stories of money gained and loss….stories that probably will never be mentioned again.

But here’s something that NEEDS to be addressed.

Police there, have issued a public warning to parents and children about how PIMPS are preying on children, more than ever before.

“They are actively walking through the malls, they are at the movie theaters, they are driving past the high schools, they are looking for the next young lady to charm with all of their smiles and wealth and seeming success to suck into this industry,” 

When I read the above quote in the article, my mind was just blown!

Can you even fathom the thought process that goes on inside of these pimps heads every morning?

I just can’t grasp how a person’s sole purpose every morning is to look for someone they can entrap, abuse, and use to get MONEY

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” 1 Timothy 6:10

This could be the slogan for the issue of human trafficking…well on the pimps, and traffickers end.

But this isn’t just happening in Vegas.. it’s happening in Maine. It’s a problem that is facing the upcoming superbowl in Indianapolis. A sex trafficking ring, using children, recently busted in Seattle.  In San Francisco. ALL underage girls.

Not to mention that it is happening in our own NYC backyard.. story of Nina from Sunset Park. And I met a couple last night, at No Limits Church, who encountered more than they were looking for at an Asian massage parlor in Chelsea.

Let your circle of influence know what’s going on. Create awareness. Use your voice to be a voice to the voiceless.

And most of all PRAY.. Pray that the wrongs will be made right, and that there will be a generation of believers that rise up who say “NOT ON MY WATCH, LORD… NOT ON MY WATCH”

Agenda: Love,

Bethsaida

p.s.  I just created a new Agenda: Love “fan” page, where I will be posting lots of resources on the issue of human trafficking, and practical ways to ACT out love. Like?

$ouls for $ale (Screening)

“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” -William Wilberforce (British abolitionist 18th-19th century)

Another one of my dear friends from my old World Race squad, Sara, posted a link on my wall and said “Go Bethsa, Go!”. At first I thought she was cheering me on, because she is a master at encouragement… but then I clicked the link, and it led me into an alternate world… A world I would like for you to step into as well.

Nefarious Merchant of Souls is a documentary on the horror of the global sex trade… from a new viewpoint. It is possibly the first documentary, on this issue, done by a Christian organization. Exodus Cry. “The prayer movement to end slavery

I’m going to see the documentary in a couple weeks, here in NYC. The Incurable Fanatics Screening tour is nationwide, so perhaps it’s playing in your city and state. Here is the schedule of screenings that began from the beginning of September, and goes till mid November.

The movie trailer says “from a holy perspective”. “Christianity” today has made the word HOLY to seem unattainable, scary, and religious. But did you know that the Hebrew word simply means “to be set apart, different”?

I’m ready for a documentary from a “different” perspective… one that not only dives into the dark abyss of human trafficking, but brings the bright Light along.

I’m ready for a documentary that shows the whole truth.

Are you?

Agenda: Love,

Bethsaida

Mai: A True Tale of Hope…Thai Style

Hey guys, I’m currently riding in the back of a SUV with an ex squadmate and his sweet grandparents…yup grandparents are pretty awesome. Makes me miss mine so much.

But newho, we’re heading to Tennessee (about a 20 hour ride from NYC), to drop them off, then head towards The World Race training camp.

I’m posting this blog from my phone, so forgive any spelling errors or weird styling.

As we’re driving along, I’m in awe of all the lush green surrounding us. And the clouds..well, I haven’t looked up in quite some time, and they are just as breath taking as the ones I saw around the world.

Dozing in and out of sleep, I received an email notification blog update from Emily Tuttle. She’s the current world racer who found favor with a Thai girl prostitute named Mai. And Mai’s story is just as, actually more beautiful than the scenery around me. I just HAD to share this continuing journey with you all.

I would really encourage you to read this story. It’s truly inspiring. And it excites me more for all the things that Lighthouse in Action is going to be a part of the coming years. (Again, this is where I’ll be volunteering for two years).

Here’s the link: http://emilytuttle.theworldrace.org/?filename=from-ministering-to-to-ministering-with-maes-story-part-7

Just copy and paste the above. Which is part 8. I strongly recommend starting from part 1, you won’t regret it! =)

Agenda: Love,
Bethsaida

Dear Weekend: You Made Me Yell, You Made Me Cry, You Gave Me Hope.

I have to say that this weekend has been quite an intensely emotional one for me.

Saturday, I went to a documentary screening of “The Price of Sex” by Mimi Chakarova.

The images and stories of the Eastern European women trafficked to the brothels, and darkly lit clubs of Turkey and Dubai were heart wrenching.

During one part of the film, an all too familiar scene of mud, geese, and older, hard working, white women with scarves tied around their heads, appeared. It was Moldova! The country I was in only 8 months ago, which I had NEVER EVER heard about, before then. It also happens to be the poorest country in Europe, which makes it a heavily targeted area for traffickers to come to.

The agony of the women on the screen, suddenly seemed to become too real for me to sit comfortably in my seat. Those women could have been my sisters!

Some of the most beautiful, and loving families adopted me into their homes, while I lived there for the month. One of the families, the Bejenaru family, has 5 beautiful girls.

The thought of a trafficker going to their village, and deceiving any of these precious children, with fake promises of a better life, makes me sick to my stomach!

So I pray for them. Pray for their protection. I know that is the greatest thing I can do.

The day before the screening, I started reading the autobiography of Rachel Llyod “Girls Like Us”. It also chronicles the birth of GEMS. Rachel founded GEMS in 1998.

“Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) is the only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.”

These girls, average ages 12-14, are from Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Reading about the life these girls live, and have lived right in the city I call my home, also brings a cry of desperation from deep within me for CHANGE!

Sunday, I watched the CNN documentary called Nepal’s Stolen Girls, which featured Demi Moore and her non-profit DNA Foundation, and was based on the organization in Nepal, Maiti Nepal. Maiti Nepal has housed 12,000 Neapalese victims of trafficking. It was not as visually graphic or intense as other documentaries I have seen, or even the book I’m now reading, but it exposed enough, to the general public, about this evil we call sex trafficking.

There were moments this weekend when I felt like shouting out loud “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUUUUU….GO USE YOUR INFLUENCE TO EDUCATE THE GENERAL PUBLIC ABOUT THE NEED IN THE WOLRD!!!!!! AND INSPIRE THEM TO BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION!!!!!!!!” ( though, I might have used some other verbiage in my head… don’t judge…plus I said “might”)

Instead I chose the more sane, and effective, approach and gave every frustration and shed tear to God who is much greater than this need, and strong enough for this seemingly overwhelming burden.

In the midst of these stories there is Hope to be found.

Can I link you to a real life story that is actually in the process of being written?

One that you can actually be a part of?

One that shines the Light in the midst of all this darkness?

It’s one that’s told, vividly and masterfully, through the words of Emily Tuttle. She is a current World Racer serving at the organization that I will be volunteering at, for two years, in Thailand.

If you want to read about miracles, and the hope that can be found within the dark realm of the sex trade. Begin by clicking here.

Read each chapter… 1-7.

I promise you, it is worth the 15 minutes of your life it will take to read the whole story of the Thai bar girl named Mai. No doubt in my mind, goosebumps will decorate you arms, as they did mine.

May your heart be moved, and your hope be renewed. I know God used this story to remind me how much He truly loves the ONE.

Agenda: Love,

Bethsaida

A Sheep That Counts

I went down to my parents kitchen, poured myself a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, and sat down at the table. I was sitting there, munching away (because they are so dang good!.. did I just say dang? That’s gotta be from living with southerners for 11 months).

When suddenly the thoughts hit me like a ton of bricks “WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING??!”

“Going to Thailand? Seriously Bethsaida? Fight against the sex trade? How much can I really do? How much of a difference can I really make? I’m walking into an intense war zone! Am I just boxing the air? Chasing some pipe dream? Is this all worth it? If one bar closes down, then another one will just pop right up!”

I was sitting there with all these thoughts running through my mind, like a parade of fear, and then one thought halted the whole shingdig (southern influence again?)… April 9th.

The day that God changed the course of my life forever…

April 9th 2011, I was sitting in WonGen Kafe, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, listening to Emmi (who’s Emmi? That’s where I’m going for two years.) tell the story of God’s grace in her life. As a little girl, she was almost sold into the sex trade, but her grandparents had divine wisdom, unbeknown to them, and sent her to a Christian orphanage.

Her best friend did not have a life with that same outcome. She was sold into the sex trade, and about 8 years later, Emmi was reunited with her best friend, who was dying of A.I.D.S on the hospital bed. Emmi was there when her friend died, and Emmi’s heart grieved for the loss, but she didn’t sink into a state of depression. Actually, she was filled with hope.

HOW?

She was able to tell her best friend about the love of Jesus Christ. Though her friend would be leaving this time capped realm, she would be entering into an eternity of peace, with a God who loves her.

Emmi said in her heart, the moment after her friend passed, “one more Lord…one more.”

“One more Lord!” Just ONE more girl, ladyboy, child who will have the opportunity to choose a life that can be transformed through the radical love of Jesus.

That “one more” echoed and resonated deep in my heart at my parents dining room table, while my Frosted Mini Wheats got soggified from laying in the milk too long, while I was having this revelation.

What’s the point of living, if you have nothing worth fighting for?

So I fight.. by God’s grace and strength ALONE… I fight.. Because God is concerned with the ONE.

His love chases after the ONE
His heart beats for the ONE
His heart breaks for the ONE

And so if through all this, there is ONE person who comes to know the life- altering, enhancing love of the Father…then this “insanity” is worth it all to me.

God saw Me as worth it all.

He sees YOU as worth it all.

Worth it all for the ONE.

“Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

So Jesus told them this story:  “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! ”  -Luke 15:4-7 (NLT)

Agenda: Love,

Bethsaida

“The Price of Sex” Documentary Screening This Weekend

This morning, my sweet friend Amanda linked me to this website, The Price of Sex.

There is a Human Rights Watch film festival that has been going on, in NYC, since June 16. It ends June 30th. You may find some other documentaries of interest here.

The screening for the “The Price of Sex” (with a focus on Middle East, Europe)  is taking place June 24th- June 26th. You can book your ticket online ($13.25 including tax). The location of the theater is at 165 West 65th Street, upper level, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

Here’s the trailer:

The link to book the tickets is HERE.

Hope to see you there!

Agenda:Love,

Bethsaida