Tuesday, July 28, 2015

you are the main character in this story

Don Miller says every story basically goes like this: 
There's a main character 
who has a problem
who meets a guide
who has a plan
who calls the character to action.  
If the character follows the plan, the story ends heroically.
If the character doesn't follow the plan, the story ends tragically. 

I think he might be right. 

-----

Seven years ago we heard about the horrors of sex-trafficking for the first time.

We wanted to help. We wanted to make a difference. 
But we felt overwhelmed. 

How could ordinary people like us really make a difference in the face of such a massive problem?  How could ordinary people like us fight back against such evil?

Then we met The Exodus Road.

The Exodus Road provided a way for us to make a real life difference every month by funding actual investigations and rescues of trafficked victims. We began sponsoring investigations by donating each month even though we were unemployed. We receive real-time updates from The Exodus Road about investigations and rescues and saw exactly how, for the money it costs our family to eat at Chipotle, our monthly donations were being used to save lives. The more we helped the more we learned. The more we learned the more we wanted to help. 

Now, eight years and many small steps after hearing those first stories of slavery, we are preparing to give our time, energy and lives as ordinary people who simply responded to a call to action.

And now you're the main character. 

You have heard the gut-wrenching injustice of sex-trafficking. 
You want to help. You want to make a difference. 
But it's all so overwhelming. 

You wonder how you could ever make a real difference in the face of such a massive problem. You wonder how one ordinary person could push back the darkness. 

This is how. 

Sponsor two years of real investigations and real rescues with The Exodus Road by sponsoring us.

You can set captives free. Or you can pay for Chipotle. 

Choose freedom! 
Sponsor us here


Thursday, July 23, 2015

leverage your influence!

My bestest Christin told me a story yesterday and I just have to share. 

Ok, scene one: Christin and her hubs are driving near their home recently when he notices police officers outside a massage parlor in a strip mall. You know the ones. Blacked out windows. Curtains drawn. Neon light flashing OPEN and the name of the business reads MASSAGE. So shady. 

(**Just in case you are not aware, there is almost always more on the secret menu than just a neck and shoulder treatment. Massage parlors are major players in the sex-trafficking industry harboring women and girls who are forced to service customers at all hours of the day and night as we get a Subway sandwich two doors down or drive right on by in our cars.)

So they notice what appears to be a raid taking place at this massage parlor and, even though they know enough about trafficking to know it happens in everywhere, they are still shocked to see a bust in progress so close to their home. Not long after, she sees the story breaking on the news and their assumptions are confirmed. Their local police department is committed to shutting down businesses found to be complicit in human trafficking. Yes! 

There's more. 

Scene two: Backstory. Leading up to this, she tells me, she has to frequent City Hall as a part of her Inspired Inland Market business - a local-vibe outdoor market atmosphere where creative makers sell handmade product as way to contribute their art to the community. Christin submits vendor information to the Business Licensure department on a regular basis so she has become familiar with Minerva. Minerva IS the Business Licensure department. Minerva sits at the desk. Minerva enforces the rules. Minerva does not make exceptions. Minerva's a hard ass.    

Scene three: Serendipity. Christin is in line at her local Starbucks when she notices Minerva happens to be in line ahead of her shuffling through her purse as if she cannot find her wallet. Christin quietly asks the barista to put the drink on her card. When the barista assures Minerva her drink has been paid for she looks up at Christin, recognizing her from City Hall, and awkwardly stutters about how unnecessary it is and how she shouldn't have. Christin just smiles like olive branches because it truly is her pleasure to buy the drink. 

Scene four: The twist. Christin is in line at a local sandwich shop that just opened and who does she see? Minerva! She asks Minerva if it is her first time at the shop and she remarks that she is there meeting with the group of gentlemen in the corner. Christin looks over to see a group of police officers in uniform. She asks Minerva about working with the police department and learns that Minerva's husband is an officer and she has started helping them revoke the business licenses of people who are found to be operating unlawful businesses. Christin pauses and then asks if her work has anything to do with the massage parlor raid she saw first hand and then reported on the news. Well, yes in fact, it does. 

Turns out hard ass Minerva is helping her local police department crack down on sex-trafficking as she goes. She's using her normal life, her position, her expertise, her strengths, her sphere of influence IN HER CURRENT SPACE and she is leveraging it to fight slavery from her little desk at City Hall. 

Minerva's not just a hard ass. Minerva's a bad ass. 

Justice is in the hands of the ordinary, friends! We are everyday abolitionists! 

I love this example of everyday ways we can leverage what we already have for the freedom of other human beings. We don't all have to move to foreign countries, but we do all have to play a part if we ever want to see this torture tide change. 

Do you know you have influence? Do you know you are powerful beyond measure? You have been given position, expertise, strengths, giftings and passions that can be actioned for so much beauty and so much good! 

Ask yourself, what do I already have?  

Maybe you have a network. 
Maybe you have an online platform. 
Maybe you have a staff. 
Maybe you have a stage. 
Maybe you have a church group.
Maybe you have students.
Maybe you have children. 
Maybe you have a product.
Maybe you have a service. 
Maybe you have art. 
Maybe you have time. 

Maybe you have a little desk in a building somewhere that wields more power than you ever realized. 

Use it! 

Let's leverage our collective influence for those held captive behind blacked out strip mall storefronts, for those in high-rise "staycation" hotel suites AND for those in back alley brothels in red-light districts half a world away because abolition work there directly benefits abolition work here. 

If you have any type of influence you feel led to leverage on behalf of our work with The Exodus Road in SE Asia we would love to hear from you! Email us directly at clshark@mac.com with any ideas! We'd love to collaborate in any way possible to continue raising awareness!  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

difference maker

We're poolside again today. Working hard at this California housesitting gig, I tell ya. Swam all morning and we've been lounging in the breezy shade all afternoon. The biggest decisions I have to make today are when to reapply sunscreen and how much extra pico I want on my Wahoo's fish taco. We'll be wrapping up our time here in our old 'hood at our dear friend's shabby chic bungalow and heading back down to the beach to hold down the fort at another friend's beach house for the rest of the week. Much needed rest and so much fun with so many friends we may not get to see again before the big move. 

This breezy cabana-esque patio is the perfect place to tuck my feet up and pull out a keyboard to tell you about this morning's story. 



Eric goes on a Peet's coffee run this morning  (apparently our fellow coffee snob friends have ditched their espresso maker and are exclusively French press now). Anyway, he's rockin' the @shopshedoesjustice DIFFERENCE MAKER tee we gave him for Father's Day and the girl at the counter says sarcastically, "So, you're a difference maker, huh?" To which he replies, "I like to think so." Laced with condescension she tilts her head to the side in apathy and drones, "And just how is it that YOU make a difference?" To which he replies, "I help rescue girls from sex slavery." (holding eye contact...) The rude sneer drains from her face and her eyes light up, "Oh, you really are a difference maker! I feel like I should offer to buy your drinks or something!" 

Justice is in the hands of the ordinary. Our hands. Your hands. 

We are looking for 25 Difference Makers. Ordinary people - close friends, distant friends, old friends, new friends - who want to use 25 of their dollars every month to join us in pushing back the darkness of slavery. 

25 Difference Makers at $25/month for 2 years will cover Carsyn and Garrett's school fees and tuition for the first year we are overseas. 

We are so fortunate to have amazing schools here at home that are free. It is a true luxury to have so many good choices when it comes to our kids' education. 

While we are in SE Asia, however, our children will attend a specific private school in the neighborhood where we will live in order to maximize security. The nature of our work is such that we will be living in an area geographically separate from the investigations for safety's sake. We have to be smart and strategic from the very beginning and cannot afford to underestimate these details. Thankfully our leadership has done the hard work in going before us and so we already know our kids will attend the private Christian school in the gated neighborhood we will live in so that their safety is never in question. 

A huge answered prayer came in last week as the school we've been applying to informed us that they have made an exception for our family and have guaranteed both Carsyn and Garrett an early placement for January 2016!  This is super exciting because early placements are usually reserved for missionary families, which we are not. 

Tuition and school fees make up a surprising chunk of our two year budget. Fees have to be paid early so this is the piece we need to fund first. 

Will you be one of our 
DIFFERENCE MAKERS? 

A good friend contacted Eric out of the blue last week. He and his wife and kids are missionaries in a scary country and they are no strangers to long-term fundraising. He's one of those guys that really gets my guy. He shoots straight, speaks blunt, and loves fierce. He's a truth teller and one helluva prayer warrior. Never an ounce of bullshit. So when He calls to encourage Eric out of the blue it's obviously God's provision. How's the fundraising going, he asks. He calls to remind us that big donors are super helpful, but it's the ordinary donors, the $10/$15/$20 a month donors who are going to have our backs in prayer. It's those who are thinking of us every month, every time they skip that Starbucks drink so they can give, they are the ones who will be charging the doors of the brothels with us night after night in spirit. The ordinary donors are the ones who get you to your goal, he says. Put the rest back on God, he says. This is His work, let Him provide the money, he says. 

Justice is in the hands of the ordinary, we say. 

We need 25 Difference Makers to commit to $25/month for 2 years so that Carsyn and Garrett can start school in January. Will you be one of them? 



Each of the 25 Difference Makers will be automatically entered in our first giveaway
 ---> a DIFFERENCE MAKER t-shirt from She Does Justice! These t's are such amazing conversation starters and simple ways to remind others (and ourselves) that every day is another chance for ordinary people to change the world. 

Make your first donation through our GoFundMe.com/sharkstoseasia campaign and let us know you want to be one of the 25for25 Difference Makers helping Carsyn and Garrett go to school in SE Asia and we will automatically enter you in the DIFFERENCE MAKER giveaway! 

And now for another swim...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

the change of

In mathematics there is the concept of "change" represented by a triangle, the Greek letter delta. The change in... describes the incremental variance between two points. Small changes in the slope of a curved line on a graph, for instance. I've always loved this concept of small changes along a line. It's the fancy version of "next steps".  Coordinates marking the travel from point A to point B. All of the in between spaces creating a path. A design.

Math has always been like a language to me with rhythm and cadence and order and process, perhaps because language comes much easier to me than math ever has. I am always in awe of how a language of numbers and values can describe the vastness of our universe. Sometimes I think math might even be poetry for all its pattern and repetition. I once heard a massively brilliant astrophysicist describe how he sees God through his mathematical study of the universe as "elegant". Like Italian, and the symphony, and couture. God's creation flows elegant.

What if change is elegant? The slight variances along the path between two points. The slope of a curve as opposed to a straight line. This is math, and math simply describes reality. My reality as of late.

We moved. A little move before the big move. An unexpected change in plans. Change. What we thought was going to be a straight line between this season and our move overseas has shaped up to be much more of a curved line with a combination of variables: circumstances, wisdom, relationships and preparation in between.

Up until this point, as perpetual renters we've loved the freedom to move whenever and wherever without the baggage of homeownership. Our gypsy hearts looking ahead. We have always invested in the houses we've lived in and left them in better condition than when we moved in as a way to bless the property owners, and yet we've been hoping for a relocation for quite some time and so have never fully put down roots. However, a change in ownership, a significant rent hike and the requirement of another year lease (none of which we were interested in) reminded us of the shadow side of not owning your home. 

At the same time we were making unexpected decisions about where we wanted to live in preparation for our move to SE Asia, Eric's mom had a heart attack. His dad's health has already been struggling. The future is uncertain. Isn't it always.

And so God made a little space in our hearts. 
And then He kindled a little light in that space. 
And then He blew a breeze turning our heads in that direction. 

We know those breezes well. Those invitations to consider, to enter in. No guilt. No force. Just the Holy Spirit expanding our ideas of the slope of our particular curved line and how we might travel between two points on our path. All of a sudden it seemed silly to rush out and dig up some six-month rental house in some random neighborhood where we would set up shop temporarily just to put most of our stuff in a storage unit for two years overseas. Sure we could do it. Or, we could do something different. We could enter in. The change in our curve could allow us to enter into the change in another's curve. 


Honor the space between no longer and not yet.  


And so, we have taken over the three empty rooms in Eric's parent's house on a quiet street lined with horse properties in NE Mesa, so that we can mow their acreage, cook meals, open the blinds and let light in, tell stories of old times and stories of today's minutiae, bring laughter, bring the energy of children. 

We've done this before. This entering-in. We lived with my parents for a year after my brother's death. We didn't have to. We were able to. He had lived with them during his cancer and the void was thick. Our kids were little and their smiles and laughter brought light and love. We brought conversation and company. Simple proximity of presence on a daily basis and cooking well for them allowed grief to be metabolized and gradually brought life back into their space. The relationships our kids enjoy with their grandparents is such a treasure because of that year. 

That year wasn't a have-to. It was a get-to. As is this. We've always known the gift of having good relationships with our own and each other's parents and so we get to take these months to invest. We get to invest relationally in his parents. We get to invest financially into our own fundraising efforts. We get to invest in ourselves during this micro-burst of rest. A slower and longer transition just might be for our best. 

We weren't planning on this space. This in between. We were planning on going straight from right now to a new right now. One day we would close the door and turn the key on this season and the next we would unlock a new adventure in a new time zone. 

But plans change. 

We have been given this space. Space I have a feeling we might need. Space our kids might need. Time spent we will never regret. Turns out, transitioning from a long season here in the desert to the wild ride of moving overseas could possibly require a little more than just a killer going away party and a ride to the airport. Just maybe. In the meantime, we are honoring the space between no longer and not yet by pressing in instead of pulling away, digging up the elegant in the unconventional.

Everywhere an adventure. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

the art of neighboring

So, we moved. A little move before our big move. Actually, I think this little move may have been the big move. I think leaving our neighborhood and moving across town has been more difficult than leaving the country will ever be. As renters who never liked to be too tied down we've never loved a home like we've loved this last one. And not because of the house, but because of the quality of life housed in the house. All because of the learned art of neighboring. 

It's the families who have been around long enough to know the history of the 'hood. It's the open doors with kids in and out all day long. It's how they all know which cupboard the cups are kept in and which snack bins they can help themselves to. It's the neighbor who plays his harmonica while happily walking 1 block to work each day and takes sweet, totally not weird pictures of his girlfriend in the other neighbor's wildflowers.  Or the other neighbor who rides his bike two blocks to work on campus in a suit each day regardless of the heat. It's impromptu pizza nights when the dads feed whichever neighborhood kids happen to be around. It's bonfires and beers on the front lawn with whoever happens to see the beacon lit and shows up. It's the college boys next door who knock on the door with an escape tortoise in hand at least once a week, who bring leftover bottles of wine as a peace offering after they've had a party and who never complain about your squawking chickens because you never complain about the "skunk" smell wafting over from their yard every so often. It's never having to plan play dates for your kids because they always have ready-made playmates. It's borrowing a cup of sugar, a lemon, or an entire bag of flour while cooking. It's your neighbor knowing they can always check your coop if they need to borrow an egg and your not home. It's seeing the free range neighborhood dog on the loose again and knowing exactly how to get him home. It's pool hopping in multiple backyards on the street because there is  standing permission even when the neighbors aren't home. It's New Years fireworks in the street, 4th of July fireworks just down the street and football game touchdown fireworks every Saturday night during fall. It's last minute sleepovers, last minute errand running, and last minute trips to the lake. Family game nights, neighborhood Olympics and a lawnmower that gets walked around the block being shared between multiple yards. It's the art of the drive-by, the pop-in, the send-them-on-down.  It's the pile of clean laundry and other miscellaneous items that gather by the front door to be returned to various houses the next day. It's the ten year old fake leather couch peeling apart leaving shreds on the floor each day from the herd of boys who wrestle, practice flying off the arms and crawl all over it while playing xBox everyday. It's the fact that I love the three years it has  been torn to shreds more than I ever loved the seven years it sat perfectly unblemished. It's the tree climbing and music video making, the bike riding, skateboarding in the rain. The new kid who grafts right in to the group. The new little girls who look up to the big girls. It's the constant sidewalk chalk pictures and notes between the girls taped to the front doors in lieu of the bucket/pulley system they have been designing to stretch between the houses. It's the "get well" artwork after multiple broken bones. It's driveway basketball games that draw kids out of their houses and makes dads pull their cars over to get in on the hustle. It's throwing the football back and forth as we talk about our day which always magnetically attracts the usual suspects and reminds the kids that throwing like a girl is a good thing. It's pogo sticks and nerf gun wars and super soaker fights and writing plays and being in plays and going to see Broadway plays. It's shared sarcasm among moms and boyish humor among dads. Shared adult beverages and shared inside jokes. Shared disappointments and shared prayers.

Butabove all else it's generosity. What is mine is yours. Open doors and open lives. As we go. Along the way. Through the years. Truly. We have been taught the art of neighboring well and we will never be the same. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

confession: i don't like fundraising


I don't like fundraising. It's hard.

Hard things take a long time. Hard things require patience and extreme effort exerted over an extended period of time. Hard things require some failure.

I don't prefer any of these situations. I know, weird.

I prefer the "fun" in fundraising! Like raising over 8k in five days kind of fun. Like seeing people leverage their influence on behalf of freedom kind of fun. Like watching our goal get closer and closer and then BAM! Success! I prefer the rally-the-troops, blow-your-mind whirlwind kind of fun!

And yet the "fun" isn't where strength is born. Strength hails all the way from hard work. And I want to be strong. I need to be strong. For the crazy work ahead. For the crazy of today.

Raising a two year salary is a hard thing. Not because of the dollar amount, but because people don't always understand the purpose. They assume we don't feel like getting "a real job" and we just want other people to foot the bill for our travel plans. They ask questions like, "Why should I pay YOUR salary?" And we get it. If you didn't grow up in the evangelical church where mission trip support letters in your mailbox were common occurrences, the whole idea might feel kinda strange.

See, when you work for a company, your salary is paid out of profits from sales or services. When you work for the government, your salary comes from tax dollars. When you work for a non-profit, your salary comes from donations made to the organization. The jobs are just as legitimate with detailed position descriptions, full-time work weeks and donated funds going through the organization and distributed in incremental paychecks.

The hard part of fundraising isn't asking people to donate their hard earned money. The hard part is selling humanity in a market buying individual gratification. It's easy to exchange our money when we get something in return - a bracelet, a t-shirt, a night out at our favorite restaurant. We like a product we can consume. It's a whole other thing, however, to exchange our money toward someone else's return - their safety, their healing, their freedom. We want to end hunger but we don't want to pay for someone else's food. We want world peace but we don't want to put down our guns. We want a healthy planet but we don't want to adjust our oil usage. We want children to be safe instead of raped every night but we don't want to give up our internet porn or spend any of our vacation fund to rescue them.

I say "we" because these words are not accusatory. We are part of this culture too, born and bred into a long lineage steeped in consumerism and individuality, but we are pushing back against our own myopic tendencies of self-preservation and egocentrism because we belong to each other. You + me. Us + them. We're all in this together.

We think Jesus was serious when He said of most importance is, "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy AND love others as well as you love yourself." More important than not murdering. More important than not gettin' busy with your neighbor's husband or wife. More important than not stealing or lying or bowing down to cows made of gold. Love others as well as you love yourself.

We believe Jesus was serious. Like really believe it. And so I remind myself ---> WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. We can simply slow down along our way to buy dinner for Andrea who was sitting outside Chick-fil-a last night where we stopped to eat after Carsyn's surgery. We can sit on the curb with her and give her resources to access here in town and how she can take steps toward a fresh start beginning with a safe place to eat and sleep. She is our neighbor in our town and if she was my prodigal girl out on the street in need of a kind word and a chicken sandwich I would want someone to show her love and point her toward home. AND. We can go to great lengths to search for and rescue the young girl who is in a dark brothel across the globe in SE Asia forced into sexual slavery against her will, terrified by every dark eye she meets, because if she was my girl you can bet I would sell everything I own and would not sleep until I gathered every willing soul I know to help find her and bring her home no matter what border I had to cross.

What does "love others as well as you love yourself" look like for you? We each have the opportunity to answer this with our lives. Not just us. We answer it along the way as we happen upon each other and we answer it in the way we make decisions that build our world.

"is this the world you want
is the the world you want,
you're making it
everyday you're alive"
-switchfoot

We believe in the mission and strategies of The Exodus Road so much we are willing to fundraise on behalf of the organization in order to see the position we are moving our family to fill be fully funded. We would not want our salary to take away from monies donated for undercover gear, high level training and collaborative work with local law enforcement and so we are joining in the larger fundraising effort by The Exodus Road to contribute an entire much needed position to the SE Asia staff which will free up ER founders Matt & Laura Parker to be even more effective in their leadership of both The Exodus Road and their role in the Liberty Alliance collaboration.

Our goal is to inspire an army of supporters who want to push back the weight of darkness alongside us and who might continue to keep the position funded and the rescue coming long after we move into another role within The Exodus Road. We are searching not just for people who love us and will support whatever we do personally, but those who believe in the slow work of search and rescue and who see freedom as a non-negotiable for all children.

And so I will love the Lord my God with all my passion and prayer and intelligence and energy by loving His kids as my own. Even if it's hard.






Monday, June 08, 2015

undercover operative: "Jill"