What is This?

Sidney First's journey toward understanding the heart of God for trafficked children and women.

Story of Redemption II

⊆ 6:58 PM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

Here is what Beth shared at church on July 20.

Each morning I prayed for God to break my heart that day. I was afraid that I would try and separate myself from the reality of what we were seeing and hearing and didn’t want that to happen. On the first full day that we were down there we went on a tour of the Red Light District. I had been there a couple of times before, but it had always been at night and we drove quickly down a few streets and we weren’t allowed to make eye contact with anyone. On this day, it was 1:00 in the afternoon and Horacio, the youth minister that was driving, seemed to drive 10 mph and went down every street 3 times each. I could tell my mind was starting to dehumanize what we were seeing by saying that the girls seemed ok. They were standing up nice and straight, they didn’t seem distraught, terrified, or like they were high on drugs. As soon as that thought came to mind my eyes fell on a girl that was probably 17 or 18 years old. She was standing next to an open doorway and she was wiping tears off her cheeks. She was standing there in the open for all to see…crying. I looked back one last time and saw a man walk up, give her money and they walked into the hotel together. Her cheeks had to still be damp from her tears. I don’t know what brought the tears – feeling abandoned, hopelessness, despair…This is a story of redemption yet to come. My hope and prayer is that someone will be placed in her life that will walk her through the process of realizing she has a Savior that will reach down and pull her out of this pit, will restore her, make her new, and bring her into full redemption.

Story of Redemption

⊆ 4:45 PM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

During our July 20 church services, several of us from the Mexico Vision Team shared impressions and redemption stories from the trip. Following is what I shared. I am hoping, in coming days, to be able to post what the others shared as well. -- Todd

As we approached this trip, I don’t think that any of us knew exactly what to expect. One of the common comments I made leading up to the trip was that perhaps it was more about my own heart shaping than any impact we could possibly have.

You see, I remember very specifically a number of years ago when in a moment of complete honesty I had commented to someone that I had some bias against Hispanics and in particular Mexicans. This had come as the result of experiences I had when I was younger and traveling to Texas frequently on business.

Obviously, I don’t know about anyone else but I wonder if many of us don’t have a group of people that we don’t have the best feelings toward. It could be another race or ethnic group or maybe this year in particular it’s the liberals we don’t like or the conservatives we don’t like. Maybe it’s country concert attenders. I don’t know. It usually comes out in statements like “well, they reap what they sow” or “if only they weren’t so lazy”

In essence, what I had done in my mind was strip Mexicans of their worth and value as God’s children because I had relegated them to a lower level than myself. Not an easy thing to admit but it is what I had done

So when the idea of the trip to Mexico came up and God kept impressing on me that I was supposed to go, I felt like Jeremiah Wright’s statement – maybe my chickens were coming home to roost.

So, a bit nervously, I went on the trip … and we saw and heard things that maybe we never wanted to see and hear. We heard of things that really can be described as nothing less than evil. And we learned some of the pressures that have created the situations there. One of those pressures is Americans thinking that Tijuana can be this place where they can go and party and do things they wouldn’t do at home and somehow it is compartmentalized from their lives here in the states. We also learned that there are something like 12,000 adult films made in the US each year compared to something like 400 major motion pictures. Part of that industry involves folks trafficked out of the Tijuana area due to its close proximity to southern California.

And yet in the midst of that, we found and saw so many people there whose lives are completely devoted – and I mean absolutely completely devoted – to restoring hope and healing to those in Tijuana who are caught up in the things we were there to study. God is so anxious to make change there – to win over evil – and working so hard. There was no way that, after seeing how hard God is pursuing these people, I could ever have negative thoughts about them again.

I saw first hand how God really wants relationship with all of us – no matter race, heritage, political persuasion or taste in music. I hope, believe and pray that this trip redeemed me from ever again looking at a group of people and seeing them with anything other than love simply because they are God’s children, the same as me.

I want to share one other quick story with you … I tend to be an early riser. I’d wake up most mornings sometime around 5 and head out to the little courtyard area in the orphanage to read or reflect or do some writing. The second morning we were there, as I sat outside on a little curb and did some writing on my laptop, a little boy came up to me. He was maybe 4 or 5. He was really curious what I was doing so I showed him and then he started running around the courtyard collecting old Hot Wheels cars and bringing them to me to play with. We couldn’t understand a single word the other one said but yet somehow we connected and at the risk of being late for breakfast, I played with him for about an hour.

Throughout our stay there, he kept popping up, usually quite literally because I’d just be walking around and suddenly I’d get tackled from behind and there would be my little friend. He’d usually have a car or ball to play with or he’d lead me to the swing set where he taught me how he liked to twist the swing in a circle and then let it spin out. I asked Ed with our group to try to find out what his name was and all the little boy would tell us was “Hombre” which didn’t make a lot of sense because I think that means “man” in Spanish.

So, we started asking around and at one point someone told me his name was something that sounded to me like Azrael … I honestly don’t think that was even remotely his name but I liked it because it sounded like Israel which reminds me of God’s promise and that just sounded right for the name of this bright faced little boy.

A couple of days later though, Martha, the orphanage director, was talking about a little boy there who, as she said, wasn’t “right in his head”. I couldn’t believe it was Azrael she was talking about but yet it sounded like him. She said that he was the grandson of one of their cooks and came to the orphanage with her. She said that you can’t communicate with him … that he doesn’t understand what you say and the things he says back don’t make sense. I hate to say it but this sounded like the conversations we’d had with him trying to learn his name.

I spoke to Martha again later about Azrael and pretty much confirmed that we were indeed talking about the same little boy. She told me that they thought he had been mentally scarred by things he had seen as a young child. Keep in mind he’s only 4 or 5 now. My heart broke when she told me this. And it’s still broken for my little friend I left behind in Tijuana.

We saw lots of huge stories of redemption in Tijuana … I’d love to talk all day about them but, at least on this first trip, the one that really hits home with me is my own redemption – my own setting free – from prejudice. May I live in a new reality that allows me to better carry God’s hope, restoration, love, and Kingdom to the entire world.


⊆ 1:22 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

17,000 mph

3000 degrees

That is the speed and temperature at which a space shuttle begins the re-entry phase of it's mission. Very fast. Very warm.

I've heard from a lot of books and papers that the "coming home" of one from a missions experience is often called "reverse culture shock." One web page describes it like this,
"While you may know your home, you may not realize how much you have changed after being gone. In adjusting to life in a new culture, your perceptions, habits, and maybe even values have changed, perhaps without your awareness, to fit in with the cultural context of your host country. At the same time, you've probably carried around in your head a wonderful mental picture of your home environment. All of a sudden, when you get home, reality just doesn't measure up to that picture."

I like that definition a lot. But today, on my first day back, I feel a bit more like a space shuttle than I do a human. I have been traveling fast and hot for 11 days and yes, I have changed, but my universe has as well. I am no longer entering the world that I knew before. The world has changed because I was able to put on heaven's glasses (I made that up, I'm not sure they really exist --except for in The Shack --read that book...glasses not included). And they are glasses that cannot be removed.

I wonder how an astronaut re-enters the earth's atmosphere:
-Can she ever see a sunrise the same way?
-Will he read "Little Boy Blue" without laughing at the ridiculousness of the cow?
-Will she be able to read the Psalm 8 without crying?

It's not just because the astronaut has changed. Re-entry is difficult because the world that they once knew is gone. I can't speak for the other 7 of us, but I now live in a new reality.

A reality where:
...I have a difficult time turning on the A/C (stores seem so cold to me)
...my normal size laptop seems huge to me after using a little travel one (seriously, the bigness of my computer really bothered me this morning)
...my regular news program in the morning seemed morose and irrelevant. It's hard to watch a program on a celebrity whose voice is too loud when I met children whose voices have not been listened to.
...I can no longer see a Mexican without knowing his/her story.

Granted, this new reality thankfully still has running water, hot shower water and a toilet that I can put paper in...and I am grateful. In fact, I don't think I've ever been more aware of my blessings.

And in that I recognize that my new reality, the new atmosphere that I call Life Part 2 on Earth begins, much like the last one ended...overwhelmed by how far I have to go but recognizing the grace in the moment that will one day get me there.

Follow The Light

⊆ 6:13 AM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

It's amazing how quickly some of the memories of Tijuana fade when you return home. Or at least it's amazing to me. Unfortunately I do not have the memory that I had 20 years ago ... or maybe even 20 minutes ago.

But somehow I believe that the cream always rises to the top. God has laid particular things more heavily on the hearts of certain members of our team. Those are the things that, in our future discussions, will rise to the top, fuel our passion and burden, and play huge roles in our discernment process.

One thing that, for me, keeps coming up is the power of the Holy Spirit. We saw this so alive in Tijuana. From the fervency of their prayer and worship to the passion of their burdens to the early signs of linking-up between ministries to the amazing ways in which we had opportunities to speak with the people we spoke with ... the Holy Spirit is flowing in Tijuana.

I occasionally like to visit an interesting site called friendlyatheist.com. They have some great discussion from time to time and it is fun to see what is fueling their thoughts and beliefs. Occasionally I have been known to weigh in and post some comments but most of the time I just lurk ... realizing that if my faith is going to be of the depth God wants it, I must be willing to be challenged and work through any remaining questions I have.

There is one particular topic I have seen come up in their discussions a couple of times that really intrigues me. In fact, I brought it up once in one of my comments. That is the discussion of why atheist groups do so very little in terms of compassionate outreach to those in need.

In the discussions, it seems that many atheists feel pain for those in need but they just can never get it together as a group to try to address the needs of others. I am sure there have been fleeting exceptions to this but, as a general rule, they themselves have expressed their recognition of this as a problem. It's as though, individually, they all feel the "moral compass" that CS Lewis wrote about in Mere Christianity but they just can't quite pull it off to work together in unison and accomplish something great and lasting.

The missing component, of course, is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what interweaves itself amongst Christians, inspiring, challenging, encouraging and powering them to do great things ... to respond to needs ... to reach out with God's love, care and compassion.

So, as our Mexico Vision Team begins to sort through what we learned, seeking the Holy Spirit is critical. Its power and presence are there. Through His Spirit, God is alive and well in Tijuana. We need only seek and follow the Spirit.

Yes, that is sometimes easier said that done but God always paves the way and provides the leading for His will and wishes.

May we seek and follow Him well.


⊆ 5:42 AM by Todd M | ˜ 1 comments »

I had shared prior to the Tijuana trip that, if there was one group of people that I harbored some not-so-good feelings toward, it was Mexicans. I will not go into details but my prejudices stemmed from experiences I had many years ago during frequent travel into Texas on business. Texas has a high population of Mexicans and other Hispanics.

I would not say that I ever painted all folks with Mexican heritage with the same brush ... I hope I did not. But still, overall, not the greatest feelings remained in my heart. It has been several years but I remember even telling some people at one point about these feelings. They were a serious issue for me and, even if I hadn't actively thought about them for many years, they remained a serious unresolved issue for me.

God sought to change that.

When the idea of a trip to Tijuana came up and God began stirrings in my heart that He just wouldn't let loose of, it was obvious that my chickens had come home to roost. God had things to teach me. I was going to have to face old prejudices head-on. I knew that, out of that, God wanted to knock those things out of my life forever. I hope and pray that has been the case.

Prejudice is a terrible thing. It stands in the way of relationship building but yet living in community relationships is a big part of where God calls us. It creates a hardening of the heart which can bleed over to all sorts of things. Cognitively, I knew all this but yet God used the trip, and the events leading up to the trip, as ways to show me the cold spots in my heart ... and shape me for a better future.

One thing that hit me as we met with various ministries and leaders in the Tijuana area was that theirs is a message of and a calling to redemption not condemnation. Whereas I had slipped into condemnation mold, denigrating an entire population in my mind, we only saw attitudes reflecting God's grace and love on the part of those we met with.

Of course, it's relatively easy to be grace-filled when you're referring to the victims of crime and injustice but even when these folks spoke of the perpetrators of horrible crimes, it was still done with a redemptive hope, not a condemnation. That is a hard thing to do.

It is hard to feel anything but anger toward those who support and profit from human trafficking and the sex trade ... our human natures want us to condemn ... we hear stories of abuse that make our blood boil and we feel like we could go out and enact a little vigilante justice -- a little abuse on the abusers.

But yet those are, just like ourselves, individuals where God's redemptive power can do great things.

As the result of this trip, I hope that my heart has softened, old prejudices have left forever, and I am better able to carry God's message of redemptive grace wherever I go ... the same redemptive grace that saved me.

Random Thoughts

⊆ 7:32 AM by Todd M | ˜ 2 comments »

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:2-6, NIV)

I wrote some about it yesterday but I think that, as we return to our "normal" lives, all of us who spent last week in Tijuana studying the human trafficking issue will be dealing with a couple of the same things.

First is what role is God calling us to in all of this? The other thing I think we will be dealing with is guilt -- who are we that we should live lives so far different from the others we saw involved in ministering to the various situations in Tijuana? I have really been struggling with that this weekend. Immediately upon my return from Tijuana, I was able to get away for a nice weekend with my family. Unfortunately, that is not so easy for ministry folks in Tijuana who often find that, if they're not there, their ministry is disrupted.

Lots of thoughts go through my head ...

To whom much is given, much is expected.

God blesses those who serve Him well.

It takes all types to make up the unified Body.

God holds us and brings us to the points from where He expects us to do ministry.

God has gifted us all individually.

But, as I think about these things, it is hard to distinguish thoughts pertaining to them that are truly of God from thoughts that are just my own sinful nature trying to justify where I am at and what I am doing. If you look at any of my thoughts, you can clearly see not only a spiritual slant but a selfish slant as well.

Of course, the guilt that wracks me since the trip pertains to my question of "Why should I be so blessed?" But what I am referring to with that are what we perceive as "blessings" according to man's view. As we saw last week in Tijuana, those who are truly living 100% out of that spot where they have given it all up and God is the only thing sustaining them ... well, they have a much different view of what "blessings" really are.

Yes, I am much blessed in the eyes of man but maybe they are entirely different kinds of blessings that God offers us. The things that, in man's eyes are "blessings" actually may be curses in God's eyes, evil things designed to distract us and pull us off task to accomplish His work. While I look at folks doing ministry in Tijuana and feel they are trapped in horrible situations, perhaps it is actually I who am the trapped one -- trapped by the things of man that keep me from living the life God intended.

I like the Colossians 4 scripture above because I do believe that God opens doors for us to do ministry from wherever we're at. We need to always be prepared to separate ourselves from wherever we're at in life and do that ministry.

From a personal standpoint, as I continue to reflect on my time in Tijuana, there is one recurring theme which keeps coming to me and that is that the current situation in Tijuana is a story which must be told. We cannot be a body united for common cause there until the story is out -- until God has reached those He is calling to this area of the world and to these issues with a common message and common information that has left them burdened and equipped to act.

For now, though, as in Colossians 4:2, I think the key is in devoting ourselves to prayer, remaining watchful ... and thankful .. and wondering what "blessings" really are ... what "blessings" are actually things we need to escape.

A Picture of Community

⊆ 6:13 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

On most of my Mexico trips, I snap about 15 pictures. Usually they are snapshots of my week or at least they are filled with people that I do not want to forget. On this trip I wish I had a camera for just 1 picture.

As we walked through the padlocked gate of the House for the Dying (padlocked for whom I wonder), I noticed something that I did not expect. I had expected everyone to be in bed counting their days and trying to recall memories of joy. (I'm a big insensitive idiot I know, but my nerves were skewing my expectations. Maybe I needed them to look sick because of my pride's desire to be better than them...wow I didn't expect that deep thought here...sorry). What I found instead were mostly men and some women who were living a community of hope.

I used to think that Acts 2:42 was the best picture of Biblical community but now I know better. I wanted to take a picture of what I saw. Here are frames of what I saw:

Men and women sitting in rocking chairs, wheel chairs and around a common table.

Some laughing, some trying not to fall asleep at the other's story.

Some whose minds weren't sharp. Some whose bodies had stopped cooperating with them.

All were in need. All were healing agents for the others.

No one could hide his/her weakness or vulnerability. All were broken. All were whole to the other.

Bibles sat on the table and verses were scattered around the beds. Could there be a more desperate real community who needed the Lord? They weren't loved because of their accomplisment or production level. They couldn't be. Their identities and dignity stemmed simply from the heart of God who had created each one of them and had marked their days just as He does mine. It is pure love.

And it's a picture that I will never forget.


⊆ 11:59 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

Whenever I am sick in bed I crave my wife's touch. Even if I am shivering, I will raise my shirt up from the back and ask Erin to place her hand on my skin. As she touches my skin, I feel just a touch more whole, a bit more "touchable."

When children are infants they tell dads to remove their shirts and touch their bare skin against the baby's new skin. In doing so, dads are somehow able to replicate some of the natural bonding that occurs between mother and child, especially nursing mothers. The touch alone brings the 2 together.

When I walked into the bedroom of the home for the dying, I immediately noticed the young man immediately to my left. He was one of 2 that was awake at the time and forgive this expression, but besides his gentle rocking, he looked "normal." As Alex, the director was telling us about each person, he told us that this man to my left was suffering from Epilepsy. Later on, one of our group members wanted to touch him but he told her, "you can't touch me or I will spasm." And he looked scared.

He had a bag of adult diapers above his bed, some white hospital on his frail legs and he was desperate for a touch. Desperate for healing...to feel touchable...for bonding and togetherness with another who possesses the same human skin.

But can you image what it is like to be desperate for the one thing that will throw your body into a state of convulsion? A touch that could, with all seriousness, be the final life's memory?

I prayed that Jesus would have given me the gift of healing in that moment because I WANTED TO TOUCH him. I wanted him to know that he was human. I wanted him to feel like he was clean enough to be touched. I wanted him to remember his childhood when his mother may have held his bare skin against hers. I wanted him to be healed.

I know why Jesus' miracles often involved him touching them. It wasn't that He needed to. It was to fulfill their desperation and to let them know they were loved.

Simple Prayers

⊆ 10:29 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

I think I often overcomplicate things. I was reminded of that this morning at church at the orphanage. Pastor Nicolas was talking about abundant, eternal life. He's reminded of his daily need for the promises of eternal life by the potholes in the road. He said everytime he hits a hole in the street, he groans and wishes that it would be different now. 2 Peter 3:13 says, "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth."

For Nicolas, he wants streets of gold today. It's amazing how simple faith comes from a humble heart.

Father, may we live the abundant life now. And may there be one less pothole on Nicolas' trip home from church today.

God is Near

⊆ 9:53 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

A simple prayer that I am counting on for all the places who are surrounded in darkness today. 2 Kings 20:5 says,

"I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you."

For the boy forced to swing a machete...

For the woman crying on the street...

For the US business woman wondering how to live with her own guilt...

For the tears that flow from a broken heart...

"I will heal you."

I AM near.

Simple Spirituality

⊆ 7:46 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

I have been reading this book by Chris Heuertz all week and I have to say that it is the most painful book I've read in a long time. Each story breaks my heart but not nearly as much as the God-convictions that come from the simple, deep, practical words. It was a powerful book to meditate on all week and I recommend it IF YOU CAN DISSECT IT WITH OTHERS. Because part of the book is preaching community and its power is what happens when broken people humble themselves before God and each other in order to be in a receiving position before God.

There are a lot of great things to quote in the book, but I want to flesh it out with my own community first. Suffice it to say, this will impact our vision team and Tijuana and my life for years to come.

Don Quixote

⊆ 11:17 AM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

It may seem corny but, as I have spent this morning in worship (without an official worship service as we're out of town and still in our sleep clothes at almost noon!), the lyrics from The Impossible Dream from Man of LaMancha will not escape my head. (So let me try to stick them in yours!) They seem so appropriate after what God has laid on us during our time in Tijuana.

Somehow, knowing that we cannot do anything on our own without Christ, knowing that Unity of the Body is essential, but still being called onward to fight for God's victory ... well, this is worship, this is faith, this is believing, this is purely following the call ...

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

(Figures ... Dan gets Pearl Jam, I get Broadway tunes. LOL)

Our Roles

⊆ 10:49 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 1 comments »

Saturday morning was a hard day. The majority of the team was gone, our experiences were slowing down and I was feeling guilty. Guilty because I was an American. Guilty because many of the women and children who were mistreated were mistreated by men who look like me. I was wondering why. Why was I born in the US? Why weren't others? In Chris Huertz's book, "Simple Spirituality" he calls our upbringing in the US as the "curse of where we were born" simply because of how we often cannot understand the Majority World (a new term to refer to countries known as poor or undeveloped or third world...they are not a minority but the majority in our world). And it's true. There are some handicaps in my life that are under the surface just because I was not born in the Majority World. (granted there are even more benefits :) ).

So, during my pity party, I read Acts 17:26-28. Here are my thoughts:

"He determined the times set for them"
-This realization should bring contentment and peace in my life. God is determining the times in my life:
-times in various places
-seasons of life
-deserts and mountain tops

"and the exact places where they should live."
-Why do I often rebel from the place that God has put me? Why didn't God put others in better places? BECAUSE...

27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
-God's purpose in my living an in my living 'place' is so that I would find God AND so that OTHERS would find God. "men" is plural, giving me a call to all humankind. My resources are to be spent helping others find God. If I happen to have been raised in a culture more receptive and open to things of God, then God purposes that so that all humankind could find God.
-God is not far, no matter our living places or times we find ourselves in. I'm amazed this week that even in the darkest places, God's creation knows how to call out to the One who can rescue them. He is near.

28'For in him we live and move and have our being.'"
-"In Him We Live" = if I reach and find God then I live. Living right is not defined by wealth or abundance or even freedom but in being found IN GOD. And when I am found in Him, I am content being anywhere. God's Will then changes from seeking out which task I should do to "how can I be found more in God today?" And from there, my life begins to be shaped in accordance with God's Plan.

-Resource my life so that others may find God
-Stay content because of an inner indwelling of God in me.
-Let my "being" take it's worth and identity from the very Word of God.
-Be thankful in all things, for this is God's Will for all.

Wash Me Clean

⊆ 10:47 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

If you know me well, you know that I love Pearl Jam. Sure, that admission labels and dates me but I have always found myself draw to passionate music of all sorts. And when PJ builds in their songs, they take me somewhere.

This morning was the first morning that I awoke to completely cloudy skies in over a week. It almost felt like the sky wanted to rain but that the ground was repelling it like 2 magnets with similar poles facing each other.

As I walked across the courtyard to the shower, I prayed for rain. I have been asking God to restore, to wash, to make clean things and people and homes and cities that have been polluted. Rain also brings new life. My heart needs that this morning as does this city.

PJ wrote an oscure song years ago that says it well for me. I love that it ends with him screaming, "wash my love." Above all else, God, may my love be clean of my pride, my self and my motives. Let it rain.

WASH by Pearl Jam

Oh please let it rain today.
This city is so filthy, like my mind in ways.
Oh, there was a time, like a clean, new taste...
Smiling eyes before me, inches from my face.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.

Sin to sell, buying just a need.
Just who planted all the devils seeds?
And what the truth, the truth that lies at home...
It's on the inside, and I can't get it off.

Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.

What's clean is pure, but hey,
I'm white on the outside, though I stray...
What she don't know today might kill us both tomorrow.
Bring it back someway...bring it back, bring it back...
Back to the clean form, to the pure form.

Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.
Wash my love.

Unified In The Body

⊆ 10:25 AM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

I believe it was the final morning of my time in Tijuana that one of our team members posed a great question that, now that I am back in Ohio, has really, really come home to roost.

We all were deeply affected by what we saw and heard on our trip. We felt moved to the point of action. But how do we live that out once we're back home where we already feel pushed to the limit ... by family commitments, jobs, volunteer work, and ministry involvement? Her question really becomes the crux of the issue once we get back home. God brought us to Tijuana for a reason. One reason certainly was to bring about change in our selves perhaps even first and foremost before change in Tijuana. But yet He has burdened our hearts with pain that calls us to do something for the situation there. How do we live that out in already very full lives where, particularly when it comes to family commitments, change or "downsizing" really isn't an option?

I am sure that God will call us all to different things as the result of this -- that is how the unified Body works. It may be amped-up prayer for Tijuana and the particular issues we learned about. It may be telling the stories we heard, raising awareness perhaps even world-wide. It may mean continued strategizing and discernment and developing a bigger mission in Tijuana -- finding God's vision. It may mean a return trip for some of us. It may mean welcoming Tijuana Christian Mission folks into our homes the next time they visit. Particularly for a young buck like Seth, it may even mean a development of a lifelong ministry to the oppressed of the world.

It will be really cool to see how this plays out ... how God works among and through us. But an important thing along the way will be continued encouragement for each of us to really seek out and act on exactly why God called us to through this trip.

As far as the personal change in my "self" that has been effected by this trip, I hope that it includes a renewed focus on living a life that is truly transformed in Christ and embodies what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:5-17 (NIV):

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


⊆ 11:22 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

On Wednesday, met Marisa at the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (bsccoalition.org) in San Diego. Her and her staff were incredible. Their goal is to raise the awareness of, protect potential victims, rescue those caught in all kinds of human trafficking and to see justice for the perpetrators.

She is as hard-nosed as they come and as passionate as anyone I know. She is rough in her language, direct in her delivery and honest about what it means to be in the anti-trafficking movement. She told us that you HAVE TO BE a person of faith in order to do her job and I sense that her passion for justice comes because she really believes that each and every person deserves to be seen and valued because they are God's creation. She walked us through a presentation that was horriffic; full of stats about how and why trafficking occurs. We then watched a video of them in action.

I learned some cool new words too.

"Blade" = street
"Vice" = police force
"Chicken Hawk" = one who looks and gets new prostitutes
"Stable" = the house for the pimp's B**ches (she didn't use asterisks though)

There are a lot of stories that she shared and I'm sure you'll see them sometime but I wanted to tell you a couple things that I remember most today:

-300,000-400,000 US children are victims of the sex trade
-poverty and economic disparity are ALWAYS precursors to the demand/supply for prostitution.
-San Diego/Tijuana are a global trafficking center (I was suprised to learn that Seattle also is a huge sex trafficking center as the women work there during warm weather and then come back to Tijuana.
-Psychology of Control - possibly the most dangerous effect a trafficked person has to overcome. They begin to believe that they "deserved it" that they "can't do any better" and that they could never be free. When one girl was rescued, she wouldn't leave until they told her that her pimp had 3 other women advertised on Craig's List. The woman THEN got mad because "he was cheating on her." He controlled her mind in ways that are replicated all over the world.
-THE CHURCH - we make it worse when we do not teach a holistic view of porn or worse yet, ignore its effects completely. Do we teach that porn trafficks mostly 8-17 year olds who DON'T want to do it? Do we teach sexual ethics? Do we surround ourselves with accountability structures that help us stay transparent?

We are privileged to have learned this and a whole lot more. They even expressed a desire to partner with US or for us to serve them somehow too. We were humbled and still are that we aren't doing enough...yet.


⊆ 8:18 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 2 comments »

Hello blog readers. There are about 50 of you a day and I know you're out there, so no ignoring this.

I want to try something. In an effort to help our team continue to process our week I would like you to each read through the posts thus far (as incomplete as they are) and comment back to us what words/phrases/heart stirrings do you hear?

I'll grab them all after a day or 2 and post them as their own entry.


What I Miss When I Leave

⊆ 5:34 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 1 comments »

Since most of our team has left I have been reflecting on the day when I will head back to Sidney too. Since I have done this about 10 times in the last 5 years, this is easy to write but painful because I am aware of my own negligence in applying these virtues. Many of these are what made this week so powerful and what I believe will continue to bring light in dark places. What I will miss about Tijuana Mexico:

1. JOY - I'm convinced that joy cannot exist without suffering or surrender. That suffering may be internal or physical or emotional, but it seems that JOY bursts forth most from places and people who have not or have surrendered all. As Todd asked earlier, "where does my joy come from today?"
2. ACCOUNTABILITY - over and over this week, we have heard from church leaders, ministry leaders and followers of Jesus that one of the things that they need most is accountability! Wow! If someone asks me how they can pray for me I can honesty tell you that I have NEVER said, "pray for accountability in my life and ministry." I haven't even come close. The Latin and South American cultures seem to embody and welcome this more than any human, group or church in the US that I've ever met.
3. SIMPLICITY IN WORSHIP - not church singing here. Worship. The way one lives one's life for God. They see a need and meet it even if it means letting go or suspending a vision that they thought was from God. I'm reminded of Beth's encouragement to us this week to read and re-read Isaiah 58. Go do that now!
4. PRAYER - see other posts but holy cow. Because of their situation in life it seems that they are much more aware of a spiritual battle that is bigger than any physical limitation when it comes to God's work in the world.
5. FOOD - Hey, it's true. I'm not sure this one will help change the world but hey, Jesus liked good food and parties and I'm telling you that He would be here for the tacos!! Yes, I look forward to pizza and wings but I am loving homemade tortillas and the best refried beans in the world.
6. FAITH - this is NOT a religious word down here or even a statement of salvation in some distant land. Faith is life! It requires change. It stretches when no one else sees. It IS the plan for how to move forward. It ties in closely with DEPENDENCE but it drives dependence. God HAS TO come through for them. I'm not sure that I put myself out there because I am prideful and I worry that I will fall and be thought of as a failure...or I just don't believe that God is that big.

How can I/we posture ourselves to embody those parts of Mexico that speak directly against those things that keep us from the One that we love?

Give Me Jesus

⊆ 11:55 AM by Todd M | ˜ 1 comments »

I had the opportunity to talk for several minutes to one of the young women who works at the orphanage and hear a bit of her story. She's a very sweet young lady. She's been there full time a little over a year. She walked away from a teaching job to devote her life to these kids in Tijuana. She told me that her mom and other family members don't necessarily "appreciate" (shall I say) what she's doing or where she's at. It broke my heart to hear that. I could tell that she deals with some pain from it as well.

But that's the way the world is ... it doesn't always understand how God works and the importance of letting Him work. And that's part of the beauty and wonder and mystery of God.

One thing that struck me in Tijuana was the number of people who really have walked entirely away from family and friends to do God's work there. Though there are exceptions, generally folks in paid or vocational ministry here in the states do not have to just walk away from family to do what they're called to do.

But when you're called into the deepest darkness, seemingly even teetering on the brink of hell at times, people don't understand.

And yet so many folks we met in Tijuana still have responded to the call regardless of the cost. And God is doing bright and marvelous things through them.

It makes one think about our lives here in the states ... how often we resist even gentle nudges to follow God's will ... even when doing so would bring us no real loss. But in Tijuana folks are giving it their all ... often at great cost. Because they know that all they really need is Jesus.

On Wednesday evening, as we met in the orphanage's chapel for their mid-week church service along with many who work and live there, Pam sang for us. Without any accompaniment, just the purity of her voice, we all realized that these folks who are giving it their all really are doing it right. They are realizing God's Kingdom here on earth. Because they know that they have all they really need. Here's what Pam sang:

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise

Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
Just give me Jesus.

When I am alone,
When I am alone,
When I am alone,
Give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
Just give me Jesus.

When I come to die,
When I come to die,
When I come to die,
Give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
Just give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
Just give me Jesus.


⊆ 9:53 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

It's the morning of July 4th and our crew is packing for their trip home in just a few hours. As they arrive into Dayton, they are looking forward to hopefully seeing fireworks from the window of the plane. All over our country, cities will be letting off fireworks to celebrate and commemorate our freedom.

We met with a group commissioned by the US Dept. of Justice to study and rescue trafficked people in San Diego and Tijuana. They are the REAL deal. I'll write more later on that but the one thing that hits me regarding this is that they told me that the 4th of July (and any other big celebration or event) increases in huge numbers the amount of people being trafficked for sex. Apparently fireworks aren't the only way that we like to celebrate.

So as we celebrate the bloodshed that was spilt for us to be free, may we be reminded that more blood is being spilled still today in an act of power and untimate degredation. May we pray for God to change His world and avail ourselves to serve Him in that change.

A Miracle

⊆ 9:24 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 2 comments »

I remember watching Steve Martin's movie "Leap of Faith" and being wowed by the power of the ending. Sorry but to tell the story I must tell you a bit of how it ends. Martin was a flamboyant salesman who acted as a traveling healer/preacher. His crew would set up a big tent revival in cities all over the US and then scam people out of their money and trust by manipulating healings.

But one day it happened. Martin got close to a young boy who had a serious illness and wanted to be healed...he wanted to walk. Martin refused but the boy insisted and demanded to come forward. And God did a miracle. The boy walked. The boy ran. He was free. Steve Martin couldn't handle it. He left town in tears because he knew that he had seen "the real thing." This boy's prayer of faith had healed him. There was no manipulation. No smoke and mirrors. Just the power of God.

On Tuesday morning (I think) in our group's devotional time we spent a huge amount of time asking for God to make Himself known to us. In the middle of it, I prayed that we would see a miracle that day. And for the first time maybe in my life, I prayed expecting God to actually do it.

Well the day went on and we were so overwhelmed with the little miracles that God was doing in us, I did not even think about my morning prayer. The next morning at breakfast though revealed THE REAL THING.

There is another group here that is filled with people that have been here a lot. They are an awesome group. They told me the story of their day, the day we prayed for a miracle.

They have grown to love a toddler here named Selma who came in off the streets about 18 months ago (I think). They sponsor this little girl and they were saddened to find out that she was not here anymore. A little while ago, her aunt came and got her to give her a new life and to take care of her. While the group was being told this, another Mexican child came up and told them, "That is not entirely true. I saw Selma in the dump the other day. She is not well." Apparently the aunt walked out of TCM and handed Selma back to the mom, who is "working the streets" near the dump. Selma had been living in the most despicable conditions with mom, dad and several other men too. They were all users and mom was the money-maker with her nighttime job.

When the group heard this, they boldly declared, "we're going to find her." So they loaded in the van, grabbed Jesse the local mecahanic who knows things and people and headed to the dump. In this huge city, they found her! Mom came out from the house (shack really) without any teeth, black shards in their place and reaking from her living situation. They offered her money to begin a new life and pleaded to take Selma back to TCM. That is when dad came out, ready to spew fire. But one of the group members just looked at him calmly, waved her hand at him ala Obi Wan Kenobi and he actually just walked away. That's when the group asked mom to leave right now with them with Selma. Mom apparently looked over her shoulder and then sprinted for the van. The group took off after her, they yelled at Jesse to start the van and then they peeled out of the dump before dad and the other men could chase them down. Mom came to the women's shelter and Selma came to the arms of Martha and her incredible staff here at TCM.

As they were telling this story, Selma came into the dining room. (Todd has a picture of her being hugged at the table in an earlier post). Our eyes were filled with tears as we saw her.

That's when Beth turned to me and said, "didn't you pray for a miracle yesterday?"

God is the real thing. His power is perfect. His desire to rescue His world has to break his heart everyday and yet, when His people pray, God allows us to see how his tears lead to restoration.

Pray expectently today. Are you ready for a miracle?

To My Teammates

⊆ 7:59 AM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

To those who are heading home today -- have a wonderful and safe trip. I did go through St Louis yesterday not Chicago so our itineraries are the same. Flights went well yesterday. Not a lot of food in either teerminal you'll be in -- San Diego or St Louis. I had a Nathan's Hot Dog in San Diego.

To Seth and Dan remaining in TJ -- our hearts are with you. May you continue to be blessed and also be a blessing.

Love you all!

Breaks My Heart

⊆ 7:28 AM by Todd M | ˜ 1 comments »

I am home now. But thoughts and memories of the Tijuana trip flood my mind much more so than any trip I have ever before taken. I talked to Dan briefly last evening and learned that most of the team spent much of yesterday out at the Rosarito orphanage.

I greatly miss our team and others I met in TJ. I am so blessed here at home. it has been great to see Lisa ... still haven't seen Evan yet as he is sleeping in a bit.

As I think of seeing my own son today, I cannot help but think about my little buddy at the orphanage. I am calling him "Asrael" though I know that name is not correct. When Ed asked him his name, he said it was "Hombre". I know that name is not correct either.

Asrael is four years old and was about as joy-filled as could be. We chased each other around, played with cars and toys, and tossed a ball back and forth. He loved being thrown up and down and pushed on the swing. He does not live at the orphanage but his sort of step-grandma works there and brings him during the day.

We could not communicate due to the language barrier but, to me, he seemed like a perfectly normal four-year-old. But here's what's breaking my heart. Martha, the orphanage director, explained to me that he isn't.

When she first told me this, I didn't believe her. I was convinced that she had to be talking about a different little boy but then I talked to her about it again and there was no mistaking it, she was talking about my little buddy.

She said that he is "not right in the head." She explained that he is very difficult to communicate with, that you have to tell him something several times to have it get through at all. Of course, he and I didn't have that problem because we didn't understand each other regardless. He talked a lot though and he was very kind to me when I just kept having to explain that I don't speak Spanish. (wish I did though)

But here's the kicker. Martha said that they do not know what is wrong with Asrael but that maybe it stemmed from things that he saw when he was younger.

My heart breaks. For Asrael. For Tijuana. For God watching over His children.

Does Anybody Hear Her?

⊆ 8:33 PM by Todd M | ˜ 1 comments »

On the first leg of my journey home, I was listening to Casting Crowns. I could not escape the lyrics of the first couple of songs I heard. I hope it is okay if I share them here.

First is "Does Anybody Hear Her?" Tijuana in Spanish means "Aunt Jane". Substitute "Aunt Jane" for "Her" in these lyrics:

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction
She is trying
But the canyon's ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She's another two years older
And she's three more steps behind

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even knows she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

She is yearning
For shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

If judgement looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we never even met her

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

Next is a song we're all familiar with -- "Praise You In This Storm".

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

As we all return to our homes, may we never return to "normal". May we forever hear the city of Tijuana -- Aunt Jane -- and may we never forget her, returning in one way or another. Though she may be running in the wrong direction, God has a plan. He has branded her on our hearts as well as on the hearts of so many others. And may we always praise Him in this storm just as we saw the many bright lights of Tijuana continuously praising Him.

I am anxious to continue our processing and our dialog.

Joy In The Unlikeliest Of Places

⊆ 8:28 AM by Todd M | ˜ 3 comments »

I am going to be honest here. Staying at the orphanage in Tijuana does not have the comforts of home. The buildings show the wear and tear of the hundreds of children who have walked the halls and played in the courtyard. The hot water isn’t always there. You have to do some special things to make the bathroom fixtures work. The shower rooms do not afford the height of modesty. The place can be a little fragrant at times.

It was all a little intimidating when we first arrived but, having been here for four days, I would not have missed this for anything in the world.

I am writing this early Thursday morning. I can see the beginning glow of a sunrise. Light breaking through and eliminating the darkness. (And, yes, the dogs are barking … and I am still protecting them, Ed.)

The word I cannot erase from my mind is “Joy”. We saw this word here in the form a Christmas wall hanging in a room that was filled with 18 beds for terminal patients. (A stuffed Goofy doll hung in a nearby corner.) Some patients were out and about. Five of them could not be. The room looked like it could not even hold out the rain but yet it was meticulously neat and I would have eaten off the floor. This was a scene, though, with folks struggling for their next labored breath, where you would not think joy could possibly exist … but it did exist. The director’s name escapes me right now (yeah, Seth, it’s part of that old man thing) but he absolutely exuded joy because he is doing exactly what God put him here to do. The “purity of the call” as I have said as we have met folks truly giving up everything to serve those that God and they love. I know many wonderful people doing ministry in the states, both “professional” and the ministry we’re all called to … may we all develop the purity that the folks we met in Tijuana have.

There are so many other examples of the joy that we have seen here, in the form of the many points of Light which we encountered. Sister Myriam (who I still think could possibly be Emeril’s sister), Donna, Sarah, Martha, Seth G, Sergio, Chris, Sasha, my little buddy Asrael (sp?) and so very many others who I hope we can talk about here in the blog in future weeks. All tremendous points of Light and all examples of joy in the unlikeliest of places.

I am leaving the group a day early due to a family commitment. I am anxious as all get out to see my family but a huge sadness sweeps over me with the thought of leaving behind these points of Light, this city, my teammates, this joy. All in a place that does not have the comforts of home. Yet not having those comforts reminds us of those who are hurting, reminds us of the calling, and develops purity of the call.

We need to continue celebrating the joy that is in the points of Light we have met here but today, as I prepare to leave, I want to celebrate my teammates … the points of Light that they are … the joy they have brought to me. I love you all so much and it has been a great week of learning, talking, sharing really deep stuff, crying and laughing. In no particular order, here are some quick thoughts on why I love each of you so very much.

Beth – wow, it’s been huge getting to know you better this week. I have always thought so highly of you but we just had never had the opportunity to spend much time together. I love you for your authenticity. What pureness of heart and willingness to share you have. I love you for holding the hands of the terminal patients. We know how God had prepared you for that day but your genuineness in always being the vessel He wants you to be … well, I love you for that. It is hugely inspiring.

Pam – I am not sure how much even you realize it but you are an encourager – our Barnabas. I love you for your sweet spirit and your words which are so eloquent and so encouraging of others and so from a heart of God. I love you for your voice and the way that you use that gift for His glory, just as we are all called to do. There is no one I’d rather hear sing than you. And on this trip, I heard you sing in a different way – with your heart which is after more God and wants bigger things for Him. Keep singing, girl.

Lisa – I love you for the joy which literally pours out of you but yet also for your ability to be one of the most empathetic and caring people I know. You have absolutely no idea how huge your personal ministry is at Sidney First and among those who know you. And that is another reason I love you. For you, it’s not really “ministry” because that word implies something a person has to work at. For you, it is just this natural outflow of God’s love. That’s the way it should be for us all. Wow. You are huge. (And, no, that comment has nothing to do with birthing hips.)

Erin – Oh my, so many spiritual things I could say about you, all the basis of love for all who know you but I love you most because you make me laugh. Joy overflows from you and you have a sense of humor that is infectious and incredible. As someone who sees laughter as being one of the key things that God and the Spirit give us to bring us comfort and strength along this journey, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate and love the fact that you can make me laugh. Again, like Lisa, you have no idea how huge your ministry is and I love you for that as well.

Seth – This is all your fault, you know. The fact that a city a couple thousand miles away has gotten into my heart. I think we both knew it would happen and it did. I love you for your constant seeking of God and for your intentional desire to follow him. I love you for the example you set for both youth and adults. God is doing great things in and through you … you’re responding with a purity and willingness that is so inspirational. I love you for your openness and your willingness to be who He calls you to be. You know where your worth comes from – not from man but from above. Remembering that will keep you on a path of always being where He wants you to be, and bring you comfort in not always following the ways of the “rest of the pack.” And I love you for not making too big of a deal out of the fact that I am almost three times your age. After all, when I’m 125 and you’re 97, let’s face it, we will both be really really old and dealing with that whole W.U.S. thing (you had to be there for that one). Wow. You’re huge man (and that goes far beyond looking at pants with birthing hip room -- had to be there for that one too). I can’t think of a better person to be aligned with as we see where God is leading His work in Tijuana.

Dan – I don’t know what to say. I love ya man. In your very humble and unassuming way, you have been one of the biggest spiritual mentors in my life (by the way, you soooo still have your work cut out for you in discipling me). And you are that for so many other people as well. You have a way to inspire hearts and bring them to life through the teaching of God’s word that is huge. I love you for your naturalness and for the joy that is on your face when you’re interacting with our friends in Tijuana. You always recognize Jesus and you chase hard after Him, calling the attention of others as you go. And finally, I love you for asking questions like “So, where did God intersect with you today?” when the only thing I can think of is the taxi cab we almost intersected with. (Heehee)

Ed – I love you for the way you played with the kids. We could see you living out a calling on your life as your joy spilled over to them. I love you for your servant’s heart – throughout this trip, you have always been there for your teammates, to help and to encourage. And I love you for the questions you asked … for your analytical mind that wants to get to the root causes of a problem but does so in a humble, caring and gentle way. That is a huge part of discernment and God has gifted you with an ability which I really need to learn from.

I think that is everyone from our team. I love you all. What a week it’s been.

As I prepare to leave this place of joy and return home, I hope that I can carry with me an approach to life that is even one-hundredth of the way to being a point of Light like we saw here. I hope that I can carry joy like we have seen here back to Sidney.

So, in Dan-style, I will leave everyone with a couple of questions. Where is your joy today? And where will it be tomorrow and the day after and the day after? For I believe that, as folks following hard after Jesus, we can all answer that question right now for the rest of our lives. Don’t you?

The Light Can Return To The City

⊆ 9:32 AM by Todd M | ˜ 4 comments »

The last couple of days have been intense. We have seen and been told incredibly dark, tragic and painful things. But, as I stated earlier, the darker the dark is, the brighter the Light shines.

And there are amazing Lights we have seen. Sister Myriam who left her family many years ago and moved into Tijuana to meet the needs of, as she described them, drunks and derelicts. The incredible act of selfless giving by the director at the hospice we visited yesterday who is truly doing all he can to meet the needs of the "least of these". Sarah Gomez here at Tijuana Christian Mission and her incredible heart to always push the envelope and meet the needs of others in new ways. The Purple Palace and the lives being changed. I could go on and on. Our experiences to see the Light of God in Tijuana have been many.

Last evening we went to a youth group meeting. They themselves are preparing for a missions trip and part of the meeting was devoted to their own translation skills. Seth had an opportunity to speak with them and share his heart. He did a great job. One of their leaders also shared his testimony, again very moving.

Seeing the Light amongst the youth last evening was incredibly moving. Their Spirit-filled worship, their praying over us, their desire to meet our needs.

I will add a personal comment here. I believe that Tijuana is ripe for a huge spiritual movement to sweep over it. The ground is broken and fertile. Out of huge desperation and tragedy God can arise in a huge way. It's happened so many times before -- God sweeps over a land after a time of incredibly brokenness.

One thing that concerns me though is that oftentimes there is a desire to "escape" the ugliness in a city or community -- escape the darkness rather than bring the Light to it. I remember experiencing that 25 years ago when I just wanted to get away from the drug culture that was in my high school. I didn't want to be the Light. I just wanted to escape. And, as I shared with our group yesterday, I used to frequently visit New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was when Times Square and some other areas like the meat packing district were as seedy as they could get. Prostitutes, pimps, hustlers, and drug pushers approached me openly in every block I walked. But I didn't feel the need to be Light. Instead I was there with complacency ... and never dreamed of doing anything to be the Light.

There must be a call back to the city of Tijuana. This call exists for those already here as well as for those who have left and those of us who live a couple thousand miles away. We must return to the city, determined to claim it for our Lord and Savior and bring His Light and His refreshing water to a dark and dry place.

The hearts of those serving here now are huge. You have to see it to believe it. Such purity of the call exists when one is serving the lost and the least and putting their life on the line continually for others. Always giving everything they can, everything they have, for others. Again, you have to see it to believe it.

The basis for renewal is here. The folks here who are the Light are emboldened and empowered to create lasting change. The soil is broken and fertile. Will the workers come?

What can we do to support this? Right now, pray that God's plan, which I do believe exists, for a return to this city - a complete renewal - will come to light and be realized.

Keep reaching ... deeper into God and further out in His love.

We love and miss all of you back home. Your comments and words of encouragement along our journey have meant so much.


⊆ 8:35 AM by Todd M | ˜ 1 comments »

The Noise Inside

⊆ 12:54 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 2 comments »

We walked into the home for the dying today where I met Albert. He was lying in agony on his simple bed 2” away from 2 other beds. He had a pink Bible above his head, a blue blanket covering him and I noticed tattoos on the knuckles of his left hand. He was dying of AIDS.

What has been in my head and heart all day was not his surroundings or his disease. It was his gutteral groan. While we were getting an overview of the place, Albert was in great pain and his own soul was crying out to God. He would cry out, “Jesus take my spirit.” It brought me to a deep place of prayer for him. His groan was earthy, deep, desperate because he needed God.

We walked into the 20 x 40 room of concrete. Kids rode in on skateboards with tight jeans and hats on backwards. The noise was loud. The walls were white and the guitar player sat on an old desk, played his instrument simply, didn’t project lyrics and sang. But what has been in my head since is not the music or the surroundings. It was the noise of the voices of 40 teens praying at the same time over our group.

The noise raised and lowered as they sought God. They physically lifted our hands while they were praying for us. Their prayers were from a deep place within. They were gutteral. Deep. Desperate for God to intercede.

Both desperate
From deep places
Recognizing self’s limitations
Recognizing self’s brokenness
Recognizing self’s needs
Hoping for a cure.

Rising up.
Getting louder
Warm hands pressing grace into me
Community of voices
All different. Same heart for God.
Praying for unity and vision.
Humbled. Broken.

I’m lying beside Albert. We are groaning together.

Monday's Recap...without tears

⊆ 8:07 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 1 comments »

Because of all that we have been through in the last 2 days, it is difficult to recall everything and we've already shed a lot of tears processing through what we saw and heard. So, this post at least will try to give you the overview of yesterday without too much processing stuff...we'll save that for when our hearts stop melting....here goes:

Monday - A very good day
We awakened early (even Seth was up by 6:30) as our bodies were still on Ohio time. After breakfast of beans, eggs and freshly rolled tortillas, we moved to the chapel to process our Sunday, study the Word, take communion and pray a lot. That is when we had our first encounter. Right before I served communion, Sergio Gomez (see Todd's post earlier), came in and interrupted us with his beautiful story of serving Jesus in Tijuana. The man has given his life to meet needs and his smile and laugh come from a deep place when you know that he had just come from visiting the home of the dying. Read Todd's post for more on this...needless to say, we were led into communion better by his story than what I had prepared :)

We then visited Sister Myriam, a Catholic nun who has opened up her house to feed and shelter the homeless. She is about 4'5" tall, covered in white cloth and has the eyes of a saint who has climbed the mountain with God and has carried the dying with her. She brought us into her little chapel, her prayer room where she told us her story. It was incredible. In the middle of it, I was moved by her asking US, "are you hungry?" It came from a sincere desire to meet OUR needs. (all of this while some of the most "needy" are outside the gate waiting to eat). Then she prayed over us all, read scripture over us and missed her scheduled meeting because of her desire to spend time with us. We were so humbled and broken by her joy. I'll have some more thoughts on her from other teammates too.

Then, on our way to see an orphanage for children of prostitutes, we made our way through the Red Zone (Zona Norte--Red light district) at 1 in the afternoon. I have done this about 5 times before but this time, Beth and I noticed something. One girl, maybe 18 years old was standing outside waiting for a client, scantily clad, with her hand pressed up against her eyes to keep the tears from falling. She was crying. Beth followed her with her eyes as we turned the corner. A man walked up and took the crying girl into the hotel behind her. Her tears still there.

We pulled up to the Purple Palace (again see Todd's post...he's really smart) where we were ushered into a beautiful, prestine, huge home for kids from prostitues. We met the pioneer who started it but then she had the Director share her story. She sat down on an ottoman surrounded by us and humbly told us about her transformation. Her name is Franceria and she had been working as a sex worker since she was 11 or 12. She did it at first to earn some money and to earn her grandmother's affection. Then, years later and 8 months pregnant and now with a drug addiction, she travelled to Tijuana to have her baby and work the Red Zone. It became her job and the source of income for her addiction. She had numerous children after that one and even told us times of when she would beat and almost kill the men she serviced because of her anger. Over the course of years she met a lady who kept coming into her life to show her love. Her name is Connie. Connie started the purple palace and because of her friendship and love, she rescued Franceria from the streets, introduced her to Jesus and got her into rehab. Now Franceria is telling us her story!!! She has forgiven the men who hurt her. She prays for them now. She has a vision to open a home for the women on the streets and she routinely visits them to share God's love. She is God's miracle! We prayed over her with tears a flowin'.

If that wasn't enough, it was 2:45 now and we stil hadn't eaten but we weren't aware of it, we met up with Horatio and his wife Jill. They are youth workers now for a church down here but 12 years ago, Horatio worked for the gvt. He was part of a task force that researched child trafficking and prostitution. He told us his story and then drove us around the Red Zone again to show us things that we couldn't have known without him. We saw hidden hotels, drug lords, pedophile hangouts and heard stories of corruption. But we also heard stories of how his research and efforts rescued many kids. He has been getting his education so that he could go back, this time with an army of God to do more on the streets (that was God's vision to him). He is amazing and his passion and leadership skills are astounding.

Finally, we made it back to TCM. We couldn't talk. We couldn't cry. We were spent. We needed to sleep and we did. This morning we awoke to another new day, another new hope and a passion to be broken and poured out again.

Dark Comes To Bare, Light Comes To Care

⊆ 8:21 AM by Todd M | ˜ 3 comments »

Yesterday was a pretty intense day for our team, I think we all will agree. Several times during the day, I had tears brought to my eyes. Tears that would usually start with hearing stories of crazy abuse and broken lives and then end when our focus would shift and hope would rise from the stories of God's love prevailing over the darkness.

I am not sure where to even start in processing yesterday. There are numerous memorable stories and events.

I think we all felt quite blessed to have the surprise opportunity to spend considerable time with Connie Youngkin who co-founded The Purple Palace with her husband. It is critical that you check out the website of this incredible orphanage that God has built right alongside the red light district of Tijuana. Be sure to look at their "About Us" page. The Youngkins had reached a point in life where a restful retirement could have been their option. Instead, God grabbed hold of their hearts and this amazing ministry was developed. Most of the children at The Purple Palace are the children of prostitutes. A number of them were also rescued from lives of prostitution by an organization called Breaking Chains. Be sure to check them out as well.

Connie had many painful stories to tell but, as darkness bared, light cared. Her Executive Director came and shared her testimony with us of how Connie was the vessel that saved her and probably her children from utter destruction on the streets. I sensed that, even though this lady was very open with her words, her testimoney is still painful to give. We were much honored and humbled to hear it.

One thing that really captured my heart was a set of twin girls whose father drops them off at the orphanage each day. These sweet, beautiful little girls were probably 3 or 4 I guess. What does their father do for a living? We were told that part of what he does is go to southern Mexico and bring back young girls who are recruited or forced into the sex trade.

Yesterday was graduation at local schools and The Purple Palace was celebrating students who have gone on to the next level of school. One of these was a young man who, at the age of ten, was living on the streets and pimping for young girls. We also saw a young girl who has watched her brother be stabbed.

Like I said, yesterday was an intense day. Lots of processing to be done. But one thing was very apparent, the darker the dark is, the brighter God's light can be.

Life is tough here and different people find different ways to cope though oftentimes those ways just drive them deeper into darkness. But then you see God prevailing and hope shifts, light cares.

Wherever you are, let it shine today and forever, knowing that we have brothers and sisters facing terrible odds but shining ever so brightly in places far darker than anyplace we have ever lived.

Light Shines Part 2

⊆ 1:32 PM by Todd M | ˜ 1 comments »

This morning we talked to Sergio Gomez who founded Tijuana Christian Mission along with Martha Gomez. He and Martha have created an incredible legacy that is continually determined to shine God's best into a world of giants like addictions, prostitution, abuse of children, human bondage, and corruption.

We appreciate your prayers back home. This morning was incredibly emotional as we learned more about the problems but also as we saw Hope and Light shining through the body of Christ. His Light does shine.

My prayer is that I am able to return home not only no longer ignorant of these injustices but also no longer complacent and able to ignore them.

A recurring theme we keep running into is for the body of Christ to be bound together -- unified. We see problems with that even in our own little community back home. If we can't make it work there, how can we influence an entire world? I believe that God calls us to take whatever steps we can so that, locally and then globally, we stand united as the body of Christ. That is when real, sweeping change can occur in this broken world.

More later.

Pain Abounds

⊆ 10:20 AM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

I have been thinking about the intense "pain" which surrounds the issues of enslavement and child prostitution. I cannot imagine the pain and fear which wracks those who are victims of these things. I simply cannot imagine it. Not knowing what was going to happen to you next. Being at the complete and utter mercy of others who believe that they own you much like a person might own a car or a washing machine. In fact, even worse, because the value of these human lives often seems be regarded as far far less than the value of material possessions.

In fact, there is even a correlation between the two. Human lives are abused and thrown away so that more material goods or other pleasures of this world can be obtained.

But I also think about the pain of those who drive this industry and the pain of those who support it. Pains of addiction, horrible pasts of their own, utter hopelessness to the point of where they find their joy at the expense of others. It's a harder pain to be sympathetic with than the pain of the victims but it is pain nonetheless.

I asked someone here last night about campaigns I have read about which used billboards to shame and put fear into the clients of the sex trade. Sadly, they told me that they do not work. Tijuana has a huge AIDS epidemic, they explained to me. If that is not going to scare the johns away, then certainly a billboard won't.

As we approached this trip, we asked God to bring us to our own points of pain and brokenness so that our hearts might be shaped in ways that will allow us to understand the coomplexity and despair of things here. We're getting there I believe.

Pain abounds.

Brief History of Tijuana

⊆ 9:00 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 1 comments »

At dinner last night, Pastor Fermin Jr. gave us a brief history of Tijuana that I have never heard and yet completely gives context for the city's current state and also what we think God is doing. Here goes...

Tijuana was founded by indigenous people who worhipped 2 gods: the god of sex and the god of liquor. When the California Gold Rush happened, the area began to boom with prospectors from all over, creating a society founded on dreams of a better life. Because many of the indigenous people were poor and were just hoping to find gold, they were hungry and desperate. As the legend is told, a lady, Tia (Aunt) Juana would sit in the city and pass out food to hungry travelers from the south. (editor's note: a city named for help for the poor: a hope to reclaim today or a prophetic voice of the need that will always be present?)

Al Capone came to Tijuana during the prohiition in CA to open clubs and brothels. As we learned, this created a society that had clearly marked areas for the rich and an area for the poor. California, being the richest state in the US just north of Tijuana, still spends money and time reinforcing that stereotype. The division remains today.

Another side note that came out later...one of the most powerful figures down in Tijuana and all of Mexico is the power of the woman/mom. Part of that was created by the Spaniards who came to this place to develop new lands and often would impregnate women and then leave. The single mom has almost become a stereotype that cannot be shaken down here. Dads are absent, either in physical or emotional ways.

So, the question is "what does this mean for us?" I have thought of a couple things so far but this will be a running thought all week down here:
1. We understand the context of our situation so that we don't repeat the history of sin that worships sex and liquor and so that we do not try to force a square into a round hole. My friend Troy said, "Church looks different in Corinth than in Ephesus."
2. We see that the US and Spain have told the Mexicans that their dignity (what they are worth) is little and that they are to fall prey to the wishes of the stronger voice. We do not want to repeat that.
3. God can move through darkness and God has given us visions of how that may happen. In order to get there, we must understand the reasons why the darkness abounds. God protect us.

The End of a Long Day

⊆ 1:04 AM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

It's 10:06 pm local time, which means we've been up for 21 hours. We are headed to bed and we are doing great. We can tell that people have been praying for us because we had strength tonight at dinner with 30 others who were describing how God is moving in Tijuana. We were so blessed and are going to bed broken but blessed. More tomorrow.


Light Shines

⊆ 3:39 PM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

I left the house at 4:45 this morning. That gave me five minutes to make it across town and pick up Dan and Erin at their house to meet them at the appointed time. Making it that distance in five minutes is pretty much impossible. The car I was following through town pretty much couldn’t go fast enough for me.

However, being a few minutes late really wasn’t going to be a big deal. In fact, Dan knows me well enough to pretty much expect it. But, there was something bigger pushing me. Lightning was filling the sky. As the lightning bolts struck, they illumined the entire sky. It was not the kind of lightning that occurs in in big zig zag cracks through the sky but instead the kind that, for brief moments, turns the darkness into day, allowing you to see the entire sky.

And, when this lightning struck, I was treated to a view of some of this world’ ugliest. Dark menacing clouds came into view as the light illumined them.

I wanted to get to Dan and Erin’s before the rain hit. I knew that they would have bags to store away in the back of my car. I was going to feel pretty stupid if I arrived in the middle of a downpour when, if I’d been there on time, all would have been dry and clear. As it turned out, I arrived just as a few huge drops were starting to fall. We got a little damp carrying their bags out but it could have been much worse.

So we drove on to the airport. We went through a shower but all was well.

At the airport, we met the rest of our group – Lisa H, Beth, Pam, Ed, and Seth. We all pretty much arrived at the same time. We got checked in without incident. Well, I take that back. Ed was detained a few minutes at security. (They undoubtedly were profiling people because he does look a little suspicious, don’t you think?)

Once we got back to the gate, we sat down to wait for our flight. It was still dark out but, as we sat there, the sun began to come up. We could not miss a beautiful red-orange sunrise cutting through the dark clouds. We could see it out a window where Lisa was sitting talking on her phone, silhouetted by this beautiful backdrop. (Giving last minute instructions to Chris I hope!) As the light outside entirely overtook the darkness, the world was made right.

As I write this, we’re on the second leg of our journey, flying from Chicago to San Diego. During our layover in Chicago, we all seemed to gradually awaken to the bright day and to the reality of the next several days that lie ahead of us.

God treated us to quite a show this morning with the light taking over the darkness, initially in bursts but later in a glorious sunrise. We do not mean to be presumptuous but we know God’s power is strong. If He can, in any way, use us to bring bursts of hope and light to the darkness of the sex trade and human enslavement … if we can bring encouragement to those we meet who are already fighting this darkness … if He can develop a plan that we can be a part of to eventually bring a beautiful sunrise on this situation in Tijuana … well, we want to be those vessels.

Thank you, God, for your power, for your light, and for your burden to make that light overtake the darkness.

Off and Ready?

⊆ 8:49 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

We will be leaving in about 10 hours for our journey and from talking to much of our team, we are a bit anxious. I'm not quite sure what the root is behind it but it could have something to do with the immensity of the darkness we may see, the privilege of feeling like we're on the front end of God's Spirit and I'm also anticipating God in a big way. I think that is good.

Pray for our teammates: Seth, Ed, Todd and Dan. Lisa, Pam, Beth and Erin.

Pray for our guide for the week Sarah and Tijuana Christian Mission.

Sunday night we will be meeting with some pastors in the area who have a passion for this as well.

Monday will be an active day, learning a ton about the progression of a child prostitute from a missionary who started on the street 7 years ago. That day will also be spent serving some of God's children who are caught up in other addictions as well.

Wednesday will be San Diego day as we are meeting with community leaders from S.D. and Tijuana who have it as their mission to end child trafficking and the prostitution epidemic. This is a big meeting that we are privileged to have.

I'll write more as we know it. I met one of our church friends in Wal-Mart tonight and he told me to "be careful." A reminder that when light enters darkness, demons fight. We are counting on God to be big and we rest tonight in the care of the One who made us all.


The Countertraffickers

⊆ 3:37 PM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

I do not mean to take up this entire blog with articles from other sources but background information is always helpful in understanding the magnitude and global nature of the human trafficking issue. Click here for a recent article from New Yorker Magazine.

Not For Sale

⊆ 9:04 PM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

"Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade -- and How We Can Fight It." The back cover of this book by David Batstone has some alarming statistics: "Human trafficking generates $31 billion annually and enslaves 27 million people around the globe, half of them children under the age of eighteen."

Not For Sale paints heart-wrenching pictures of abuse and bondage in today's world. Written in a unique format, the book looks at several areas of the world, including the United States, and juxtaposes stories of slavery with stories of abolitionists.

I highly recommend this book. You will not look at the world the same again after you read it.

New York Millionaire Sentenced To 11 Years For Enslaving Workers

⊆ 8:56 PM by Todd M | ˜ 0 comments »

Click Here for a look at another side of human trafficking -- enslavement of domestic workers. In a surprising number of cases, desperate families overseas are giving up sons and daughters to come to the states, being assured they will be taken care of and even educated but instead the children are actually sold into prostitution or enslaved otherwise.

FBI Busts Trafficking Ring

⊆ 3:41 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

The AP ran a story yesterday about children rescued from US cities who were forced into prostitution. One of the cities was Toledo, Ohio.

345 arrested, kids rescued in prostitution busts.

Read the story here.

Strange Title

⊆ 2:22 PM by Daniel Gildner | ˜ 0 comments »

I am heading to Mexico again. But this time the trip will be entirely different. We are going to spend 6 days praying through, learning about and investigating the ever-growing forced prostitution and child trafficking in Tijuana. We have spent about 3 months preparing for this pilgrimmage and so much of what I read speaks to the heart of this trip. This Psalm, Psalm 130 was written from a very personal perspective for the first couple verses and then it shifts in verse 7 to a plea for all of Israel. Here are my thoughts as they relate to the Mexico trip.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

2 O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

-I have become ever more aware of my own need for a Savior during this journey. I have fallen on my face a lot because I am humbled by my own "cry." My daily prayer is in fact, "remove my pride from my lips, my actions and my thoughts." It is from an awareness of my own sin that I stand desperate before God.

3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?

4 But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.

6 My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

It almost seems as if the Psalmist, while he was waiting for God to hear his cries was given a gentle reminder that God is a forgiving God. Did God's spirit calm him? Was the Psalmist around some others who encouraged him toward God? All I know is that when I feel at my lowest, when I am overwhelmed with my own stuff that then I recognize and claim that in "his word I put my hope." And yet, he is not completely resolved as he still "waits."

This trip has taught me that faith is believing in the truth of God's Word despite my feelings, circumstances or social pressures. Do I believe that God does not keep a record of sins...of these women?...of the johns that buy them?...of the family members or once trusted friends who may have enslaved them?

My SOUL waits for the Lord.

7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.

8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

I want to rewrite this today and say, "O Mexico, put your hope in the Lord. The Lord has forgiven me and is full of redemption. Your reputation does not have to be what it was. God is faithful and will redeem you from your sins...just surrender."

I love that the psalmist doesn't ask for a communal repentance, although it is implied. He just asks them to shift their hope. Because having hope in something implies a dependence...it says that that which is hoped for is most valuable. And in that, we are helpless and thus ready to receive redemption.