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Ask Me.

The gym was dark and the music was loud. I was 17, maybe 18 and alone in a crowd of people. I was at the time in life when I was supposed to decide what I wanted to do, who I was going to be. What my role would be, how I would leave my mark. I couldn’t even decide on a college. 

The room was full of college students taking a break from cramming for finals to re focus. To worship. I love worship. Depending on our experiences and backgrounds worship will mean different things to different people. This night, in this space, it was abandon. No one could see you because the lights were so low, you could barely make out the leaders. They were shadows on a stage illuminated only by the screen behind them and the lights on their music stands.

The next song came on the screen and the words began to ground me and shake me. Like stakes being driven into the foundations of my heart. 

All who are weak

All who are weary

Come to the Rock

Come to the Fountain

All who have sailed

On the rivers of heartache

Come to the sea

Come on be set free

Looking back now, I was so young. I had no idea of the heartache to come in my life. The weakness and weariness that I would endure. And where I am now? I know there is more to come. Not knowing the future is a gift. Yet, even as a young girl looking ahead to my future the words resonated with me. For none of us are immune to life’s hard things, not even children. Maybe they understand better than the rest of us. 

The chorus came next and stopped me in my tracks. 

If you lead me Lord I will follow

Where you lead me Lord I will go

Come and heal me Lord, I will follow

Where you lead me Lord I will go

I will go

I had felt God leading me, calling my name. To something untraditional and unknown. To follow him to places that were different and far from my people, my home. My Jr. High and High school years had been filled with travel to different places. Mexico mainly and Guatemala. I had the privilege of seeing how most of the world lived while I was in my formative years. I had been given the opportunity to meet people just like me who lived in border towns and mountain cities and remote villages. There was something about getting out of the entitled culture that I lived in and partnering with others in different places to show love to new communities that had captured my heart. I loved it. I loved connecting with people who were different from me, yet so alike. I came alive when I used my abilities to bring light to people who lived in hardship. And mostly I was changed when shown love and hospitality from people who had far less than me but gave far more willingly to strangers than I had ever experienced before. 

The verse came back. This was a song that my GG would call a seven eleven. There was a lot of repetition. But that verse, they changed it at the end that second time. 

All who are weak

All who are weary

Come to the Rock

Come to the Fountain

All who have climbed

On the mountains of heartache

Reach to the stars

Come on give your life 

Come and give your life. The tears started flowing. My arms raised, I couldn’t get them wide enough. I wanted to fall on my face. Yes. Yes, I will give me life. Here’s the thing friend. I love Jesus. I love him so much that there are times when I can barely contain it. My love eeks out my eyes, my voice wants to yell as loud as it can go, my hands and my arms reach for the heavens where he sits on his throne, the throne that I have access to because he took the consequences for all of my many mistakes when he died on the cross 2,000 years ago. And in truth all I wanted in that college gymnasium was to follow Jesus. To share what he meant with me with whoever asked. To show them his love in whatever way I could. 

If you lead me Lord I will follow

Where you lead me Lord I will go

Come and heal me Lord, I will follow

Where you lead me Lord I will go

That night I surrendered to my God and his will and it changed me. My surrender set me on the path that is my life today and I don’t regret a single step. 

Today I don’t live in Guatemala or Mexico. I left Ukraine behind and I no longer travel to places where there is unexpected devastation. I followed my Jesus and he led me back to my home and being here where I grew up in some ways has been harder than any trip I ever took. 

7 years ago in a car on the way to a wedding riding in the backseat while my parents drove,  pregnant with my third baby, I had another moment with Jesus. It wasn’t a lot like the first. There was no music and a lot less people. I was in a desperate place in my life, wondering where God was and what he meant to do with me. Our finances were going nowhere good fast and everything I had tried was making them worse.  I had given God a bit of an ultimatum in the shower a few days before this trip. I told him that I was done trying to fix our problems. I reminded him that he said he would provide for all my needs according to his riches in glory and so I was going to surrender to him and ask him to make a way. I never could have dreamed that the way he would make to provide for my needs would be to open my heart to the horrors of human trafficking. 

That day in the car as my mom read a book the tears started to flow. How are we living in a world where children are forced to be soldiers? Women are repeatedly raped and it is legal? God why is this injustice allowed and what can be done? People will want to know. People will want to act once they know. People will choose to make a difference, even if it seems small, when given an opportunity. 

To be clear, none of my financial problems were solved that day. But my true need to live surrendered yet again to Jesus was met. And I was set on a journey that eventually led to a different financial story for us, but first there was a lot of sacrifice and walking into unknown. This truly is the beginning of Stories Foundation. Or maybe Stories began the day when I was 17 in a loud worship service.

I live in a funny place. I heard Becca Stevens founder of Thistle Farms say recently “ I am too much Jesus for some people and not enough Jesus for others.” And I really resonate with her. Entering the human trafficking space and engaging with the many layers and issues that create a world where slavery not only exists but is making people very wealthy has been nuanced. The Christians don’t know what to do with me because social justice is a dirty word. The church thinks it means that we only care about the physical needs of people, not the spiritual need. Then in the social justice world, Christian is a dirty word. The inaction and then overreaction of many who claim Jesus Christ has given those who don’t know him personally a really bad taste in their mouths and truthfully, I don’t blame them.

I sat in a fundraising meeting the other day and was asked, again, why the Stories Foundation website doesn’t speak of Jesus. The honest answer is because we serve food and spread awareness about human trafficking and whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not you still eat and should still be made aware of trafficking. But do not think for one second that Jesus Christ isn’t the driving force behind every single thing I do. Because He is. 

When I lived in Ukraine and taught English I became good friends with many of my students. I love my Ukrainian friends and think of them with so much affection. I didn’t go to Ukraine to make people choose my “religion” over theirs. I went to Ukraine because Jesus Christ changed me from the inside out. I fell in love with him. He captured me. And I wanted people to ask me. Ask me why I have hope. Ask me why I traveled across the world to live. Why I taught English without being paid. Why I have peace and purpose. Just ask. My reason is Jesus. Plain and simple. I don’t care very much for religion, but Jesus? Yes. The Bible? Please. 

The same is still true for me today. I am not active in the fight against human trafficking because I want to brainwash people to believe in the religion I have chosen. It is because my Jesus has asked me to go love people who others have seemingly forgotten. He is asking me, and I believe all who claim him, to be his hands and feet to show his children who are being abused and exploited that he sees them and loves them. That they aren’t forgotten and they have value and worth. 

If you come to my food truck, choose to have us cater your event or enter our future cafe you won’t be evangelized to. I won’t give you a three point sermon. But if you want to know why I have devoted my life to anti trafficking work I will gladly tell you, it is because of Jesus. Because he loves people and his heart breaks over injustice. And he loves you too friend. Whatever way that I can enter into your space and show you his love, I will. Because it has changed me.

I really am not very different than that girl who surrendered in a worship service late on a Sunday night so many years ago. Everything I do that is good, kind, loving is because of Jesus. His call, his power and his love living in and through me. I am here to say that he cares about the marginalized and the hurting, and he cares for you. Because aren’t we all on the mountaintop of heartache? Don’t we all battle weakness and weariness? If this is you, then I call you to surrender. To follow where He leads with your life. It will be your grandest adventure. 

I don’t run a Christian food truck or a Christian catering company or even a Christian nonprofit. But I am, unapologetically, a Christ Follower. I am not here to evangelize you, but if you ask and I pray you will, I will gladly tell you the reason why I do what I do and the ability by which it is done. Jesus is the answer. I would love to tell you my story. Ask me.

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