Friday, November 28, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My birthday in Swiss winter wonderland

I'm in Switzerland for a long weekend. I'm staying at the L'Abri in a tiny village in the Alps called Huemoz. I'm gonna attach a photo of my surroundings here in the Swiss Alps. It's breathtaking! It started snowing my first night here and has only stopped for a few hours at a time here and there. Beautiful! Do I have to return to flat Holland?

Today's my 29th birthday. It's strange spending my birthday in a foreign country around a bunch of people I don't know. They've been really nice though. I debated telling them about my b-day and ended up telling a few folks. Several have remembered and said happy birthday, and this guy from Seattle named Jim even sang "happy birthday" to me, adding "diamonds" to my name for whatever sweet reason. Kind soul.

I'll be spending Thanksgiving amongst some fellow American friends at the Dutch L'Abri. It should be a lovely time with warm surroundings, kind spirits and great food! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November Update

You may remember that I had a great interview with a Venezuelan woman a few months ago, regarding my possible involvement with the prostitution outreach she coordinates. She and I both were excited about the possibilities, and resolved to pray about it, and get back to each other on a few weeks. Well, you may also remember a more recent post on my blog about my frustrations with feeling ignored by that organization as, well as another.

A Divine Invite
I've been praying, thinking, and talking with people about other ways to get involved. One of the people I've spoken the most with and been most encouraged by is Elise, my former prostitute friend. She and I met in March, have been meeting up regularly for the past month, and what a blessing she is! We go for walks, coffee, bike rides in the city, and she even invited me to her room one day to look at photos of her family and the life (or lives) she has left behind. I've also been attending her church on Sundays. Last week she was gracious enough to invite me to meet with her mentor, the woman who visited Elise regularly when she was on the street, and found her nearly dead on the street two years ago. She was lying there, ignored by society, dying of a massive bacterial infection in her leg from years of self-injected, drug-filled needles and K brought her to the hospital.

So I went for coffee with Elise and her mentor. It was so good to see their relationship and interactions. K is a wise, grounded, experienced woman. She knows what questions to ask, how to listen and give encouragement, and what kinds of boundaries should be in place in their relationship. They have a special bond for sure, and I was thankful to witness it for an evening. They invited me to come the next time they meet as well. What a blessing!
While the three of us sat, chatting over lattes, a young girl of maybe 17 showed up at our table, seemingly out of nowhere. You can look for my upcoming blog post titled “Susza” for the story about this girl.

K happens to have worked for 6 years at the organization I've wanted most to be involved with. She knows the Venezuelan lady very well, and offered to remind her about me. She did so, and just the other day, Elise informed me that the organization has been trying to call me since we met in September, but that they didn't have the correct phone number. And I'd been trying to email, but didn't have the correct email, and no phone number.. and didn't want to be pushy by going again in person. I hadn't wanted to force anything, and trusted that God would bring about opportunities as they were meant to come.

Now knowing they'd been attempting to contact me was so encouraging! I decided to stop in briefly the other night, and spoke with the Venezuelan lady. She was happy to see me, as we explained how we'd both been attempting to make contact. We exchanged correct information, and agreed to meet next week to talk some more.

I wrote before of my frustrations with waiting, but am so thankful for this time now. I am learning so much about myself as I've really had to check my motivations and ideals about doing prostitution outreach in this city. I'm still missing my work with Scarlet Cord in Portland, very much... but I am thankful for this time here. I was always so busy in Portland, and it's been nice to slow down, re-evaluate, and ask myself some tough questions. What's important to me? Where am I focused? What are my priorities and do I need to shift some things? Why am I motivated toward this work? What fears, walls and prejudices do I need to work on within me, in order to more fully participate in God’s call? In all of this, I most want to seek God's voice and listen to his direction. There are times when He seems silent, and times when I heard him loud and clear.

I've finally found a church I like. It's the church Elise now attends. She invited me to come with her back in August, and I only one month ago started going. I'm a member of a large church in Portland, which has been growing larger by the minute since it was started 8 years ago. In coming here, I had hoped to find a church I could call home. I wanted a small congregation of honest, sincere seekers of the Lord. Musically inclined would be a plus. Spirit-led, multi-cultural lovers of Christ, a must. I didn't know if I'd find all of that in one church, but I believe I have. There are only about 20 people in the congregation, and they're from all over the world... Indonesia, Suriname, Brazil, Argentina, Holland, Africa, the Carribean, Scottland, and then there's Ghaith from Iraq and me from the U.S. What a group! They open their doors and arms equally to all who enter, and speak lovingly, honestly and powerfully into each others' lives. The pastor had his share of struggles with drugs and alcohol before he met Jesus, and speaks openly and honestly about that. They are in Amsterdam, and really want to reach the lost, lonely and addicted. What a good place for me to be, especially considering the focus God has me on.

I have spoken with Elise, as well as the pastor’s wife and a missionary couple from Texas about my desire to reach prostituted women. They all have the same desire, and were happy to speak with me about their passion and vision for this city. I told them about the Scarlet Cord in Portland, which they were thrilled to hear about. They want to start something similar in the neighborhood where the church is, and are eager to talk more with me about my experiences. Wow! I don’t know if/where these new relationships will go, but it’s exciting to finally be talking to like-minded people with similar passions and vision.

Thank you to those who are thinking good thoughts and prayers for me. Lord knows I need them!

Recent pictures, Nov. 08

Scarlet Cord Friday Night Update, Nov. 14

It's so good to see dear friends...Sandy, Muna, Misty, Amanda F, Amanda G, Melanie, Hilary, and a new friend Vania (her first night the way, thanks Bekah for the awesome referral). I have come to realize that I miss my dear had been a few weeks since some of us crossed paths on a Friday night and it was so warming to my heart to be with my girlfriends again.

We started out with one of our guests R coming in early with exuberance that just could not be contained....she was granted her apartment that she has been hoping so much for. And one of the first things she said, "you know it's that one I told you all about and that we prayed for!" Three weeks ago a few of us were in her motel room, the one she's been living in for 8 mos, and she asked for us to pray for this. Thank you God for bestowing such a blessing on this miraculous woman who has been through so much. She now has a stable place to live that is her own...and it's literally the first home she's ever known that completely belongs to her. When she walked in tonight, it was clear that she was glowing...and we all agreed she looked so beautiful. And then the floodgates opened and she talked like I've never heard her talk. She shared about her upbringing, what happened to her as a little girl, a tragedy at age 16 that despite her years of very hard living she could still recall with such vivid detail...and then all the pain that followed for the next 25 yrs that most of us could never even fathom. She preached about what is happening to women out there, and not just the ones on the streets but what is happening behind closed doors...look out world, this woman has something important to say! There is absolutely every reason out there that she shouldn't be alive today...but yet she said that God has a plan for her, that she's not done healing and still has a long way to go. I looked at this radiant, insightful, and COURAGEOUS woman sitting next to me who has a heart that is bursting to know and fully understand her value...and I am in awe that beside me is a miracle of God unleashing. Did you all hear angels singing tonight?

I have come to the conclusion that SC is not about what I can offer, or that I serve...but that God is chiseling down my layers and getting to my heart as much as he is for R, or any of our guests. R told us that she's very lonely, that she doesn't really have any girl friends....and honestly, I began to think about that commitment, and how it might interfere with my life (i.e. I live so far from her, I just don't have the time with school, work, etc)...and I just felt sick inside. How quickly my selfishness wormed its way into the whole picture...and how sad it all of a sudden became about me, as if I would be the one "giving" and not her. So God forgive me, because I have so much to learn from R about faith and hope in the midst of pain, AND perseverance, AND inner strength, AND delight in the blessings you bestow. We have committed to develop relationship with women, to see their hearts restored...and that is a long journey, and one that we also claim for ourselves firsthand. All of us who are women especially know that, "if not but for the grace of God...and a good friend," we might have fallen time and time again. So, to my good friends who have helped pick up "my pieces" when they were scattered, I love you and thank God for it's time for me to do the same.

Amanda F made a striking comment tonight about how effective it would be if a community of people went together overseas to an area to serve long-term versus just one or a few or a short amount of time. And I'm thinking...we are not overseas, but here we are a community of people committed and united to serve long-term in this small part of Portland. So, to those of you who have responded and are now a part of the SC community, I feel so incredibly blessed to live part of life with you. May we be challenged together, encouraged by each other, and may we continue to sing and dance always with one another.

Carol (Co-founder, Co-leader)

The street team had a great night, it was apparent that tonight there were a lot more women on the streets. The last four or five months have been flooded with hundreds of arrests in the area and things have been more "hidden," but last night there were some more faces on the street. It was noted that the ladies on the street were pretty young compared to the usual older crowd. We pray that these women are not underage, and as always we pray that every woman is safe. I often pray on my way to SC, and as I'm driving I crane my neck to see familiar faces walking down Sandy. It's interesting to me that I'm starting to feel that Sandy is MY neighborhood, and not just somewhere I go on Friday nights. I look around at the Clubs and Motels that we visit and feel connected to the people going in and out. I feel excited when I do see a familiar face and I feel even more excited when I see that face walk into SC.

S and D came tonight again. S is still her Diva self, but she is becoming more and more real each time I see her. She is a "class clown" and so funny, it's a part of her personality, but she also uses it as a coping tool. I love that she can come into SC and crack a joke when it's funny but also sit back and share her wisdom with us. She is listening a lot more now too, and really wanting to make a personal connection with everyone at SC. We had a new volunteer tonight and S was so excited to greet a new face and make her feel welcome. She always makes a point to ask about the volunteers that aren't there on that particular Friday and makes a point to see who's coming next week. She truly is our sister and means so much to us.

D was quite for most of the night but was sharing with us that she is feeling sad about the relationships she has with her daughters. She feels that they don't want to be around her and don't enjoy talking with her. I pray that D can find love and acceptance at SC and feel the love from women that she deserves. It is apparent that D is a smart lady and she has been financially successful in the past, she ran into some troubles and she feels that she is hit rock bottom. She is currently going to a job servicing center once a week looking for work, but her dream is to become a job assistance counselor for vets in Portland (she's a vet herself!)

What is so clear to me is that there are a lot of women who care in Portland. Listening to D, S and R opens my eyes to a certain raw love, a love that has been attacked by hurt and beat down by pain so much but it perseveres. I know that this love is God's love and it is so beautiful to see it in every one of us. My hope is that we can break down walls of hurt and pain and love ourselves, and each other as God has intended.

Amanda (Co-founder, Co-leader)

Here is my (Tiffany) response, if you're interested:

Hello Lovely SC Sisters and greetings from the other side of the earth. I just finished reading last week's Friday night update. I've been eager to read it for several days now, but I have learned that I must give myself the time and space (physically and emotionally) for reading SC updates. They hit me so deeply and intensely, each and every time. I always know the tears are gonna flow, it's just a matter of when. This time it was the moment I finished reading the last line about breaking down walls of hurt and pain, and loving ourselves and each other as God has intended.

The women in Amsterdam are so hard, and I feel oceans away from them, though I be only a canal or a bridge away. The Red Light here is so permeated with the enemy's lies, and the women seem so far gone. This place so desperately needs God's love, and I so desperately need his direction. Please pray for me in this place.

Be encouraged Carol, about your struggles with selfishness and commitment. For I too, through my encounters with the world of prostitution in Amsterdam and my own time with the Lord, am working at the barriers within. I am learning that it's all about hearing God's voice, that loving voice that calls us to love in action, to let go of the fears and prejudices we ALL have (whatever form they may take), and step out of our comfort zone in faith. This is so simply stated in writing, yet so difficult in body, mind and soul.

Thank you, all of you, for who you are to each other and to the ladies in the Sandy neighborhood. I miss Scarlet Cord so very much, and I thank you for gracing my email inbox every week with your eloquent words.

You are in my prayers always,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Books update

I spoke with my mom and sister on the phone the other day. They were out shopping. I asked what they were shopping for. They sort of hesitated, then Mom admitted it was for my birthday present. Then she realized she'd better tell me she got 2 of the books from the list I posted below a few weeks ago, so I can take them off the list. So, I am happy to tell you, if you'd like to send me a book for my birthday, don't get the following because my loving mom and sis already got them:

The Red Tent
The Wounded Healer

With Open Hands was also purchased by my friend Katie.

Thanks so much,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hot yoga – I’m a fan!

I’ve wanted to try this kind of yoga called Bikram for several years now, but honestly was scared to. I went on Saturday with my friend Kelley in Den Hague, and I tell you yoga will never be the same. I loved it! Here’s why…

1. I really like it hot! My favorite time of year is in the summer on those rare days when the temperature rises above 90 and you break a sweat just sitting on the front porch with a cool glass of lemonade.

2. I like to sweat when I exercise. Sweating is something our ancestors did regularly, because they had to work for everything. Nowadays, we have it so easy that many people (myself included) pay money to go to a gym and sweat on special exercise machines. I feel most human, alive and connected with my body when I am covered in sweat.

3. Determination and will power are an absolute necessity in this class. I can always benefit from exercising those aspects of my character.

4. Yoga is my favorite form of exercise, for many reasons. I haven’t done much of it since I moved to the Netherlands, and I’ve missed it so much. Returning to yoga was like coming home after a long time away.

Here’s some info I found on the internet about Bikram yoga, in case you’re curious…

Bikram yoga is widely regarded as the most intense type of yoga. It involves 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in 90 minutes, all performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. The heated room allows for greater flexibility, it minimizes muscle strain, lactic acid build up and reduces the chance of injury, allows for greater cleansing of the body and helps build tremendous stamina and endurance.

Mmm... so lekker!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scarlet Cord Friday Night Update

I am posting the Friday night update from Scarlet Cord in Portland. This is the non-profit ministry organization I co-founded this year, focused on prostituted women in NE Portland. Although I am not currently able to be physically present in Scarlet Cord Friday nights, I am still very much a part of the behind the scenes stuff. The work and heart of Scarlet Cord remain very important to me, and I am happy and blessed to share it with you! Please forgive me for neglecting to send/post these weekly. I will now be posting the updates here on my blog.


Friday night was awesome! I am always so blessed and I know God is smiling down on us like a proud daddy!

For dinner we had delightful veggie burritos made by Jen's friend, Rebecca. Also to fill our bellies, fresh juicy kiwi and pineapple, a great green bean casserole, a very delicious chicken pasta salad, a scrumptious sweet potato pie with home made whipped cream, and wonderful drinks to top it off.

D visited again and brought along a flyer for a craft bazaar she will be attending next Friday, we will miss her but wish her great success. S came tonight as well. The thing with S, she really does liven up the room as soon as she enters it. To see that bright beautiful smile is enough to remind you of the reason that SC exists. S also brought along some of her poetry to share, amazing! I heard talk of a poetry reading night!!

It was brought up last night, that some are noticing barriers being lowered and trust being built up among our guest. Our guests are feeling more comfortable and more able to be themselves, without worrying of judgment or disapproval. SC is truly a place where women (volunteers and guests) can come and relax and be taken care of.

My prayer this week for SC is that we continue to build trust among our guest and that our love, God's love, sparks revolution in the community.

Praise God and God bless,

Misty, volunteer

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Books please, please please!

My birthday's coming up. It's Nov.23rd and if you'd like to give me a gift, please read on...

I'd like some reading material. You can go to (or any other bookstore), purchase a book for me, then have it shipped to my address here in the Netherlands. Be sure to let me know if you are having a book sent to me, so I can take it off the list.

Here's my book wish list:

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

Prostitution, Trafficking, and PSTD - Melissa Farley

The Wounded Healer - Henri Nouwen

With Open Hands - Henri Nouwen

I Dared to Call Him Father - Bilquis Sheikh (I think)

Abu Sharif, Mystery Of The Hundredth Name - Jim Mellis (YWAM Publishing)

Seeing the City with the Eyes of God - Floyd McClung (YWAM Publishing)

Here's my address:

Monnetlaan 13
3446 HH Woerden
The Netherlands