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International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women thus far while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. It is about recognising how women’s equality has made positive gains but that at the same time we need to be informed about what still needs to be done. The theme for this year is Inspiring Change for the International Women’s Day global hub. It encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. Its a call to challenge the status quo for women’s equality and for vigilance in inspiring positive change. An essential part of achieving this, and keeping on the fight for positive changes in women’s rights, is to be informed. Informed of the circumstances and challenges that women across the world are still facing today.

We have indeed come far over the past 200 years, with all sorts of new rights and freedoms for women equal to those held by men. The United Nations efforts have played a critical role in advocating the voice of women since the early 20thC. However, today there are millions of women still facing discrimination and suffering all kinds of exploitation and human rights abuses. Reports show that currently, despite being illegal in every country, slavery is a transnational trade estimated to be exploiting 27 million people worldwide. Approximately 80% of its transnational victims are female, and 70% of them are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. This brings us to a potential 15million women, right now being exploited sexually. (U.S. Department of Justice, Assessment of U.S Government Activities to Combat Trafficking, Persons:2009).

To people living in affluent societies such as our own, who enjoy an abundance of rights and freedoms, these sorts of injustices can seem very far away from our own realities. Shockingly, this human rights violation can be seen throughout the entire world (wealthy and poorer nations alike). In particular parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. In a report by the UNODC in November 2009, stories of girls being trafficked from Nepal and into India tell of immense physical and mental suffering for the girls who are victims to the trade. But it also reveals the strength of women who have survived. Those who are now supporting other women who have escaped and working towards preventing further injustice.

One young woman told of how at 11 she was taken from her home in Nepal and sold into a brothel in Mumbai where she worked for 15 years. An Indian Government raid on the brothels of Mumbai in the late 90s was her salvation, rescuing some 800-900 women (600 of which were Nepalis). NGOs helped return 128 of these Nepali women to Nepal but they were led to seek  refuge with a shelter for trafficked women in Kathmandu, for fear of being abandoned by their family.

This young girl now reaches out to young girls across Nepal helping to raise awareness about sexual exploitation of women. She is involved in providing counselling and training, food and shelter to other women hopefully to see them reintegrate back into society! 

For more on her story see: http://www.unodc.org/southasia//frontpage/2009/November/trafficked-women-make-a-difference.html)

Today we celebrate the progress of women globally, from the achievements of those who have gone before us in the social and political world, and even the triumphs in our own lives. While we do however, let us not form a false belief that the fight is over. We must continue to keep ourselves informed, challenging the status quo for women’s equality so as to inspire positive change.

There are still millions of women who need to be given their voice, women who we can raise our own voices for.

Sarah Douglas

Be loved, and love.

My apologies to all those following my posts whilst in Nepal. I have not given myself the time to sit down and reflect on the trip as a whole, or the beauty we experienced and what we did in our last few days there. So I decided to get up early this morning and take the time to reflect. To remember. It’s something we often avoid doing or simply don’t recognise the importance of. Reflection is so important to our personal growth as forces us to acknowledge experiences we’ve had, emotions we’ve experienced, and ways in which God has moved in our lives. And let that take root and begin to transform our hearts.

To be honest, the biggest hindrance to us while we were travelling was that we weren’t remembering. We would get heart broken by what we saw, or get discouraged, or lack courage to go out and speak to people! And yet every time we sat down, came together and remembered, we were amazed! Our faith began to grow and grow and grow so much so that our hearts truly were transformed. That’s the thing, as I’ve written about before God calls us to LIVE OPENLY! It so important… and because we remembered what He had done, how He had been faithful and how greatly He had loved, our faith was increased and our pride softened so that we opened up our hearts; and let Love in.

The last few days of our trip, where I left off last – we went on a 4 day trek which was the most spectacular and breathtaking (and challenging) experience I’ve ever had. The Himalayan mountains declare (even shout extremely loudly!) the Glory and Majesty of God. The crispness of the snowy air that drifted down like a cloud from the Anapurna range was so refreshing. We talked with many people on our way, hearing their stories and meeting any needs we could. We prayed with many people for restored strength in their spirit and in tired muscles and for clarity and understanding in seeking hearts. All these things flowed so naturally out of us by this stage –  there was no need to give it any thought. We simply knew the Father’s heart, and because of that intimacy we’d be cultivating, love was just an overflow.

LOVE and its fruits (healing, restoration, acceptance) can only be ignited by intimacy with the Father. Love, being an expression of that intimacy sets alight to power, miracles and breakthrough! Without first seeking the Kingdom of God we cant have these things added unto us. And until we realised this, and started to praise Him and let Him fill us day in and day out – we didnt see Him move. But when we did, by His grace – we were filled with His love to overflowing!

The beautiful thing about all of this was that because we had postured ourselves to hear from God, and then sought out what He had given us – we SAW. We saw the needs/people/hearts/journeys that came across our paths and we outpoured love to them.

So, as I reflect… I realise this was a big journey. Very confronting, correcting, powerful, stretching – but above all very fulfilling.

God, ever gracious – led me to realise its all about Him. Its about the love He’s going to cause people to feel, about the relationships He wants to construct, it was about His agenda and about the outpouring of His love. This kind of realisation is confronting for us all, I feel that whenever we set out working in the eternal – our selfish, proud human nature rises up to challenge our spirit. But His Word is alive and powerful and He cut through soul and spirit! Then in His grace led our open hearts into a place of intimacy, and God truly lit a fire in us.  It became fully, and only, about HIM.

And once my heart was humbled before Him, He then revealed that while its about Him, and He wants to love others through us – HE ALSO LOVES US!!! And He wants to see us grow and be transformed by the wonder of His love.

THIS is amazing grace! Unfailing LOVE! That He would use ME – an often selfish, proud, naive young woman to do His will. That He would embrace me as I am, show me truth, and then lead me to understanding through the renewing of my mind, the restoration of my heart and the joy of intimacy with Him!

He lay down His life, so that ALL could be free. So that ALL would be loved, and love.

Sarah

Pictures! Off on a 4 day trek this arvo, so wont hear from us for a bit – Saw a young guy healed of a tooth ache this morning. Praise Jesus!

 

Namaste!

Namaste! 

Thank you all for your prayers, support, emails and comments! We are all safe and sound and back from the hills of Nepal! We just arrived in Pokhara where we will stay two nights before going on a short 3 days trek. God is so good, and He loves us so much. He’s continually showing us His glory every day. From the stunning sunrises over the Himalayas, the laughter of children, the joy and hope in our brothers and sisters eyes when we sing, laugh and dance with them. And in the beautiful ways he is touching his children through healing and reconciliation.

The last few days we have been trekking over the hills visiting homes and churches and schools – we presented a plaque to the high school that we were able to build a 2 story set of 4 classrooms (through funds from Oxford Falls Grammar School) which was received with hundreds of blessing flowers and scarfs, a whole community gathering, speeches, meals with the principal and teachers and lots and lots of DANCING! It was quite an event. We were the Honored guests; Madam Lyn and Miss Sarah – as well as Special guests Hollie, Klaas and Sandra.

(Pictures to come – forgot to bring my camera chord to internet cafe – oops!)

The building is ALMOST finished and looks fantastic! The Principal is very passionate about the children and village, is active in petitioning for government support and has many plans for the future. It was such a humbling experience to be a part of this significant development and thank you again to all who have supported these kids and the school.

The money we raised at the fundraiser (together with funds from Lindfield East Public School) we decided to give to finishing the planned building developments – so the final classroom, the furnishings (in and out – with new stools/tables) and also towards a play ground for the children to play (safely) in. There is over 300 children who attend this school from ages 10 – 16 and we are confident that the funds given are going straight to the children and their futures. THANK YOU!!! 

We’ve had some incredible times of worship in the mountains, singing His praises and joining with a growing local church not far from where we stayed (1 1/2 hr walk) worshiping with them and praying with them. One elderly lady had terrible stomach cramps and a crook back and was brought in for prayer. We gathered everyone around to lay hands on her and after we prayed. We asked how she was feeling and she looked up with a big smile and nodded profusely speaking Nepali. Someone translated for us that she said the pain had all gone! Praise Jesus! We then prayed with then for a little longer and every one was greatly encouraged! 

Tomorrow will be an exciting day as we will have time to roam the streets exploring and visit a Tibetan Refugee Camp and witness Gods love again as His grace falls upon us anew with the morning.

Great is His faithfulness! 

Love Sarah (and Hollie, Lyn, Sandra and Klaas)

 

Namaste from Nepal!

Namaste from Nepal!

We’ve had an exhausting last few days and we are FINALLY HERE! Today has been incredible visiting both Bhuktapur (Ancient City) and Pashupati (Holy City) and of course another night here in Kathmandu before heading off to the Dhaje Budhathum Village for a week.

God has already been showing up loving on people through us – from praying for a neighbours on the plane to declaring the name of Jesus over temples and idols everywhere! Today we were guided by a Hindu man who was truly a God send (like, actually). He was wonderful! Full of knowledge and a willingness to learn – so we learnt a lot. We were also able to have some in-depth discussions about life, death, salvation, enlightenment and true peace. We listened to his beliefs and then shared ours – while he was seeking enlightenment and salvation he was taken aback by the notion that we could be so sure of a god, let alone a Living God. One that could love us so much that Salvation could be given to us in one hit! He was a dreamer who had prophetic dreams about the future and often had spiritual encounters while he was sleeping – we were able to meet him right were he was. Encouraging him that he had a gift and that Father God loved him and was wanting to speak to him through dreaming.

When we visited Pasthupati we were confronted with death and grief as there were a number of open cremations occurring around us. We felt a spiritual heaviness and sadness as we walked in but we were able to confront it with the peace that we were carrying. Later we bumped into a Buddhist Monk who we got chatting to, lovely man, a real truth seeker. He gave us a blessing scarf and we have him a Nepali bible, a lovely exchange of faith that I am sure will be a blessing.

Please keep praying for us! For safety and for audacious faith! Particularly tomorrow as we head out to the village on a slightly dangerous road… pray for no landslide or collisions and a smooth ride.

Love Sarah (and Hollie, Sandra and Klaas)

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Because He loves, He will.

So tomorrow is the day! Next stop, Nepal! I will be updating this blog, posting pictures and testimonies of what God has done at every chance I get – the second I see an internet café I’ll be in it! SO WATCH THIS SPACE!

As I’ve said before, what I saw and felt over there last time, tore down my entire perception of the world and also solidified the pulls that I felt so strongly upon my heart to see people live fully and openly within the grace of Perfect Love. I don’t know what to expect really – But I am expecting GREAT things… because what else could come out of a trip where you are simply going to love people, and you know that all that love you have only exists because God first loved YOU, and I know how great my God is!  

I guess it’s a process of waiting on Him, and not waiting as we would often think of it, like idly waiting around for Him to just show up in our laps…

When the bible talks of waiting, particularly in the Psalms we see that when it says “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps 37:7) and “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps 27:14) – what is being conveyed here is not a call to twiddle our thumbs, but in fact (from the Hebrew word chul), to twist, whirl, dance violently! Essentially, to set up ambush – To wait in eager expectation that He is coming because He loves us!   

And that is the heart of this trip, HE LOVES! Its what we have been praying over for weeks and worshipping God because of, and therefore our actions must reflect that knowledge; we are stepping out in eager expectation that He is going to show up. We are waiting on Him, completely.

In the last few weeks in our times of worship, He has given us glimpses into what is going to come and who we are going to come across while we are over there. We’ve been writing these images/people/places down in our journals and regard them as a sort of ‘treasure map’ that we’ll have on us constantly, in search of those divine appointments that He has already set up! Some times He gave us an image of a person, where they are and what they are in need of, other times it was just a place, or a word, or a need, or a person…

We know that our God is a God of miracles, and what we look at as impossible, He is capable of, always. He is calling us to live in that reality – living a normal, natural supernatural life!

So we are going to do what he has commissioned us to do! Go; and LOVE. Heal the sick, defend the poor and needy, comfort widow, bring sight to the blind and heals those with leprosy! We are setting out to do this because we know our Daddy loves us, and we wait in eager expectation, in a stance of violent dance, letting out a shout of victory, for Him to come.

Because He loves, He will.  

Sarah

He’s steadied my heart.

At the end of the month I am going to back to Nepal to live with and learn more about some beautiful people in a remote village in the north west of the country for just over two weeks. I will also be opening a high school that we have been able to build through the generosity of kids from Oxford Falls Grammar School last year in an end of year fundraiser. For this I am ever so thankful and cant express just how far this will go in transforming the lives of so many families by giving access to education, hope and security to hundreds of children.

It’s been a surreal couple of weeks for me. I feel almost a hesitation towards going back to the same ground, the same people, and the same emotions that I did almost 4 years ago now. I guess you could say that I am feeling very vulnerable. That time was such a major turning point in my life. What I saw and felt over there tore down my entire perception of the world, challenged my place in it, and at the same time confirmed and solidified the pulls that I felt so strongly upon my heart to see people live fully and openly within the grace of Perfect Love, free of oppression and poverty.

Much has happened since then in my life, but really not much at all… When you see poverty, when you feel the heartache of abuse and oppression, when you speak with people who hold so much pain in their eyes – and yet are so content with what they have – its hard to know what to do with yourself. I’ve kept busy – looking for practical ways to train myself so as to be of most use and help to people who are in less fortunate circumstances than I. I’ve looked for ways to express my emotion and my heart through art and song. And I’ve been diligent in guarding and strengthening my heart, by allowing a level of vulnerability within the safeguard of my Saviours’ hands (who continually, faithfully, steadies it).

I am still rebuilding… but I don’t think I will actually ever come to any kind of finite stance… and that’s a good thing, because the more you see, the more you feel and the more you understand. If you aren’t constantly being challenged and stretched and flowing within an experience of empathy for others; I believe your soul can become stagnant and polluted. Life is made up of truths that can’t be found in books or the TV. It is made from real experience, real movements of the heart. Good and bad. How can you rise to a place of contentment and joy if these have not first been challenged by pain, loss and hate? How can you gain wisdom if you have not first had to govern your thoughts so as to keep pride from limiting your understanding? No wonder God calls us to live OPENLY! Because if we deny pain and sin and struggles exist within us, how can grace ever enter in and make perseverance,  liberty and strength out of our weakness? 

So friends pray for me in this time. Pray that doors will open and that Gods love and light will penetrate through any darkness and bring life and life abundantly. I don’t know what I am walking into this time around, but I do know that I am walking in with strength, and with faithful companions. I know I am walking in love and compassion. And most importantly I know I am walking in hand in hand with Jesus Christ, as I have allowed him to enter in and transform my mind, renew my strength and steady my heart.

Sarah

Arise

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 “God picked you out as his from the very start. Think of it: included in God’s original plan of salvation by the bond of faith in the living truth. This is the life of the Spirit he invited you to through the Message we delivered, in which you get in on the glory of our Master, Jesus Christ.”  

When Jesus died on the cross and saved us, God had much more than our eternity in mind. He picked us from the start to be His own, to live a life of faith and truth, in which we can share in the Glory of Jesus Christ! He has called us for a purpose, to make a difference in this world, to live supernaturally natural lives each and every day! And to live in unity with each other and with Him. 

I recently got back from a week ministering at ARISE FIJI with my church, The Link. Right from the start it was go go go! We were all over the place with people from our team being called into all different parts of the community.

The Link men went to the male prison and after ministering to and sharing with the convicts saw 70 men give their heart to Jesus.

We went to a children’s hospital and prayed for all the kids (saw some come home the next day praise God!) and helped them start a children’s library…

We took part in leading several youth workshops where we did praise and worship, prayer and then seminars on healthy living. 

And during the night we lead thousands of people in praise and worship at the youth rallies (which were absolutely amazing!) God moved in ways we could never had imagined and met us every step of the way.

We saw several people being delivered of all types of things spiritually and were filled with such immense amounts of joy in His presence! 

God breathed unity that we felt amongst the people of our church and within the different denominations in Fiji (who had never come together for anything until this last week) and unity and reconciliation between the Indians and the Fijians who have had (for centuries!) major disputes and racial tensions.

The festival saw these bonds broken, and people of all races holding hands, worshipping together, participating in events
together and praying alongside each other.

Gods faithfulness and love for His people has amazed us time and time again. Not only was He sought after, He was clearly seeking them. Amidst all the issues of racism, crime, youth rebellion and sickness GOD IS THE ANSWER!  

So just as we saw the people respond to the call of God this week as they realised that He valued them (no matter who they were!) and they He had picked us from the start to be His own, to live a life of faith and truth. So too is He calling us. He has called us to love Him, love His people and to as a church… Arise.

Truth & Freedom

John 8:32 “And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (NLT) 

We know that by the work on the cross we are free from sin and death and that Jesus bore the scars of our rebellion so that we could live blameless. We are free in an eternal sense, as we are now reconnected with out Father God. However, I feel there are many Christians out there who are born again in the spirit, but are still bound emotionally, mentally and physically by their pasts…

If something is keeping you from freedom physically, mentally or emotionally, if something is making you feel the weight of shame or guilt – then it’s a lie, because it’s not setting you free.

The bible talks about how Jesus restores our soul, strengthens our bodies and renews our minds. So this would suggest that the restoration, strengthening and renewing of these things does not come automatically with our salvation. Our Spirit is born again, but our minds bodies and souls are not. So this inward and outward transformation is a process, something that we need to step into, and learn to believe and accept. And we can! Accepting God’s gift of grace births Salvation, but it is knowing Jesus that gives way to Freedom. 

The bottom line is, all these things flow out of intimacy with Jesus. He is the truth. He is what will set you free – and His Word has the power to trigger this process within you. 

Jesus is God’s gift of grace, and the truth is, grace says you are: LOVED, it says you are HEALED, it says you are REDEEMED and grace says you are CLEAN!

If you are loved, you are FREE from hate.

If you are healed, you are FREE from sickness.

If you are redeemed, you are FREE from condemnation.

If you are clean, you are FREE from shame.

These promises are written in His word, and His word is true, He cannot lie. The more we get to know Him, and understand His truths; the more we are set free! Darkness cannot exist where there is light. So foster that light within you… let it shine! 

By knowing Him, we know truth. When we know that it is finished, that the work is done – we know truth; and as John 8:32 tells us – Truth sets you free!

Sarah