Carrie Jean and Liz’s Adventures in Central Asia
Carrie Jean and Liz are working with women and children rescued from human trafficking in Central Asia. Read about their adventures below. Note that comments and discussion are not enabled on this page.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Cor. 3:6-9
This particular passage came to my mind a couple weeks ago with the birth of a friend’s baby. You may have seen things come through about Tuba, who had been pregnant, had a few complications and false alarms, and for whom we had committed to watching her other two young children when she did need to go into the hospital. Because of many false alarms, we went to her house about once a week for a month; she and her husband would then come home from the hospital with no baby. Each time she went to the hospital we stayed with her children for at least a few hours (the hospital is almost an hour away).
Finally the day came when the delivered the baby! She was happy (for obvious reasons), and we were happy for no more false alarms. She delivered on a Monday evening, but she and her husband stayed overnight; therefore, Carrie Jean and I stayed overnight with the children. We heard she would be coming home on Tuesday, and we were glad to greet mom, dad, and new baby at the door. Unfortunately, they didn’t come home until afternoon on Tuesday; we had to leave for our language class before we saw them. We were so disappointed that after all the times we had been there to watch the children, and staying overnight the night before that we didn’t get to see the new baby, but someone else who had only been at the house for an hour(to relieve us and watch the children) did get to greet the new baby! We did the “background” work but didn’t get to see the result!
With this in mind, my thoughts wandered to how this sometimes is like witnessing and being a light to others. People might plants seeds of Truth in someone’s heart, but not be around to see those seeds watered or even see the result of those seeds. As Paul mentioned, sometimes different people will get to walk with others on various stages of their spiritual journey. God might put us in someone’s life for a time; He might have us plant seeds, and possibly even be there to help water, but may pull us out before we see the terrific results of those seeds. This can be disappointing from a human standpoint, but we are all workers in His field. It doesn’t matter who reaps the harvest; as long as there is a harvest! We are to do what God has called us to do. If He hasn’t called us to be around for the harvest, so be it, perhaps He is calling us to plant more seeds for a later harvest! If people only wanted to be around for the good results, then who would do the “dirty work” so to speak? God is the one in charge; it is He who makes things grow in His time. Our purpose should be one sole purpose with Him: to enlarge His Kingdom, however He calls us to do that.
Now, the end of our story: we did get to see the baby a week later! Here is a picture of me holding the baby.
Events over the past month or so have led me to battle even more with learning to live with open hands. First, I’d like to share a cute story which happened the other week which the Father brought to my mind today as a perfect illustration for the point I wish to make.
Pictured here is a very adorable 1 ½ year old boy whom I’ll call Adam. This summer Liz and I have had the pleasure of babysitting Adam a couple times each week while his mother is in her language lesson. Adam does not speak yet, save for a few words in a language I have not yet learned (though I am learning several words well now!). However, his smile and eyes light up the room so often which is expression and language very understandable. Most days we take Adam to the park for at least an hour or two as he loves to play in the sand, swing, run around and climb on everything!
A couple weeks ago as I was pushing his stroller out of the park to head home for naptime when he nearly flipped right out in his enthusiasm to point out a cat that was crossing the path. I managed to get him back in the stroller but he was not at all happy with me for deciding to still leave the park. So the following morning we arrived at the park with a few extra hours to spare and so I decided to let him out of the stroller when we walked into the park so that he could see the cats. (This city is filled with stray cats roaming around constantly and since many people feed them they are very tame – for the most part – and continue to multiply!) At this particular spot there were about 8 cats/kittens roaming about. I thought that I would set Adam down near them and he would get scared so I would pick him up and we could continue on our way. Not so! Apparently he passionately loves cats and is absolutely fearless around them! He would run after them and try to grab them by the tail to pull them closer. I saw a small kitten nearby which I gently picked up and carried over for Adam to pet. Instead he instantly reached out and took the kitten, none too gently, and hugged the kitten close to him. As the kitten squirmed just a bit he held on tighter. Soon he realized that the kitten’s neck was the smallest part and easy to hold on to so he wrapped his little hands securely around the kitten’s neck and held it tightly. Now, I could tell by watching him that he didn’t have an ounce of meanness in his body towards this poor kitten. However, in his overzealous expression of love for the kitten he began squeezing the very life out of the dear thing. I stepped in and tried to show him how to be gentle but time and time again – using numerous cats and kittens – he continued to try and express his deep love for them by squeezing them tightly which communicated just the opposite. He was not content just to hold his hands open flat and pet the kitten, he wanted to hug them closely.
Hmmm… how like me in my relationships! Living overseas and hearing of a loved one back home who issick or hurting makes is me want to run there and give them a hug or DO something! But the Father has called me here and this is where I need to be! Someone recently asked me, “do you think that you love them more than G-d? Or that you are more capable of helping them than He is?” No. I would definitely say that He is in control and all-powerful and the most loving. Yet in my immature, human nature I think that I can make things better instead of simply trusting them to the only One who can!
So, I have been in this battle of trying to live with open hands. Hands that the Father can use to heal and to bless according to His purpose, but hands only guided by Him and not hands that busily rush ahead. As I was thinking about this today and again grappling with “why is it so hard to open my hands and just trust” I opened my email and read the daily devotional which contained this line of exhortation, when we “live open-handed with all that we’ve been entrusted with, we will reap beautiful benefits.” The Father has very clear ways of driving His point home sometimes.
Instead of just pondering this in my heart today, I decided to write it down and share it with all of you since some of you may need to hear it as well. In what ways today can we open our hands, unclench those tight fingers and release… stating to the Father once again that He is in control and the only One good enough, wise enough and powerful enough to not just meet the need but completely take care of each loved one in our life and each situation which arises around us.
We left our overseas “home” behind one week ago when we boarded a plane and flew to our previous “home” in PA for a short visit with family and friends. The last week before our departure was quite different than originally expected. On Tuesday, May 28thwe answered a knock on our apartment door only to find out that our apartment was being sold and we needed to pack and leave. With only 1 week until our scheduled departure for the States we already felt busy and had a lot on our plates, but now we had to find a place to live and pack and move everything… via public transport!
On Thursday, I went to WSH as usual. It is always a joy for me to meet with the women and be able to share a bit of the Father’s love with them once a week! While sitting there inspecting jewelry I began sharing with one of our volunteers about our need to move. She just smiled and said, “do you want to live in our house rent-free this summer?” She and her husband are returning to the States for a couple months this summer and said that they had been praying someone would be able to house-sit for them. So, this solves both of our dilemmas. One thing she said really stuck out to me: “there may seem like a lot of sudden changes and surprises, but that’s only from a human viewpoint. The Father isn’t surprised by any of this. He has known all along and He has a great plan already!”
On Friday evening, May 31st we were awakened at 1:00am my horns honking non-stop and many people shouting in the street. When this continued for the next several hours we really began to wonder what had happened. The next day we found out that thousands of people had gathered in the city square that day to protest against the Prime Minister. This resulted in the police arriving with water cannons and tear gas to “clean the square up.” Many people were injured and a couple lost their lives. However, this did not deter the protesters. Instead, they gained in strength and number and marched through the city all night long. The protests, shouting, pot-clanging and general chaos has continued each night since. So has the violence. Please pray with us for the Prince of Peace to be made known and lifted high even during this tumultuous time.
On Sunday, June 2ndafter church Liz and I met our friends who helped us carry heavy bags on a 20 minute walk to the train station, ride for ½ hour and then continue on foot another 15 minutes to their house which will be our new home for the summer. It is a beautiful blessing to see the Father’s love and provision so clearly! Isaiah 65:24, “before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” How true! Even before we even know what to ask He is answering. A great reminder of how He died for us even before we knew of our sin or wanted His salvation!
On Tuesday afternoon, June 4thwe were finishing up packing when we got the message that the riots and violence were scheduled to escalate the following day and so public transportation may be cut which means we would have no way of getting to the airport. So, we quickly finished packing, prayed with the team at the office and began the 2 hour journey to the airport via foot, ferry and tram. We arrived at the airport and spent an uneventful 16 hours there before taking off and returning to PA safe and sound! J
The days since returning have been almost as busy and very exciting as we’ve been able to meet with family and friends who we haven’t seen in a long time. Also, we have had the privilege of meeting with the executive director of People International who has accepted us to join their team already serving in Central Asia. We would love to be able to connect with you and share with you some of what the Father has been doing in the hearts and lives of so many women as a result of your faithful prayers as we minister overseas. Another reason for us coming to the States right now is to raise some much needed financial support. We will be having a Breakfast Fundraiser here in Bethany Hall on Saturday, June 22nd from 8-11am and would love to have you join us! Liz and I will be sharing briefly at 9am and at 10:15am. The cost is by donation only and we would love to have you RSVP if you can come so that we can make the accurate amount of food. Feel free to call or email my sister, Julene, at Abbababam@gmail.com or 717-799-4524.
My heart is full this week with many things that make my heart rejoice and also several things that make me run to the Father’s feet and ask that He work in a mighty way.
This past Thursday we had 5 new women come to the outreach center and express interest in learning to make jewelry as their work and source of income instead of working during the night in bars. This is a great joy! It is a beautiful experience to be able to sit with a woman and show her a few simple things and then watch her face light up as she realizes that she can make something beautiful and receive payment for it! Please lift these precious women up to the Father’s throne that they would be able to see and accept His love and freedom!
It was also a great joy to hear one of the women who has been in our program for several months admit that she wants to completely stop working nights and live a new life. The war for her soul is very evident as she vacillates back and forth between the strong pull of the dark life she knows and has lived for the past 11 years and the hope she now is being offered. But take a moment to rejoice in the fact that she now desires change! There is still a very long road ahead of her, but what a joyful step she has taken in realizing and admitting that she needs to change. She agreed to come to come to the Sunday morning service for the first time in her life. Please lift her up to the Father’s throne that He will speak clearly and she will realize that He is ready to rescue and save!
It is both a mixture of joy and sorrow to hear of a new Sunday morning ch-rch plant which has just started in a neighborhood in my city. Two weeks ago they had a dedication service. They hung banners in the street and from the building announcing that all are welcome to attend. Then, the following Saturday as one of the women was alone inside the building cleaning, a mob of 40 men came to ransack the place. They pounded on the door and beat against it but the lock held. The frightened woman called out to the Father who protected her and kept her safe, but the outside of the building was egged and all of the banners and signs ripped to pieces. The frightened little congregation didn’t gather in the building the following day (last Sunday) but in someone’s home where they could pray together and read His Word. They cleaned up the building and had a meeting this past Thursday evening, only to again have an angry mob arrive, rocks thrown through the window and a clear statement made of “we don’t want you here.” Until the scales fall from their eyes like they did for Saul they are unable to understand the light and love of the Father. Please pray for this little flock as they stand on the promise that they are sheltered beneath His wings and that He has a plan and a purpose for them as they continue to shine their light in this dark neighborhood.
It is a joy for me to be able to sit with many Brothers and Sisters on a Sunday morning at our international fellowship and worship in several different languages knowing that the Father hears and understands each and every one and delights in the praise of His children! It is a trial for me as I struggle to continue to learn the local language. The foreign grammar structure is a constant frustration and I sometimes wonder “will I ever be able to effectively communicate and clearly understand?” I am grateful that our message was translated this morning into my native English so that I could also be fed, but it leaves me to wonder if I’ll ever understand without a translator.
This is my new home and I love it! (…most days) I enjoy the smell of freshly grilled kebaps but not the constant smell of cigarette smoke and vehicle pollution. I enjoy the beautiful sunsets across the sea just a short walk from my home and am reminded to praise the Creator! But the almost constant layer of smog makes me wonder how black my lungs are becoming. I even enjoy the busy city, but sometimes grow weary of all the concrete and long for some green grass for my bare feet to enjoy and to bask in the sunshine uninhibited by all of the tall buildings. I enjoy being able to walk so often for long distances, but sometimes, when I’ve worked hard all day or I have many heavy bags to carry the way seems long and I wish for a seat and some wheels to deliver me right to my front door. I enjoy the random musicians on each street corner who play hoping for a few pennies and I even enjoy the call to prayer which echoes from the mosques five times every day because for me it is a reminder to pause and thank my Father for all His blessings. I love being able to have friends from 10 different nations sitting around my living room on any given day, but sometimes the differences of working with people so different from me seems more like a stress and it reminds me to run to the Father for wisdom.
At the end of the week, my heart realizes that sometimes there are trials and sorrows and sometimes my heart grows discontent. But at the end of the day I can look back and see His many faithful blessings and recognize the joy that encompasses it all simply because He is faithful, He cares, He loves and He saved me! And even with all that He has already accomplished, He isn’t done but has plans for my life, if only I’m willing to be used. Thank you, because it’s only through your continual prayers that we can continue.
Sometimes I think we take our American lives for granted and we just don’t think about things which others might have to go through. For example, we just had an African woman find our safehouse the other day. She was with an African man who was not good. He would not only beat her, but beat her son also. One day he broke a glass bottle and hit the son’s face with the bottle. This resulted in the boy being blinded in one eye because the bottle went right into the eye. This woman left the man, but had no job skills or education; the only thing she had was knowledge of being a “dancer” in a bar.
This is a similar story for many of the African women who come to the safehouse. They have no skills, some of them can’t even count very high. In fact, the safehouse “mom” can’t even write out numbers past 100, so having her help with recording finances doesn’t work out so well. However, she has been through so much and can identify with each of the battered, scarred women who come to her safehouse. She is a living testimony of Isaiah 61:1-2 which says “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion…”
The woman from the beginning of this story, after coming to the safehouse, for days on end would just sit in a corner covering her face with her arms. She would not speak to anyone. Our safehouse mom was able to finally get her to start speaking a little bit. I know I could not do what the safehouse mom does because I cannot identify. Growing up my family never had an abundance of money, but we were able to save all year long for a vacation to the beach once a summer, we had gifts every Christmas and birthday, we had plenty of food every day, and we were able to live in safety and comfort. We are praying for and praising our Father for bringing TG, the safehouse mom for the Africans, so she can introduce other women with whom she comes in contact to the One who “is close to the brokenhearted” and the One who “saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18)!
One of the beauties of the changing of seasons, specifically winter into spring, is the blossoming and blooming of beautiful flowers! Even though we live in a city of nearly 20 million people we are blessed to be able to enjoy patches of beautiful flowers spring up. Tulips are very popular here and we are enjoying the many vivid colors and great variety of vibrant beauty these flowers bring to the drab gray concrete when we normally see in every direction. Here are a few glimpses for you to enjoy as well! What a beautiful Creator we serve!
Here’s a glimpse of daily life for us here in Central Asia. Sometime we will blog about a typical work week, but for now here’s a picture into a relaxing weekend… which for us begins on Friday evening.
Each Friday all of our co-workers gather in our apartment for a staff meeting during the afternoon. Afterwards we generally share a meal together which commences the start of Sabbath relaxing. This is always a fun time to gather together with 20 or so co-workers from about 8 different nations. This week we celebrated two staff birthdays so we decided to make a special meal Friday evening. All day Liz and I worked preparing 4 courses’ worth of delicious food. Around 5pm our staff meeting was over and everyone changed into a fun costume they had brought with them to begin our party. Here’s a sampling of who some people came dressed as: William Carey, Corrie Ten Boom, Harriet Tubman and Socrates. Some people came dressed as Bible characters such as: the Queen of Sheba, Rachel, Queen Esther, the 3 Wisemen… and we even had Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus!
After the fun of guessing each other’s costumes died down we invited them to sit around the table (which is a tight squeeze for 20 people in our tiny apartment). We had decorated the table with Spring-time candles and placemats. We gave each person a menu with the 4 courses and each item listed with a code name. They got to choose 4 or 5 items for each course and then we served them. The Mystery Meal was a new concept for everyone but was a lot of fun and I’m sure all of our neighbors could hear the laughter!
At 10:30pm Friday night we left our house to head to our local church here to participate in an all-night prayer and worship time. It was really special. Since two of our staff (women who have come from a background of prostitution but are now saved and trying to reach others) were walking the streets and visiting various bars and brothels until 5am Saturday morning it was a great opportunity to lift them up each hour they were on outreach. By 3 am Liz and I were both really sleepy and after having worked so hard all day in the kitchen preparing the meal we decided to be kind to our bodies and head home and go to sleep. About a dozen worshipers stayed at the church until 6am though and continued to pray.
Saturday morning was a lazy one since we were so tired from being away late the night before. It was also a gloriously beautiful day with the sun shining and felt like Spring. I did a couple loads of laundry and hung it all out to dry on our fourth floor balcony. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, catching up on emails, and skyping home to my family. About 8pm I realized it was dark and my bed sheets were still hanging out on the line… still damp so I brought them in and tried to have them air-dry quickly, but ended up making my bed at mid-night and crawling into still damp sheets.
This morning (Sunday) we were able to sleep in a bit and then head to church at 10am. It was wonderful to gather together with brothers and sisters from many nations, worship our Father together, and hear an enriching service. This afternoon we went for a long walk to enjoy the sunshine and spring breeze. After the past two months of very cold, dark, rainy weather it’s a blessing to have 2 beautiful sunny days in a row and the weather which has warmed up considerably. It’s beautiful to look outside and see a few trees covered in white blossoms! We walked for about an hour down to the seaside and enjoyed the way the sun glistened off the water as the waves crashed on the rocks. There were a lot of sail boats out enjoying the day which added a picturesque touch to the horizon. The parks were packed with many people, entire families out enjoying a beautiful day together.
That brings me up to date… Liz is in the kitchen preparing tea and snacks for our guests who will arrive soon for our weekly Sunday evening worship time together and then we will be ready to begin a new week. Thank you for your continued prayers as we live each day doing the Father’s work!
Pr-y for the brother of one of our team mates. He is doing his national military duty. Last night he was taken in to the woods in the middle of the night, ordered to dig a grave. He was told it was for all Chr-stians, like himself. Then he was ordered to get in. Then told to recite the verses from their religion which would make him leave his faith in Chr-st. He said he would not, and they finally let him go. This is not the first time he has been tortured. Please pr-y that his Father would find favor and be able to get him switched to another military base to complete his service.
Pr-y for one of our women, LN, who owns a home and just recently “won” a tough court case saying the home is officially hers. She has an abusive husband who, now the courts are saying, is allowed to be at her home also. She keeps asking if we know someone who can live with her in her home as she is now afraid for her life. So far we have not been able to find someone who is able to do that (none of us foreigners are able to do that; many of the nationals are married and have families of their own). Please pr-y for strength, for protection, and provision for this new sister. You may remember us asking you to lift her up a couple weeks ago: she is the one who was just recently saved and baptized and wants to open this large 5-bedroom home to other women needing a safe place to live.
Also, please pr-y for one of our women, SF, living in our Asian SH. She has been making some poor choices lately and often says she’s going to quit the program and move out but then ends up staying. Please pr-y for special wisdom, grace and love for our two staff (Luanne and Fatma) who live with her and are working most closely with her.
Thank you for your continued interest in our Father’s work!