As the sands in the hour-glass…

I like writing. My most influential college professor encouraged me to write more. He said, “You have a gift, Lopez.” Recently another friend challenged me to blog at least once a week, so I’m chuckin this fear of writer’s block and pressin through.

But, what will I write about? Right now life is not so exciting. Maybe this is a challenge to make it more exciting, or to find excitement in hard to reach cracks and crevices? Like nooks and crannies in a nicely toasted english muffin. Maybe I can research one strange thing a week and give a report on it? Anyone have suggestions? Perhaps a certain animal or plant? Or a city no one knows about? Oooh, I’m intriguing myself already.

I’ll still use this blog to post about my plans and ideas concerning Amsterdam. Some next steps are coming quickly and big decisions have to be made. I’m indecisive, another reason that writing is sometimes difficult. I think its time to reward myself for this post with a Hershey’s Kiss.

broken hearts…

I guess I forgot to mention something important yesterday. Its evident that I tend to get pretty passionate about advocacy and public awareness, and yeah I get angry with the tourists, but there are times God really hurts my heart for certain ones. Don’t know why. It doesn’t happen often and that’s a blessing, God gave me a sensitive heart and if it broke for every person here with hurts, that would be disastrous. But there are definitely times when I see a man and it just hurts inside, so much. I’m not sure what it is, if its the loneliness or hopeless feeling an addiction leaves them, but I know its God showing me something that I wouldn’t see with my own eyes. Maybe its His grace that shows me these moments, to wash away some of this hatred and anger that can sometimes build up when I walk through these streets. I’m not going to sit here and say I never feel hatred or anger, because I’d be lying. I’m quite self aware and don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture of myself. Its a struggle. This is one of the things I asked God to work on with me before I got here, how in the heck am I supposed to “Love” these guys Lord?!? I realized that when I wrote yesterday I gave you only one side of my heart, granted, its probably the biggest part. But I wanted to let you know that even though its not a frequent reaction for me, there are most certainly times when God will highlight just one man and I feel pain in my heart. Its not fun but its a good thing and maybe I’m slowly learning how to love these tourists like Jesus. One of my pastors from back home, Matthew Anderson, once said, “We only love Jesus as much as the person we love the least.” I think I’m in trouble…

Oh, tourists…

I know what you’re thinking…”We’ve heard it before Chrissy, you’re gonna start blogging again, yeah right.” Well I am. Trying. But lately I’ve had such a desire to write again, like I haven’t in a long while. So I hope to write more often here.

Well I think its finally summer here, it has reached 70 degrees for more than 3 consecutive days. This is a first this year for us. Its crazy being from Nebraska, to live in a place where the summers rarely get above, or even reach for that matter, 80 degrees. With the weather brings WAY more tourists, not sure how many but some days it seems the population doubles, and you really feel that here in the red light. Which brings me to my first point, the tourists…

So every major city in Europe has these “free” city tours. Of course they are popular, they’re free. And free always means quality, right? Sorry, that’s sarcasm. The tours ask for tips at the end and from what I’ve heard, you get what you pay for. Tour guides make things up, long story short. I’ve overheard some even making fun of the women in the windows. The worst part of all this is that these tourists eat it all up. They believe every word these people are saying. And why shouldn’t they? Why would anyone lie for a living? Lately its been so difficult to walk through the alleys of my neighborhood, just to get to the grocery store. I have to sometimes push my way through crowds of tourists like I’m in the front row at a concert. They’re like dumb sheep, following a crooked shepherd, eyes glazed over, feasting their dumb sheep eyes on every girl in every window. They honestly kinda look like zombies. You really wouldn’t believe how many elderly people come through here, scads of them in groups. I want to ask them, what if this was your granddaughter you pervs?! Would you want some 90 year old man ogling her up and down then perhaps even raping her?

Now lets use those grey, mushy things in our head for a moment…The country of the Netherlands, the government and its citizens, are over this “come here and revel in any kind of illegal and immoral behaviour you want, we will supply everything you need!” notoriety. This reputation gets placed upon this entire country because of the “tolerant” and apathetic attitudes of many in this city and no one’s havin it anymore. Even the city government in Amsterdam is growing tired of this place being famous and drawing crowds because of drug use and prostitution. But…

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?!? Seriously? How can you expect to draw anyone but criminals and nare-do-wells to this city when your number one and two tourist attractions are prostitution and weed? Anyone else see this? What would happen if Amsterdam made weed illegal? Many locals complain the city would go under, that economically its just not possible. The weed pass did not get passed (shocker, I know) I believe because of the economic pressure the city council was feeling. I happen to believe that if weed was banned here there would be so many more tourists here who don’t come now because they are scared to be in a city where everything is ok. And what kind of tourists do you want to draw here? Do you want these thugs, pimps, traffickers, drug dealers? Are these the kind of people you want roaming your streets? Lets keep away the people that want to come here for the history and parks and museums, because the criminals can give us more money. Its definitely a spirit that has control over this city, who cares what happens to who as long as we get paid. Isn’t that what prostitution is all about?

People think prostitution is safe under regulation. If murder is regulated, would it be safe? Its like saying, lets regulate rape. That’s exactly what it is. There are all kinds of people, sadly even christians, who say, “If we make prostitution illegal, it will just go underground and the girls will be in more danger.” So lay down and die? Tell satan he’s won and go cowering home with our tails between our legs? No way. They go underground, we go underground. Yeah it sounds really scary but God doesn’t back down to the enemy, and if He’s inside of us then why should we? Legalizing any crime never makes it go away, it only gives criminals more freedom to hurt people.

All that to say, I want these tourists to get educated. I want them to know that they are not walking through some tourist attraction or “safe working environment”. They need to know its legalized rape, that most of the girls are trafficked and them walking through and taking pictures, staring and laughing is exploitation as well. During the Shine Seminar a group of students and I walked through the red light asking tourists what they know about Amsterdam and trafficking. I really thought, ok they know more than you think Chrissy. Sadly, I was very mistaken. We haven’t compiled all the data yet but I would estimate 90% of the people questioned had no idea what this neighborhood is all about. Hopefully this research will help show the city government that legalizing prostitution was a big mistake that needs to be fixed.  I think they know that already though.

Election day…yay.

Today is election day back home. I’m not even there but thanks to facebook, it feels like i am with all the fighting and political opinions and slander, what is wrong with people?

i realize im going to make a lot of people upset with what is say here. am i ok with that? most certainly i am. i am also a huge supporter of separation of church and state. why? let me count the reasons…

1. If we allow ‘church’ to govern our nation, what will we do if we ever do have a muslim president (don’t even say we do now or ill smack you)…church doesn’t have to mean “christian”. mormons go to church and that is one of the biggest cults in the world today. and if we had a muslim president, he could tell us we all have to pray 6 times a day or we go to jail.

2. You don’t lead people to Jesus by force. Good grief people! How many times in the Bible did He ever say, you have to follow me or I will make a law that will force you. Non-believers will never genuinely have a relationship with Jesus by force, there’s a good chance they will become religious out of fear but i guess many christians pass that off as being saved these days.

3. JESUS WAS NOT POLITICAL! Why do people think He was? He knew His Father was and is in control and I think He probably laughed on a daily basis when kings and rulers tried to behave like they had any sort of power whatsoever.

I am really starting to dislike christians. To me, the definition seems to be people who don’t live by the law but try to force others to live by the law. I refuse to call myself a christian anymore because its embarrassing. When people ask me if I’m a christian I cringe. I prefer to be called a follower or believer of Jesus. It implies that I am in pursuit of what I’m supposed to be, not that I’m already there and therefore better than you. Christianity implies, I am right, you are wrong, you are going to hell if you don’t agree with me and if you believe in another God I have every right to either kick you out of my country or kill you. I want to know what God thinks about all of this.

One more thing, and this is why I refuse to vote for Mitt Romney. His utter contempt for the poor. And christians eat it up. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!? If i hear one more, just one more christian, tell me that its not the governments job to help the poor, I’m gonna freak out. If the christians who are saying this, actually helped the poor in the first place, there would be no reason for the government to have to help! What does it say about christians when the government needs to step in?!? I don’t agree with that at all. Show me in the Bible where it says, “Government shall not help the needy”. I read a statement from the founder of the church I used to attend, it was repulsive, almost evil. He went on and on about how its wrong for rich people to help the poor and no one should help someone who doesn’t help themselves. Its heartbreaking because Jesus never looked at people and said, “heal yourself”. When people went to him broken and scared and needy He didn’t say, “go get a job you lousy bum, its not my job to help you.” It breaks my heart to see things like this come from the mouths of people who claim to know Jesus. My question is, how can you know a man so full of love and compassion, and have none for the ones who need it most? To me, christian means, cheap imitation or knockoff of Jesus. Not the real thing.

im not an abolitionist yet…

i cant believe i just spent almost an hour writing a blog post and freaking word press deleted it ALL.

im still so angry i could hurt someone, and i really mean that. as in, hurt the guy who thought it was awesome to put ‘unauthorized’ when i tried to post my blog. i would like to hurt him.

im gonna try to rewrite everything i typed before but somehow it all seems futile.

life has been extremely busy recently. lots more responsibility means a lot more work and sometimes i wonder why they trust me with this stuff???
i am now the official, director of fundraising for the lighthouse. sounds exciting, and it is. i like to do fundraising, but its a little bit scary when your budget for the year is 11,000 euros. yes, that means nearly all of that will have to be “raised”. are they sure they trust me?…..

Advocacy is going, well…its not really. these tourists walk around like sheep. like very dumb sheep. sheep are dumb animals, they wander unless they are guided. herded. and that is what is done here. they are herded around by free tour guides, who at will can and do make up whatever they want about this city. and the tourists, not knowing any better, eat it up. they seem to think this neighborhood is just a tourist attraction, an amusement park for grown ups. well, i have yet to see any grown ups here. I want to make movies and video clips and awareness tools so people can see this place for the evil that is here. how many people would stop and stare and even take photos if they knew these women were being raped 15-20 times a day? stolen from their families, forced to do unspeakable things. living in chains. i say this with all humility, these sheep need a shepherd and sometimes i feel like God has put it on my heart to do this. but its not easy. i have to study the history of this area, figure out how to do this without exploiting the women and most of all, what can i do to change things through this tour business? so many things i have to think about, talk to God about, lots of work yet to be done.

i am elated to report that we are rejoicing with one of the ladies we have become friends with who is leaving the windows at the end of this month! she said its a promise from God and we stand with her in this, believing God will keep his promise and give her something far better. please pray for her with us as she takes the step from captivity to freedom.

first 72 days…

I decided I should start to blog. I have one, might as well use it I guess…Two and a half months have gone by here in Amsterdam, I have a dutch cell phone, bank account, sophie number (kind of like a social security number) and the language is starting to come back to me. The bike has also become more of an extra appendage now instead of a vehicle, its easier to maneuver and feels more natural. So getting settled in is pretty much done.

 The Shine seminar was one of the most intense, informative, heart breaking, face slapping, depressing yet motivating classes I’ve ever taken. We had a police detective, various women who have worked in this area with years of experience, a guy who promotes slave free chocolate on cnn and another guy who has done about everything there is to do as far as advocacy, legislation and education concerning human trafficking in the States. Before Shine, I thought I knew a lot about trafficking. Boy did I find out quick how wrong I was. God showed me some things I found out its ok to be passionate about and I am almost positive they’re things I’ll be doing here in Amsterdam. These ideas are still developing.

 Now is the difficult part. Waiting on the Lord and being still before Him, putting His plan first and really getting His heart for this ministry. What does it look like God? What do you want us to do? Things like that. A lot of time spent with faces to the ground and hearts lifted up. Honestly, its difficult for me. I want to do and all of this not doing is hard. Not that I want to be a Martha, totally don’t. But I think about all the women who need help, who need someone to speak for them, women who are trapped in houses against their will all over this city…and I think…someone has to help them NOW! But God’s timing is perfect, He’s showing me that in different aspects of my life. And His will is more important than my desire to do work because I feel bored. So here comes a season of bending and stretching and being made newer. Its going to be really great, His faithfulness is proof of that.


نوّرت مصر…we lit up egypt.

my excuse for not blogging the past few months: “participating in a covert mission in the middle east, i was classified as undercover, therefore prevented from divulging my coordinates.” that sounds like a really great excuse from a very smart person =)

so now that i can blog, from time to time i will share things that for some reason or another have been brought back to my memory. it’ll be like, the good old times with chrissy. maybe i should purchase a rocking chair…….

our leaders told us not to post anything on facebook or blogs concerning our whereabouts, sure ok. however, after spending just a few days in cairo, i realized it may not have been so necessary. and oh how i wanted to blog! cairo is now one of my favorite cities. the traffic, the food, the people, the smells and sounds…i was ecstatic to be as far away from midwestern culture as i could be.

exploring the streets after dark was the best way to really experience the culture. old men outside shisha bars playing 31 (backgammon), street markets buzzing, kids playing football, everyone welcoming us foreigners to this eclectic city. i miss it, a lot. i miss drinking sahleb with my 2 adventure friends, hana speeding through traffic whilst arabic music is blasted through the van, visiting the sudanese refugees, shopping at spinneys, walking to the croissant shop with aforementioned folks, eating the best baklava and basbusa ive ever had, having my picture taken by hyper-friendly groups of teenage muslim girls, and knowing im in a culture that is one of the earth’s most ancient. so much history and rich culture everywhere, so different from where i am from. God has definitely blessed me with the inability to experience culture shock. give me the most dissimilar, diversified culture and im happier than a pig in slop. gezellig.

the most important thing i learned…wait, scratch that. God did something amazing to me in egypt, yeah, that sounds better. i have struggled with loving well most of my life. as a young child i had it down. but as i got older it became more difficult. the Lord is so good to teach me love by showing me how much he desperately loves muslims. it was incredibly easy to love people when all the stereotypes disintegrated and the soot and grime of a lifetime of egregious lies was washed away.  the people made it easy, so welcoming and friendly. the small shop owners in our neighborhood quickly warmed up to us and the guy we bought fruit from would always give us each an extra banana for the road. how can so many americans be so wrong. sure islam is evil, but most muslim people i met are trying to feed their families, get by on what they make and generally do good in life. without a proper knowledge of jesus, that makes them just like the rest of the unsaved world. God saved my heart from being ignorant and hateful towards these people and im so grateful that He did it in such an amazing and revelatory way.

i <3 egypt.

joy comes in the morning…

this week our lecture sessions were about the father heart of God…

so ive been thinking, what does the father’s heart think, feel, say about this city. i thought i knew, until this week. mostly i think God would feel how i do but worse. maybe God just cries over this city all the time. maybe he sees the girls in the windows and he just cant contain his sadness. i used to think that Gods heart was so overwhelmed with sadness and grief for amsterdam. not so sure about that anymore…

my guess is He cried for a while. big, heart wrenching,  soaking wet sobs. His heart breaks when ours does, but He sees the big picture and isnt held down by sorrow. ecclesiastes 3 says theres a time to cry and a time to laugh. God isnt going to cry forever concerning something He has victory over. so i think the crying part is done. now we’re getting to the good part.

God can see over things. we see a big thing in the way, but Gods big and His perspective isnt limited like ours is. He can see over and beyond whatever we see as insurmountable, unpassable. i see a girl in a window and feel angry, sad, frustrated. and up til now, i thought God felt the same, just many times over. but now, as i walk through the red light disctrict, i feel God’s presence and hope and think, He definitely knows something we dont know. i feel his presence more there than in most churches ive been to here, definitely more than in this big building im living in. i used to feel guilty for not feeling the darkness oppress me in the red light. i thought, maybe i like the evil? i know absolutely, 100% for sure i do not like what goes on there. but i couldnt explain it and felt bad. but i think i know whats going on now. and i dont know why God would allow me such a huge “peek” into His heart on the matter, but i feel like ive had a privileged look at this place from His vantage point. and im excited for whats coming…

people always say, if Jesus came back to earth, where would he go? he’d go to the dark places, hed hang out with the drunks, addicts, prostitutes.  its true. and i think thats where He’s hangin out now. He’s planning. He’s strategizing. He’s getting ready to move. God isnt weeping over this city anymore. i believe strongly in my heart He sees the joy ahead. He sees past everything we feel is impossible, cause He’s already conquered it. and He’s excited about the change thats coming. most people think revival is one big thing that happens all of a sudden. i dont. of course it could happen that way, but im not going to tell God how to do His job. i think it can be gradual, like a slow infiltration and then at the right moment, it happens. i believe revival is not just the good, joyous part, but all of the prayer and longsuffering that precedes it. because without the travailing, does it happen? i dont know. all i know is that God is here, He’s in the red light district. His spirit is here and Hes excited. He knows what we dont, He sees what we cant and i know change is on the way.

hello old friend, its nice to see you again…

im here! i arrived yesterday after what felt like an unusually long flight from memphis. the flight from omaha was faster than expected and no turbulence at all. i sat next to a nice lady, julie, going back home to jacksonville.  she pointed out the police car on the runway and i thought it was just protocol for them to check airports from time to time. boy was i wrong.  i overheard a security agent grab some “random” people from the line of passengers and tell them the security was a little heightened today so they were doing pat downs. after we showed our boarding passes we walked through a room where nearly 20 police officers observed our every move with mean and cautious looks on their faces, before we boarded the plane in memphis. that was a little scary. especially when after everyone was seated on the plane they announced they were looking for some passengers wit muslim names. turns out the previous night a man on the suspected terrorist list attmepted to board a plane from the uk to amsterdam then to sudan. so security was a little heightened…on the american side anyway. good grief, i showed the guy my passport and he asked me what i was doing there, i said school. he then asked if i was going to “see some friends” and i said yes. that was it, he gave me my stamp. then after i picked up my baggage another guy looked up over and pointed to the door. seriously guys, lets get it together with security. its getting a little ridiculous. amsterdam is already the biggest target for a terrorist attack. and lately theres been some problems with muslims threatening jews here. lets get with it kids…

both flights were extremely smooth. any bumps or turbulence was very mild and never lasted long. i sat next to a lady from st louis, laura. she was on holiday with her family, brother aunts or something. she asked me why i was going and proceded to tell her nephew or brother that she was no longer going to let him tour the red light district. lol. we had some good conversation about God, she said she hoped she didnt have to sit by anyone weird and she was glad i was nice and she liked me. shes catholic and talked about how her sister has tried to convert her, even though she feels she has a relationship with God already. i told her i believe its all about being in relationship with God and knowing jesus and she agreed, but still enjoys and holds to the traditions of catholicism. she was a nice lady and im glad i got to sit by her. once again, i didnt sleep at all but i passed on lauras offer of a prescription lunestra. she had about 3 glasses of wine and i asked her if it was safe to take the pill after that. she laughed at me. and then fell asleep for about 4 hours.

i was very suprised by my good friend annemarie de zwaan at the airport. i wasnt expecting anyone to pick me up but she jumped out of the crowd of people when i stepped out the arrivals door. it was awesome! not only cause i needed help with my luggage, but also because its nice to have someone there when you arrive. we walked to the willemsstraat and then to the hostel. i love being back in this city, but its strange this time. not sure why. it feels very different, but in some ways the very same. i may just be jet lagged or overwhelmed by everything. who knows. but last night i went back to the hostel and met the new staff, saw an old cleaner, john from hungary, whos back for a while. it was great to see him. we talked about the old staff and how awesome it was to be here at that time. i went on 5 walks yesterday, yes thats right. one through the red light on the way home. as i saw the girls in the windows, i wondered how many of them were there by choice and how many had been trafficked, kidnapped or tricked into this profession. it still makes me angry to see it, maybe that will never change.

i have my first shift tonight as sleeper. i will help the nightman, clean bathrooms-yikes. (right now theres a neighbor ourside my window down in the courtyard singing a little dutch song.) i fell asleep last night around 11 and was so suprised because i was extremely tired. i slept through the whole night without waking up once! it was awesome. hopefully jet lag wont affect me.

thanks for the prayers again, keep praying. i am feeling a bit lonely here as i have only seen one friend for a short time. familiar faces would be nice to see today. things are going well, maybe i just need a nice bike ride today to get reacquainted with my city. and maybe a doner durum as well, mmmmmmm =)