Warriors for Freedom!

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

—Nelson Mandela

What better way to celebrate the blessings of our freedoms than by getting behind someone who is part of a major global effort to free women and girls who are enslaved by sex-traffickers?

My cousin, Whitney Wilson, is on a one year internship with IJM (International Justice Mission) in Manilla and could use some help from those of us who have been celebrating American Independence Day. 

Whitney wrote The Warrior about herself before she left. Just what she needed to brace for the battle ahead, a battle she has already been fighting in Grand Rapids and plans to continue when she returns home.

This is an opportunity to get behind this passionate young woman that I wanted to share with others. We keep talking about the rising generation of ezer-warriors and how we want to cheer them on. Here an opportunity to get solidly behind one.

Whitney’s latest colorful update from Manilla came this morning. Here’s a big part of it:

Today marks my two week anniversary with the city of Manila!  (It’s also the 4th of July, and the Filipino staff members keep shaking my hand and congratulating me… Not even joking.)

First of all, thank you so much for your prayers for safe and calm travels.  Everything went really well.  I met a man on my plane who works with the Peace Corps in the Philippines who was able to help me manage the Manila airport which I do not think I could have managed alone.  He was definitely an answer to prayer.  

When I landed in Manila, the windows immediately began to fog because of the humidity and I started thinking, “Oh. No. What have I done!?”  Those feelings quickly dissipated after I met my team at the airport, we were all covered in sweat just from existing, and I immediately loved each of them.  Openly perspiring together leads to bonding, I am learning.

Manila, for those of you I haven’t talked to, is very comparable to Gotham City.  It’s dark, it’s dirty, and I’ve been told that being robbed is inevitable, which, if you were to see the living conditions of some of these families, makes complete sense.  Any of us in that situation would rob out of necessity, too. 

The pollution here is terrible, and the city is trapped in a cloud of this pollution.  When it rains, umbrellas are a requirement because the content of the rain is so full of pollutants and rat urine that it is known to make your hair fall out.  (Who wants to come visit!?) Luckily, I have a lot of hair, and I’m hoping to get my legs wet enough that I will never have to shave again!  Always a silver lining =)  Oh and the mangoes…a definite silver lining.
Because of Manila’s Manila-ness, it is recommended to the staff and interns that we get out of the city once every 3-4 weeks.  This means I will be traveling a lot, and I promise you I am not off gallivanting and not working.  Leaving is necessary for sanity’s sake.  I have joined a yoga studio as well, and even in the last three days I’ve noticed an improvement on my overall anxiety level.  I plan on continuing to exercise in order to take care of myself, and I’ve also found that a good book works wonders.  Since I’m adjusting to so much at one time, I often find that I get tired quickly, and taking care of myself is something I won’t be able to ignore.
About work…it is going to be really tough, but I cannot tell you what I do.  I promise you that this is more frustrating for me than it is for you, but for the sake of my team’s safety and my safety, I cannot disclose any of the work we are doing.  I can’t even tell the other interns what I do.  I will, however, include a couple published stories of what our office has been doing so that you know we are working hard!
It is an honor to work with people who work so hard for justice =)
Prayer Requests
Please pray that I will continue to adjust well to my new life here.  Not only am I adjusting to a culture that I do not know, I am also adjusting to life in a big city.  The BIGGEST city.  It is hard to adjust to life with no green.  There are no trees or plants…only concrete and scaffolding.  I am also struggling with the language barrier.  There is a larger barrier than I expected, even in the office, so prayer about how to find a middle ground would be great.
Please pray that I will be used by my team to my fullest potential. 
Please pray that I can adjust to the pace of life.  Everything moves slowly and inefficiently, and I like to move quickly and take only the absolutely necessary steps it takes to achieve something.  (Unless it’s cars.  They move fast and ignore traffic lights.  Crossing a street is a game of human Frogger as there are no crosswalks.  You can pray that the cars slow down a little or that I become superhumanly fast.)
And of course, last but not least, I am still in need of a significant amount of money.  I want to be clear with you all about how your money is being used.  Each month, IJM sends me the amount I pay for rent plus $15.20 for each day in that month.  That is the decided cost for daily living in Manila.  For purchases like my plane ticket from the US to Manila, I send in my receipts and I am reimbursed that dollar amount.  According to IJM, this adds up to about $26,500.  I have raised about $13,000, and that number is going down now that I am paying to live here.  I am living frugally, and the only cost I have that could be seen as frivolous would be yoga, but I can assure you it is necessary. 

I assure you that I am doing everything I can to help combat human trafficking.  And really, $5 gets me about two meals (I have no way to cook in my apartment.  No microwave or toaster oven, and there are no ovens here.) so if $5 is what you can give, it will feed me!
And thank you again for your prayers.  I sincerely feel their comfort =) 

Think about it and help keep Whitney alive and working hard against sex-trafficking!

About carolyncustisjames

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