Thank You for Sharing 2012 With Me!

canstockphoto11425924In a season of joy, and anticipation… A time when Jesus is acknowledged and praised, through music, even in the secular world…. A season of giving… of thankfulness…  I am reminded of the reason I do what I do.  And that reason is the same Jesus whom we celebrate this season. When I am with people, we invite Him into the ‘everyday messiness’ of our lives, to bring peace and restore purpose—Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

The God who came in the body of a little boy, about two thousand years ago, into our sinful and messy world, still longs to be invited into the pain and tragedy of our experience.

 A year in review…

2012 was an exciting year of ministry for me personally, through blogging and ’email mentoring’, as well as with Faith Girls Unleashed and Generations Unleashed! At the beginning of the year I had an archive of 34 blogs posted, over a 2-year period. This year I was able to write 224 new blog posts. This led to connections, both via email and in person, with many, many new people. (I will not mention how many emails I exchanged with my readers, as this would probably horrify you! …I thank God for good typing skills!)

Some of the new connections developed into new clients, and this has allowed me to spend time with many people, listening to your stories over coffee, or tea–my choice of beverage in the evening, now that I am ‘middle aged’ and can’t sleep if I have too much coffee. Together we have walked down some painful roads, and have found Jesus there, in the middle of the tragedy, suffering with us, yet fighting for us.

Your stories have touched my heart, and changed my life. The way I see the world now, compared to a year ago, is radically different because of you. I would never have believed, 365 days ago, that a person could change so much in a short time.

I see God as more powerful and real… as far more compassionate and gracious… as more personal than I could ever have understood before… He is a warrior on our behalf, yet a safe and gentle place to land, when life has overwhelmed. He forgives easily, and loves passionately… it’s His very nature to do so. Thank you for sharing your hearts and teaching me about my Heavenly Papa through your life.

On the Ministry Front…

Early in the year we started the process of establishing Generations Unleashed as a charitable organization, and developing a board to direct the ministry.This process is ongoing, but in recent communication with Ottawa, we learned that our file ‘review for accurate information’ has been completed, and an officer has been assigned to complete the process. We were encouraged by this, and hope for final approval in the near future.

While Faith Girls Unleashed continues to function as a separate entity, for the time being, it will (hopefully) eventually become a ‘program’ within Generations Unleashed, targeting women specifically. This cannot take place until the charitable status us granted.

Generations Unleashed was established to work with men, women and teens, in the area of sexual abuse, violence and various traumas. We do this through one-on-one  mentoring, coaching and biblical (not licensed) counselling, and simply listening to broken hearts. (Once we are able to fundraising, having been granted the charitable status, and funds allow, we will also sponsor partial costs for professional counselling in severe trauma cases. Currently we encourage professional counselling in extreme cases, but we continue to work with the clients as well, if they wish.)

We also ‘tag-team’–where I partner with Tim or another gentleman–to work with men, or couples. In every case, we simply ‘walk through’ life with them, identifying strongholds, traumas and working through them together, and building confidence in clients, through healthy, God-given, identity.

A wise person once said, ‘We don’t need behaviour modification, we need a new identity.’ We find this to be true. When we see ourselves as valuable, as having purpose, and ‘made in the image of God’–to reflect Him–our behaviours change. Changing behaviours never gives us a new sense of identity or beliefs, but changing our beliefs changes our perception of ourselves, and behaviours begin to line up with our belief systems.

It is the most exciting and fascinating thing to hear how addictions lose their grip, to see the fearful become strong, and watch the broken hearts become whole… and my favourite part is seeing individuals reach out to others, almost forgetting the pain they carried so close, not long before.

This aspect of ministry has included working with young teens, and accepting ‘trauma calls’ when there is risk for suicide, or suicidal ideation. This was never on our ‘radar’ as part of our ministry, but when God opens doors, we walk through.

My Mennonite Friends….

While we did not set out with a specific mission to do so, God has given us favour in working with various conservative Mennonite Churches to help break the chains of sexual abuse, and violence, within that culture. God has given me a deep compassion and care for people in the culture, and a passion to bring Jesus into the broken places, rather than trying to rip people out of a culture that is very beautiful, and has much good to offer.

The church leaders have been receptive to our help, which is something I don’t take lightly, but view as a gift from God. This has developed over time, but especially since our recent conference, November 23 – 24, where quite a few Mennonite couples attended, from various ‘brands’ of Mennonite. Since then there has been a wave of revival, as well as a cry for help. One of the women who was in attendance shared with me the following verses, as a word of prophecy. Habakuk 1:5b “I will work a work in your days which you will not believe, though it be told you,” and almost immediately a ‘flood’ of people came for help.

One lead minister thanked me for the positive impact he sees us having on his congregation. While hesitant to fully endorse us, because of our cultural differences, he said it is undeniable that his people are finding help and freedom.

One woman, who is now a regular client, described how angry she felt each Sunday morning in church, when she could see the ‘light and joy’ in the eyes of one of her friends, who was formerly a very angry woman. “I was jealous,” *Anita said, “because I was sure I could never be that free.” Three weeks later another young woman sent word to us that she would like to meet with me “because I see the change in Anita, and want what she has ”. And she had believed she could never be free!  God is doing a wonderful work in them, and in us!

 Looking ahead…

We will continue meeting and mentoring men, women and teens as doors open. Tim & I together meet with a limited amount of men and a few couples, and I meet with many individuals and couples.

One of the most exciting, and again unbelievable, things for 2013 is a ‘Mennonite Conference’, to be held–God willing–April 19-20, at Woodside Bible Fellowship in Elmira. We have a team of people we will work with, both Mennonite and non-Mennonite, to adjust the conference and make it as culturally respectful as possible.

Another exciting ‘potential’ started to develop when several young men met with me and asked if I have considered doing a teen/youth-specific conference. We would speak on identity, and healthy sexuality, with a less dominant focus on sexual abuse and a more youth-friendly approach. They also suggested bringing in a ‘big name’ band. We have contacted Tenth Avenue North, a band with a heart for youth and songs that already speak into these topics, and they are excited to work with us, if we can raise the necessary funds to bring it together for late 2013.

Tim & I never dreamed, eighteen years ago when we married and began the journey of working through my painful past, that God had dreams much bigger than we could possibly imagine. I always talked of doing ministry–maybe counselling and a few conferences a year, an ‘on the side’ kind of ministry–but never did we imagine what is happening today.

We are excited as we move into the New Year, knowing that God has much more in store for us. There are many uncertainties, but He has been faithful in the past, and we are confident of His faithfulness going forward.

His dreams have become our dreams, and we continually release personal ideas and agenda, for the bigger picture He is painting.

It has been the most exciting, and rewarding, year of my life. Without question. Thank you for journeying with me. Thank you for reading my stories, my ‘rants’, and  encouraging me. It is an honour to have your friendship.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year and God’s richest blessing!

Welcome 2012!

Reflecting back on the year, 2011, I feel, in some ways, as though I’m peeking in on someone else’s world. So much has happened in one short year—so much that I was not even capable of dreaming one year ago tonight. And that has opened up a whole new world, allowing me to dream bigger dreams for 2012, and the years to come.

What thrills me most is that my dreams are bigger than me. I suppose one could say that’s criteria for a ‘dream’, however, some dreams can be achieved single-handedly. But the thing that meaningful dreams are made of is partnership, team and the effort of many people. And that is the dream that I embrace for 2012!

I have been blessed in the past year and six months to do ministry with Faith Girls Unleashed, and God-willing it will continue, however, when we started this ministry we discovered quickly that we had dreamed too small. As people—men in particular—approached us sharing suggestions and ideas for a bigger vision, we knew we needed to make some changes.

I’ll be honest, when I first heard things like, “maybe you’re not supposed to just do conferences” and “maybe God has a bigger plan” and other such comments, I resisted. Almost rebelliously. For fifteen years I had dreamed of these conferences and they were coming to life just as i dreamed them, except better, more fulfilling. How could God ask me to change direction or add a ‘twist’ to this ministry?

But then something happened and in a moment when I felt as though the dream required more than I had to give, God showed me a need, and in that need He birthed in me a new passion and the will to fight for something greater. This led to redefining the next level of the former dream, and making some adjustments. The result is that, early 2012 we will officially establish a charitable organization that offers conferences and training specifically to address the epidemic of abuse and violence. Where Faith Girls Unleashed specifically targeted women, the charity will address the needs of men, women and families in general. Faith Girls will function as a program within the new charity, rather than as a separate entity.

Within the new charity we have designed programs targeting various oppressed and vulnerable people groups. We will partner with individuals within these cultures to work together for maximum impact and to best meet their needs. One of the programs, for example, will translate books into Low German, using High German phonetics, to develop material for an oppressed Low German culture where abuse is prevalent but the women and children have nowhere to go for help, due to the fact that many know only their mother tongue–which was, until recently, an unwritten language–and are otherwise illiterate. These doors have begun to open in the last few months, as God miraculously connected us to some key contacts there.

With other programs we will target both the Christian culture and secular culture, including colleges and universities, where doors are already starting to open. One of our goals is to do presentations in churches to share the vision and work together to offer hope both internally and in the community, by setting up support systems, such as weekly group teaching sessions, as well as offering subsidized counselling for those needing assistance.

The initial response of business men we contacted for sponsorship, has been supportive and encouraging—for this we thank God and thank them.

We believe that 2012 will be a year of dynamic impact, both on a personal level and on a ministry level. We embrace this challenge with wonder, humility, passion and as a gift from God. We look forward to experiencing the dreams He brings to life throughout this year.

Thank you for your prayers, your support, and ongoing encouragement. May your year be filled with God-sized dreams, that only He can help you fulfill! God bless you all in the New Year!