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I’ve been involved in fighting human trafficking on a federal level, and supporting victims in safe houses in Mexico. But I could never shake the belief that the victims were in part responsible for the situation they found themselves in. My attitude changed when I heard the testimony of a victim.
One evening I took a group of college students to a safe home of 20+ victims who have been trafficked for sex, and now are in hiding from the men who once owned them. I had been to the safe home many times before and knew many of the girls, but had only interacted with them in a group setting.
One of the college students from the USA was trying to connect with two of the girls. She asked me to translate. As I heard the stories of these girls it broke my heart. At the age of 13 one of the girls met a older guy in a park. He was friend for several years before their friendship turned into a relationship. He was kind to her, and over the years he would walk her home from school on most days. When their relationship started he asked her to move from their small town to Mexico City to start a life together. She quickly agreed, and within several weeks as a 15-year old she dropped out of school, left her family, and moved to Mexico City with her boyfriend.
Upon arriving in Mexico City she was shocked when her boyfriend told her what she needed start selling her body so they would have money. Whenever she refused she would be beaten, and told that if she ran away her family would be harmed. She was trapped, and alone. She said that she grew up in a Christian home, and never would she have imagined doing the things she was forced to do. She had no choice.
One morning she looked at herself in the mirror and made a decision to leave this guy and seek safety. The next day she approached a policeman on the street. Fortunately the policeman was not corrupt and took her to the safe house where she was living in hiding before being reunited with her family.
Our Fundaction Revive staff spend a day in the safe house each week. Part of their counseling and therapy with the girls is to have them draw pictures. Most the pictures the victims of sex trafficking draw speak of the heartbreak of being betrayed, and hopeless, and of the dream someday of having a family.
In the Mexico City home of Mater Filius one hallway is covered with pictures of 300 babies. The lives of these babies might have been terminated before being born if not for the mothers coming into Mater Filius. I’m involved with starting a Mater Filius home in Omaha to save the lives of babies in my home state, and hope to be involved in starting Mater Filius homes all around the world.
For 10 days in October my friend Steve came to Mexico. I’ve known Steve from my first trip to Alaska in 2003 when he was the pastor of a large church in Juneau. Today he is a whale watching captain in Alaska. Steve’s 10 days in Mexico City were non-stop amazing days of helping the poor, connecting with leaders, and having endless conversations from morning until late at night.
The shoes sent from Nebraska where so needed, and valued by the street kids. The kids are thrilled to have shoes that are not falling apart.
Here is a list of articles in the media on the Volviendo documentary. In August the documentary won the MTV Exit and UNICEF International award for the best documentary on human sex trafficking. I’ve been involved with the Volviendo documentary since meeting the film team 2 1/2 years ago. Today Diego, the Producer of Volviendo, and his family lives in Mexico City where we are using the documentary to bring awareness of trafficking in schools, churches, and through public screenings. (To translate, go to Google Translate and paste in the link)
In 2005 I went to Mexico City on a consulting trip to give my opinion on how to structure an organization and ministry that could impact the city. I had no desire to ever live in a city, much less Mexico City. However on one of the last evenings of the trip we went to the top of the Latin America Tower. On the observation deck on the 42nd floor I was given a sheet with verses and prayers to pray for the city. As I prayed these prayers for the city, in a moment my heart was transformed and I had a vision for what I am doing today.
Several days ago I visited the Latin America Tower and stood in the place where 7 years ago I was called to Mexico City. Seven years ago I saw a mass of endless buildings and streets. Today the same view looks so much different. I see see the streets and buildings where the people who have captured my heart live and work.
Our Volviendo documentary on sex trafficking in Latin America this week received the Dove “Faith-Based” Seal. The documentary will soon be available in Christian bookstores in Latin American and the USA or can be ordered on CraigJohring.com. Dove Foundation “Faith-Based Seal Review
This past year we’ve been able to put the Faith Comes by Hearing audio Bible in the hands of street kids. Kathleen Gately who has worked with me in Mexico City since 2006 shared this story.
“One of my Mexico City friends had no place but the streets to call his home. His “home” did not keep him protected and I recently attended his memorial service. The memorial was appropriately held where he had lived, on the street. The Fundación Revive staff and other volunteers who love and work with the community of street kids gathered in front of a Mexico City subway station for it. Many people passing by stopped and stared. As the memorial progressed, it was amazing to see God at work and witness how the audio Bible from Faith Comes by Hearing has made a difference in this community of street kids. I stood amazed as I witnessed one woman walk up and begin talking to one of the street kids in attendance. The woman started talking to him about God, and the boy responded, “I know God and love Him.” The woman took out her Bible, and the boy said, “I love the Bible. I cannot read but I can tell you what it says.” The woman seemed to doubt what he had said, so as a challenge she opened her Bible to Revelations 4 and began to read. Word for word, our friend began to quote Revelations 4 right along with her. The lady was almost speechless when he finished. She managed to ask him, How did you learn that? I am a Christian but cannot even tell you what this chapter says.” The boy responded, “We listen to the audio Bible every night and I learn about God and what He says, even though I am on the streets and you can see my struggles more, I know God and love listening about him.” The woman who had been passing by intended to minister to this street kid but, instead, he ministered to her and to us as well.”
My home church where I grew up in Nebraska sent blankets to help the homeless. That was awesome! With the weather turning colder at night I gave blankets to street kids yesterday. They were so happy and appreciative, and wanted their picture taken with their new blankets that came from Nebraska.
Ryan Tworek came down from California to work with me over a long weekend. He put together this video of the street kids.
Each time I visit homeless street kids I always buy them food. They are starving. Instead of buying the food in advance I take one kid to a grocery store to teach him how to buy food. We always buy the same things: chicken, torillas, jalapenos, juice and cups. For dessert it’s always cornflakes and milk. The one food street kids long for the most is cornflakes with milk. Twenty-five dollars in food will feed a community of street kids for a day. The quickest and easiest way to send funds to feed street kids is through Paypal. My Paypal account is: email@example.com
We always need shoes for street kids in Mexico City. The kids on the kids constantly ask if I could find them shoes. The shoes cannot be new, or they will be robbed for their shoes. The shoes need to be “gently worn”. The sizes we need are mens sizes 7 to 8 1/2.
Over the summer Carolyn and her aunts were on the lookout at garage sales and thrift stores in Omaha for shoes. In September Carolyn sent with me two huge suitcases of shoes for the kids. The kids are so excited to receive them.
Brittany, the Producer of Volviendo along Nancy came from Mexico City to Nebraska during the first week of September. We we premiered the Volviendo documentary in Omaha, Lincoln, Seward, and to my neighbors at Kamp Ed.
In August 2012 the documentary Volviendo that I have been involved in producing won the MTV Exit and UNICEF International award for the best documentary on human sex trafficking. This fall the United Nations will show the documentary at their International Human Trafficking conference. The documentary will soon be available in Christian bookstores. The documentary can be purchased online at Volviendo.org.
One of the coolest ways to help a handicapped person is to give them a wheelchair. When the students from Wayne State came to Mexico City to help the poor, we worked through a local church to assemble and distribute 30 wheelchairs to the handicapped living near the church who do not have the resources to buy a wheelchair. People brought their disabled sons, daughters, and grandparents to receive wheelchairs. Many receiving chairs wept with joy to now have the ability to move around instead of being carried. Many had not been out of the their homes in years. The organization Free Wheelchair Mission is amazing for how they change lives. Every $71.88 given to the organization provides a wheelchair to someone in the world. We receive the boxes and parts for the chairs through Operation Blessing and pay for the shipping.
Saturday, the day before Easter is holy day of the year in Mexico. The normal sounds in the city are strangely absent as people spend the day in their homes. Many will attend religious services in the evening.
On the night before Easter we showed the Magalena movie during prime time on national television on the largest channel in Mexico. Magalena is the story of Jesus told from the perspective of Mary Magalene. This is the 3rd year running I’ve been able to bring together the owners of the Jesus and Magalena films with a Mexican television network to broadcast the films.
It is a 3-year running dream come true to broadcast the Magdalena and Jesus movies to the nation. Years ago we packed 16mm projectors into mountain villages. We put up a screen and projected the Jesus movie in the street. I saw lives deeply impacted. It was a dream to take this movie to the whole nation. Today they have remastered the Jesus movie and use it to tell the story of Jesus from the perspective of Magdalena.
Nine days ago a 22-year old named Aaron died while I was with him on the street. Last night the authorities released the body of Aaron under my name in what will set precedent for religious workers and friends of street kids and migrants passing through Mexico who die without family members.
The laws of Mexico do not permit a non-family member to claim the body of a diseased person to give them a proper burial. As a result people like Aaron eventually end up in a common grave. Last week we went from office to office seeking permission to claim Aaron’s body to give him a service.
This week a reporter from a major newspaper in Mexico City got involved. She reported on the human rights abuses that took place when the ambulance came while Aaron was still alive and refused to take him to a hospital. After the story was published on Thursday morning the Attorney General for Mexico City determined that the laws were being followed in not releasing Aaron’s body to non-family members for burial. However the laws do not apply because Aaron’s human rights were being violated. Aaron has the human right not to remain in a morgue for months unclaimed when there are people who want to give him a proper burial.
Even with a ruling from the Attorney General, the police were unwilling to act. We filled out paperwork and reports with no success. Yesterday the office of Human Rights, and Social Services got involved. Last night all the documents and papers were signed and given to me.
Tonight we are having a funeral service for Aaron.
But the work will continue in what we are calling “Project Aaron”. Our friend will write a story for publication that will help public precedent for giving human rights to the diseased in cases where no family members are present. And my growing circle of friends will continue to fight for the rights of street kids and the homeless to be treated as human beings.
On Wednesday Aaron, a street kid in the community of 15 that I work with passed away. Aaron was 22, and has no family. I was with Aaron when he passed away. He is the 3rd street kid from this community who has died during the past 6 months.
I want to share this with my friends and family who give blankets, shoes, and sweatshirts, and money to purchase food for the street kids each week. Aaron heard the Word of God non-stop with the Faith Comes by Hearing audio Bible the street kids listen to all the time, but could not leave drugs or the street. When I read Matthew 25:31-46, I know that when we help the poor we are serving Christ. I cannot read these verses without worshiping God by serving the poor, and I am thankful for my friends who join with me to care for the poorest of the poor.
On Wednesday I was with the street kids to rescue a 14 year-old who wanted to leave the street and go to a home. When I arrived I discovered that Aaron was extremely sick. We called an ambulance. The parametics arrived and checked Aaron’s vitals. They gave him a hot drink and encouraged us to keep him warm and comfortable. But they refused to take him to the hospital because he was dirty, and because his sickness was a result of taking drugs and not taking care of himself. That is the norm for how street kids are treated. Shortly after the parametics left Aaron died. He died laying on the dirt where the parametics had moved him to be in the sun so that would warm him up.
My friends and Revive staff came quickly and were there to pray and help comfort the street kids. It was 3 hours until the Coroner arrived to make a report and take away Aaron’s body. It was a very difficult day for the street kids because they are a family and were close to Aaron.
The following day my friend Susana, who has worked with this community of kids for 7 years, and I identified Aaron’s body. We spent the day going from office to office to claim his body to give him a Christian burial. There is no system in place for a body to be claimed by a non-family member. In the end we were not successful. At best we hope to be able to give Arron a Christian service and burial after a week of waiting for paperwork and meetings to take place.
Brandon has been to Alaska twice on the Summer Project I started. In January Brandon and Zack, both students at the University of Arkansas came to Mexico to work on projects. We put together wheelchairs for the handicapped, went to meetings with pastors, spent time with my neighbors, and ate numerous tacos. These guys are cool and both are going to parts of the world next year on year-long mission projects.
In December I was invited to the Mexico Congress for a forum to recognize the attorney generals and non-government organizations making progress in fighting human trafficking. At this meeting our Revive organization received a medal from the Special Commission on Human Trafficking to recognize our work in prevention and helping victims of human sex trafficking.
In November we held a meeting for organizations reaching out to the 20,000 street kids in Mexico City. We gave a Mini-Proclaimer to each organization to use for evangelism with street kids. We will meet again in January to share ideas and resources. I recently had a meeting with the Mexico Wal-Mart Foundation. We are working on matching up organizations working with street kids with a Wal-Mart store in their neighborhood to receive outdated and unsold food each day. There are over 1000 Wal-Mart owned stores in Mexico.
Sixteen months ago I built a relationship with a group of street kids. I was shocked to see their condition. They were surviving on food scraps and sleeping on concrete. They were dirty, some had lice, and all were addicted to inhalants to numb their emotional and physical pain. I adopted the group of seventeen. Once a week along with my staff and any friends visiting from the USA we brought food, blankets, and clothing.
In March I introduced the kids to the Faith Comes by Hearing audio Bible called the Mini-Proclaimer. I will never forget the moment these kids dropped to their knees and remained unmoving as they listened closely to the Word on the Mini-Proclaimer for the first time. Most are illiterate. I watched as they heard the Word of God for the first time. Each week they begged me not to leave, and wanted to hear more.
Juan was the most responsive. Each week he listened to the Bible from the time I arrived to when I had to leave. In August Juan developed a stomach ulcer and died. Like the thief on the cross, Juan became a follower of Christ but died before being set free from his addiction to inhalants.
The following month another kid in the group was hit by a bus and killed. The life expectancy of the 20,000 kids living on the streets of Mexico City is less than five years.
In October the organization Faith Comes by Hearing raised the funding to give 50 Mini-Proclaimers to street kids in Mexico City.
I gave the first Mini-Proclaimer to Ivan. Ivan is the most responsible in the group and seemed the least likely lose the audio Bible.
I returned the following Sunday afternoon. Ivan and the rest of the street kids were not around. No one had any idea where they went or when they would return.
Finally they returned. As they came up the street toward me I hardly recognized them. The kids seemed to be glowing. Their eyes were clear and their faces were full of hope. I could hardly believe they were the same kids.
Alberto sat down and began to explain. He told me that each morning during the past week he work up listening to the book of Matthew. During the day he listened the book of Luke, and at night he fell asleep listening to the book of John. Alberto shared that all of the kids had been listening to the audio Bible and as a result they all wanted Christ to be in their lives.
Ivan then shared with me why they were not on the street when I arrived. They went to church that morning and had just returned. In just one week Ivan, Alberto, and the other kids had changed as a result of listening to the Word of God.
The community of street kids continued listening to the Bible until the machine no longer worked. I gave them a new Mini-Proclaimer in early December. I have no doubt that at this very moment the kids are listening to the Bible and God is working in their lives.
2011 has been an amazing year. I spent 9 months in Mexico City. I was at Kamp Ed during the months of May and August at Kamp Ed. In July I was in Alaska. Here are 10 highlights from 2011.
1. I worked with Jarah and Ann in Alaska, and was full of joy when they come to Mexico City to work with me. They lived on my street and we spent the year working together on Revive projects. The year was non-stop amazing.
2. I became a Kindle fan in 2011. All my life I’ve been a reader. With my Kindle I don’t have to wait to return to the USA to buy books. The amazing feature on a Kindle is that when driving you can have the Kindle read the text audibly.
3. Kirpat-TRACK is BACK. John and Cindy Kirkpatrick and their kids were my friends years ago when I lived in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. In 2011 we reconnected to go turkey hunting, and muskie fishing, and Andy spent a week at Kamp Ed in August.
4. In 2011 I entered my 3rd year with Revive. For these years I’ve had the organizational freedom to dream, believe, and follow God’s leading as we take on evangelism and transformation projects in Mexico. I identify with the character played by Jim Carrey in The Truman Show when he breaks free from the bubble and discovers a world he did not know existed, and once outside he could never back.
5. Kamp Ed was founded on August 2, 2001. To celebrate the 10-year anniversary we put up a tent and served up 15 gallons of root beer and smoked salmon. Friends of Kamp Ed came from near and from far.
6. The church meeting in a garage next door to my Mexico City apartment moved to a new location. Imagine two years of booming music, traffic congestion, and people speaking in tongues until midnight four nights of the week and all day on Sunday. My street has returned to being quiet in the evenings and it feels like home again.
7. The days in 2011 spent fishing and whale watching on the Saint Patrick in Alaska while stepping into the lives of the Summer Project students and Staff, Kenny and Zac, Larry and Josh, Debbie, Shannon and Michael, Shawn and Eric were some of the greatest of all days.
8. IN October we put on a 3-day conference to give training for counselors working with victims of sex trafficking. The government took notice and presented Revive with a medal from the Congressional Commission on Human Trafficking. As a result of the connections made from this conference we’ve started bi-monthly training meetings for caregivers of victims, and host a bi-monthly meeting for organizations working with street kids.
9. In September Faith Comes by Hearing donated 50 Mini-Proclaimers to use to give to street kids so they can listen to the audio Bible and be transformed by the Word of God.
10. The Kamp Ed tree house is finished! Eight years ago Kenny Miller started building the tree house. In May Larry and Lori Buchmann, and a friend pounded the last nail and it was finished! In October another long-term goal was met when Jerry Penry built shelves in the garage. What a year this has been at Kamp Ed!
In September I spent 2 days at a forum on human trafficking at the Mexican Congress. Momentum continues to build to pass legislation to both protect the victims of trafficking, and prosecute the traffickers.
Today we had 40 caregivers who work with victims of human trafficking and the abused come together for a day of training. People flew in from Tijuana and Juarez and some traveled 3 hours, but the majority were from Mexico City. Blanca and Gina, associated with Mending the Soul came in from Arizona to speak. The day was amazing, and caregivers left equipped to start groups where victims can start to heal.
My friend Scott is the director for USA based relief organization who almost every day does what I would consider impossible. Recently he worked with the Mercedes fashion show world tour to give the entrance fees to a Christian organization in Mexico City who are rescuing girls from human trafficking. Ann, Kat, Fanny, Jorge and I dressed up in our best attire to attend this event. Ann and Kat had spent the day in an orphanage. They did a quick change and we spent the evening surrounded by the famous in Mexico while promoting the end of human trafficking.
One of the passengers on Steve’s whale watching boat this past summer put together a really cool video of her experience. Steve and his family are my close friends in Juneau. Click the picture below to watch the 6:50 minute video. This past summer the whale activity near Juneau was amazing.
In October we held a 3-day Mending the Soul Conference in Mexico City to give training to 80 caregivers who work with victims of sex trafficking, and street kids. The conference was a great success. Everyone who attended thought it was some of the best training they’ve ever received. Many walked away more equipped and encouraged to deal with this strong issue of abuse.
Aside from the benefit of the attendees, many connections were made within those who attended, Mending the Soul and people working against trafficking in Mexico, and between Revive and key people. Ideas and resources were shared. Right now we are busy with follow up, distributing the materials of Mending the Soul and reconnecting with the contacts we made.
On Monday evening our Revive staff took part in a gathering at the World Trade Center for 2000 that included evangelical leaders from the USA and Mexico to pray for the end of human trafficking in Mexico. Cindy Jacobs and Josh McDowell spoke. The highlight was the Jewish chior that sang followed by a Rabi who spoke. There are 50,000 Jews in Mexico City. Never before in Mexico City have I seen Jews and Christians come together, and unite in the same cause.
For the past year I’ve been working alongside of Faith Comes by Hearing to bring the Audio Bible to Mexico. This week Fox News featured the work of Faith Comes by Hearing. My friend Troy Carl was interviewed on the Bible sticks being sent to servicemen. Click the picture below to watch the interview.
I drive a 2003 Chevy Tracker around Mexico City and love it. Recently the Tracker passed inspection giving me another year of being able to drive every day in Mexico City without having to sit out a day each week due to the city restrictions on older vehicles. I’m saving up and will eventually upgrade to a bigger vehicle with more room for transporting people around the city.
The picture below is with the Tracker in front of my apartment building where I live in Mexico City.
In 2009 I received a call from Australia. The Megacities director for Youth With A Mission (YWAM) shared how God had called their organization to come to Mexico City to help transform the city. I was excited to hear how they were planning on bringing over 1000 missionaries from around the world to Mexico City in 2010.
For the next two years I worked with Megacities. During the first year I helped connect YWAM with leaders in the city. During the 2nd year wave after wave of teams came from around the world. The YWAM teams came for 2 1/2 months and slept on the floors of churches while reaching out to people in the city.
The last YWAM teams left in February. By the end 1067 people had came to Mexico City.
Click on the photo below for a video report on the Megacities outreach in Mexico City: