Writer: EMILY PALMER
Every year as the holiday season comes around the corner, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation that comes on quite strongly. I attribute some of these feelings to the nostalgia of Christmas as a child, and me wanting to conjure up feelings of dreamy white Christmases (while in reality most of my Christmases haven’t been white at all!). The sounds of ambient Christmas music playing in the background while boxes of decorations are unpacked and lights are draped around freshly cut fir trees. Family and friends gathering in their Christmas best, celebrating light and warmth, joy and peace.
For the better part of a month, society pauses to remember that there is something more than getting to the top, focusing on your own achievements and living in a generally self-centred way. There is this desire to better the lives of others, those who are less fortunate, and invest in people’s lives. And yet the commercialism is too much for me to bear at the best of times. It seems as if the Halloween candy has barely been taken off of the shelves at grocery stores before Christmas trees and blow-up Santas clog the aisles.
How can we experience joy and hope in times like these, where there is a deep need and palpable desire for authenticity that is so necessary, but not easily accessible? I find this a very challenging question to navigate and answer. In all honesty, Christmas as it stands today seems to have very little correlation to a baby being born in Israel two thousand years ago. A baby born out of wedlock, whose parents traveled around a hundred miles on horseback to pay taxes to a government that was against Jews in general, and then had literally nowhere else to birth their baby except for in a barn.
There are a couple things that I am struck by when recalling Jesus’ birth. Firstly, the submission and obedience of Mary. She accepted God’s purposes for her life, which included being questioned for her purity in a society that took infidelity very seriously, and fleeing to Egypt as a foreigner because Herod wanted to kill her son. I’m sure this was not the life Mary anticipated for herself, but she rejoiced that God hadn’t forgotten her. Moreover, God hadn’t forgotten her people, even after 400 years of being silent. He was in the midst of redeeming their past. Secondly, the awestruck wonder of both the shepherds and the magi. The shepherds, guys everyone looked down upon in that society, were minding their own business, when suddenly angels lit up the sky and started singing about a king. They were invited into the chorus of glorifying God and making him known to others. They didn’t think twice about hustling to Bethlehem and laying eyes on Jesus. They also didn’t think twice about letting people around them know. The magi on the other hand were looking for Jesus. They had studied his star, and were on the hunt to find this king. Once they did find him, they bowed down and worshipped him. The lowly and aristocrat alike had the same response of worship as they witnessed a living miracle in front of their eyes, God in human form. God with us, Emmanuel.
When we see Jesus, truly see him in his raw and beautiful, humble yet all-encompassing state, that is when the true mystery and wonder are felt. Perfection itself meeting us in our mess, wanting to be invited into our lives, and wanting us to let him in. No matter when we first met Jesus, whether at the manger or not, our responses can all be the same, that of worship and awe.
Have we been worshipping the giver? May that be our motivation for giving this year. May that drive our desire to have the Christmas season be about more than exchanging gifts and kind words that somehow fall short, even with the best of intentions. Christmas is not just about family, or celebrating peace and joy that is circumstantial and only comes around once a year. It is to rediscover Jesus. To be floored that he, in fact, did come to this earth to bring us back to himself in a way that did not glaze over the imperfections, or the flawed nature of humanity. He wants you as you are right now, and calls you in the middle of whatever you are doing to come and meet him at the manger.
And like the shepherds, once we’ve heard, what can we do but go and tell everyone around us? How can we contain what we have seen and heard? We have a light. We wouldn’t dare put it under a jar where it cannot be seen, but want to elevate it so that those who come will see the light (Luke 8:16). Let us be all about Jesus. This story about Him is the reason Lighthouse Voyage exists, and why we are passionate about redemption. We praise God that hundreds of people in India have been impacted by Jesus, and we aren’t wanting to stop anytime soon. This Christmas, let us all be reminded to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth, and to be witnesses of him wherever we go. We ask you to pray into where God would have you store treasure. Maybe that would look like partnering with Lighthouse to invest in the lives of women and children in India. This is truly a kingdom work, and God is so gracious in letting us be a part of it.
If you are interested to partner with our ministry, please visit our donation page.
Writer: EMILY PALMER
When I was a young child, I distinctly remember standing up on the pews at church, not singing or vocalizing any noise at all because I didn’t want the worship team on stage to see or hear me singing. I would hide in my dad’s jacket during story time so I didn’t have to look the big kids in the eyes. I was scared of being noticed.
Flash forward to my grade 10 year, when I heard for the first time that people are still being enslaved by others. My mind was blown. It was only then that I realized I had my voice for a reason, that people in other provinces, countries, or continents may not have a choice when it comes to speaking up or deciding to be quiet - that decision has already been made for them. But as for me, my voice was a gift I could not deny or abuse.
I did not know that silence still dictates the voices of millions of people globally. Their voices have been muted, put on pause, or stopped altogether. As a world, we have allowed this to happen. I have allowed it to happen, and I didn’t even realize it.
And while millions have been silenced, many voices do exist in society today. They can hold great power in what people think of past events, current issues, and personal challenges that are gaining awareness. Historically, secular culture has relied on newscasters and journalists to guide conversations regarding important circumstances. But now with the continual and rising usage of social media, all internet users have the ability to share their thoughts and opinions on a breadth of topics. The playing field has been leveled, and people are impacted and impact others in turn.
Why do you speak up? And why are you silent? What moves you to action, and what keeps you stagnant? What messages are we as individuals and communities trying to get across? There are many potential responses to these questions, and I encourage you to consider what moves you in your life. I believe that one response can be fear (of losing control). We either try to manipulate other people into thinking our opinions are correct because we desire people to respect and follow us, or don’t speak out because we are afraid of rejection and our vulnerability stripping us down. Another response could be apathy. We are unconcerned with issues that don’t directly pertain to our personal stories, and lack vision for how all of our stories are intertwined and important.
The most compelling reason to speak up, I believe, comes from the whirlwind story about our past as humanity. How Jesus came and spoke to us on earth with words of inclusion, healing and redemption. A voice with the perfect blend of truth and grace. He rewrote our past filled with sin and darkness, and filled it with hope and purpose. He longs to impart purpose into each and every human, a purpose crafted by his gospel. His voice is strong and sure, uncompromising in every way, and yet welcoming to the smallest and most timid child.
Jesus has given me a voice in order to echo his own. We are called to use whatever voices we have been given, in whatever context, to remind the world that there are more people in the shadows, in the brothels and and the factories, who have stories to tell and redemption to experience for themselves. Life is not only about using our voices to write our own stories, but using our voices as an extension of the gospel to proclaim Jesus’ victory over death, destruction, and hopelessness, and the renewal he brings to each and every person who accepts that story as their own.
Writer: EMILY PALMER
“I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.” Luke 6:47-48
Rule number one when building a house is preparing a plot and laying a foundation. Taking an inventory of what is at stake, and then planning accordingly. Roots, sizable rocks and foliage may be removed. The area needs to be leveled and fitted for plumbing and drainage purposes. Once the foundation has been laid, the walls, roof and floor systems can be installed, and then all of the finer details can be put in place.
Building requires foresight, a fine-tuned sense of precision, and most importantly, a solid foundation. As children we are taught this lesson from a young age using simple games like stacking blocks and creating card towers. “Jenga”, a similar but slightly more advanced game, makes the same claim. Players quickly recognize that if they have an unstable wooden block base, they will probably not advance to the next round, and the tower will fall when removing certain key blocks.
Lighthouse’s vision for 2018 contains four key pillars, comprised of the acronym, “B.A.R.E.” B stands for build, which is the starting point for all other areas of our hopes and dreams. We want to build a space for further transformation in mind, body, and heart, but also fashion our organization around God’s plan for humanity, and how he cares for each human being so intricately and beautifully. Without him at the cornerstone, all of our wishes and hopes will prove to be weightless and inadequate. He commands us to give justice to those who have no rights of their own, rescue those who are imprisoned in physical and emotional bondage, and deliver them from their oppressors (Psalm 82:3-4). Just as we have been rescued from our spiritual chains that bound us, we now have the privilege of being led by the Holy Spirit in freeing others from the things which separate them from living full lives.
We are in the beginning stages of planning an extension to one of our partner’s rehabilitation centers in the province of Tamil Nadu, where 100 more women and children will be able to live, learn, and heal. Within the building, there will 4 dormitories to house all of the students, as well as a dining room, study spaces, a medical clinic, and offices for staff.
The process of constructing an extension to this incredible center is brimming with possibility. We marvel at how God continues to connect us with people through this project who we wouldn’t meet with otherwise, and the stories which are in the process of being written. Who knows what individuals will be brought in to this center, and the things that they will teach us in turn? Continue to pray with us as we work with our partners in India to build a center that furthers God’s kingdom, and is a blessing to many.
Writer: EMILY PALMER
This has been a very exciting year for Lighthouse Voyage so far. We celebrate the many miraculous ways in which God has been rallying people around the globe together for justice, and the humbling opportunity of being a part of this movement. More and more individuals, groups, and companies are gaining awareness of the harsh realities of slavery, and are investing their time and resources into creating futures for women and children that are filled with dignity and promise.
Lighthouse Voyage strives to spark positive transformation in the lives of individuals whose voices have been dulled or silenced. We not only see the necessity of this work as a moral responsibility, but at the center of God’s heart for humanity. He calls us to seek out justice and defend the abused (Isaiah 1:17).
In a world attracted to quick solutions and glamorized relief and development, it is easy to get on board with an issue like anti-human trafficking, but harder to stay committed to the cause when the initial enthusiasm wears off. The process is long, some days are arduous, and instant gratification is not easily found. In addition, the reality of life in many parts of the world is sobering. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are an estimated 7.9 million people living in modern slavery in India. A staggering fifty-five out of one hundred people in India are susceptible to being drawn in to slavery.
In light of the darkness that has been uncovered and the stories shared, there is grace and mercy to be found. The Lighthouse journey continues to unfold in beautiful ways, and being witnesses to God’s work through others in the community has spurred on the vision that God planted in David’s heart around 3 years ago. This year we have the joy of funding education for 120 women and children in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu, which is providing a way out of the abusive past many are familiar with, and equipping them to lead lives of purpose and intention.
We truly feel like this is just the beginning. God is reminding us of the importance to press into His heart, attuning our eyes and ears to the people and opportunities He is putting on our path. There are hundreds more women and children to reach, rescue, and educate. We are confident in the faithfulness of God, that He hears these desires in our hearts, and bring them to fruition in His time. We are so encouraged by each and every one of you who are choosing to support Lighthouse Voyage through prayers, time and resources. Lives are truly being changed, and we are so thrilled for all that has been done, and for what is to come.
Writer: EMILY PALMER
"Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavours, even the best, will come to naught. Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God's calling, can matter forever." - Timothy Keller
Keller's quote starts out on a dismal note; the good we do, all the effort invested into a cause, none of it will matter. Everything will fade away eventually and our striving will not be worth anything. But one phrase changes the trajectory of the paragraph.
"Unless there is a God."
What you and I do with our lives has eternal significance. Each action we take and every thought entertained either drives us towards or away from the calling that God desires for each of us. The unembellished, understated choices can and will have lasting impact. The real question then is not "Can I make a difference?" but rather, "What is the difference I will make?"
Embedded in this notion of insignificance and significance is a continuum which should be addressed. On one hand, as stated earlier, some may believe that nothing they do will ever amount to anything, and that their efforts in life will continue to be fruitless. This represents a mentality rooted in despair. It sets people up to think and behave as victims who have no power or say in what becomes of their lives. On the other hand, some may view themselves as the masters of their own destinies, free and able to choose to do as they please with no limitations or reservations. This outlook frames humanity as the ultimate decision makers and meaning makers, leaving too much open for interpretation of what is true and right and just.
While both of these secular mentalities permeate our culture today, those who follow Jesus are beckoned to a higher calling in which God defines human significance. He gives us the roadmap in how we are to identity as people on earth with a purpose, and interact with the currencies of grace and free will.
The bedrock of Lighthouse Voyage is founded in a place of hope and trust, where the intentions of people's hearts are fixed on God and the story he is creating in and through each human who declares him Lord. We are praying that "whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed, [we] do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17). These dreams of impacting the broader world outside of the four walls of our own homes cannot be carried out by a few people, but necessitate a community of partners in prayer, in giving, in faith. Jesus tells us that even if our faith is a small as a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, we can tell mountains to move, and they will (Matt. 17:20).
In the lives we lead, in the conversations we initiate, in the places we work, what differences are we making? Let us trust that our mustard seeds, our small contributions to God's kingdom, will be planted, watered, and sown by the best farmer known to mankind, and that in his timing, every simple endeavour will point back to who Jesus is and what he has come to do.
“Freely you have received; freely give”
Writer: RYAN SCLATER
A common complaint against the plausibility of Christianity comes under the cover of apparent sympathy with those innocent sufferers of evil—the poor, the helpless, the widow, the orphan, the blind, the lame—who all seem to needlessly undergo pains in a world that we claim was created by a good and sovereign God. How, we ask, can this God allow such suffering? In response to this problem, many arguments have been put forward by Christians, which all, in the end, require the listener to repent and believe. For this reason, it seems that God often chooses to call rather than argue his people into the Kingdom. But the Christian must ask another question when considering this situation: if the temporal suffering of the poor, the weak, and the downtrodden is so unacceptable, how much more do we need to act as unmistakable, irresistible signs that point constantly to the surpassing glory and worth and beauty of Christ, who will in the end wipe away all these earthly tears in eternity?
I should be quick to point out that I am not arguing that we should forget about earthly suffering; being so enraptured by the light of Heaven that we forget to love our neighbors here and now. The problems that we face in this world are completely unacceptable and require some sort of response on our part as ambassadors for our gracious and loving King. This is the foundation of Lighthouse Voyage: that we would not stand idly by while exploitation and oppression continue to devastate individuals, families, and communities in India and all over the world. The seriousness of sexual exploitation breaks our hearts. It gives us no other option but to intervene and to bring light into the darkness, wholeness to brokenness, and hope to the hopeless. We earnestly believe that God, far from being the reason for this immense suffering, is working despite and even through this suffering for our good and His glory.
Suffering in this world is not merely explained away by the Christian, but conquered. We use even the worst that the Enemy can throw at us as a chance to radically love our brothers and sisters across the world. We stand in the face of the most tragic circumstances, the most terrible sins, the most saddening histories, and we do not give up, do not lose heart, do not grow weary, do not grow numb, but allow God to continually break our hearts, cut down our pride, and send us out again and again to proclaim grace in His name to every suffering soul. As suffering wears us down and reveals our desperate need for the love of Christ, we wade into suffering to ensure that all who suffer know that there is One who can wipe away every tear. We cannot turn this world that is so quickly fading away into heaven on earth, but we can fill the whole earth with praise in the midst of pain, with hearts turning ever towards His glorious face.
The reason we intervene
And why must we do this? Not merely because the suffering of others makes us feel sad. The depth of Christian love comes from the depth of Christian forgiveness; freely Christ has given all for us. We cannot fathom the ways that Jesus sacrificed in order to even be found among us in human form, let alone to die in our place, and finally, to rise again to life that we may be raised with Him. And because we have been miraculously raised with our Lord, we carry out His mission and raise our brothers and sisters out of poverty, out of oppression, out of slavery, and most importantly out of sin and into faith. After all, Christ’s first response to a paralyzed man was to address his primary need for the forgiveness of his sins, but He did not neglect to tell him to walk away from the encounter on his own two legs. Earthly suffering, then, the prickly problem of pain, needs to be tackled out of the abundance of Christian love.
The means we use
For this reason, Lighthouse Voyage will always prioritize loving relationships in our mission to set captives free. No one is undeserving of our love and no task is beneath our attention if it can contribute to healthy and whole individuals, families, and communities. Nothing is too dangerous, too unpleasant, too menial, or too humbling, because nothing can stand in the way of helping those precious people who are still suffering under oppression and exploitation. The fight against exploitation is not just about defeating exploitation in general, but saving each individual and personally loving them into wholeness as a person and oneness with Christ. And the more we can come together as the body of Christ to serve our brothers and sisters around the world, the more we will catch glimpses of what it will finally look like when Jesus comes to wipe away those tears for good.
We know that as we freely give away our lives, it will be costly. But what do we really lose? Precisely nothing. The trick is to realize that if we sacrifice all that we have for the good of our brothers and sisters, we actually lose nothing of any real significance. After all, we do not own our lives anyway. Our time, our money, our interests, our ambitions; none of these actually belong to us. If freely we have received, giving freely out of a re-created heart is the only possible course of action.