True and Lasting Hope

Jessa Anderson

 Jessa AndersonBy Jessa Anderson, Extreme Response Volunteer

Recording artists Jessa and Jordan Anderson have made six trips to Quito to work at ER Christmas celebrations. What inspires them to return every year, while juggling two kids and a hectic touring schedule?

 

This year my husband Jordan and I took our sixth trip to Quito, Ecuador, for the annual Extreme Response Christmas celebrations. You’d think that after so much exposure to extreme poverty we would feel emotionally prepared to witness it again. Yet each trip brings fresh and unique emotions. It never fails to pierce my heart when I see the contrast between the plenty I live with every day, and the lack of even basic necessities that those we serve during the course of the week live with.

While I always enjoy the celebrations themselves, my favorite time is usually when the party is ending and Jordan Anderson says goodbye to guests at an ER Christmas Celebrationthe guests are leaving. Language is no longer a barrier as we have the opportunity to distribute gifts and food, and to hug, high-five, and fist-bump as we all wish one another a Merry Christmas.

Time after time, I’ve witnessed children joyfully clinging to a stuffed toy, proudly displaying a new comb, or contentedly sitting down just outside the exit to eat a piece of fruit they have received. I see mothers with tiny babies strapped to their backs rearranging their belongings to allow them to carry a bag heavy with pantry staples that will provide meals for weeks and months to come. Some people shyly accept their gifts, while others exuberantly pull you in for a kiss on the cheek, but each of them has had the opportunity to have fun, to play games, to relax, and to set aside their struggles, if only for a few hours.

Jessa Anderson get Quito hugMore than the personal blessing of knowing we were able to provide a few hours of fun, there is the knowledge that we were able to play a small part in providing each person with true and lasting hope. All year, staff and local partners are working with these same people to change their situations, and ultimately, change their lives. We may only see them once a year, but we can leave knowing there are people caring for their needs on a regular basis. I have heard story after story of lives forever changed by the work Extreme Response does. Having the opportunity to be part of that has been instrumental is shifting my life perspective.

Jordan Anderson does face painting at an ER Christmas celebration in QuitoEach trip reminds me that there are many people living in extreme situations, not just across the world, but in my own city. I find I am renewed in my passion for serving those in need with the resources I have. I have been encouraged and challenged by the work Extreme Response is doing to change lives, and privileged to play a small part through the Christmas celebrations.

 

Jessa Anderson, WholeThe Andersons live in Nashville, TN, with their two small children. Learn more about their music – including Whole – Jessa’s latest CD, their touring schedule, blogs, volunteer work, and more at www.jessaanderson.com.

Rooftop Revelation Brings Anger, Tears

 

Nepal Roof Top

Danny Cox joined a team from Kensington Church in Michigan that traveled 15,000 grueling miles to a remote area of Nepal to visit an Extreme Response partner. They weren’t there to sightsee. The team made the journey to see the reality of human trafficking first-hand, determine out how to respond, and tell the story to anyone who will listen.

Danny CoxBy Danny Cox                                                                                                                 Kensington Church                                                                                                                  Photo Credits: Dave Smith

 

I have heard it said that once you start to despise your own sin, then your life can truly be transformed.I was having that thought as I was setting up the audio gear to help capture a few trafficking stories of young Nepal Girlswomen in Nepal. We were perched on the third floor of a safe home for the women in a city outside of Katmandu. I was excited to be on this trip, but to be honest, I had struggled to fully commit to going.

Just a few weeks before we left for Nepal I almost backed out of the trip. I was feeling incredibly uneasy and was wrestling with the decision.

I suspected it had to do with the many years of an adoption process my family and I have experienced from 2005 until the present. In 2005, my wife and I went to Honduras to a small fishing village on the northern coast to serve at an all-girls orphanage. While there, we fell deeply in love with the girls.

But three young teenagers in particular captured our hearts and we felt a call to make them part of our permanent family. It took four long years and many miraculous events, but they finally came to live with us in Michigan.

These past 10 years have been beautiful, yet difficult. There is so much hurt and pain mixed with hope and love. Over time, we learned the devastating events our daughters had experienced at the orphanage for many years.

I didn’t realize how much of the struggle and pain I had locked away in my heart as an act of self-protection. It hit me as I was sitting on the roof of that third-story safe home in Nepal listening to the story of one of girls who was rescued from being trafficked.

Nepal Girls ShoesWe were not allowed to be in the room listening to the stories. These girls had been through so much already; the last thing they needed was another unknown man sitting in a tiny room hearing their heart-wrenching stories.

So I was outside the room with earphones to monitor the sound levels and make sure everything was technically correct. Before the interview started, I decided to set my mind for what I was about to hear. I found a powerful story that described the need to receive mercy in order to understand what mercy truly meant.

As I finished reading, the interview started. I listened intently to this innocent little voice of a very young, beautiful little child talk about the horrendous circumstance of her own family selling her into slavery.

About halfway through the interview, perched high about this little city, looking out over Nepal in a little shady spot on this roof of the safe home, the floodgates opened in my heart.

I began to weep. I wept not only for this little angel, but also for my own journey. I wept for the depraved nature of these men who pervert innocent lives. I wept because of all the years we have spent fighting against the same things for my daughters. And I wept for my daughters and all of their pain of being orphaned and abused.

Nepal DoorwayAs I wept, I became angry. I became angry at the evil of our world. I became angry that young lives are being so badly distorted and harmed on this earth. At that moment I could hear in my earphones this precious child receiving comforting words in another language that felt familiar and true. Somehow, the presence of hope prevailed. The interview was over. I walked into the room after the people had left. Our team was wrecked.

We had two more interviews to record that day. Though there was incredible darkness in each story, there was also a powerful sense of light. In each story there is a remarkable discovery and a transformation from hopelessness to hope.

Each one of these girls has become a special treasure. Each of them is now a bright light for all to see. My hope is that we all become wrecked to help us see our own sin, and bring light into the darkness. These girls have inspired a whole new spark in our hearts. We are forever grateful.

For more information on the work Kensington is doing in Nepal and around the world, visit: http://tinyurl.com/plkylkq.

Christmas Celebration Transforms Graciela

IMG_5534 By Robyn Wallace                                                                                                                  Assistant Director                                                                                                                        Quito Dump Project

It’s Party Time!

Why does Extreme Response organize Christmas celebrations every December for the oppressed in Ecuador? How can these parties be worth gobs of volunteers flying into town, the time, the energy, and the money?

Right here is your answer.

ogar de Ancianos Happy Woman
What caused this joy?

This is “Graciela”.  I approached her when I saw her sitting separately from all the other people during the party. She is a resident at Extreme Response affiliate Hogar de Ancianos, a Quito-based home for the elderly who have no one to care for them, no money to pay for care, and are often homeless.

Within minutes of our introduction, Graciela expressed how she didn’t like the other people at the home. In her mind, they had stolen her favorite platter from her. When asked if she had any friends, her answer was, “no”. She said she has no idea where her children are or how to contact them.

Unhappy, bitter, angry, alone.

Somehow, within 30 minutes, Graciela transformed. You’d have had to see it to believe it. The change was set into motion by an invitation to paint her nails. That grumpy face took on a new shape: a smile, a sparkle, a surge of energy.

As Graciela was about to join the nail station, she realized that she was next to play a game. Forget the nails, it was time to show the other folks how to throw a beanbag through a hole like a champ. Check.

img_6651-2Graciela then invited the gal next to her to the nail station. She returned with glittery gold nails and a friend. Being Ecuadorian, it was nearly impossible for her to resist a free travel coffee mug at the craft table. (Their love of coffee has no end in this country!) She and her gal pal decorated coffee mugs and the smile never left her face.

We talked. We joked. We laughed. She was alive and loving it!

Pretty worth it, wouldn’t you say?

Hogar de Ancianos is an ER affiliate that cares for people often forgotten by society. ER staff and volunteers regularly visit the home to encourage the residents, provide supplies, and offer help and hope. Learn about volunteering with ER here.