A Trafficking in Persons Update

It’s been four years since Tim, Amy and I went overseas to observe and serve those working to end sex trafficking. So many things have happened in our own lives since then, but our heart remains the same, we will do what we can to help end modern slavery and never shut our eyes to what is happening.

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After spending hours reading many reports and articles, trying to decide what information to pass on to you has been difficult. I’ve decided to provide some brief global information and then focus on the countries we originally spent most of our time, Brazil and Thailand. Although critics are quick to point out the biased political and financial implications on the ranking systems in the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports, it’s a great place to start. But, don’t you worry about that. Reading a whole lot of statistics about people in bondage can be depressing and let’s be honest, a bit dry, so at the end of the blog, I’ve included three things you can do.

As you read the summaries below, try to remember that through all the numbers, these are individuals living in horrendous conditions. People trapped in a hell they can’t get out of; they are mothers, daughters, sons, husbands, cousins, grandparents and so on. So, buckle up. Let’s see what’s been going in the world.

The UN defines trafficking in persons as:

“…The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – What is Human Trafficking?

Trafficking types include:, sexual exploitation and forced labour (being the most prominent), forced beggars, sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others (UN Global report on trafficking in persons, 2016).

Some global info:

  • The 2016 Global Slavery Index puts global modern slavery numbers at 45.8 million – more than Australia’s population of 24.91 million.
  • Although 79% of all victims trafficked are women and children, in the last 10 years the percentage of males identified as being trafficked has increased (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 2016).
  • 28% of all trafficked victims detected globally are children. 20% of these are girls. (UNODC, 2016).
  • Sexual exploitation accounts for 54% of all trafficking cases detected globally (UNODC, 2016)
  • 96% of all victims of sexual slavery/sex trafficking worldwide are women and girls (UNODC, 2016)

“Local communities are the most affected by this abhorrent crime and are also the first line of defence against human trafficking.“

– Michael R. Pompeo, US Secretary of State

Brazil Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, By US Department of State:


  • The Government of Brazil does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Concerns around officials being involved in or receiving bribes from trafficking rings remain a concern.
  • Consistent with previous reports, Brazil is a source, transit and destination country for people subject to force labour and sex trafficking. Child sex tourism remains a serious problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas in Brazil’s northeast. Child sex tourists are typically from Europe and the United States.
  • Contrary to international law, child sex trafficking it is only considered a crime if there is proof of force, fraud or coercion. This leads to many young people being exploited in the commercial sex industry without protection.
  • There have been increases in convictions of traffickers, however most serve their sentences under house arrest or are only incarcerated at night-time.
  • Despite the significant number of child sex tourists visiting Brazil, there were no reports of investigations, prosecutions or convictions for child sex tourism in 2017.

 Thailand Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, By US Department of State:

  • The Government of Thailand does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, the government has increased its efforts since the 2017 report. The government convicted 12 officials complicit in trafficking crimes, although corruptions still remains a major problem.
  • The government has made efforts to increase training for staff despite serious gaps in services. Sadly, authorities are more likely to send boy victims to juvenile detention than to centres offering victim services.
  • The trafficking of Rohingya refugees and migrants into Thailand is a particular problem at this time.
  • Children from Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia are victims of sex trafficking in brothels; massage parlours, bars, karaoke lounges, hotels and private residences.
  • Men and boys from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia are subject to forced labour within the fishing industry. Many spend several years a sea, work 18-20 hours a days, seven days a week and are subject to physical violence, forced drugging and can be killed if they become ill or try to escape.
  • In 2017, there were credible reports that corrupt officials protected brothels, other commercial sex venues from raids and inspections. Some officials also profit from bribes and direct involvement in the exploitation of migrants.

Compared to countries like Brazil and Thailand, my own home nation of Australia performs much better. However, I thought it would be worthwhile to include some of the observations made in the report. Human trafficking does exist in my country and we can do more to protect the most vulnerable. Particularly concerning is the way the authorities fail to screen and identify ‘boat people’ and asylum seekers as victims of trafficking. There are estimated to be over 4300 modern slaves living in Australia (Global Slavery Index, 2016).

Australia Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, By US Department of State:

  • The Government of Australia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Australia is a primary destination country for women and girls trafficked for sex and for women and men subject to forced labour.
  • Problem areas occur with identifying victims. Due to inconsistencies in screening, some potential victims were detained, fined or penalised for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
  • Identified trafficked victims are supported with accommodation, living expenses, legal advice, health services, job training and counselling.
  • The government did not report screening for trafficking indicators among individuals smuggled via sea or among refugees and asylum-seekers held in offshore detention centres. Immigration authorities forcibly deported some asylum-seekers who may have been vulnerable to trafficking after returning to their home countries. The government did not ensure social service professionals were present during any initial screening interviews.
  • Some women are held in captivity, subject to physical or sexual violence and intimidated, required to work off debt bondage or subjected to deceived working arrangements in legal or illegal brothels. Traffickers evade authorities by allowing victims to hold onto their passports and frequently move their place of work.
  • Forced labour is present in agriculture, cleaning; construction, hospitality industries with overseas visa students being particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

Researching and reading the reports and individuals stories for a blog like this is disheartening and draining at times, but there are also many stories of governments and NGOs attempting to make better laws and provide better services. Once again, I am reminded that strong and connected communities are the best way to combat human trafficking. Change takes intentionality and time. It takes time to change culture, influence decision-makers and educate people about what is happening in their own cities.

So, what can you do?

  1. Becoming educated about something is a good place to start, so well done to you for reading this whole blog. You can’t do something if you don’t know it needs doing. Human trafficking is a large, complex issue, so if it’s something that’s on your heart, find out which area you are most passionate about. Is it child prostitution in Brazil? Forced male labour in the Thai fishing industry? Does prevention, intervention, rehabilitation, prosecution or policy light a fire in your heart? If so, become more educated about that particular issue and the work already being done in that field.
  2. Support organisations that are doing great work already. Getting behind credible organisations is an easy way to get involved, you can do this with your finances or by donating your time. A word of caution to investigate organisations properly and be aware of how voluntourism could be impacting those involved.
  3. Shop ethically and support companies that care about their workers and the conditions of those in their supply chains. In Australia, using apps like ShopEthical and reviewing the Baptist World Aid 2018 Ethical Fashion Guide are the easiest ways to do this, because they have done the research for you. Similarly, back in 2016, I wrote about one simple change you can make today to stop supporting modern slavery practices in the tea supply chain. You can read it here.

Love Jess xxoo

Further Reading:

United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016 https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf

US Department of State – Trafficking in Persons Report 2018  https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/282798.pdf

Global Slavery Index https://www.globalslaveryindex.org

Walk Free Foundation https://www.walkfreefoundation.org/understand/

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/ProtocolTraffickingInPersons.aspx

International Labour Organisation – Global Child Labour tends 2012-2016 http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf

Save the Children – Research and Reports – https://www.savethechildren.org.au/Our-Stories?categories=Research%20and%20Reports&currentSort=

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From struggling to learning

I will be honest, moving from two kids to three kids has been a struggle for me. I won’t go into the finer details, but those with a sideline view into my life hear all about the tantrums, fights and other parenting conundrums my kids are throwing my way. On a few occasions I have said to my inner circle “I am struggling”.

My church recently had Ben Higgins, from Life Church as guest speaker. He spoke a timely message about encouragement and being mindful of the words we speak to others and ourselves. During that message, Ben spoke the words:

“Our words shape our future – they don’t just speak to what is, but what will be.”

It was a good reminder for me to be mindful about what I’m speaking and the atmosphere I’m creating with my external and internal dialog. One morning last week, as I made the bed and contemplated what the day held, I really felt these words strongly in my heart:

You’re not struggling, you’re learning.

And you know what, it’s true, I’m learning. I love how this shift in language and understanding can change the way I view a situation or myself. I am learning how to be a Mum to my growing family. Sometimes I make mistakes and often it’s difficult… because I’m learning and so are my kids.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

This verse has become a bit of a mantra for me during difficult moments with my kids. My weakness, lack of insight or parenting mistakes are ok because that’s when God shows up. Sometimes, He shows up by giving me keys to a situation, sometimes He shows up by giving me a hug and encouragement to try again next time.

And so, I will focus on the learning, not on the struggle. Today’s lesson is in the language I am speaking over my heart and what this season is producing for the future. To approach this season of parenthood as learning rather than struggling is somewhat freeing. It allows me to move from things that restrict me to things that release me:

Another day dawns, here I go, watch me learn again today.


Love Jess xxoo

Digging Deep into Bravery

Digging deep, sigh, it can be tough. I had one of those days yesterday, but instead of digging deep and finding my inner strength and peace, I think I just ended up digging myself into a hole. A hole filled with frustration, emotion and lots of chocolate. Yep, I confess I was not my ‘best mummy self’ yesterday as I screamed at my two-and-a-half-year-old and messaged Tim telling him I didn’t like our kids very much at that point in time. Apparently, having one of my kids deliberately (and defiantly) pour a cup of water onto our laptop brings out the Hulk in me. My bravery abandoned me as I questioned what we are doing having baby number 3 and how on earth I was going to mentally cope with an extra little person in the house. However, even in my moment of (let’s be honest) blind rage, I could hear my sister encouraging me and reminding me that I had chosen to be brave and bravery is only present when there is something to fear or overcome.So, I write this little note to myself and to any other readers out there who have decided to be Ten Times Braver.  To one and all, remember that during your bravery journey, you will come across difficulties. You might find yourself wondering what you have gotten yourself in to and question if you have what it takes. Can you really dig any deeper into your faith/inner strength/reserves and find hope in this situation?

We all have days (or months) like this. Sometimes it’s during a busy workweek, other times in chaotic family life, perhaps friendship dynamics or creative blocks. Whatever the reason, there are days and seasons where digging deep is hard and the sense of bravery we felt before is just a little bit on the thin side right now.

But… We can do this! Yes, YOU dear friend, CAN do it. You can try again tomorrow. You can rise again from disappointment. You can give it another go. You can try something different next time. Keep being brave, keep pushing forward and remember… it’s ok to feel fear or confusion, frustration or discouragement. It is in those moments, when you choose to believe things will be ok, that your truly brave self emerges. If it’s not difficult, you wouldn’t need to be courageous would you?My girlfriends and I frequently encourage each other by send this pic (below) as a powerful reminder of how we see each other. This lady right here, the characteristic she exemplifies, are there inside you too – Dig deep, big breath, here we go (again).

As a side note, you’ll be pleased to know that the laptop was not damaged from its little baptism by Bella and I do still love Miss B, despite the epic battle of wills that occurred most of the day.

Love Jess xxoo

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Ten Times Braver

One day I sat at work with some people, and over terrible mocktails (I don’t know what I was thinking) I asked the question: “What would you do if you were ten times braver?” The answers they gave were varied, but all very brave and transparent.

I love asking people this question. I like to connect with people in a deeper way and see what is under the surface. This question pushes people to look deep into their hearts and find their secret desires. It also allows people to be encouraged to pursue something they may not have done. When you sit around with people and share something you wish you could to face, they will automatically be encouraging you to go for it. They help you find the reasons why you should overcome your fears; it’s hard to walk away from this question feeling discouraged. In fact, most of the time, people will realise that they were ten times braver all along.

Would you like to know what my answer to this question was?

I said I would have another baby. I confided that I would ignore the (realistic) concerns about finances, I would push pass the possible struggle of actually trying to conceive and the anxiety around the whole process. I would face the physical and mental exhaustion and realise I’m stronger than I feel and the provision would be there when we needed it.

Now, if you have followed any of Tim and my story on this blog, you’ll realise that we often face our fears and say to ourselves… why not? God is with us, He’s placed this dream in our hearts, let’s go for it! And so, a few weeks after I shared this question at work, Tim and I sat on the couch in our house and contemplated this question.

“What would we do if we were ten times braver?

We would have a baby. So, that’s what we’re doing. We are having a baby, due in early April. Yes, I am pregnant with number 3 and we are so very excited! We are being ten times braver! God is so good!

Our girls are so excited and constantly talk about if it’s a boy or girl, what Baby’s name should be and how they are going to play with Baby. It makes it even more special to share it with them and our family and friends.

          

Now over to you dear reader… What would you do if you were ten times braver?

What is stopping you? Go for it whatever it is! It’s perfectly normal to be scared doing it, that’s part of bravery. It is ok to fail; it’s ok to try something else if it doesn’t work out. You can do it. You are braver than you look. So, enroll in that course, apply for that job, plan that holiday, start a family, submit that book, play that song for someone, ask that girl out, say yes to that date, renovate that house, face your fear of heights, see a counselor about your past trauma, get that blood test, start to exercise, change your diet and lifestyle completely, whatever it is, at least give it a go.

Let’s be braver together. We can do this, we can try, and we can make plans and set ourselves time-lines. If I can be ten times braver, so can you.

Love Jess xxoo

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It’s ok to sleep

We recently went to Darwin to visit Tim’s youngest brother and his wife (YAY). We came into this trip off the back of a number of unusually full weeks and Tim and I were both exhausted and recovering from illness.

Whilst there we had the opportunity to attend their once a month church gathering. We arrived 30 minutes early to take a look around and observe Mark and Christine in their ‘natural environment’. My darling Bella decided to throw a stellar tantrum about 3 minutes after the service officially started, complete with body thrashing, screaming and hitting. It really was rather impressive, so I’ll give her points for that. After removing ourselves from the main hall, I tried all my (patient) mum techniques and finally managed to calm her down. We rejoined the rest of humanity and I placed Tim in charge of both my little cherubs. I tried to engage in worship, but seriously, I had nothing. As I looked around the room at people’s heartfelt ‘worship’ faces, I couldn’t help but be amazed that they had any energy left to stand, let alone sing. I looked up at the lyrics of the song on the big screen and read:

“All the Sons and Daughters,

Wake up from your sleep.”

And man, all honestly, I just wanted to punch someone in the head. Wake up! You’ve got to be kidding me, I’m a working mum with small kids, I’m always awake. Goodness me, how much more am I meant to be giving? I exhaustedly told God that I didn’t want to wake up, I actually just wanted to sleep.

You know what I heard Him say?

He said, “That’s ok Babe. It’s ok to sleep, you’re exhausted.”

Phew.

When I heard Him say that, I felt so much release. He gave me permission to feel tired without guilt. I realised that He does see me in my current season and instead of being disappointed in me, He is cheering me on. I felt so much liberation that I packed up my two tired girls in the van and drove them home to sleep and rest.

It’s funny how I sometimes slip back into performance with God instead of authentic relationship. Sometimes, I still get caught up in comparison, not just with others, but also with my past seasons that I lock myself in a prison of self-criticism.

What I’m continuing to learn in this season is the fine art of balance and acceptance. Acceptance of myself and how I function as a mum, friend, employee, wife, daughter and sister. Sometimes I can’t give what I want and I have much less to offer than I have been able to in past, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. Let me repeat… it doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. If my capacity is less than someone else’s, that doesn’t mean I’m not living a full life. I am not less, I am me.

And so, there may have been other mums in that church hall with screaming kids hanging off their arms, able to sing that song with all their heart and that’s great. I can cheer them on without feeling competitive or bitter and I hope that they can cheer me on, (whilst I sleep) without judgment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a kid-free day, so I’m going to hang out the washing, make myself a second coffee and read my latest lighthearted acquisition “That Hathaway Girl”.

Love Jess xxoo

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To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant

To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant,

I have been thinking a lot about you the last few weeks. You are on my mind and I can’t shake you no matter how much I try. Some of you I know personally, while others I wouldn’t know you if you were sitting next to me right now. Regardless, I wanted to take a few moments and type these words to you, because what you are going through is painful, so incredibly painful and usually hidden.

Psalm 56 v 8
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

If I could sit and have a beverage with you, I would look you in the eye and tell you that you aren’t alone. I know it feels like it, believe me, I know it does. It may seem like others around you are falling pregnant with not a care in the world and you feel you’re the only one’s struggling… but you aren’t. For some reason, knowing that other Christians are going through or have gone through a similar struggle can make you feel less isolated. I say this not to take away from your unique experience, but to encourage you and remind you that your thoughts, questions, doubts, victories and triumphs are perhaps similar to what others have felt.

Psalm 31 v 7
I am overcome with joy because of Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.

Although some of your closest friends may not see your pain… I see you in my mind’s eye. I acknowledge this difficult season with its’ faith filled highs and the hopeless lows. I understand the courage you draw upon when you celebrate other people’s victories and the anguish in your heart when you see that photo on social media or glossy picture in a catalog. I can relate to the faith in your heart when you respond to an alter-call and the frustration when someone says something insensitive. Sometimes you have grace and things don’t bother you, while other times you want to put your fingers in your ears to block out the noise. It is difficult. Plus, those ever-changing thoughts and emotions can really throw you can’t they? Up and down and round and round. Then, there are the faith-based questions, medical decisions and ethical considerations that can keep you up at night! You are really doing so well. No, really you are. Be encouraged.

Psalm 9 v 9-10
The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you.

I am aware that your stories are all different and so will the outcome. I sincerely pray that your dearest dreams will be realized, and yet I know how hard it is to believe that at times. I don’t pretend to have answers for your situation; I only want to let you know that you aren’t forgotten. You aren’t abandoned and your journey is important, so important that God keeps bringing you to my mind. Even if you don’t tell anyone about this season, I am praying for you and for the child or children you want to have.

All my love

Jess xxoo

Enjoier (to give joy to)

When was the last time you deliberately did something you enjoyed? It doesn’t matter if it’s cliché or something entirely unique, as long as it fills up your joy tank, it’s valid. Is it having a large group of people over for lunch? Could it be reading a new book on your bed? Would it involve lots of people and noise and energy or quiet and stillness and peace?

Enjoy (a verb).

Originates from Middle English and a stem of Old French > From the Middle English word enjoyen, which means ‘to make joyful’. > Old French ‘enjoier’, meaning ‘to give joy to’.

Low mood can be a sneaky thing and by sneaky I mean it can lead to depression. At the end of last year I had a downer, constantly in Mum-mode and managing the household. Never feeling like ‘me’, but just the mum-version of me. In short, I was no longer having any fun and was starting to lose sight of who I was. Little moments of joy would pass me by without me even noticing and my days were becoming full of to-do-lists and high expectations. And so, after some good self-reflection and advice, I decided it was time for more joy.

One of my top enjoyen tricks at the moment is to blast out some fun music and dance around my house with my little people in tow. Nothing changes the atmosphere like a playlist of songs that have your little people jumping around and giggling with you. A few little spins through the air and some quick leaps around the dinning room table just seem to help me shake off my tendency to be caught up in ‘adulting’.

Adulting (a verb).

To do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

Coming off the back of a season of low mood, I have been thinking a fair bit about joy and ways to cultivate it. I think one of the best ways, is to be aware of it and make it something you notice within yourself. The little joy moments within your day can make a world of difference, if you embrace them. Often though, I’m too busy adulting (or parenting) to notice and I need to deliberately set time aside every few days and do something I love. Scheduling a weekly ‘joy session’ is a great place to start if you’ve stopped being able to recognise it in your daily life.

From my experience, deliberately making time for joy and silly fun is important in our crazy, over-connected culture. The more I am able to bring joy into my life, the more joy I can see. The more I see, the more I treasure and embrace.

And so, let us embrace the silly, fun, delightful, surprising and awkward moments of life. Let’s take a moment to look at the beautiful flower on the tree you walk past every day. Let’s have a laugh when someone does a fart during dinner – the sound of a trumpet coming out of a bottom, what’s not to laugh at? Let’s run a bath and read a book. Have dinner with a close friend. Have dinner with 20 strangers. Go for a bush walk. Bake something new. Colour in that drawing. Sip that coffee while looking at the view. Paint a fence. Paint your hand. Spend a morning in the garden. Spend a morning in the surf. Go on a date. Watch a movie. Go on a holiday. Laugh at the spilt drink. See that new exhibition. Go to that new shop you saw the other day. Take a language class. Watch a bird play in the bird bath. Giggle at a clever quote. Sing loudly in the car. Start a blog*…

Whatever the things are that bring you joy, join me and deliberately do at least three of them this week. Sure, life can be difficult and boring at times, but if we can cultivate joy while doing it, then we’re onto something.

Love Jess xxoo

*(Oh that was for someone specific, I don’t know who you are, but you do. Now get on it and give it a go! Apparently it’ll bring you a lot of joy)

A victory on a hard day

Disclaimer: This little blog is for me – I am celebrating a seemingly small victory 🙂

I had one of those days where my little people were either, fighting, crying or touching me. It was difficult and long. I lost my cool more than once and when Tim finally got home I went and had a looooooooong shower.

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Usually on these days, while I am struggling to keep my sanity, an unhealthy critical voice joins the downward spiral. The negative thoughts about who I am as a mother, a wife and a person overwhelm me and I feel bad about feeling bad. Everything I’m not doing or not doing well is amplified and I feel like a failure.

But today, today I had a little victory – I had self-compassion. Even as I shut myself in my bedroom saying a desperate prayer for help, I didn’t feel bad. Why? Because jeepers being a parent is hard. I saw today for what it was… a parenting nightmare and I took it easy on myself for once. I didn’t think about how other people would handle it, I didn’t get depressed when I saw all dirt on the floor or the washing that needed to be put away. I didn’t feel like a failure because my kids were driving me up the wall. I didn’t think about all the mothers in Syria or any of the other painful comparisons that I’m usually unable to block out. YAY! This is a big thing for me, so join me by lighting a New Years sparkler and pulling on a party-popper as I celebrate this little triumph.

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Next time I may or may not be able to do the same, but that’s ok. I will celebrate today! Hi, my name is Jess and I survived this day by using self-compassion…

… and a whole lot of Justin Bieber tunes.
(Yes, Justin Bieber, I love that kid)

Love Jess xxoo

When Faith and Hope run out

I have a friend my age that has a chronic illness. I have a friend who is in her late thirties and longs to find a life companion. I know someone who suffers through the heartbreaking disappointments of wanting to fall pregnant. I know others who struggle through the dark complexity of mental health issues. As a “person of faith” aka a Jesus-lover, sometimes I have great faith. Faith so strong that I know in my very soul that something good is going to happen; be it a physical healing, a new job or a mended relationship. Other times, I have hope. Hope in people, hope for a fresh start, or hope that this time I’ll see my prayers answered. And then, and then my dear friends… there are times when my faith and hope have depleted and it’s too painful to even dare to pick them up. I feel faithless and hopeless, with no answers and no end in sight. My heart is downcast.

There are some incredible commentaries on 1 Corinthians 13, but recently I have been thinking about verse 13 in particular:

 Three things will last forever
— faith, hope, and love —
and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

Three things will last forever – it’s an interesting notion, especially when at times it feels like those exact three things have faded from my heart. However, if they do in fact last forever like the verse says, then they must be intricately linked. Therefore, if the greatest one is said to be love, surely it’s something I should take note of and turn to in a personal crisis. Personally, when I spend time receiving love from God, I’m surprised by the way hope finds its way back into my heart. Then, after a little while (and even more love), hope builds and eventually produces embers that ignite into faith.

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Many of you know my journey with pregnancy and some of you don’t. In a nutshell it took 3 and a half years, one miscarriage, many, many blood tests and doctors visits to see our first child into the world. During this journey, some months I would be full of faith. I would believe with all my heart that this time was ‘the month’ so much so that I would go out and buy nappies as a ‘step of faith’. Some months I would have hope, hope that held onto promises in God’s word and prophecies that people had given me. Other months, I had nothing except my knowledge that God loved me and that He was holding me through my pain. I didn’t have faith and I couldn’t find hope, so I would just tell God that I had nothing that month and knew that others around me would have to do it on my behalf.

If you don’t have faith for a personal miracle and can’t find hope that your situation will ever change, let me encourage you to let go of everything else and just let yourself be loved. As Christians often say ‘camp out in love’. This means that you don’t have to force your faith or hope. Just close your eyes and ask Father God to show you His love. Remember, don’t force yourself to feel something you don’t, simply ask to see His heart, then, ask again the next day and the next day and the next day. You’ll never be disappointed focusing on that – camping there. You can always find rest by being loved by the best Father that ever was. I can promise you, that as you get a greater revelation of His indescribable love, hope will inevitably come and eventually, so will faith.

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Allow me to interrupt this nice warm fuzzy moment… couldn’t that be overly simplifying things? What about people in deep depression who can’t feel any love? What about people who don’t see a physically healing and no longer have faith for one? Ok, let’s go deeper…

I’ve have already alluded to it, but let me give you my thoughts about how this can work. When you can’t feel love, experience hope and find faith, in steps what the bible calls “The Bride of Christ” – which basically means other Jesus followers. When I’m authentic with other Jesus-lovers about what’s in my heart, they can help me out when I lack something. No love? Boom, they can pray about the barriers that are keeping me from feeling love. No hope? They can have hope on my behalf that things will be brighter and can encourage me on the journey. And lastly, if I’m lacking faith, I can lean on theirs. Of course it works both ways – even if you don’t have faith, hope and love in your own life and circumstances, it’s surprising how sometimes you find it for someone else.

I see this constantly in my own life, not only with my husband, but also in my relationships with others like my sister; always patient, always kind, not jealous or rude or proud. They love me in all my seasons, inspire hope when things feel hopeless and stir up faith. Deeply trusting and authentic relationships built on unconditional love are a beautiful gift. Plus, these are earthly relationships with limits on the amount of time and energy we can offer each other. This leads me to ponder how much more does God want to give us? We may not see answers to every prayer, but I believe we can always experience love. If I am lacking faith, hope or love, I can allow my life-affirming friends to intercede on my behalf to a willing God. I believe God is a good God, so breakthrough will inevitably come and love will be released.

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God’s love never fails and I know this to be true. How do I know this? Because I have spent a lot of time being loved by Him when my hope and faith had faded. So, I say it again, if all else fails, camp out in love; it really is the greatest.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13 (NLT)

 Love Jess xxoo

The Dark Secrets Hidden in your Tea: A Twinings Investigation

Although I’m usually a coffee person, I have recently increased my tea intake and trying new blends. As with most thing, this led me on an ethical journey to discover the story behind the brands I’m drinking. This is what I found out about one popular company Twinings & Co.

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The good ol’ Twinings & Co company sells Twinings of London, a large range of delicious teas for around $2.70 AUS in a pack of 10. Every now and then they have a special of $0.99 AUS and we all rejoice… but my friends there is a reason why you can buy tea for this price. The reports from 2015 and 2016 are not good:

  • 2015, BBC investigation found workers were paid so little they lived in horrible conditions, suffering from malnutrition and illness. Workers were also exposed to chemicals with no health and safety standards. On some estates, it was found that child labour was being used.
  • 2015, Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare scored Twinings a tier 6 on their farm animal welfare policies and practices. Tier 6 is the worst score a company can receive.
  • 2016, Newsweek Green Ranking of 34.2 out of 100 when measured against 8 indicators: energy, greenhouse gas, water, waste, fines and penalties, relating executive pay to sustainability targets, board oversight of environmental issues and external audits.
  • 2016, Rank a Brand (for use of cotton) scored Twinings 2 out of 19.5, making it one of the lowest performing companies assessed.
  • 2016, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard ranked this company equal last on their agriculture sourcing policies with a score of 36%
  • 2016, given an ethical rating of F from Shop Ethical (the lowest possible score)

However, don’t throw out your tea bags yet, there are some great alternatives out there. Yes, they are more expensive, but the thought that my tea is keeping someone else’s child in forced labour horrifies me. I will not support modern-day slavery once I’m aware of what’s happening.

Let me offer three alternatives:

Peppermint Tea: English Tea Shop

  • 100% Fair-trade certified – sometimes Brands use a percentage of fair-trade products so they can put the logo on their packaging, this one is 100% fair-trade
  • NON GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) project verified nongmoproject.org
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.

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Camomile and mint: Planet Organic

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Camomile and Apple alternative: Pukka Planet

  • 100% Fair-trade certified
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.
  • Environmentally friendly packaging including envelopes.

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I hope this blog has opened your eyes a little to how YOU can fight against modern slavery and help change the environment. Another popular brand to stay well away from is Tetley as it also ranks an ‘F’ on the Shop Ethical website. Bushells, Liptons and T2 all receive a ‘C ‘rating, so they pass, but it’s up to you to decide what you believe is acceptable.

I personally don’t want to be so removed from the production of the what I eat and drink (and wear) that I embrace a consumerist attitude towards my planet’s resources that keeps other in bondage and negatively impacts on future generations. The good news is that with tea, there are a number of positive brands including: Lotus Peak, Nature’s Cuppa, Madura, Dilmah and Nerada. So, the power is in your wallet and in your cup.
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Yes, the issue of ethical consumption can be a bit of a rabbit warren, but if you are interested in it, start somewhere. Why not start with your tea and help someone feed their family?

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Love Jess xxoo

PS – I wrote this while drinking my English Tea Shop peppermint tea and it was delicious!

References:

The Bitter Story behind the UK’s national Drink

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare – 2015 Report

Newsweek Green Ratings – 2016

Rank a Brand – Top brands failing on Cotton Sustainability

Oxfam, Behind the Brands April 2016 Company Scorecard