Thursday, January 11, 2018

Global Sex Trafficking: the Realities around the World Today

To start from the foundations, the United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by threat or use of force” and recognizes that individuals are generally trafficked either for labor or sex (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 2). Trafficking happens all across the globe but may look different depending upon the context. The six primary venues for trafficking: hotels, clubs, brothels, apartments, massage parlors, and the streets (Kara, S., 2009, 12). Club brothels are primarily found in Europe and East Asia (Kara, S., 2009, 13) whereas hotel brothels are more common in places like Thailand (14). Apartment brothels are common in America and Europe and can often be found through relationship advertisements (Kara, S., 2009, 13). Massage parlor operations are generally difficult to detect because they generally happen where prostitution is illegal (Kara, S., 2009, 13). Street prostitution often occurs when women do not have nearby resources and in places where police corruption is high (Kara, S., 2009, 14). Americans may feel as though trafficking is a far-off tragedy but the reality is the U.S. is among the top three “destination” countries for traffickers to send victims (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 153). Across the board, globalization and technology have changed the face of trafficking and made the movement of people across borders much easier (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 148).
There are many ways women enter trafficking. It may be through deceit such as promises of marriage or a job, being sold by family, abduction, seduction or “romance”, or recruitment by former slaves (Kara, S., 2009, 6-7). Particularly relevant today is the fact that displacement leads to vulnerability making the victims of the refugee crisis targets for traffickers (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 10). However, it is not just in places where great displacement is that traffickers are active. Trafficking thrives in any place where there is acceptance of human servitude, especially among women, children, and the poor (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 42). Something else which aids traffickers is the fact that in many countries women are largely dependent upon others for work arrangements (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 46). Another big issue that benefits traffickers is law enforcement corruption. One brothel owner said police payoffs was his biggest expense (Kara, S., 2009, 53) and one prostitute in Italy actually said police were the main clients (85). In some places like Thailand, governments actually support sex trafficking because of the way it impacts the economy through tourist revenue. One government advertisement in Thailand reads “the one fruit of Thailand more delicious than durian is its young women” (Nolot, 2010, 34:00). In some cases directors of orphanages actually tell traffickers about girls aging out of the system and because no one misses an orphan these girls are prime targets for traffickers (Nolot, B., 2010, 7:30-8:30).
One of the most common questions people ask is “why don’t women speak up or just leave?” There are many reasons but what people need to remember is that exploited women are a part of systems that are meant to break and dehumanize them (Nolot, B., 2010, 19:30-20:00). Often times traffickers take women away from everything they know and oftentimes to a place where they don’t even speak the language. A 2003 survey of sex work establishments in London found that 80% of women were non-UK nationals (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 61). Filmmaker Benjamin Nolot said the only words the foreign girls in Amsterdam knew were how to give a price for sex (2010, 25:00). The language barrier would make it impossible for them to ever reach out to someone if the opportunity were presented to them. Sometimes women are hesitant to speak up because they have been tricked by traffickers who test their loyalty by putting someone in their path who pretends to want to free them (Kara, S., 2009, xiii). Other times, women do not speak up because they do not want to re-live their experiences or they even want to think of themselves as choosing this life because feigned control feels better than feeling trapped (xiv). When women try to escape the results are often devastating. One woman shared a story of another girl who attempted to escape. She was brought out to the woods, chained up, undressed, beaten, escaped, picked up, and returned (Nolot, B., 2010, 18:15-19:00).
            How do individuals, churches, non-profits, and governments prevent and fight sex trafficking? First, any cultural norms of oppression or male dominance must be snuffed out. The situation in South Africa serves as a reminder that even decrease in political violence, diversified economies, and improved educational systems are not enough to combat trafficking if the cultural norms of oppression and dominance continue (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 26). Second, the connection between trafficking and prostitution must be made clear. The Italian and Spanish governments have started advertising campaigns to make sure citizens understand the link between them (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 88). Third, governments need to stop criminalizing victims. In places like Kuwait and Oman, victims are often punished more than traffickers because they are punished for having often crossed a border (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 94). Fourth, governments need to get serious about prosecuting traffickers. Even in the U.S., only 140 traffickers were convicted in the U.S. from 2001 to 2005. It was estimated that roughly 75,000-100,000 new victims entered the States during that same period of time and if 20 victims are linked to each trafficker then this means 3,750 to 5,000 traffickers were active. With only 140 prosecutions, this means only 3-4% of traffickers were punished (Kara, S., 2009, 40). Fifth, the consequences for trafficking need to be more severe and more anti-trafficking laws need to be passed. Even in the United States the maximum sentence for human trafficking is about 10 years but the maximum sentence for distributing a kilo of heroin is life (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 152). Brothels can make $12,000+ each year yet the fine for owning one some places is only $44 so the fine is only 1/291th of the potential profits (Kara, S., 2009, 40). In Italy and Thailand there are actually no fines for trafficking (40). Sixth, provisions like shelter, job opportunities, counseling, and community need to be available for victims coming out of trafficking. The U.S. has medical services, shelter, and counseling available to victims through the Department of Health and Human Services (McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S., 2010, 154). Seventh, job opportunities and education need to be made available to women where they are not currently so women are less vulnerable to trafficking. This imbalance in opportunity affects some more than others but the reality is gender inequality negatively affects many across the globe.

Kara, S. (2009). Sex Trafficking Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. New York: Columbia University Press.
McCabe, K.A. & Manian, S. (2010). Sex Trafficking : A Global Perspective. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

A Biblical Perspective on Sex Trafficking

It is important to recognize that while sex trafficking is not a new issue, the world at the time of Scripture did not deal with this issue as individuals do now. Therefore, there are no Scriptures that clearly condemn sex trafficking, but there are many Scriptures that condemn the kind of twisted sexual practices seen in trafficking situations and a clear command for God’s people to seek justice for the vulnerable. Deuteronomy 22:22-29, Isaiah 58:6-10, Micah 6:6-8, and James 1:27 are amongst many examples of texts that communicate these messages.

Deuteronomy 22:22-29 is perhaps the most direct yet initially difficult passage, which makes it a good starting place. Still, to grasp what this passage is communicating will take some time so hang in there with me. Here it goes: “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her. If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days" (Deuteronomy 22:22-29, ESV).

Deuteronomy 22:22-29 gives the Israelites instructions for what to do when a married woman has sex with another man, an engaged woman and a man have sex, an engaged woman is raped by a man, or a man rapes a woman who is not betrothed. It is important to understand that while the punishments and language surrounding these instructions may seem odd to modern day readers Moses is not writing to modern day readers. If Moses were writing to modern readers, he would give different instructions that better fit the context of today’s society.

The first two potential scenarios when read as they appear in the text may sound like the woman is being condemned unreasonably for her involvement but it seems as though the woman willingly had an affair with the man (Clements, R.E., 1998, 456). Block also said “the specified punishment suggests the act was consensual” (2012, 525). The final two scenarios seem to address when a woman is raped, especially since the situations between scenarios two and three are otherwise nearly the same (Clements, R.E., 1998, 456). The notable difference between scenarios two and three is the part about the woman crying out. In the town the residents would have lived very close to one another and in the second scenario “since no one heard the woman’s cry for help, it is assumed she did not cry out, which suggests the sexual act was consensual” (Block, D.I., 2012, 525). The full and severe punishment against the woman was only to be in effect when the woman did not cry out but easily could have and was acting willingly (Clements, R.E., 1998, 456). This is why the consequences between scenarios two and three are very different.

As Moses writes to the Israelites, he says the penalty for sleeping with a virgin is to marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). This may seem like a horrible fate for the woman to live with as she is forced to live with the man who forced himself upon her but what Moses is focused on here is that the man must right the wrong he has done by paying the bride price and caring for her forever (Kalland, E.S., 1992, 139). While the exact specific procedures involved with such cases may not be relevant to today’s culture, the message remains the same. When someone is sexually abused by another, the abused have not sinned. They have been wronged. In the patriarchal society of Moses’ day this meant part of righting the wrong was by paying her father for her if she was not betrothed, since the sin would have seen as being done against the family. Today it would be understood that the sin was primarily done against her but her community is also affected. Victims deserve justice and to be cared for. This is hinted at here even though the focus seems to be on the family. On the other hand, the abusers should also both act justly and receive justice for their wrongdoing.

Another passage which speaks to the importance of God’s people being a community of justice is Isaiah 58:6-10. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday" (ESV).

Grogan said the questions the Lord asks in verses 6 and 7 following those of verse 5 where the people ask questions related to religious acts “serve to point out the people’s separation of religious observance and social righteousness, a theme the 8th century prophets never tired of expounding” (1986, 323). Their fasting had become about showing up others rather than about abandoning themselves but “God calls for behavior that is self-forgetful and outward-looking” (Oswalt, J.N., 2003, 625).

Here they are taught that freeing and helping are acceptable forms of worship (Watts, J.D.W., 1987, 272). The Lord specifies three acts which are related to the needs of the time (Watts, J.D.W., 1987, 274). God’s people could not change the whole oppressive system themselves but the Lord does not let them off the hook because they were still called to do justice however they could. Watts said “God’s people were and are intended to promote freedom” because “all forms of bondage are distasteful to God, whether economic, political, or social” (1987, 275). Sex trafficking is clearly a form of bondage thus it must eliminated.

The next few verses communicate the idea that when this kind of active, other-oriented faith is demonstrated the light of God’s people shall “break forth like dawn” (Isaiah 58:8, ESV) and the Lord will answer their calls. Grogan said the final concluding verse of this passage suggests “social concern is not just to be seen in an isolated episode but it is to be a way of life for God’s people. We are to spend not just our money but ourselves” (1986, 323). This need to give up one’s self for the sake of another still exists today while individuals continue to live in oppressive, impoverished systems such as those which promote sex trafficking.

Micah, another prophet active in the same context and some of the same time period as Isaiah, had a similar message for God’s people and shared that clearly in Micah 6:6-8. “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (ESV)

In the first part of this passage, the people ask the Lord what kind of sacrifices He desires but he responds “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV). These three commands God gives are still in effect today. God’s command for justice implies movement because justice is something to be done (Simundson, 1996, 580). Simundson said “this is a dynamic concept that calls on God’s people to work for fairness and equality for all, particularly for the weak and the powerless who are exploited by others” (1996, 580). McComiskey said “‘to love mercy’ is to freely and willingly show kindness to others” (1985, 436). To walk humbly with God means to exhibit both obedience and humility (Deane, 1950, 88). Deane said “to walk with God is to make it our fixed purpose and determination to live to him, to devote ourselves to his service” (1950, 93). Relative to trafficking, these commands suggest believers fight for justice for them and show them mercy and kindness, especially since they are a group which is largely without a voice.

Finally, James 1:27 says “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (ESV). Burdick said this verse teaches that “genuine religion is a life-changing force” (1981, 176). These actions James advocates for are not to be empty ones though, as the other prophets would also say. They “must spring from an inner spiritual reality that expresses itself in love to others and holiness before God” (Burdick, D.P., 1981, 176). True faith “shows its authenticity by giving gifts to the needy in the same way God gives them to all creatures” because giving gifts to others is a natural reaction when there is a deep understanding of the way God blesses and gives life to all (Johnson, L.T., 1998, 189).

In many ways, James continues the themes of the prophets regarding true religion, justice, and compassion (Nystrom, D.P., 1997, 97). One significant thing James does is that he identifies two particular groups that demanded the immediate attention of the Christian community: widows and orphans. This is because widows and orphans were considered “emblematic of all groups open to exploitation” (Nystrom, D.P., 1997, 97). While widows and orphans are still vulnerable groups, trafficked women could easily be added to the list of the most vulnerable individuals across the globe today. Another element which is relevant to the conversation of sex trafficking is James’ point about not being polluted by the world. Even “Christians” engage in trafficking to some degree or in some form sometimes but this verse and others clearly speak against such evil worldly engagement.

These are just four of many verses that could be chosen that relate to this topic. What these passages teach believers is that God’s people are called to do justice, care for the most vulnerable and oppressed, and pay attention to the broken realities of sexual sin.

Block, D.I. (2012). Deuteronomy. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Burdick, D.W. (1981). “James.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Clements, R.E. (1998). “Deuteronomy.” The New Interpreter’s Bible: Volume 2. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Deane, W.J. (1950). “Micah.” The Pulpit Commentary: Volume 14. Grand Rapids, MI: W.M. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Grogan, G.W. (1986). “Isaiah.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 6. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, L.T. (1998). “James.” The New Interpreter’s Bible: Volume 12. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Kalland, E.S. (1992). “Deuteronomy.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
McComiskey, Thomas. (1985). The Expositor’s Commentary: Volume 7. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Nystrom, D.P. (1997). James. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Oswalt, J.N. (2003). Isaiah. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Simundson, Daniel J. (1996). “Micah.” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Nahville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Watts, J.D.W. (1987). Isaiah 34-66. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco, TX: Word Books.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Day of College Graduation

It seems so surreal that today I will be driving onto campus one last time as a student. How many hundreds of times have I done it without thinking? This place has been where I came to learn, work, serve, and goof off with friends but it has also been home. As I spent entire summers in New Orleans and Portland, I always took comfort in knowing I was coming back to the beauty of Lake Johanna (except for that one summer you couldn't go swimming because of the bacteria), the trails on the other side of the baseball fields and library that make it feel like you cannot possibly be a few miles away from 5+ Caribous, the Billy's teppanyaki and the ridiculous line that comes with its presence, and the friendly faces of Barbie, Festus, Dale, and Katie in the cafeteria. When life has been beautifully unpredictable and other kinds of unpredictable, the God-loving and Christ-following community of UNW has been one of the constants the past several years - whether that was to celebrate or cry with me.

It hasn't been without struggle. Classes have stretched me (like Chemistry class second semester of freshman year) and piles of papers to write have gotten to me at times (I had 7 to write during the first 3 weeks of December in addition to projects, exams, readings, and other assignments). Yet it gave me strength to work all day and all night again and again knowing that I was doing all this for the glory of God in order to use this information and these skills for Him. However, the thing that has been the most difficult is the pushback I received as a woman pursuing ministry. I am forever indebted to my best friend for the countless times her sweaters soaked up my tears. I am also forever grateful for my parents who wrote me letters, spoke encouraging words over me, and received my late night phone calls with grace. Professor Payne and James Earley have been two of my greatest supporters at UNW but there have been many others too along the way. My pastor Matt and my entire Story family have been an encouragement more times than I can count as they have helped me understand my gifts and discerned my calling. For all that struggle, I am grateful. Those times proved to be some of  the greatest times of growth in my relationship with the Lord and He comforted me beyond measure again and again. So even in the pains of university life as I faced paper after paper after paper and struggled with my place in ministry, I find myself thankful for it all.

The past 4 years and 3 months cannot possibly be described. The reality is I am a very different person than I was when I first stepped onto campus many years ago. I have grown and changed in so many ways through amazing classes, the words of wise and thoughtful professors, chapels that challenged and inspired me, and the experiences of working so much within Local Outreach. Streetlight alone has changed my thinking and my heart in so many ways as I have heard people's heartbreaking stories, shared in their victories, and mourned with them over the loss of one of our beloved sisters. Through UNW's classes, chapels, staff and faculty, and of course my fellow students I have come to know and love Christ more and more everyday.

Even though this is the moment I have been working for, over the last few weeks I have struggled more than I anticipated to leave this all behind me, especially with the large number of lasts that I have experienced. Now, of course, I am a great sentimentalist, so while not all these things are even notable to some, they have been important to me. In the last few weeks, I have had my last praise chapel, last class, last Streetlight, last teppanyaki at the Billy, last Nest ice cream run, last time watching movies in the Stud elevator, last time walking through the Stud to discover you no longer have to go to the store to buy bread, and last time doing a lot of other things.

This afternoon I will be putting on my cap and gown, which has spent most of its time in my possession under the bed because I didn't know what to do with it. These two simple items represent so much. They symbolize a lot of hard work and to me represent the countless ways I have been supported by my parents, other family members, friends, and UNW staff and faculty. They also symbolize a movement from student to alum and represent the end of a significant season of my life and the beginning of a new, unknown one.

In less than 6 hours I will be crossing the main stage in Totino and by the time I will have made it across someone will have put the case which will soon hold my diploma in my hands. The only other time I crossed that stage was two years ago to sing "Jingle Bells" with my Greek class. (That is a story for another time.) I do not know which is a more odd thing to think about.

The whole point of my rambling is this: I will always be grateful for UNW and the impact that it has had on me. Thank you to all who supported me on this journey. Here's to the Lord's faithfulness as we celebrate today and all which it represents. Here's to the promise of the Lord's continued presence in the months and years to come as new experiences and opportunities await.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

America, Who Are You? God's People, Where Are You?

America who are you? Underneath the red, blue, and white? America who are you? I wonder who you are tonight. America who are you? Is God still on your side? I want to see a nation rise above the fear and fight that haunts these streets tonight. 
- "Looking for America" by Switchfoot and Lecrae

Brace yourself. This post will be long and it will contain controversial views and you probably will not agree with everything I have to say. I ask that as I share my thoughts and my heart that you listen openly and then respond as you will. I want to share with you what I did today and why. I spent the first part of my day attending classes that teach me all about God and what it means for me to be His, just as I do everyday. My day continued with conversations, homework, chapel, and attending a protest in Minneapolis. I attended this protest because I want to stand with my brothers and sisters who are refugees. From what I know about God, who I am, and who my refugee brothers and sisters are, I believe this was right. I will tackle why I did so. Then I will address why I chose to take action through protesting. Finally, I will address what the protest itself was like and finish with a few concluding thoughts.

I stand with my brothers and sisters first and foremost as a citizen of the kingdom of God. Didn't see that one coming, did you? As a citizen of the kingdom of God, I see my first priority to be to follow the wonderful ways of my good and wise King. Throughout the Old and New Testaments my King has not merely suggested but commanded His people to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, stand up for the oppressed, give a voice to the voiceless, and welcome the stranger in. (If you doubt this, see the following samplings of Scripture: Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Exodus 23:9, Job 31:32, Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 58:10, Matthew 25:31-46, Philippians 2:3-4, Malachi 3:5, Hebrews 13:2) And if you don't think refugees are suffering or in need in any way, I would humbly ask you to open your eyes wider. As a citizen of a greater kingdom, I know that each person is made in the image of God and thus has immeasurable value. So much value that in fact the value of the life of a refugee from Syria or Somalia or anywhere else is actually the exact same as your own. Imagine that. There is no hierarchy in this kingdom. Inconvenient for you? It is sometimes for me too because it means I have to look beyond myself and recognize that maybe I am not any more important than everyone else.

The second role I come from this is that of an American citizen. I only have two notes on this point. One is the obvious fact that it is quite ironic for a bunch of fairly recent immigrants to push away a newer batch, especially when they are in a very critical position. I myself am just a third generation American born girl whose family came here from Sweden. Second, I want to address this safety (or as it is probably more properly labeled - fear) driven side. I acknowledge our need for having security as a nation. However, the argument that our vetting process needs work is extremely weak. You can read up on our very thorough vetting process for refugees as it stands here. Also, there has not been one American killed by a terrorist from any of the countries that have had the ban placed on them.

Third, I come looking at this issue as simply a human being. I know it is very easy to dehumanize refugees, especially when you don't always see pictures or hear personal stories or know any. However, I have. I have seen pictures, read stories, and known refugees. Nothing will turn your heart so quickly towards these people like truly knowing a few of them.

So that is why I am for the refugees. Now with the list of things I can do to support this cause, why choose to protest? I will be the first to admit I have never protested anything and I did not really think I ever would. I am not a huge fan of crowds, especially angry crowds like the media often shows. And at the end of the day, I do not think protesting alone will change everything we want to have changed. But I do believe it is a strong start. It causes people watching the news and government to recognize the thousands standing together to fight an issue. These protests serve as conversation starters and can lead to great change in thoughts and actions.

Finally, if you are still with me I hope to share what it was actually like to protest today. I went with two of my fellow local outreach leaders from the university I attend who lead a ministry that reaches out to the international community (I get the great privilege of being a tutor through the ministry to a sweet Somali family) as well as a friend who is heavily involved in our multicultural group on campus. We rode in to Minneapolis on the light rail. One of my fellow students and I sat by an older woman. She asked the woman how her day was and where she was headed. Much to my surprise she was going to the protest. When asked to explain her heart for the cause she explained that she is a retired social worker. At the conclusion of this conversation we met a couple of other college kids going to protest. Then we saw dozens more protesters flock onto the light rail over the course of the next few stops. When we arrived at government plaza we then encountered thousands of protesters. We shuffled our way through the crowd and took our places. We held our signs displaying history, current data, quotes from the statue of liberty, and Bible verses & shouted in unison both our grievances and supports. Everyone else did the same. I was shocked to see the immense diversity of people there. Literally everyone was there. Young moms. College kids. Retired people. Singles. Couples. Families. Friends. Natural born citizens. Immigrants. Asians. Hispanics. African Americans. Scandinavians. Introverts. Extroverts. Politically-minded. Non-political. Christians. Muslims. Atheists. It was an incredible thing to see people stand up. Not just for themselves but for their brothers and sisters. I reflected upon that as we stood there in the cold. What would it be like to be preparing to come to America after a long waiting process & have one man and his bandwagon tell you that after all that time you actually cannot but then have thousands of people you have never met fighting for you? The whole protest was peaceful. It was filled with compassion and a desire to see justice. 

I hope that in this next season we truly do see people stand up for one another like I saw today. What if we actually lived like this - like we were our brother's keeper? What could that look like in your household, neighborhood, city, state, country, or world? I hope we see Americans set aside their "America first" attitude long enough to look into the eyes of the people they are trying to turn away. I hope the church thinks twice before deciding to "not get involved in political matters" and truly be the Church that Christ would ask us to be. I hope we all make choices we are proud of. I hope that when your children or your grandchildren ask you about this some day you will be able to tell them you fought for the refugees. This is my hope and these are my prayers.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Belief in the Bywater: A Story Of How God Is At Work In New Orleans, LA

Abuse. Neglect. Drugs. Sex. Jail. Teen pregnancy. Gangs. Violence. Death. All of these things are much too familiar for the kids of the Bywater community. Grace Baptist Church knows this and that is why they lead a Bible club for two full months every summer. At Bible club kids can come eat two good meals, do fun art projects, play outside with the other kids, do cool literacy skill building activities, worship the Lord with upbeat songs, and hear great Bible stories in a safe environment filled with people who care deeply for them. Grace’s Bible club is transforming the lives of those in the community one child at a time. That is why Kaleo has partnered with the church for years and sent many missions teams their way to help lead the Bible club.

I got the opportunity to lead a team of students there in early July and I was shocked at what I found. I met a sweet eight year old who had to find meals for himself and his siblings or risk not getting to eat. That same kid showed up to Bible club with a bash on his eye and he would not tell us how he got it. I met a kid whose mom had committed murder. That same 10 year old had a condom. I met a 13 year old girl who assumed that she wouldn’t get married but instead wind up in jail. I met a young boy who had seen his mother hit and killed by a truck, his cousin gunned down in front of him, and his father leave him. When we asked the kids what Jesus had done for them, he answered “Jesus has helped me not to get shot in the back of the head”. Several years ago that was exactly what happened to a kid in front of the church. Two kids fought at Bible club and the next day one of the kids’ uncle came & shot the other child in the back of the head. These kids have seen and gone through more in their dozen or so years of life than most of us ever have or will in our entire lives.

It is heartbreaking when you sit with this but the thing about the darkness is that the light shines brightest in it. The Lord is indeed the only true light and He is present in the Bywater community & He most definitely acts through the people of Grace Baptist Church. It is in this church that these kids can experience the love of God which flows through all of His followers. The thing about these kids is that for most of them no one is forcing them to come. A lot of them come of their accord. They could do anything with their summer but they come to Bible club week after week, summer after summer because they seek love and they find it at Bible club. And they don’t just find some love, they find a lot of it in us and they find the ultimate author of love at the same time. These kids learn about the God who created them and loves them, and it is so beautiful to see. One day I was sitting with an eight year old girl who had been causing some trouble before Bible Time. I was worried she would make a scene and ruin Bible Time for the other kids. That was the only reason I had the conversation I did with her. As soon as we all sat down for the skit of the day, I asked her if she was ready for the Bible story. She said “this is my favorite part”. I was taken aback a bit (based on her performance earlier in the day). I said “really?” and she said “yes!” I asked her what her favorite Bible story was and she began to tell me the story of David and Goliath. Immediately I thought “oh no, this girl likes this story because of the fighting in it”. But then she surprised me again. She said “the little guy won, and he won because he loved Jesus & Jesus was with him”. I was so impressed. That little girl sat through that entire Bible skit on the edge of her seat. She jumped at the chance to answer a question about the skit and when she did, she explained it all probably even better than I could have. This little girl was truly learning and understanding the Bible and its central message. I am excited for this knowledge reach her heart even more deeply and change her life & the lives of those around her. This message reached the heart of one young man the first day I went to Bible club. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior the very day us Kaleo interns visited.

I can’t wait to hear about how Grace’s Bible club continues to impact kids for eternity. I fully anticipate dancing with those kids again in heaven and I am so excited about that. I am changed because of the kids I met and I know our missions team were forever impacted by them too. I am so glad Kaleo Missions partners with existing churches and organizations (such as Grace Baptist Church) that make a difference in their communities year round. Praise the Lord for how He works and how He invites us to be a part of it all!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Declaring The Deliverer in the Darkness

A photo taken in the Bywater area while leading missions teams
in New Orleans with Kaleo Missions in 2016
I have lost count now of how many times I have been asked why I do ministry where I do. "Why do you do ministry in the Phillips neighborhood?" "Why do you evangelize in Dinkytown?" "Why do you go to church in the Powderhorn neighborhood?" "Why would you spend a summer leading missions teams out of the French Quarter?"

These questions generally aren't asked out of basic curiosity or interest. They are generally asked in confusion because doing ministry in those kinds of places does not line up with the American dream. This is because doing ministry like that is not always the safest and you are not in complete control when you're there and you are not separated from those society often deems as less. So doing ministry in the Philips neighborhood, the Powderhorn neighborhood, college towns, or the French Quarter is not what most would call the American dream but who really cares about that? When it comes down to it, I care much more about following Jesus than I do about following the American dream and I really think you should too.

I think we have watered down Christianity to the point where we think of Jesus as this "safe", quiet man who sat with "good" Godly folks and we try to imitate that Jesus. However, when I read the New Testament I encounter a Jesus who sat with tax collectors and prostitutes and everyone else that society set aside. (If you want some examples, just google it. You will find there are plenty to go around.) But we don't encourage folks to imitate that kind of Jesus much these days. We call them foolish and reckless instead. But isn't sitting with the modern day tax collectors and prostitutes and everyone else exactly what we are also called to do? Before departing the world Jesus said "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV). Jesus calls us to do exactly as He did. While Jesus did ministry in many expected places, He didn't stop there. He ministered to people everywhere and so should we. We are called to speak the Gospel to our co-workers and in our neighborhoods and in our schools and also in the slums and the streets downtown.

A photo taken of Puerto Maldonado, Peru while on a mission trip
here in 2016
Many Christians (although still not nearly enough) seem to be okay with being around and even sharing the hope of Christ with their neighbors and co-workers and classmates but few seem to even consider sharing the Gospel with those "very different" than them. Perhaps that is where the tragedy lies - in the belief that the homeless, the prostitutes, the alcoholics, and the addicts are so very different than the rest of us. From my experience, we all have many similarities and people aren't always that different than we think. In fact, I think some of the best conversations I have had were when I was out doing ministry of some kind with people who are homeless or otherwise very different than myself. One of my good friends is a man who is in his mid 50s and essentially homeless. His name is Tom. We are so different yet we can carry on for hours about reading, movies, and even Audrey Hepburn. Most people I encounter, no matter how different our lives may seem, are really not all that different from me. We all have hopes, desires, families, friends, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and a deep need for a loving Savior. So just because people seem so different from us should not stop us from sharing the hope and love of Jesus with them.

And yes, doing ministry in the Philips neighborhood, in Dinkytown, and in the French Quarter is not the easiest. And yes, sometimes it can feel very dark in those places. But those places are where Christ's light can shine even brighter and even when the darkness seems to overcome us we can know that Christ goes before us and that He is with us always until the end of the age. As I sit in the French Quarter, I look around every Saturday night and I see brokenness. I see broken people trying to fill the cracks in their lives with drugs and alcohol. The problem is this: that stuff never fills you up. Not even close. Brokenness and darkness seems to flood these streets just like the hurricane once did, but that doesn't mean there is no light. In fact, the light of Christ seems to shine even brighter here. This place, Vieux Carre Baptist Church, is one of those bright beacons of hope. It is because of people like the ones here that I still have hope. People come here when they are in the middle of their deepest despair and they see hope. They see how Christ can completely change their lives. And it is in this darkness they can clearly see the light.

Now, don't get me wrong. When you start trying to mess with the enemy's plans, he will try to stop you and discourage you. But never forget who you are in Christ. You are a soldier commissioned to fight a battle truly worth fighting in. You have been commissioned by the King to go out and save souls. How could you possibly reject that calling?

A phoro of the Dallas skyline taken on a mission trip here in 2014
It takes a lot of faith to step into the unknown but you are stepping into the unknown every day of your life so in my opinion you might as well step out for the most worthy cause there is. Like I said before, I have been asked a lot why I do what I do and like I have been trying to tell you these past few minutes, I do what I do because I believe the God who loves me has commissioned me to do it. But the beautiful thing is God hasn't just left me in the dust there. He has carried me through all the nights of ministry as well as all the unexpected moments of ministry. And He has revealed more of Himself to me because of it. He has shown me who He is and what He is doing in the lives of others. Here in New Orleans I have met people who have turned over their lives to God and overcome insane addictions. A few weeks ago back in Minnesota, I met a man named Daniel who found Christ when he was homeless. He still is to this day, but rather than being caught up in despair like many homeless folks you meet, he takes comfort in the fact that even the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. God has given us such amazing opportunities to see Him work and He has also given us the ability to be used by Him. We don't always get to see the result of what we do but I believe that what we do makes a difference. Just the other day a man here in New Orleans named Gary surrendered his life to Christ. He said the day before some kids came under the bridge and blessed him. That truly seemed to impact him and I believe that whenever we minister to people, God uses it in some way. I think that what we do plants seeds of hope and God waters those seeds. Who knows what ways God has used us to impact people! A few months back we sat with a man named Joshua for an hour and tried to talk him out of killing himself that night. What if God used us to keep that man from going through with it. I don't want it to appear that we save people ourselves. That is ridiculous. But when it comes down to it, for some reason God likes to work through people. So we try to let Him work through us. As for me, I never regret the days I decide to give God control of my life and let Him work.

So we must declare the Deliverer in the darkness, bring the Bread of Life bravely down Bourbon Street, and continue carrying the cross of Christ into the chaos because when we do that we do as Jesus did and share hope with people different yet so similar to us. And when we do this, we can know that Jesus goes before us. And as always, we are to go as a family because we are stronger when we are united.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

33 Things That the Movies & TV Shows Taught Us

1. You should never wear a cape (The Incredibles)
2. We need to be wary of strawberry scented stuffed animals (Toy Story 3)
3. If you want to live in the same home but desire a change in scenery, just tie a bunch of balloons to your home (Up)
4. Fish are friends, not food (Finding Nemo)
5. If you are going to become royalty, keep a special eye on jealous lions (The Lion King)
6. Grasshoppers rule the insect world (A Bug’s Life)
7. Always make sure your potions are properly labeled (The Emperor’s New Groove)
8. Fish control the weather and enjoy peanut butter sandwiches (Lilo & Stitch)
9. Don't go into the watch selling business – the job security is really lacking (The Internship)
10. Instead, everyone should work at Google because it is REALLY cool there (The Internship)
11. If there is a tuba there, it is not a party (Paper Towns)
12. You don't get as scared about things if you sing – remember this the next time you are home alone and have to go to the basement (Paper Towns)
13. If you ever go back in time, make sure you don’t run into your mom because she may fall in love with you (Back to the Future)
14. Chocolate milk has special powers – but we all knew that already, right? (Back to the Future)
15. You could make amazing friends in detention (The Breakfast Club)
16. Always wait for the reviews before attending a new amusement park in case the attractions try to kill you (Jurassic Park)
17. Never swim in the ocean – there are apparently sharks near the shore too (Jaws)
18. Never go to the bathroom – there are monsters there too (Hoot)
19. Egging someone’s home is more than acceptable if they broke up with you because you were going to be blind (Fault in our Stars)
20. If your elephant does not understand English, try speaking to it in Polish (Water for Elephants)
21. If you are going to reunite with the love of your life, bring a garden’s worth of flowers to your neighbor’s living room (The Great Gatsby)
22. Don’t go swimming while waiting for a phone call or you will end up dead (The Great Gatsby)
23. Never stay in a motel by yourself but if for some reason you do need to, don’t shower (Psycho)
24. Be wary of trusting restaurant owners, especially if they own a chicken restaurant (Breaking Bad)
25. Avoid putting Stevia in your tea (Breaking Bad)
26. Ridiculous lies can result in future business ventures (Psych)
27. Tea is like a hug in a cup (The Mentalist)
28. Suits are cool so suit up (How I Met Your Mother)
29. Bubble baths are incredible and if you are a man who is embarrassed about the fact you enjoy bubble baths get yourself a boat to make it a boy bath (Friends)
30. Your family isn’t as dysfunctional as you thought (Arrested Development)
31. If your friend is acting weird, it is probably because they are an alien (3rd Rock from the Sun)
32. We all should live in hotels (The Suite Life of Zach and Cody)
33. Then we should all attend high school on a cruise ship (The Suite Life on Deck)

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Beautiful Truths God Had to Bring Me to the Amazon Jungle to Remind Me Of

This is the letter I wrote to my supporters upon my return from Peru. It was an experience of a lifetime (as you will soon read). Therefore, I wanted to share my experience with all of you out there. Enjoy!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As you have probably heard (or at the very least are now becoming aware), I am back from Puerto Maldonado, Peru. It was the trip of a lifetime to say the very least. It challenged me in ways I didn’t anticipate and I loved it. And I think God knew I needed that. As I was walking back from the informational meeting about Peru back in September, I was met with a poster that had just appeared that day. It said this: a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. God really took me out the harbor on this one. Wow! Even on the trip I was contemplating what I was going to say to you all when I returned and even as I type I am not entirely sure everything God is trying to teach me and show me through the trip. There are a few things I am absolutely sure about though. One is that I will never forget Peru, the people I went with, the people I met there, or the lessons God taught me. Another is that none of it would have been possible if God hadn’t provided and I firmly believe you all were a grand part of that. That is obviously evident by your financial support (which provided everything I needed for this trip and more!) and your prayers which are evidenced by the results of our trip. We safely traveled 4,000 miles, drove from the Twin Cities to Chicago, took 9 flights, slept in an airport twice, and spent 8 days in the jungle without getting eaten or bitten by anything deadly. So thank you for your support through financial giving and all your prayer.

There are so many things I wish to tell you about the trip but first – the basics. We left on Thursday March 3rd at 3 a.m. We drove to Chicago then flew to El Salvador. From El Salvador we flew to Lima, Peru. After a nice stay on the airport floor, we flew to Cusco and then to our final destination, Puerto Maldonado. The group was small – it was just 4 of us. We spent 8 days serving with El Arca children’s home on a farm in the Amazon jungle. We spent time with the family (especially the kids – man, will I never forget them) and served them by helping wherever needed (making meals, cleaning, painting, fixing the road, etc.) After our time was up, we started our long journey back home. We had a fun night in Lima during our 12 hour layover which was just what we needed after being in the middle of the jungle with no contact with the outside world for over a week. We arrived back home Sunday, March 13th in the evening.

Our trip was filled with so many new adventures and new things for me. I left the continent for the first time. I went to the jungle for the first time. I flew by myself for the first time (from Chicago to Minneapolis). I slept in an airport for the first time (and the second time we were awoken by a woman who was poking us to get us up so she could wash the floor we were sleeping on!). I rode in a taxi for the first time (with a crazy driver in a traffic jam – seatbelt is highly recommended for that ride). I ate octopus and ceviche for the first time. I spilled human waste on myself for the first (and I hope the last) time. I made eggplant lasagna for the first time (that one was an adventure – it turns out it is even more difficult to make lasagna in the jungle). I saw a rat run across the dining room for the first time. I saw spiders bigger than the palm of my hand for the first time. And I went a week without any contact with my parents for the first time. My trip was filled with a lot of firsts and I hope to continuing make such firsts for the rest of my life (except maybe ones like the whole spilling waste on myself thing).

Not only was it filled with a lot of exciting adventures and firsts but it was also filled with a lot of life lessons. One of the things I think God really wanted to remind me of on this trip is how constant He is. There are times in your life when you realize that in more dramatic ways. That first night in the jungle was one of those times for me. I was sitting there and I finally got it. Nothing is constant or guaranteed. Not the presence of friends or family, not your location, not your abilities, not your health, not your safety. Nothing is constant but the Creator of those things. Thankfully, that constant is all we truly need. Even if everything else were to fall away, we would still have all we needed because He is true, He is good, and He is loving. I realized that as I saw this family suffer. They left everything they knew in pursuit of starting this children’s home only to lose many of the kids years into their ministry as a result of the government trying to shut down orphanages. I can only imagine what it must be like for them right now as they choose which children they can keep and try to adopt and which they have to say goodbye to. I wrestled with this striking blow to the ministry of this family. How could God let this happen? I don’t know. My only prayer is that as a result more souls would be won for the kingdom as these children who are not able to stay are sent back to their families. Still, even as I wrestled with this. I noticed that the family wasn’t. Or at least that is what it seemed like. They went on praising God for His goodness and faithfulness. And suddenly I was struck on the head and reminded. God never promises prosperity. He promises His presence. Just like He never asks for fruitfulness, just faithfulness. And that is exactly what this family is doing. Trusting God and being faithful. I don’t know why some things happen but I do know this: God is good and He never lets anything be wasted. And so I want to be faithful. It is a lot easier to be faithful in the easier times of life but it will get harder. When I start my church someday, I hope the Lenz family and their perseverance will pop up in my head and I will be encouraged to continue to be faithful in the difficult season of church planting. As a result of this trip, I also want to get even closer to the Father. When I realized that He is the only true constant I realized that I need to have an even stronger relationship with Him than I already do. If He is my one and only then I need to spend even more time with Him and I want to because He is so so good.

It is still a little hard to believe. This time last week I was sleeping in the Lima, Peru airport after spending a week in the jungle. Now I am sitting in my dorm alone writing to all of you. This time two weeks ago I was almost to Puerto Maldonado with 3 people I barely knew and I came back with 2 sisters and a big brother (I guess traveling 4,000 miles to the jungle bonds people). So many things are uncertain. I don’t know if I will ever see any of those people I met in Peru again this side of heaven. I don’t know all the reasons God sent me to Peru yet. I don’t know where He will send me next (what is more outside my comfort zone than the Amazon jungle with 3 people I barely know?). But I do know this: God is true. God is good. God is loving. God is constant. And He provides. He provides in beautiful ways. He provides with finances, health, safety, and with marvelous family like you. Praise God.

Love, peace, and grace to you all,

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Making a Home a Hole: Why it is Critical We Leave the College Bubble to Serve Others

Note: This post is directed at Christian college students (particularly but not exclusively the UNW community, which is not because I think UNW has this problem more than other colleges do; I am just writing from my point of view which is the Northwestern campus)

The "UNW Bubble" is a very real thing. Not only is it real, but it is dangerous. When students choose to spend their college years mainly within the UNW borders, they lose out on so much. When students choose to make their campus their world they miss out on the chance to experience the world and make an impact in it. I never recognized the dangers of the "UNW Bubble" until I moved onto campus this year. In this post, I hope to help you see that the college bubble is truly a problem, college is the perfect time to serve, and serving is a beautiful thing. I hope this post encourages you to break the bubble by serving and will inspire you to encourage others to do the same. Without further ado, I want to share a story with you of how I have seen the college bubble hold people back from experiencing life that is truly life.

The first time I truly noticed it all was Halloween night this year. The other leaders of Seeds of Hope decided to cancel it for the evening because of the number of people who weren't going to be coming. I felt it on my heart to try to get a group together to go out anyhow so my lovely roommate Breeanna and I decided to invite people to it. We knocked on every single door in the building, so between the two of us we knocked on over 200 doors of rooms with 3 people each. There were 600 possibilities plus more we contacted. Guess how many showed up. Three. (Now, we were absolutely grateful for the three we had. It was the most unbelievable night of ministry I have ever had and if not another one comes around that tops it I won't be too surprised.) That means our success rate in getting Christian college students to spend their Saturday night spreading the love of Christ to our brothers and sisters that evening with us was 0.5%. Now, I am not good with percentages but I know that it is not a good percentage. Yes, it was Halloween. Whatever, I get it (actually I don't) but the excuse that it was Halloween and people may have had plans doesn't fly with me. It doesn't because when I looked in most of their eyes I didn't see any sign of regret at not being able to come or any slight interest even. Breeanna and I could tell that many people were waiting for the moment they could close the doors in our faces and continue doing what they were doing. Sure, many people asked questions, congratulated us, and some even said they would pray for us and those people lifted our spirits. But they don't make up for the sheer volume of Christians in our school who looked at us as though spreading the love of Christ to others that night was the last thing they were going to be doing. It honestly broke my heart. Two months before I was excited to move onto campus because I would finally be somewhere where everyone actually cared and I was finally facing the fact that many of them don't. (Don't get me wrong, since moving to Northwestern I have found an incredible bunch of people who are passionate about loving people the way Christ loves them and they inspire me and bless me. I just wish there were even more of them.) On our trek around the building one girl that we talked to shared my thoughts and feelings to a tee. She said that she sometimes cries at the number of people who do not care. Anger, heartbreak, and confusion take turns owning my heart when I think of all the Christians who choose to spend their entire college careers doing Bible studies and attending chapel and talking about God yet never spend a minute stepping out of their comfort zones to bravely serve Him and His people. Because the truth is this: every moment you spend stepping out of your comfort zone for the sake of the Gospel, every minute you spend serving Him will absolutely be worth it. The past semester has been probably the greatest few months of my life and many of my favorite moments were spent serving. I can honestly say that I love the weekends because I get to serve God wholeheartedly with my friends by caring for His people without worrying about getting my homework done for the next day. As second semester begins I see an opportunity for more students to escape that "bubble" and experience a more beautiful and fulfilling life.

College brings a unique opportunity to serve others and make a real impact in the world. The time to do this is now. Once you have a job and family, the opportunities to do these kinds of things are harder to find time for in the schedule so that is why you should take the time for it now. Another great thing is that the cities neighboring college campuses are amazing places for ministry. Especially with big cities filled with hurting people, the opportunities are endless. And most of the time you don't even have to go into the cities to find those opportunities. Many are sitting and waiting for you on college campuses. UNW has many campus ministries including Living Hope (which works with kids), Way in the Wilderness (which works with people of other cultures), Writing in the Sand (which works with women who are victims of sex-trafficking and abuse), Streetlight (which works with homeless and otherwise impoverished people), and Seeds of Hope (which works with all types of people). I hope wherever you are you find a ministry to get plugged into.

There is no greater thing to be doing than serving. If you need proof, here are 3 reasons...
1. Jesus called us to love our neighbors and serving the people of your own college's city is a great way to do that. When you are focused on studying, going out and serving is a great reminder of your true calling.
2. It is refreshing. Doing what God calls you to can be messy but it can also be beautiful. After a week of preparing presentations, studying for exams and quizzes, reading lots of books, and going over Greek flashcards, I can't wait to serve. Even when going in with a mindset of serving, I always seem to be the one blessed in the end.
3. It is a great way to connect and bond with friends. Not only that but is truly a wonderful way to make friends. After just a few weeks at Streetlight I knew I had a family and my ministry friends have been a core part of my life ever since then. When I look around a car full of people I just spent the evening serving with, I know that these are the moments I will treasure the most from my years here at Northwestern.
4. You see the world in a whole new way. You meet people you otherwise never would have and you grow as a result.

Note for Ministry Majors
For you, this part of the college experience might seem obvious. Serving is an essential part in preparing you for ministry. Not only will you get the real-life ministry skills you will need in the future but serving is also critical in the preparation of the heart for full-time ministry. If you think you don't have time to get involved because of the amount of homework you have, then consider your weekday classes as only half of preparing you for ministry and serving as your other half. It will change how you spend your time and perhaps you will find a little more time in your schedule for it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

80 Reasons the 80's were Great

In actuality, I am a 90's child and I thoroughly enjoy being one - don't get me wrong. But I often feel like I was born in the wrong time because when it comes down to it, I am pretty sure that I am an 80's child at heart. I grew up watching lots of 80's movies and TV shows. I love all the 80's music. And I don't totally hate the fashion either to be honest. There are so many reasons the 80's were cool. Need proof? Okay, here are 80 reasons the 80's were great. Don't need proof? You are getting it anyway.


1. Bright Colored Clothes
Let's be real. Everyone wants to wear bright green pants and
blue tops.

2.  The Preppy Look
No commentary necessary

3. Jean & Leather Jackets

Jean jackets and leather jackets are the greatest.There is simply no other
argument. Basically the main reason I wanted a leather jacket was because of
Mike from Growing Pains. I feel no shame about that. I think the only reason
anyone ever buys a leather jacket is because of Mike from Growing Pains
whether people know it or not.

4. Big Hairstyles
I am pretty sure I could be okay with this look coming

5. Chunky Jewelry
If you are going to wear jewelry might as well make sure people
see it, right? This style is stuff you can see a mile away so
mission accomplished.

6. Thick Framed Glasses
No explanation required


7. Back to the Future Trilogy
Honestly, if you have seen Back to the Future after it came out and haven't
cried because you won't ever get the chance to anticipate the next one then I
am not sure you actually saw it. I am pretty confident the greatest thing to
come out of the 80's was this masterpiece of a trilogy.

8. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Who doesn't want a life like Ferris Bueller's? I still watch this
movie every year before school starts and daydream about
ditching class just once for a day like this. However, with tuition
prices I can't justify it anymore so instead I have Ferris Bueller
moments instead of Ferris Bueller days. I fan-girled a lot when
in Chicago this past summer (it takes place there).

9. Adventures in Babysitting
Chris gets into a ridiculous amount of trouble which is probably
a part of why I love this movie. I am pretty sure this the kind of
trouble my roommate thinks I am destined to get into
But seriously if you did not love this movie
or the very least love George Newbern's character I don't
think you were even actually watching it.

10. Gremlins
I steered clear of this movie for the first 10 years of my existence
because I vividly remember the moment I first encountered the 
VHS tape my family owns of this film. I was like 4 and the cover 
was unfortunately not sweet little Gizmo. It was like the most 
terrifying gremlin ever. But since then I have gotten over that 
trauma and fell in love with this movie. I consider it to be like my 3rd 
favorite Christmas movie and before you judge me, yes I do consider it
 to be a Christmas movie. I wish I could watch this movie in a big
movie theater and get totally freaked out the entire time. *Sigh* 
girl can dream, can't she?

11. The Breakfast Club
I just got this movie from my roommate for Christmas and
I honestly was stoked. This movie isn't the best movie to come
out of the 80's in my humble opinion but there is no doubt it is
and always will be a classic 80's movie.

12. E.T.
Okay, don't freak out but I am not the biggest fan of E.T. I am just not. Maybe that
has to do with the fact that I haven't seen it since elementary school and in those
days if anything was sad I automatically hated it. And there is no doubt
that E.T. is a sad movie. But once again it is an unforgettable film and it
will always make you catch the feels.

13. Ghostbusters
Once again, classic 80's

14. Dirty Dancing
Confession: I have yet to see this movie. I am glad I am not saying this in
front of anyone for fear of being slapped or stared at funny. Still, despite not having
seen it I know this movie is also very well known and loved.

15. Pretty in Pink
The 80's were truly dominated by John Hughes. This movie was no exception.
This movie gave hope to the world because it broke the friend-zone. You are a
hero Duckie. I mean really, "may I admire you again today?" What a line!

16. Footloose
Who doesn't love this movie? The remake they did a few years back is a total
disgrace compared to this gem. Nothing can beat Kevin Bacon.

17. Say Anything
This movie is one of the many 80's movies that completely destroyed my
average relationship goals. Now thanks to this movie and others I have even
more completely unrealistic romantic dreams. But at least Lloyd is always
there for us and standing with a boombox outside our windows.

18. Better Off Dead
Who didn't feel terrible for Lane? This movie is definitely a reminder
that life isn't SO bad.

19. Pee-wee's Big Adventure
There's a lotta things about him you don't know anything about. Things you
wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't
understand. But one thing we all understand is that we love Pee Wee.

20. The Money Pit
This movie warned us against fixer-uppers. And we have steered clear since then.
Thanks for the warning Tom. At least this home renovation was filled with laughter
on our end.

21. National Lampoon's Vacation Movies
Who doesn't love watching this family's antics every Christmas?
And who isn't thankful that their dad isn't quite as crazy as Clark was when
they finally got to Wally World? 

22. Short Circuit
Johnny Five became the love of our lives after this movie. How could the world
be great without him?

23. Rain Man
This movie was simply great

24. Batman
There have been like a dozen Batman movies but this one was definitely
my favorite. I mean, honestly Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson were in it!

25. Clue
I have seen this movie probably ten times. I am not joking on this one. I love
the dark humor, cast, constantly changing direction, and various endings. This
was definitely a win for the 80's.

26. Can't Buy Me Love
Once again, this movie gave us unrealistic relationship goals
but it was still way worth it. Plus, look at young Patrick Dempsey.

27. The Land Before Time Movies
Not only did the 80's give us romantic goals it also gave us childhood memories.
Who didn't grow up with these dinos?

28. Kiki's Delivery Service
Jiji (voiced by the one and only Phil Hartman) was the star of this unforgettable


29. The Smurfs
Another childhood treasure

30. Ducktales
Along with this

31. Growing Pains
This show was simply the best

32. Family Ties
Yet another family sit-com that will always be a reminder of how good the
80's were

33. The Facts of Life
This show alone made all girls wish they had gone to a boarding school to have
Miss Garrett as our housemother and these ladies as our roommates

34. Gimme a Break!
This is simply a classic 80's TV show

35. America's Funniest Home Videos
This show, which makes us laugh at things we totally shouldn't, got its start
during this glorious decade so you can thank the 80's that you get to watch
people running into trees and flying off of trampolines.

36. Charles in Charge
Let's be honest we all wanted Charles in charge of us after we saw this show

37. Saved By the Bell
Any day gets 10x better when Saved By the Bell is a part of it. There is no
arguing with it. Any day I have morning class cancelled and most weekend mornings
I grab some breakfast, climb into bed, and put on an episode of this awesome show.

38. Kate & Allie
This show was definitely one of the many reasons the 80's were great - except
the last season. That was ridiculous.

39. Saturday Night Live
This has been on for forever but the very best of it occurred during this decade

40. Cheers
This show rocked because sometimes you really do want to go where everyone
knows your name and is glad you came

41. Press Your Luck
To date, this is still one of the best game shows ever. I still look for it every time
I am watching someone else's cable TV.

42. Knight Rider
Although, I must admit that I enjoyed the 2008 Knight Rider reboot more than
the original it would not even exist without this first version of the series and a
world without KITT would be much less enjoyable

43. ALF
Although this show made us never want ALF to crash into our garage, we also
grew to love him despite his love of eating cats and making messes all the time

44. Mork & Mindy
To continue down the alien theme, we all loved Mork too. We loved him not just
for his sweetness but also for his purely hilarious antics.

45. Three's Company
Jack Tripper made the whole show himself but the rest of the cast added
greatly to the story as well

46. Murder, She Wrote
This was a mysterious crime show that showed one doesn't have
to be young and spry to wrap up a crime and take down the

47. Dallas
Dallas is a timeless drama. It lasted 14 seasons for a reason.

48. Dukes of Hazzard
This show is timeless for its own reasons

I mean, just look at the link. Commercials were so terrible yet so great in the 80's.


50. "Jessie's Girl"
Rick Springfield's song made guys want Jessie's girl and girls want to be Jessie's girl

This song served as the theme song for The Breakfast Club and so it is therefore synonymous with it, which of course makes it a classic

52. "I Love Rock n' Roll"
This memorable Joan Jett song made us all want to put a dime in the jukebox

Who doesn't love a little (or a lot) of Michael Jackson? And this song is definitely one of his best.

54. "Bad"
This one was another MJ hit

55. "Hungry Like The Wolf"
And who isn't a fan of Duran Duran?

56. "Don't Stop Believin'"
I am pretty sure 95% of Americans have heard this one a plethora of times and a majority of them know the lyrics by heart

57. "Eye of the Tiger"
This one's track record is probably not too far off from the previous song's track record

58. "Billie Jean"
Yet another memorable MJ song

59. "Kokomo"
I first heard this one sang by Kermit the Frog. If Kermit sang it, you know it must be good.

60. "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
Nothing's gonna stop this song from being great. The only thing that could make it better would be bonding it to Mannequin in some way, which totally happens in this music video.

Few songs make me want to dance around the room like this one and I don't think I am the only one

62. "You Spin Me 'Round (Like a Record)"
This song as great as the video is crazy (and the video is really crazy, just look at it)

63. "867-5309 / Jenny"
Even those who never knew Jenny forever remember her number better than their best friend's number

64. "The Power of Love"
This video that brings together two wonderful things (music and Back to the Future) only deepens my great love for this timeless song

65. "La Bamba"
The movie and Ritchie Valens version of the Mexican folk song are both amazing. But be warned, the movie will not make you want to party like the song will. In fact, it will probably make you want to cry.

66. "Thriller"
Now I think just about everyone is very familiar with this gem too. Most are as well acquainted with the dance moves too. Kids for generations to come will be hearing this one at every dance ever held. (At the very least, it was played at every dance I ever went to in high school)

67. Michael Jackson
This man was the legendary king of pop and a star in the music industry in
the 80's  with hits like "Bad", "Billie Jean", Thriller", and "Beat It"

68. Aerosmith
Aerosmith has had its own share of hits too like "Dream On", "I Don't Want to
Miss a Thing", "Crazy", "Sweet Emotion", "Walk this Way", and "Cryin'".
They got their start in the 1970's but kept going strong throughout the 80's.

69. Queen
This band also got its start in the 70's then went on to dominate in the 80's too.
They had hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody", "We Will Rock You", "We are the
Champions", "Another One Bites the Dust", "Somebody to Love", "Crazy
Little Thing Called Love", and "Killer Queen".

70. Bon Jovi
"Livin' on a Prayer", "Wanted Dead or Alive", "Runaway", and "You Give Love a
Bad Name" - enough said

71. Duran Duran
With "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Girls on Film" and "Rio" these guys won't soon
be forgotten

72. Rush
Hits like "YYZ", "Tom Sawyer", Spirit of Radio", "Limelight",
and "Xanadu" plus having amazing concerts til this day make
this Canadian band more than memorable 


73. Bubble Bobble
This is one of the games that gave my mom carpal tunnel so it must have
been pretty good

74. Donkey Kong
No one needs to be reminded what this game is and no one has ever been so
angry at a monkey and barrels as they were when playing this game

75. Frogger
And here we never hated cars or water so much

76. Pac-Man
This one will forever be an arcade classic

77. Q*Bert
This little guy was a well-known 80's figure too and keeps coming up
over the years

78. Test Drive
This game taught me that video game driving is much harder than actual driving

79. SimCity
This is where our current journey with the Sims began to take off

80. Super Mario Bros.
These brothers are probably the most famous brothers of the 80's and that is for
a reason