What We Are Getting Wrong About Prostitution

Imagine you are a teenager under the control of a pimp.

He drops you off at a corner and picks you back up at the end of every night. He takes all your money.

Imagine no freedom.

Imagine not being able to go to the store by yourself—if at all—use a telephone, or walk to school without being followed. Imagine being stolen or sold from your family, crossing the border to a foreign country.

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image via CC Flickr

This is the life of many girls in Costa Rica right now.

I once thought all these girls could choose another lifestyle besides working the corners until I saw this presentation:

A man stood still in the front of the room. A rope bound him. The rope was not all that prevented him from moving. Soon, emotion after emotion covered him to show each thing the prostituted people feel.

Worthless. Broken. Hopeless. Empty.

They value their bodies for nothing, and society does not accept them. They face hate, judgment, sadness, loneliness, and desperation on a daily basis.

image via CC Flickr

These things will keep the prostituted peoples on the street. It is not that they do not want to go anywhere else in life. It is the thought that they do not have what it takes to go anywhere else in life.

Before I came to study abroad in Costa Rica, I did not think much of prostituted people. I have occasionally seen them downtown but never had interactions with them or even thought of having interactions with them. I thought they were all there by choice because they wanted to earn some money rather than work another job.

I judged, yes. I judged without knowing some of the men that control their every move. I judged without thinking about the emotional toll that binds some women and men to the street because they feel they are not good enough for anything else. I judged using the word prostitutes without thinking they are still people too.

I came to Costa Rica through Veritas Christian Study Abroad program not only getting to study, but also participating in missions as well. This weekend, I had an all-day training to learn about prostituted peoples in Costa Rica, what binds them to the streets, and how they are still just normal people too. It sounds so obvious after hearing it, but society is quick to judge by looks that most do not give a thought to what is behind the situation—at least I did not.

After my first time on the streets in San Jose, my eyes opened and my old view shattered.

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Image via CC Flickr

Twelve of us in a van stopped at a park and got out in groups of three. We walked together to strike up conversation with women on the street and offered them coffee and cookies. We ended our conversations with prayer.

It might not seem like much, but sometimes we are the only people in their lives who make conversation with them. A simple act of conversation, coffee, and cookies shows them there are people out there who love and care for them. It was intimidating to walk up to them and start conversation, but it did not take long for me to see the eagerness in their eyes or how much they longed for a simple talk.

Yes, it was hard to hear them talk about their need for work tonight because of the bills due tomorrow. I hated to turn around and see the person I just talked to gone. However, we still cared for them and prayed for them.

After the first night of this ministry, I returned to my room drained.

Drained of all the information that had been thrust into my brain that day. Drained with the stories of women who had committed suicide because they felt they had no other options and stories of kids who were there illegally and under a pimp.

But I was alive.

Alive with the knowledge that these people do not always want to be on the streets and there are people and ministries trying to rescue them. Alive with the thought that I have three more months here to participate in this ministry and see what amazing things can happen within this time period. And alive with a new perspective about a topic I had no right to judge on but still did, and thankfully can now do something about it.

I had never given prostituted peoples much thought. You may not have either. I challenge you to think about why these people are on the streets, and if you are near them, go out of your way to simply have a small conversation. You never know what is going on in their lives that puts them on the streets.

Sometimes, a simple act of love and kindness is all it takes for some to know there is hope.


Kari Kviten Kari Kviten is studying and serving with Veritas Christian Study Abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica this fall semester. She is a student at Berea College in Kentucky.

Join students like Kari whose expectations are being shattered and lives are being changed. Engage in international social justice ministry and help victims of trafficking and abuse find worth and freedom. Go to Costa Rica this spring, summer, or fall. See the other Christian study abroad programs Veritas  offers in locations in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Talk to a Veritas rep.

 

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Morocco: The Craziest Adventure Yet

This past week, I experienced the craziest adventure yet.

During my fall study abroad program in Sevilla, Spain, Veritas took us on an excursion to Morocco for five days where we traveled into the main city of Fes, the Sahara Desert, and Meknes. The journey to Morocco took a day alone including eight hours on a bus and a journey over the strait of Gibraltar by boat.

Medina in Fes, Morocco ExcursionThe first day we went shopping in the Medina, the center of the city of Fes. The Medina is much different than I pictured in my head. Over 8,000 alleyways wind within the Medina—it is the biggest human maze I have ever been in. Thankfully, Veritas arranged a guided tour for us because I would have gotten lost within five minutes. There were dozens of hole-in-the-wall shops, crowds of people, and garbage everywhere. My nose went on a roller coaster of smells: trash, spices, roasting meat, human body odor, then repeat the whole cycle.

We got to see some amazing architecture within the city, including the high arches prominent in Islamic architecture and all the mosaics of color on the walls. In the Medina, we visited a gold shop followed by a scarf shop where they made everything by hand. We then visited the medicine man; he had a little shop full of concoctions of spices like myrrh, and all-natural body products. I’ll admit, I bought a lot of gifts at this new favorite shop of mine.

Islamic architecture in Morocco Afterwards, we went to a leather-making shop. We took a tour through the tannery to learn how the leather is made (it is soaked in vats of pigeon poop then transferred to be dyed in colored vats of urine, if you were wondering). The stench was unbearable.

We ended the day by seeing a traditional Moroccan show featuring music and some belly dancing. The dancers pulled me up during the middle of the show to join their dance—I had a lot of fun.Excursion through the Moroccan desertThe next day, we traveled by 4×4 to our camp in the Sahara Desert. We camped there for two days and roughed it. We slept on cots, had no showers and little running water, and for our toilet? The desert.

But I loved it! I enjoyed immersing myself in the environment and taking in my surroundings. We had two amazing nights of dancing, looking at the stars, and taking night walks on the dunes. The next morning began with a 5a.m. wake-up call to watch the sunrise followed by a camel ride into town.

That was the craziest thing I have ever done, a perfect blend of fear and excitement.

We rode the camels to a sand dune and hiked up to the top to overlook the desert. Then we rode our camels to a hotel where, unbeknownst to us, a pool awaited. It was so nice to jump in after being in the 90 degree desert weather!

Riding camels in the desert, Morocco ExcursionThe desert time ranks as my favorite part of our trip to Morocco. From the colors of the sunset, to the starry sky at night, to the orange sand dunes stretching as far as the eye could see, evidence of God’s hand showed everywhere.

I learned a lot about Moroccan culture through observation and immersion during my brief stay. In the cities, women were few and far between. They were not allowed in any cafes and usually had to be fully clothed head to toe. Men stared at all of us girls like pieces of meat, and I felt much discriminated against. I felt less observed than other girls because I wore a scarf on my head the majority of the time .

Moroccan Desert Berber The Berbers in the desert fascinated me as well. An Islamic patriarchal system is in place in Morocco. The Berber men, ranging form eight to 40 years old, leave their wives at home to cook and clean. The Berbers marry not for love, but learn to fall in love with time. The average age for a girl to marry is 17, for a man is 35. My heart broke at the thought that many of the Berber men had never spent a day in school or learned how to fully respect a woman.

During our activities, the men could participate freely, while the women had to be invited in. The inequality within this society further proved how this world not only needs a true Savior who has created man AND women equal, but also an open heart to accept change. How I wished I could spend more time and really get to know the lives of these women and see life from their point of view. Maybe God will give me another chance.

One thing that gives me true peace in knowing that although I cannot change the world, I can be a light. But most importantly, my Father loves these people more than I do and will provide justice and mercy to them.

Desert sun on Morocco excursion“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives    and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
Isaiah 61:1


 

Study Abroad in SpainLauren Grant attends Vanguard University of Southern California and spent this fall semester studying abroad with Veritas in Sevilla, Spain. For Lauren, everyday is a new adventure with fantastic experiences to be had. “God has created this beautiful world for us to live in and enjoy…and I have thoroughly been bit by wanderlust.”

What crazy adventure awaits you? Take your college experience to the next level of adventure when you study abroad and serve through missions with Veritas Christian Study Abroad. Get the journey started now.

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How One Refugee’s Story Gave Me Purpose

Refugee ministry in Rome More purpose.

This is what I have been asking for.  This is what I have desired during my time in Rome for weeks now.  I just keep thinking, “There has got to be more to my time here than taking classes and traveling the continent.” These things are fun, but they are not ultimately fulfilling.

For me, what is fulfilling is a story—a heart.

Last Thursday, I spent volunteering at a Refugee Center in the city center of Rome.  You’ll appreciate this story because it, of course, features more awkward moments of my life.

The refugee center I work with is for men, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it strives to  provide a safe place for these men. Quite obviously, I am none of these things; I am a white, young, female.  What could I possibly have to offer to comfort these refugees with stories I won’t ever fully understand?

When I arrived—ensue awkward moment—just as I expected, a hush fell over the room of about 30 men, and the stares followed as two young, white girls entered as if they have something to offer.

The men went back to their English lessons, card games, and conversations while we found a seat at an empty table to be briefed on what our time here would look like.  The only other female in the room, an older woman serving as my Mission Mentor for my time here, explained what our time might look like…and promptly told us she would be leaving in ten minutes.

Excuse me, what?

She is the one comfort I knew I could count on there, and she’s leaving.  But of course, this brought me that final step out of my comfort zone and into the essence of unfamiliarity that comes with true service.

So we sat, rather awkwardly, as everyone else in the room seemed to have figured out their roles.

Right before my Mission Mentor left she brought a man named Thomas to the table with my roommate and me. She told us he is working on his English and wanted help reading.  We were thrilled to have been given this responsibility, to be trusted to help this man!

Our task was simple.  Thomas had a book he was reading at a first or second grade level.  We read through the story about a little girl in space as Thomas struggled with words like ‘vanished’ and ‘shining’.  We helped this man in his late twenties sound out these words that my eyes simply have to glance over to know.

We learned a little bit of his story too.

We learned about his passion to work.  And we learned about his passion to learn and know English so he can communicate and do the work he’s so passionate to do.

Christian study abroad in ItalyThomas’ story has given me purpose here.

I am thankful for the time I spent helping him read English.  I am encouraged by his passion for learning and his willingness to share with me.  Thomas’ story is similar to so many of the men in that center.  And it is similar to mine.

My story is simple.  I have a passion to learn and a willingness to share.  I pray that as I see all the ways Thomas’ story and mine relate, I would continue to see the purpose the Lord has for me in my time abroad.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
{1 Peter 5:1-3}


 

Christian study abroad in Europe

 

Jordan Bear is a Business Economics major at Wheaton College in Illinois. This semester, she’s living a different story than the average college student: she’s studying abroad and doing missions in Rome. See more stories from Jordan here.

 

 

 

Searching for purpose in your college routine? Change things up (and change the world). Apply to study abroad and serve with Veritas Christian Study Abroad. See programs available. Get more info.

All photos by Jordan Bear.

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Enjoying the Process and a Change of Plans

I was set on going to Asia, specifically, Japan.

I was set on going to Japan—my lifelong passion—but God in his faithfulness changed those plans. He opened the way to know more of his heart for all peoples from every corner of the earth, whether I was to stay in San Diego or travel.

In this case, the plan was Argentina.

Study abroad and mission trip to Argentina Before my arrival to study abroad and do missions in Buenos Aires, even prior to deciding on Argentina, God began a process of transforming, expanding, and filling my heart with the things of his heart for the nations. That process continues to this day.

Everything is a process in this life. We can learn to enjoy the process by delighting and abiding in his presence, even in the most pressing circumstances or the most intense stretching by the Spirit. Of course that’s easier said than done.

For me, as the Spirit is constantly working and in motion, I’m learning to be spontaneous in the Spirit through ministry work. I’m grateful beyond measure with the community of people here and the opportunity to serve in different ways through homeless ministry and a major project in El Tigre with children and families in a very complicated situation. The restoration of the Spirit is evident and will continue even after I’m gone.

In another sense, I’m also learning to be more sensitive to the still, small voice of the Spirit and allow him to work in my daily life—to out pour the supernatural into the natural.

College mission trip to ArgentinaWhether walking around, sitting quietly somewhere by myself, with friends, shopping, running errands, and the like, all can be ways where God can reveal more of his heart. Even discussions in class and meeting with so many different types of students and professors, as well as with locals, has been an enriching experience in all areas. For someone who studies history, this area is especially enriching and challenges me everyday.

Earlier this year, I entered into the next step in my prayer life of learning what it means to be an intercessor (one whom the Spirit intercedes through). I have to say that it was one of the most painful and heart wrenching processes, but as I’m still learning, it’s also the most wonderful and indescribably beautiful. I’m also able to find (and invited to find) hidden beauty and the potential for beauty wherever I go. Even the harshest thunderstorms (as we had in the last couple days) are magnificently beautiful here in Buenos Aires.

Christian study abroad in ArgentinaHe is faithful and worthy of it all no matter what. The chiseling, pruning, molding, shaping, refining, and transforming are all worth it. It takes the focus off of me and directs it towards God and his people. The God who makes all things new.

There’s one particular phrase I keep in mind and the Holy Spirit reveals new things about everyday, “Where the will of God leads you, the grace of God will keep you.”

For that, I am thankful!


Shelby Tenove, a sophomore history major at Point Loma Nazarene University in California, is living an adventure this fall semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina to study abroad and serve through international missions. To read more student stories, visit our student testimonials page.

Did God change your plans? A semester studying and serving abroad could be the next step. Apply now.

 

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Do Tourists Experience the Real Paris?

Veritas Abroad is pleased to have Parker Windle, Mission Mentor for Veritas in Paris, guest post on the blog today.


Notre Dame. The Louvre. The Eiffel Tower.

Paris.France.2012.View from Below.Kyleigh Rose

What do you think about when you think about Paris?

The beautiful French capital is the number one tourist destination in the world, and those who visit do not leave disappointed. Whether they are promenading through the massive gardens of Versailles or enjoying some jazz music in the Latin Quarter, Paris never fails to leave its mark on those who stop over for a few days.

But do those tourists experience the real Paris?

Mosques. The red-light districts. Sikh temples. What do you find in Paris when you take off the pretty masks?

Christian study abroad in Paris FranceThe city of lights is now home to one of the most diverse populations in the world. Every tribe and tongue has assembled around this relatively small patch of land cut in half by its river Seine. These populations have not all taken to the baguettes and berets we typically attribute to Paris. They bring their cultures, their customs, and their worldviews.

The 93rd department of the greater Paris region is home to people from every country in the world except four (or, at least, so said my then pastor). The building I lived in had one native French family; the rest included families from India, Algeria, Bangladesh, Spain, China, and myself (a proud Alabamian). On any given Sunday, our church could host people from forty different nationalities, and our after-church lunches could include anything from Louisiana jambalaya to Nigerian fried plantains.

There are many elements to the mosaic that is modern Paris. Underneath this kaleidoscope of culture is a profound history of ideas and art that has been moving and shaking this world for a long time. Given the prominence of Paris in this world and the remnants of the nations that have assembled here, Paris is a strategic front for the church in her battle to see the gospel known amongst all peoples and the glory of God shining in the uttermost parts of the earth.

Yet, with a culture so complex, how does missions in Paris work?

How do you contextualize the gospel to a culture that is made up of thousands of cultures? How do you do church when everyone comes from such diverse backgrounds? How do you reach a neighborhood that is constantly changing? Is cross-cultural ministry even possible?

Mission work in Paris

Answers to questions like these do not come easily, and those answers we do get are usually not final. Mission work in Paris and other urban centers like it require constant learning, constant questioning, and constant changing. Urban church work is not for those who like monotony. There are no constants in this ministry.

Well, there is one constant. The power of ministry will always be the same.

The gospel is still the power of God for salvation, and that gospel can reach the citizens of Paris just like anywhere else. The death and resurrection of Christ has life-changing power for fundamentalist Muslims, secular humanists, traditional Sikhs, and the darkest nihilists you can find. Jesus died for them all, and while the application of the medicine may vary, the cure remains the same. As Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

So, let’s size up the situation. We have a Savior who told us the end wouldn’t come until the gospel had been preached to all nations (Matthew 24:14). We have a command from that same Savior to be his ambassadors in taking this good news to the world. We have God, the director of all human events, who is urbanizing the world and bringing the nations to accessible urban centers like Paris.

What does that mean? That means we have an enormous opportunity.

Pyramid_at_Louvre_Museum_Paris_France1Could the famed City of Lights become a city on a hill? If so, it would be a torch the whole world could see—a heart that would pump the glory of God into the uttermost parts of the earth. I have personally seen how light sparked in Paris ignited flames in much more difficult to reach places. God is using the work done in Paris to reach the uttermost parts of the earth, and this is an exciting thing to be part of. Something you can be a part of too.

Hemingway once called Paris “a moveable feast” because of the way it stays with you for the rest of your life. Perhaps God is calling you to come and be a part of this banquet and see the glory of God advance in the City of Lights for yourself. A city on a hill can not be hidden, and neither can the light of the gospel.


Parker Windle is the Youth & Young Adults Pastor at Emmanuel International Church in Paris, France and also serves as the Mission Mentor for Veritas in Paris. He graduated from the University of Mobile with a degree in Religion, followed by a Masters of Divinity degree from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. Upon graduating in 2008, he served as a Journeyman missionary in Paris for three years working with immigrant groups. Parker has a heart to see youth mature in their faith and a passion to see Paris know Jesus.

Do you share a heart to see Paris know Jesus? Engage in a culture with the support of Parker and other believers in France while you earn credit toward your degree. Find out how.

images via ISA

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What Celebration Looks Like in Chile

During her semester studying abroad and doing missions in Chile, Veritas student Olivia Neveu has seen a lot of celebration. From Las Fiestas Patrias, to her 22nd birthday, to the warm hospitality of the local church, Olivia and her fellow Veritas students have discovered what celebration looks like in Chile. Keep reading to find out.


 

Veritas christian study abroad in ChileAfter a full week of attending asados and dancing Cueca to celebrate Las Fiestas Patrias,  a group of ten of us—five gringas and five Chileans—from the church I attend here in Chile hopped on a bus and drove 14 hours down to the southern part of Chile to a city called Puerto Montt. This particular part of Chile is not only known for its fantastic mountains and gorgeous landscapes, but also notorious for rain. Months and months of rain.

college mission work in ChileWhen we showed up it was, you guessed it, raining. Some people from the little church in Puerto Montt met us at the bus station and brought us to the church. The town as a whole seemed so dreary and dark with rain and thick, black clouds, but as soon as we stepped foot in the church the people’s joy became obvious. They did not allow the joy they have in the Lord and the love they have for one another to at all be deterred by the disagreeable precipitation.

From the moment we arrived we were treated like family.  Not just welcomed or accepted, but celebrated.

It seemed the whole trip they did nothing but feed us and we did nothing but eat. They were beyond generous and jut plain wonderful. I have learned much from them about what it means to love.

College worship on Chile mission tripDuring our first couple days there, the church had a prayer campaign.  We went from house to house asking people if they had any prayer needs, and whatever thing they told us we would write down on a slip of paper.

While this was going on they also had a 24-hour prayer vigil at the church. There, we went through and prayed for all of the prayer requests we had recorded from the house visits. It was a really incredible experience getting to meet so many people, yet overwhelming to think we heard these little snippets of what was going on in all these peoples’ lives and what was on their hearts. And just think—the Lord knew about all those things long before we ever did. Even still, he knows and sees so much more than that! Overwhelming!

The blessings continued with an opportunity to spend some time visiting and praying with some local pastors and other Christians in Chile.

​In Puerto Montt, we celebrated my birthday to the fullest.  One of the guys from the church took us out for a day of adventuring, and it was absolutely indescribable! For the first time in almost two months the day boasted pure sunshine and a warm temp.

First, we went to a national park and saw the stunning rapids there,  then we went to the top of a volcano called Osorno where we took in a view of the valley below and the foothills of the Patagonia Mountains.  Naturally, a fantastic snowball fight followed.

Students on volcano in Chile

In the same day we went to the beach of a gigantic fresh water lake with black sand and enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch.  Then we walked through what felt like a jungle to find a huge thundering waterfall enveloped in luscious greenery and looming canopies—simply marvelous! I was speechless the whole day.

student picnic on the beach in Chile Last week, a group of missionaries from Texas came down here to work with a local church. A few of the girls in my group and I spent a lot of time with them to help translate. We all had a great time, and I think everyone walked away mutually blessed.

mission trip to ChileWe celebrated as we recognized how much our language skills and cultural literacy had improved over the course of the semester. At times it can feel as if you don’t know anything at all and that can be discouraging, but this ended up being a rewarding experience for us and another great chance to combine our academic efforts with our spiritual ones. Learning a language and living in a new place is extraordinarily humbling!

Classes have been well, the weather has been getting warmer and warmer, and I continue to be blessed by many incredible people. The Lord has been teaching me much and blessing me to the maximum! My cup overflows!

study abroad and mission trip to chilePhotos by Izzy Suazo


Olivia Neveu attends Houghton College in Houghton, NY. Celebrate with Olivia and the many Veritas students who have chosen to take a bold step: engage in cross-cultural ministry through combining study abroad and mission work. There’s still time to apply for a spring semester in Chile—the deadline is November 10. To see what other programs Veritas offers, check out our website or contact us for more info. We’ll see you out there.

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Intensive Language Programs Bring Missions to a New Level

intensive language study abroad programReady to go to the ends of the earth? Veritas Christian Study Abroad helps you get there.

Spend a couple weeks to a month developing your language skills while immersing yourself into a new culture. With the support of your Veritas family and Mission Mentor, you will not only learn a language, but also engage in a community of people in need of God’s transforming power and love (and we bet you’ll be transformed too).

Veritas now offers Intensive Language Programs in the following locations:

Add an Intensive Language Program to a semester or summer program or combine it with another Intensive Language Program and receive $200 off! For more info about these opportunities, visit the Language Intensive Programs Page or email us at info@veritasabroad.com.

Want to develop your language skills, earn college credit, and spread God’s love to the nations? Get going.

See what other Veritas students are saying about their experiences.

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