Help! I’m Melting…

Summer is officially here and I want to talk about a few things concerning the heat and our beautiful faces! First off, who here is a major sweater during the summer months? (insert hand raised high) Le sigh!

Yes, yes, I know, some of us don’t sweat. As I was told by someone a few years younger than myself, “I don’t sweat, I glisten.” Well, well, young child when you mature, you just may sweat. I am a SWEATER! So, I’ve decided to do my first product review on MAC Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation with MAC prep + prime and MAC Fix plus along with NYX Proof It Eyebrow Primer for my eyebrows and so I put it to the test. I must say that I am not a fan of all things MAC, but I thought I would give their waterproof foundation a try.

I ordered the deepest shade NW50 at the MAC store online. Upon arrival, I was a little concerned that that the deepest shade was not going to be dark enough for the rich deeply baked shade that I’d become during the time between when I placed my order and the arrival of the product.

I put my products to the test in the hot South Carolina humidity and heat. On the first day, I applied MAC prep + prime to the high points of my cheeks with some Anastasia Beverly Hills Illuminator to see how it would work. I did not apply any foundation, I was going for a gentle glow. By the end of the night, I had sweat and oil in the t-zone area of my face where I did not apply any product, but my high points continued to slightly glisten with no sweat beading and my illuminator stayed intact.

I decided to give my products a full test run the second time around. This time, I applied a full face of makeup, utilizing all of my MAC products in addition to my Tarte concealer and Ben Nye Setting Powder. I wore these products for a period of about 8 hours. On this particular day, I also went to the beach as well and was even splashed by ocean water. I was feeling pretty confident with my makeup despite having to utilize the beauty blender on at least one occasion to my t-zone area. I would consider that day a success! My face stayed intact and I glistened.

We all know that the third time is supposed to be a charm. Welp, the third time was no winner, winner chicken dinner. The temperature was moderate, but the humidity was high. In a matter of roughly 15 minutes, my face began to melt in the t-zone area. Even with vigorous blotting with a beauty blender, the humidity and my sweat were no match for the MAC waterproof products. I had blot so much, I blotted away all of the makeup in my t-zone area. Shame!

If I had to rate this product on a scale of 1-5, I would rate it a 3. Why? My face never actually dripped in perspiration, I looked more like a melting, glistening piece of warm dark chocolate candy. The coverage of this product is medium with a matte finish which works well in the summer months. This particular foundation does not feel cakey or drying and is very blendable. It is mid-range in price ranging from $30-$35 depending on where it is purchased. If the humidity is not too high, the product works fairly well, even with temperatures in the mid 70’s up to low 80’s. The reliability of the product should increase with the use of MAC Pro waterproof concealer. Please take into consideration that Tarte concealer was what I used in my t-zone area (it was what I had at the time). I can almost guarantee that the mixture of those two formulas were not compatible resulting in the “melted” look. If you’re interested in water proof foundation, the shade range is what I would consider to be limited. In my opinion, there is a need for deeper hued choice options. Would I purchase this product again? I’m still torn. There are many qualities about the product I like and the others are what I would consider, “workable.” I am also going to test the success of the product with the MAC Pro Longwear Concealer to see if the success rate of the product increases. I will include my findings in a side note in the upcoming issue.

On to the NYX Proof It! I absolutely love it! My eyebrows stayed intact, even after I rubbed across them. I utilized the NYX Proof It Eyebrow Primer with both an Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Definer and Colour Pop Brow Colour. While my face was a struggle, my brows were all together. I was excited about that! Being a sweater, I blot and wipe quite frequently. If I had to rate this product on a scale of 1-5, I would give it a 5. The consistency of both brow products stayed intact while using the primer. The price is very affordable ranging from $5-$7. This is a must have if you need to keep your brows in place at a very cost-efficient price. The product is a gel consistency, it’s easy to apply and dries matte. I would consider this product very reliable and would recommend it to anyone trying to keep their brows on their face during the summer months.

While I’ve only mentioned a couple of waterproof products, I am going to continue on my search to find what I feel is a more reliable waterproof foundation and concealer and I will keep you all informed. I’m really anxious to find something that works well for me and hopefully for you too. I typically do not wear makeup during the summer months.

As always, stay bold and beautiful! Most importantly, keep on believing!

Lights, Camera, Action

The entertainment industry can bring out the best and worst of the people involved from singers and dancers to actors and athletes and everyone in between. The “church” has a way of demonizing anyone who isn’t specifically working for a Christian organization, but let’s face the reality of it all. We are not of this world, but we do live in it. While we are being realistic, let’s keep it 100 and admit that our televisions and stereos tune in to plenty of sitcoms, movies, reality shows, and musical recordings that aren’t produced by a Christian company for a Christian audience. Whether you’re a fan or not, by now you have at least heard of the hit show on FOX network, Empire. The show has casted a catalog of actors, from Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson to Nia Long and Phylicia Rashad. Antoine McKay was blessed with the opportunity to play the role of Bunkie Williams on Empire and yes, he is a Christian.

Mr. McKay is a native from the Detroit, Michigan area. Did he always want to be an actor from childhood? No. Mr. McKay attened Eastern Michigan University and started out studying Forensic Science. For a moment, he considered studying Political Science to become a politician but, with humor, stated he didn’t want to be assassinated. He was bitten by the acting bug when he witnessed his brother perform in New York for the musical Oklahoma and the audience gave a standing ovation. Mr. McKay jokingly admitted he wanted to act to get the same reaction. He joined the Theatre program and studied under Uta Hagen. Uta Hagen had an intense program that Mr. McKay called “crazy hard,” but he appreciated the training that helped him prepare for his now 27 year acting career. That’s right, 27 years.

Mr. McKay has lived the typical life of an actor working several jobs at a time including waiting tables as he auditioned for opportunities to share his craft. He was eventually accepted as a part of Second City, a satellite theatre, in Detroit. He was invited to Chicago for their shows as well. He accepted the offer thinking he would become a famous actor in Chicago and eventually earn an Oscar. That’s the dream…right?

– Rising Action –
His acting career began to take off the way he hoped. He landed a role on Prison Break, but while his professional career was approaching the runway for takeoff his personal life was experiencing turbulence. You see, Mr. McKay wasn’t saved at the time. It wasn’t that he was ignorant of God or even “un-churched.” He attended church for 17 years during his youth but he didn’t know that Jesus was God.

He recalls getting drunk all the time. It was at this point in his life when his wife, Rebecca, gave him an ultimatum. She and the children were attending church on a regular basis and she was becoming strong in her faith walk. He had to choose the life he was living without her or get his life together, stop the drinking, attend church as a complete family and be present for the children. It was then that he promised God, “If you get me out of this I will serve you.” How many of us have prayed that prayer?

It was shortly after that that he made the decision to turn his life over to God and change his habits and actions and he became the youth pastor at his church. He served for 5 years with his church in this role of leadership and he considers that time one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. Talk about restoration!

– The Climax –
10 years ago, when Mr. McKay and his family moved to Chicago he hoped that his career would fly off like a rocket and he would be up for Oscar nominations. While he has had some diversions to his dream his film career is really taking off. Many may recognize him as Bunkie on Empire, but since that time he landed a role on the Amazon series, Patriot, as Gregory Gordon. He has also acted on the movie He Sends Rain as Arthur Sims, which can be viewed on Pure Flix or Amazon.

Mr. McKay has taken in as much as he can from all the experiences he has had while working with different actors. He mentioned, “People can get star struck and fold and mess up but you realize when you’re working with them that they are human.” He makes it a practice to remind himself of the saying in the bible to fear no man but to fear God.

When he does this, he can shake off the nerves to focus on working. He recalls an instance when he was doing lines for Empire and was standing in a circle with Taraji, Terrence, Lee and Gabby and while he was struck knowing that everyone in the circle but himself had Oscar nominations he still spoke up and gave his opinion on things that were being discussed to make the scene performance as amazing as possible. Mr. McKay stated, “You have to be focused, they are great. They can carry a whole show.”

Mr. McKay credits every opportunity he has had to God. He exclaimed, “Jesus is real man!” He feels that there isn’t a reason in the world why he, a person from Michigan should be presented with the opportunities he has been aside from anyone else. He believes that God put an individual in places and they can grow.

– What’s Next? –
“Theatre is my first love, obviously, but T.V. pays more,” said Mr. McKay. He and his wife, also an actor, began teaching an acting group, McKay Art, in their home six years ago. They simply chose a room in their home, painted all the walls black and went for it. He finds it to be an amazing form of ministry. Mr. McKay believes that acting can teach an individual a lot about their likes, dislikes, areas they are willing to compromise on or not and more. They offer classes for children up to adults.

Through McKay are they put on sketch comedy and plays. Currently they are working on an original play titled The Unspeakable Gift and written by Veronica Stoffa. Mr. McKay shared that the play shows the characters experiencing real and transparent struggles on their faith walk. It will be opening in October 2017. They will also have a comedy sketch, Hot Lava, coming in October 2017. Be sure to mark your calendars and catch a show if you are in the Chicago area.

– The Dilemma –
When an actor lands a role, they are hoping that the ratings do well for the project and that their performance is so great that it will help them land the next job. But wait, if it’s a Christian actor they are thinking about how this role may affect their family and their witness as a believer. Mr. McKay has been presented with decisions like this time after time.

During his acting career, he has developed a couple of rules that he will not bend for the sake of having an income. He and his wife, of 12 years, agreed years ago that there would not be any roles where he would do kissing or intimate scenes. He also takes into consideration what performances his six children can observe him doing. While Empire has been a bit racy, he has recorded the show and they watch his scenes and then turn the show off. There have also been times where he has had to simply turn a job down. An example is the sequel to the Harold and Kumar movie. While the opportunity could have proven to have a huge impact on his acting resume, the film was a bit egregious and he did not want to be a part of the cast. There has even been an instance where the script had a last minute proposed change that Mr. McKay wasn’t comfortable with doing. Thankfully, he was asked about his comfort level with the changes and when he spoke up that he was uncomfortable, the changes were not made to the script. Whew! God is faithful. Mr. McKay admitted that he “understands that the time will come where I will toe the line one of these days,” as his screen acting career progresses. But never the less he will continue to remain true to his ethics and choices for his craft.

Pastor LeAundre Hill: Disciplined Servant of God’s Servant

God calls those who have character and will not call us to where our character cannot keep us. Every chosen servant of God possesses certain types of characteristics that God uses for His Glory. Moses, who was one of the first biblical examples of a chosen servant has been noted as being a man of great character. He was an obedient, visionary with integrity and had compassion for God’s people as a leader. Moses character allowed him to faithfully and successful serve God as he led the children of Israel out of bondage. To serve God, servants must have integrity so that they are trusted and followed by those whom they are called to serve. “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments:” 1 Kings 9:4

Those whom God calls as His chosen servants are also disciplined. Discipline is essential in the lives of believers and credible leaders because often there are very few people who are around to watch over their shoulders to make sure that they are privately living a disciplined life as they should. Leaders who lack discipline in their private life has been an issue that the church has struggle with for many years. No one likes to be disciplined but no one can deny that the results of having been disciplined leads to better living.

The Apostle Paul writes in Hebrews 12:7-11 “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening, it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way”. Having discipline helps prevent these types of issues and struggles to surface in the life of those who are called to serve God. A good leader will make every effort to gain as much knowledge and wisdom as possible in the areas that he or she struggles with in life.

Our character matters when it comings to serving God and fulfilling his purpose for our life. Someone said, “Don’t let your gift take you where your character cannot keep you.” This is a true statement because no matter how gifted someone might be if they are lacking good character traits as a servant they might do or say something which could cause them to lose the position or place of influence where they are. I would add to that statement by saying, make sure that your character has been can keep you in the place that God has called you.

Faith Fueled

DeAndre (Relentless) Holmes and Richaun Holmes are two of the four sons born to Richard and Lydecia Holmes. They were raised in a Christian home, both parents are pastors of Morning View Word Church on the south side of Chicago. They are a true testament of what can happen when your faith and work ethics drive you to pursue your dream.

Today DeAndre is a rapper on the rise, recently releasing his latest single “Rise Above It,” and Richaun is an up and coming NBA player from the Philadelphia 76ers roster. Both share so many similarities when it comes to their outlook on applying faith to works, because faith without works is dead.

DeAndre was first inspired to become a rapper during his teen years. He would battle rap all the time and was so talented that he received offers to sign. While considering taking a deal he went on a trip to Houston, TX where he witnessed some pioneers in the Christian Rap community take the stage and own it, Canton Jones and Pettidee. While at that concert God began to speak to him and tell him that this is how he wanted him to use his talent. DeAndre says he responded, “God, if this is what you want me to do for you, I don’t want my lyrics to be wack.” His parents were a little concerned. Christian rap wasn’t as widely accepted then as it is today and what they knew about rappers and rap music did was not a testament of the gospel. Over time his parents began to see the ministry in it and that it was more of what the lyrics were about and the message of the songs he created.

DeAndre didn’t accept the offers he received. He went on to attend college and study his word. He hadn’t developed a good flow, he was used to doing battle rap but not ministry or testimony through rap. The more he began to read the bible and pray God began to open his thoughts to write. By 2013 he released his first album, “The Alarm Clock.” He has been blessed with the opportunity to work with Delmar Lawrence III, known in the music community as Mr. Dell, and minister through rap and the word as God opens the doors.

As he grows in Christ and has more life experiences his gift develops even more. DeAndre and his wife experienced a faith growing challenge a couple of years ago when she, Kassy, went to the doctor for a normal pre-natal visit only for them to learn from the doctors that something was wrong with the baby and the baby was not expected to live. While the initial shock was there, DeAndre remembers putting everyone out of the room and telling his wife “the weapon is formed, but it’s not going to prosper.” They stood on the promises of God and kept the faith and today they have a healthy and active toddler who is nicknamed Mr. Unstoppable, which inspired one of DeAndre’s songs “Unstoppable.”

DeAndre isn’t the only one reaping a harvest on his faith and works in the Holmes family. His brother, Richaun, is as well. Richaun is the youngest of his four brothers. He is also married, to Allexis, and they have a toddler as well. The Holmes family is growing and growing.

Richaun had the dream of playing professional basketball since the age of five. He said, “I never saw myself doing anything else.” Richaun, like his brother, developed a talent but his more on athletic side. Because of his love for the game of basketball he participated in the sport as soon as possible and never stopped. He attended basketball camp every year until he aged out. Because of his hard work and practice, he was chosen and added to the 76ers roster. He has been a part of that organization for a couple of years now. It’s a surreal feeling for him. He remembers being a bit star struck the first year from the excitement of being able to meet athletes that he grew up watching.

Richaun recently just experienced hosting his first basketball camp focusing on teaching fundamentals of the sport. He hosted in his home town in Lockport, Illinois and his fan base home in Philadelphia, PA.
His biggest influence is his faith in God. His faith is what drives him to put in as much work as possible and he credits the rest to God. He makes it a point to read his bible and pray every day because he was taught to put God first. His dreams are not capped, he desires to achieve all that he can.

DeAndre and Richaun have an amazing support system from their wives, brothers and especially their parents. When asked how she felt about witnessing everything they have accomplished so far their mother Lydecia responded “It’s really fun to watch because I know the struggle that came with it. Now to see where they are, I am very proud of them.” She credits them for never stopping and continuing to pursue their dreams.

When Better Gets Worse: Hear No Evil, See No Evil…

Nita, a vibrant, beautiful young woman loves her church and she loves serving. She’s been in church all her life. She was born and raised in the Christian faith and considers her relationship with God the strongest one she has. Second on that list is her charismatic and friendly husband, Shawn. Nita and Shawn have been married for eight years. They were high school sweethearts and went off to college together. They enjoy serving in the Young Adult Ministry and Worship Team at their Church. Their pastors often ask them to host guests that come into town.

Today is a wonderful day for Nita and Shawn because they will find out the sex of the baby that Nita is pregnant with. The couple is so excited to be adding to their family and both sets of parents are elated as well because they will be grandparents for the first time. As Nita sat in the office, the doctor proudly shared that they would be having a baby girl, her heart sank. Though the expression on her face was one of happiness and excitement, behind her bright eyes were tears fighting to burst through her eyelids. The whole way home Shawn talked non-stop about how he couldn’t wait to be a dad and have a daughter that he knew would love basketball as much as he did, how he already knew what colors they would wear to their first Father/Daughter dance. All the while, Nita is lost in her own cyclone of thoughts as she emotionally ingested the reality that she would have a baby girl soon. Nita’s main concern: “how do I keep her from knowing how her dad is when he is angry.” It hadn’t been an issue since they found out she was pregnant, but before then Shawn would become abusive when he was angry. Nita believed that he loved her, but she wished he had a better handle on his anger. When they arrived home, Nita told Shawn she was tired and was going to lay down, he was okay with that because he wanted to call his family and tell them the good news. Before she could get the room, she closed the door and tears exploded from her eyes as she thought “I don’t want my daughter to grow up like me…”

Now there are a number of subjects that are tip toed around in the church: money, sex, and domestic violence (or relationship violence) are some examples. Like Nita and Shawn, there are many families in the church that appear to be doing well, but behind closed doors, their lives are distinctly different. In 2013 Christianity Today cited a survey which reports that of all the discussions not taking place in the church, domestic violence is one of them. The report validated the argument that the church and church leaders are often silent when it comes to addressing this issue that can cross generations as in Nita’s case.

In other research, it is found that when church leaders do join the conversation and “help” survivors of abuse they often instruct women to be more submissive, forgive, change their behaviors, and pray more. There is still an expectation to stay in abusive relationships despite the documented effects that the abuse has on members of the family. Unfortunately, studies show that relationship violence is just as common in the Christian home as it is anywhere else. Some research cites that about 25% of Christian homes have reflected abuse of some form. Some of the reasons for this lack of attention to the matter is often because leaders feel untrained and incompetent to help, while others are naive to how important the matter may be in their congregations.

So what do we do Maggie? Are you saying that survivors of abuse should up and leave their partners? Here’s what I propose:

• While statistics show that attempts to leave a violent relationship can be fatal, one thing we can do is stop pretending and masking the realities that are facing families today.
• Stop having hushed conversations and start equipping one another with the resources, empowerment, and agency needed to obtain help. While God hates divorce, he loves his sons and daughters and would not want any of them abused in any way.
• Stop minimizing abusive behavior and seek help for anger management issues, and other emotional issues that result in abusive behaviors.
• Stop being permissive of those that exemplify behavior in abusive ways and hold them accountable to get help.
• If you know of persons that are experiencing and surviving abuse, support them and seek out information that will be helpful to them, as well as cover them in prayer and seek God’s wisdom as to how you can support them.

 

 

Even the Score for Financial Freedom

Proverbs 13:11 reads “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow (NLT).”

Dishonest money dwindles…let that resonate for a little bit. Really think of the words and picture the dollar bills shrinking in size to nothingness. Can you see it? Can you feel the panic at the thought of losing money? Now couple that feeling with the guilt of doing something wrong and you get a good lesson on ethics. It is imperative that finance professionals follow strict ethical rules because money or lack thereof can cloud a lot of decisions. This article will discuss some major cases that have fallen into troubles because of personnel or leadership failing to administer funds properly. There are many excuses for an ethical breakdown but being oblivious to the problem, intentionally ignoring the issue and greed are amongst the most popular explanations to describe unethical individuals.

A popular case in ethics occurred a while ago with Ford Motor Company. In the 70’s, Ford produced its compact car, the pinto. The Pintos were produced with faulty fuel tanks and the problem was actually noticed during pre-production crash tests. According to Harvard Business Review, “…Ford had rushed the Pinto into production. Engineers had discovered the potential danger of ruptured fuel tanks in pre-production crash tests, but the assembly line was ready to go, and the company’s leaders decided to proceed (1).” At first glance, it seems that the leaders were being malicious and scandalous in their approach but maybe their business plan and goals clouded their better judgment. Their poor judgment was the cause of many injuries and deaths before they put out a recall on the product but some argue that it was ignorance more than malice in their decision. The employees stated that when any questions arose the leaders would often tell them to review the business objectives and follow them accordingly. There was no active lobbying against the production with the faulty tanks people just followed the rules and did their jobs. In this case, if ethics were a bigger responsibility within companies instead of an afterthought; lives could have been saved.

There is an uncommon term called “willful blindness” that may be used by an organizational leader. This term refers to the leader knowing about information but “intentionally ignoring” said information. This strategy is often used by leaders in an attempt to gain the greatest profit from something that may be risky business but will keep their intentions pure. For example, Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers perfected his commute to and from the office to avoid employees.

Lehman was the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States that filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. So it’s easy to see why the CEO would want to hide; the company is accused of being involved in excessive risk taking along with allegations of negligence and malfeasance. Leaders of the 150 year old company not only ignored signs that affected the company but some think it help to spark the global financial crisis that happened in the later 2000s. This way of thinking has been deterred because legally an executive of a company can be held accountable for things not known but should have been known to him or her.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” This passage found in I Timothy 6:10 (NIV) is quoted often but is shortened to “Money is the root of all evil.” That phrase is often thrown around in the wrong context but it’s definitely relevant when talking about greed. It’s simple that leaders of companies often lose sight of ethics in hopes of obtaining more money. One of the biggest corporate scandals was that of Enron. CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, had a way of hiding financial losses and other operations of the company and CFO, Andrew Fastow came up with a plan to show that the company was in great shape. These leaders knew what they were doing and no other explanation is needed other than their greed influenced their decisions. Not only did they hurt the company but their greed affected other investors and employees connected to the Enron empire. The stock began to decrease and the truth of the opening statement happened to them. Their dishonesty caused their monies to dwindle in the blink of an eye.

Financial freedoms and wealth are priority to many and can absolutely become a way of life but we must remember that anything good is worth working for. Use your knowledge and skills to gain the prosperity you deserve but make sure to include ethics in your accounting practices.

Human Trafficking: Where is the Church?

You may think you know what human trafficking is, but do you know what you can do about it? I surely didn’t, until I began doing research for this article. A misconception about human trafficking is that the victims are girls who are runaways or tourists in a foreign country that are lured away by a stranger and taken captive. Do these situations happen? Yes, they do happen. But, this is not the only way human trafficking occurs. Just recently there was an incident that made nation-wide news in the United States about a deadly human trafficking issue in San Antonio, TX. A truck was found with over two dozen people (adults and children) and several of those individuals were deceased. Did you see this story? Did you think to yourself, well that’s only in urban areas or that only happens near the border and that’s why we need President Trump to build the wall?

Well, I recently had the opportunity to speak with a couple of individuals who have found themselves on the end of doing their part to help those in need and assist to gain survivors of human trafficking. Benjamin Grasmeyer of A21 is the Global A-Teams Mobilizations Coordinator stationed at their California office. A21 is a 9-year-old organization that was founded by Christine Cain and her husband. They began the organization to aid in the rescue of victims of slavery, yes…slavery. Benjamin became involved with the organization through volunteering while residing in Sydney, Australia. He and his wife learned about the organization. His wife would volunteer several days a week and he would volunteer to assist with events. They moved to California to be a part of their church ministry there and through connections from A21 Benjamin was offered a position at the California office.

One of the things he is focused on now, just as others from A21, is the Walk for Freedom that will take place on October 14, 2017. The purpose of the walk is to draw awareness to human trafficking by individuals gathering together in their city to walk in a single file line while being silent. They have been doing this walk for a couple of years now. Through the attention from the walks and social media they can bring focus to a horrible act. To find out if there is a walk registered in your local area you can visit their website at www.A21.org/walk and enter your zip code. If there isn’t a walk in your area you can register to host.

Benjamin was kind enough to educate me on human trafficking and the areas that A21 participates in such as reporting, rescuing and training. There are five types of trafficking acknowledged by the government. Those are child labor, bonded labor (a worker is in debt to the trafficker and must work until their debt is paid), forced labor (forcing someone to work for little or no pay while held in captivity), involuntary domestic servitude (forcing someone to live and work in the same place non-stop) and sex (forced or coerced commercial sex acts).

According to A21, “Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year.” It has been found that most victims are from sex trafficking, but it is believed that labor trafficking is one of the top in the United States. The isolated incident from San Antonio involving the truck driver was related to labor trafficking. According to www.humantraffickinghotline.org the top industries in the United States to have workers through labor trafficking are domestic and agriculture services. There are times when individuals may believe they are answering a job post for a position in another country and when they arrive they learn that it wasn’t what it appeared and they are caught up in a trafficking scam.

Sex trafficking is what most people are familiar with from media and depictions through entertainment sources such as television and movies. It seems dangerous and horrible and we see the character who comes in like a secret spy and rescue the girl. But, on the realistic end of things there are teams of people and organizations along with law enforcement. This is something that Kara Doan learned as she began to feel a tug at her heart from God to become involved. Her story is a little different from Benjamin’s.

Kara was volunteering in a soup kitchen a few years ago in her local area after a tornado hit a nearby town. Someone walked in while she was serving and boisterously asked how they could become involved with helping victims of human trafficking. Kara confessed that she thought to herself she wants nothing to do with it, but when the words crossed her mind she felt a pinch at her heart. A little over a year later God had turned her world around. She and her husband left their local area and moved to the city of Chicago based on the leading of God, not knowing why he was moving them but understanding there was a ministry assignment there for them. A year passed and God didn’t have them doing anything different from what they were doing in their old city of residence. She began to ask God why he had them move. Shortly after she began receiving emails from her church and noticed an announcement attached about attending an abolition summit. While she tried to ignore it, God kept tugging. Eventually she, her husband and the small group they were leading from church went to visit the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, MO. While there, they visited the organization hosting the summit and decided to attend the summit after all. A scripture that has been with she and her husband since that time has been Isaiah 61. From then, they left saying “How can we know and do nothing.” You see, Kara has a testimony of “knowing what it means to be helpless, and what it is to be shameful.” She also knows what it means to be redeemed and delivered. Because of that, she knew she had to do something.

They began a non-profit organization, Restoration61. They are currently in their second year of outreach. They receive resources and work with several other organizations such as Exodus Cry, Agape international and Elijah Rising. As a matter of fact, they did outreach at the super bowl this year with Elijah Rising to bring awareness to commercialized sex trafficking and help rescue those who were being used for consumers interested in their sexual services. Kara states, “The things that we are initiating are things that we have seen other people doing well and we are tweaking to work in the Chicagoland area.”

The outreach that they do through Restoration61 varies. They do outreach via phone calls, text and E-outreach by responding to advertisements for sexual services and then turning the conversation around to offer help and a way out. They have not done street outreach yet, they are preparing to do so and want to ensure that they are covering an area that is not already being covered so it doesn’t appear that organizations are being territorial. They also do hotel awareness by providing training to staff when requested.

Both A21 and Restoration61 do trainings. They discuss anything from internet safety to trafficking. Benjamin shared a successful story of a young woman who had attended a training. She believed she had encountered someone through the internet who was not a legitimate employer. She reported it to her local authorities. They kept the communication going to see if the lead would show that the person was involved in human trafficking. It turns out that they were involved and law enforcement was there to arrest the individual.

It is not a common practice for organizations to allow volunteers to assist in the hands-on process of rescuing a victim from where they are being held. The organizations work with the law enforcement in the area because they are more equipped to handle the situation should danger arise. They ensure that law enforcement understands while the people may be doing something illegal they are being forced through human trafficking and the victims can be taken to a shelter that they have and provide different resources from social workers and counselors to job placement.

There are reporting hotlines available all over the world for people to call at any time of day and day of the week. Those tips are turned in to law enforcement departments. If someone who is a victim of trafficking calls they respond as quickly as possible with law enforcement to complete the rescue. Now that you know more about human trafficking my prayer is that you will find a way for you and your church to be active in helping to end it and rescue victims.

 

 

My Body, His Creation: Altered By Surgery

Have you considered having surgery to improve your appearance, but refrained or are on the fence because of your religious beliefs or others’ opinions? Are you a person feels that others should not undergo surgical procedures to enhance their appearances? Well, I had the opportunity to interview two women who graciously shared their stories. As you read these narratives, I implore you to have an open mind to receive the stories in their entirety.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of most preventable medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers, sleep apnea and more. Individuals living with obesity also suffer from eating disorders, malnutrition, depression, anxiety and feelings of shame and low self-worth. Allow me to narrate the events surrounding Mrs. Aviance Lee’s weight loss surgery.

Life Before Surgery
Aviance was a normal sized child and teenager. She first started gaining weight after delivering her first child and developing her first blood clot. She suffers from a genetic blood clotting disorder, Factor Five (V) Leiden, a disorder that makes you more likely to have blood clots in the legs, lungs, heart (heart attack), brain (stroke) and more. After Aviance recovered from her pregnancy and blood clot she reflects, “I never took the initiative to get the weight off”. Her weight increased with her second child. Over the years she tried “lose weight quick schemes” for which she was briefly successful. She lost 25lbs with Weight Watchers and 45lbs with carbohydrate counting and exercise. She reflects, “It’s all a mind set so if you don’t have the mind to do it, you’ll easily revert” as she did when she stopped the diets and exercise and gained all of her weight back.

I wish I could…

Aviance never had issues with depression/anxiety related to her weight; however, she was limited on certain activities she desired to participate in. She loves amusement parks, but could not ride most of the rides due to her weight. Related to her physical appearance, she did not like the way her legs looked because they were always so swollen. As a result, she never wore capris or short skirts. She remembers trips to the gym as embarrassing moments.

The Turning Point
By the Age of 40 Aviance had already suffered 3 blood clots in both lungs, 2 in her deep leg veins and 2 in her superficial veins, with the last blood clot stretching from the calf to the hip, which is massive. When she was discharged from the hospital she saw a new Hematologist who was “real” with her. He was the first physician to outright tell her, “You are severely obese” and that she would need to lose weight or “it was a death sentence”. He then suggested weight loss surgery. As you can imagine, this was eye opening. She became serious about her weight loss, started researching weight loss surgery and underwent gastric sleeve surgery on February 13, 2017, without complications.

The Haters
It’s disappointing when a person strives to enhance his/her life while family/friends disclose their doubt. Sad to say, Aviance had discouraging interactions before and after surgery. One person told her that she was “taking the easy way out” and to “stay away from the chicken”, which was really hurtful. Of course, she did not allow that to stop her. After having the surgery she quickly learned her rebuttal, “This is not an easy way out and is not for the weak minded” because discipline is key in being successful after weight loss surgery. She states, “This is a new way of life” as she has to be conscious of the foods/drinks she takes in because her stomach does not have the digestive mechanisms it once had. After surgery she overheard individuals saying, “I was going to see if she would lose a whole bunch of weight, but she still looks the same”. People approach her all the time asking, “How much weight have you lost?” or “You’re looking smaller”. She always appreciates the compliments, but says “You can tell when people are sincere…I know that people are watching to see if I mess up.”

Life After Surgery

Now that she has had approx. 85% of her stomach removed, she eats small meals. She has to avoid sodas and carbonated beverages, pure sugar, beef/pork (for a short while) and acidic foods. Her daily goals are to drink 64 oz. of water and take in 75 grams of protein for a total of 800-1000 calories per day. Along with this she exercises often. As of June 4th, Aviance has successfully lost 70lbs and she is ecstatic about it. She says, “I didn’t have a self-esteem issue, but now I’m starting to see my curves!” She says that her legs are smaller than ever and she is able to wear dresses that show her legs. She laughs as she discloses a nickname her close friends call her, “slim-thick”. She awaits the moment when she can begin checking items off her bucket list, including getting on amusement park rides and wearing a two-piece swimsuit at the beach.

 

Breast hypertrophy or large breasts is a medical condition that isn’t always recognized as such. Those with breast hypertrophy deal with shoulder and back pain on a daily basis, which can make exercise and normal daily activities a challenge. It can also lead to depression and anxiety. Let’s explore the events surrounding Mrs. Phillippa McCutchen’s breast reduction surgery.

Life Before Surgery

Phillippa first noticed her breasts were larger than her peers in the 5th grade. As you can imagine, the boys in her class teased her regularly. Luckily she never had a sense of insecurity, likely because she had a great support system around her. Later in life she began to have children and while her body size was consistent, her breasts continued to enlarge. Before she knew it, she was a size 40H. Finding clothing was a task. “I had to increase my shirt sizes to accommodate my breasts and purchasing things like panty and bra sets or lingerie was very challenging”.

 

The Curse
As Phillippa’s breasts grew larger she acquired shoulder and back pain, shoulder indents and the pain made it difficult to exercise. She tried to exercise through the pain to lose weight with hopes to decrease her breast size, but was unsuccessful. As she reflects, she disclosed an anger trigger:
Overhearing other women talking about their own breast sizes. People focus on things they don’t have. Women with smaller breast wanted bigger breasts. I struggled with the thought of women having breast implants and couldn’t understand why they would want to have that surgery. I would become enraged. I felt that if they could walk a mile in my shoes, that they would change their minds.

She remembers becoming angry with God and questioning, “God, why did you make me this way?” “Out of all my cousins, I’m the only one like this.” She goes on to say, “I felt cursed!” Needless to say, once Phillippa had health insurance she was certain that a breast reduction was right for her. She had a very supportive physician who was able to document that her breast hypertrophy was indeed a medical problem (inability to participate in exercise, shoulder indents and back/shoulder pain) so her insurance agreed to pay for the procedure.

The Postoperative Set Back

The excitement of her breast reduction quickly came to a halt after running into a complication that only 1/100,000 people encounter. With low blood flow to her left nipple she had loss of sensation and nearly lost her nipple. For 2 months, she had bi-weekly doctor visits all while her feelings of anger resurfaced. She was so anxious about her physical appearance and what her husband would think of her that she asked, “God, did you really let this happen?” By the grace of God and love of her family, she acquired inner strength to embrace her self. She prayed for God to show her how to appreciate her new body. This was the first time she had ever had to trust God for medical healing. She remembers this whole situation as a test spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally.

Life After Surgery

Now that she has overcome her medical/surgical complication she is overwhelmed in joy with her outcome. She easily finds bras, swimsuits and other clothing that fits her body appropriately. She is also able to follow behind her children as they participate in basketball and cheer-leading, pain free.

Advice From the Wise

Both Aviance and Phillippa advise those who are considering surgery to learn all they can about the surgeries and related risk and make a personal decision to move forward or not. Aviance spent 5-6 months researching the types of weight loss surgeries and physically/mentally preparing. Phillippa says “If it turns out bad, you will blame those who nudged you to have surgery” so you want it to be your decision.

As you can see, having surgeries to improve ones outward appearance is not merely cosmetic. After reading these two individual narratives, I hope it inspires you to show your support for those undergoing these surgical procedures and I pray that you have found inner peace and encouragement if you are considering a surgery.

Until next time,
Dr. Jay