Anna, Prophetess and Servant

Her Story Anna The Prophetess

She was the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher.  She was married for seven years and then her husband died.  There is no mention of children.

At the age of 84, this devout woman of God never left the temple but served God in fasting and daily prayer.  It wasn’t by chance that she entered the temple at the same time that Mary and Joseph were there with the infant Jesus.  She praised God and told everyone who was there in Jerusalem who were awaiting the coming of the Messiah about Jesus.

Anna was a godly woman who loved the Lord and gladly served Him.  She didn’t remarry.  Instead, she devoted the rest of her life to the Lord.  We are never too young or too old to serve Him and to share the Gospel.

Anna lived to see God’s fulfillment of His promise to His people.  She experienced the joy of the Child’s coming, the promised Savior and “the Light that will shine upon the nations, and he will be the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:31, 32).

Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

Coping As Best As We Can

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Photo by Dương Nhân

It has been over a month since we lost our dear son.  There are times when I feel fine and there are other times when I break down and sob uncontrollably because the pain is so deep.  It’s deep, deep down and it hurts.  The void he has left in our lives is like a huge chasm which can never be filled.

I know that we are not going through our sorrow alone.  God is right there with us, in the midst of the storm, the darkness and His presence gives us great comfort.  The psalmist says that “Weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning.”  We are still weeping and I suspect that we will be for a very long time but we know that the joy we are promised will come.  Right now, we are coping as best as we can with God’s help.

Parents, please spend quality time with your kids every day.  Don’t let anything prevent you from doing that.  What we learned from our son’s death is that life is fragile.  People are here today and gone tomorrow.  Never once when we woke up that day, did we ever imagine that before six that evening our son would be dead.  He was only eleven years old.  We always believed that he would outlive us.  We never thought that we would end up burying him.

Don’t take your loved ones for granted.  We have today.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  Make sure you hug your children and tell them you love them daily.  And if you’re Christians, teach them about God as early as possible.  In a Mother’s Day card, my son thanked me for teaching him about God.  Teach them that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and a Savior who gave His precious life for them.  And tell them that they have a Comforter who is the Holy Spirit.

Make sure that you say, “I love you” to your loved one every opportunity you get because you never know when it will be the last time you do so.

It’s How You Respond

Transitions themselves are not the issue, but how well you respond to their challenges Jim George

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Image by Dreamstime

What transition are you going through today?  Getting old is a big one.  You’re not as agile and flexible as before.  You ache in parts of your body you didn’t even know existed.  It’s important to be active.  Exercise is key.  And you have to deal with those annoying things called eye floaters.  It’s bad enough that you have to wear two pairs of glasses—one for reading and one for distance or bifocals and then to have to deal with black things in your eye…It’s possible to grow old gracefully but it takes effort and patience.

For a lot of women, it’s hard to go from being married to being divorced.  My mother seemed to adjust fairly well but I remember that there were times when she expressed regret about the end of her marriage.  She never remarried.  My father remarried once.  It’s hard for the kids too because they lose one parent when the marriage is over.  They are raised by one and see the other at appointed times.  When your parents divorce, it’s like your entire world is falling apart.  For years I felt as if my father had abandoned me but when I was older and wiser, I was thankful that he didn’t stay with my mother for my sake.  I wouldn’t have wanted him to be unhappy on my account.

Transitioning from high-school to college or university can be a tough one.  For me, it was hard not being with my friends.  We all went to different colleges.  I was a bit of a loner on campus.  I didn’t join any clubs or socialize much.  I had one or two friends.  I was more immersed in my studies.  I worked hard and studied a lot.  I had great professors whose remarks on my papers were very encouraging.  I took my Major in Journalism and Minor in Art History.  And I graduated Cum Laude.  After leaving college, I had to find a job.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything in my field but I never let that discourage me.  Over the years, I have worked at different companies and have been fortunate to meet lots of wonderful people.

Going from being a single woman to being a family woman has been the biggest change of all.  Before I met the love of my life, my life comprised of home, work and church.  I loved going to church.  There I worshipped and fellow-shipped with terrific people who shared my faith.  They were like my second family.  I was involved in different ministries and was part of the choir.

I enjoyed doing community outreach such as visiting homeless shelters for women and youth and a senior’s home.  But in private, I prayed to God for a godly man.  And years later, I met him on a bus.  He spoke to me, I invited him to my church and the rest is history.  We have a son.  I regret not having two children but I’m thankful that God blessed with me one and my mother with her only grandchild.  Before she died, she enjoyed eleven years of his life.

Transition can be hard, challenging but it can also be rewarding.  It just depends on how we handle it.  In my case, it is God who has helped me through each life change.  This year when I lost both of my parents within months of each, it was God’s loving presence and Jesus’ promise, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” which held me together.  My two sisters and I aren’t alone.  We have the Lord and we have each other.

Like me, you don’t have to go through any transition alone.  Your families, friends or faith can be your anchor.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for today’s word, Transition.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Source:  Blue Letter Bible

Our Second Date

Portrait of young man kissing his pretty young  woman on forehead - outdoor

I didn’t feel that spark on our first date but we had such a great time together that I had to ask you out again.  And I’m thrilled that I did.

It turns out that you were the one I was meant to be with.  Fifteen years and three children later, we’re still going strong.  And as for that spark–I felt it on our second date.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Spark.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Two Ships

Herieth-Paul2Ife saw him waiting for the elevator.  She tried not to make it obvious that she was watching him as she pushed the cart down the hallway.  She knew he was in no. 406, the Royal suite.  He was very handsome and a sharp dresser.  He must be rich, she thought.  This was a 5-star hotel he was staying in.

He was looking straight ahead and appeared to be in deep thought.  He didn’t notice her and when the elevator doors opened, he went inside.  After they closed behind him, she continued down the hallway to the different suites she still had to clean.  When she got to his, she looked around.  It was in impeccable order.  The bed looked like it hadn’t been slept in.  Out of all the suites on this floor, his was the one she didn’t mind cleaning.

As she got to work, she wondered how long he was staying in Kampala this time.  The last time it was for two weeks and the time before that, three.  He wasn’t the first Japanese businessman she had seen in the hotel or in Kampala.  More and more Japanese were flocking to the city to live, holiday or set up businesses.  Was he planning to live here or to set up a business?  What about his family?  Did he have a wife and children?  He looked young–in his mid to late thirties.

Well, it was none of her business.  A man like him would not be interested in her–a single mother working as a maid in a fancy hotel and living in a run-down neighborhood.  And they were from different cultures.  No, she would be better off finding and marrying a decent Ugandan man who wouldn’t mind being a step-father to her daughter.

Toshiro leaned against the tree, looking up at the hotel.  She was probably in his suite 62_ac32e335-d1d8-4e7c-bffa-e98b58858fd7now.  He knew that she was watching him as he waited for the elevator.  He could feel her eyes on him.  He appeared not to have noticed or acknowledged her but he had.   The temptation to look at her was very strong but he resisted.  She could be married for all he knew and he was in a relationship.

To be honest, he was staying at this hotel because of her.  The first time he saw her was last year when they passed each other in the hallway.   Their eyes met and held for a long time before she lowered hers.   Since then, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her or wanting to see her again.  Perhaps, one of these days, he would say hello to her.  There was no harm in that, was there?

Just then a taxi pulled up in front of the hotel’s entrance.  He glanced at his watch.  It was time to go to the meeting.  Moving away from the tree, he hurried over to the taxi and climbed.   As it drove off, he glanced up at the fourth floor.  Hopefully, he would see her again tomorrow.

This is a prequel to Ife’s Toilet Crisis.

David/Rooted #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

This was the tree where David and I met after school.  He was the sweetest boy I ever knew and I always imagined that one day we would get married and have lots of children.  It never occurred to me that laws would soon be put in place to make relationships such as ours illegal.

As soon as school was let out, I ran to the tree and he would be waiting for me.  He was so tall and handsome with thick black hair and gentle brown eyes.  We would hold hands and kiss but that was as far as things went.  We would sit under the tree and talk for hours.  Parting from him was always hard.  I always willed the hours because I couldn’t wait to see him again.

Then one day, I showed up and for the first time he wasn’t there.  I waited for hours but he never came.  I was understandably frantic.  After several days went by and still no sign of him,  I decided to go by his father’s shop and was appalled to see the word, “Jude” painted across the window and the star of David.  The shop was empty.  I ran home and asked my father what had happened to David.  My father sat me down and explained to me that the Germans had moved the Jews to the Ghetto.  I learned that they were banned from from entering certain streets, squares, parks, woods and other public places.  That meant that David and I couldn’t meet by the tree anymore.  It was in the woods.  David couldn’t go to my brother’s school any more.

After my father finished telling me everything he knew, I went to my room where I cried and cried.  David who was forced to live like an animal because of deeply rooted hatred.  My world had become a dark and ugly place of intolerance and ignorance.  I wanted so desperately to see him but it was out of the question.  My father told me it was best to forget about David.  There was no future for us.  He was a Jew.

I knew that I would never forget David.  I loved him.  He was my first and only love.  And I never gave up hope that we would be together again–not even when I learned that the Jews had been deported to concentration camps.  No one was willing to take them in and for some Jews, going into hiding would break up their families and that was unthinkable, especially those who with children.

The years went by, the war raged on and I became a nurse.   My father died of a heart-attack a couple of days after his fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Only my mother and I were left.  My brother was killed years ago after he was arrested for being a part of a  resistance movement against the Nazi Regime.  My parents were devastated but I was proud of him for fighting against evil.  I only wish I had the guts to do something too.  Instead I prayed that David and his family would somehow survive and that when the war was over I would see him again.

Well, the war is over and I’m the only surviving member of my family.  My mother died from a stroke a month ago.  I buried her next to my father.

Tomorrow is my birthday but I have no one special to celebrate it with.  It’s a nice afternoon so I decided to go for a walk in the park.  I head straight for the tree.  A man stood there with his back to me.  He was wearing a hat and a trench coat.  Something about him looked familiar.  My heart began to beat faster.  I could feel the color drain from my cheeks.  “David?” My voice was barely above a whisper and yet he heard me.

He turned around slowly.  “Ingrid.” He removed his hat and stepped forward.

“David!” I cried again and then we were in each other’s arms, laughing, crying and kissing.  I don’t know how long we did that and I didn’t care. All I knew was that David, my David was alive.  He had survived the ghetto, the camp and the war.

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Rooted at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sources:  Holocaust EncyclopediaOxford AcademicHolocaust