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.

Cause of Death

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces – Isaiah 25:8

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Photo by Adobe Stock

Less than a  month after our son died, we found out that the cause of death was a “sudden acute severe Asthma attack.”  The attack was so sudden that nothing could have prevented our son from dying.  Knowing that there wasn’t anything we or the paramedics or the medical staff did could have prevented the outcome doesn’t make the pain and sorrow any less.  We still can’t fathom our son dying from Asthma.  He was so full of life and had so much promise and potential.  He had his whole life ahead of him or so we believed.  Yet, at the young age of 11, he died suddenly.

We are still trying to process this loss.  The pain is acute.  We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now or the joy that comes in the morning.  Right now we are submerged in sorrow and the weeping comes in waves.  Yet, through it all we have God.  His presence comforts and strengthens us.  During those waves of sorrow followed by a deluge of tears, we cling to Him tightly.  We can imagine Him putting His arms around us and holding us ever so close to His heart.  And Jesus, our loving Lord and Savior, is beside us and in the midst of our grief.  We are not going through this alone.  He is with us just as He was with Martha and Mary during their time of grief when their brother, Lazarus was dead.  We take comfort knowing that just as Jesus resurrected Lazarus, He will resurrect our son so that we can spend eternity with him.

Death is something we will all face but thanks to Jesus and His work on the cross, death will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  Death along with the grave will be thrown into the lake of fire.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

If you haven’t already, please give your heart and your life to Jesus Christ today.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  He gave His life for you so that when you believe in Him and accept Him as your Lord and Savior, you will have everlasting life.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Better to Wait

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PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie

She wished she could put up a No trespassing sign on her life and keep out the guys who acted like they cared for her but all they wanted was one thing and when she told them that she wanted to wait until she was married, they quickly lost interest.

Her friends treated her as if she were an oddball because she wasn’t like them.  They didn’t see anything wrong with sleeping with their boyfriends even though a few of them got pregnant.  She didn’t want to end up like them.  It was time to evict them from her life.

100 Words

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

For Better or For Worse

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“How long are you going to continue looking out that window?  She’s not coming back.  Sooner or later you must accept that.”

He didn’t answer.  Her words cut to the core but he refused to believe that Brittany was gone forever.

“She got tired of waiting and decided that it’s time to move on.  Can’t say that I blame her.  I too would get tired of waiting for a man to make up his mind.”

“Marriage isn’t something you take lightly or rush into,” he replied, sounding a tad defensive and resentful.  “I wanted to be sure before I took that step.”

“And are you sure now?”

“Yes!  I’m ready to take that step with Brittany.”

“Well, as they say, too late, too late shall be the cry.”

His mouth tightened in annoyance.  If she had nothing good or helpful to say, he wish she would keep silent.  “Are you going to be much longer?” he asked.  He wanted to be alone to wallow in his pain and misery.

She looked at him.  “Trying to get rid of me, are you?  Well, I’ll be gone in ten minutes.”

Good.  He turned away to look out of the window again.  Any minute, he hoped to see her walking up the street and hear the key turn in the lock.  He had imagined and dreamed of it so many times.  She had to come back.  The night she walked out of the flat and out of his life was still raw and fresh in his mind.  The place felt empty, lonely and dark without her.  He missed her lying in the bed next to him and always fell asleep hugging her pillow.

They had been together for five years and they had been happy years until the subject of marriage came up.  She wanted to get married but he wasn’t ready.  He had seen too many marriages fall apart.  Love wasn’t a guarantee for a lasting marriage.  He had seen couples who loved each other split up.  Was it unreasonable for him to be cautious?  Was it foolish of him to want to wait until he was ready and willing to make that final commitment?

As much as he was in love with Brittany, he was going to let her pressure him into getting married before he was good and ready.  He didn’t regret that decision but he missed her so much that it hurt.  It had been weeks since she walked out but it felt like years.  Yet, hope continued to burn in his heart.  One of these days, she would return and he would be there, waiting for her.

“Well, I’m off now.  Your supper is in the oven, nice and hot.  Your laundry’s done.  I’ll see you in two weeks.  I’m going to visit my daughter in Manchester.”

“Have a safe trip, Hannah.”

“Thank you.  You take care of yourself.  And stop moping about the place.  There are plenty of women out there.”

“I know but there’s only one woman for me.”

“Aye.  Well, I hope for your sake that she’s worth the trouble.  Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon.”  He got up and saw her to the door.  He reached over and kissed her on the cheek, smiling as she got red in the face.  He watched her walk down the hallway and turn the corner before he closed the door.  He returned to the window.

It was around half-past seven when he decided to get up and have his supper while it was still warm.  As he headed toward the kitchen, he heard the key turn in the lock.  He froze, his heart pounding.  He stood there and watched as the door slowly opened and Brittany step into the foyer.  She closed the door and locked it before turning to face him.  She stood there, watching him.  Beside her were two pieces of luggage.

For several minutes they just stared at each other.  The only sound was the ticking of the clock on the wall.  Then, he was standing in front of her, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  “You came back,” he muttered. 

“Yes.  It was a mistake for me to leave.  I’m sorry.”

“It hurt when you walked out on me.”

“I’m sorry…”

“I was hoping that you would come back.  I’ve missed you so much.”

“I’ve missed you too.  That’s why I came back.”

He moved closer.  “It’s-it’s good to have you back, Brittany.  My life and this place are so empty and miserable without you.  Please promise me that you won’t leave me again.”

“I promise.  And I’m willing to leave our relationship as it is.  If you don’t want to get married, that’s all right with me.”

He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly.  “Oh, Brittany…”

She put her arms around his waist.  “I love you, Cedric.”

“And I love you, Brittany.”  He lowered his head and kissed her with passion and longing.  It had been so long since he had held her in his arms or told her that he loved her.  It was like the bright sunshine after a storm.

Several minutes later, he took her hand and led her to their bedroom where they made up for lost time.  Afterwards, they shared the supper Hannah had left for him and it was while they were relaxing on the sofa watching a movie, that he told her that he was ready for marriage.  “I meant it when I said that I was fine with our relationship the way it is.”

“I know you did and I love you for it but I’m ready to take the plunge with you.”

“For better or for worse.”

“Yes.  We’ve been through the worse.  It can only get better from here on.”

She smiled and gently squeezed his hand.  “I believe so too.”

Marriage does not guarantee you will be together forever, it’s only paper. It takes love, respect, trust, understanding, friendship and faith in your relationship to make it last Marriage.com

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

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