We arrived at our Airbnb at around 2:30am on Wednesday and the past few days have been a blur of jet lag, getting settled in and exploring the neighborhood. The place we’re staying is pretty cozy (read tiny) but it’s clean and the owner is really friendly so I’m happy.
I still can’t believe I’m spending Christmas and celebrating the new year in Greece this year! It’s only the second Christmas that I’ll be away from home so I’m feeling a little homesick, but I know that I’m where God has called me to be in this season, so thankfully, I have peace about it.
We’re starting our ministry in the refugee camps on the 28th. Until then, we’ve been doing some prayer walks and getting acquainted with the area.
I thought I’d post a few pics of the neighborhood so that you’ll have an idea of where we’re staying. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, friends!
I can hardly believe that the day has come for me to leave California and head to Europe for my DTS outreach!
After three months of training in LA, I’m boarding a plane this afternoon to Athens, Greece! We will be serving in various refugee camps for four weeks in Athens and then traveling to Paris for six weeks to work in the area of anti human trafficking.
I am not able to bring my phone or computer with me, so I will have very limited access to the internet over the next two and a half months.
Please keep me and the rest of the team in your prayers for unity, protection and boldness as we love and serve the vulnerable in Jesus’ Name.Thank you so much for your support, friends. It really means a lot to me.
This is so crucial to our trip being successful. Please pray that we would all get along well and be REAL and vulnerable with one another. Pray that we would create genuine intimacy and work well as a team, honoring each other and being kind and encouraging.We want to be marked by our love for one another and how we serve each other and those around us.
Please pray that we would get there safely and have no travel issues or problems (including not losing our luggage, no flights being delayed etc.)Pray that none of us gets sick or injured while we are there.Often, when traveling to another country, we can get sick because we’re not used to the bacteria there etc. Please pray that we don’t have any stomach issues or any other health concerns that would bring us down and get in the way of our work.
Please pray that we would be servant hearted and that we would have good attitudes, even when we are not feeling the greatest. Pray that God would bless our ministry and that many people would come to know of His Great Love for them through the love they see from us.May we reflect Christ in all we say and do! 🙂
Please pray that we would all allow God to work in our hearts and minds while on this trip. Pray that we would all grow in our character, in our compassion and in the way we view ourselves and others.Pray that by the end of the 10 weeks, we are not the same people that we were in the beginning,that we would be even better at loving, forgiving, serving and sharing God’s Hope.
I’ve included a few photos below as well as a song that has spoken to my heart while I’ve been in LA. I pray that God will always be the King of my heart, my anchor, my motivation, my peace and my sustenance.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 6:1-3
Greetings from sunny Los Angeles 🙂 I can hardly believe that I’ve already been here for eight weeks! This update is going up later than I intended (and is longer than I intended!) but I hope that it’s informative and encouraging nonetheless.
The past two months have been a riveting whirlwind of learning, laughing, praying, processing, growing, grieving, wrestling and reflecting. I’m honored and excited to share with you the amazing things that God is doing and the epic adventure that He has brought me on through YWAM LA.
In this first update, I’ll be focusing on four main areas:
1. What life is like here in the Justice DTS program.
2. What God has been teaching me each week.
3. The local and international outreaches that I’m part of.
4. Some prayer requests going forward.
1. Life in LA:
The past eight weeks have been simultaneously exciting, challenging, frustrating, fun, inspiring, demanding and uplifting! As you can imagine it’s been fairly exhausting but also incredibly rewarding.
Here is a typical day at YWAM LA:
7am – Breakfast
7:45-8am – Morning Meeting
8-8:30am – Quiet Time
8:30 – 9:30 – Varied Activities (Monday – Base Worship, Tuesday – School Worship, Wednesday – Small Group, Thursday – Base Intercession, Friday – Processing Time)
9:30 – 10am – Base Tea Time (fellowship)
10 – 12:30pm – Lecture (A different topic and guest speaker each week)
12:30pm – Lunch
1:30 – 5:30pm – Free time/Possible Duties
5:30pm – Dinner
6pm – Dinner Clean Up (only on Wednesdays and Thursdays)
7pm – Varied Meetings (Monday – Family Night, Tuesday – Justice Workshop, Wednesday – Outreach Preparation, Thursday – Community Night once a month, Friday – Free)
We have free time on the weekends. Some Saturdays we have a school field trip. We are able to go to a variety of churches in the neighborhood on Sundays.
We live on a beautiful compound with 16 trailers, various common areas, a grassy field, a cafeteria, a prayer chapel, a coffee shop and multiple classrooms.
My program consists of 19 students (17 girls and 2 guys!) as well as six leaders.
I live in a trailer with 16 other girls divided into six rooms with bunk beds (we share two toilets and four showers!)
There are two others schools that are on the base with us; altogether, there are about 130 people living on the base. Although our schools are separate, we eat all meals and participate in several weekly functions together.
I’ve been able to explore a bit on the weekends and I’ve gone to Sequoia National Park, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Northern California.
I had the honor of taking part in the A21 Walk for Freedom in Hollywood where hundreds of abolitionists came together to march the streets raising awareness for victims of human trafficking.
Our entire base went on a nine hour road trip to Chico, CA for one week for a conference. The air was crisp and fresh and the mountains were beautiful!
I ate at In-N-Out for the first time ever after hearing about how awesome it was for years! It was delicious and I love the special sauce 🙂
The golden leaves in Sequoia National Park.
The YWAM LA base.
Santa Monica Pier.
Autumn in Chico.
Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park.
Walk for Freedom
A fallen Sequoia tree.
2. What God is teaching me:
I am so privileged to be able to have this opportunity to focus solely on my relationship with God during this program, free from the distractions of everyday life. I am learning many truths about who God is and who He says I am. God has been revealing to me the many lies that I have believed throughout my life and He is showing me His Truths to replace those falsehoods.
He is teaching me a lot about forgiveness, repentance, grace and healing. He is teaching me to depend on Him for my worth and value. I’m not going to lie, it has been an uncomfortable and sometimes painful process but He is gentle and compassionate. He only opens old wounds so that they can be properly cleaned with His Healing balm. I know that I am being renewed and restored; it is so worth the discomfort.
Each week a new speaker comes to teach us about a different topic meant to help us grow in our walk with Christ. I couldn’t even begin to explain all I’ve learned in this ‘brief’ update, but I will share a few concepts that God has been teaching me each week.
Week 1: Servanthood God challenged me that there is no such thing as secular and sacred when it comes to service; it’s all holy because it’s for the Lord. Sometimes, I am more drawn to ‘serving’ when it’s exciting or ‘important’; when it’s something that will get me noticed and affirmed by others. I had to check my heart: Would I be as satisfied with serving if I were asked to paint houses or mow lawns instead of help orphans or minister to prostituted women?
Week 2: Character and Nature of God In order to have a thriving relationship with God, it’s important for me to understand who God is (His Nature) and how He reveals Himself to us (His Character). I am able to learn about God through His Word; the more time I spend getting to know Him, the more I understand who He is and who He created me to be.
Week 3: Hearing God’s Voice God wants to speak to me and He speaks in a wide variety of ways (dreams, His Word, music, intellect, prophecy, nature, signs and wonders, an audible voice etc.) God wants to speak to me for more than just guidance, He wants to be involved in all the small things in my life. When I learn to recognize His voice, I will be able to discern His voice from that of the enemy and that of the world.
Week 4: Healing God taught me about the importance of forgiveness and repentance in my healing journey. I learned that the forgiveness process is like a large ice berg slowly being chipped away. It is often a long process but each time I forgive in obedience to God, a portion of the iceberg is broken off until I am no longer enslaved to the pain of my wounds which often manifests itself in anger and bitterness.
Week 5: God’s Heart for Justice God chooses to use us to fight against injustice on this earth. I can’t just point out what is wrong with the world, I need to pray for change and be willing to be the answer to my own prayers! I bring God Glory by upholding His justice on earth; He will use both my availability and my ability.
Week 6: The Father Heart of God I learned that many of us subconsciously view God based on the relationship we had/have with our earthly fathers. This is damaging for our spiritual walk because even the most loving, sacrificial and compassionate fathers are imperfect. God is teaching me to understand that although humans will inevitably disappoint me in some way, He never will. He is Good and He is for me. His unconditional love is my strength.
This song is a beautiful representation of God’s incomparable love for His children.
Week 7: Ministering in Refugee Camps This was the week that we were in Chico with 400 other YWAMers for the Presence Gathering and the Go Conference. We learned valuable insight about cultural sensitivity and sharing God’s love in tangible ways with those who are hurting and destitute, specifically the displaced.
Week 8: Identity I learned that my identity is directly linked to intimacy with God. The more I connect with Him through prayer and reading His Word, the deeper I will understand my identity (accepted, loved, valued, created for a purpose.) When I am living a life of intimacy with God, I will naturally reflect Him to others through the fruit of the spirit that will be evident in my life. I am not created to work FOR acceptance, I am created to work FROM acceptance.
a.) Local Outreach
Over the past eight weeks, our Justice School has been participating in a weekly local outreach with the NGO, Justice 180. This ministry is committed to sharing Christ’s Hope and Love with women in the RDL (Red Light Districts) of LA. Each week, a team of us goes out to the RDL on Friday night between 3am – 6am to hand out care packages and pray for the women we meet. The rest of us stay back in the Prayer Chapel to intercede for the team that is ministering on the streets.
Wether I am staying back to pray or heading out into the night, it is always a powerful experience. Many times during prayer, we have received a word of knowledge from God, such as a name or a hair color, and later that night encountered a woman with that name or hair color on the street. God is awesome and He cares so deeply for the vulnerable.
When we go out, we give the women small care packages and ask them if they need prayer for anything. Most of the time, the women are very happy to see us and grateful for the gifts. Each gift bag, along with several personal care items, contains a card with a handwritten note of love and encouragement. There is also a contact number on the back of the card that they can call if they ever need help.
These gift bags are simply a physical manifestation of something much more significant that is happening on the streets of LA. Our prayer is that these women would be deeply encouraged because we genuinely care about them despite the fact that they can offer us nothing in return. Unlike their daily experience with pimps and clients, our love isn’t manipulative or abusive; it is offered freely with no strings attached. This is the Love of the Father. It pursues them week after week, month after month. I feel so honored that God chose me to share His Restorative Love with those whom society has rejected.
Care Packages for Justice 180
b.) International Outreach
Our Justice DTS was split into two teams for the international outreach portion of our program. I will be traveling from December 19th – February 25th with a team of nine others to Athens, Greece and later, Montpellier, France. The rest of our school will be going to Thailand and the Philippines.
I am very excited about the opportunity to work in the refugee camps in Athens and care for those who are displaced and poverty stricken. God instructs us to care not only for the widow and the orphan but for the foreigner also. After one month in Greece, our team will head to the south of France to partake in anti trafficking work in the city of Montpellier.
I am very excited about this portion of our DTS because we will have the opportunity to practically apply many of the lessons and truths learned in the first half of the program. I am so thankful for the chance to not just ‘talk the talk’ but to also ‘walk the walk’ – to tangibly love and serve the vulnerable and the oppressed.
Thank you SO much to those of you who have generously and sacrificially donated to my outreach. The total cost of my mission trip to Greece and France is $4000 USD. I am still over $1000 away from my goal. If you have not already, I would be honored if you would prayerfully consider partnering with me in this ministry work financially. Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated and make a significant difference. Moreover, I am sincerely grateful for all of you who have been praying for me. As my previous pastor says, ‘Your prayer support is my life support.’ I truly appreciate each one of you!
4. Prayer Requests:
a.) Team Unity – For our outreach to be effective, it is imperative that we function well as a team. The Bible says that we will be known as God’s disciples by our love for one another. Please pray that we would get along well, be inclusive and accepting of one another and have patience and grace for each other. Pray that we would resolve conflict in a healthy, loving way and that we would honor God by how we treat each other.
b.) Safety and Protection – Please pray that God would protect our team against any injury, accidents or illness. There have been some tensions in the refugee camps recently. Please pray that there would be no violence or uprisings while we are there and that we would bring God’s Peace with us wherever we go.
c.) Servanthood – We want to be a team that’s known for its love, compassion and servanthood in Greece and France. Please pray that we would not seek to be served, but instead, that we would look for opportunities to serve others in love and humility. Please pray that we would maintain positive attitudes, even when things don’t go according to plan, and that we would give God the Glory for everything He accomplishes in and through us.
And that’s my first update letter! Thank you for reading this far 🙂 I appreciate and value each and every one of you. I am so grateful that you have come on this beautiful adventure with me and I praise God for you!
Please allow me to share a part of my journey with you so that you’ll have a better understanding of where I’m coming from and where I’m headed.
When I moved to Korea in July 2011, I had a very limited understanding of the depth and breadth of human trafficking. Over the next five years, through a series of profoundly impactful mission trips, outreaches to Red Light Districts, documentaries, conferences and conversations, God would open my eyes and break my heart for the vulnerable, the oppressed and the exploited, specifically those trapped in the nightmare of sexual slavery.
I learned that there are between 20 000 000 and 30 000 000 slaves in our world today (55% of whom are female and 26% of whom are children). I learned that each year, over $32 billion is generated by human trafficking. I learned that after drug dealing, it is the second largest criminal industry in the world. I learned that, contrary to popular belief, human trafficking occurs in every country worldwide. I learned that we have the responsibility of using the freedom we have been blessed with to take action on behalf of those whose freedom has been stolen from them.
As my understanding of this horrific international epidemic grew, I became filled with compassion and conviction. Compassion for the plight of the enslaved and conviction that as a Christian, I am called to love and serve “the least of these” as Jesus instructed. It is this compassion and conviction that has inspired me to pursue further training in the field of Anti Human-Trafficking.
From September 24th 2016 to March 5th 2017 I will be participating in a Justice DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With a Mission.) This six month program is designed to equip people with the education and opportunities necessary to take a long term stand against human trafficking locally and globally.
The program consists of a three month lecture phase in Los Angeles, followed by a three month international cross-cultural outreach phase. Though the exact location of the outreach has not yet been announced, we do know that we will be working with various ministries on the front lines of the war against human trafficking in the areas of prevention, intervention, restoration and reintegration.
Your prayer support would be deeply valued and appreciated. Here are my top three prayer requests:
1. Protection: Partnering with Anti Human-Trafficking ministries around the world can be dangerous work. Ultimately, we are standing in opposition to the powerful forces that profit from this exploitation and brutality. Please pray for protection for the team physically, emotionally and spiritually.
2. Finances: The total cost of the six month program including all flights, travel insurance, tuition and food/lodging is $10,000 CDN. I will be using my savings to cover some of these costs. However, since I am still paying off student loans, any fundraising that I am able to do to offset the cost of this program will be a huge blessing for me financially.
3. Obedience: My primary goal is to bring God Glory by sharing His Love with the vulnerable and His Hope with the oppressed. Please pray that my heart would be softened to clearly hear God’s voice and to boldly obey His leading during and after the program.
Thank you so much for your support. Your kindness will have far reaching effects. If you feel led to partner with me by contributing to this work financially, you can do so by following this link. Many blessings!
Your partner in the Gospel,Natasha Spiers
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40