YWAM Adventures – Part 1

Hello family, friends and supporters!

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.

Fun facts:

  • 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.

Highlights:

  • 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 🙂

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.

3. Outreach:

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.

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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.

c.) Finances 

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!

With love,

Tasha ❤

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Love in the Midst of Apathy

While I was watching the movie Interstellar, one quote really struck me.

“We can care deeply, selflessly about those we know, but that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight.”

How heartbreakingly true this is. I used to think that the opposite of love was hatred, but in recent years I came to learn that in reality, the opposite of love is apathy.

When we turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of others. When we refuse to help somebody in need because it would inconvenience us. When we cling tightly to our resources instead of using them to improve the lives of those less fortunate. I’ve been guilty of all of these things throughout my life. This is apathy.

I pray that God would continue to break my heart for the vulnerable and the exploited. I pray that He would open my eyes to the suffering of those beyond my normal line of sight. I pray that He would give me the courage to obey His command to love others for His Glory.

Deeply. Selflessly. Sacrificially.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35


My Journey to End Human Trafficking

Dear friend,

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

Inner Selfie

Have you ever taken a selfie? If you answered no, you’re either a. lying b. living under a rock or c. a very rare breed, indeed.

You can’t be on the internet for three minutes without being bombarded with glamorous pictures of friends and strangers alike, begging for your attention, appreciation and approval in the form of a like or a double tap. It’s no surprise that ‘selfie’ won the award for the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. We are a generation that is obsessed with ourselves.

For guys and girls alike, the pressure to appear attractive, cool and desirable comes at us from every angle, every day. We’re expected to look like we have it all together and force a smile for the camera, regardless of what turmoil we may be facing internally. We are taught that as long as our photos are glossy and bright, it doesn’t matter what our hearts look like. But what price are we willing to pay for the perfect shot?

I admit that I have fallen prey to the never-ending pursuit of achieving the world’s definition of beauty. One day, as I was doing my makeup, I had a revelation. I was trying to get my lip gloss just right when God spoke to me.

“Being pretty isn’t enough. It’s time for you to put more focus on being pretty on the inside”

Ouch. As always, God was right on point. How long had I spent looking in the mirror? How much time do I spend on becoming more attractive in the areas that really matter? What would I see if I could take a selfie of my heart?

We’ve all encountered people who are absolutely gorgeous… until they open their mouths. It’s easy to recognize internal ugliness. Anger. Jealousy. Unforgiveness. Complaining. Bad-mouthing. Gossiping. Crude jokes. Negative remarks.

The Bible is clear about what real beauty looks like.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Is God instructing us not to put any effort into our physical appearance? No. He is declaring that the kind of beauty that truly matters lies in our character. The world puts so much focus on outward appearance that far too often, the inside is left to shrivel up and rot away. We start to believe that our appearance is what determines our value and worth. But God warns us about this very thing in the Bible:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of… all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27

“Your beauty should come from within you; the beauty… that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4

So, how do we obey God in this area? How do we put pretty into practice?

Responding with grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us.
Being friendly to the person sitting alone.
Not always trying to be right in a conversation.
Not talking behind somebody’s back.
Going out of your way to help others in need.

True beauty is reflecting the love of Christ in everything we think, say and do. It is Humility. Compassion. Gentleness. Patience. Grace. Generosity. Sacrifice. And above all else: Love. Loving the Lord with our whole heart and loving others in His Name.

What a testimony our lives will be when we can take a long look at our selfie, smile with confidence and say, “I am proud of who I see.”

Abba Father, please help us to become men and women of true beauty, beauty that radiates from a heart that seeks Your Face above all else. Help us not to become slaves to the world’s ideals of beauty but transform us from the inside out until we embody the fruit of Your Spirit and our lives become a reflection of Your Love. Thank You for never giving up on us. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

FOMO

Fear Of Missing Out, more commonly referred to as ‘FOMO” is a modern day epidemic among the Millennial generation. But what’s the real deal with this new addition to the long list of acronyms we’ve become so familiar with? Have you ever felt that pang in your gut when you scroll through a series of fb photos of all your friends having an awesome time at a party… that you weren’t invited to? That right there, that’s FOMO rearing its ugly, accusatory head. “You weren’t invited for a reason. You’re missing out on something incredible.” Dictionary.com provides a little more clarity, sharing that FOMO is “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great tool. It can help you stay in touch with friends, bring awareness to the things you care about and show off those sick new kicks (dang, Daniel!). But, on the flip side, there isn’t much that can make a person more insecure and self doubting than the barrage of images we see online daily. Before social media, people weren’t constantly exposed to the ‘awesome, fun-filled’ lives of everybody they knew (ha!).

The sad truth is that these sometimes candid, often completely contrived, snapshots only capture a moment in time. They simply do not represent the full reality of the situation. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve posted a pic of myself having a seemingly fantastic evening with a group of smiling people. What isn’t shown in my pic, however, is how lonely I felt later that night, the argument I had with my friend and the fact that I didn’t even enjoy the food I was eating. But boy did it look like I was having the time of my life!

So, if it’s all a matter of perspective, where does this intense fear of missing out really stem from? Fear of missing out is more accurately a fear of being left out (FOBLO didn’t sound as catchy). Why are we so determined not to be left out? For me, FOMO hit me where it hurt because it played on my already present insecurities. In my mind, if wasn’t invited to an event, it meant I wasn’t worthy of being invited. Was I not cool enough? Friendly enough? Cute enough? Did they not like me? Had I offended them?

I was so caught up in these negative thoughts, that I didn’t realize I was being irrational and driven by my own insecurities. I couldn’t see that the truth was, my fear was rooted in a sense of rejection, in a false belief that I wasn’t truly accepted. The thing is, if we look to our peers (or anyone else) for acceptance, we will never find it. God is the only one who can speak directly to our identity, value and worth. And the Bible tells us that we are completely accepted by God. “Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.” (Romans 15:7). As hard as it may be to live and think counter-culturally, we must remember that regardless of what social media seems to tell us, God always has the final say.

So, the next time you find yourself being deceived by the FOMO falsehood, pause, take a breath and put things into perspective. You are unconditionally and irrevocably loved, affirmed and accepted through the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross. And no fb photo can ever tell you otherwise.

Escape Room

Imagine this. You and three friends find yourselves locked inside a room with no exit in sight. You spot a tattered notebook on a narrow wooden table. Scribbled in pen on one of its yellowed pages is what appears to be a secret code. Although you think that something critical is being conveyed, you can’t figure out how to decipher the contents of the message. There is an antique chest in the corner of the room and upon opening its creaky lid, you notice a series of four unusually shaped keys laying on a piece of velvet cloth.

What do the keys unlock? How will you make sense of the cryptic message? You must find the answers to these questions before it’s too late. You’ll need to be creative, clever, collaborative and quick, because time is running out! You only have 60 minutes to correctly solve all of the room’s riddles and puzzles or else your team will taste bitter defeat!

Does this scenario evoke in you excitement or anxiety? In my experience, this new craze of team building physical adventure games, known as ‘escape rooms’ is a thrilling, adrenaline pumping race against the clock. The most entertaining aspect of the game for me is the element of surprise. You never know what you’ll find in the next drawer or how the pieces of the puzzle will eventually come together.

If it weren’t already tricky enough, game makers will often include several carefully crafted decoys in order to distract and disorient game players. Their goal is to confuse you with insignificant details so that you’ll lose precious time following dead-end leads. The adventure and the challenge of these intriguing scenarios is that you can’t solve certain puzzles without first figuring out the clues that precede them. It’s the insight you gather from each stage of the game that allows you to move on to the next.

I can’t help but notice the parallels between escape rooms and my own life.

As I look back over the past six years, it is clear that God has been lovingly paving the way, one stone at a time, for me to reach the point I’m at now. He has led me through a variety of seasons, each one gently and deliberately preparing me for the one to come; seasons of loneliness, pain, growth, determination, hope, change, insecurity, blessing and healing. Some seasons evoked excitement, others anxiety, but with each step of the journey I knew that my guide was Faithful and that His goal was to restore and refine me along the way.

As confusing and frustrating as it might be at times, God, in His Sovereignty, chooses not to show us the big picture all at once. Instead, he asks us to trust Him with one step at a time, illuminating the way just enough for us to see His Hand as He guides us along the path He has prepared for us. This slow and steady progress builds our character by allowing us to develop patience, trust, discernment, humility, faith and dependency upon the Lord.

Of course, the process is rarely simple. Real life contains some carefully constructed decoys of its own. Even with the best intentions, it can be easy to get distracted by the trivial, inconsequential lures of this world and begin following the dead-end trails that leave us defeated and dismayed.

Thankfully, even when we prioritize the wrong things and lose sight of what’s most important, God is Gracious and will always be waiting with open arms, ready to lovingly guide us back into His Perfect Will. Although we don’t know how all the pieces of our lives are going to eventually come together, we do know the One who is building the puzzle. And He builds with magnificent purpose, immense power and exact precision. One piece at a time.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Transitions

It is with both genuine sadness and great excitement that I share the news that my season in Korea has come to an end.

The past five years have been an epic journey of breathtaking highs and arduous lows. As monumental as this adventure has proven to be, I feel confident that the Lord is leading me into the next chapter that He has ordained for my life.

During my time in Korea, God has opened my eyes and broken my heart for the vulnerable and the exploited, specifically those enslaved in human trafficking. As my understanding of this pandemic tragedy grew, it became clear to me that I would be involved in its abolishment in whatever way possible. I prayed that God would open the right doors and He did!

This fall, I will be participating in a Justice DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). The six month program, divided into a three month lecture phase in LA and a three month international outreach phase, is designed to provide the training and opportunities necessary to take a long term stand against human trafficking locally and globally.

I will be leaving Korea on June 30th and returning to Toronto for twelve weeks before heading to California. Leaving behind what has become familiar and stepping out into the unknown is definitely intimidating and even a bit scary, but I know that God is Faithful and I’m filled with anticipation as I prepare for the next adventure that He has called me to. Please join me in prayer as I begin this exciting yet challenging transition process.

Thank you so much, friends! I am very grateful for all of you who have been on this journey with me!

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19