The A.C.T. United Team! Meet Insia!

Hi! My name is Insia. I am a senior at Eden Prairie High School who adds a touch of art into everything she does. I am a artist and owner of @chapstickart on Instagram. I first came to know of this organization when they came to my school to share preventative methods for exploitation and educate us teenagers. I immediately fell in love with their cause and what they stand for. The following year I made art supporting their cause and asked for an internship and got in. I have always been interested in social awareness whether it be racism, “sextortion”, or human trafficking. I have used my skill in art to raise awareness for such crucial subjects as I believe it is everybody’s duty to contribute to society. Through art, I wish to continue bringing awareness for such causes. In the future I hope to pursue medicine as a physician and contribute in helping children who have dealt with such issues. 

The A.C.T. United Team! Meet our Director of Outreach and Missions, Saysha!

I am a mom to a beautiful, smart, and courageous 5 year old daughter. She enjoys time with family, playing at the park, swimming at the beach, making new friends, and is starting soccer and swim lessons.
2 years ago, I made a very courageous decisions myself to leave a well paid position in the corporate sector to pursue my life passion and joy of serving kids and teens. I started as a teachers aide while going back to school to get my teaching certificate. I am now a teacher at a Christian Pre School to an amazing diverse class of littles! I also am the part time, volunteer Director of Outreach and Missions for A.C.T. United.
As a teenager, I experienced both physical and sexual abuse, in bad relationship choices, and was almost trafficked at the age of 17. I was a teenage girl who had lost her identity, value and worth. It is because of these experiences that I am passionate about bringing a message of value, worth and hope for the future to children and teens through my role at A.C.T. United! I believe in the power of prevention! 

The importance of Recycling

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

As I was praying to be lifted out of the darkness, the Lord showed me that my mind needed to be recycled just like all those old things that had been repurposed over the years.

Lilly B.

My husband has always been a type of hoarder. Usually nothing gets thrown away because he might need it. His Dad was the same way. It never fails when we start cleaning together and I throw something away, he comes looking for it a few weeks later. “That’s why I don’t like to throw things away, because I know someday I will need it,” he will tell me.

I have recycled an old double sink and other containers into planters. We have recycled pallets into boardwalks, decks and above ground planters. We have purchased old campers, gutted them and made them look like new. We have refinished old furniture and old toys making them useful again. I have to admit I enjoy finding new uses from old things thanks to my amazing husband.

Recently I found something that I didn’t realize needed to be recycled. With the Cornona Virus our lives have pretty much ground to a halt. In the beginning I looked forward to time at home. I deep cleaned my house, my cupboards, my closets and even the refrigerator and freezer. Then I started baking and cooking old fashioned meals that I hadn’t done for years, sometimes sharing them with family and friends. I did extra Bible studies, went for walks to get the mail and did some knitting. Loneliness set in as I missed fellowship with friends and family and especially the hugs I love to give and receive. An exciting day out quickly became a trip to the grocery store or to the local church for their food ministry. I found old thoughts creeping into my brain.

“You aren’t good enough. No one calls to check on you because they don’t like you. You will never amount to anything. Why do you even try? You give and give and give and get nothing in return. They don’t respect you, they don’t appreciate you, and they don’t even love you. You are so stupid, that was dumb of me, I don’t look very good, I am too fat. I wish I could be like her.” These were just some of the one liner thoughts that would pop in my head. They began slowly but more and more frequently. Some days I could feel myself being pulled down into a deep dark hole. Part of being a victim includes the abuser making sure there is very low or even no self-esteem left in that person. I thought it had been years since my abuse had ended, but had it? When I allowed the words of my abuser back into my head, they still had control even though they weren’t even on this earth anymore.

As I was praying to be lifted out of the darkness, the Lord showed me that my mind needed to be recycled just like all those old things that had been repurposed over the years. My thoughts needed to be cleansed and given a new direction. The enemy wants nothing more than to keep me doubting myself and who God created me to be. What does the Bible say about me? Isn’t that the only thing that is important, what God thinks of me?

I John 2:12 says I am forgiven because of the precious blood Jesus spilled for me. I need to remember that and to accept that forgiveness instead of crucifying myself over and over.

Hebrews 13:5 says I am never alone. He will never leave more or forsake me. He was there with me before, during and after my abuse.

Phil 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus! All, not some or a few but all, including healing from difficult days when the enemy tried to silence me.

Romans 8:1 says “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If God isn’t going to condemn me then I shouldn’t condemn myself for my past.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” His plans for me are perfect and he has new plans for me every day!

John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall NEVER perish, no one will snatch them out of my hand.” The enemy can try to snatch me but Christ already has the victory. The enemy is defeated!

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells me I am a new creation in Christ and the old is gone, the new is here!

Romans 8:17 says that I am an heir of God and co-heirs with Christ because I am a child of God.

Ephesians 2:10 tells me I am His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. He loves me so much he has a purpose for me and knew that purpose even before I was born!

Ephesians 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t raise up worthless trash, I am special in his sight, called and have a purpose of living this life.

Matthew 25:34 God loved me before the creation of the world! He loved me so much he sent his son Jesus to die for my sins!

Ephesians 1:5 God adopted me as his child. He is my father by His choice!

These are the truths that need to be recycled into my brain. The Bible is clear that it is the Word that leads us into all truth; that is what is important. My brain is the battleground and there are days that it is hard to recycle my thoughts, my images of myself because of what other people have said about me.

Lord, recycle my thoughts and help me to focus on what your Word says about me. Redeem the time that all those untruths were planted in my being. Show me myself through your eyes. Help me to forgive my abusers and others who inadvertently the enemy used to lower my self-esteem and worth. Be the light in my dark thoughts, pull me close to you and remind me that I am your precious child, created for your purpose, loved and forgiven by you. Use what has happened in my past to your glory. Show me how to share your love and healing with others that may have gone through the same thing. Recycle me Lord for your glory. Amen.

By Lilly B.

Mother, Survivor, Child Advocate, Writer, and Blogger for A.C.T. United

The A.C.T. United Team! Meet Thai Loyd!

Hi! My name is Thai Loyd and I’m the A.C.T. United Event Coordinator intern. As a senior at Eden Prairie High School, I am involved with DECA, Key Club, and the National Honor Society. In my free time I enjoy hiking, listening to music, and playing the piano. In the future, I hope to major in economics or neuroscience and pursue a career in medicine.

I was first introduced to the issue of exploitation through hearing stories about my great-grandmother being labor trafficked as a child. This inspired me to begin researching human trafficking and I was shocked to see that unfortunately, it is still a serious problem today both globally and in my own community in Minnesota. I wanted to take action so I helped organize an awareness campaign about trafficking at school which is how I got connected with A.C.T. United!

As the Event Coordinator, I am excited to organize community events and continue to work towards prevention and an end to exploitation. I am passionate about the importance of educating the youth about this issue which is why I especially love being involved with A.C.T. United!

The A.C.T. United Team: Meet Srihita!

My name is Srihita Raju and I am a digital marketing intern with ACT United! I got involved with ACT United when I created a Community Awareness project for my high school’s DECA chapter. After working with ACT United, I decided I didn’t want to stop raising awareness there. This fall, I will be a freshman at the University of Minnesota TC, and I will be studying marketing at the Carlson School of Management. Outside of school, I like reading, creative writing, cooking, staying active, and spending time in Minneapolis. In the future, I hope to continue my work fighting against human trafficking in my community, as well as getting involved in community efforts to improve education and health services for young people or people in poverty. Being a part of ACT United has taught me the importance of seeking out information and actively learning about the world around me in order to best apply the skills I have to fight for change. I think everyone should put effort into educating themselves in order to contribute back to their communities, and I am so excited that I get to do that with ACT United!

The A.C.T United Team! Meet Becky “Shine a Light” Youngmark!

Hi! My name is Becky Youngmark and I have been volunteering with ACT United since attending a conference 2 years ago. I had attended a Bible study from International Justice on human trafficking in other countries and our friends that led the study saw that ACT United was having a conference locally. My husband, me and our friends got tickets and decided to attend. I cried the whole time the main speaker gave his testimony. I wasn’t involved in human trafficking however my childhood was filled with incest from a family member. I later learned I wasn’t the only victim. The most important thing I learned from that conference was that it was ok to speak up about what was happening. The skeleton came out of the closet. In my instance, I spoke up and was not believed by either parent and told to never bring it up again. It took over 50 years for me to talk about it, beginning after that conference.

I am a retired journalist and photographer and love to work with people. I have volunteered in many organizations over the years and signed up to volunteer to work with ACT United wherever they need me. I currently help with some of their promotional writing, taking photographs, and am on their prayer team interceding for people’s hearts and upcoming events. I wish I had ACT United around when I was young. If they had come into my school to talk about prevention about sex trafficking and abuse, I think I would have had the courage to keep telling adults about my situation until I was heard. 

The A.C.T United Team! Meet our “child champion” Abigail

My name is Abigail, I was born in St. Louis, Missouri but I have lived
in Minnesota for the past 10 years. I will be going into my second year
at Ethnos360 Bible Institute this fall 2020. I first learned about a ministry
to help those coming out of trafficking 2 years ago. I have wanted to
work against trafficking since then and I am thrilled to finally be
getting involved!

As I was searching for opportunities, I was directed to ACT United by a
friend. I immediately loved what they were doing and applied for an
internship! I am now the community engagement and communications intern!
I am so excited to join the team and work and learn alongside everyone
at ACT United.

I love what ACT United is doing by raising awareness to stop trafficking
and exploitation before it even starts. I am excited to use my skills
and experience to help stop youth trafficking.

Words from A.C.T United- We are so blessed to have Abigail on our team! In the past she has been a missionary to China where she worked in orphanages to connect waiting children to loving Chinese forever families. We are so excited and grateful to see all the amazing work she will do working with us!

The A.C.T. United Team! Meet our “action hero” Annette

Annette Thompson

Annette Thompson Communications and Community Engagement Volunteer

Although I have traveled a lot in my lifetime I have always lived in Minnesota, so I say I am a big healthy German / Norwegian Minnesota girl. I spent most of my growing up years on Bald Eagle Lake in White Bear Lake. Having learned to waterski on the St. Croix River at the age of 5, I was competing in slalom, trick, and jump at a national level by the age of 12. My two brothers and I, along with my Mom and Dad, all participated and traveled to local, regional, and national tournaments. I guess you could say my family made the most of the short Minnesota summers.  After graduating from White Bear Lake High School I attended Brown Institute in Minneapolis, completing their Radio and TV Broadcasting program. After a couple of years of small town radio gigs I returned to the big city for a job in Telecommunications. For 15 years I traveled the metro area designing, installing and cutting over large phone systems. As telecom converted to data so did I. For the past 15 years I worked as an IT project manager with various customers across the US. Managing technical projects has been my life long career, always changing, always challenging, yet also fun.

In 1985 my husband and I purchased a very small home on Spring Lake in Prior Lake. That’s where my son and daughter were born. After 10 years on Spring Lake, we moved to Prior Lake. I have lived in Prior Lake for the past 35 years.

While raising my kids I became involved with youth and my community. I coached soccer for 6 years, grades K through 6th. I taught Sunday School for a couple of years, later I was a small group leader for 7th and 8th grade girls. The tradition continues as I am currently my granddaughters Awana small group leader.

I have attended Friendship Church for the past 22 years, currently I am serving on the Hospitality Team. I have attended BSF, completing 9 years of the 10 year program. During 2005 and 2006 I went into the women’s prison in Shakopee as part of a ministry with my church. In 2006 – 2007, I was so blessed when I was able to work at MN Adult and Teen Challenge. I am still connected with them and have friends that work there. It is an amazing organization. I exponentially spiritually grew while I worked there.

Currently, I am an elected official serving my second term as a City Councilor for the City of Prior Lake. Something God called me to because I would have never picked it in a million years.

God originally broke my heart for sex trafficking back in 2000 when I read a story in Christian magazine about a 12 year old girl who was kidnapped from her grandmother’s home in Asia and sold into sex trafficking.

She was rescued by a Samaritans Purse worker, taken into their program where she received care, and eventually Christ. They bought her a juice machine, provided her business training, and at the age of 15 she supported herself selling juice in the market. It troubled me so I never forgot it. I have always had deep compassion for vulnerable youth, kids without parents, or kids without attentive parents. They are victims of their circumstances, they grow up vulnerable, some become troubled, some fall into evil. My heart breaks for these children. I would love to help lead them to Christ, to healing, and to a new life.

Thank you for the opportunity to become a member of your team. I look forward to working with you as we spread awareness and prevention to youth and communities regarding sex trafficking and bring them the love and hope of Christ.

Annette

https://www.facebook.com/connect.actunited

Knowledge is a Step to Freedom

By Lilly B.

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 LIV

“Right Now” Your Story, Your Value, Your Action to End Human Trafficking is the 5th annual conference for A.C.T. United and is coming up on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. What does that have to do with you? What can you do to educate and prevent sex trafficking? It never happens in my community is what you might be thinking, but is that true? Probably not.

My journey began as a young vulnerable child. My family attended church and Sunday school. I went to a public school and no one would have suspected that I was being sexually abused. My grandfather, I believe, was sexually abused as a child. That “habit” carried over to his grandchildren, one of which was me.

I braved up the courage to tell my parents when I was 11 but was met with unbelief. I was accused of lying to my dad. “I don’t ever want to hear you talk about my dad in that way ever again!” He was very emphatic, in fact yelling, with a finger in my face, response. Years of abuse as a young child led to me stuffing my anger and blaming myself for what was happening every time we visited. I made a point of staying away from my grandpa and becoming the protector of my 4 younger siblings. Looking back now, it doesn’t surprise me that when my 5th grade male school teacher and Sunday School teacher began abusing me I didn’t tell anyone for fear I would again be branded as a liar.

Fast forward many years later, a mother of two and grandmother of three with a heart to follow God. Little did I know the path God would put me on. It began with a bible study at church written by the International Justice Mission. My eyes were opened to the slavery and abuse that many of our young children are going through. The study lasted 6 weeks but each week I asked our leader, “What about the children here in our communities and in the United States?” Each week I was told we were focusing on the sex trade overseas. A few months after finishing that study, friends of ours that were in the same study told us about a conference in Chaska with the organization A.C.T. United that focused on prevention of sex trafficking here in Minnesota. They asked if we wanted to go and we signed up. Last year’s conference brought a big change in me.

Through the years I had much professional counseling about my childhood but it wasn’t until last year’s conference that I heard the words that would set me free. “It’s ok to tell.” Through all those years I had never been given permission to tell of my struggles with a family that stayed silent and allowed sexual abuse to happen to me. I came home from that conference and wrote the poem “It’s ok to Tell”.

Step by step the Lord led me to join up with A.C.T. United as I volunteered to do “anything the Lord wants me to do” and ended up writing a blog as Lilly B. The name of Lilly B is my grandma’s name. She was married to my grandpa. She walked in on my grandpa abusing me as a three year old child. Her response was a tear in her eye, pulled the curtain closed and left me there. When grandpa was done, he called to her to come and clean up my mess. In later years, I discovered I wasn’t the only grandchild that my grandpa abused. In fact, during a heart to heart with my dad, he not only apologized for not believing me but confessed that the same thing had happened to some of his siblings. Acknowledging my abuse would have meant acknowledging the childhood abuse he had seen and suffered and at that time the easiest thing to do was to blame me. That conversation, in turn, freed my mom to tell my dad that grandpa had also tried to sexually abuse her and one of my aunts, his son’s wives.

This has been a year of healing for me as I write under my grandmother’s name. I believe it is a tribute to her, allowing her to finally be able to speak up to a subject that gave her so much pain. I believe her prayers are what have carried us all through. Writing as Lilly B. has freed me as well. I am now able to talk freely about my past and that bit by bit has allowed the scars to heal from the inside out.

I don’t know what path the Lord is putting you on.  But I do know that if the “Right Now” Your Story, Your Value, Your Action to End Human Trafficking” conference is something that has been in the back of your mind, now is the time to attend. You may need healing from abuse or you may be the ministry tool God uses to set someone else free. The knowledge you gain from this conference could be what prevents your own child or grandchild from being deceived into this sexual slave trade. The belief that someone is going to steal your child off the street is one of the lies that allows this kind of thing to continue. The fact is that most youth are brought into this lifestyle because of someone they trusted, a person that befriended them at school, a trusted family member or the fear of a mistake being exposed or sibling being hurt. I encourage you to attend and see that this is one step that God could be using you to turn evil plans to good and to give someone else the hope they need to be free. You can register online at www.eventbrite.com A.C.T. United Right Now conference.

It’s OK to Tell

By Lilly B.

@2/17/2019

Years of the Secret had burdened me down

In my heart, I longed to be found.

Will someone listen, please just hear!

I just want to be loved and held near!

Unconditional love, not pain and strife…

I need to be free from this abused life

A Grandpa, a teacher, a close friend,

Broken trust forever, just because they were men.

Used and abused they stole what was mine,

In this little girl’s eyes, they took away the shine.

They stole her innocence, made fear life inside,

Wanting to be invisible, fear wanted me to hide.

“It’s our secret, don’t ever tell,”

Are the words that made life a living hell.

Putting hands and things where they don’t belong,

In a poor defenseless child, it was so wrong.

The guilt, the shame and all that pain

Suffering through life, carrying the blame.

Then I met Jesus, He set me free,

The one who loves me unconditionally.

He himself was beaten, bled and died,

All for me so I could heal inside.

It wasn’t my fault and not my choice,

But with Jesus, I have gotten back my voice.

I can forgive those who used and abused me

I can move forward in life as whole and completely.

See it’s ok to tell, the secret is out…

I’m no longer a prisoner of all that doubt.

I am a worthwhile person, Jesus died for me.

I am his workmanship, his specialty.

I am a child of the King who cried and held me tight,

As the abusers tried to control my plight.

They didn’t know the power of Jesus blood,

It has set me free and rushed in like a flood.

He covered me, he healed my pain,

So I could share and you could gain.

So I bind all that fear and pain in Jesus Name!

It’s ok to tell and get rid of the shame.

What is in Your Garden?

 

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have a deep love for growing flowers and I have to admit that I can overspend in the spring. One of the things I like to do is find a poor leftover perennial at the end of the season on clearance. Usually they are pretty beat up with lots of dead leaves. I take it home and find a special place in my yard and baby it as much as I can, then I wait. Most of the time, my effort pays off the next spring. It is always fun to see those once neglected flowers blossom into what they were meant to be.

The one challenge I have is I don’t like to weed. It always seems to be a daunting task that I put off as long as I can. There have been a couple of years that it doesn’t get done. Guess what, the plants survive and still thrive; they just are smaller and not as beautiful because of the weeds. This year I was able to get some weeding done in my flower beds but not all. So I donned my gardening hat and went out to finish the massive weeding of the rest of my flower beds.

As I was weeding, the Lord spoke to my heart. “You have weeds growing in the depths of your heart. They hold you back from what I want you to be.”

Those weeds are unhealthy addictions that can stunt our growth. For some it could be drugs or alcohol.  Still for others, an addiction to shopping, to abusing others or yourself, fast cars, expensive lifestyle. For me, I struggle with going to food as my comfort and thinking I am never good enough.

Yesterday I decided the weeding had to be done.  I mixed up some homemade weed killer with vinegar and wanted the easy way out. I thought I could walk around the house and spray the weeds and they would disappear. Some did, however the larger, deeper rooted ones didn’t. Those I had to pull by hand. Some were really hard to pull, others I had to dig out. One of my perennials is a large Yucca plant. It has taken years for it to bloom. This year it was in full bloom, I had gotten rid of the weeds around it only to notice a small layer underneath of dead leaves. I lifted up the new leaves and began to pull the old ones out. They came out really easy. The one thing I noticed was that the beauty of the plant remained but buried deep down inside, hidden away was the rotten dead leaves. I couldn’t help but begin to ask questions. What roots are buried deep inside of me? Am I willing to allow the Lord to pull them out? Am I willing to let him lift up the façade of who I think I am and pull out those hidden dead leaves inside of me?

I will be honest. Beginning to write this blog has brought up many weeds in my life that I thought were pulled out. It is time for me to allow the Lord to pull the old dead leaves that are buried deep inside me out. In my experience of sexual abuse, there were many other deep rooted weeds that had to come out: fear of rejection, desperately wanting to be accepted and loved, dependence on food because it was one thing I could control when it was accessible, the belief that I wasn’t worth anything and everyone else was better than me, the anger I would stuff down inside when I was hurting and lashing out through loud ugly words to the those that loved me unconditionally. For me, I think my deepest wound was thinking I could never be good enough for God to love me. How could God have allowed those weeds to come into my life and become so big? I know now that God didn’t want those things to happen to me but he has used them to allow me to blossom into the person I am today.

Lord, thank you for allowing me to bloom where I am planted. Thank you for being the Master Gardener. Pull out anything rooted in me that is not from you. Heal the hurts from the past and help me to fertilize my life with prayer and your Word so nothing else grows in my heart but you. Pull out the dead leaves that are hidden underneath me and replace them with the true beauty that you meant me to be. Cleanse my mind of the things others have told me I was and give me a new picture of who you meant for me to be so that I can bloom and grow in your garden. Allow me the privilege of sharing my beauty with others, so they can bloom too.

What is in your garden?

By Lilly B.