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A quick trip to Belgium

We packed up a suitcase of High Tea supplies and hopped on the train to Antwerp, Belgium.  Our visit last year led us to a great organization that is totally hands on with reaching out to women. They  not only visit the women working the windows, but offer a support system.  For some, it is simply having a weekly meal together to provide community, for others it is “rescuing” them out of their circumstance (providing a safe place to live, education, job training, a plan for the future).

Prostitution in Belgium is legal, but less regulated than Netherlands.  Amsterdam is one of the most well known Red Light Districts, so is highly regulated and overseen by the government (the government has recently been buying brothels so they can “oversee”…it is actually a ploy to be part of the multi-million dollar industry).

Due to the lack of legal regulations, the Red Light districts throughout Belgium are one of the highest places for trafficked women and girls.  It is not uncommon to see girls age 13 working windows.  Those that are trafficked have no legal rights.

Cherut means “freedom” and that is the hope they offer. To be free from pimps, a desperate past, and for a life that offers a glimmer of light.  Their grassroots beginning has grown!  What started with one woman’s vision to see women in the Red Light District experience freedom, now has grown to a movement of more than 50 volunteers, trained social workers and case workers.  Their simple start in one apartment has expanded to 5 safe houses that will house up to 20 women.

Our team grabbed a delicious Belgian waffle and walked over to Cherut to set-up for the tea.  We hosted High Tea for women from more than 10 countries!  Each woman received a Yada Lovely Things gift box and a Bible.  One of our favorite moments was when a sweet girl from Czekoslovokia opened her box and had a squeal of delight seeing a Bible in English.  She has been in classes to learn English and now had her own English book.  Oh my…how the Word of God can bring such joy!

Our experiences at the High Tea were completely different from Amsterdam to Antwerp…and both were amazing.

We enjoyed dinner with our dear friends from Ecuador (who volunteer at Cherut) and heard their vision for continuing to expand the work of bringing hope to girls working in Belgium.  Belgium is one of most spiritually deprived countries in Europe.  Although dark, it makes the light of Jesus that much brighter and sought after.

More on this later, but we will be continuing to host High Tea to provide funding for  Cherut’s sponsorship program.  For $300/month for 6 months a girl getting out of prostitution will be provided with housing, education, counseling, and job training through Cherut.  We are excited to see how God will bring healing and hope for women in Belgium!

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Exceeded expectations…

I have to be honest, my least favorite part of any trip is sitting down to write a summary of our trip.  How do you take a thousand interactions with people, a million “God-sightings”, a feeling of utter dependence on Jesus and an eager anticipation of how it is going to impact the future.  I would rather sit down with each of you and drink coffee and chat about it.  But here I am drinking coffee and trying to write it out…

Five years ago Heidi Wiley was living in Netherlands with her husband for work.  After her first visit to Amsterdam and seeing the Red Light District she wrote, ” I know, without a doubt, I want to do something. Something big for women trapped in the sex industry…” She started volunteering with YWAM Amsterdam each week while living in the Netherlands.  They then moved back to Madison and shared her experience.  The same thing that stirred Heidi stirred within me. I had never considered Europe as a Yada trip.  Heidi made some connections for us last year and this year 10 of us embarked on a faith filled journey to Europe.

We spent the week working together to show the love and grace of Jesus to all we encountered (even each other!).

As we prepared for the tea in Amsterdam, we met often with the team working there.  They shared stories of the relationships they have built with women working the windows; the complicated stories of women trying to get out of prostitution; the dynamics of their work with women; etc.  Their team of 7 spans age, countries, backgrounds…it is quite diverse.  We enjoyed the time we spent with them and quickly saw “our team” and “their team” as “the team”.  Daily we would pray together and the feeling that heaven was touching earth was tangible.  Our prayer for their team continued to be “unity”.

As we prayed for unity for their team, God allowed us to facilitate unity for their team as we served them “High Tea”.  Their casual conversations, laughter, and love for each other came easily as the night went on.  Delicious food, hot tea, foot scrubs, hand massages were on the agenda.

We went with the expectation that women working the Red Light District would drop in and we would host an event that the Amsterdam team could connect in a different setting with the women.  That night, 1 woman from the Red Light District came.  As she left, she was gifted with the box of Yada Lovely Things and a Bible in her own language.  She was thrilled…almost as much as we were!

As we stood there marveling at the night and how AMAZING it was (although totally different than we expected!) I was reminded by Jody that the first goal of The Yada Project is to minister to missionaries.  Bringing them on-the-ground support, showing interest in their work, and sharing their story with others.  BAM!  Sometimes God reveals the simplest plans in profound ways.

Unanimously, we said we would have gone to host High Tea for the Amsterdam team if they were the only ones.  Words cannot express the joy, friendship, and love felt in that room that night.  God certainly answered our prayers for unity and beyond!

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Amsterdam and Belgium 2020

*This was supposed to be sent out before our trip, but it never posted. Read about our trip and read the follow-up coming out this weekend.  🙂
This year our Yada Project trip is looking a little different.  Instead of the Williams family serving together, Beth (and Lille and Eva) will be leading a group to Europe with connections we made last year.  (Isaiah is currently at an internship in Hawaii and Don and Zeke will be meeting Beth and the girls at the end of the week.)
Our group will be hosting events in Amsterdam and Belgium February 1-8.  The connections we made last year have proven to be a great opportunity to bless teams working there and women working the Red Light districts in Europe.
We are excited to see how God will work through our team and time there!  For most, this is the first time to Amsterdam and Belgium.  Within beautiful cities and canals, lie oppressive streets that strip women of dignity and respect.  We are aware of the many issues that surround prostitution, sex trafficking and drug abuse, but we cannot even begin to solve those issues.  We believe that bringing light to the dark can happen with a kind word, sincere smile, and the giving of our time.  Our simple efforts may not change issues but they will let a light shine in a dark place.
As part of our preparation, we are hosting a few events in Madison.  It has given us some good practice in what we will need, how to set-up, and spreading the word about our trip.
See below for the invitation we have sent out for High Tea in Madison…
 High Tea is known as an affair for royalty; taking the everyday of afternoon tea and elevating it. Our group of ladies will be crossing the ocean to offer this experience to ladies working in the Red Light districts in Amsterdam and Belgium. We have invited them to join us for an afternoon of High Tea and pampering. The day will provide an extravagant event for the ladies and will give us an opportunity to share the extravagant grace and love that Jesus shows each of us!
We are working closely with two organizations that have established relationships with ladies and reach out to them to offer childcare, job training, Bible studies, counseling, and life skills. We will be volunteering with them to help as much as we can and will also be hosting a “High Tea Pamper Day” at each location. Our special event will create a new avenue for these organizations to reach the ladies with the love of Jesus and the hope that He brings.
The color purple represents HOPE and royalty. For many ladies, the loss of family, dignity, and self-respect has given them a future without hope. Although sex trafficking and prostituition are an enormous problem, we pray that our actions will show LOVE, our words would offer HOPE, and our hearts would be filled with FAITH. With those three things, God can do something amazing!
Each lady that attends the “High Tea Pamper Day” will take home gifts created by us. Each bag will have the new “Yada Lovely Things” bath salts, body butter, and sugar scrub, along with a Bible and a devotional.
Our goal in hosting this event is to raise funds for our upcoming trip and gather prayer support! If you would like to be a part of this endeavor financially, you can make checks out to: “The Yada Project” or donate online at theyadaproject.com. We also have put together gift sets that you can purchase featuring the new bath line. Thank you again for coming!
“These three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:14
 
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Posted by on February 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

We are home!

Yada:The Hebrew word rendered “know” is yada. When used in reference to a person, it denotes a personal, experiential knowledge, not mere recognition. Our knowledge of God should be personal and experiential, not merely theological.  
That is also how we feel about the people we have met. We cannot simply know that human trafficking exists and recognize faces affected by it. We need to jump in and “Yada”…know them through personal and experiential relationship. 
Belgium is currently known as being the most unreached in Europe with the gospel. Due to influx from other countries and a mindset that dismisses a need for God, Belgium has continued to have a dark spiritual feel. 
Amsterdam is known worldwide for legalizing sex and drugs. And not only legalizing it, but flaunting it. 
Germany has had an economic boom that has led people to believe there is no need for God. It is the youth that are feeling the effects and searching for meaning. 
Throughout our travels this past week, we got a glimpse into very dark places in Europe but even more, we met people who are bringing the Light. “The darkness cannot extinguish the light”. 
We have met new people, reconnected with others and had our eyes (and hearts!) opened to see God at work. 

We see how God has moved people to step into a role of living their faith in the face of spiritual darkness and what looks like insurmountable evils. And as they talk about what God is doing and how they see him working, our own faith is stirred. God works through them as they walk with him by faith day by day. And he is able to do the same in each one of us as we walk with him.
We cannot leave unchanged…when God stirs your heart for Justice I believe it requires action. 
Typically The Yada Project has partnered with organizations to buy their product and provide a means for work that brings dignity and freedom from poverty. This years partnerships are looking different. We will not have a product, but definitely ways to get involved. Stay tuned…
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.” William Wilberforce 

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Belgium

Blog 6: Belgium. 
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
We spent time in Belgium and a few surrounding towns walking the streets, admiring architecture, tasting chocolate and seeing firsthand the ways organizations are reaching out to the red-light districts. 
The country of Belgium has more than 25,000 sex workers. One organization, Cherut has been working in Belgium for 10 years. What started as one women’s desire to bring hope to the red light district has now grown to an amazing organic organization that is willing to dream big with great faith. 
Cherut is Hebrew for “freedom”. Freedom is at the root of what they want to accomplish. Providing resources, friendship and a family like atmosphere for women to find freedom from the life they are living. Many desire a change, but that is difficult. The more we talked the more we realized that great faith is needed to expect change. 
We met with the director, who shared her story, her vision and her sincere love of the women that are hopeless and do not even know that freedom is a possibility.  
As Cherut has grown from the town of Antewerp and the simple sharing of life with women, it has taken on more and more of a heart for the city and now the country. They have expanded to other cities in Belgium. 
On the afternoon we were there was a bustling living room full of women, children, and volunteers. A few of the ladies chatted in Spanish with Don about their home country and showing pictures of their children. Lille and Eva sat with some ladies who were finishing lunch and working on some artwork. Zeke played with a little girl…and I chatted with a woman who has worked with Cherut from the beginning. There were ladies from the streets, social workers, someone preparing lunch…Honestly, it was hard to know who was ministering and who was being ministered to. It was life….simply living life together. 
Since the various red light districts are not really “family friendly” we would find a cafe for Don and the kids to wait while I would go walk through. I found mostly the same atmosphere in each one. Most of the women would give eye contact and even smile. All were working and waiting for their next customer. The men I encountered on the street never gave eye contact. 
The world of trafficking and prostitution is complicated. It requires people on multiple levels to become numb to their conscience, their daily life and their choices. The feeling of despair and hopelessness is under the surface. So when you have volunteers that visit and exhibit grace, a sincere interest and friendship, there is a glimmer of hope that is restored. And that is why Cherut continues to grow.
After hearing about the ministry, the story behind it, and lives being changed, we all brainstormed on how we can be part of it. We are praying with Cherut about how we can work together for his glory and his plan for Belgium. 

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Crazy connections…

It truly is a small world and I continue to be amazed at how connections we have made follow throughout the globe. 

We were in Ecuador 6 years ago. All of our contacts that we had made before our trip had fallen through and we prayed for God to open a door for The Yada Project. 

The next day we got an email from a contact that had fallen through that said, “Sorry I am out of town, but I think you should talk to Dana.” We not only talked to Dana but became fast friends with her and her husband and have continued to stay in touch (even with a visit from them to Madison!). They are now working with refugees in the Middle East. Through Dana we met Desi and Miguel. 
Years before, Miguel was born in Ecuador, lived on the street and was taken in by the organization that Dana worked with. Miguel has grown to be a great man of faith with a huge heart for the down and ou kids. 
Desi was born in Netherlands, studied social work and went to Ecuador to work with girls on the street. 
When we met Desi and Miguel in Ecuador, they had just gotten married and were volunteering with Espiranzart (where Yada partners for jewelry). 
Fast forward to 2019…Knowing Desi worked with organizations in Netherlands, we jotted them an email before our trip. And lo and behold…guess who is living in Belgium?!? Miguel, Desi and their 3 kids. Miguel is going to Bible school and Desi is volunteering as a social worker. 
We had dinner together and talked freely about joining in how God is at work in Belgium. They have a heart for the people to hear Truth and experience with issues on the street. Their charisma is electrifying and their love of people is contagious. 
I cant wait to see where we may all meet next!  

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Germany

25 years ago in Chicago 2 friends met playing college soccer. Gary and Don challenged each other on and off the field, with many a late night conversation about missions work around the world.
Tragedy hit the Williams family 15 years ago when Don’s dad was shot and killed in a home invasion. That same year, Gary and his wife Bonnie were working in Lebanon where she was tragically shot and killed while volunteering in a pregnancy center. Through both tragedies, Don and Gary reconnected and have seen each other a few times in the United States. 
Gary wrote a book “Total Surrender” about his road of grief, forgiveness and healing. It has impacted people throughout the world and Gary is a sought after speaker. 
Fast forward to present day and we detoured to Germany to visit Gary and his family. Gary and Helena welcomed us into their home and their kids became quick friends with ours. Our worlds merged for a few days as we talked about God’s mission for each of us.
Gary has served with Operation Mobilization (OM) in various roles. He has worked on the Mercy Ships; coordinated Transform, a large mission conference in Europe; and is currently in a strategic role helping to fundraise and recruit people to minister in various parts of the world. Helena has returned to the country she grew up in with a love and understanding of the German people and culture.
We soaked in stories of youth committing their life for the sake of the gospel; for business men who fund Bible distribution in war torn parts of the world; about underground churches being planted by local believers in parts of the world that you wouldn’t believe. 
And we talked about living for Jesus in the daily-ness of life. God is absolutely at work in the world and Gary sees firsthand much of that. But God is also at work through the normal school activities, community events and family functions. Helena shared the beautiful friendships that they are surrounded by and how God continues to show His great love for the people around them. 

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Amsterdam

We have spent the first part of our trip in Amsterdam meeting with organizations, learning about their work here and exploring the beautiful canals and praying through the back alleyways. 
In past years we have prepared for 3rd world issues…lack of water, filthy streets and extreme poverty. We now fin ourselves with lovely flower lined streets, drinkable water, and hot showers! Yet we encounter a new type of evil…the evil of treating people as a commodity. 

Many of the girls working are from Latin countries, Eastern European countries and from Southeast Asia. Ironically as we have encountered trafficking and prostitution in other parts of the world, Amsterdam becomes the hub. It is unclear how many end up in Amsterdam by choice, through disillusionment, or trafficked. 
There are not solid numbers of how many women working in the sex industry in Amsterdam are trafficked, but some have estimated that up to 75% are working against their will. 
Trafficking is a lucrative business. An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90. (Free the Slaves). 
The bottom line in meeting with various organizations is that very few choose the life of the Red Light District. A survey of a cross-section of women working in the red light district found that 92% would stop tomorrow if they had other options. 
One of the organizations we visited has offered just that…another option. They started a culinary training program that aims to rehabilitate those forced to work in the sex industry throughout Amsterdam. These girls are rescued, housed in safe homes and trained in various restaurant jobs. 
We enjoyed tasting their creations and supporting their efforts. Their tag line is “Eat well. Do good.” They are fighting trafficking in Amsterdam and making a difference…one life and meal at a time…yum!
On another day I sat in a small cafe and heard the stories of a woman who has befriended women in the Red Light District for the past 20 years. Each week she visits the ladies working the windows with a hot cup of coffee and sincere friendship. She offers a Bible study, hosts dinners at her home and is known to many as one who loves Jesus.  
There is much information to process. Although there is much darkness in Amsterdam, we have seen the Light shining. In the organizations we met with, there is camaraderie working together to bring hope, spread the love of Jesus and to put their faith into action. 
I have prayed Psalm 27:13-14 over the past years for our family. As we brainstorm, think and pray over Amsterdam, I pray it again…
“I remain confident of this:

    I will see the goodness of the Lord

    in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the Lord;

    be strong and take heart

    and wait for the Lord.” 

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

All you need is LOvE…

This past week was a bit overwhelming. You start to dig deeper into human trafficking and it can get discouraging.  
We were made aware of a group working throughout Europe bringing girls from Thailand and dispersing them throughout red light districts in Belgium and Netherlands. These girls (ages 13-15) are not kidnapped, their families send them willingly to a “better developed country” to go to school and work. Once they arrive with signed papers from their parents, they are housed in brothels and sold for an hourly fee. They are not technically there against their will, since they came willingly…just under very different terms. This is one of many similar stories. It is horrifying as you see pictures of sweet, innocent girls being traded and treated as a commodity.  
As we continued to talk with organizations we will be visiting and they directed us to other resources, we found something more disturbing. Of the more than 40 million cases of trafficking reported, a mere 9,071 cases ever reach prosecution. That means that within this injustice, less than 1% of perpetrators ever face any prosecution. Rescuing those trapped in human trafficking is almost the easy part. Convicting those who are exploiting women and children is the tricky part. It takes the willingness of those who were trafficked to testify, the local police and many other branches of government to bring justice. Within a $150 Billion industry, the corruption is at every level. (There are some great organizations working within the system to bring justice…more on that in an upcoming blog!)
Human trafficking is a big problem. And part of me kinda wishes I never even heard about the whole thing…or that I could just put a red “X” on my hand and feel ok about raising awareness in that way. But see, we have sat with these girls and shared ice cream with them. They are real, and the problem is all to real. Raising awareness is good. Fighting for justice is good. But at the end of the day the enormity of the problem left me feeling overwhelmed. I told Don that I want to make sure to budget an “ice cream fund” for our trip. (Because I think ice cream is the universal language of love!) And that is what I want the girls we meet to know…we love them. Not because we are raising awareness or because we are fighting a social justice issue, but because they are precious to Jesus and He has stirred our hearts to love them.  
I read a verse this week…”Do not despise these small beginnings..” What a perspective! We don’t need to find the solution to human trafficking, but we can love the person in front of us and buy some ice cream to share. God is in the business of miracles through willing hearts and seemingly small beginnings.  
“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” Dr. Suess. That is it…we are not out to change a corrupt system, but we are out to change the life of someone stuck in bondage. We know Jesus and follow His example…meet people where they are at and love them. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Suess.
To donate to the “ice cream fund” send a check to: The Yada Project. 7734 Bittersweet Ct. Middleton, WI 53562

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

On the road again…

On the Road again…


 Six years ago our family set out on our first mission trip.   Our first stop was visiting a family working in Guatemala.  We had a lovely dinner catching up with their lives, their work in Guatemala and watching our kids play together.  Just as we were leaving for the night, we met 2 young interns that were in Guatemala to reach girls that were trafficked.  I had heard the term, but never really thought much about it.  My poker face gave me away and one of the girls ran to her room and handed me a book.  She was leaving the next day to  go to a different town, but said I should skim through it and give it to her in the morning.  That night I read that book cover-to-cover.  It explained human trafficking in cities all over the world.  It explained the undercover busts that were happening to rescue girls as young as 5 years old sold to a brothel.  And it gave real life stories of people…men and women who were trafficked.  The veil had been torn away and I no longer could plead ignorance to a major issue.  

The issue gets me fired up, but it is the people’s faces that I have seen that make me put on the boxing gloves to fight for justice.  It is their story that stirs my heart.  Each story is different, but one thing stands out…each were praying for a deliverer.  Someone that would fight for them, fight for justice, and help protect the next generation from the horrors of trafficking.  

Since reading that book 6 years ago, the Williams Family has encountered human trafficking more than I ever thought we would.  Every place we have served has been aware of the problem and seeking ways to combat it.  We have sat with young girls in Ecuador who have been rescued; prayed on the street with women in the Dominican Republic that were still enslaved, had ice cream with girls from the Philippines who were learning to move on…the list goes on.  Sadly, we have also heard of the sudden disappearance of girls in Indonesia, and held the hands of little children that live in communities that are targeted for trafficking.  

The International Labor Organization estimates more than 40 million people are trafficked globally.  80% are women and children.  The trafficking of women and children is the world’s fastest escalating crime and is a $150 BILLION dollar industry.  The most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation.  These are staggering statistics…and they are well documented.  

And before we just move on from statistics and think, “Wow, that sucks!”  Just stop and think about any little girl you know aged 7-12…they are the hottest commodity on the market right now.  Young virgin girls.  I have 2 of such girls sit at my dinner table every night and it makes my stomach lurch and my heart hurt to even think about that happening to any girl.  Much less MILLIONS of them.  Something needs to be done.  


“The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
This year we are setting out on a journey to Amsterdam, Belgium and Germany.  Three European countries that have the highest rates of  trafficked women and children.  Each country has made prostitution legal, which has a direct correlation to the amount of trafficking into that country.  Simple supply and demand.  
 


There are some amazing organizations on the front lines providing resources, safe houses, rest and recovery for those rescued and working at prevention.  We will be visiting several of them.
 
Do we know much about human trafficking?  Not really.  Are we willing to learn? Sure! But more than a willingness to learn is a stirring in our heart to take action.  To see even just one life be changed because of our efforts.  If one of our daughters were sold into slavery, we would not stop fighting until we found a way to rescue her.  I believe God is calling us to hit the front lines and rescue others’ daughters.  We aren’t totally sure what that looks like yet, but I am confident that God is in it and will direct our steps.  We are willing to go and love people and I think that is what is needed at the moment.
 
“So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.”  Helen Keller
 
We have connections to ministries working in Amsterdam and have personal connections in Belgium and Germany. Each of them know our heart; the mission of The Yada Project, and have invited us to come see how we can get involved.  We are excited to see how God will use us.  One of our greatest points of participation is through prayer.  Each of the places we will be visiting has a time of prayer daily for their efforts and the people they minister to…what a great first step to getting involved!  
 
If you would like more specific prayer requests, let us know atdon_bethw@hotmail.com.  If you would like to contribute to The Yada Project send checks to The Yada Project. 7734 Bittersweet Ct.  Middleton, WI 56562
 
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Posted by on February 23, 2019 in Uncategorized