It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 3

As a team, we declare that every woman, man and child is valuable, no matter their socioeconomic status, culture, race, age or gender. Every voice, every life, every heart matters. We do not speak for others, we can only hope that our voices (what we say and do) will turn our ears to hear the voices that are hidden, diminished and abandoned.

The boy sent out on the small boat to fish 14 hours a day.

The girl whose manipulative relative visits her room at night for his own pleasure.

The man who is told he must work or his family will be killed.

The woman who gives herself away to pay for the medical needs of her young child.

What you can do:

  1. Recognize the power you have and use it to empower others.
  2. Refuse to use other people to make yourself feel more valuable.
  3. Don’t blame victims.
  4. Believe you have dignity so you can recognize the dignity of every other human being and help them recognize it.
  5. Support – through prayer, relational interaction and finances.

What’s better than raising $1,000 for a cause? Doing it arm in arm with others. Donate through our Dressember team to International Justice Mission and A21 here: #YourVoiceMatters team page.

If you are inspired to donate to another organization fighting human trafficking (there are many!) or to act/think differently, would you let us know? It would be so encouraging for us to hear that our advocacy is making an impact.

Stephanie Sutphin, Wife/Stay-at-home Mom/Lover of crafting

StephanieWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

I saw a blog post about Dressember through a friend. I wanted to join in right away! Human trafficking has always been something that deeply bothered me, and learning more about the injustices people are enduring daily made me want to fight for them, do anything I could. I rarely wear dresses and am nursing my baby girl so I knew it would be a challenge for me. That made the choice to participate even more meaningful. I choose to put on a dress every day because there are millions out there who don’t get a choice. I am also making decorating glass candle holders to raise money that are available to buy here: Etsy Candle Holders.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

It never seemed like my voice could matter. I’m not on the front lines with IJM helping people, or even a writer who could raise awareness. Recently I learned that sex slavery is happening in the United States, not just the rest of the world. That really hit me, but I still didn’t see how I could change things. Participating in Dressember has made me feel empowered. My voice does matter. I can make a difference by being an advocate to people who are treated wrongly, by valuing myself and others, and by raising my family to treat every single person they meet with dignity and respect.

Rosanne Moore: Homeschooling Mom of 4, Reading Instruction Specialist, Writer/Editor/Spiritual Director

RosanneWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

I think I grew up with the wrong belief that women involved in the sex trade did so as a matter of choice. As I became more involved in ministry that allowed me to sit with women of a variety of backgrounds and hear their stories, I learned about the realities of human trafficking and have prayed for opportunities to do something about it. Since becoming a single mom about 4 years ago, I live with a strong awareness that single mothers in other parts of the world – women who are without my family support and educational opportunities – are incredibly vulnerable to sex trafficking. And as a follower of Jesus and the mother of a daughter, I want to intervene on behalf of victimized girls and women with the same passion that I would want shown by others toward me and my daughter, if we were being harmed. Dressember offers me an opportunity to support my sisters around the world actively.

Andrea made me aware of Dressember last year, and this year, I decided to participate as well. Seeing Andrea’s daughter Amelia involved made my middle school-aged daughter decide to join me. It’s been a stretch for us both as she’s active kid and I haven’t worn dresses much since my kids were born. (I spent too much time on the floor w/ little ones!) However, we’ve both unexpectedly discovered a new freedom to embrace and celebrate our own femininity during this time of solidarity with our sisters around the world.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

There have been some dark seasons in my life during which I surrendered my voice, both with God and others, because I felt powerless and discarded. Believing my voice matters is tied to a greater hope – that no matter what the result of speaking truth looks like in the short-term, in the long-run God hears and answers our cries. He is always at work to make all things new, and when I refuse to be silent in the face of injustice or deception or the status quo of self-interest, I affirm the truth of His character in the midst of circumstances would otherwise call for despair.

Living in the US and having spent some time in a 3rd world country also gives me a sense of responsibility to use the place of blessing that I’ve been given as an opportunity to serve those in far more challenging circumstances. All that we have, both in terms of material possessions and of options unknown to most of the world, are gifts that we can steward for God’s eternal purposes. What a privilege that is!

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 1, Part 2

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 2

We didn’t know who he was, but someone else at our workshop pointed him out. On the way out to lunch Aaron and I walked over to John Cotton Richmond and thanked him for his work as a federal human trafficking prosecutor and former International Justice Mission-India director. We visited for a few minutes, astounded at the his confidence in the idea that it really is possible to end human trafficking, and end it soon. I’m not sure I would have believed it coming from anyone else.

IMG_5044“What can we do?” I asked. He encouraged us to support those doing freedom work and participate in Dressember again. He’d just visited with Blythe Hill, founder of Dressember, the week before.

I admit, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I was leaning toward not participating this year. Though we’d raised $1,000 last year for International Justice Mission, I remembered how discouraged I was through most of the month, wondering why I bothered wearing dresses when most people didn’t realize why I was doing it. Most of December 2014 I felt discouraged, uncomfortable, frustrated, ignored and insignificant. But then I remembered that those very feelings are what gave me a sense of solidarity with others fighting for freedom. Maybe participating in Dressember is worth it.

So this year when it came time to register, I took a bit of a leap and created a team #YourVoiceMatters. It is  a phrase used in other contexts, but it has great personal meaning for me. I not only want to believe that my voice matters, I want to encourage others to believe their voices matter, too. It’s one of the themes of my life. I was surprised when we ended up with 13 participants on our team. A couple of women even did it because they saw me do it last year. Maybe my quiet month of everyday-advocacy did make a difference. Maybe my voice matters.

December is the giving month. It’s the month that every non-profit hopes to collect what they need to make it into the new year. It’s the month that we look at our pocketbooks and wish we had more to give. But don’t let the enormity of the need and the smallness of your ability keep you from believing that you can make a difference. Your $5 , $10 or $100 matters. Your attitude toward others matters. Your prayers matter. Your word of encouragemet matters. Whatever it is, your offering matters.

Donate here: #YourVoiceMatters Dressember Team

In Part 1, we heard from four of our Dressember teammates. Allow me to introduce you to two more impactful young women in North Platte.

Alena Evans: Reader/Writer/Chinese Restaurant Hostess/Babysitter/Home-school Student

Screenshot 2015-12-16 at 5.58.47 PMWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

Let’s see…last year my friend posted a picture in her dress with the Dressember link. She never wears dresses so this really caught my attention. When I read about what she was doing I was kind of like “That’s interesting.” and moved on–the issue at hand didn’t really stir anything in my heart. I saw Andrea post a picture about it too and I remember feeling like maybe I should pay attention to this, but I really didn’t.
Then over the summer another friend of mine went on a missions trip to Thailand, and when she came back she talked about how much human trafficking there is in Thailand. She told me about a woman she had met who had been able to get out of trafficking, and about just the way these girls end up there, and it was all so heartbreaking to me!
Well I had forgotten all about Dressember until November when Andrea posted about starting a team. I actually kind of wrestled with it the moment that I saw your post, because it didn’t seem like I would be doing a lot, and it’s not like New Mexico where you can get away with not wearing pants in the beginning of the winter–I live in Nebraska! But then I thought, ‘Get a hold of yourself! This is what you’ve been waiting for, and you wear dresses for work half the time anyway.” So I jumped in, and I’m really glad I did! It feels great to be a part of the team, instead of on my own.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

I guess to me that means that I can have influence over people with my words, and so I should be careful with what I say. The way I speak and what I pipe up about matter because it is what the Lord cares so deeply about. At least, I want it to be that way.

Megan Wullschleger: 17 year old Avid Writer/ Lover of Stories/ Blogger/ Musician/ Student

HaitiWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

My friend, Olivia Youngs got me involved with Dressember. I didn’t understand what it was all about until I had watched the video on her blog of what Dressember was and I fell in love and I knew that I really needed to do this. I knew it was going to be a challenge, and it is! But it is for such an amazing cause. And it holds a place in my heart.

www.bonafidemegan@blogspot.com

What the phrase “Your Voice Matters” means to you?

At times we feel as though we aren’t heard. And though we may feel that, we really can be even though we think we aren’t. That’s how the victims of sex trafficking feel and so through this we are showing them we care and that they are heard…your voice matters in any situation. And someone does care.

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 1

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 1

Dressember

Sometimes I scare myself. I think of crazy ideas to connect people and make an impact on the world but then every once in a while I actually say them out loud. Eeek!

After participating in something called “Dressember” last year, it occurred to me: “It would be awesome to gather a team of people to participate in Dressember with Amelia and I next year!” All they would have to do is wear dresses every day in December, raise money and spread the message. Right? By this November, I was nervous as all-get-out to throw the idea out to the world. What if no one joins us after I put myself out there and actually ask for help? But I was committed, so I explained our mission and invited others to participate with us (read more about Dressember here). After a few days with no response, a number of women and some of their friends joined our team called #YourVoiceMatters. These women are passionate and powerful and I am thrilled to introduce some of them to you in a couple of posts entitled It’s More Than A Dress.

As of today, our team is comprised of 13 adults and two girls. We have raised $975 of our $3000 goal! Check out the creative ways each of these women are using their voices and their gifts to amplify the voices of others. Each woman has her own fundraising page that connects to our overall #YourVoiceMatters team page. Donate through them and you’re donating through our team.

Olivia Youngs: Wife to AJ, Mom to two girls, Writer and Coffee Lover – View More: http://a-momentphotography.pass.us/olivia-editpassionate about simplicity        North Platte, NE

Why are you participating in Dressember? 

My roommate from college participated in Dressember last year, but because I was breastfeeding my oldest daughter at the time, decided not to join in (wearing a dress isn’t the most convenient choice for breastfeeding moms). This year though, as I’m nursing my second baby, I realized that it was too great a cause and too huge a problem for me not to participate. I’ve blogged about it here and am selling handmade items to fundraise here.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

“Your voice matters” is an incredibly empowering phrase. To me, it means that I have the ability to make an impact; that my words mean something, no matter how inadequate they may feel.

Rachael Miller: Author, Artist, and Wife to a green-eyed Tolkien enthusiast.    Greeley, CO

Why are you participating in Dressember? IMG_0776

I was approached by my sister-in-law Olivia Youngs about joining Dressember. She was really passionate about participating this year, and wanted to know if several of her friends and family members wanted to join. At first, I was hesitant about joining the movement. Though I do care about the issue of sex trafficking, I didn’t feel passionate about it like I thought I should. The “challenge” of wearing only dresses for a whole month was intriguing, but I wanted my heart to be in it for the right reasons. I didn’t want Dressember to become just another thing I was doing because my friends were doing it. Also, I lived far away from the other members of the #yourvoicematters team, if I were to do this, I would be practically alone.

Even now, though I still do not feel a burning inside my heart for the cause, I’ve realized that supporting something can function a lot like love. When you love someone, you may not always feel passion for them; love is a choice to remain committed. From the moment I put on my first Dressember dress, I was choosing to offer more than my passion. I was offering my support and my commitment to ending this great evil of our time.

I’ve made origami dress ornaments available for a donation of any amount to the cause.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?   

It means that whoever you are, whether you have a large circle of influence or a small one, you still leave your mark upon the world. Choosing to speak up or remain silent—both have an impact on the future.

Jenny Maestas: Lactation Consultant (I help moms breastfeed their babies)       Lincoln, NE

IMG_0991Why are you participating in Dressember?

I would hear about human trafficking, but really had no frame of reference for it. I didn’t really know any of the statistics or have an idea of how wide spread it was. I wanted to be forced to really look at the issue and learn more, that putting on a dress every day wouldn’t just be a normal routine in my day, but would serve as a reminder to look outside of my everyday and see what was really going on in the world. I work with babies every day in my job, and I want to play a part in creating a safer, more secure world for them in the future, as well as for my own children.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

It’s so easy to listen to all of the horrible news around the world and in our own backyard and think that there’s really nothing you can do to make a difference in it. It’s easy to live in fear. But that’s a lie that I can so easily believe, when in reality, each of our voices collectively has the potential to create real change in our world. We can give a voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves.

Lanae Pierson: High School Biology Teacher     Columbus, NE

Why are you participating in Dressember? 10317804_10204216190274706_8704194780087415230_o

I saw that my friend Jenny Maestas was doing Dressember.  I spent a few days thinking about whether I should donate to her campaign or just join her team.  Since ending human trafficking is something I believe strongly in, but have never done anything about, I decided to join her team.  Though I do want to raise money to help International Justice Mission and A21, my primary reason for joining the Dressember campaign is to build awareness.  I’m doing so by taking a daily picture of me in a dress holding a sign that gives a fact about human trafficking.  I further expand on each fact in my blog (lifelogoflanae.wordpress.com).

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

It means that although the issue of human trafficking is huge, what I have to say about it is important.  I, as a single person, can make a difference in this world.  This is why I didn’t just donate money to the Dressember campaign; I became a part of it to build awareness.  My voice matters (and yours does too)!

 

Click here for the #YourVoiceMatters Dressember Team page.

A Short Message for LEADERS

 

I know. I need this message more than anyone else.

There is a place for self-evaluation and growth. But when self-awareness turns into self-deprecation, you turn into someone who JUDGES.

Belittling yourself in front of other people makes you UNSAFE and influences others to believe that it is normal and even good to belittle themselves.

I want to see people grow in their positive impact on the world. I want to see an END to slavery in my lifetime. But my voice is counterproductive to the #enditmovement when it is self-deprecating.

So I’m calling all leaders and all activists and all mothers and fathers and older siblings and anyone who has influence over anyone else…

If you want to be a leader and make a difference in the lives of others, take this to heart:

build up - tear down

Let’s end it.

A Call To Dignity

Sometimes the written word just doesn’t cut it for me. Today I made a video. Please watch to the end. And regardless of how I feel about how I look or sound in this video, I care about the message and I want to get it out. So please share it if you are inclined to do so. (Transcript below.)

Love,

Andrea Joy

p.s. If you want to make a donation to our Dressember campaign this year, follow this link:

https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=382025

Dignity

Transcript of the video: A Call to Dignity

This morning my 8-year-old daughter is playing with play dough and listening to Kids’ Bop music while 2 million girls as young as my daughter’s age…MY daughter’s age…wake up believing they have no choice but succumb to sexual exploitation to pay back a “debt” or earn their freedom or keep their families from being killed. Most of these girls are under the age of 12 and serve up to 1,500 clients a year.*

Sometimes hearing numbers makes me numb to the need. I get so overwhelmed with the horror that I turn and walk the other way because I can’t handle it.

Did I just say that?

I can’t handle it?!

And yet an 8 year old woke up today believing she is nothing other than an object to be intimately violated – and may not even realize that she has anything so sacred that could be violated.

While my daughter plays with play dough.

I don’t like to wear dresses because they make me feel vulnerable. I am stronger and more protected in pants. I don’t call attention to my own beauty in pants.

But every day in December I have slipped into vulnerability to declare its dignity. I have put on clothing that makes me feel weak and unprotected to begin to identify with women and children who feel helpless – who no one protects. I have “dressed up” and put effort into my appearance, proclaiming that beauty can be enjoyed without being objectified and exploited.

And my 8 year old wore dresses nearly every day this month in her own innocence – because she likes wearing dresses and wanted to identify with her Mommy.

Each one of us has the opportunity to fight for dignity and freedom and justice of all people. You don’t have to donate to International Justice Mission through our Dressember campaign to make a difference. There are LOTS of worthy organizations that live as bright beacons of light in the darkness of horror. There are LOTS of horrors in the world to fight – that we each unknowingly contribute to every day.

If you want to have a significant impact on every single one of them, you can…

BELIEVE in your OWN dignity and beauty.

BELIEVE that you have something sacred that can be violated.

BELIEVE that when you objectify another, you diminish your own humanity.

BELIEVE that when you put yourself down, you influence others to question their own value.

BELIEVE that you really do make a difference.

BELIEVE that you are Loved.

Because you are.

And in so doing, we will change the world.

Dressember

The statistics are staggering.

The atrocities are appalling.

Some people make choices that make them vulnerable to traffickers. Others are ripped from their lives and families. Regardless of how they got there, the idea that humans in 2014 would use and abuse other humans for their own gain and pleasure makes me nauseous. And don’t worry. I have a sense of the complex inconsistencies and hypocricy that I embody as a white, middle class business owner in the U.S. I feel tangled up in an intricate web of injustices that I (often unknowingly) participate in. So I have stayed quiet. I’ve prayed for justice and love to prevail but I haven’t done much to promote it outside of attempting to make small changes in my own life.

I have been quiet long enough. I have neglected to do something to help long enough.

The month of December our daughter Amelia Dawn and I will be participating in Dressember. It is not a license to go shopping, it IS a movement to raise awareness and funds for the dignity and justice of all human beings. The funds we raise go to International Justice Mission – an organization who fights for the freedom of the enslaved and the prosecution of enslavers. If you have been wanting to do something but haven’t known how, I invite you to join Amelia and I. Participate in Dressember and raise funds, or contribute to our fundraising campaign. All money donated goes directly to IJM.

https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise?is_new=1&fcid=382025

Dressember

For the inherent dignity of all people.

For the strength, courage and beauty of femininity.

For justice and hope and freedom.

For the sake of love.

Because I am uncomfortable in dresses.

Because I am grieved for the enslaved and long for their total freedom.

Because I am grieved for the enslavers and long for their spiritual freedom.

Because I believe in the work of International Justice Mission.

To call attention to beauty.

To raise my awareness about the reality of slavery.

To raise others’ awareness about the reality of slavery.

To raise funds for IJM to rescue and defend the vulnerably exposed.

Let’s make a difference together.

IMG_0163