Welcome to Being Stoned

Impossible Ministries Possible copy

by Peter Buckland, Blackbox International Trustee

One night when I was 20, I prayed that God would give me a hard ministry—a ministry like the Apostle Paul’s.

“If my ministry is too easy,” I told God, “I’ll be dissatisfied and quit.”

Needless to say, my idealism was running rampant in that prayer. Over time, I forgot about that night. At age 28, my wifeVana and I moved to Cookson Hills Christian Ministries, and by age 32 I was seriously ready to quit. I was out running an errand for the ministry, and as I drove, I composed my resignation letter in my mind. I told the Lord that the ministry was just too hard and impossible to accomplish—that He’d picked the wrong man and I was done. I didn’t even ask Him for guidance. I was just finished.

After telling God my plans to quit, I turned on the radio. Chuck Swindoll was preaching about the Apostle Paul. Here is what he said:

“…and they stoned Paul and left him for dead. He revived and went back into the city.”

At that instant, God brought my prayer from 12 years earlier back to my mind. He had not forgotten. He had given me exactly what I’d asked for. I started to laugh, turned off the radio, and stayed at Cookson until it was time for me to leave six years later.

At times, the work of Blackbox International seems impossible. The numbers are staggering, the challenges are overwhelming and the process is messy. We feel, at times, a little like Paul, and we smile to ourselves, “Welcome to being stoned.” Yet, just as Paul revived and went back into the city, we persevere. We continue the work to which God has called us, because we know…He makes the impossible possible.

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Bold as a Lion

Several years ago, my husband and I spent the day at a zoo. As we walked through the park, we heard a low, rumbling sound. We couldn’t tell what it was at first, but when it grew louder, there was no question.

It was a lion.

All at once, everyone on the trail began to run toward the lion exhibit. We joined in, not wanting to miss the king of the jungle’s big moment. What had him so angry? Was he fighting another lion? We rounded one bend and then another before finally reaching the lion—we could hear him from that far away! And what we saw surprised us all.

The lion was simply resting on the ground, all stretched out in the sun like the big cat he was, looking half asleep. He wasn’t angry at all. And yet, even his sleepy roar had been loud enough to get our attention from a distance. Close up, it was so powerful it made my breath catch and my neck break out in chills.

“He isn’t even trying,” my husband said, “and he’s still that loud! How scary would he be if he really roared?”

Lions are awe-inspiring, magnificent creatures. They command respect. They’re kings for a reason. The Book of Proverbs compares a righteous man to a lion:

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

Bold as a lion! Righteous people are awe-inspiring. They leave a lasting impact on the world they touch. Righteous people fight boldly against the injustices and evils around them—against things like trafficking and exploitation and abuse. Righteous people stand courageously in defense of those who can’t defend themselves. Righteous people command respect—respect for the Lion of Judah Himself.

But. When it comes to the war against sin—the struggle against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”—how often are we caught napping? Even our smallest efforts make a difference, of course…but what if we, the people of God, rose to our feet against injustice? What if we determined to make a difference for the boys Blackbox reaches around the world? What if we prayed and served and gave?

How many lives could be rescued and redeemed? How many stories would change?

What if we did all we could on behalf of someone else, for God’s glory?

What if we roared?

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How Old Are You?

Boys stick around

by Executive Director Wade Landers

It’s a simple question.

How old are you? 

The answer? Not so simple.

When boys first arrive at one of our houses in the Dominican Republic, they almost always answer with an older age than they really are—always trying to convince us that they are as close to age 18 as can be believed. 18 is the “magic” age. At 18, boys can choose to leave care facilities like ours at any time because they’re considered adults. They aren’t sure yet if they’ll like being in our home. Many have lived fairly independent lives, and have often been on the streets from an early age. They want to keep their options open. It’s understandable.

The longer they stay in the home, the more accurate the answer emerges. Sometimes, in just a matter of months, a boy’s age drops 2-3 years! They begin to realize that this is a good place. They aren’t in as big a hurry to leave as they first thought.

But even more important than how long they have been with us is how healthy they are becoming. The healthier they are, the younger they answer. We now have boys who actually try to convince us they are younger than they really are. They want to stick around longer, because this is more than just a good place. It’s becoming home. Here, they are not only safe. They are also growing into healthy young men.

Will you help more boys who need a safe, healthy place like Blackbox? Your donations are such a blessing, and we’re grateful for your partnership…because the story must change.

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The Psychological Impact of Hearing Bad News

Psychological well being

by Brian Jennings, Blackbox Board Member

Heavy is the burden of caring for trafficked boys. My heart has been consumed for the boys (and I pray it always will be), but recently I’ve pondered what effects the atrocities of the world have on the rest of us—on those of us who are not caught in the crosshairs of injustice, but are consumed by the bad news in our world.

Jesse Singal (NYMAG.com) writes about this from a psychological perspective:

“A terrifying jihadist group is conquering and butchering its way across big swaths of Iraq and Syria. Planes are falling out of the sky on what seems like a weekly basis. Civilians are being killed in massive numbers in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Others are falling prey to Ebola in West Africa. The world, in short, is falling apart.

 “That’s how it feels, at least, to those of us who sit at a blessed remove from the death and destruction, but who are watching every bloody moment of it via cable news and social media. It raises an important question: In an age when we can mainline bad news 24/7 if we so choose, what’s the psychological impact of all this exposure to tragedy at a distance?”

Singal goes on to list the maladies that accompany our consumption of bad news: stress, anxiety, depression and the physical issues that accompany such things. The best remedy, Singal says, is to “just turn it off.” He suggests taking a break from the news, Internet and social media.

While I found the article beneficial, the author missed something huge. Let me illustrate with two stories.

Story #1 is about Julie, whose best friend was diagnosed with cancer. Day after day, Julie spends time cooking, cleaning and caring for her friend. She drives her to and from treatments and stops by every day in between. Julie knows there’s nothing she can do to fix the disease, so she does all she can to serve and comfort her friend.

By contrast, Story #2 is about Rachel, whose friend is also sick. Only, Rachel can’t handle the thought of her friend being in pain, so she simply stays away. She cares deeply and cries often, but she avoids making phone calls and visits to encourage and help. “It’s hopeless,” Rachel tells herself. “There’s nothing I can do.”

My question is, which woman will be more emotionally healthy? The answer, of course, is Julie—the one who enters into the painful situation and tries to make it better. Julie cries, but not with guilt. She mourns, but not with hopelessness. She takes action.

When we help, we must remember that we can’t rid the whole world of all its problems. We’ll soon feel overwhelmed. (Read “How I Learned to Not Be Overwhelmed.”)

But we can do something. We do have a remedy. And here it is:

We “cast our cares on God,” because He has a mighty hand.

We push our grains of sand, working for the oppressed and vulnerable.

But it turns out (yet again) that God’s plans are good and right and beneficial. Pouring our hearts into His causes actually makes us healthier.

Here are some next steps you can take to be the change:

  1. Watch this video about Blackbox advocate Kasey Hendrix. Kasey’s creativity and joy shine through, not because she’s just observing the injustices. She’s doing something about it.
  2. See ways to get involved and make a donation.
  3. Read Singal’s article

 

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We Speak

trafficking“That’s not true.”

In the early days of Blackbox International, Executive Director Wade Landers spoke before a group of ministry leaders. He told them—not graphically, but honestly—about the crisis of boys being trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation around the world. For many in the room, it was the first time they’d heard such news.

Wade’s listeners were international, so as he spoke in English, a man named Doug Reed repeated his words into Spanish. When Wade told a particularly difficult story, Doug stopped translating. With tears in his eyes, he looked at Wade.

“That’s not true,” he whispered. “No. You made that up.”

He didn’t want to translate anymore. He didn’t want to speak the unspeakable.

But silence doesn’t make it stop, and it certainly won’t change the story. At Blackbox, we protect the privacy of each boy by not telling his name or details. His story is his, not ours, so we won’t even show his face without our blackbox.

We do, however, tell the truth. We speak for boys who were silenced, believing that God is empowering them to one day tell their own story of healing and restoration and purpose.

The unspeakable is true, and so we speak it. We speak because, “Behind every blackbox is a story, and the story must change.”

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In a Word

Hope for their future

At Blackbox International, we say a few words over and over again.

Words like change. “The story must change,” we say, and “Be the change.” We repeat words like help and healing, restoration and freedom.

And another word we love to say: HOPE.

We help boys find healing from their past and hope for their future.

What’s better than hope? Hope is far more than a catchy tagline or inspiring message. It’s bigger than an optimistic outlook, and it’s deeper than a wish.

Hope, at Blackbox, is a person. Hope is in Jesus Christ. Boys who have never dared to dream before are finding life-giving, life-changing hope—because Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost, and to heal and restore and set free. Our boys can laugh and play and dream about tomorrow because Jesus came to change their story—to give them abundant life. He died to pay sin’s price, and He rose to prove that He alone is hope.

“HOPE does not disappoint,” Paul said, “because God has poured out His love into our hearts” (Romans 5:5). “It is Christ in you—the HOPE of glory” (Colossians 1:27). “We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

At Blackbox International, we repeat a few words a lot, not because they’re catchy, but because THE Word became flesh to bring freedom and life and peace and joy and HOPE.

And what’s better than hope?

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I Woke Up

Sleeping

I hadn’t been writing for Blackbox long—only a few weeks into hearing the stories of trafficking and exploitation—when I started to have dreams.

Not the typical senseless dreams, with flying people and talking animals. These were heavy dreams—oppressive nightmares where my kids were taken and tortured and even killed. I’d wake up in tears, screaming my daughters’ names, overwhelmed by grief and fear.

But the thing is, I woke up.

Every morning, I opened my eyes to find it was only a dream. Every day, the sun rose to show my kids safe in their beds.

I woke up to happiness. But around the globe, millions of parents wake up to heartache. My worst dream is their every day reality. The stories I’d heard—the ones that prompted scary dreams and sleepless nights—are their stories. Their sons.

And those stories must change.

Thankfully, our God is in the business of changing stories. He’s “able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). In other words, He dreams better dreams for His people. By His power, God redeems the worst nightmare into a hopeful reality.

Immeasurably more! God changes the story.

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