I had just met this sweet Khmer woman, and one of our first conversations went something like this:

Her: “A lot of older Cambodian people hold grudges in their hearts against the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of them resent life and carry a lot of anger.”

Me: “Is it hard to interact with your family members and older citizens who have gone through the Khmer Rouge who hold so much pain and anger?”

Her: “No… Jesus gives grace out freely to us, so the absolute least I can do for those people is show grace and forgive them. I can show grace to them because He shows it to us everyday.”

This was my first time in the country of Cambodia, and this conversation with the Hope and Grace Sewing Center Business Manager, Kanhchany, rocked my world. Our interaction only touches the surface of how impactful my time serving with this organization has been.

My name is Kristen, and this is the story of how a small writing job for an anti-human trafficking organization changed the course of my life. I began volunteering with Freedom’s Promise in the Fall of 2015—that volunteer work led to an internship, a more permanent position as a social media writer, opportunities to travel to Cambodia, and chances to assist with fundraising campaigns which raised money that only God could have provided.

I tell the beginning of this story not to boast in my accomplishments, but to tell you that God is using the people under this organization in Nashville, TN and in Southeast Asia to change lives. They sure have changed mine.

Before I began volunteering with Freedom’s Promise, I was a Marketing major with a certainty in my heart that I wanted to be a pharmaceutical sales representative. The summer before my sophomore year of college, I was confronted by the Holy Spirit in a soul-churning moment when He told me that He was calling me to serve on international missions. My world was rocked, and I knew I had to actively pursue opportunities to serve His Kingdom internationally.

My school was doing a massive volunteer campaign that Fall in which we had someone from our University serving in some capacity for 125 hours straight. I quite literally searched through all the organizations we could volunteer with to find the ONE that had an international focus—Freedom’s Promise.

As I walked in the door of the little office space for my volunteer assignment, I was overwhelmed by this sense of belonging. I felt like God was calling me to a bigger purpose here than just volunteering one time. I continue to praise Him for the still, small voice (and the trust of the precious office staff) that allowed me to run straight into a passion and talent I never knew existed in me—storytelling.

Over the course of 2 and a half years working with Freedom’s Promise as a Social Media Writer, I have been blessed with counsel from some of God’s wisest women, I have trekked extremely far outside of my comfort zone, I have learned how to work independently—and developed professional skills in the process, I have witnessed life change, heartbreak, and miracles… Simply put, I have been a part of something much bigger than myself.

To say that God is currently moving within Freedom’s Promise would undermine the fact that He was moving even before this organization was formed. God has known that a group of passionately driven individuals would come together in His name to breathe new life and redemption into communities who have long been bound by chains of slavery and exploitation. The fruit we are seeing now is just a byproduct of the seeds planted years and years ago when He called us to GO and share His goodness with ALL nations.

I believe that all interactions, all relationships, all moments in time are holy and divinely ordained by a Creator whose majesty is far too excellent for us to comprehend. As I am saddened to close this chapter of my story working with Freedom’s Promise, I am overjoyed to share about my humbling experience growing in Jesus’ name with these people.

It’s funny looking back now, I thought I was going to play a part in liberating women, men and children from heartbreaking stories of trafficking, but what God had in mind was also a plan to break personal strongholds of fear, shame, and guilt I had been latching onto for years.

If I could offer any advice for those who are “on the fence” about serving internationally or about advocating on behalf of a social issue, I would tell you these few things:

  1. The things that you fear are often the things that will teach you the most—in turn drawing you closer to Jesus. That small group God is calling you to lead? GO for it. The year-long reading plan of the entire Bible? Commit! That mission trip to Cambodia, or Peru, or New York poking at your heart? God is placing that desire inside of you for a reason. Our worries and fears are prompts from the Spirit to run into His arms for comfort, guidance and peace.
  2. Raising awareness for a cause you believe in will provide a confidence you didn’t know you had. My Facebook has turned into a storytelling platform—where I write about people and places, experiences and trips that have shown me the importance of pursuing something we believe in. When YOU share the Light of Christ via advocacy on your social media platforms, in conversations at work and school, or even on your personal blog, others notice. They will ask questions, and people will WANT to become part of the thing you have become so passionate about. This is how we fight for freedom, friends.
  3. Cultivate your God-given talents and contribute to building His Kingdom with the skills He has equipped you with. I knew absolutely nothing about the pharmaceuticals industry as a little sophomore in college—all I knew was that I could make a decent living from that career. If I had not been obedient in chasing after God’s call on my life to serve Him internationally, I may not have gained the opportunity to develop my writing and storytelling skills to glorify Him. I’ve since graduated with an Entrepreneurship degree, and I have this burning desire inside me to launch a social enterprise that benefits developing communities. Praise God for His living, Holy Spirit wrecking my world!

You were created to be a world-changer. Your gifts and talents mean something. Dear readers and Freedom’s Promise supporters, it’s time we rise up together in pursuit of something much greater than our worldly passions. Let us raise our voices in advocacy, burst bubbles of comfort, and find holy purpose in our everyday.

As I begin to pursue further career opportunities, my prayer over Freedom’s Promise is for radical and inexplicable revival of God’s name in Southeast Asia.  I pray that all people involved with this organization will boldly accept the title of “Ambassador for Christ” so they may become warriors in the fight to end human slavery.

With love,

Kristen Sturdivant

 

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