Nurturing Love, Hope, & Strength

Author: Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
June 2022


TEA FOR TWO

A Nurturing Ritual: There’s a deep joy in the ritual of tea. Tea is romantic, filled with renewal, and meant for reflection and nurturing. Each cup tells a story. Sipping tea is drinking in the gift of creation and makes us pause and linger on life. To paraphrase from The Way of Tea and Justice, tea provides a tasty lens to find a moment of quiet sanctuary. Tea never talks back and is a faithful friend. The simplicity of tea calls you to slow down, pay attention, and listen.

Nurture Those You Love: So let’s try together! Lift your cup, slow down, and listen. Whisper encouragement to those you love – your spouse, your children, a friend, a mom…you choose who needs to be loved on. Sit with them. Offer them a cup of tea. Listen to their delights of life and their struggles with it. Just listen. Listening has this renewing power that nurtures others. It sends a message that they are important, strong, loved, wonderful, courageous…A beautiful ritual, tea time sets aside the busyness and puts focus on the ones we love.

Nurture Each Other: Set a tiny table for you and your grands, spouse, or loved one. Have your own tea party. Beloved by the British Empire who took it globally, I grew up “taking tea” at a boarding school in Pakistan. The day I had a girl after three boys, I shunned mugs. My baby girl and I daily drank from my grandma’s teacups – her, milk and me, coffee – lying under the lilacs in the woodlands of the Appalachian Mountains. Today only the fanciest hotels offer high teas. You can do it at home, keeping it simple and fun. Simple is still fun.

Nurture Yourself, Your Thoughts, and Dreams: Tea connects us, but alone, it makes us stop and nurture ourselves amid the craziness of life. When overwhelmed by my day, the brokenness of those we lift, or just the sheer volume of work before me…I take a five-minute tea break. I sit in a chair with a cup of tea and tell the world, “For five minutes, the world is okay!” I let my mind wander and dream of big, God-sized plans for the WAR world. When I finish my tea, I feel a little refreshed and am charged to take on everything again.
So, WARriors! Nurture yourself, nurture your loved ones, and nurture your community. Raise a cup of tea and let’s dream together. Let’s nurture lives that are broken and seek love one cup of tea and one handcrafted piece at a time!

For further calm and loveliness, peruse and shop WAR Chest Boutique’s Tea For Two Lookbook

TRIBUTE TO THE UNSUNG MOMMIES

Author: Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
May 1, 2022


This Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate the women who never mothered a child biologically. They’re role models of a mother’s heart in ways deserving respect, love, and adoration. They sacrificially give of their time, talent, and treasure to nurture in the truest sense of the term “mothering.” True mommies to the mommyless or to others’ children, they may be single committed to nurturing others’ children or married but will never deliver their own. They nurture babies whose own mother was not there for them or nurture others’ kids in ways their parents couldn’t.

Single women profoundly influenced me as a young girl and one reason I am who I am today. I grew up on a humanitarian mission compound in a foreign land with a high number of single women serving the hospital, school, and other humanitarian works. They embraced singleness and poured their lives out 24/7 like a drink offering to nurture little ones. So powerful were these role models, I did not fear singleness. I saw lives that gave up marriage either by choice or by God’s design to nurture a world of children who desperately needed the maternal instinct that’s in every woman.

One of my heroes in Asia would love to marry and have her own children. My heart breaks that she is lonely in ways that married women will never understand. But she was called to be a mother figure to the broken girls of the red-light district who hang on her like the mother they never had. She’s too busy “mothering” to find a husband. She radiates joy and nurture; children flock to her in droves. She is the only safe person they know, a drink offering in a dark place.

Just because you can conceive doesn’t make a good mom. Sadly, this greatest job on earth requires no education, no certificate, no liability statement, and comes with no directions. Babies are having babies with no clue how to nurture. There’s so much more to “mothering” than physically bearing a new life.

This Mother’s Day tribute is to those mothers who have given their lives to lift others’ babies. I often state that after I raised my own babies, I am still just a mommy…Now a mommy to the mommyless. I’m nothing special. I simply do the work I’ve always done of nurturing. Women who aren’t biological mothers are experts at doing the same thing. We stand shoulder to shoulder and join forces with incredible ranks of “moms” who nurture to the exclusion of their own biology. I don’t deserve to be in their company. They know a pain and loss that I don’t. Yet they pour out their maternal instincts to lift the babies of the world.

As a practiced observer of pain, I don’t miss the signs of their sacrifice and sense of loss. They don’t cry in their soup and whine. They quietly give their lives to nurturing others. They are the teachers who pour themselves into the children born to others. They are the nurses who rock the babies in the nursery where the biological mom is incapable of loving for so many reasons. They are safehouse staff who faithfully go into the darkness to find little ones or who, when they were little, no one heard their cry. They hear the cry of the wounded and rejected. They make their pain their responsibility. They bring to the table whatever skill, talent, or treasure God has entrusted to them to be the moms those wounded, at-risk children never had.

It’s my privilege to stand in their shadow. I feel a unique pain for singles offered platitudes that married women and even clergy heap on their heads. I watch as they quietly bear senseless remarks and flippant misunderstandings. As a child, I cringed at the quiet pain filtering across their polite faces as grownups were oblivious to the impact of their comments. I have an uncomfortable knack for seeing pain that has no voice.

I have a soft spot for married women who cannot bear children. I grew up as an American in foreign lands where a woman can still be divorced, abandoned, used up, and discarded for this “sin.” I understand culturally why the women of scripture…Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, and Rebecca were devastated at their barrenness. I have a soft spot for moms who miscarry and mourn their loss. I have witnessed the unspeakable pain and confusion of Russian culture that considers abortion normal birth control, yet is taught by the Orthodox Church that abortion equals murder and is, therefore, an unpardonable sin. One of the earliest programs of WAR was stumbling on a weeping Russian who believed she was required to abort her new pregnancy because of living in a one-room apartment with six adults and no room for a child. She wanted this child in her happy marriage but couldn’t afford it. We supported her for two years. Now her precious son is a wonderful man.

So this Mother’s Day, the world of Women At Risk, International salutes those women who are, in some ways, more a mommy to the world than many biological moms. You are our heroes. We cherish you and lift you high. We honor you in the cultures of the world that would whisper other messages. We could not do what we do without you. We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as the mighty warriors of mothering and nurturing that you are. We honor your life as a “mommy to the mommyless,” standing together fulfilling the call to parent the motherless. I could write a similar letter to you about nurturing, protective dads who have not born biological sons and daughters, but that will come on Father’s Day.

Thank you for the honor of working beside you. Someday in Heaven, there will be a real Mother’s Day where the fruit of your labors will rise up and call YOU blessed. Because of you, they will celebrate your nurturing in their lives through your time, talent, and treasure.

From one mommy to another………..I love you. Becky

HOSTING A POP-UP BOUTIQUE TOGETHER

Impact is defined as having a significant or major effect (Miriam-Webster).

Impact can be linking arms with your friends to host a WAR Pop-Up Boutique to have a positive and empowering effect on rescued and at-risk women.


Learn More Here

OUR STORY:
Our mission is two-fold. We seek to market and sell handcrafted items made by at-risk and rescued men and women from around the world, supporting culturally sensitive, value-added intervention projects while educating our shoppers about the risks the vulnerable face in our world. We invite you to shop with a purpose at the WAR Chest Boutique!

When WAR staff was asked to share the one thing they love about serving others in the Event Call Center, here were their responses:

“While on a mission trip to Nepal in college, I was blessed to be able to visit a safe-house, where a precious human trafficking survivor bravely shared her story with my team. We were then given the opportunity to purchase her beautiful hand-made products. I saw the value of supporting a survivor’s small business first-hand! A couple of years later, I started hosting WAR pop-up boutiques, sharing about that brave survivor, and wearing the bracelet she made. I love that I now get to work in WAR’s Event Call Center, booking parties and events where people can purchase survivor-made products and raise awareness with their loved ones! It’s such a blessing to help each hostess through the hosting process, and I still get so excited every time someone new books a pop-up boutique!” -Shelby

“One thing I love about serving in the event call center is getting to hear from our volunteers how the events they worked at went. It’s fun to hear how many people they were able to interact with and share the mission of WAR with and how fired up and excited it makes them for future events and another opportunity to be a part of WAR!” -Hannah

“I love getting to connect with other people that have a heart to make a difference in the lives of those who are at risk and that are rescued from human trafficking. You get to meet some beautiful souls.” -Tiffani

DID YOU KNOW:
Every $300 in WAR product sales can sustain an individual in one of our partnering international safehouses for a month, on average. This means that every $10 in sales can sustain an individual in one of our partnering international safehouses for a day, on average! Linking arms with your friends to host a WAR Pop-Up Boutique can have a great impact!

When you and your friends host a WAR Pop-Up Boutique, your sweet, important efforts:

– lift wounded women to lives of dignity

– create circles of protection around at-risk and rescued individuals

– invite your friends and family to shop with a purpose

– allow others to buy once but give twice

WAR can’t do what we do without you!
Our work is to give others a hand up, not a handout. Hosting a Pop-Up Boutique is one of the best ways to get involved. It is easy and so much fun! We give you everything you need to host with your friends and walk you through the whole process.

Don’t just take our word for it!
Here are some amazing reviews from WAR Pop-Up Boutique Hostesses:

Larry and Tammy are a husband and wife hosting team who hosted a Pop-Up Boutique at a horse show! People LOVED the glass-blown horse ornaments and stuffed alpaca fur horses. They want to host again!

Bette “Thank you for your close and friendly coaching…you were highly approachable and appreciative, covering all bases to help us succeed! Thank you!”

Pam “We were happy to host! And yes, we want to host again next September! It has become a tradition that the ladies at our ladies’ retreat look forward to!”

Meredith hosted her first-ever Pop-Up Boutique that lasted eight days. She took products to a few different places and had a very positive hosting experience! She gushed about the soft stuffed animals! She said a guest bought one llama for her mother in a nursing home, and one for her therapy clients because petting such a soft stuffed animal is therapeutic! She also said that a mother and daughter came to her booth, looked intently through all of the products, and chose a bracelet. They told Meredith that this bracelet meant a lot to them because they are both survivors! Meredith wants to host again next year!

Beka (Facebook Party) “My friends had some excellent questions for the party consultant, and it was such an amazing experience learning more about WAR’s mission simply because [WAR Staff] was there to answer all of our individual questions! But whether you are hosting a Facebook party or an in-person event, I can personally assure you that WAR makes the process super easy and relatable for hostesses and guests alike – the ladies at the headquarters are a joy to speak with! I chose the Geometric Key Necklace, because I wanted a beautiful reminder that God has given me the key to make brave and vibrant decisions for my life – but for the many women that WAR helps, God uses this organization to provide literal keys of freedom and hope!”

Samantha “I had a really good time and look forward to doing this again.”

Nichole hosted her fourth Pop-Up Boutique. Nichole said it went really well! She and her family had a lot of fun shopping for Christmas with the set. Nichole bought the gray Remembrance bag for her husband to put his stuff in, and he has been using it as an opportunity to share about WAR and raise awareness about human trafficking! She said it’s always a pleasure to host, and she will definitely do it again!

Sara loved hosting a Facebook party; her friends loved the jewelry; and Sara said it was the easiest party she’d ever hosted!

Are you ready to link arms with your friends to impact rescued and at-risk women?

Simply email party@warinternational.org or call 616-855-0763 to get started!

International Women’s Day: My Thoughts & Three Conclusions

Author: Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
March 1, 2022


As I’ve traveled the world, I have heard of horrific stories of the lack of rights, some unrepeatable. In many lands, a woman raped must have a witness because a man’s word is literally worth 2 women. If he comes up with a male witness to say the opposite, she must find 4 witnesses. I’ve discovered faith systems where the women are not allowed to take part in ANY part of the worship. They can cook for the men but have NO say in their faith. Should their family cease to produce a male, their faith dies completely out. Men can get a divorce just by saying so 3 times, but a woman can never divorce. In rare cases, if she does, she will never see her children again. Women are denied school, can’t hold jobs even if trained as doctors or lawyers, must not run a business…the list is endless.

Growing up as an American in lands where women and girls had next to NO rights had a profound effect on me. My home was a safe place where my voice was precious & heard. Being an only girl with 3 brothers helped with the “princess status.” But seriously, my parents took me seriously to the point that my word carried more weight than my older sibling due to our approach to things. I was treated like the oldest child in many ways. Meanwhile, outside my home, my girlfriends had almost no say. They were bought and sold in a marriage contract. The culture even had “marriage brokers” the same way we approach buying a home to find the right details, price, pedigree, etc. for the male family to “consider.”


Three distinct events left an impression on me.

1) You recall my 14-year-old village girlfriend was raped (by family), fought back, and had acid poured down her throat to “silence her” literally.


Nehru: My 14 yr. old girlfriend forever silenced with acid poured down her throat.

2) For the wealthy, it was even harder in some ways with more at stake. I remember 2 upper-class girlfriends. One, the daughter of the Minister of Education, a power elite family, “met and fell in love with” a high-class boy while in the USA getting their education. From the richest Bengali family, it was “OK.” BUT, they had to go through the charade of pretending it was an arranged marriage and they’d never met. Heaven forbid a woman should choose her own path…or a boy for that matter.

3) Then as an adult, I sat in the home of another wealthy family related to the nation’s President who babysat his young son. That night while my son played with the President’s son, their daughter came in angry from university classes. Her father had arranged a marriage to another wealthy family. The sisters of the “groom to be” came to “check her out” looking her up and down in the door of the classroom like she was “a cow for sale at the market.” She complained bitterly that any family whose women treated her like “property for sale” was not a home she wished to marry into. Very simply (so liberal of him), the father just said, “Ok…I’ll look for another.” She walked off happily. I sat thinking about the fact that she was submitting happily to his giving in yet still in charge of who she’d marry.


What Does All This Prove?

Simply that for all our progress as women, we have a long way to go in many lands. I have 3 conclusions from a lifetime of working to empower women.

l) I love America despite its many many flaws. I am a woman that founded an organization and has a voice in any setting and platform I wish to pursue. Yes, it may be that I have had to fight harder, dig deeper, swallow slights…but I am willing to do so if it means lifting the broken, the voiceless, the wounded, the hurting. At the end of the day, there is no slight, indignity, or put-down that compares to those of the lives we represent. So for them, we willingly take up that cross and march on. I’m patriotic not for apple pie, motherhood, or football, but for our right to speak out! I beg you to hold your rights as a privilege and luxury. The day we lose the right to speak freely, we are not a great nation anymore. I know what that looks like. I grew up with girlfriends that had no voice. We must always allow the voice of the silenced no matter whether we like its sound or not. It is what makes us great. When you silence anyone, you give predators power. Our right to free speech in every aspect is truly what sets us apart.

2) I am a mother of 3 boys (& 1 daughter), a sister to 3 brothers, grew up as an American surrounded by the “Taliban mentality,” & work with law enforcement and clergy (male-dominated). I know the world of men and I respect it. I don’t want you to bash my boys any more than my daughter. While we must find rights for women, we must not do it to the detriment of our boys. Fixing a wrong by going to extremes only hurts everyone in the end. I have an article on this on our website. Suffice it to say, All Voices Matter Regardless of Genders. We need to stick together to lift all voices in the fight for freedom.

3) Four decades of being the “Voice of the Silenced” proves those who suffer have the most profound insights. We’d be wise to listen first to them, the experts. They may not have the solutions to the problem politically, legally, or structurally. But their voices should be the template, the mentor, the guard rails that guide significant changes. To fix something without the insight of the experts is to not fix it at all. With 2 ears and only 1 mouth, listen first and twice as long. Then be the voice of the silenced no matter how small you think you are.

Passionate to be the Voice of the Silenced:
Becky

Love After Trauma

Author: A Dear Survivor
February 21, 2022


Merriam Webster defines the essential meaning of love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” While that seems simple enough, after enduring traumas such as human trafficking, rape, abuse, etc., love’s definition becomes less clean cut. Love also begins to change shape after a traumatic experience like the ones stated above. For some of us, love becomes sleeping on the floor together, because beds are too much of a reminder of the things that have been done to us, and our bodies begin to seize up, leaving us unable to move – or sleep. Some of us can’t argue with our spouse because it’s a stark reminder of our past experiences and shutting down is the only way to cope. Sometimes, love looks like sleepless nights, wrapped in a weighted blanket and the arms of our spouse as we endure another anxiety attack that shakes us to the core of our being and leaves us sore, exhausted, and unable to communicate other than in soft whispers once it’s over.

The idea of finding love after trauma can be terrifying. While some of us had happier childhoods and others learned the feelings of abandonment from a young age, the one thing we all can agree on is that we can still feel the brokenness and betrayal long after we were wronged. For myself, my father taught me at a young age that I would never be good enough for any man to stay in my life, including him. I carried that with me for my entire life – admittedly, I still do – which led to continuous situations of abuse while accepting any “love” that may have wandered my way…because I craved being loved. When I found my husband, it was the most terrifying experience of my life, even more than the traumas I had already survived, because it was REAL love, it was POWERFUL love, it was a love that was kind and would never falter. What I didn’t realize was that this love would be the hardest for me to place my trust in – it was just too good to be true.

One of the first things I ask when I speak with other survivors is, “How did you learn to trust people again?” That question is often answered with a little smirk and a chuckle, knowing that’s a loaded question with a loaded answer. I ask them, mainly, because any advice I can get is valuable, but also because it truly is the one aspect most of us can relate to. Almost every time, the first sentence of their answer is, “it was really hard.” Then, I asked one survivor that loaded question, and she told me that her trust in God was so abundant that her trust in people was because of Him. She then wrote me a verse on the back of scrap paper about trust that I still hang in my home office to this day. Mind you, this incredibly strong, sweet, and wonderful woman had been trafficked and tortured after trusting in people, yet smiled the biggest, kindest smile I had ever seen and answered my question so confidently, there wasn’t a split second of time for her to even think about what she would say! I have to say, I was completely awestruck! How did she make it sound so easy!? Though I’m still working on the trust part myself, I have been blessed with a husband who is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, and whose love will never end.

After surviving trauma, love can “sometimes” look like many different things. However, for survivors and their spouses, love is always sitting through the highs and lows of a painful past that may never be fully understood. Love is always just being there for each other 100%, even when we may not be 100% ourselves, and knowing that is enough. Finally, love will always be full of forgiveness and overcoming any argument or situation without giving up!