Is Happiness A Choice?

Author: A Dear Survivor
April 12, 2022


    This, I Believe

Over 10 years ago, NPR had a radio show called “This, I Believe.” This segment focused on written essays from listeners who were stating their stance on something they believed in. It was incredibly inspiring, but it also encouraged listeners to broaden their point of view to hear and understand someone else’s opinion. Below, I’ve written my own “This, I Believe” statement about something that can often be considered controversial:

    Is Happiness a Choice?

Having been a circle of protection to survivors of sexual and physical abuse, human trafficking, and other traumas, I believe happiness is a choice. Persevering against the odds stacked against them, these survivors have risen from the ashes because they chose to invest in their own happiness. One recurring observation I often hear when a survivor publicly shares their story is: “I would’ve never known they were a survivor because they’re just so full of joy!” Every morning, these individuals wake up and are haunted by their horrific pasts. They are faced with the decision of whether they are going to choose to linger in the darkness of their trauma or whether they’re going to choose the warmth of happiness – and by no means is that decision an easy one.

It is incredibly easy for anyone who has endured trauma to any extent to linger in those dark corner shadows where they won’t ever have to face what’s keeping them there. But the choice to be happy? That choice is one of the most difficult ones they have to make on their healing journey. When a person chooses to expose all those dark and scary places, they prove that they’re no longer afraid of what awaits when they open the drapes. It’s like when spring finally comes after a long winter, and they can finally open the windows, let in the fresh air, take a deep, cleansing breath, and allow themselves to begin sweeping up the settled dust and cobwebs.

I personally went through my own healing journey from the years of trauma I endured that resulted in multiple mental health concerns. After one final breakdown, where depression and anxiety left me on the ground, a shattered mess of hopelessness, questioning if I was strong enough to keep going, I realized that I needed to play an active role in my recovery to find true healing. It was no longer enough for me to solely rely on my weekly therapy sessions and my prescription medication. With the help of my therapist, I found it was most beneficial to start every morning making the conscious choice to choose happiness and appreciate the little things around me. I opened my eyes and found joy in the turkeys and deer as they walked through the backyard, in the sunrise over the golden cross that stands glowing high above the Cathedral on my drive to work, and in the sunsets as the burnt orange rays of warmth came streaking through my bedroom window in the summertime. Maybe that’s more of a testament to my personal growth, but similar practices are mirrored in the courageous and strong individuals I’ve had the honor of knowing and loving. Surely, if a survivor of something as horrific as human trafficking, torture, assault, etc., can open their eyes and choose their own happiness every morning, anyone can. This, I believe.

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!



Valentine’s Message

By Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
February 10, 2022


Gruesome? Yes. Romantic? … Definitely!

What man restores the sight of a blind girl, the daughter of the judge who has called for his execution, and sends her a “valentine” farewell moments before being put to death? That is the story behind the annual expression of affection we know as Valentine’s Day. It began as a tribute to St. Valentine, imprisoned by the Roman Empire for many acts of kindness. Though his kindness resulted in a gruesome penalty, it illustrates a vital element of true love.

True love is the gift that expects nothing in return and does for others what no one else does. My favorite part of the legend is that he restored sight to a girl even though her father condemned him to death. True love—not puppy love, not blind love, but true love—does what is best for others. It restores vision and helps us see clearly.


Uncomfortable? Yes. Romantic? … Definitely!

A precious survivor, trained to be a ballerina, was trafficked as a child and later rescued by her daddy. When her future husband courted her, she pushed him away, saying, “You don’t want to love someone as broken as I am.” Wrapping her in his loving arms, he whispered back, “Yes, I do. That was not your fault. I love you just as you are.” In that safe embrace, she found healing, hope, and her voice. Today she speaks for WAR, telling her story to bring hope and healing to others.

When I asked her hubby, “What advice do you have for people dealing with survivors and intense trauma?” His answer was, “Patience. My wife sleeps on the floor. Beds are a trigger. I used to accept that and sleep on the bed next to her. Now I just sleep on the floor with her.” Those words melted our hearts. True love took him from a bed to the floor—hardly a comfortable life choice, but a loving one!


A Mother’s Love Raises Mighty Men

A little girl grew up wounded and abused. She found true love in a godly man, healed from her scars, and became a strong, determined woman of God. Together they raised three boys. She purposefully brought them up to be powerfully protective, loving, tender husbands and fathers. Before going home to heaven, she had one request: that funds given in her memory be used to help others find the healing she had found.

Her husband and sons came to visit me at WAR Headquarters. Their father smiling beside them, the three sons—now husbands and fathers themselves—spoke of their mom’s impact on them as they grew up, their voices becoming tender and gentle as they relived her story. As I listened, I saw the powerful effect of a strong woman raising strong boys to be mighty, protective men. As a mom, I had begged God to give me “eyes to see” and wisdom to raise strong yet tender men—men like my husband, who loves extravagantly and sacrificially. Now I sat in a circle of protective men like those of my own family.

As I fast and pray for funds in 2022, I am humbled and thankful for gifts that allow your donations to be doubled—and I am inspired by a tiny woman named Ann who heard me speak and was determined to change lives forever. Join her and others in helping the House of WAR establish emergency housing to provide shelter for women running from danger to safety.


Unconditional Love Gives Sight

As you read this, WAR partners are bravely walking the red light districts of the world with the message of unconditional love, the gift that asks for nothing in return. Night after night they faithfully invade the darkness, whispering, Come to the light. There’s healing and hope.

During our Circle Tours, we march into the most notorious red light district of Asia bringing gifts and a message of hope for women in captivity. We go with seasoned partners who will follow up with the women. One time in one bar alone, 24 women slipped notes to our partners with their phone numbers, paving the way for secret rescue.

During the Valentine season, these hellholes—not fun places to begin with—come alive with false promises of intimacy. Neither glitter nor neon lights nor darkness can hide the rats in the corners, the hollow look in the eyes of tiny girls, the lonely desperation of buyers, and the shrewd, calculating evil of predators who trade flesh for money, innocence for despair, and life for death.

Those who carry the Light of the World into such places have night vision: supernatural insight to cut through the glare and see others with God’s eyes. If you want to help, consider giving to our Outreach fund that allows us to distribute gifts and show kindness to those trapped in red-light districts throughout the world and here in the U.S.


Finding True Love

I can say from my own experience that a soul mate is the real Valentine. I watched my parents weather the valleys and mountains of life and stick together come hell or high water. When I found my perfect complement—my soul mate—I followed him around the world, and as a result, the House of WAR was established. My husband tells that story and many others in his new book, sold on our website. In chapter 5, as he tells “his side” of our love story, he says, A soul mate protects you from yourself. A soul mate won’t let success go to your head, failure go to your heart, fear go to your confidence, or loss go to your soul.

This Valentine’s Day we are apart once again as I speak and travel to share the message of WAR. We gladly give up this time each year to serve others with the unconditional love. This Valentine’s Day, ask yourself what act of love you can extend to those in need, to those little men and women you are raising, and to those who love you unconditionally. One thing is certain: giving is more blessed than receiving!

With Unconditional Love for Valentine’s Day,

Becky McDonald