Christianity

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I prefer to be awake…


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The airstrikes happen everywhere, anytime, day and night. At night is the most difficult time. The bombing intensifies and I can feel it getting closer and closer. I’m exhausted but I try and force myself not to fall asleep… the explosions are even scarier when they wake you up. I prefer to be awake when they strike.

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I prefer to be awake when they strike.

Wow… that line blows my mind.

Think about that for a second.

How fucked up would my world have to be for me to utter a sentence like that…

the bombs are going to happen, I prefer them in the daylight.

It blows my mind that strikes are so inevitable as to have a preference.

It blows my mind that this is someones reality.

It blows my mind that for some, throwing rocks is the last little bit of resistance they can offer.

It blows my mind that we can label a whole people group as terrorists… the grandparents, the sons and daughters… the parents that hope for their kids just like parents all around the world do.

A people group whose hopes & dreams aren’t that different from yours or mine.

It blows my mind how indifferent or dismissive we can be…

Because acknowledging their reality would force us to confront our own.

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Graffiti on the wall of a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem
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Simple dreams – Graffiti on The Wall, Bethlehem.

 

 

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The quote from the beginning is from Arwa Mhanna’s article for Oxfam, the full article can be read here.

Donations to Oxfam’s Gaza effort can be made here.

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quotes

Christ & Christianity


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“Somehow our religion has made it too easy for us to forget the radically inclusive, table-turning, paradigm-shifting Christ of the Bible, and instead, subtly buy in to the lie that Christianity is a little bit boring, a little old-fashioned and not quite true in the parts that count” – Robby Dawkins

adventures

Bourbon faced on sh!t street


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After four days in Springfield I arrive in New Orleans for 2 nights & 1 day, much like Vegas… Bourbon Street is also much like Vegas, just on a much smaller scale.

And while you have the same guys standing outside strip clubs encouraging you to “take a break for boobies” there seems to be a lot more culture to Nola. I’m crashing at India House hostel (a very cool hip funky hostile, neat space).

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The Blur that is Bourbon street

After a decent walk to Bourbon St – I’d later figure out the tram system – I found a sweet sports bar called Bayou Burger, they do these amazing Kettle chips covered in blue cheese sauce, and I had an Alligator burger (because I could), tasted a little bit like minced pork/rabbit.

After that I ended up in a tiny jazz bar listening to some 50-60 old musicians make magic happen, met a couple of girls who’d just moved to New Orleans, we hung out at a very cool, yet crazy karaoke bar (that’s a sentence you’ll never hear me repeat) called The Cat’s Meow.

Wandered a little.

Caught the sunrise. Caught some Zzzzz’s.

The next day was pretty chilled. I wandered around a few areas that still had abandoned housing, much like some of Christchurch’s post-earthquake east-side, except the greenery was doing it’s best to envelope a few places.

Later in the evening I was walking through an area where the windows all had cages on the outside, storm proofing I thought, until I noticed that they were only on the ground floor windows… umm does this mean I’m no longer in a “safe” neighborhood?

I talk to some houseless people who’ve taken up residence at night under an overpass, they get chased off during the day. It seems a few have also taken to using abandoned houses when they can, but it’s hard for their presence to go unnoticed. They’re aware this can’t go on forever as housing is rebuilt or pulled down, the constant battle with the greenery a summer fire risk. I see none around Bourbon Street, they’re not welcome there.

On my way back I stop in for another Bayou burger before heading down Bourbon St one last time, then home, still Zzz’s to catch up on & an early flight in the morning.

Moment that best describes Bourbon Street

I exit a bar, a few tourist are stumbling down the road with fluorescent green grenades (that they’re drinking out of),  to the right a trumpet band are putting on a show, across the road is a place for live sex shows, a family pushes a stroller along an evening walk…

to the left a man with a bull-horn is yelling something, behind him are a couple of old laddies & another guy holding a big white cross, it has a red LED display scrolling words along the centre, I make out “hell” and something about “eternal damnation”. Behind them is another guy with a bull-horn facing and yelling in the opposite direction, some guys are doing the “party-boy” dance with him,. He yells louder.

I wonder if their message is heard, I’m left guessing as to what it might be.
I ask to take a photo, they say ok along as I’m not putting a video on Youtube (grandma is clearly with it).

WP_001597_editedShe wants to say a prayer for me.

side note. I have no problem with anyone from any form of spirituality wanting to pray for me, it’s led to some pretty special conversations, such as the first night I arrived in San Fransisco & a woman wanted to read my palm, initially I declined, then it ended up raining & we shared the same souvenir-shop-canopy for shelter.

Bourbon Street: I’m standing in the middle of the street with an old lady praying for me, with bullhorns, cross, strollers, sex show, trumpets…. and nothing seems out of place or odd to anyone.

Welcome to Bourbon street. Definitely crazier than Vegas.

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adventures

Where Dreams Come True


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Springfield, Missouri??!

It’s the inevitable response I receive when I’m listing off where I’ve been and where I’m going. Springfield, Missouri?!?!

But what they don’t know is Springfield is where dreams come true, I know, I’ve got the t-shirt.

 

Back when Y2k was on everyone’s mind, The Matrix was released, people lined up for days to see The Phantom Menace… shortly followed by people moaning for days about The Phantom Menace, Helen Clark was elected Prime Minister, Clinton was screwing around, a couple of kids shot up their Colorado school, and a little-punk version of myself attended Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri as a foreign exchange student.

106_6898620773_8600_nFast forward 4 years and a slightly bigger-less-little-punk version of myself was watching Michael Jordan’s last All-Star game when it dawns on him that, this is it, this is MJ’s last year… this the last time he will play… this is the last opportunity to see him play…

Within the space of a few weeks a planned pilgrimage to witness the games greatest play for the first, and last time had ballooned from 3 weeks to 3 months (haha history repeats itself).

 

 

And as much as seeing MJ play live (Duncan, T-Mac, KG as well) will be forever imprinted in my mind, another highlight for me was meeting with a group of guys and doing life & faith with them… it would prove to be a profound and significant few months for me.

10 years. It’s been 10 years since I was here last.

I was greeted by snow & more arrived while I was here, which unfortunately meant a couple of people I’d hoped to catch up with were unable to make the drive, but I was blessed to be able to catch up with four of them, we even gathered in the same house.

10yrs since we’d gathered together.

It’s made a nice bookend of time. Given me two firm benchmarks to reflect on life in-between, to ponder the journey been & what lies ahead.  It was certainly a highlight of my time here, seeing how lifes change, challenges & journey has played out amongst their lives.

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The last 4 days I’ve spent catching up on sleep, sanity & friendships. Sharing dreams, lessons & heartache, meals, late night stories & coffees with coconut creamer.

It’s been bliss. It’s been beautiful.

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I’ve been blessed with fellowship, friendship & the generosity of others.

I’m super excited with the journey some of my friends are on & look forward to what the future brings them.

 

And to think I almost didn’t make this part of the trip due to money & time. Next time will have to be sooner than 10 years.

Springfield, Missouri – Where Dreams Come True 🙂

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adventures

Caged Love


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Spent the day walking around San Francisco, from the Wharfs to Mission District up to the twin peaks to catch the sunset.

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In my travels I noticed that a lot of the doorway entrances have a caged door as well…

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and then I noticed some churches do too…

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and then I noticed not just doorways but little enclaves & places of shelter were caged off…

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and then I found this man in an alleyway…

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and right across the road was this church…

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it had a large sheltered area that would be perfect for alley-man to sleep & shelter in.

 

It may even make a difference in whether he lives or dies tonight.

 

I want to ask a question, so I find an entrance. On the way I see the churches slogan on a big sign,

Relationship. Not Religion.

 

I ask, “why do I see so many areas caged off?”. The answer it seems is because homeless people would take up residence there. “Is this why you guys have a caged area too?”, He looks awkward, a lady pipes up, “You have to remember we have to keep it clean for Sunday”.

I ask her if she knows a homeless guy died from the cold the other night, that he is the 5th in the last 2 weeks. She tells me if they let a few homeless stay (in the courtyard) soon there would be lots & they have families that come on Sunday.

He tells me they’re busy & I have to go now, I thank them for their time, I’m just trying to make sense of it all…

Wouldn’t God be appalled if our courtyards were dirty.

Heaven forbid we became known as a church where the least & disadvantaged seek shelter, or where faith was raw & real for our families, rather than disinfected-white-washed-sanitised-sunday-school-lives.

Lets do some simple math. There are easily a 120+ people there, that would mean committing 1 day every 2 months where you & another person cleaned up & served the homeless that gathered in your courtyard…

 

who knows, maybe then the words of your slogan would come to life…

maybe then it would stop being religion,

and start being relationship.

adventures

Paradise Lost


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Waianae
Waianae

Last night we had a new roommate arrive, he promptly left & spent all night in a strip club before returning in the morning. He’s a mid 50’s American who has to travel for business, he tells his wife he stays in Hotels & will call her from one the 1st night & then spends the rest of the time staying at hostels. Why hostels you ask? I didn’t but he’d enlighten me anyway, the extra money is for strippers & chasing tail (I opted for a different choice of words), oh & hostels are full of lots of young drunk *****

… Ladies & Gentlemen I present to you the nomination for the trips most seediest individual.

I’ve been asked a bit lately about the safety of hanging out & talking to houseless people, 90% of the time I’ve felt safe. There was one instance I didn’t & I left & that wasn’t due to houseless people but a group of others in that area.

What’s felt more unsafe to me is the random dude selling coke, or  sitting at a bar having dinner & the business woman whose next to you slips you her hotel key-card… that’s felt more unsafe than hanging-out with people without houses.

Anyway it’s my last day & I’ve found out about two places I should get to, one is just out of Chinatown, the other is a “tent city” in Waianae. Waianae proves to be too far away for me as I don’t have the coin for a cab ($80-100 each way) or car hire, or the time to bus… finding out about this place too late & not being able to make it, would prove to be my greatest disappointment of my time in Hawaii.

So I manage a quick visit to Chinatown & some of the surrounding areas. It’s strange to see empty basketball courts & abandoned playgrounds… & streets lined with tents.

I say goodbye to the “Houseless crew”, the group closest to me, where it all started I guess. A couple are drunk & don’t know who I am. Mark, who has never said much to me, thanks me & gives me a Hawaii bracelet (I’m not “convinced” it was purchased) I’ll wear it all the same.

…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped

and these guys certainly live in the shadows. Mark was assaulted last night and his face is cut, bruised & swollen, he was asleep when it started, he had no possessions, money, or drugs…

he had no one.

We can’t blame our government for not looking after those in the ‘shadows’. When we can walk by without making eye contact, offering a hello or a smile…

Is life really too busy to take 2 seconds to acknowledge someone else’s humanity?

Someone once said,

Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members — the last, the least, the littlest

We have a way to go.

 

 

Hawaii Looking Back: Hawaii didn’t workout as planed…

but it couldn’t have worked out better. Sure I spent a whole lot less time on the beach & in the water than I would have liked but I got to meet some amazing people, I’ve met some from different walks of life, who I could live a million lifetimes & not rub shoulders with. My life is richer for it.

I wish I could have had another day here & made it to Waianae.

It’s been cool to see God at work, it’s been cool to see the difference a little love & kindness can make in someones life. Walking back to the Hostel one last time, I run into a guy I’d spent a bit of time with, he proudly tells me he’s been sober for a day.

It’s the first time in 15yrs.

We never had conversations about it…we barely had conversations, I just sat & listened.

Of all the things we have to give others, I think ‘time’ is the hardest to give.

 

 

I’m off to the airport, see you in San Francisco.

adventures

Kicked Out


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I’ve been in Hawaii for 5  or 6 days now, part of that time has been for vacation & travel, part has been to hangout with & do some film/photo/doco work around the homeless/houseless.

There are two reasons for this,

1) I hope to be able to put something together to raise a little awareness about the houseless & how we treat/interact with them,

and 2) I want to do it in such a way that it’s accessible for anyone to do. I’m by no means a talented editor, creative, film maker etc… I’m shooting everything on a GoPro. I guess I hope to provoke one or two others to ask,

what is it in your world that doesn’t sit right with you, what can you do about it, how can you engage with it & advocate for change

This was a beautiful moment I witnessed last night.

Last night after the sunset on the beach I spend some time hanging out with some houseless people. I take a few pics & do a little film work. I sit with one guy for a couple of hours & he just talks, he cries, he laughs, he shares his story, from the mundane to the comical & tragic.

I listen. I’m not filming, it stops being about what I need.

Unlike some of the other ‘houseless’ he doesn’t have a group he hangs with, the only time people stop to talk is to see if he can hook them up with weed.

I don’t know how to describe it other than it seemed to be a healing moment for him, he asks for me to pray for him, I’ll make a point of seeing him before I leave.

On the way back I stop by this really flash mall full of Prada, Armani etc… it’s a stark contrast to what I’ve seen in the last couple of hours, I decide to ask a couple of questions,

“Hey I’ve a couple of questions about Hawaii, can you answer for me”, yes. “How long have you been in Hawaii?”, insert answer. “Whats the deal with all the homeless people around?”.

“sorry sir I can’t answer that”. “ummm….”. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave”.

One lady called security. I start leaving, I’m on the 3rd story & it’s a little tricky to get out. Eventually I get asked to hand my camera over. I refuse, there is no way that’s happening. You’re not allowed to film or take photos in the mall without permission, I point out the dozen or around us that are filming right now.

It’s clear they don’t want a confrontation because of either my size or the scene it would create. I get asked to accompany them to their office, yep that’s not going to happen either. They inform me they can call the  police & have me charged, I’m sceptically but a little worried that this might jeopardize the rest of the trip (and judging by a few incidents I’ve witnessed, I have no confidence in the police). We reach a compromise were I agree to delete some footage off the camera under their supervision, I do so (in hindsight, something I would regret).

One of the guys tries to snatch it off me quickly, the GoPro is attached by a cord to my wrist, dick move, “I’m going, try & stop me”. We’re calling the cops…

Once I get out and around the corner I’m sure I’m shaking. I head back to the hostel & knock back a few local beers with people from around the world, there’s a really good group in tonight, it’s a shame I’m leaving tomorrow.

Great-beers-best-local-beer-hawaii-beer-longboard-lager-big-wave-golden-aleHigh: the “random” timing in witnessing a beautiful moment of kindness. The comradery of  travelers.

Low: indifference

adventures

Byodo-in 2


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DCIM102GOPRO

I awake to the sound of rain. It’s pouring down.

Beautiful.

Eventually I get out of bed & during a break in the rain decide to head to Byodo- in temple (take 2), freshly armed with the exact bus route I head off. I reach my transfer point only to discover that as of a month ago my connecting bus no longer connects… guess the website updates are running on island time.

Not only that, but because it’s Sunday it’s hardly running, not wanting to miss another opportunity I grab a different bus to get me closer, then suck-it-up & take cab.

My driver, Ricky (most popular name on the island so far) is a Vietnam vet who moved here after the war, he has seen Honolulu go through a ton of change, single lane highways to 8 lanes etc. He cuts me a good price as he picks up  another job over that way, gives me an umbrella & wishes me well.

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Byodo-in Temple is at the back of this cemetery & it is in the most pristinely beautiful area, these photos dont do it justice. It begins rain heavily, driving the few remaining tourists away, I’m absolutely soaked, but it’s Hawaii so I’m warm.

 

 

 

I hangout til dusk.

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I’m dry by the time I get back to Waikiki, although I freeze with bus a/c.

Heading back I stop by a group of homeless people, I ask if I can do some time-lapse photography, I’m chatting away while I’m setting up. One of them gets into an argument with another, the cops are called, one says,

You’re only here because I allow it!

I’m sitting on the pavement with them & realise I fit in, until one of them notices the GoPro & I’m asked to move along. The petty crime, smoking, littering, urinating, searching through trash cans, and drinking doesn’t appear to be a problem. But scare the tourists, that’s another story.

I return a couple of hours later & make some new friends. Deciding to give photo’s a miss, I film, I ask questions, they talk BS, they share the heartfelt, their stories & I get a tour of Waikiki.

Here’s a little something I put together, when I get a chance I’ll do a more thorough edit. I imagine I’ll be spending some more time with “the houseless crew”.

 

New Experience: bending busses! hawaibus47

High: Chilling at Byodo-in & new friends.

Low:  It’s a toss up between really muggy nights & mosquito bites (if you go to Byodo- in, use bug spray. The mosquito’s are like ninjas, you don’t know they’ve been there til to late.

Biggest Surprise: It’s been 2 days & I haven’t been for a swim yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

adventures

My Live Below the Line Challenge: the who


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child-trafficking

The average sex traffic victim is a 12-year-old girl.

The average sex tourist is a male from a wealthy country.

He will visit a poor country.

Average flight to Bangkok $1,300.

$10-30 for a meal.

$10-30 for a child prostitute.

 

trafficking

 

As part of the Live Below the Line challenge you chose an organisation to benefit from the money you’ve raised.

It’s a brief dilemma as there are so many quality groups to choose from, World Vision, Oxfam, Global Poverty Project, Engineers Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army… & many more.

One of the consequences of extreme poverty is human trafficking, part of which is forced exploration in the sex industry. This often effects the poorest & most vulnerable people in our world. This is why I chose Tear Fund.

 

Maria’s Story

“Maria was only 13 years old when a family friend offered to find her a job working as a waitress in a neighbouring country. The woman promised to escort her across the border where she said Maria could make enough money to support her impoverished family. However after crossing the border, the woman took Maria straight to a brothel.

Maria was horrified and protested saying she wanted to go home. The manager told Maria that her freedom had been purchased from the woman who had delivered her. She now had a debt imposed on her and was told she could not leave until she had paid it back in full. Maria was told she must pay back the money she owed by selling her body.

A willing customer was found later that night and shaking with fear, Maria was led into a room where the man waited. When he began to rape her, Maria cried out so loudly in pain that the man complained.

The brothel manager then strapped tape over Maria’s mouth to silence her screams.

But the horror was not over as she was forced to have sex with seven more strangers that night.

Posing as a potential customer, one of our investigators was able to covertly infiltrate the criminal network responsible for Maria’s captivity. Working with trusted local authorities, Nvader facilitated the rescue of Maria and the prosecution of those responsible. Maria was placed with a secure professional aftercare provider where she was able to begin her journey of healing and restoration”.

 

I don’t think I need to say more, a week without the food, technology, car that I’m used to should be a walk in the park compared to this.

 

Maria was only 13 years old when a family friend offered to find her a job working as a waitress in a neighbouring country. The woman promised to escort her across the border where she said Maria could make enough money to support her impoverished family. However after crossing the border, the woman took Maria straight to a brothel. – See more at: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/nz-tearfund-about#sthash.BKuHlEIf.dpuf
Maria was only 13 years old when a family friend offered to find her a job working as a waitress in a neighbouring country. The woman promised to escort her across the border where she said Maria could make enough money to support her impoverished family. However after crossing the border, the woman took Maria straight to a brothel.Maria was horrified and protested saying she wanted to go home. The manager told Maria that her freedom had been purchased from the woman who had delivered her. She now had a debt imposed on her and was told she could not leave until she had paid it back in full. Maria was told she must pay back the money she owed by selling her body.A willing customer was found later that night and shaking with fear, Maria was led into a room where the man waited. When he began to rape her, Maria cried out so loudly in pain that the man complained. The brothel manager then strapped tape over Maria’s mouth to silence her screams. But the horror was not over as she was forced to have sex with seven more strangers that night.

Posing as a potential customer, one of our investigators was able to covertly infiltrate the criminal network responsible for Maria’s captivity. Working with trusted local authorities, Nvader facilitated the rescue of Maria and the prosecution of those responsible. Maria was placed with a secure professional aftercare provider where she was able to begin her journey of healing and restoration. – See more at: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/nz-tearfund-about#sthash.Xplx0NRB.dpuf

Maria was only 13 years old when a family friend offered to find her a job working as a waitress in a neighbouring country. The woman promised to escort her across the border where she said Maria could make enough money to support her impoverished family. However after crossing the border, the woman took Maria straight to a brothel.Maria was horrified and protested saying she wanted to go home. The manager told Maria that her freedom had been purchased from the woman who had delivered her. She now had a debt imposed on her and was told she could not leave until she had paid it back in full. Maria was told she must pay back the money she owed by selling her body.A willing customer was found later that night and shaking with fear, Maria was led into a room where the man waited. When he began to rape her, Maria cried out so loudly in pain that the man complained. The brothel manager then strapped tape over Maria’s mouth to silence her screams. But the horror was not over as she was forced to have sex with seven more strangers that night.

Posing as a potential customer, one of our investigators was able to covertly infiltrate the criminal network responsible for Maria’s captivity. Working with trusted local authorities, Nvader facilitated the rescue of Maria and the prosecution of those responsible. Maria was placed with a secure professional aftercare provider where she was able to begin her journey of healing and restoration. – See more at: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/nz-tearfund-about#sthash.Xplx0NRB.dpuf

Maria was only 13 years old when a family friend offered to find her a job working as a waitress in a neighbouring country. The woman promised to escort her across the border where she said Maria could make enough money to support her impoverished family. However after crossing the border, the woman took Maria straight to a brothel.Maria was horrified and protested saying she wanted to go home. The manager told Maria that her freedom had been purchased from the woman who had delivered her. She now had a debt imposed on her and was told she could not leave until she had paid it back in full. Maria was told she must pay back the money she owed by selling her body.A willing customer was found later that night and shaking with fear, Maria was led into a room where the man waited. When he began to rape her, Maria cried out so loudly in pain that the man complained. The brothel manager then strapped tape over Maria’s mouth to silence her screams. But the horror was not over as she was forced to have sex with seven more strangers that night.

Posing as a potential customer, one of our investigators was able to covertly infiltrate the criminal network responsible for Maria’s captivity. Working with trusted local authorities, Nvader facilitated the rescue of Maria and the prosecution of those responsible. Maria was placed with a secure professional aftercare provider where she was able to begin her journey of healing and restoration. – See more at: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/nz-tearfund-about#sthash.Xplx0NRB.dpuf

Maria was only 13 years old when a