I’m going to Thailand!

A few months ago, I began reading an impactful book by Gary Haugen called “The Locust Effect: How the end of poverty requires the end of violence”.  As all Haugen’s books do, it gripped me. It awoke again, my heart’s desire to hear the cry of the oppressed and to take a stand on behalf of those that suffer around our world. Many of the stories in this book are heart-breaking, yet not surprising to me as I’ve been able to work closely with people who have similar stories of oppression and unjust treatment.  In fact, a lot of my encounters and studies on this inspired me a few years ago to get my masters in social work, and find ways to bring hope and healing to such amazing, yet burdened people. Haugen writes, “…the greatest devastations of violence is invisible- it is the destruction of the person inside. For victims of slavery, forced prostitution, sexual assault, and other intensely violent forms of oppression, the psychological wounds of trauma are invisible; they receive almost no treatment in poor communities; and they do not simply ‘heal with time’…” This truth motivates me. It breaks my heart, yet inspires me.

In the course of reading this book (and I still have yet to finish it…), I had applied with an incredible organization called Unseen Ministries to be considered as a photographer on their upcoming trip to Thailand. They were taking a group of artists to capture stories of the work that is being done in the midst of Thailand’s reality of sex tourism, sex trafficking, and the exploitation of many vulnerable people. With my background in social work and heart for exploited and vulnerable people-groups, I knew I had to apply. I’ve always dreamed about using my photography in a way that would help bring justice and also shed light on important issues, but in a way that is honoring to people. I was drawn to Unseen because they partner “with people all around the world to care for orphans, fight human trafficking and end hunger and poverty.” And I love Unseen’s mission to; “equip groups already engaged in social justice causes with the tools and education they need to get their message out”. I was on my way to our annual family trip to Canada when I had my phone-interview with Danae (and I distinctly remember sitting in the airport holding back tears as I was sharing with her my heart for trafficking victims/survivors).  I knew that for the next week I would be mostly off-the-grid with little to no cell or internet service.

I can recall the moment.

I was riding a bicycle down an island road, wind in my face and tears streaming down. Thinking about the book, and the truths within it, thinking about this potential opportunity and if I could handle it, if I was chosen to go.  “Daddy-God, please let me go! I want to go. I want to serve you in this way…” I lifted up my heart-felt prayer and waited a few days. I kept wondering if He would answer my prayer in the way I had hoped, or if He had a different plan. I kept wondering if it was crazy for me to think that I would get chosen to be the Lead Photographer for an important trip like this. Then, as we drove off the Canadian island back to the US, I saw the message in my inbox “Let’s go to Thailand!”. My heart jumped and my joy overflowed, knowing that God had heard me and answered me in this way.

View More: http://eveswishphotography.pass.us/abby-mortenson-headshots-2014

I’m so so honored, and so excited for this trip.

We will be working with three amazing organizations that support survivors of sex trafficking. There’s so much to say about each one, but I’m sure I’ll have even more to say after the trip…so I’ll wait! I am so excited to spend time with the people of these organizations, and hopefully bring encouragement to each one of them, as well as learn so much from them.
We leave THIS FRIDAY! And although I’m a little nervous, I know that I’m going with a purpose, that God goes before me into these hard and difficult places (because He is near the broken-hearted)…and that I can trust that this is where I’m supposed to be. If you pray, our team would appreciate any prayers for our time- for the people we will encounter, for the work we have set before us, for our team, for travel, for God to surround our trip and also shine His love through each one of us to those we get to meet. I’m expectant. And I can’t wait to share more stories when I return. In the mean-time, be sure to check in with us on instagram at @unseenmin and @loverootsphoto.  You can also check out my friend, Teryn’s blog here…she is the writer coming along on the trip and will hopefully be sharing a lot of great stories!

View More: http://eveswishphotography.pass.us/abby-mortenson-headshots-2014

See you when I get back!

 

Photos from my friend Erin of Eve’s Wish Photography

 

One Chair Project

I’m excited to announce the One Chair Project.  A collaboration with my friend and studio-mate D Shun-Luoi Fong.

The One Chair Project (TOCP) is a unique and exciting portrait project for families, friends, couples, pets, and everyone in between.

This project will bring people together in a collaborative photographic experience that is unified by one common element: a single, unique chair. Within the boundaries of a single light, a simple background, and a 30 minute session, photographer and subjects together are given the opportunity to collaborate and explore their creativity to create portraits that beautifully represent each subject in a unique way. It’s a journey of collaboration, creativity, beauty, and fun that results in beautiful images to share with one another and proudly display in homes and businesses.

The One Chair Project is scheduled for the autumn of 2012, and our challenge over the course of 10 days is to photograph 100 different subjects in 100 unique ways. So bring yourself, your family, your friends, your pets, and prepare to have fun creating amazing portraits of you, your loved ones, and one simple, yellow chair.

I’m excited because for this project we are partnering with Restore Innocence to support local survivors of human trafficking. Restore Innocence is a local non-profit that exists to “restore victims of child trafficking back to the innocent children God created them to be”. They currently run a variety of programs in Colorado and throughout the United States supporting survivors through the Cinderella House, the mentoring program, and the Restoration bag program. We love the work they are doing and are excited to support them in bringing hope and healing to survivors. For this project, for every 10th session that is scheduled we are donating $100 to Restore Innocence. Visit their website to learn more about the great work that they are doing, then schedule a session to help us reach our goal of creating 100 portraits and giving up to $1000 to support the work of Restore Innocence.

Ready to get started? The project will be held October 24 to November 3, 2012, PLEASE JOIN US?

to scatter love.

“Lord, we cup our hands to gather the pieces of heaven you shower upon us.

Help us to open our hands with generous spirits

and scatter your divine love in the darkest places.”

This quote is from my reading this morning out of “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals“.

What are those glimpses of heaven I’ve received today, and throughout my life?  What are the small and big pieces of beauty I get to experience every day?  In honesty, probably too many to count. The challenge is to have the eyes to see, the heart to recognize, and the gratitude that leads to a pouring out.  I’ve spent some time this afternoon reading some words from a beautiful person- you may have heard of her: Katie Davis.  She is a young woman who now lives in Uganda and offers her life as a an open hand- scattering His divine love in some dark places.  Her life is so inspiring, so encouraging; and her words are so meaningful because she is not just writing them, she’s living them.  It motivates me.

I’ve written a little about RESTORE INNOCENCE before, but the quote above reminds me of the necessity to be a person who makes it a priority to bring light into dark places.  Restore Innocence is a ministry based here in Colorado who’s mission is “Restoring victims of child trafficking back to the innocent children God created them to be”.  I believe in this ministry and want to invest in it because I know they are living their mission.  Like Katie, they have a powerful mission, but the power lies in the fact that they are not just talking, they are doing.  I have had the privilege of meeting some of the girls Restore Innocence is currently serving. They have been through the dark, dark places of sexual exploitation in our country.  They are incredible, courageous, and they each have a story to tell.  Just the other day I heard one of the girls say, “Restore Innocence saved my life”.  I know it’s not an organization that saves lives…but I do know it’s God’s LOVE and the power of action that does.

I can’t imagine a darker place on earth, than being exploited (in ways I don’t even want to mention).  Human trafficking is a form of slavery, and I am compelled to do something.  I know there are big and small ways to have a role in bringing light into this darkness that exists around us every day.  One way I want to do this is by giving a portion of my profits to Restore Innocence.  One of the future goals RI is working on is building a safe place for girls who have been exploited through sex trafficking.  The dream is the Cinderella House, and it’s a place where hope and healing will happen.  I hope that through my business, I can be a part of helping this dream become a reality.  I am still working on my wedding packaging…but in each package will include a specific amount that will be given to Restore Innocence.  Please spread the word!  Interested couples can check my website for more information: Love Roots Photography.

Recently I wrote a post about our lives being precious- and the importance of living each moment, because we don’t know how long we have.  Today I’m reminded again, that our lives are much more than the daily grind. Our lives are worth so much- and to those of us who are fortunate enough to have everything we need, it is important to start looking around.  What gifts have we received that we can in-turn, pour out?

Let us open our hands and scatter that love.

Beauty of a Woman {International Women’s Day}

My friend Karen and I are doing a photo event tomorrow called “Beauty of a Woman”.  We’re both excited to join forces and create a fun experience for some women in our community to have photographs to use for their small business or for personal use.  Ironically (or maybe not so), today is International Woman’s Day.  Every year on March 8th, people around the world celebrate women : who they are, what they have accomplished and overcome over the years, and also to empower women to continue to do great things.  Here in the US, as a woman, I feel so privileged and blessed because I experience freedom on a day-to-day basis. Not all women do.

On thinking about International Women’s Day, I thought about some of the images from my trip to Ethiopia in 2010 (I often think in images!)

Here are a few of the beautiful women I was able to meet.  To me, these images represent their beauty and strength- and their courage to raise children and love people in very difficult circumstances.

(the one above  is especially dear to me…this is my mom on the left (a beautiful woman!) , and she was able to help this woman take care of a head-wound on her son)

One of the themes this year of IWD is “Women and men united to end violence against women and girls”.  This is something close to my heart as I truly believe it is my privilege to find my part in bringing freedom and hope to women and girls, especially, who are experiencing violence and oppression around the world (and in my city, too).  I feel strongly that this is what we’re meant to do here- to make a difference….as cliche as that may sound, I believe it.  And I hope to live it.

(this beauty is Bereket, also dear to my heart!)

If you’ve seen my website, hopefully you’ve seen that I give 10% of my profits to an organization doing very important work called Restore Innocence.  Their mission is  “Restoring victims of child trafficking back to the innocent children God created them to be”.  It’s an incredible mission and if you’d like to learn more, you can go to the website: restoreinnocence.org  or the facebook page for information…also feel free to ask me, I”m always up for sharing about it!

Whatever we do, let us recognize that our actions do matter, and that we all have a place in bringing hope to someone else in the world!  I read something today that really resonated: “What moves you? What drives you? What infuriates you? And how can you creatively engage in a way that uses your innate gifts and abilities…?”  Human trafficking, exploitation, oppression…these are things that infuriate me.  And I want to choose to use my gifts and joy in photographing people to make an impact on a bigger level.

“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

~ Helen Keller ~

Give Restoration. Give Hope

{For the month of December, book a photography session with Love Roots Photography,  and 10% of your donation will go to Restore Innocence}

Some of you may know my passion and connection to the issue of ending human trafficking.  For many, that word might bring up different ideas, but for me- it strikes a chord of determination- a feeling that I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.

I first learned about the issue  (also known as modern day slavery) a few years back from an organization called International Justice Mission.  The founder, Gary Haugen, wrote a few books and one of them ended up in my hands and changed me forever.  “Good News About Injustice” reveals the astounding truth that there are more slaves in our world TODAY than ever before;  that people live in bondage across the globe and the faces it takes are numerous.  It ranges from bonded labor in brick kilns, rice mills, and tea plantations in India, to child labor in the coffee fields in Central Africa, to the streets of Calcutta, India; Phnom Penh, CambodiaBangkok, Thailand; and Denver, Colorado, USA; where women and children are trafficked in the form of commercial sexual exploitation.  And in reality, this is happening every day. All over the United States, and all over the world. This stuff can be daunting.  It is overwhelming and so many of us would rather not think about it.  We may feel sad for the people we hear about, but when the day is done, it’s easier to just forget about it and keep on living our lives in freedom.

FREEDOM.

I think it’s something I have taken for granted. It’s something I often forget to be thankful for.  But now, knowing that it is something millions of people around the world don’t experience, it’s time I stand in the gap, in whatever way possible, to work for freedom of others.  It is the best way to show thanks – to be moved to action – for the benefit of someone else.

SO WHAT’S THE “GOOD NEWS” about injustice!?

For me, this is a human rights issue. A social justice issue. But it is also an issue of who I am and what I believe I’m called to do.  My faith is the driving force behind why I need to do something about this.  I believe in the God of Justice – the one who cares more deeply about the oppressed, the enslaved, the broken people of the world, than we can imagine.  The God who asks me to be as He is- to give abundantly, to love extravagantly, and to loose the chains of injustice.  One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Isaiah 58.  Here are just a few things from this chapter:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

   “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday…”

The GOOD NEWS is that God is up to something-and He has been since the beginning.  He has not left the precious ones that are facing slavery every minute of their days.  He has not forgotten and He wants freedom.  But, He calls those who believe in Him, to be the doers of justice.  He pleas with us to be the ones.  “If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed” He says, “then your light will rise in the darkness….He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land”.  His plan is bigger and better- but we must not get complacent. We have been commissioned and we have a responsibility to act.

IT’S TOO BIG.  WHAT COULD I EVER DO?

This is the common feeling and it can stop us dead in our tracks….but we must overcome that lie that there’s nothing we can do.

Last week I was at a meeting with some dedicated people who want to see people be restored and brought out of slavery and oppression, and into freedom.

One of the women there is an FBI agent who works on the Innocence Lost Task Force for Colorado.  She works directly with girls and young women who have been sexually exploited on the streets of Denver, Colorado Springs, and other parts of the state.  She has a caseload of more that 40 victims that she works with and she would say there are many more still in “the life” that are in need of freedom and restoration.  Restore Innocence is a non-profit born out of a heart for the oppressed and an awareness of the need for safe housing for girls who have experienced unthinkable trauma from being exploited.  The hope is to build the Cinderella House, a place of healing and restoration for girls in Colorado who need safety, treatment, and most of all,  hope.

GIVE RESTORATION. GIVE HOPE.

Restore Innocence needs your support.  These girls need your support.

Restore Innocence is doing a few things that require the support of people who care about this issue and want to make a difference.  Here are a few ways to get involved and bring hope:

Give RESTORATION :

We need financial support to continue our services to the girls, to run our programs, and ultimately, to build the Cinderella House.  CLICK HERE to give Restoration.

Give GIFTS:

We are collecting special items for the girls we are currently working with. Here is a helpful tool to guide you:

You can also support Restore Innocence by shopping Restored Bow products

or booking a photography session with Love Roots Photography, where 10% will go to Restore Innocence. Contact me at Loverootsphotogaphy@gmail.com or 719.510.4995

Give HOPE:

If you pray- we need it!: continuous prayer for the girls (those we are working with, and those we don’t know, yet), for the ministry, for all people experiencing slavery. To recieve our weekly prayer newsletter, send a request to info@restoreinnocence.com