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A big hello to all of my sweet supporters, prayer warriors, and family and friends!

Before we dig in, I want to take a second to say thank you.

Thanks for staying in touch. Thanks for praying.  Thanks for donating.  Thanks for not forgetting about me.  Thanks for reaching out and sending an encouraging word now and then.  And lastly, thanks for taking the extra time out of your busy day to read up on everything that God is doing in South Africa.

If it weren't for you guys believing in me (and in the mission that God planted in my heart), supporting me, and praying for me - I wouldn't be the woman I am today.  I am very thankful for you all.

*HUGS*

So, here we go!  Here's my April update!  Read on for some lovely photos, event updates, and prayer requests from this past month!  <3
 
This month, the STOP team had the opportunity to host our first Volunteer Orientation for 2018!  Despite the technical difficulties with our projector, Nicole (our Operations Manager) and I were able to equip and inform some new volunteers!  It's always exciting when God lights a passionate spark in someone's heart.  It's even MORE exciting when that spark has to do with wanting to help combat human trafficking.

Our prayer is that God will keep sending us new volunteers to train and equip!  An increase in volunteers will mean an increase in school presentations, awareness outreaches, and voices standing up against human trafficking!  So the more the merrier!
Earlier this month, I had the chance to speak at a high school in Masiphumelele.  I wrote a little excerpt about what God taught me and showed me during this "not so typical" presentation...

We have a saying here in South Africa.
We say T.I.A. which means, "This is Africa."
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We say it when things don't exactly go according to plan, like when a taxi cuts you off on the N2 going 20 kilometers over the speed limit, or when cows start to graze in the middle of the road when you're running late for work, or when you are stark naked and happen to find a gigantic rain spider in your shower.
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I recently gave my first STOP awareness presentation since arriving back in SA, and it definitely did not go according to plan. It was one of my greatest "T.I.A." moments thus far, and it tugged on my heart strings.
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I had an entire room of teachers and roughly 300 learners walk out on me right in the middle of the presentation, after only 10 minutes of speaking. (To put things in perspective, I was given an hour to present.)
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At first, it was a blow to my ego, but then I realized it wasn't about me at all. It was a priority thing. It was a cultural thing. It was a "transport has arrived and it's already 13h30 on a Friday afternoon and I want to go home" kind of thing. And ultimately, that's okay.    "T.I.A."
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God challenged me in that moment with the question, "If it doesn't go your way Sam, will you still give it your all, anyway? Will you still love them, anyway? Will you still serve them, anyway?" And I did - and I will, even if I get walked out on a thousand more times, because it's not about me - it's about them.
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Looking back at these sweet photos that my friend Brandon Booth took, I can confidently say that day was not a failure, it was a lesson in surrender and trust and flexibility. Those kids got 10 minutes of solid truth, HT awareness, and "Jesus in Sam love." So as I pray and seek God throughout this ministry journey, even when the struggle is real and the circumstances are hard, I need to choose to believe that whatever I can offer is enough. That God is enough, that Christ in me is enough, and that He can use even the smallest and most imperfect bits of me for His glory and His purpose.
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This is Africa... and despite it's flaws - it's beautiful, it's worthy of love, and it's full of my brothers and sisters who deserve to be empowered and protected no matter what the cost.  ❤ T.I.A

 
I was blessed by "Mama J" (one of our STOP directors) this month with a ticket to the Hillsong Colour Conference!  I had never been before, so I was super excited to see what all of the hype was about.  Each year the Hillsong churches host the Colour Conference in different parts of the world, Cape Town being one location.  The heart of the conference is to empower and encourage women to chase hard after God and reach their full potential as Daughters of the Most High King.

This year's theme was about being found in Him, and about the Spirit of God being the wind in our sails.  It was such a sweet time of worship, prayer, powerful teachings, and fellowship!  I left feeling refreshed and refueled to continue serving my Heavenly Father with everything I've got!  Loved every second of it!
One of the visions of STOP has been to reach out to the local church.  We have been praying for the Lord to open doors and create opportunities for us to equip and empower the church to start standing up and fighting back against human trafficking.

Over the weekend of April 20-22, STOP had the privilege of partnering with the Shofar Church family to host the "STOP Injustice Awaken Hearts" Workshop/Conference.

Around 70 women (and a few men) from various Shofar churches came to learn, network, worship, and pray.  Members of the STOP team lead brainstorming sessions, small groups, and teaching sessions. Some of the sessions covered topics like human trafficking awareness, how to fight back against social injustice, the role of technology, and how to help with restoration and aftercare for victims. 

It was such a special weekend.  God stirred up hearts, convicted spirits, and broke down barriers of fear.  He is raising up an army in South Africa to fight for the powerless and to set the captives free! 
On April 24th, STOP was able to host our annual AGM meeting while simultaneously celebrating our 10 year anniversary!  A bunch of our ministry partners came to celebrate all that God has done over these past ten years.  It was such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ in action. 

Our motto at STOP is "together for freedom."  We believe that we are stronger as a ministry when we partner with other ministries.  Our strengths are magnified and our weaknesses are diminished when we hold hands and stand united against the true enemy. 

I am so blessed to be a part of this crazy and passionate South African family, and I am honored to serve under some of the fiercest and most faithful women I know.  Our prayer moving forward is that God will direct our steps and motivate our hearts to keep pressing forward in this fight - even when it gets tough.  He is faithful!
I am officially halfway done with my first Liberty University Master's Degree course - Healthy Human Sexuality!  So far I am cruising through with a 98% in the course, whoot whoot!

It has been so cool to see how God is interweaving the information I am learning through this course with my ministry experiences AND with my own trauma healing.  As I walk through a journey of counseling, serving with STOP, and studying - God is opening my eyes to the truth: the truth about His beautiful and perfect design for sex and intimacy, His heart for relationship, and His desire to see us whole and holy. 

I have learned that if I want to help heal, restore, and love the hurting and the broken - I first need to let my Heavenly Father heal, restore, and love me.  It's not an easy process, but it's one that takes me from glory to glory.  It also reminds me of the truth that nothing is too hard for our God, and there is no one too far out of His reach to be redeemed. 

I am excited to keep learning, and I am excited to go deeper into ministry as I try my best to follow in my Heavenly Father's footsteps.
PRAYER REQUESTS + UPCOMING EVENTS
 
May 24 - 25th - I will be speaking on behalf of STOP at a Child Trauma Conference!  This conference will be attended by psychologists, counselors, social workers, teachers, etc.  I will be speaking on Child Trafficking and how to identify and prevent it.  Please keep this event and our team in prayer as we prepare!
 
Grad School  - As I hit the home stretch of my first course, please pray for me to continue to be diligent with my work!  I have a lot of lectures to watch and a big research paper to write within the next few weeks!  Also, please pray for financial provision to pay for my classes!

Child Protection Week (End May - June)  - Child Protection Week is coming up at the end of May!  Our team hopes to speak at as many schools and in as many communities as possible!  This week is always a great opportunity to raise awareness, so please pray for lots of presentations and events!  

And as always, thank you for taking the time to read this update!  I am so grateful for your support, love, and prayers!

Until next time,

Sam  :)
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Sam Stokesberry · P.O. Box 2302, Dennesig · Stellenbosch, Wc S-7601 · South Africa

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