This week Free2BMe is heading to the 10th Annual International Conference on Human Traffickin, Prostitution and Sex Work at the University of Toledo. For the first time ever, a high school track has been developed for about 100 students from area high schools. Our founder, Sharon coordinated and set that up, so on Thursday she will be working to bring awareness and education to younger generations! Check out this blog post:
It's all about relationships! Free2BMe is about loving one another more fully! It's about getting to know one another. It's about having true friends! We hang out! We have fun! And sometimes we get CRAZY! Between sickness and travel, our team of about 10 dropped to a team of 4, but we had fun anyways today at the Run or Dye 5K at Owens Community College. All proceeds benefited United Way of Greater Toledo and we were able to have fun, lean on one another and raise money for a great cause! Next time have a Team Event link this, you should join us! It's all about LOVE!
“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.”
I’m sitting here looking at a list of 137 names--each of them attached to faces, stories…human beings that I will find hard to ever forget. All of them women, who sat in my Biblical Rescue class at the Sparrow’s Nest over the last year. When I took the position at Cherry Street Mission Ministries in 2011, I had spent time volunteering and pouring into their mission, but I knew clearly that taking a paid position would be for a season in my life, one of learning, one of serving and one without a clear length. I also knew that this partnership was bigger than myself or Cherry Street. I told Charles, my immediate boss, right from the beginning that this season could be six months, six years or a lifetime, I didn’t know. It turned out to be 10 months. Ten months of fully encountering God at curb level in Toledo, Ohio at homeless shelter.
I could tell you of all the stories that I had the privilege of entering, all the lives that found some measure of transformation through Christ upon colliding with mine. I could spend days reliving with you the precious moments of salvation, baptism and even just personal gut checks that came every single day; or the precious, heartbreaking moments of death and grieving because not all of those 137 women are living today. But I want to tell you something different, not any more profound or any more legit, just different.
I entered Cherry Street, fully aware of who I was and who God is. I wasn’t broken, like I would have once labeled myself in my junk, but I was wounded. During my pursuit of running passionately after God, I had been wounded deeply by the Church and because of that I had begun to in many ways question the power of Christ in me. Cherry Street, along with another group of awesome people at New Harvest Christian Church, stepped into my life and helped to heal those wounds. They enabled to me to once again believe in myself and helped me to see that how God has called me to live in the midst of his world isn’t wrong. Indeed, people didn’t understand it and that caused frustration on both sides, but the heartbeat inside me is the very heartbeat of God.
When I began discussions about my position at Cherry Street there were many thoughts, including how would I juggle CSMM and my volunteer work at Free2BMe. Several people had approached me at the same time telling me they thought I should apply for various positions that were available at Cherry Street and silly me, said no “I’ll just volunteer.” So I spent a great deal of time volunteering – painting, refurbishing, speaking with guests and even employees, and pouring my thoughts and ideas into the new chaplaincy/spiritual emphasis department. When I was finally presented with the position of Biblical Advocate/Senior Chaplain, everything in me knew it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing for CSMM. Charles could tell you that I didn’t much appreciate the title “Biblical
Advocate”. I told him over and over that people wouldn’t understand it, wouldn’t get it. It was easier to just call us Senior Chaplains. So my name tag said “Senior Chaplain” and that sounded so much better.
I spent lots of time rounding up over 40 volunteer chaplains and coordinating their service hours, really just undergirding them, supporting them, encouraging them and even
teaching them. But most of my time was spent in the classroom with guests of the Sparrow’s Nest, the women’s facility at CSMM. I was a great chaplain (I might be biased – so take that with a grain of salt). And I was comfortable calling myself a chaplain because that title meant something to the world--people understood it, people got it, which brings me to the point of this note, what I learned at Cherry Street…
I want to say that it wasn’t about learning so much as it was about God moving me towards a finishing, a perfecting, a finalizing…and please don’t misunderstand that to mean, I’m perfect, because I’m not, in fact I’m far from it. But little did I know, God was perfecting something inside me and I needed Cherry Street in order to live into it. That wound that I mentioned stole something from me, it attempted to squash the very work of God in my life and it took me a very long time to realize that. What I learned at Cherry Street, what God used Cherry Street to perfect in me is that, as much as people don’t get it, or don’t understand it, or think it’s ungodly, I am a biblical advocate!
A biblical advocate lives out biblical principles that bring about transformation, not only in others, but also in themselves. I was learning to live out these principles way before I ever encountered Dan Rogers or Cherry Street Mission Ministries, but it was that very person and organization that gave me the language to better communicate and even understand what it was that God was calling me to and I am eternally grateful for that. It was the living out of those very same principles that brought condemnation from the Church causing a deep wound in me, and thus my ability to willingly accept what was acceptable in the title of Senior Chaplain and reject that which was reject-able in the title of Biblical Advocate.
At the heart of who I am, I want to love people, to follow the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the great commandment (Mark 12:29-31) and I want to do it without violating the crap out of people. I want to love others as myself without forcing my desires and expectations on them, which means that I don’t get to say what God wants for someone else. I can only be the straight line to the crooked around me and trust that God’s got it. That there isn’t a stop watch that I’m racing against or that anyone is racing against for that matter. I want to love others without managing them but instead teach them to manage themselves. I want to love others by allowing them to hit their rock bottom, which cannot be defined by me, only them. And I want to love others without bulldozing them into believing what I think they should believe or profess.
At Cherry Street I served as a bridge between the guests and the management, Charles and Kim could tell you that as an advocate I held them to the fire many times, demanding the living out and breathing in of these principles, even to the point of complete and utter emotion (okay, I think I was hyperventilating!). As an advocate you do not advocate for the organization and its well-being or wants, but instead you stand like Abraham before God, abandoning yourself to possibilities of your own expulsion, and plead for the city. So at Cherry Street I learned, despite what the Church believes about me, and despite even what Cherry Street thought about me (which I hope was good), I learned to stand before the powers that be and plead, not on behalf of the organization or the entity, but on behalf of the human being that deserves the full bounty of Christ that is found in his principles.
Because believe me the principles bring about true transformation if we fully engage them. I know this because my story is one of living them.
What God was perfecting in me, what he was building in me was to be like Christ and to lay myself down, my wants, my beliefs, my expectations and plead for the Holy God to offer grace, to be just, to embrace the principles he established and to pour out his mercy.
That is Christ…Christ the High Priest, the Advocate, who has called me to be like him, no matter how uncomfortable it is, no matter if people think you are a mess, or call you a pain-in-the-ass (which I was called)…to be the straight to the crooked around me, fully acknowledging that I got my own crookedness, but in matters of loving others I must walk the straight line of the biblical principles because I am an Advocate.
Today I had the opportunity to share Sex Trafficking 101 with about 20 high school juniors in a Social Justice class. The teacher asked me to connect this social justice issue to human dignity and worth. It was awesome because that's easy to do when you are sitting in a private school since human dignity and worth comes directly from God.
I talked extensively about God's imprinting us with his image and our search to fill an impression that was only meant to be filled by God. Like a hand-print placed on our hearts that only the person who put it there can fill. Other things and people can attempt to, but they will be too small or too big. This substitution fill will leave us either searching for something more or overwhelmed and consumed by something that is so big we can't carry it. The hand-print can only be filled by God (it's creator) and when we allow him to fill it, we find our identity. We find our God given purpose and we find wholeness. Each of us has God's image in us, we just don't realize it. Realizing it involves acknowledging that when we see each other, we should see each other with dignity and worth because we are all children of God. We are all intricately connected. And when we look at each other we should realize that we are looking at God.
At end of the day, I wanted the reality of all that I had shared to sink into each of them. Why is it important to see people in this way? Why is social justice important? I had all of the girls in the class stand up. It just so happened that there were 11 of them and they were three in three rows and 2 in the last row. These young ladies all stood and I said, please understand that I want to share with you a statistic that is shocking and will hurt a bit, but my intention is not to hurt you, but instead to make this real for you. And I'm not naive enough to think that this might not already be real. I counted them out loud and asked each student to look at each other. And then I shared...
Class, the unfortunately statistic is this...it is from the UN Millennium Project...1 in 3 women will be victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. The look on their face was indescribable. The guys in the room had a visible change in them. I continued with the class explaining that this statistic is NOT fair. It's not fair that one girl in each row statistically speaking will experience sexual violence before the end of her life. It's not fair that the responsibility has been placed on her shoulders. It's not fair that something more isn't being done to change it. The truth is --this statistic wouldn't be true if each and everyone of us began to see God in ourselves and God in others. If we began to respect, love and protect, not only ourselves, but others, if we began to live Micah 6:8 (To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.)
Social justice matters and 16-17 year old kids CAN make a difference! There's no question about it! They can change the world! And it starts with our walking the straight line!
I'm excited to see where this class goes! And praying for kingdom breakthrough through these kids in powerful ways!!!!