Monday, April 29, 2013

God's Calling Me to the Strip Clubs: Things You Never Think You'll Say

Yep. You read it correctly. God is calling me to go into the local strip clubs through a ministry at my church. 
As I type it, I can't actually believe I'm saying it, let alone doing it.  Let me start at the beginning.

As most know, my husband has a pretty incredible testimony of God's goodness and power. He is a man after God's own heart, now, but prior to that he spent the better part of 18 years managing strip clubs, some of which are here in of which I will be going into this Thursday night.

Two years ago I was invited to be a part of a group of women who would start praying about starting a ministry that would go into some of the local clubs each week with a home cooked meal, cupcakes and smiles. No agenda other than showing God's love and building relationships. I thought, "Of course I can do this. I SHOULD do this. After all, that was in the past and this is a great way for me to support my (at the time) fiance's transformation in Christ." I went to the meetings. I prayed. I baked cupcakes, but when it was brought up about me going into the club....I almost had an anxiety attack. See...I have never been inside of a strip club. I always had very judgmental opinions of what happens there. Why would women choose that path? The men who parked outside and went in made me sick. I was preparing to marry a man who had seen it all and been a part of it all and I really adopted this "me vs. them" attitude. Then the questions started flooding my mind? What if my experience there changes how I feel about Glenn? What if we get married and I'm always insecure about if I will measure up to his expectations? We had already ran into people all over town that he used to work with and I felt my heart rate increase wondering what his interactions with them once were. What if? What if ? What if?  On the flip side I was SO upset with myself that I could not get over this mental hump and have compassion. I did not WANT to feel the way I felt, but as our wedding day neared...the anxiety only increased. 

I talked to Glenn and he admitted that he did not want me to go because it would change everything. I decided that I could support this ministry through baking for the sake of "comfort" and "security" in our new relationship. We married, moved to Atlanta and to be honest, I was thankful. It was a new start. We settled into life in Atlanta where (in my head) we were protected from the past. It wasn't long before Glenn started thinking about starting a ministry God had placed on his heart "Pimp to Pastor" to share his testimony and start ministering to men who were struggling. With my mouth, I said it was a great idea and I supported him 100%. That's what I wanted to feel. Inside though, anxiety and insecurity were taking root in my heart. I knew that this ministry was going to cause him to cross paths with many people from his past. I also knew that at some point someone was going to say, "Well how does your wife feel about all of this?" I could not reconcile in my mind how this could just be "his" ministry. I know I hurt him through the process because it was like I was the only person who couldn't let him be a new creation and use his testimony to help others. It hurt me to see that pain on his face. Through my own confusion, I was confusing him as to what he should do. Satan knew JUST where to hit that target on me and it was working. He also knew the exact spot to hurt our marriage. We were frustrated, fighting and hurt. I think we were both at a loss.

When we felt God was leading us to Savannah to start the Dream Campaign, I was so frustrated with God. "Why God, are you making me go back to a place where I'm going to be uncomfortable again?" But as I prayed over it, I felt God whispering to my heart..."Because I'm not done with you yet. This is not only about the Dream Campaign. I need to work on you in a way that can only be done in that place." Everything I've posted has been about The Dream Campaign and what we're doing...but it has been so much more than that. God has been literally renovating my heart and reconstructing it in a way that I never thought was humanly possible. A few months ago, I told the leader of the strip club ministry that I wanted to be trained to go into the clubs, but I wasn't ready to go in just yet.

Last Friday, my church had a movie night called 31:8. This is based on Proverbs 31:8 - "Speak up for those who can not speak for themselves..." We watched a movie called "The Candy Shop" which talked about sex trafficking among children. I HIGHLY encourage you to watch it. You can find it on Vimeo. It was a 30 minute movie that shook me to the core and in that moment, my entire thought process changed. My dear friend shared about opportunities to serve with the strip club ministry. It was time. It was like God lifted the veil from my eyes and my heart. It was an extremely difficult video for Glenn to watch as well. On the way home, I said..."I'm ready to go into the clubs." He said, "Ok. I think you should."

That was Friday. Monday I was asked to go into a club this Thursday. Not just any club....a club that Glenn used to actually manage.That is ONLY God. Glenn and I have been able to talk with excitement about this opportunity. Not an ounce of anxiety has surfaced in my heart only an INCREDIBLE amount of anticipation to smile and show love to other women. Women, who just like me, are loved by our Abba. Women, who just like me, sometimes feel helpless. Women, who just like me, have emotions, feelings, names, family, stories, dreams, hopes. They are women....JUST LIKE ME. I can think of no greater honor than to serve them. I can think of no greater way to support my husband and extend ministry to a place that was once so familiar to him. I can think of no greater joy than to give GOD the glory for the incredible work HE has done on my heart and my mind. For the healing that has taken place and the new found sense of freedom I am experiencing.

And with all of those amazing feelings of God's goodness and love, I have one last thing to say.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry to those of you who may read this and know Glenn from those days. I'm sorry for the judgement I had, the fear I felt and the unwillingness I had in getting to know YOU. I promise it did not come from a holier than thou place, but from fearing that somehow...I wasn't good enough. I am THANKFUL that God kept you in Glenn's life and I hope that you will accept my apology and give me the honor of calling you a friend as well.

And to my incredible husband. I love you. Thank you for being patient with me, praying for me and loving me through it all. I am so proud of you and I am thrilled that we can now truly be partners in this every sense of the word.

Choose Compassion...See What Happens.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Working with inner-city and at-risk youth, we have to do a lot of work to earn kids trust...adults too. More often than not, people look at us through a very skeptical lens. "Why are they here?" "What do they want?" "What's the catch?" Or the more common assumption that we are here today to do an "event" but will  retreat back to our neighborhood tomorrow feeling good about our "act of service" only to go back to life as normal.  Glenn and I believe the only way to combat this very warranted assumption by those we serve is to do the unexpected.....Become their neighbor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with mission trips or events to serve, in fact, we led a group of amazing friends on a local mission trip this past weekend that was incredible.

In order to have a long term impact, Glenn and I personally feel convicted that God is leading us to be a part of day to day life in the community. We want to be able to see people in the morning or evening as they go to and from work. We want neighborhood kids  to knock on our door after school to receive help with homework. We want to be able to host movie nights or invite neighbors over for dinner.

We want to help people look for jobs. We want to be able to start bible studies in our living room. We want our neighbors to know that we are available to pray with them and that we can be trusted because we live there too.

Throughout the weekend doing a block party and movie night,  we heard comments like, "How much does it cost?"  One team member overheard someone on their phone saying, "They aren't asking for anything in return."  God has opened the door wide for serving a local apartment community. We have been doing nothing but loving on people and serving the community and the residents have started to champion for us to live there. One of the members from the corporate office drove down from North Carolina to be a part of the weekend and witness what we were doing. She pulled me to the side and said, "we are going to make this happen." They are considering giving us  4 bedroom apartment where Glenn and I will live as well as our intern.
 It will also give us 2 bedrooms to use as an office, a tutoring room, and a large gathering room for ministry in the neighborhood. Coincidence that the corporate staff member was not only a Christian but a Minister? No...that is God's providence.   I truly believe that when God wants something to happen, He will stop at nothing to make it happen. It often blows our mind as to how He makes it happen as well. Ephesians 3:20.

There is one apartment in particular that has been pulled and will more than likely be our new future home. As we were writing positive messages on the sidewalk around the complex, I stopped in front of this apartment and became quite misty eyed at God's goodness. I decided to write HOME Eph 3:20 on the doorstep. My sweet friend came up next and wrote this on the sidewalk in front of the house:

Please continue to pray for us. We still do not know the final answer or when. We do know that at the very least we will have to cover utilities and insurance. The Dream Campaign is still in its infancy and God continues to provide what we need as we need it, but I know our expenses will increase once we are in this apartment. I would ask that you simply start praying about supporting The Dream Campaign or us personally as missionaries so that we can continue on this path. Just pray. That is the most important thing, because I know God will provide and prompt His people to give as He sees fit. last thing.... also no coincidence that when you stand on the doorstep or look out the window of the  apartment....this is the view. Just a daily reminder that God can take the bad and turn it into something good. Almost every person in that building is now someone we can call a friend....and soon to be...neighbor:

"Feed the hungry and touch the sick 
We go'n help the homeless and love the kids 
We go'n move to a place where it's hard to live 
And folks die young and they learn to kill 
Light the sky up change your bio 
Live for something more than things you buy up 
Serve and save learn and change 
Trust in the king who can turn this thang 
Yeah they ain't ever seen a shine like this 
Look up they never see the sky like this 
I'm on and this little light I got 
Imma let it shine til the day I drop 
Heart quit pumping only way I stop 
Til then I'm a light post on your block "

~Lecrae - "Enfuego"