Last Saturday night on the streets, we experienced something huge at literally every stop. Each person was begging for us to start our church again, which is temporarily on hold until we can find a new building to rent. We heard from the guys we work with about the crazy abuse that is happening by the men who are exploiting them. We had incredible conversations at every stop.
The one that caught my attention the most was also the most surprising. As you know, we have been working with transvestites since this ministry began. Carlos now has a ministry with the guys who are trying to get out of this lifestyle and find who "they really are". However, Saturday night I got out of the van to go and talk to one guy (who is a transvestite) who I have seen before, but not weekly like we see most of the other people. This particular guy, I will call Kevin, has come to our church before.
He began our conversation on Saturday expressing how desperately he missed our church. Because of the circumstances in his life, he has never believed in God. But he told us that at our church, he had to believe in God because when he walked into the room he could "feel God in there".
Kevin has always been one of the guys who has quickly defended his lifestyle even though we have never asked about it. He is always taking the initiative to tell us that "this is just the way I am" and has been very expressive about his lifestyle as a transvestite. This was all obviously just a cover-up for his true feelings, which we discovered on Saturday night.
He broke down in tears. I don't even remember how we got into this conversation as we stood talking on the street corner. I just know that very quickly, the conversation got very deep and very intense. He began to say how much he hated his life how it was... I wasn't sure if he was talking about the life of a prostitute or being a transvestite. He said both. He then added, "do you think that anyone REALLY wants to be a transvestite. I know we pretend like we do, but do you think that in the very depths of someone they want to be a transvestite." He had never shared any of these thoughts of feelings with anyone before. NEVER. And that night, he cried and poured out his heart to us for an hour. As he cried in my arms, I could feel his heart breaking. He shared about his past, his life of abuse, the poverty he grew up in, the abusive and later absent father, the rape and fear. He wants out. He wants a new life. And this desire for repentance and change can only be brought by God. He had never believed in God, but like he said over and over again; he now does believe in God because he "can actually feel him".
As a ministry, we want to always meet people exactly where they are. We want to radically love them exactly where they are and how they are. We believe that the kindness of God will lead them to repentance. What the world is desperate for is to be loved, and God has that love to offer.
Friday, September 14, 2012
As I sat on the curb for 35 minutes, talking to my friends, God gave me a small glimpse of His heart for them. These 2 guys, my friends who are transvestites, have lived dark and damaging lives. Their stories are unbelievable... and unjust.. starting with rape and abuse as very small children.
One of them, Nicole*, introduced me to the other one, Isabel*, a few weeks before. When we walked up, Nicole said, “no, don’t worry, these are the ‘real’ ones. These are my friends who love us and are here to help us. They don’t judge.” She went on to explain that we were the only people who truly loved and cared about the people who work on the streets; and that God sends us to them.
Now a few weeks later, I sit beside the two of them on the ground and talk about life and identity. Nicole told me how everyone goes around trying to fill a hole they have inside... and in the process they all end up hurting and abusing others. I told her that that was true; and that after that hole is filled with God, you are free to engaged in relationships where you can bless the other person by giving instead of always taking. Nicole looked at me, and agreed saying, “that’s why I love when you come here. You always come to give.”
We talked about identity... and God gave me an image.. an image of Him as He was forming them, and He was creating an original masterpiece. I wondered what it was that God was thinking when He created these guys. I wonder what dreams He had for them; what gifts He decided to plant in them; what blessings He wanted to lavish upon them; what He wanted them to be ‘when they grew up’; how desperately He wanted to walk that dream out with them.
I know that this is not the life God has for them. I know that the enemy did so much damage to rob that life from both of them. As I spoke truth into their lives about their value and worth as people, and I told them that their value is unquestionable, not matter what life choices they had made; Nicole got goose bumps.
We talked for a long time sitting on that street corner. A bus drove by and people hatefully threw things out the windows... and I saw the hurt in their eyes. They shared with me that their entire life has been filled with rejection; beginning long before they became transvestites.
As we prayed over them, tears gently rolled down their face. Nicole told me that she always feels something when we pray for her... she feels an energy and she gets goose bumps; she feels this presence like she has never felt before that she says she is unable to explain.
You begin to see people differently when you have a relationship with them... when you take the time to hear their stories that are so filled with pain... when you allow God to share a little piece of His heart for them with you.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
The new work program- providing a way out
The work program that we have began as a part of our ministry has truly been a joy. We started this program as a means to help a group of women and young girls get off of the streets. We first met these girls when working on the documentary... a 16 year old girls introduced us to this group of girls saying, “I know some young girls in your area, you have to help them”. (This 16 year old was once a victims of exploitation as well).
These girls shared their stories on camera, through streams of tears. Each one of them expressed their desperation to escape from this life of fear and darkness.
Today I just got home from working with them for 3 hours. They worked so diligently. While they were working, Carlos and I pulled them aside one by one to have a “one-on-one”, (more like a 2-1, since Carlos and I were mentoring together) or a time to do discipleship. It was beautiful.
I was so moved by these women’s hearts. Our program is just now starting out, and we are helping them with food at this point (with hopes to do more once we get more established in the program). While I was meeting with one lady, she expressed her deep gratitude to me. I had just finished telling her that I knew that she had needs other than food, and I wanted to know if the food was helping. Her response almost brought tears to my eyes. With a sparkle in her eye, she explained how deeply she appreciated the help, that food was their most immediate (urgent) need and was lasting them the entire week. Without having to worry about food, the money that would have been spent on food can be used to pay bills and meet other needs. She continued expressing how much it helped her, and then added “the thing that means the most to me about this program is that I know that you care for us. I know that I have someone walking with me. I know that I’m not doing this alone. It’s such a fight to get out of this lifestyle that is so dark that it ties you to it, but knowing that I have someone fighting with me means everything. Just knowing that I can do it because I’m not alone.”
As we did the discipleships, my heart for these women grew and grew. So many people have certain ideas about prostitutes. But, those are the people that Jesus hung out with. I totally see why He did. Some of them are such beautiful people who are just in desperate need of a savior. They have had the most horrible lives, and many of them are being exploited. They live a life of otter fear. We were even able to experience a small part of that fear later Tuesday night.
Carlos and I were doing our usual street ministry but took a team along with us who is at the YWAM base for a few months. The night was just spiritually heavy, to say the least. The first stop started it all. We had just finished talking to some of our friends on the first corner and were loading up in the car to leave when a wild man came to the window. He was on crack and was basically crawling through Carlos’s window while talking to him. It was scary and weird. However, as I looked into his frightening eyes, my heart broke. I knew that behind those eyes was a completely broken heart and lost life. But not only what was happening in the physical world, our ‘Freedom Street’ team could sense more.
A few stops later, we encountered something terrifying. On the same block where some of the exploited women prostitutes stand, a man was murdered. He was stabbed right in front of their eyes. They were completely filled with fear. They were alone.
This situation was obviously something that was not from God. However, God still did bring good out of this. We were able to minister to tons of people on the block who had witness the even and were in desperate need of comforting. The Lord sent us there. This incident opened a HUGE door for us to talk to people from every walk of life, and to speak to people about God. We were able to pray with bystanders. We were able to help a brand new security guard who was in shock as well as a foreign exchange student to name a few. And of course, the women we work with in our ministry. I can’t imagine being forced to stand on that dangerous corner in fear all night long... in fear of the danger of the streets, in fear of the man who is controlling you.... in fear of being kidnapped by a “client”... in fear of the crazy homeless man of crack.
The one who is in us is greater than the one of this world. God has been doing beautiful and incredible things. More to come soon!
Thank you for your prayers!