My Journey as a Modern day Abolitionist
Post Day One: 1:04 am
My body is tired, my heart is full, and my mind is swimming with thoughts of the day that lay behind me.
Rewind to 10:00am in what I suppose is considered yesterday… Although I just walked through my door, let my dogs in (poor babies) and drug myself upstairs to sit down and debrief this amazingly horrifying day. As I walked through the doors at the Justice Rally, I had no idea what I had in store for me. No idea how far I would allow God to push me, how far I would allow myself to be used. I knew there would be opportunities, but I thought, “I’ll play it safe this time. I will get my feet wet and see what this war on sex trafficking is all about.” Ha! No one actually goes into a battle expecting to sit back and take in the views... Who was I kidding?! I put myself on the front lines of the war and I didn’t expect to put my armor on and fight? Jesus knew better though. He knew he just had to get me there. Get me to step into the door. Then each step I took would lead me, draw me closer to his orphans, his widows, his precious people who are stuck in bondage and need someone to SEEK them out right where they are.
So, as I was saying, 10:00am. Worship drew me to his alter and then I was immediately slapped in the face with the reality that I was about to start making direct contact with prostitutes! Yes, I was briefly trained on what to expect. I was shown how to search for online sex adds, was told how to protect my own mind while searching, and was given a script. They the reigns were handed over and I actually had to seek out adds and personally call the girls on the other end of those adds. If I could have ran out of that place or slunk back in a dark corner to watch and take it all in…I totally would have! Fortunately, I willed myself to stay put and a nice, energetic, freedom fighter asked me to partner up with her! She was equally as nervous, but we were both willing and we dove right in! We found our first girl, prayed for her, (and secretly hoped for a voice message to pick up and not a real person…) and then I dialed. We took turns dialing, most didn’t answer and we left voicemails (which felt safer and easier), but finally I got a real voice to answer...EEEK. I followed (shakily) through the script and eventually found myself really talking...well, God speaking through me. The woman was open, curious even. She kept asking me, “who are you again?”, “why are you calling?”, “Who are you?” Like she couldn’t fathom someone seeking her sex add out and really calling her to offer hope. She then, in almost a sweet concern, said, “You should be careful calling these adds.” That made me smile. She was worried about me?!? I offered prayer and she accepted…As I prayed for her, pouring out God’s love over her life, hope, and the fact that she has not been forgotten… She interrupted the prayer to ask, “Are you calling every girl on Backpage.com?” She was so confused. I gave her the helpline and, along with final pleasantries, the call ended there. These are just women on the other end (sisters, mothers, daughters) and I was thankful to spend a little time getting to know one and hopefully planting a seed.
Fast forward to 2PM: Our second round of outreach for the day. We were all split into teams. Again, I REALLLY wanted to stay in the building, pray, clean the building, serve lunch to the volunteers…something important, but safe! Unfortunately, my feet just found themselves standing up and walking toward the hotel ministry. If that is not scary enough, I found myself offering to drive a team. Yikes...I just can’t stop myself. I pictured going into a lobby of a Best Western and talking to the staff, I might even get to see someone checking and then what would I do, what would I say? SCARY!!! Maybe I could just stay in the car? I swear, I was thinking it!
Little did I know that “Hotel Ministry” was really “MOTEL ministry” and what that meant was going to one of the MOST dangerous parts of Houston (Airline Drive) and stopping at the MOST scary looking, run down, motels that I have ever seen. I literally gasped pulling up in to our first stop and immediately began internally freaking out. Thank Goodness that my team was stacked with experienced abolitionists and they jumped right into action without blinking an eye.
One stood as a look out watching the entire surroundings. She was noticing the clothes hanging from the fence, the man sitting in his doorway staring, the baby blanket covering an open window, and even the person riding his bike back and forth on the street in front. 2 of our girls walked up to the dingy plexi-glass window on the office door where you check-in and began a casual conversation with the management about their purpose of providing awareness materials, soap for the motel bathrooms with the help hotline number on it, and tips on how they can help.
While they talked, from the car we noticed a white girl walking with an African American man on the street in front of the motel. She was skinny and strung out looking with tattoos on her neck, legs, arms, etc. She walked away from a man and came towards the window. Again I began to panic…PIMP!! That has to be a PIMP, I thought! He watched us closely as the girl politely asked for change for her $20. Our team at the window directed their attention toward her and started talking. Just trying to break down her walls long enough to impart hope. I was amazed at how they smiled and laughed with her so easily. As if they were long lost friends. I was gripped with fear because I felt the man’s eyes burning into the team, then another man on a bike road up behind her and circled back up onto the sidewalk. Several times, he road past as if checking up on her. Two men staring now…Then, out of a motel room behind us came a third man with his bike…well dress, expensive bike, expensive sunglasses…weird for a $30/night run down motel. He rode up to the sidewalk, shared a comment or two with the other men, glanced back our way, and road on. This is too much!! (ABORT, ABORT!!) If that was not enough already, a shiny blue, brand-new, sports car drove up into the parking lot among the other rusty and run down vehicles. We were told to look for cars that were way too expensive and looked almost out of place. This fit the description to a T! A well-dressed white male drove by, turned around his car around slowly, as if searching for something or someone, and drove back out. Again, ABORT, ABORT, ABORT!!
By this time, the team had offered the girl a cosmetic bag (filled with goodies and an emergency help line phone number) and she ran up to meet back with the man guarding her with his presence and they both walked off down the street. The hotel owner told the team that she was a girl who “walked the streets” and she didn’t let her stay there. We finally reunited in our vehicle, promptly drove away and cheered at our successful first stop!!
What a way to get initiated into this ministry! On just that strip of road in Houston, we encounter more prostitutes, pimps, and johns then I had ever noticed in my entire life…
We met one woman as she and her John were dropped off by her pimp at the motel we were standing in front of. The pimp drove off and then we got the pleasure of talking with her, hearing her story, and realizing that she really wanted out…even at 53 years old, she wanted to choose a different path. We put our arms around her, told her that she is so loved, prayed with her, cried with her, and gave her the information to help her when she was ready. Her John was standing right there while all of this was going on. One team member, an angel, kept him happily engaged in a Super Bowl conversation while we ministered to the women he had purchased. We then watched her walk behind him into the motel room they had just rented by the hour. As we left, we prayed that she would reach out, that this was her moment, and that the harvest was ripe in her life.
At another motel down the strip, we saw two young looking girls (17ish) standing out by the road. Two team members jumped out to talk to them as we pulled in. We pulled up to where we were close, but not too close. The youngest looking girl bolted across the street as our freedom fighters approached. They started up a conversation with the one that stayed behind. Again, the team was so casual, friendly, and non-confrontational. They noticed an aerosol can with a rag sitting in the bushes beside where the girls where, but they didn’t draw attention to it. As they talked, the girl who ran off slowly sauntered back across the street. She seemed guarded, bothered by their presence, but she came up to them anyway. As the women talked, they offered our make-up bags to the girls and told them of the hope that could be found inside. All the while, one man stood close by watching the entire interaction and another drove up in a great big, shiney, silver truck with giant tires. The two men talked for a moment, and then the man in the truck parked. He jumped out just as the girls were walking back towards the motel rooms and they met up literally 10 feet from our car. The man had a conversation in which he seemed to be scolding one of the girls. Then that girl handed the man a wade full of cash. He counted it and handed a small portion back to her and she gave part of her portion to the second girl. The second girl walked off away from the motel and down the street. Then the man and the remaining girl got back in the truck and drove off together. We were able to get the license plate and report his vehicle, but it was difficult to see that happen in broad daylight literally in my own city.
11:30 PM was about the time that we hit the last hotel. By this time, I was empowered to talk to motel clerks, to engage in conversation with girls, to stand as a watch guard, and feeling totally enthusiastic about what God was doing through our visits. Divine appointments happened this day. Our heavenly father actively protected us this day (at one point he spoke to us through a road sign that literally said, “Drive Away!”)…for real!! Seeds were planted and bonds were broken this day in Jesus name!
I could go on and on about day 1 of my abolitionist journey through the Justice Rally, but I will leave you with this list of my personal take-aways.
· ~God wants us to go and SEEK out the tired, the week, those in need of a savior.
· ~We have a mission field right in our own back yard!
· ~ All it takes is one step of faith and God will carry you the rest of the way!
· ~We are braver (through Christ) than we ever thought we could be.
· ~Modern day slavery is real, it might not look the way we think it looks, but it is real!
· ~ We are not supposed to choose the safe path, we are supposed to submit to His will and he will protect us!
· ~ We have to put ourselves out there where we are needed in order to see mountains move!!
· ~ There are people all around us to mentor us and parent us through this journey!
3:00AM-Stay Tuned for Day 2 of my abolitionist journey! Over and outJ