|May 18th, 2011|
We are blown away by the goodness of God this season. For three years, we have prayed for a great harvest in Atlanta and we are reaping with shouts of joy! Read below to learn more of the amazing things that God has been doing in Atlanta.
A Story of Redemption
By Courtney Dow
Director of NightLight Atlanta
“I notice you have a lot of scars,” I say as she stares down at the dirt.
“I want to get out of here,” ‘P’ states with little emotion and without making eye contact. “My girls deserve a better life than living in hotels and on the street.”
Last Summer, we met ‘P’ when she brought her two girls, one and three years old, to NightLight Atlanta’s Kids’ Club. Over time, we began to learn her story.
At a young age, her parents separated. In the custody of her mother, she was left vulnerable to the abuse of many men. Eventually, social services removed her from the home but she was still unprotected from the abuse of others as she moved in and out of foster care, group homes, and institutions. At the age of eleven, her father passed away. At the same age, she escaped to the streets after experiencing a brutal rape. By thirteen, she’d been sucked into prostitution and, at fourteen, was trafficked to Atlanta. Ten years later, she found it impossible to break free from the exploitative cycles with which she was so familiar.
But this is a story of redemption.
In only six months, we were able to get ‘P’ a new job (with the help of some friends of NightLight) as she works toward earning her GED. She moved out of the hotel and into an apartment in a safer part of the city. She was paired with a NightLight mentor, who she calls “Mom.” She has come to know the Lord in the most simple and most profound ways. Her boyfriend, the father of her children, has also come into the Kingdom. On Easter, ‘P’ was baptized as thousands at Grace Fellowship Church in Atlanta danced, shouted, and wept. She will wed the father of her children next week.
One afternoon after church, she told me, “Sometimes, I just think it would be easier to go back to the streets. I have this voice in my head that keeps saying, ‘Go back–it was so much easier when you were hustling on the streets. You’re working so hard to do the right thing and it’s getting more and more difficult.’ But, I have this second voice that says, ‘I AM Almighty. I have a plan for you. Trust me.’ And, the cool thing is, I never heard that second voice until now.”
‘P’ continues to learn more about the character of her Heavenly Father. I cannot begin to describe the depths at which we have all been affected because of ‘P.’ She will be an evangelist on the very streets where she was once exploited. One day, ‘P’ will join the NightLight outreach team and the darkness better look out.
“Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.” -Psalm 126:5
Last Friday night, we went back to the streets where we first met ‘P.’ We left in tears as we caught our breath from the heaviness of the area. We encountered a teenage girl who was being extremely verbally abused by a mamasan. We stumbled across a woman sneaking a hit of crack and then crumbling to the ground in shame when she saw us. There appear to be more and more girls all the time. The problems are overwhelming. But we carry a new testimony now. God doesn’t want just one–He wants them all! And we move forward with expectation for the continued harvest. More people are waiting to encounter God.
As part of our restoration initiative, we are currently mentoring 17 women who are in the sex industry or who are transitioning out of the sex industry. This Spring, two of our mentors even had the honor of assisting in the births of the babies of the women whom they are mentoring. On April 30th, we trained 25 potential new NightLight Atlanta mentors.
In February, Annie Dieselberg, founder and CEO of NightLight, came from Bangkok to speak to the NightLight Atlanta Team. She challenged the Team to never give up, no matter the circumstances.
“The Gospel is holistic,” Annie says. “The ‘rescue’ or ‘prayer of salvation’ is just the beginning. The road to recovery is long and hard and requires a commitment to ‘act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God’ (Micah 6:8). They will push the limits of your love and grace to prove that you never really loved them. It’s easy to show mercy to someone who deserves it. Mercy isn’t tested until you must show it to someone who doesn’t deserve it. What do you do when you’ve bound up the broken-hearted over and over again, yet they continue to fall back into destructive behaviors? You forgive them and show mercy and grace to them over and over again because we have been shown mercy over and over again.”
So, because of the redemptive work that God has done in each of us, we press in and cry out for the redemption of our city.
“[The redeemed of the Lord] will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” -Isaiah 61:4
By Maribeth Ward
Director of Prevention Programming
88 new children joined NightLight Atlanta’s Kids’ Club this season, giving us a total 353 kids in attendance since last Summer! And it has been my joy to get to witness many of the children in our Prevention Program put their faith in Jesus this season.
Recently, I asked all of the kids to close their eyes, and answer some questions for me. I began by asking them if they believed that Jesus is the Son of God. Hands started flying up in the air. They stayed up when I asked if they believed that Jesus died for them and rose from the dead. Some of the kids put both hands in the air when I asked if they believed that Jesus could get all the dirty sin out of their lives and make them clean again.
A couple of them even announced, “I got both my hands up!” Then I started seeing feet fly up in the air when I asked if they wanted to have new life with Jesus. It was such a sweet (and absolutely hilarious) sight to see kids lying on their backs with their eyes closed tightly and both of their hands and feet sticking up in the air.
I am so amazed at how desperately these kids want Jesus. What beautiful faith! The children are so eager to know Jesus and follow Him.
“And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” -Matthew 18:3
As the children began putting their faith in Jesus this season, we started explaining that baptism is a symbol of our faith in Him. It shows that we want Jesus to overwhelm us with Himself and many of them said that they wanted to get baptized.
So we talked to them all individually about why they wanted to get baptized. Then, we had them explain their reasons to their parents and their parents signed a permission form. There were 9 signed permission forms as we entered into baptism day at the end of the season.
We were so excited for these 9 kids to get baptized. When baptism day came, however, many more decided that they wanted to get baptized. There ended up being 19 baptisms total!
One by one, 19 children stated their reasons in wanting to get baptized into the microphone. They proclaimed Jesus as their Lord as other children and onlookers from the extended-stay hotel gathered around to watch these children put their faith on display.
Their explanations were amazing. The majority of them simply said, “I love Jesus! And Jesus loves me!” Some said they wanted Jesus to save them, and that they wanted to become a new person. One six year old explained to her father: “I want to make a covenant with Jesus because I love Jesus and I want to live with Him forever.”
Their baptisms mark the beginning of a covenant relationship with the One who gives them life in abundance. Our desire is to see these children come into their true identity in Jesus and this is happening right before our eyes.
Eyes of Destiny
By James Rodgers
NightLight Atlanta Intern
What makes a man a man? Is it reaching a certain age? Is it having a certain social status? Is it possessing an amount of physical strength, or an amount of money? Is it having a prestigious job maybe, or being respected or feared by the people around you? This semester, as an intern for NightLight, I’ve met males on the streets of Atlanta who meet all of these criteria, and yet are the consumers directly fueling a booming sex trafficking industry in this city. There are 7,200 men buying sex from underage girls in Atlanta every month, which forces me to re-think the definition of a man.
God’s led me to believe that being a man is not about how much power you have, but what you do with the power you do have. A man has three mandatory duties: to lead, to provide, and to defend. One in four girls in the United States has been sexually abused because she wasn’t defended. Women have to choose between starving and prostitution because they have no providers. Young men grow to become abusers of the weak, capable of evil things, because they have no father-figure to lead them into a lifestyle of honor. In Atlanta, and worldwide, we are facing an epidemic of men who are not men. Indeed, they are the problem. But, for these reasons, men are also the solution.
When we get past the dark, hard facade to the heart of these men, we find another group of broken, lost people. Hurting people hurt people. On my very first outreach, standing outside of a strip club, I had a long conversation with an adult man who opened up about the pain of his parents’ divorce and his brother’s recent death. He told me he came to the club because “these girls love [him,] they know [his] name.” Although an atheist, he let us pray for him and he left knowing we truly love him–eventually, he will know that about his Heavenly Father. The times I’ve felt God’s Spirit flowing through me the most during outreach have been the times I’ve spoken and prayed with men in these places, speaking into them their true identity, purpose, and what their Heavenly Father thinks of them.
While at a mission conference earlier this year, an elder of the church pulled me aside. “I want to thank you personally for the work you’re doing. I, myself, used to be one of the men in the brothels, paying for women, when one day someone from the church came and met me where I was at. They brought Jesus into my darkness.” He is now an awesome man of God because he was seen for what he was worth, not his sin. God has a tendency to look at us from our destiny, not our present situation. (Think Gideon.)
So, I believe one of the most powerful things we can do is to call out the destinies that have been forgotten in these men, to give them healing, purpose, hope, and a future. NightLight had a great opportunity this January, as a public high school invited Courtney and I to speak to 150 guys about being true men. Kingdom truths were released into these young men’s hearts that will affect their entire future.
II Cor. 3:17 says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” When people ask us how to pray for the issue of sex trafficking, we tell them, “Pray for revival!” We need for our city to be filled with the Spirit of God! The bottom line with this issue is idolatry. What are these men really seeking? G.K. Chesterton said, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” Hearts will be healed and changed as they come in contact with the most beautiful being in creation, Jesus Christ.
God ends the Old Testament with a promise. Before the day of the Lord, He will send the spirit of Elijah, “and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and children to the fathers.” Do it, Lord.