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Why I Reach Out To Prostitutes and the Marginalized

Written By Eunice Lin, Singapore

I was trained as a social worker and worked for seven years in a government agency. I loved that my job entailed advocating for change at a systemic level and thrived at work. It also enabled me to live out my faith intentionally, which shaped the ways I interacted and worked with those around me.

But at a deeper level, I was increasingly dissatisfied. I felt far too removed from the voiceless and powerless whom I really wanted to serve.

Eventually, God challenged me to leave what had become too comfortable a job. As I stepped out in faith, He gave me two burdens: to love the Church, and to pursue mercy and justice. Since my church had no mercy and justice ministry, I assumed that I would have to explore that aspect outside my church. And so I did.

Through a friend, I was introduced to a ministry that reaches out to offer help, healing, and hope to prostitutes in Geylang, Singapore’s red-light district. Since then, God has been showing me what His expression of mercy and justice looks like—and doesn’t look like.

 

It is not self-righteous

The moment I met with the co-founders of this ministry and heard their vision and burden for the work, I knew this was where I wanted to serve.

Whenever I spent time at this ministry, I was blown away. I would hear about something miraculous God had done in the lives of the women. I would see how God brought people from different churches, backgrounds, and expertise to pour themselves into meeting the needs (often unspoken and not yet made known!) of the women and the ministry. It felt like I was living in the Gospels and Acts as I saw Jesus’ modern-day followers healing and setting the ladies free from their bondage, and generously sharing what they had with those in need!

I was excited, energized, and eager to be a part of this work. After all, this was where the action was. But God had some major re-working to do in my heart, starting with how unknowingly self-righteous I was.

I vividly remember my first prayer walk in Geylang. I was extremely put off by the men on the streets and how they looked at every female—those of us reaching out to the prostitutes and the prostitutes alike. I thought to myself, “These men are such scum. They’re the reason these women are being sold on the streets.”

As soon as that thought formed, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and it felt like a punch in my stomach. What right did I have to despise these men as filthy and deplorable? God opened my eyes to see that I’ve been saved by grace alone, and the only difference between me and them is that Christ’s blood covers me—and that same blood was also shed for them too. It hit me that God loves them as much as He loves me.

God had to first (and continually) refine me and break me that I might be used in His hands for His work. I could not do justice without loving-kindness and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). This justice God wanted me to learn to pursue was one that is grace-fueled, not done out of self-righteousness.

 

It is unconditional

Some time later, there was a request to purchase something for one of the former prostitutes whom we had been journeying with. To me, the item requested was definitely not a necessity. In fact, I even felt that it would be irresponsible to purchase this item for her because it would not require her to make the least effort to change.

Yet, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to give her the money.

I balked at that thought and immediately came up with more reasons why I would not, and why no one else should have to either. But He impressed on me that I had just made that sum of money today only because of a job opening He gave me—and now He wanted me to give it away.

I conceded that I would give the money away, but only for something worthier. Until I was struck by this: “The Father gave you His Son while you were unworthy. Imagine if He were as conditional as you.”

I was convicted that God was calling for this act of kindness and generosity not because the person was worthy, but because the One who calls me is. The unspeakable mercy I have received is the same mercy I am to show others. He calls us to show radical generosity, mercy, and loving-kindness as the outworking of our faith, as our response of love and obedience to a God who first loved us.

 

 

It is simple

After some years of serving in Geylang, God began to deal with another area of my heart—that I was far more drawn to doing what is novel and “out there,” rather than what was right in front of me. I had resisted serving in my church’s local outreach ministry because it just didn’t excite me. It was too. . . mundane.

After all, we had been in this neighborhood for the past 20 years, and the local outreach ministry had never been a fraction as exciting as what was happening in Geylang. But these questions dropped in my heart, “Who around you remains overlooked and has yet to experience the gospel? Who is the neighbor God wants you to love? Are you willing to return and serve your church with all that you’ve learned?”

And so, I yielded to His prompting to love my neighbors and lead my church’s local outreach ministry. In this new season as I encourage our church to partner our church’s non-profit agency to seek the flourishing of those in our neighborhood, God is showing me how faithful, consistent presence is needed for the long haul. And I have had much to learn in being patient and humble as I rallied and equipped my church to respond and rely on Him to lead the way.

God moved in the hearts of the church leaders to open up our church to those beyond our walls. I challenged them that we would have to open our lives to our neighbors too. And so they did. We began throwing Community Dinners where we invite families served by our church’s non-profit agency to come share a meal with us. These include the working poor, lonely seniors, isolated foreigners, people of different backgrounds and beliefs from us, and those with health or mental health issues.

When we started 15 months ago, no one was sure if these families would come and stick around. Today, we have about 100 people from the church and our neighborhood fill up our fellowship hall with chatter, laughter, music, warm lights, and food at every dinner. Many shared that while they have walked past our church countless times, they had never stepped in prior to these dinners. Some said they never knew they could, others felt it was not their place, and others simply did not want to have anything to do with Christians.

As we made every effort to reach out and build bridges with our neighbors over the dining table, our friends from the community opened up their hearts and let us into their lives, often humbling us with the trust they accord us. We have found ourselves astounded by the hardships and injustice they have endured over the course of their lives. Yet, they do not come back week after week because they want us to fix their problems. Instead, they simply come to where they know they are heard, loved, and accepted. I also believe they keep coming back because they see a hope, joy, peace and something in us that they do not have, but are drawn to.

I’m learning that God can use something as simple as sharing a meal to draw the lost to Himself. Nothing fancy or novel. Instead, we find ourselves going back to an ancient practice Jesus used with His disciples, a practice that the Church Fathers developed to reach and disciple believers across the ancient world—sharing the gospel over a meal.

God—who calls us and has prepared in advance the good works we are to do—is so committed to our perfection in Christ that He will refine us. He reveals our self-righteousness, pride, and all that stands in opposition to who God is. Doing justice, loving-kindness and walking humbly with God is an inward discipleship process that makes me more like Jesus and helps me live and love as He does. Thankfully, all things (including living out Micah 6:8) are from Him, through Him, and to His glory.

3 Reasons I Welcome Refugees (And 3 Ways You Can, Too)

Written By Janel Breitenstein, USA

Did you know nearly one in 100 people worldwide are displaced from their homes?

Refugees have become so much more than an Associated Press photo in my mind and my heart. For three years, I taught students at a refugee center in Uganda. I’ve played sports, shared meals, and exchanged emails and Facebook posts with them, and helped them develop products for their businesses. They’ve also shared their cooking with me, and hung out with my kids. Our kids have even played tag together.

The refugees are among some of the most resilient individuals I’ve ever met. They are courageous strugglers and hard workers.

They have so much to offer.

 

Why I Welcome Refugees

While my husband’s and my work has taken me away from the center, I still work diligently to welcome refugees into my own life here in America. Here’s why:

 

1. Refugees give back

I’ll be honest with you: Some of my students had never sat in a classroom prior to their seat at the refugee center. Their nations had been at unrest for too long. If you’re trying to stay alive, you usually aren’t sitting in school.

In Kampala, Uganda, I instructed in stuffy classrooms full of eager adult refugees from eight African nations. Many of these students, as adults, were learning to read for the first time. They were adjusting to a new culture and so many new ways of doing things. At least one of our Western-style bathrooms at the center had a printed poster: Please don’t stand on the seats. They were all learning English, business skills like computing or sewing or baking, and health skills.

And here’s what’s happened: In Kampala, 21 percent of refugees owned a business that employed other people—and 40 percent  of those employees were Ugandan nationals. Experts at Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre looked at the situation in Uganda and called it “exceptional.” Though welcoming refugees into a developing nation is different from welcoming them into more developed  nations, experts concluded that when refugees are given the right to work and freedom of movement, “the results are extraordinary, both for the refugees and the host community.”

Not only that, but God has used refugee crises the world over to bring people into a relationship with Himself. Not only have I heard stories of Middle Eastern refugees converting to Christianity, but I have read of a revival in Danish churches caused by Iranian refugees seeking Jesus. These are only a small representation of the beauty God is working worldwide as God blesses not only the refugees—but blesses through the refugees.

 

2. God loves refugees

I believe the need that is before us, and God’s words about refugees, are too great for me to turn a blind eye. According to the UN in 2014, every 4.1 seconds, someone becomes a refugee or is internally displaced. 41 per cent of refugees are under 18.

If these stats scare you a bit, know that the chances of being killed by a refugee-turned-terrorist are actually one in 3.64 billion. (For perspective, your chances of being killed by a cow are greater; they kill 20 people per year.)

From personal experience, I understand exquisitely that taking in refugees is not always comfortable or safe. This was crystallized for me when refugees from Rwanda stayed with my family. As her toddler ran around without a diaper, as the smell of the liver she was frying filled my kitchen, as we strategized on how to help her find a job, I mulled over Isaiah 58.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice. . . ? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

God must have known exactly what He was asking of us in these questions.

The promises immediately following these two verses were also staggering: “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (Isaiah 58:8-9)

I think these promises mean that not only would God reward us, but He would also change us as we take these burdens as our own. His heart would mold ours as we, like he did for us, welcome those who cannot immediately repay us.

 

 

3. Refugees change me

It is true: I am indelibly different. It continues to push my family from a we-give-all-our-old-clothes-to-Goodwill kind of generous, more toward His I-give-until-it-hurts-and-then-I-keep-going kind of generous. The needs are too great, the differences in our circumstances too vast, the faces in my mind too vivid and personal. I can no longer elbow “the poor” to the edges of my mind.

David’s words, when trying to stay a plague on Israel, still haunt my mind: “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). If God is passionate about the poor and their injustice—this God who came to preach good news to the poor, to set prisoners free—can I be content to throw them my old clothes?

So, since I have returned to America, I have determined that the poor should receive a generous slice of my time, my passion, my energy, my budget, even my career. In a land that is prosperous to the point of obesity (and I don’t exclude myself from this)—though I cannot hear the physical voices of refugees—I never want to forget them.

I will advocate for them, tell their stories, and sign petitions. My family will give generously. I will help the poor among me, wherever they are from. I will thank the Middle Eastern woman beside me in Arabic, offering her a kind smile. I will invite the Hispanic immigrant’s son over to play with mine, and I will tell them how thankful I am that they are a part of my community.

Refugees and I have far more in common than I thought. A friend recently reposted R. C. Sproul Jr.’s wise words: “If the lesson you get from Jesus hanging with sinners is you should hang more with sinners, you’re confused on who you are in the story.” And I continue to return to David Platt’s words on adoption—that we adopt not because we are the rescuers, but because we are the rescued.

Jesus took me when I was an alien—not just an alien, an enemy—and made me His daughter. He gave me liberty, skills, purpose, a future, a home. He gave me love. And really that—He—is why I welcome refugees.

 

 

How You Can Welcome Refugees

“Um. . . I’m not even sure I know any refugees. So what can I do?”

I’ll echo some of the suggestions from “A Sane Approach to the Refugee Crisis,” an article published in Christianity Today.

 

1. Intentionally, strategically love on refugees

One friend of mine, out jogging in America, felt a niggling to reach out to a pair of refugee women she ran by every day, whose children also went to her daughter’s school. When she did stop and talk with them, she found that one’s eyes were filled with tears; in light of the climate toward refugees, they were too afraid to walk alone. As the Church, we have a tremendous opportunity to care for these bereft families.

Refugees sometimes need help with the most basic services in our communities, like medical appointments or navigating paperwork; others would love help with English, reading, or job skills. Before we left for Uganda, my husband and 5-year-old distributed Christmas gifts to refugees.

What refugee communities live in your area? (Perhaps your church is already connected!) You’re a Google search away from finding organizations already helping those near you. And if you’re freaked out about the language barrier, remember that kindness can be expressed through simple service; through washing someone’s feet in any form.

 

2. Donate

A practical way to help is by donating to vetted organizations who provide for refugees’ tangible needs—particularly career training. I’m partial to Refuge and Hope, because I see them helping refugees develop their God-given abilities and talents, empowering them to become vital, well-rounded, thriving members of a community. World Relief is one of the few organizations that have permission to help with resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. There are many other organizations that are involved in refugee work. Spend some time reading up about these organizations and the work that they do, and support the ones that engage the causes that grab your heart and mind.

 

3. Pray for them

Perhaps this seems like a no-brainer—but even as I sit and type this, I realize how little I’ve prayed about the current crisis. Prayer is one of the most critical and powerful forms of loving the poor; of taking them and their needs into our hearts, lending our imaginations to their realities, and pleading for God’s intervention on their behalf. Pray that:

  • the Church will richly, sacrificially extend God’s love and protection
  • refugees will be led to Christ
  • refugees will be protected, and for the protection and wisdom of host countries
  • God will show you personally how to respond

I count over 70 references made by the Bible to foreigners and refugees. God identifies Himself as the God of the orphan, the widow, and the alien. I want us, too, as His followers, to be famous for this. Wanna help?

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

Is Justice Worth It?

Title: Is Justice Worth It?
Description:
Is seeking justice a futile effort? Our friend Micah Bournes uses his picturesque voice to share with us what it means to suffer, identify, and commune with others in the pursuit of authentic justice – all in two minutes. Definitely worth your watch.

ODJ: justice and snacks

July 21, 2015 

READ: Psalm 99:1-5 

Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established fairness. You have acted with justice and righteousness throughout Israel (v.4).

They say that justice is blind, but recent research suggests that justice likes to snack as well! In 2010 a team of researchers tracked the rulings of eight judges during 1,100 parole-board hearings over 10 months. Nearly 65 percent of the prisoners were granted parole during hearings held right after the judges had eaten breakfast. Over the next few hours, the chances of getting a favourable parole hearing plummeted. But the prisoners’ chances of parole increased to 65 percent again after the judges’ mid-morning snack or lunch.

Let’s face it; human justice is flawed. So it’s good to know that the God of the universe doesn’t base His rulings on having had mid-morning snacks or lunch.

The psalmist called for all people to praise God’s awesome and great name, for He’s the Creator of the universe—the One exalted above the nations (Psalm 99:3). They were to praise His name because He is Lord and King and is sovereign in His rule over the world. But not only were they to praise Him because of His sovereign ways, but also because He is righteous and just in His judgement of humanity.

The Lord loves justice, has established fairness, is perfectly righteous and is the source of impartial and unbiased judgements (vv.4-5). No matter the time of day, God is wholly absorbed with what’s right.

Through Jesus, we’re recipients of God’s righteousness. No matter the time of day, we can live out His just and merciful ways by His power. May we seek His strength and courage to defend the weak, vindicate those who have no human champions and be wholly absorbed with doing what’s right in our world where justice is flawed. Justice received is justice shared. No snack required.

——Marvin Williams

365-day-plan: Matthew 15:32–16:12

MORE
Read Matthew 25:34-36 and James 2:17 to see the marks of someone who is just. 
NEXT
Besides living in a fallen world, what are some other reasons why human justice is flawed? What are some specific ways you can think, speak and behave justly this week? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)