Appointed………..

Some days, I wonder if I know what I am doing and that’s after 13 years of working with men and women in prostitution and victims of Human Trafficking.

I ask myself the question what did my leaders see in me that I didn’t?

In 1996, I left Italy and was appointed to The Salvation Army project in London to work with people in prostitution. I wondered what their reasoning was (as many before have and I am sure will still, not about me but about their present appointments). I arrived and it was raining and all I know when I arrived was that I was in a place that many wanted. There was a famous saying, “Lord give me any cross but Kings Cross” and this was the other side of peoples thoughts. I was nervous and excited and all of the other emotions you face. I wondered if I would make it through the first week after realising that I had no skill sets I thought appropriate (turned out I did!), but here I was the Centre Manager of an outreach to women in prostitution.

Soon after I invited to a training for managers at a hotel in Milton Keynes hosted by Beyond The Streets and I knew then that I wasn’t alone. I felt a little more confident to talk to agencies and chat to those I met. I didn’t feel so stupid when a woman asked me for help whilst injecting a drug or running away from a client. I knew in that moment I had the opportunity to make a difference and the appointment made some sense.

Cadets (trainee Salvation Army officers) came and helped as did lots of “called” people, some of whom didn’t stay around so long when the calling meant late nights and wet/cold walks with little results; but many bothered and committed to those days and nights when it snowed and rained and we were ignored. I still didn’t feel called to this kind of ministry, but I was beginning to feel like it made sense and I fitted into this little weird world. This was all before it became a fashionable thing to do.

And here I am 13years and few months down the road, feeling “called” to this kind of ministry; feeling I am good at it; have something to offer and I come alive when I get to meet the people to  whom I am appointed to.

I have had the privilege of reaching out to those that the world shuns and the world sees as Victims and I see as Survivors. To those that are classified as unlovable and a commodity.

This is still my privilege and a morning in the office in Rome has reminded me that I am good at this and yes I do feel called to the sacrifice as found in Isaiah 58 (The Voice Translation)

6. No, what I want in a fast is this:
        to liberate those tied down and held back by injustice,
        to lighten the load of those heavily burdened,
        to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression.
    A fast for Me involves sharing your food with people who have none,
        giving those who are homeless a space in your home,
    Giving clothes to those who need them, and not neglecting your own family.

Then, oh then, your light will break out like the warm, golden rays of arising sun;
    in an instant, you will be healed.
Your rightness will precede and protect you;
    the glory of the Eternal will follow and defend you.
Then when you do call out, “My God, Where are You?”
    The Eternal One will answer, “I am here, I am here.
If you remove the yoke of oppression from the downtrodden among you,
    stop accusing others, and do away with mean and inflammatory speech,
10 If you make sure that the hungry and oppressed have all that they need,
    then your light will shine in the darkness,
And even your bleakest moments will be bright as a clear day.

Some days it’s easy to get fired up and shout; and some days I feel like that there is a world that doesn’t want to listen.

So my question is: Called or Appointed? Both for me, one lead to the other.

GLP outreach

I Am An Operative Theologian……..

Theology as far as I have always been concerned was something for everyone else, until a few years ago when I was asked to read a paper on The Theology of Prostitution. Yes, there are a few out there. I am intelligent, but not an academic. I read because I want to and not because I have too; well until recently. And then a few years ago, I wanted to be able to speak intelligently when I needed too about the ministry I am involved in and suddenly, I was searching for books. And in May 2014, a book was published and bingo, I had the desire to read and to learn and to soak it up. The book in question is  Stopping The Traffick – You can find out more and buy it here.

This morning I was reading it again, for I think the 3rd time and I came across the following quote.

Practitioners are effective “operative theologians.” They live and work close to human pain and suffering and bring God’s grace to bear on chaotic situations.

(CHAPTER 8 HOW CAN WE SURVIVE IN THE MIDST OF THE MESS? Theological Reflection , by Bill Prevette)

wow – that’s what I am and it makes sense. I am an “operative theologian”. I am someone who understands the need for Theology to sometimes make sense of the ministry I am involved in. You see I am convinced that theology only makes sense when it is grounded in the ministry/work we are involved in practically. There needs to be a balance of both the thought and the practical otherwise all we do is work or think (and there are far too many theorists and people who ‘just do it’ in the world.)

This idea does not just work for the sphere of work I do but for all ministries. Work with the elderly, refugees, addiction services, the homeless, children, youth and churches…………the list is endless. Let’s all be Operative Theologians and know why do what we do. You see together they make sense, separated not all.

I keep learning from this book and I will keep learning.

am i a justice seeker

yesterday on the fabulous The Match Factory – Justice Seekers blog Nick Coke presented some challenges to me and all fellow Justice seekers. Today I decided to take some time to look at them. and ponder upon them a bit.

here are my thoughts.

  1. Present: justice-seekers understand there is no justice to be done from a distance. there are far too many people who stand up and speak and shout from a soap box about the injustices in the world. if we are not present and involved regularly, how can we ever become a voice for the voiceless. Theory is easy but I know that when I sat down with a woman forced into prostitution that I saw a woman and not a statistic. one of my favourite days of the week is Tuesday – it means I will meet the people I write about and read about each day in the office.
  2. Migrants: All are migrants, wanderers through life. JRR Tolkien famously said, “that all who wander are not lost”. I am a migrant of God’s choosing. I am a foreigner in this land and as Scripture says this world. I wander dreaming of a better world. I want to see the end of Human Trafficking and Slavery. I want to walk alongside and talk as Jesus did with people. My home is not based on my location; it based on where God calls me.
  3. Contemplative: justice-seekers know more than anyone that activism is futile without contemplation, prayer and Biblical reflection.  With contemplation the activist fixes their eyes on Jesus – ‘the author and perfecter of our faith’. ah yes, and this is maybe the hardest for me in some ways because it requires me to sit still and read and learn. But it also reminds me of the need to know why I do what I do. The need to step up to the plate and get on with it. The need to “Be Jesus in my community and not just Do Jesus”. The need to not go where Angels fear to tread but to only go where I believe I am called to be. if you go to this blog entry of mine, it was through prayer and contemplation I learnt something: Learning why…… it’s here that I needed to learn when to go forward and when not too.
  4. Prophetic: the justice-seeker has eyes to see an alternative future to the present reality. I have never seen myself as a prophet or prophetic. recently though I have identified in myself the fact that I always seem to search for the gaps in ministry in the place I am and go for that. Looking back I can see it clearly over the last 23 years of ministry. Looking back I realise that actually it may not have seemed prophetic but it probably was.
  5. Kingdom-minded: although never naive of the world as it is, justice-seekers will have a vision of the world as it should be – the kingdom of God established ‘on earth as it is heaven’ here I would like to add the old sentiment, but not “so heavenly minded the individual is of no earthly use” . i want to see the kingdom of God here in my community. I want to see the name of Jesus spoken in faith and praise and not as a swear word. I want to see an upside down world to the one we have now, the one that God saw when all men have enough to eat, to drink. The possibility of education and fairness. i want that we ‘fast’ for the naked to be clothed and the hungry to be fed, the lost to find direction and that each day will be a day of Jubilee.

at this point I would add a no.6 to the list: Crazy & Courageous. For me there is a need for us to be a little bit crazy, to not fit the mold and definitely to be courageous. It is in those moments that we see change and developments. Because the crazy and courageous don’t think of self. They deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow where God leads.

Thanks Match Factory for the provocation of my thoughts and yes I am proud to be a Justice Seeker.

All that’s left to say………goodbye

I’ve questioned

I’ve wondered

I’ve cried

I’ve denied

I’ve moved 

I’ve stayed 

I’ve called 

I’ve listened

And yet it’s in the stillness and silence that these days made sense

And yet it’s in the stillness and silence that I find some peace

There are moments of raw grief

There are episodes of emptiness

Maybe one day I’ll understand

Maybe I never will

Maybe I won’t need to understand 

This isn’t only because of you my friend

This is about all those encounters with loss 

The time spent wondering why

The only true response is there is no answer why

And all I am left with is “goodbye”

©Estelle Blake – 19th August 2015 (3rd edit.)

I’m here to share with you some rare And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity…….I’m beautiful!

so during the month of August, I have decided to share something everyday on my Facebook profile to help me and my friends learn something new about the world we live in. Today, I chose to share about beauty.

Bette Midler is one of the singers I play when I want to go to another world and dream and think and relax and there are several songs that make me smile. here are the lyrics of one of those fabulous songs.

This is the Divine Miss M
And I’m here to share with you some rare
And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity.
It’s really very simple. I simply believe with all my heart: ”

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, so beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

“Go away, little girl,” they used to say.
“Hey, you’re too fat, baby, you can’t play.”
“Hold on, miss thing, what you trying to do?
You know you’re too wack to be in our school. ”

Too wack, too smart, too fast, too fine,
Too loud, too tough, too too divine.
I said you don’t belong. You don’t belong.
Too loud, too big, too much to bear,
Too bold, too brash, too prone to swear.
I heard that song for much too long.

Ain’t this my sun? Ain’t this my moon?
Ain’t this my world to be who I choose?
Ain’t this my song? Ain’t this my movie?
Ain’t this my world? I know I can do it.

I’m not too short, I’m not too tall,
I’m not too big, I’m not too small.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
I’m not too white, I’m not too black,
I’m not too this, I’m not too that.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

I seriously am beautiful but it took me a long time to get to that place of believing this about myself.

Let me start at the beginning. I am loud and I did that to cover up who I was on the inside: insecure and weird and different and bigger than others. I actually didn’t like being the girl who had to wait whilst her friends went into shops to try on clothes. I didn’t enjoy the reality of people not wanting to sit next to me. I never liked being big, but it became a part of my rebellion to a society that suggested beauty was about a Barbie.

A few years ago Mel and Andrea came into my life and along with Kathy, they would begin to call me out about the comments I made about myself in public. Andrea – told me blatantly that I was to stop the self deprecation I used in my church leadership and in presentations. Every day Mel called me beautiful. She would write me notes that always began “to my beautiful Stelly”. Kathy has known me in so many guises that she sees when the stuff is bad.  So you see after being challenged by these fabulous women, I actually began to believe that I was beautiful. I repeated it every day. I took time to see that when I smile, I shine. I am at peace with the body that is in front of me. This doesn’t mean I don’t want t to improve, it means that I love the person that I see every morning in the mirror. It means that I am a beautiful person.

Yesterday a friend posted on facebook that she was surprised because someone had called her a gorgeous lady. She is stunning. She is such a beautiful person but I can remember those moments. Beauty is Beauty. In some cultures, bigger is better. I have received so many marriage proposals from one ethnicity and yet in my own culture my beauty is often questioned.

I have a book on my bookshelf, “I Hear  A Seed Growing” by Edwina Gateley. In this book she writes something that was part of this self-discovery for me.

Only a few people believe themselves beautiful. That saddens me: it is a diminishment of the human potential for grace and excellence. i would like to help people believe in their infinite potential for beauty – otherwise when we all diminish ourselves we diminish God also. I want to call forth the seeds of beauty God has planted in abundance.”

I realized that I was diminishing the God I believe in and the creation He made in me.  It’s not easy to believe in your own beauty. It’s not easy to look at what is in front and like what you see. It’s not easy to see people everyday not believe in who they are. It’s not easy to say “I am beautiful”. I need people to hear the truths that are out there. You are Beautiful or Handsome and the world will believe it if you do. It’s not about the clothes we wear or the shape of our bodies (and I know I need to work on that but that’s a whole other blog!), it’s about the fact that we are created gorgeous – don’t doubt it. Remember to tell someone today and if you don’t hear it said – repeat it to yourself everyday in front of the mirror until you realize that you are actually gorgeous.

remember what Bette Midler as The Divine Miss M said,

And I’m here to share with you some rare
And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity.
It’s really very simple. I simply believe with all my heart: I’m beautiful “

…. and just maybe it wont be a rare and stimulating insight after a while.