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.

Definitions and Hashtags

So I am writing this because I don’t understand but the hash tags that end in #….porn like food-porn; cloud-porn bike-porn etc. Why would we associate something that is obviously not helpful to our world with things that give us such joy? I mean food and clouds and bikes and homes. Just saying – I really don’t understand where the Hash tag came from but even less so the association of these wonderful events and the horrible world.
If someone wants to explain it to me, please do? I am not saying this for controversy but because I genuinely don’t understand. Maybe you also have some thoughts on this.

So with this definition from Dictionary.com I understand a little more,

television shows, articles, photographs, etc., thought to cater to an excessive, irresistible desire for or interest in something:a magazine filled with enticing food porn; an addiction to real-estate porn

but it still makes me skip a photo on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter….. Have i got it completely wrong or is it because I have worked with those involved in the Commercial Sexual exploitation for years that this has now affected me?

I am aware that for the last 12 years of my life having worked with those who are paid to act out the horrible scenes of porn and having read so many articles and books and spoken to many victims that this is a real horrible thing.

recently 50 shades of Gray has made again “porn” a mainstream issue and whether you agree or not that it is or not “mummy porn” doesn’t mean that it’s always a good thing.

I love my language and I particularly love words that are used properly but I am also aware of the way that language has developed. I remember returning from Italy and “bad” meaning something was good. Has that happened with the word “porn”? maybe I am getting old (well I am) but I still don’t understand how this can be okay in the long run. I am not a prude in any way at all, but I do believe in watching what I am saying.

Please tell me what you think. Tell if I have got it all wrong. tell me if I am talking “twaddle” ( fabulous word not used enough in my opinion) . Tell me what you think I should hear or know.

You see I think this can only go the wrong way (as far as I can see, it hasn’t happened yet) but one day the hash tag will be used and life will get even messier in the Social Media world. I can see it know, a photo of your local church with the hash tag #ChurchPorn . Maybe I am pushing it a bit far.

anyway happy #Hashtag day

Dreaming and Believing

so in the last few weeks I have been called to pray and intercede for a few people in particular and we regularly exchange text messages about the prayers. One is in Brisbane and the other in California. I am well aware that each of these friends have some incredible dreams and have had some difficult times. I have to say we have shared our prayer requests recently and it hasn’t been one sided. they pray for me too.

Today, I prayed and read through two bible chapters and suddenly again these verses hit me. Verses of power and joy. Verses about dreaming & believing. Now at first glance maybe not, but that’s what I saw and so I am going with it.

here’s what I read:

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (‭Matthew‬ ‭8‬:‭2-3‬ NIV)

I wonder if in our prayers we ask God if He is willing and maybe need to hear the command, ” I am willing”.

you see it seems to me God is willing and waiting to hear and answer our prayers.
And then I read these other verses:

 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them,“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied.  Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matthew 9:28,29)

You see, I have work/ministry dreams but I also have personal dreams. My life is given totally over to God and it has nothing to do with riches and wealth; but I think God loves me and wants me to dream. It’s a lot easier to dream for others and their freedom and emancipation, but mine….do I deserve the dreams I have or should I put them to back of my mind?

So I wonder what are your dreams? A holiday all paid for, a car that works……. I don’t know. Write it down.

God asked the question – do you believe I am able to do this and yet you strive to do His dreams and will for your life. If you don’t believe He can fulfill your dreams – you will never believe that you can be used by God. He is able but He needs you to start believing that. Renew your mind – get a new thought process.
You see I believe that God can do immeasurably more than we can dream or ask for! 

Now these are just my thoughts, and may be they are theologically confused but then I really believe God loves me enough to desire my dreams.

My dreams include a holiday to the West Coast of the USA (friends in California!) and a purple VW Beetle convertible. these have nothing to do with ministry but I am praying about them.

 

Confirmation

There are a couple of things I have been praying and thinking about recently that I won’t go into detail over here. Now whether you are a believer or not there is that gut feeling sometimes to leave it and wait. For me as a Christian – it’s God; but for non Christians – instinct I guess! Anyway, so this week – I clearly felt God say, “wait a while! I have it sorted” both for me and for some other people I know. And it’s a very weird place to be but that’s okay!
This morning in my daily reading with God – I read this!

Sisters, there is so much work to do. We see need, pain and injustice all around us and our knees quickly buckle under the weight. We long to make our lists and check them twice and fix it all right this second. But we dare not make a move without God. As Ian Hamilton said it, “Beloved, our great and pressing need today is to give ourselves to waiting upon God, because waiting time is never wasted time.”
Nehemiah was an ordinary servant who would do extraordinary things, but he did them by moving with God. Not running ahead but walking beside.
God can use us today. He can use even us. He can do it because it is not about our resources, our resumé or our strength, but it is all about His power, His goodness, His grace.
It is all about Him.”

So I guess it’s time to wait – Nehemiah did!