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.

Where do I sign up?

At the beginning of the month of July, I along with 15,000 other people attended The Salvation Army congress in London. A chance to celebrate 150 years of our existence and yet again I wanted to sign up to the fight. 

As I am now back in Rome and have spent a week with a young woman learning about this crazy ministry I get to be involved in; I am challenged to stand up and shout. Rosie wrote this on reflection after a week of living and working in Rome. 

“…’vulnerable’ people come in all forms with very different needs. I really saw this this week as I went from listening to Estelle talk about international campaigns such as ‘Up For School’, to packing bags at a food bank, to an outreach programme working with people in prostitution.”

Way to go 17 year old woman to make me think. And so I am thinking as it’s Tuesday about the women I shall meet tonight and the team I will be with. The familiar faces that are missing when we pass by. The ones that we know by name and call out to us for a hug or a word or a smile. 

Green Light Project
Green Light Project
Recently an interview was published in The Salvation Army UK’s magazine. Here is a small excerpt about The Green Light Project. 

In December 2014, Estelle took the GLP to the streets of Rome. The first stage of this fortnightly outreach involves slowly forming relationships with the victims. She explains: ‘We take tea and coffee and chocolates to two areas in Rome and are slowly beginning to make some contact with victims of trafficking and prostitution. Already we’re beginning to see some great opportunities and we’re beginning to pray with people. Now they greet us with hugs and kisses and say “We’ve missed you, where have you been?”.’

Initially Estelle has trained officers  from command headquarters (& other church members)  to be part of this ministry, but the plan is to extend this to corps members as the project expands.

I know all the fancy words make it sound like I am doing something special but you know what makes it special, a woman calling to me and hugging me and telling me that we are the people they look forward to seeing as we speak from the heart and with love. With no judgement of the person in front. That’s a compliment, an encouragement and a challenge. I want to represent Jesus whenever I am out in this world. I want people to know that they are loved and needed and can be redeemed and life is not about the street corners and the car parks of Rome. I want them to know that Jesus can transform them and that I will love them and then love them a lot more. 

Being a light
Being a light
I am challenged to be a light in the darkness. I am challenged that a simple “hello and how are you?” and “would you like a coffee?” can change the lives of individuals.

Challenge to be a light in the darkness
Challenge to be a light in the darkness
So where do I sign up? Again?