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

Advertisements

Downgrading a Dream 

So I know I only wrote a couple of days ago, but I have this thought going around in my head. It’s something that happens easily to me. Close my eyes and “BAM” I need to write something down. (I started this post at 12.05am last night)

I love the word vulnerability but I think sometimes it can be seen as a negative idea. I used to think that too and the more I go on this journey of social media and life I realise that being vulnerable is okay; but not as a tool searching for sympathy. It’s about being who I am in the good and the bad. It’s about honesty in my dreams for myself and ministry and when that doesn’t happen how I see it then allowing myself to be me in front of people who may not care but need to see that there is strength in vulnerability.

Today my fear of looking vulnerable (and weak!) saw me downgrade a dream I have. A dream for me and the ministry I am involved in.  Just so you know – I don’t have a car provided and that’s strange to some people. I am okay with that but I do wonder if it would make life easier for ministry and it definitely would for me personally.

Now I need to say that this is not a plea for a vehicle but just me explaining myself.

Here is my ultimate dream car – driving around the streets of sunny Italy in this would be amazing.

My dream car
My dream car

Here’s what I think are sensible ideas for ministry in Rome.

sensible option
sensible option
great idea
great idea

This is what I think would be the most useful for getting the message out about The Salvation Army in Italy but impractical for outreach as its only a 3 door vehicle!

The PR Machine
The PR Machine

And here’s what I reckon I might end up with for darting around the city.

the possibility
The Reality

Now the vulnerability bit is trusting God that He has the time & provision sorted and exercising that belief & not posting random statuses asking if someone has money they want to give me for a scooter.

Downgrading the Dream is believing that the ministry is only ever going to need a scooter and not the minivan or Hackney carriage (& I genuinely believe both are needed)

I suppose the point is that in the strength of my vulnerability I need to believe in a God that will supply my needs and not my wants. A God who understands my heart and will help me to see His ministry as something I am involved in  Not downgrading the dream to fit the circumstances of where I am, but rather enhance my belief in a God of the Impossible.

So back to dreaming and I might as well got for it – I am upgrading my dream to this:

Upgrading the dream
Upgrading the dream

 

What dream have you downgraded recently to remain calm & sensible instead of vulnerable and a little wild?

 

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?