I’ll warn you now that this post has nothing really to do with food or nutrition, but I still felt it was worth sharing. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks reflecting and trying to wrap my brain around exactly what I wanted to write down or if I even wanted to write anything down.
Last month, I had the opportunity to work with a ministry called Valiant Hearts. This non-profit’s mission is to offer restoration for the sexually exploited and sexually addicted in the community and throughout the world. They first began in 2010 by going out to strip clubs to offer love, support, and hope. Their ministry has since expanded to offer support and hope to men, women, children, and families that are impacted by sexual exploitation/addiction and are breaking free from it. They now have five subcategories that are specifically focused on these groups listed above that need support.
My time volunteering was with the Cherished ministry. This specific branch has teams that are sent out on outreach to strip clubs in the DFW area with a gift baskets. The purpose of outreach is to let these women know that they are loved, accepted, and cherished. Outreach also gives them an invitation to a weekly support group for women in the industry that provides a safe space, a home-cooked meal, and a children’s program among other things.
I first heard about this ministry back a month or two ago when my church was having what they call “renew weekend”. This is where the church brings in different ministries from the community to share what they’re about and what they do. It’s a great time for people to get involved with something they might otherwise never have heard of and to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community. When I reached the Valiant Hearts booth and heard their story, it was like a light switch in my head. God had every intention of me getting involved there. I didn’t even stop to think. I immediately knew I would be part of this group. I remember so many times between that initial introduction and the outreach thinking to myself, “Wait a second, am I really doing this? Is this really something I should be doing? I don’t know anyone, and I’m afraid. What if going by myself will be super awkward? I’m not so sure this is safe. Am I really qualified to be doing this?? What am I doing???” But for whatever reason, those thoughts didn’t stop me like they had in the past with other opportunities. I knew deep in my bones that this was where God was calling me. Not being one that should question Him, I continued on.
After the initial training meeting and bag night where we put together the gifts we would be delivering, the day for outreach came. And it was a bit rocky in the beginning. Almost everything that could go wrong went wrong earlier that day. Clearly, outreach that evening would be pretty important. But regardless, my excitement and anxiousness were high. This was where it would get real. I had the feeling that my life would change after this experience. but I don’t think I had any clue as to how much.
Our team received our list of clubs for the evening, and after a time or worship and prayer, we loaded up into the vehicles and headed out.
And wow. What a sobering night.
I don’t think I truly understood the gravity of it all until we pulled out of the first parking lot. The stories I heard over the course of the evening and the things that I saw will be branded in my mind and on my heart forever. My heart broke for these women that desperately wanted out of the industry but didn’t feel that they had the tools or means available to escape. Seeing little clues that hinted at sex trafficking taking place before our very eyes was shocking. Knowing that some of these women were imprisoned and truly couldn’t escape the clutches of these men without help was painful. We would drive into certain parking lots and would immediately feel a heavy, dark presence. Watching mostly men come and go from these places was like an ice-cold shower. The rose-colored glasses were off. The ugly reality that these sorts of things do go on, and people do actually participate in them was exposed.
By the end of the night, I felt empty and numb. We were all extremely thankful for a safe evening and praised God throughout the night for it. He held His hand of protection over us, and for that I can’t adequately describe how thankful I am.
With this being said, I wish I could accurately portray what exactly it feels like on an outreach night. It’s one thing to read about it but a whole other thing entirely to experience it. From the butterflies in your stomach driving into the parking lots, to the bated breath while in waiting for the other team members to return to the vehicle, the relief of driving away, and the sorrow and sick feeling as the stories are shared. But there is also the warmth and encouragement from the welcoming that is extended from some of the clubs as well as their managers, and the appreciation and delight from the house moms, and the women.
Why am I sharing all this? I needed to share it, to write it down, to never forget it. But I’m sharing it with you because the reality is that there is a lot of dark in this world. With the violence we’ve seen especially in the past couple of weeks with the police shootings, it’s clear that evil has a firm grip on Earth. I’m not saying this to be discouraging. I’m saying this because the time to be proactive is now. It is so important, now more than ever, to ask yourself what you’re doing to be the light in the darkness. How can we bring hope and the light of Jesus into the world? This broken world needs love. It needs it desperately. The only way to achieve that love is to focus on the good, the positive, and the encouraging. Even the small things of not tailgating that person that cut you off in traffic makes all the difference. You might not have deserved that, but Jesus didn’t deserve the cross either. Grace is a beautiful thing.
This ministry is such an incredible ministry that can always use more support and volunteers. I would encourage you to check them out here. If not them, then maybe another ministry. Maybe there’s something you can do on your own. No act is too small. Talk to someone and tell them you’re thinking about them. Volunteer. Give. Encourage. Reach out. Go out and love.