Wednesday, December 31, 2014

God calling.....

I have spent the past two days compiling a report of what God has done though our ministry since the time we launched it 9 months ago to now. This report was requested by the Pastor of our church that supports CROSSroads because he wants my husband to read it at the church business meeting in two weeks so that the congregation can begin to understand what God is doing through CROSSroads- and why they should care. Everyone knows who we are, and everyone knows that the aim of our ministry is to reach out to those who are addicted that DON'T know Jesus yet and let them know that he loves them, they are worthy of that love, and that despite how they feel- they haven't traveled so far from him that he won't take them back.  However, most people do not realize what goes on behind the scenes or just how intense this ministry is- that we undergo intense spiritual warfare, that we are on call 24 hours a day to pray for people, that we open up our home to addicts who are detoxing because there is nowhere else for them to go in the area to do it- that this is not just a once a week for a couple hours a night small group ministry, but that it is a round the clock, 24/7, full time ministry on steroids. There are so many lost, hurting, broken, people in this town that are being held captive by drugs and alcohol that are need freedom- and not nearly enough help available for them. We are standing in the gap in whatever ways we can and having faith that God will bring an answer soon.

While writing this report, I couldn't help but stand in awe over all that God has done through this ministry in the past nine months. All of the testimonies and transformations that we have seen in the past nine months are mind blowing. We have seen people healed from addiction in amazing ways that they never thought possible, as well as seen many drug addicts give their lives to the lord and confess him through water baptism. My heart just sings that these wonderful souls that had long ago resigned  that they would never amount to anything more than a drug addict are seeing God's glory revealed in their lives and seeing themselves as HE sees them. I know all too well the loneliness, the horror, the desperation and depression that come with addiction, and to be released rom that by the grace of God and to have a hope and a future is indescribable. Redeemed drug addicts truly cherish their redemption because they know just how unworthy they are of it. While no one is righteous, people who have been forgiven of a great deal realize just how much of a gift the forgiveness is.

Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with [Jesus], and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

I am amazed at God and his work in these addicts' lives and I feel so blessed to be witness to it and honored to have a call on my life to be used to bring the gospel to this demographic of people. However, that wasn't always the case.

I was a drug addict for many years, and I finally found God at my "rock bottom" during a stay during a Christian restoration home and church in Milwaukee. The pastors, leaders, and congregation of the church were entirely made up of drug addicts. If  that hadn't been the case, I am positive that I would have never stayed long enough to allow God to work on me. I had always felt so judged and condemned by "church people" for being a "druggie" that you couldn't have paid me to walk into a church service, no matter how desperately I may have wanted to. The fact that these people had been where I had been gave me comfort that they wouldn't judge me, and the fact that they had come out of it not only alive but prospering and being used by God to help other people gave me hope. That is the reason I stayed. I surrendered my addiction to God, and he healed my there in Milwaukee. It was a long process, but slowly I saw 2 Corinth8ians 5:17 manifest in my life- "Any man who is in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed away, all things have become new." The lost cause, hopeless, worthless, outcast drug addict identity that I had held about myself for my whole life was wiped away and replaced with my new identity in Christ. It took a long time to realize that the carnage and chaos of my past didn't have to be my future. "But, I know the plans I have for you says the Lord- plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11) became my life verse, and gave me the hope I needed to turn my back on what I had been and walk into what God wanted for me.

That was, until, God wanted to use me- and not in the way I wanted him to use me. My aspiration in life was always to be a professional with a white house with a picket fence outside and a couple of kids. I thought that once God had "cleaned me up", he would certainly bring those dreams to pass. After all, doesn't the bible say "I will give you the desires of your heart?" Well, those were my desire. His plan was something totally different. He told me that he wanted me to lead the female addicts in Milwaukee- and it was confirmed when the pastor blessed me in as the director of the women's home in front of the entire congregation, without letting me know or asking me first. I didn't want to be a director (which now I am guessing ins why God told him to do and not ask my permission first) - I wanted to get clean enough and learn enough about God to become stable, and then get out and have a normal life like everyone else.  Instead I ended up staying in Milwaukee for another 2 years as the director. I gave up many things- I had no money, I couldn't see my children during that time, I wasn't allowed to work, or to go anywhere on my own, or to go to school- my full time job was to do what God had told me to do and help the women that he brought in off of the streets of Milwaukee. And I did. I sacrifice, but I gained so much. I saw lives transformed, I learned about spiritual warfare, I listened to great bible teaching everyday by wonderful men of God, I learned how to be humble, I learned how to control my emotions, how to be selfless, how to submit, how to do a bible study, how to love people without wanting anything in return, how to fast, how to have discernment, how to listen to God. My time in the home taught me things that I would have never been able to learn any other way. It was a spiritual boot camp that prepared me to be a soldier for God. God's plan for my life had a purpose, where my own plan was purely for my comfort. His will for my life was so much better than what I had planned for my own (In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps- Proverbs 16:9)

There came a time, however, when I decided that I truly did want a normal life. My husband and I (who I met in the Milwaukee ministry) decided we were going to leave the big city and move to central Wisconsin, get regular jobs, and have normal lives. We honestly were really burnt out on ministry, and figured that we had "put our time in" and paid our dues to the homes. We had done enough ministry to last a lifetime- and surely God saw that. After all, some people NEVER do any ministry, and we had done tons. We both had our minds made up that we were done with ministry. So, off we set to have our "regular" life in Marshfield Wisconsin. My husband had a full time job, I was in school full time, we took care of our son, and we went to church on Sundays. Like normal people. And we liked it that way. But then, God began showing us things. That there was a huge drug problem up here, with young women, who were addicted to the same thing I had been. That the hospital in town shut down their alcohol and drug rehabilitation unit, and that there were no detoxes for people to go to who were trying to get off of drugs. That people were robbing the town pharmacy for Oxycontin, and that people were overdosing and dying in bathroom stalls at Walmart. WHY was he showing us this? Surely so we could tell someone else that they should do something to help these people! After all, we were done with ministry! Maybe we were just there to recognize the problem, and suggest ways that someone else could fix it. So we sat back. And did nothing. And God kept showing us things, and we waited for someone to come up with a solution. We tried to ignore it, and prayed that God would help these people. Surely we didn't have to do it again. We had given up enough. We had paid our dues. We were done.

But we weren't. And we knew it. Our move to the middle of the state to get away from ministry work wasn't very successful. God put it in our face to the degree that we knew he was calling us to be some of the people that helped- whether we wanted to our not. We had to. I felt like Jonah- wanting to run and not do what God said. But one day God told me that if I turned my back, and watched these addicts die when I had a way to relate to them and let them know about God who would save their souls, then everything I had gone through in my life was for nothing. All of my years of being addicted, coupled with all of my years of being in the restoration home in Milwaukee, had been training. Training to reach out to people who weren't being reached out to- not because people didn't want to reach out to them- but because they didn't know how to. They couldn't relate. Unless you have lived that hell, you do not understand. I did. I had survived that hell and come out the other side with God, and to waste that- to not give people that hope- and let them know that it is possible- would be a tragedy. The bible says that we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Well a silent testimony doesn't have much impact . God was once again telling me to use my story for good. That through doing that, he would redeem the years that I had lost to addiction, by giving them back to someone else. People didn't have to go through what I had gone through, as long as I had gone through it.

So we gave in. We stopped fighting God. We said we would do it. If he wanted to use us- we would go. But it's hard. This is a messy ministry- not the type of ministry people usually volunteer for.  I have realized that I am not volunteering to do anything, but I am called to do it. And honestly, I think you have to have a calling on your life specifically for this type of ministry to succeed in it.  God has equipped me to do this. It is easy to offer to be used by God when it's on your terms, and he will use you the way you want him to. But what about when it's in a way that's an inconvenience to you? Or tiring? Or emotionally draining?  There are no cushy office chairs or paychecks or days off or office hours that come with this. We are in the frontlines, dealing with the messy stuff that people usually have mostly taken care of by the time they start going to other ministries. We are dealing with broken people, and sometimes we get cut on the pieces. The things that go on in this ministry do not fit into my son's nap schedule or my school schedule or my plan to what my life was supposed to be like. BUT, it is so worth it, and I would never have it any other way. One person finding Jesus and being released out of the hell makes every ounce of sacrifice worth it. I am so privileged to be able to have a front row seat at what God is doing, and witnessing amazing people emerge from what was once just a shell of themselves.  I imagine where I would be if the people at Milwaukee Victory Church hadn't sacrificed themselves the same way for me. I asked my husband awhile ago why some people can walk away from ministry and never do it again, while we tried to get away and couldn't. We realized it's because when we got saved, we told God that we gave him our life- and we meant it. This is what he chose to do with it.

So, I say all this to say that if God has a calling on your life, don't fight it. Don't worry about if it's what you want to do or feel equipped to do or dreamt of doing. Your calling is not for you. It's for the people you are called to help though it. From my experience, a true calling on your life is almost always going to be scary and something you don't want to do at first. But that's a good thing. That's how you know it's God telling you to do it and not yourself trying to force yourself into it because it fits your criteria. All of the old testament prophets fought with God about not wanting to prophesy (many ran), Moses told God he had the wrong guy, and even Jesus asked God to "let this cup pass from me." Many times we don't feel equipped to do what God is calling us to do. And we're right. We aren't equipped. But he is. And through him, we will be also. So if Johan taught us anything- don't run. Because a true calling by God will chase you down anyway. And in the end, you will be so happy that it did. So walk in it now, in the direction that God is leading, and let him fulfill your purpose.

"For God's gifts and his calling are irrevocable"- Romans 11:29