Wild Torch 2018

Have you ever watched a fire burn, mesmerized by the flames, rightfully fearful of its power? Have you seen a small flame light up the night, or the tiniest spark begin a raging forest fire? Fire can bring both massive destruction as well as health and life to a community. Fire is primal and ancient, a symbol of the Divine, Holy Spirit...life to humanity. Fire molds, transforms, destroys, and heals. 

And such has been the journey of Jesus Said Love, carrying and holding a hot and holy vision that has burned us through and through, leaving us with a blessing. My husband, Brett, and I began reaching women within the commercial sex industry about 15 years ago after our first daughter was born. We had no clue we would be consumed with a love like we had never known. Before hitting the clubs we were singing contemporary Christian/worship music to an audience that largely spoke our same language. It became familiar, lackluster, and cliche. After our first outreach to strip clubs in Waco, Texas, we began to hold stories of women whose lives were impacted by severe forms of abandonment, neglect, and loss. Then, a spark was lit that would soon burn our “ordinary” lives to dust. The outreaches took on the name Jesus Said Love and a movement across Texas to “awaken hope and empower change” began. 

We launched teams in Dallas, Bryan/College Station, Killeen, San Antonio, Houston, and eventually Tyler. We held the love of Christ out like a hot meal to be consumed right then and there, and it was gobbled up. We began advocating for women whose lives were wrecked and hope waned. Homelessness, addiction, mental illness, attempted suicide, financial instability, transportation issues, single motherhood, dental problems, health issues, lack of education, legal problems, and even human trafficking were all now landing in our laps. These issues were wicked problems and how do you fix problems, but not people?  We couldn’t twist love into control and domination, we couldn’t manipulate and call it empowerment. We had to trust in the truth of Love at all costs. We are still learning. 

Today, Jesus Said Love has grown deeper with its headquarters at 1500 Columbus Avenue in Waco. We have current outreach teams in Waco, Dallas, Houston, Tyler, and Killeen….these outreaches are the deep roots that ground our fruitful tree. Programs at JSL HQ include:

  • ACCESS: an 8 week holistic paid internship program for women leaving the sex industry including job training, leadership, parenting, mental health, nutrition, financial literacy, and Bible classes.
  • Counseling via The Advocacy Center Crimes Against Women and Children on location.
  • Fight Club: an all female AA Recovery group open to the Waco Community.
  • Stop Demand School: a sex buyers intervention course for those arrested for buying sex (not located at our building).
  • Prayer and Worship on Outreach nights.
  • Lovely Enterprises: a social enterprise of JSL aimed at reducing recidivism into the sex trade by providing living wage jobs and launching micro businesses.


There’s a lot of sense in discerning the times we are living in, not merely plugging through life unaware of what is stirring, transforming, and shifting in our culture. We are living in a time where the light is shining on the issue of exploitation and objectification of women and we are learning how this affects our communities. This year at Wild Torch, our annual gala experience, we will voice a clarion call for hope and change and share the beautiful stories of transformation in our midst! Wild Torch uses the visual and performing arts to share these stories at the Waco Hippodrome!  

Incredible food pairings by Chef Jason Rolf (of the Grape) and Chef Corey McEntyre (of Milo Provisions) will light up your taste buds, your eyes will feast on visuals from the collaborative effort of Sidekick Agency and Matt Davidson Creative and the live fine art auction will include the talented Ty Clark of Waco and a custom oil painting by Samuel Shelton among others! Brett and Emily Mills along with their band including The Union Revival will take the stage and debut their new song, “Gold”. It’s an event like none other and one that is sure to leave you fired up!

Come “carry fire” with us.
April 23
Waco Hippodrome

Stop Demand School

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At Jesus Said Love, we are committed to awakening hope and empowering change in the lives of people connected to and affected by the commercial sex industry.

In light of the recent massage parlor arrests in the Waco area, it is imperative to understand the buyer of sex is not a victim; he or she is, in fact, the offender. Numerous comments have been made stating that these illicit encounters were between two consenting adults and should be no one else’s business. However, the unfortunate reality is human trafficking is a real problem, even here in Central Texas. When an individual is brought to our country from another, doesn’t speak the language, and is ordered to perform sexual favors for money, this is not consensual. And, it is imperative that we, as a community, educate ourselves on these issues.

One way Jesus Said Love is working to stop the demand and be part of the solution is through our program, Stop Demand School. Many of the Johns arrested in these stings will be required to take our course as part of their obligations for their crime. Our aim with SDS is to educate using restorative justice principles; the curriculum educates offenders on STDs, addiction, pornography, and the issue of human trafficking as linked to the commercial sex industry. While most individuals taking the class have never encountered a “real” human victim, this does not change nor lessen the intent. 

If you are wanting to educate yourself on these issues, I personally invite you to register and attend one of our Stop Demand School classes. It is a full day of content that will change your perspective on these issues. Visit StopDemandSchool.com for class dates and registration.

We are committed to awakening hope and empowering change in our community. Our women are worth it. Our men are worth it. And our children are worth it. 
 

- Brett Mills, CEO of Jesus Said Love

Recovery Work

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I was a fan of recovery work long before I took a seat at the anonymous circle. I could look at lives being transformed, see God working in the most incredible ways in the lives of addicts. Heck, I had taken many an addict to recovery homes, rehabs, and even AA meetings.  But I didn’t need “that” kind of work. I was in church, on the worship team, and running a ministry of my own. Recovery work was for those people. My how hard the mighty must fall, and how loving a God to tenderly place me there. 

I have been in a recovery group now for a year and five months. I wound up at that meeting after a long series of battles surrounding alcohol and pills began affecting me and my kids. I had done counseling, ranted to trusted friends, prayed, been slain in the spirit (not kidding), listened to many prophecies over my life, forgiven over and over as best I knew how and NOTHING worked. Late one night I took the matter to The Google and my search included “How do I FIX an alcoholic” (any Enneagram 1’s out there?),  “How do I know my person is a REAL alcoholic?”, and “HELP with an alcoholic.”  Al-Anon continued to pop up. After a five minute video that basically told me I was the one needing help, care, and love, I thought “Well, what the hell? I’ll give this a try”. I was desperate and the issue was affecting my children directly. I wasn’t so sure what kind of “help” I needed so desperately, but I was willing to go. Brett agreed to attend with me. 

“Hi, I’m Emily.”
“Hi Emily.”

And so it began. Readings on loving detachment, boundaries, humility, forgiveness, resentment, manipulation, denial, hope, peace, and joy ensued. Each member shared an experience or thought from the reading and one by one strangers became sages. There was even laughter. “These people laugh?”, I thought. I was certain this group would be about licking each others wounds and co-miserating.  Wasn’t this a group for victims fallen prey to the evils of alcoholism and addiction?  I listened to the story of a woman whose husband was a total ass. He was emotionally and verbally abusive when he got drunk, she tried hiding his keys, limiting his drinks, all the usual tricks. But, he just left her, cheated on her, and then returned home in a stupor. Apparently this was his pattern. After she shared, I thought, “Ok, now here’s where we’re going to give her some good solid advice as well as a divorce lawyer so she can get rid of this sorry sack of *&^%.” But the group just listened and said in unison, “Thanks for sharing.” 

“WHAT!? Where is the justice here? Where’s the action plan and strategy for how to leave him?”

Then another lady shared that her son had returned from jail to live with her only to relapse again. She had continued to give him money and shelter. She was older and had the most gentle demeanor. She shared:

“I’ve learned in here that I don’t have to provide for his needs. He is an adult and got himself into this mess. But I’m having trouble watching him suffer as his mother. I’m sure we’ve failed him in so many ways but now he has to learn to move on. This program teaches me to lovingly detach and so I’ve decided to let him know tomorrow that he will begin paying rent or have to find another place to live.” 

“Is this where we fist bump and applause and cheer for her?” 

“Thanks for sharing.” the group again repeated. 

A year and five months I’ve been listening and learning from this program and the brave warriors who make up our group. I had no idea how desperate and broken I truly was. When I strong arm pain, I refuse freedom. I gridlocked grief and everyone around me was suffering. I cauterized joy by focusing so much on others problems. The twelve steps in Al-Anon have taught me how to love and care for myself in a way that seems counterintuitive to my “Jesus first. Others second. You third.”  evangelical acrostic theology. When you’re surrounded by addicts, it’s easy to believe your problems are not real problems. Someone always has it worse, has it harder, your pain is not THAT bad. You learn to minimize. Addicts especially are master manipulators (they’ve had to be to survive.) So, in close relationship to an addict, it’s easy to yo-yo between codependency (zero boundaries) and rejection. If you’ve got the Al-Anon disease, like me, you’ve probably done both. You also begin to believe that you’re crazy - your mind reels, you repeat conversations in your head, you self-justify your bad behavior because they have the problem. You can’t take ownership of what’s yours because the line between what’s yours and theirs is so blurred. You don’t know where you start and they begin. 

Pride seeps in and warps your love into duty, obligation, work - the curse of the ground. You become overly responsible for others. And let me tell you, ministry is a minefield loaded with grenades, and most of them are ministers. Step Seven: “Humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.” With step work, and particularly with a good sponsor, this is no vague and pious plea. This is pen to paper work complete with reading and questions to help you see very clearly.  It requires gut level humility and humility means “We can accept ourselves as we are. We do not have to beg or demand things from God, we simply ask.” (Pathways to Recovery, pg. 72). Humility, as Jesus teaches us, means that “we live in a circle of belonging, not rings on a ladder” (Courage to Change, pg. 33). Humility isn’t degrading. It is not humiliating nor does it bring shame. Humility means I must take my rightful place in the world, as a child of God. It means that to love my neighbor as myself, then I had better love myself to begin with. Humility means, I work the exact same steps, with the same tenacity, that I would pray my addict would work themselves. Humility means my ego gets the boot every time I watch it flare up as control, manipulation, codependency, or pride. I don’t have to control, fix, and manage in order to feel purposeful and alive. I don’t need to be revered, acknowledged, or affirmed in ministry by anyone other than the One whose approval I didn’t even earn in the first place. I can learn from Jesus when He spoke about the Pharisees:

“The Scribes and Pharisees love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in public flattery, receiving degrees like “Doctor” and “Reverend”. DON’T LET PEOPLE DO THAT TO YOU, PUT YOU ON A PEDESTAL LIKE THAT. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God. Let Him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title as “Father”; you have only one Father. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them! There is only one life leader for you and them - Christ! DO YOU WANT TO STAND OUT? THEN STEP DOWN. BE A SERVANT.” - Matthew 23, The Message

If you or someone you know is in need of help with addiction, Jesus Said Love offers “Fight Club” on Wednesday nights at 5:30 p.m. for females only in the Waco area. 

If you live with or love an alcoholic (or someone’s drinking or any addiction bothers you a lot), you can visit www.al-anon.org 

If you’re struggling as an addict and want help, visit www.aa.org


 

Wild Torch: April 23, 2018

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Art communicates the soul of man. All forms showcase His glory through the story of humanity: God’s masterpiece.                    
                        
Wild Torch celebrates this fusion of art and story as we view conceptual art alongside the very literal journey of women affected by the commercial sex industry. The average age of entry into this industry is 12 years old. This is not a choice, but buying her is. Adults in strip clubs, women working online, or prostituting on the streets all have a reason for being there, and many of those reasons were not a matter of choice. But Jesus Said Love is about restoring power, awakening hope, and empowering change.
                        
With every bite you eat, sound you hear, movement you watch, and piece of art you touch, we invite you to join us in restoring our community. Watch and experience beauty rising from the ashes and see real women who have overcome insurmountable pain and used it to carry fire! In this decadent goodness, we pray that your soul is filled with the magnificent reality that you were made to carry fire.   

Tables and tickets go on sale this Thursday, February 1st. The past two years have been sellouts so we’re encouraging those who want to come to reserve tables and tickets sooner rather than later. 
 

NEW EXPERIENCES THIS YEAR
 

Last year, VIP Torch Bearer guests enjoyed a private dining experience at the Palladium prior to the event at the Hippodrome. This year they will enjoy a new culinary experience featuring an accomplished local chef.

Flame Thrower guests will enjoy a lively private pre-event party at Cultivate 712 complete with heavy hors d'oeuvres and beverages. In addition, you will be seated at ROUND tables at the Hippodrome! No more long rectangle tables. 

Sparkler guests will also enjoy an intimate pre-event gathering at the Hippodrome.

If single tickets are more your style, we are offering single VIP Torch Bearer, Flame Thrower and General Admission levels. These are very limited in number.
 

You can get all the details including sponsorship details by visiting WildTorch.com. Can’t make the date, but still want to be a part? Sponsor a table and we’ll fill it. Or purchase tickets on behalf of someone else. We’ll make sure those seats get filled. 

We want to personally invite you to join us April 23 for Wild Torch at the Hippodrome Theatre in Waco. It will be an joyfully explosive night!

We hope you’ll carry fire with us,

Brett & Emily Mills
 

Breaking Chains and Broken Branches

I have a chance here, to either brag on my friend and author Elizabeth Oates or publically put her on blast for meddling in my business with her new book, Mending Broken Branches: When God Reclaims Your Dysfunctional Family Tree.  

Last month in our NL I wrote about breaking chains here at Jesus Said Love, you can read how that plays out in our work often times here . And while I’m not a strategic planner, (I haven’t yet mastered the 12-month newsletter content calendar plan) God is most definitely one of order. He knew about my friend’s new book, that it would land in my lap just after I had written about breaking family strongholds, and that you would be reading this now. 

So what I need to tell you is this: before I write one word of review, open up your Amazon and order Mending Broken Branches NOW; because this book is about to start flying off of shelves and be on backorder if it’s not already. You’ve been wanting a book club, a Bible Study for your Sunday School, your women’s group, your marriage class for 2018 so here it is. For those of us who are friends with Elizabeth currently, say your goodbyes to quick text responses for a bit because she’s about to be very busy. So busy, I don’t know how she’s going to continue teaching her 5:30 a.m. yoga classes. I think Kathy Lee may be getting ahold of her copy soon and need Elizabeth on her show, if this is the case, I will be headed there as her assistant. I’m not kidding, this is no Jenn Hatmaker style exageration. What Elizabeth has landed on is gold; it is timely, and will gain a national ear. 

I’ve known Elizabeth for years off and on, we have lunched together, yoga’d together (she is SUCH an amazing instructor), I have read her books, seen her invest in our Waco community, eaten at her home, we’ve shared a hotel room and attended conferences together. She’s a thinker and a doer. She’s a planner and a fighter. She’s feisty yet humble. She loves Jesus and knows rejection. I have a hard time with people who act like they’re not limping, and from the outside… Elizabeth looks annoyingly perfect. But wait until she opens her mouth… then she’ll put you at ease. What I know is that while the title of her book is pretty self-explanatory, what is unseen is the grit and gut work Elizabeth has had to do behind closed doors. No one but Jesus has held the many tears that must have been shed while writing this, surrendering this, braving the thoughts that swirled around in her mind to release this work into the world. 

One morning after her early morning class (I have a push/pull thing with 5:30 a.m.), in the midst of publishing Mending Broken Branches, she confessed. The publisher was postponing the release...again...this was a game of waiting and surrender and it had Elizabeth in a raw and tender place. What I saw in her eyes, in her tears, and in her words were proof that this book was birthed from an authentic place - and THAT, is where Jesus produces good fruit. I knew then, that this book wasn’t another goal-laden achievement, it wasn’t based on her talent or her seminary degree, this book was an offering to the Lord.  

So let me tell you a bit about the book now that you’ve already ordered it (seriously, if you’re a one click Amazon person then what are you waiting on?). The goal of MBB as Elizabeth states is to grieve your past, equip you for the present, and help you build a healthy future. Sounds simplistic? Well, we’re talking generational dysfunction here so, no. However, the gift of Mending Broken Branches is that while Elizabeth dives into depression, trauma, addiction, sexual abuse, divorce, forgiveness, reconciliation, and some seriously heavy topics, she has made it manageable. This is like the Cliff Notes (I’m old school) version of counseling and hard core research on many of these topics. She has pulled from some incredible sources and even provided multiple charts and appendix’s for application. The type A people, the doers and the feeling repressed, can now get on board. Elizabeth’s words rope around your hand and heart like a shepherd toward green pasture. 

Some of you haven’t eaten good green grass in decades or drank from a crystal clear stream your entire life. You’ve been stuck in your unforgiveness and dysfunctional coping mechanisms  like a stray dog living off of urban trash and polluted gutter run-off. That’s not what you were made for, but it’s all you know. You’re the dog that bites your kids heads off when they jump on your lap full of joy. You’re the friend who talks more about other people’s information than your own because even though you’re 30, you still aren’t sure who you are and what you have to offer this world. You’re far more than the information you retain. You’re the coworker who is perpetually Eeyore, bringing depression and anxiety to bear on all those around you because you don’t understand how much you’re actually worth and won’t step a foot in a counselor’s office. You’re drowning in wine and margaritas, spending and lust, social media, pride, and greed. You keep telling yourself to move forward while working your way backward. You’re stuck. You’re not where you want to be. You’ve continued to behave like a child because you weren’t loved up into adulthood. You don’t have close girlfriends. You observe others vulnerability, but lack language to contribute yourself. You are scared to be honest, because being honest means pain, and pain means grief and grief takes time… and who’s got time right now? 

Truth is - we all do. I remember Ann Voskamp saying that the only way we stop time is by entering eternity, which is the present. You carve it out. You choose this day. This is necessary work, because you are truly God’s living and breathing masterpiece, the temple of the Spirit, the only way this broken world can see Jesus today with skin on. Elizabeth is vulnerable with her anger toward God, resentment and unforgiveness towards others, her minimization of her own trauma, and is shameless in recounting her losses. It is evident, she has done some deep soul work and has gifted us with its fruit. And while she meddles, her writing is “full of grace and seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). She is confident in the power of Christ and the comfort of the Spirit. 

One of the hardest parts of any type of recovery work is getting a handle around it. People, Elizabeth has given you handles! You don’t have to learn to ride the unicycle of recovery anymore. It’s not so deep and philosophical that your head is spinning and your heart is clueless. You’ve got a good sturdy bike here to ride into recovery. Mending Broken Branches is a beautiful start toward your healthy future and it’s for everyone, because we all have broken branches… even Jesus.