Breaking Chains

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Halloween isn’t the only time skeletons make an appearance. I’m convinced the skeletons that jump out of the closet at Christmas are sometimes scarier. And the older you get, the more you find out about what you thought was your semi-normal family (whatever normal is). I think growing up, the tendency is to keep the shiny smiles on for the kids so as not to spoil the “magic”. We don’t know how to talk about Aunt Susie’s affair or Uncle Matt’s raging addiction with our kids. Should we? Don’t you hide that sort of thing?  You would never hear as a child of how your cousin got fired from her job because she stole scripts from the doctor or worse, how a raging mental illness nearly cost your grandma her life. The adults shuffle off to a corner and whisper the news, hoping to shield the children from the hard, cold truth of this broken world. The news that our families are messed up, and as I have learned, so is our spiritual family.

 

We want happiness for our families, but what we fail to understand is that real happiness is not void of pain. The Old Testament talks a lot of happiness, a state of joy. We confuse nostalgia for happiness. We continually seek the old when God is desiring the new, the present. And I believe a new kind of happiness waits for you, for me, for every woman who walks through the arms of Jesus Said Love. It’s a happiness that can’t be robbed by circumstance or the latest news of a family member falling off the wagon. A happiness that is grounded in wisdom.

 

Proverbs 3:18

“Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”

 

Wisdom and happiness are kindred sisters. Wisdom calls out to us as invitation to see clearly, think rightly, and act according to the truth. Wisdom is always full of mercy and grace, not denial. Wisdom seeks restitution and reconciliation, but not by becoming entangled in codependent behavior. Wisdom is a good judge between what is ours to handle and what is ours to let go of. Wisdom never forfeits integrity for the sake of comfort or false happiness. Wisdom is patient and is proved in the waiting. Wisdom is found in the Holy Scriptures and in the presence of Christ. EMBRACING wisdom becomes a tree of LIFE as this Proverbs says. In order for wisdom to produce happiness we must CLING to her, there is no loose grip in this equation. And God’s wisdom is able to break chains!

 

This Christmas, Brett and I realized with fresh eyes just how subtle the chains can look - tied around our own necks, hands, and feet. Chains our families have been wearing a long time. Every family has them, even the most spiritual ones: denial, manipulation, racism, addiction, martyrdom, mental illness, fraud, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, hatred, passive aggression, gossip... the list could go on.  Some of them are chains that have “worked” for Brett and I to get along in life, but they don’t produce happiness. They are not chains we wish to pass down to our children.

 

The glory of Christ’s birth as sung in one of our favorite hymns, O Holy Night, proclaims:

 

“Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”

 

Wisdom can read between the lines of this and discern that those we “hate”, those we deem unacceptable, intolerable, our enemies, are our brothers...our kin. They are sometimes the ones who raised us, bore us, built us, taught us, and did their best to love us as they knew how. Wisdom shows us God’s heart is always bent toward breaking chains so that we might come together. But breaking chains is not easy, it’s not magic, and it takes cooperation with the Holy Spirit. It takes honesty, grit and a level of humility that most of us hide from. We don’t want to be wrong, ashamed, embarrassed and so we hide.

 

The women you helped through ACCESS this year and through our outreaches across Texas are breaking chains of their own AND in their families. And let me tell you, the ties that bind them are strong. One of our friends shared with us that she doesn’t remember a single woman in her family who was not a prostitute. She is now out of the life and choosing a different path for she and her son, her Boaz. She is breaking chains. She will be clinging to wisdom and fighting for a happiness that cannot be taken away. Another of our friends has been exploited by her family since childhood, she didn’t know another way but to succumb to being used. She is now learning boundaries and how to discern who has her best interests at heart, and who is using her. This is breaking chains for her life, and her three children. Another of our friends is choosing a recovery home indefinitely to begin again and raise her child in, she knows that trying to “do it alone” is a recipe for failure. She is breaking chains of selfishness and addiction by living in community and raising her son to walk in the wisdom of God.

 

We ALL have chains to break. Jesus didn’t simply come to theoretically set the world free, He came to set YOU free. You and your family.  We are committed to breaking chains here at Jesus Said Love, in our own lives, in those we reach, and in culture. We very literally believe Christ can do this for us, and with us. Would you consider giving monthly toward Jesus Said Love in 2018 to help sustain our efforts in awakening hope and empowering change? Every gift empowers us in breaking chains.

#MeToo, Now What To Do?

“Hey Mom, can I take this call in my room? My friend is really upset.”  This girl, my girl, carries so much in her soft heart...always has. She amazes me with her tender care toward others. Daughter retreats to her room to listen and console a friend from another school across town. After a good 30 minutes, my love emerges, resuming life and reengaging with us, unphased.  After the table was cleaned and dishes were as done as done would get, everyone scattered across the house and toward their bedtime routine. I caught her alone and cleared my throat, preparing my nonchalant, prodding tone. You know, the kind where you slip your voice down ½ a step and channel little Baja California surfer vibe, as if to suggest that you are completely unshockable? 

Me: “Hey, everything okay with your friend?” 
Daughter: “Oh, well, she’s just really upset with some boys who’ve been teasing her at school, they’re talking about her butt and stuff.” 

My tender girl proceeds to recount the ways a couple of teenage boys at school have said to her friend, “Man, I want to touch her a** so bad” when she stands up at her desk in class.  And yet another guy, blocking her in from getting around him, taunting her about her rear end. Her brave friend continually says, “back off or I will hit you!” But this seems to feeds the lust, the fight, the desire to dominate. 

Nothing has changed much in 28 years. My first week of middle school, 6th grade, 1989. I walk onto campus, clothes still smelling new, and head to the cafeteria for lunch. What happened in a moment left a permanent mark: He was an 8th grade football player with muscles and a mullet. He appeared older than your average 8th grade guy, perhaps he was held back. He could have been a vision from 90210 as I recall, strapping and handsome. I’m standing with my backpack in front of the Dr. Pepper machine outside the cafeteria doors when he comes striding down the concrete ramp. He eyes me, and I can’t quit looking at him, middle school is so new and the people are so tall. He seems so big and terribly cute. Without stopping his gate until he’s face to face with me, before even saying “hello”, this 14-15 year old swipes my crotch. There I am, a new 6th grade girl on campus, now paralyzed. 

“Did anyone else see? What do I do?”  My head swims.

I giggle nervously and feel my body go completely warm, my heart rate increases. Again, I am 12 and this happens at my school cafeteria. A place dedicated to my safety and education. The reality is, I knew this feeling. I had been molested prior to 12 and had hoped and prayed that a new beginning in middle school would mean a fresh start with my body. It’s as though I was marked. Did my earlier offender somehow tell this guy that I was “easy”?  How did this guy know he could touch me there? How did he know I wouldn’t say a word?  Through middle school, my beautiful growing body developed even more curves and those invited further scrutiny.  I was a good, achieving athlete and honor society student. I was also called a host of names by boys that the darkness used to both lure and torment me. I never breathed a word of this until I was 18 and away from home. 


I ended up calling the mom of my daughter’s friend. They have a good relationship and this eased my heart broaching such a tender issue. I wanted to tell the truth about what I had heard, and empower this good mama to listen hard and advocate fiercely. Mom to mom (and listen - we have GOT to be willing to “go there” together Mama’s), we talked of our own history with sexual harassment as young girls; how we took different routes, wore more pants and not dresses, avoided telling anyone of what happened, and minimized our own suffering. In every place we discredit personal or cultural trauma, it is brought to bear in our adult lives, in marriage, in relationships, in parenting. 

Because pain has to purge and someone will bear the brunt of it. 

One of the most damaging things we can do to our children is minimize, discredit, ignore or shame them when they bravely share about a situation of sexual harassment or abuse.  Furthermore, your children are listening as you process the news of sexual misconduct in Washington and discuss #metoo with your friends. They watch and learn and pick up intuitively more than they have language for. They will mimic and model what you lay before them...or run and retaliate. Mothers, how you speak of victims...your silence, dismissal or support will tell your kids whether or not they can trust you. Fathers, your mocking, belittling, or advocacy toward victims will reveal your character and prompt their reenactment. In fact, I believe our kids are trust detectives, subconsciously gathering evidence of why or why not they can communicate honestly with us. When discussing sexual harassment and sexual assault, minimization can sound like: “Well if that’s the worst thing that happened consider yourself lucky, at least you weren’t …..” (I have literally had this said to me by Jesus-loving friends.) Discreditation like: “Oh honey, I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it, maybe you’re taking yourself a bit too seriously.” Shaming: “Well if you’d learn to dress decent maybe that wouldn’t happen.” If dressing “modestly” was the root issue, then women wearing full burkas would never be assaulted or harassed. No. Immodesty does not cause someone to harm another. 


So here’s the thing, I am concerned that our daughters and sons are clueless about how to define sexual harassment and sexual assault. I want to give us, as parents, aunts, aunties, uncles, friends, babysitters, teachers, ALL of us some action steps for our kids (and they are OUR kids) so that they are H.E.A.R.D.

1. HEAR THEM: Whether it seems big or small, listen to their stories. Ask thoughtful questions and make sure you are giving them the freedom to speak as they need to. Do not minimize their experiences, but affirm how and what they are feeling.

2. EDUCATE: Teach your kids important terms now. Teach them appropriate touch and play. Let them know that THEY determine who is allowed to touch their body, not others. “No” means “No”.

  •  Harassment: "Harassment" is legally defined as repeated, unwanted contact. This contact can come in any form, from in-person contact to internet or phone communications. Harassment via text message is yet another form that can be very brutal, emotional and scary for the individual being harassed.  Harassment can also take the form of cyberbullying. David’s Law is a new piece of legislation that has now gone into effect in Texas making cyberbullying a misdemeanor offense and creating clearer channels of communication in reporting an offense.
  • Sexual harassment: Harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.
  • Sexual assault: “It’s actually harder to define than you’d think. According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Sexual assault is basically an umbrella term that includes sexual activities such as rape, fondling, and attempted rape.” (https://www.self.com/story/sexual-assault-definition)


3. ADVOCATE: Become a voice! Don’t stand in silence and pretend to ignore the issue that is affecting every fiber of our culture. Support initiatives that awaken hope and empower change. Shop Lovely and wear our “Not an Object” shirt to show your support!  Sign the FreeHer Manifesto at freehermovement.com

4. REPORT : 

  • If you have been physically assaulted or raped, call 911 or a trusted individual and go immediately to the hospital and request that a rape kit be administered and police report can be filed. 
  • To talk confidentially about a situation, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or chat online at online.rainn.org.
  • If harassment has happened via text or social media, do not delete, but save as evidence and report it school or police.
  • Schools:  If your child is harassed or grabbed/assaulted/stalked at school, encourage your child to tell a trustworthy teacher or counselor immediately. Always record the incident in writing using dates and a detailed description making sure to cite any witnesses. Begin reporting it in an email to the administration (a school counselor, dean, principal and/or teacher if applicable). This is important as emails are a paper trail and can be used as official documents if necessary. Request an appointment with the counselor, dean or principal as well as the teacher in whose classroom the incident occurred. Every school should have protocols on the issue of sexual harm/offense/harassment.


5. DEFEND: Defend your children, defend yourself, defend others. Go WITH your child, your friend, your coworker to the meetings with teachers, administrators, etc. Do NOT make them speak with their offender if they do not want to. Do not ask them to “forgive and forget” and thereby negate their pain. Encourage counseling and talking through action steps together. Shut down harmful conversations and stand up for others being harassed. 


Finally, men, we NEED you. The victims of sexual violence are still largely women, however, we know it happens to you too...and many of you have remained silent. Culture has told you to be embarrassed and darkness has sought to emasculate you.  We need your voice. Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse affects men and women alike. This is not a gender issue it is a HUMAN issue that affects all genders. And while the issue of sexual abuse has always been a part of human history, we have not had an accepted social obsession with sexual dominance and violence. Pornography and commercial sex have never been more accessible and acceptable than now. Nine years old is the average age that a boy views porn. Video games and YouTube are imbedding pornographic content in cartoons while Amazon is selling children’s shirts with sexually explicit content on them saying “Blow job is better than no job.” No lie, on Amazon. 

The cultural message has been: sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are part of what it means to be a woman or child. The message men have culturally received is one of dominance and power over women and children. But a new message is emerging, and the backlash will be widespread: we are “Not an Object”. We are humans with hearts and souls, made in the image of a beautiful God. As Christ followers, we must follow the way of prudence, temperance, justice, self control, kindness. We are people of virtue and noble character. We are not savages lusting for control and gratification at the expense of another. We are redeemed. Let’s live like it and empower, defend, and support the next generation in doing the same. 

#metoo,
Emily Mills

Founder, Jesus Said Love

Transition

Transitions are awkward and are often not given the grace or attention they need.  When I think of transitioning jobs or perhaps the move that I am in currently from one home to another, it rouses up a restlessness that leaves me clutching for the worst. Fast food, too much social media, and a total avoidance of exercise become the norm in a season of transition. Transitions also make me cling co-dependently to relationships with my husband, kids and closest friends when all else seems out of sorts - this is painful for all of us. When all has been uprooted, nothing feels safe. I am there, but not yet. I am here, but not really. I am almost, but not quite. Who truly can say they enjoy transitions? 

The truth is, I used to think I loved change - but really what I thought I loved was in reality, running. Change or transition is not the same as flight mode. Escaping uncomfortable feelings, tangible pain, difficult people, or God is not how we transition and grow forward. We simply return to ground zero.

But I actually love the idea of growth and change. Cognitively speaking, I can call it good and necessary. It’s the only thing you can ever count on. Change is a reality of the human condition. I have touted myself as a person friendly to change - but what’s been revealed these last three weeks is ugly.  I often liked the idea of change because it meant moving on. Change meant I had to “do” something. And if I was the one leading the charge for change, I especially liked it. I was the one controlling the response mechanisms and in a nutshell: change meant problem solving which usually equals doing something about the problem. I am so down for doing something about a perceived problem. 

Transition: a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: CHANGE:
a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.

I sit around the table every Monday with 6 courageous women who are in transition. They are literally morphing before my eyes, week to week through ACCESS, an 8 week, paid program where women transitioning out of the sex industry gain independence within the context of belonging. Of our six women, 4 have identified as human trafficking victims and all have undergone various levels of sexual trauma. They got to inform what our 2 hour block on Mondays looked like. I asked them to complete a general survey about their desires, goals, favorite foods and such so I could glean from their input and pray about what our class time might entail. To my surprise, 4 of the 6 desired to obtain a skill in the visual and performing arts: singing or acting. My heart was bursting. Of all the skills to name - singing and acting? Of all the instructors - me? And so our time on Mondays has consisted of dreaming, writing, singing, dancing, and listening. NOTHING is more universal than music. It is the language of heaven. It is the sound from which we were created. Before there was matter, there was sound. Notice - in the creation story, God never creates sound. It simply is. Music is a connection to essence. 

And in a season of transition and change, what we desperately need is connection to our spirit. That part of us where the holiness, unshakable, loving nature of God resides. I don’t know another way to connect than song, and the women desired to sing - and so we have. We have acknowledged the transitions in their lives and the grief that accompanies death of the old. We have reminded ourselves that we will always be facing a transition and in fact, have LIVED through them all. But have we lived them well? Have we allowed ourselves grace when we’re agitated and short tempered? Have we given ourselves permission to be sad and feel lonely in this space where so called “friends”, especially friends to have “fun” with, are gone? 

What has come of this time has been amazing language and imagery. Just yesterday one of our ACCESS sisters wrote a poem and shared it with us. Immediately the others said, “Emily, put that to music, sing THAT!” I shifted and shook a little… “what, like right now? Do any of you have a melody?”  Brett came out of his office and sat at the incredible baby grand donated to JSL, he began to play a simple chord structure...back and forth….back and forth...lulling and calling me to connection. I closed my eyes and waited for a tune.  Could I give total access to the Holy Spirit, be as childlike and vulnerable with this process in front of the others?  What if the poet didn’t like it? What if it was a crappy melody? What if the words didn’t fit into the meter? Could I change them or would she be offended? Nonsense. I had to let go. I had to venture out into this kind of exposure if I desired them to do the same. And so I sang her words:
                
“What was broken became strong -
What was soiled, what you thought was wrong.
Strength manifesting beauty, 
Every breath given peace, peace.

Watch her grow, tears of joy hit the sky
There is power, there is power when you cry
When you cry
When you cry

She’s a light in the darkness
My firefly, oh butterfly
Watch the harvest

Stunning, graceful, hope exudes
You feel Him, know Him, He is you. 
Living through us he made us strong
Firefly,
Butterfly,
Stay strong.”



The truth is, we are all in transition. Are we connecting to where God is moving us? Where God is desiring to grow us? Are we observant learners of ourselves. As we will roast the marshmallows and transition to falling leaves and carving pumpkins, can we bless all that has fallen away, can we grieve what we lost in the warmth and sunshine of summer? Can we find new mercies and joy for today?  If you need some help - cue the music. 


Emily Mills
Founder, Jesus Said Love

Love Letters: A Movement of Love

I have no fancy letters behind my name, I barely completed Baylor with a 2.75 GPA and couldn’t get hired thereafter college to save my new marriage. In fact, I don’t know why they let me into Baylor other than the grace of God in the form of my Sunday School teacher, Mary Burch, who drove me down, set up some meetings, and helped me figure out how to work as a student. My life has been grace upon grace. Am I smart? Yes. Creative? No doubt. Resourceful? My middle name is “Scrappy”. Hard working? Depends on what I’m working for. So before you go any further reading, you should really decide whether or not you want to listen. I am no theologian. My only qualification, like a couple of apostles I read about, is that I am an untrained person who has been with Jesus. 

Jesus has lead me, my husband, my children, on a road of listening hard and long to broken stories, broken hearts, broken lives, broken systems, broken churches, broken people - of which we are first in line. He led us to listen to women in the sex industry because 1. God knew I could lean my chair in toward the woman who has been neglected, abused, objectified and molested. God knew my heart would respond empathetically. But, 2. God knew that in learning from her, I would see the entire world differently.  She became our teacher to not only see ourselves, but to see the broken systems in the world. Because when you listen to those on the outside, your insides change.  Jesus knew this, which is why he modeled it in his life and ministry and told us to pick up our Cross and follow Him. 

Now, what about this Cross? What about Jesus? Is this Way really what I signed up for in when I was 8 years old at camp? Is this death to rights, comforts, addictions, and all evils truly what I’ve given myself over to? IF I have said “Yes” to Jesus then here’s to looking at my new life according to Jesus in Matthew 11:

I will be sent out like a sheep among wolves. I must beware of men who will deliver me over to courts and flog me in the religious establishments, I will be dragged before politicians and authorities because of the Gospel of Christ. I will experience division in my family of origin and my in-laws because of Jesus, because of the confrontation of evil -  son against father and mother against daughter. My love and allegiance to my family will be challenged because of Jesus, and my commitment to Christ must be first. In fact, my enemies will be those of my own household. I am not to fear. What Jesus tells me in the dark, I must say in the light of day and what I hear Him whisper to me, I must proclaim on every rooftop I can stand on. 

Seems a little salty. Matter of fact, more like sandpaper. Jesus did not profess allegiance to the political regime of his day. He didn’t tow any party line. Jesus was respectful to people, not broken systems - like touching women, the dead, lepers, and dining with “sinners”.  He turned over tables and called them  names like “whitewashed tombs”. He picked wheat when he wasn’t supposed to. He was angry - but without sin. Jesus didn’t just protest the system, He brought the Kingdom to bear within it. The apostle Paul was continually beaten by government regimes, jailed, brought before Caesar, shared his testimony, is brought again before the Jews as a fanatic of The Way (a crazy cooky sect that follows Jesus). Paul continually rails against the governing laws of the day but then says to us in Romans 13 to “be subject to the governing authorities”. Keep reading, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” 

But what if your rulers ARE terror not just to good conduct, but merely to being yourself? What about when civil liberties are taken away? What about when systemic oppression exists? What about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who would not bow down to an idol?  I bet they wouldn’t have stood with their hands over their hearts and sung the Babylon anthem either. What about in Acts 4-5 when Peter and John were told to quit talking about Jesus and they said “Nope. Not gonna do it.” (total paraphrase). What about when Hitler ruled and one of our Christian brothers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was on the oppressors hit squad? Dietrich was hung because of this, just days before the American liberation of POW camps. Perhaps you’re thinking, “but their resistance was for the name of God or Jesus, not civil liberties!” But isn’t religious freedom one of our civil liberties, one for which we, as Americans, revolted against Britain? Didn’t we build a better country, fleeing religious oppression? Yes! Except that we oppressed an entire race to build our freedom. This is where our history’s inception gets really hairy and according to the Scriptures, “you reap what you sow.” #karma

Here’s what we know according to Jesus: apparently we are really good at interpreting weather forecasts but not really good at getting the pulse on how God is currently at work in the world (again, my paraphrase Luke 13:54-59). We want to argue position rather than listen to each others interests. A history professor at Baylor, Dr. Beth Barr, recently told me that when her students get in debates regarding current topics, she usually brings in a story from history.  She told me, “there’s not nearly the fear in discussing controversial topics in history because we have survived them and the conflict has been resolved. There’s a common truth that humanity has landed on as to whether the fallout was true and just, or corrupt and evil.”  I hid that truth in my heart so I could remember it in times like these.  I know, according to the Holy Scriptures and history itself, that racism is evil. I know according the writings and teachings of Martin Luther King Junior, that he loved Jesus and modeled Christ-like behavior. Yet, most white people in the southern states resisted the Civil Rights movement, including white churches and I would presume, much of my family. I know according to history that Brown vs. Board of Education was ruled fairly. YET, many schools were formed AFTER this ruling to limit access to black students - including my hometown high school, Robert E. Lee in Tyler, Texas of which I was named Ms. Robert E. Lee in 1996.  After the Brown vs. Board ruling, my high school was built as far from “black town” as possible, cloaked in a confederate flag, given a Rebel mascot with young men dressed up in Civil War uniforms to fire off a cannon at football games. Again, this school was built AFTER the government ruled in favor of this law. (They are considering changing the name - learn more here.) 

Was Tyler, TX resisting government authority? Why was it okay for them to build a school that flew in the face of this law, but it’s not okay now for players to take a knee during the national anthem? 

This is tense stuff. How do we respond as people of The Way, that crazy cooky sect that got Paul, Dietrich, and these modern day martyrs killed? Scriptures state our allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom supersedes all else. So, what is the message of Christ? I think love is the truest, but hardest recipe.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” to the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:9-21


IN THIS SPIRIT: Jesus Said Love is inviting every person to participate in “Love Letters” to unleash a movement of Christ’s LOVE and Light on this earth. We had this idea a few weeks ago, but apparently today is “Love Note Day” so now it’s a no-brainer. Duh, we’re doing it. 

 

Share the LOVE!
Emily

Hurricane Harvey and Sex Exploitation

One thing is for certain, natural disaster doesn’t discriminate. Also certain, natural disaster hits the poor and disenfranchised the hardest. For the past few days Brett and I have spent hours on the phone with family, friends, churches, and ministry partners who are picking up the pieces OR simply still surviving the effects of Hurricane Harvey. From a club manager’s friend stuck on a roof with her children, to our own family wading in waist high water surrounding their home, our stomachs have been knotted with impact as we have watched the news. 

Houston is my husband’s hometown. Houston formed him, and therefore helped to form us. His home church family that spent their lives wrangling, teaching, and feeding him has been impacted. Heritage Park Baptist Church, we are with you. Houston is a city stacked with steeples and BIG ones. Houston has birthed and held some incredible ministries.

Houston is also a hub for sex trafficking and sex exlpoitation- it is now underwater. With more massage parlors and strip clubs than any other U.S. City, Houston is known to professional sports teams as a go-to city for sex. But what does it matter now when the city is flooded and people are stranded? It matters greatly. We cannot forget that victims of sex exploitation and trafficking, already traumatized, could literally be swept away in the flood. I have sat up wondering, what about the women in brothels with no identification and already terrorized? Did the pimps ditch them? Who will we find trapped when the waters recede? What about the runaways selling their bodies, the women who don’t own their own phone, the ones who don’t have access to their belongings - who has been there for them? Where are they? We cannot forget them. 

Our JSL Houston team extends love to those many deem “unlovable” or “too tough”, women in the commercial sex industry as well as victims of sex trafficking. Many of our women have estranged relationships with their families, are couch hopping, living paycheck to paycheck, struggle with addiction and mental illness, are single moms and have endured countless years of sexual trauma - usually starting at an early age. Many of our women fall below the poverty line even though they might make hundreds or even thousands in one night. The money isn’t theirs - it belongs to the pimp, or the club, or their drug habit. In Houston alone we reach 200 women every month with the love of Christ, unconditionally. We partner with several ministry organizations around the city who are serving to fight exploitation and build a new identity for Houston and its people. Many of our partner ministries have been hit hard: safe homes, victims and individuals interacting directly with them. 

Like Rahab who “lived in the city wall” of Jericho when it came tumbling down, many of our women live in the city of Houston, now underwater. Those who are hit hardest, are those with the least amount of resources. Those who have no family and middle class or wealthy friends to bail them out. No one to tell them where to file the insurance claims and how to handle the paperwork. Our women, already traumatized and struggling in life and recovery, have now been slammed with a catastrophic flood to survive. What I know is that our women are resilient, but resiliency doesn’t happen without support. Resiliency isn’t “pull up your bootstraps and handle it”. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after difficulty and no one can do that alone. 

So what is JSL doing to help? We are strategically gathering funds to help those most vulnerable in the wake of this disaster: victims of sex trafficking and sex exploitation, women in safe homes, single moms, the poor. We will be helping specifically Perpetual Help Home in Victoria, TX financially as they rebuild. If you want to give directly to PHH go to: www.perpetualhelphome.org  We are also in contact with Redeemed Ministries whose safe home in the Houston area was damaged and underwater. If you want to give directly to Redeemed visit: www.redeemedministries.com

Your support of JSL has blown us away in the past. You constantly have shown up and shown out where we have asked. Today, we are asking for donations in the wake of this disaster to support in relief efforts towards the least of these affected by Harvey. Please help us give aid to individuals and ministries across Houston and Southeast Texas. We desire to be a river of God’s love to those who feel forgotten and overlooked. 

Jesus is the rescue the church gets to extend in the form of physical help, finances, clothes, shoes, food, and connections. You are the body laid down for others that we get to embody before the world. It is time for the Bride to rise and shine. 
 

Emily Mills
Founder, Jesus Said Love