I remember when we first started this journey: as much as the work of JSL has benefitted those we reached, there was a lot of work yet to be done in me. And I am still learning on this recovery road.

One of the most debilitating practices within most ministries and non profits is that of enablement. (See the book: Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton) Hey, most of us are guilty of enabling someone. Some of us are hard wired toward it. I’ve learned in Al-Anon there are 5 M’s of my disease: Meddling, Mothering, Managing, Manipulating, Martyrdom. I think I have embodied them all at some point. Not a single one of those M’s is who I am but what I have done in response to brokenness. There’s a 6th M that can remain really pure at it’s core until it pairs with one of the aforementioned 5: Ministry.

JSL had a lot of un-learning to do in what ministry looked like and what had previously been modeled for us in many southern, evangelical circles. Several local, state, and international movers and shakers as well as authors and mentors, who help us to see our blind spots. My in-learning began when I took “poverty in waco” as a PE credit at Baylor. We were taught by Jimmy Dorrell, founder and president of Mission Waco/Mission World. His idea of Gospel driven ministry was incarnate living, proximate to suffering, and a resounding dignity of the poor. This class wrecked much of my white, privileged social-economic middle class lens but a classroom can’t teach you what real life can.

It wasn’t until years later, after reaching women in the sex industry for years, that we began to really put to practice what we professed to believe. If the women we reached wanted jobs more than anything, we needed to have a solid path to get them there. We weren’t simply staring at homelessness or unemployment but major sexual trauma, addiction and mental health setbacks. We were often staring in the eyes of a human trafficking victim who far outlived her odds but still battled paranoia and suicidal ideation with four kids in tow and no car. The system was ill-fitting, she fit in some boxes but not all...one woman would require a multi-agency, multi-faceted approach to healing - unique for her specific needs. How could we fill in the gaps in the system while holding space for story. This would have to be a new concept within a very nurturing space to hold her transformation. Getting a job is a feat. Keeping a job is a miracle....but starting their own business? This would blow our minds.

After completing ACCESS 1 (our innovative, holistic 8 week program that offers women from the sex industry a livable wage stipend as they transition out) women are then able to apply for a micro loan by entering ACCESS 2. This is a self paced program where they are guided by our staff in creating a business plan and pitch. We have already seen what women across the world are capable of in transforming global communities. Victims of trafficking in Haiti, Thailand, Cambodia, India and Uganda are rising and creating sustainable livings - that are changing generations behind them. But what about the US? It is harder work here. There is far more red tape in business start ups, the livable wage is higher and cost of property is more expensive. Securing investors is far more competitive and well, quite frankly, there’s not a lot of solid opportunities for Impoverished to make the jump from the subsidized housing to middle class sustainable living.

And STILL SHE RISES!!!! Tomorrow we will host our first round of ACCESS 2 students as they pitch their businesses to our Dream Team to secure a $5K loan. The Dream Team includes an all-star panel of brilliant minded women: Caroline Thornton (co-founder of Waco Work), Diane Heavin (Co-founder of Curves International), Andrea Barefield (Waco City Council), Genevieve Peel (Managing Director Hole In The Roof Marketing), and near and dear to us coming full circle - Summer Shine (owner Luna Juice Bar & Sunshine Recovery Homes)!

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