I recently passed the 10-year mark since I became a full-time pastor and preacher. According to my best estimation, there have been over a thousand instances where I have stepped in front of a group of people believing that God had given me something to say. It’s a crazy concept, I know, and if I’m asked which of those instances felt like it had the most gravity, I won’t hesitate with my response. It wasn’t any of the times I’ve spoken to thousands in an auditorium. It was the time I had the honor of speaking to 30 on a rooftop.
My 10 days overseas with the leadership of Rescue:Freedom showed me 3 fundamental truths:
1. Evil is real, and more powerful than we think.
Walking through red light districts in two different cities, feeling the tangible darkness as you see vacant eyes peering out of a brothel window, watching apathetic passers-by unaffected by the oppression that is part of their “normal”—moments like these, lined up back-to-back for a week and a half eliminate any doubt that evil is alive and well, leaving despair in its wake.
2. Hope is real, and defeats evil every time.
The aforementioned rooftop was just feet away from a string of brothels, and the aforementioned 30 people were prostituted women, with a few brothel owners mixed in. I had the honor of stepping before them, looking them in the eye, and sharing with them that their worth is not determined by what men are willing to pay to exploit them. It was among the most important moments of my life. But the most powerful part of this memory, is not the hope that some of those precious women may have found that blistering afternoon, but rather in the hope that most of them had found already. Hope was in the red light district long before I shared it, because people, like those working at this particular Rescue:Freedom site, had been faithfully demonstrating it for years. Medical assistance, clothing, education, child care, friendship…all demonstrations of an unconditional love that cuts through hopelessness by celebrating the value many don’t initially believe they possess. Light springs up from such demonstrations, and darkness has no choice but to flee. If this sounds naive to you, walk into one of these safehomes expecting to find despair, and instead observe unexpected joy on the faces of the formerly hopeless. You’ll come around.
3. Being an Ambassador of Hope is worth the sacrifice.
The church community I have the privilege of serving speaks the language of generosity fluently. When they heard of the opportunity to accelerate the hope that is working its way into the most broken parts of the world, they were all in. “What if our new church of 200 people could raise $130,000 to fund a new home for those rescued from the red light district? What if our first building campaign was for a building on the other side of the world most of us will never step foot in?” Our people spoke sentiments like these (and sacrificed accordingly to see those sentiments become reality), because people who have experienced hope tend to do seemingly irrational things so others can experience the same.
The Rescue:Freedom community is made up people who have tapped into one of life’s great secrets—that true joy is found in pouring yourself out for the benefit of others. The 12 year-old who gives away her birthday money. The engaged couple that repurposes their wedding registry. The middle-aged business executive with no outdoor experience who wills himself up a mountain with Climb for Captives. The young family that skips a vacation to take their support to the next level. These stories all reflect an unexpected truth—that you find true life when you lay yours down in order to help others.
This fall I’ll be back to cut a ribbon in celebration of “The House That Hope Built”. At some point I’ll stand on that rooftop, and smile at the darkness I’ll see on the horizon. Because home by home, life by life, sacrifice by sacrifice, hope is winning.
And there’s nothing the darkness can do to stop it.
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