Where do I begin? At which part? At what twist and turn? How do I accurately describe the terror, the joy, the fear, the exhilaration, the despair, and the encouragement? I probably just don't...I probably can't. But I'll try.
It would be a crime for me not to first express the gratitude and awe I have for those who work at One Ministry. These folks put themselves in danger as they fight on the front lines of a war that feels, at times, completely hopeless. And they do this ALL in the name of Jesus. They, without hesitation, walk right into the middle of total darkness and evil not once doubting that the Lord God is with them at all times. They are living testimonies of an omnipresent and omniscient God. They will tell you...they could not and would not do what they do without God's favor and God's protection. And we received the privilege and blessings that came forth from simply going along with them on the ride of a lifetime.
We arrived in New Orleans Friday afternoon around 4. We all tried our best to rest up for what we knew would be an all-nighter. Around 6 we met up for dinner and enjoyed a classic New Orleans cuisine meal having NO idea of what the night had in store. Around 7:30 we made our way into New Orleans East to meet up with the fearless leaders and volunteers of One Ministry. We spent the first part of our evening listening to story after story of how One works at putting a stop to human trafficking on the streets of New Orleans. This is just a portion of what they do. Later, we were told what to expect in the early hours of Saturday morning. We were told of the positive relationships that had been made at a local Gentlemen's Club. The owner and employees of this particular club have grown to love our friends at One, and they were really looking forward to the breakfast that was going to be served in their honor. Some of our One friends went around 10 p.m. Friday night to drop off the table we were going to later need for our food items. When they got there, the girls who work at the club had put out pink balloons at the front door in honor of our friends at One. Just that simple act, alone, showed us how cherished our One friends are AND how effective their ministry is becoming to the broken on the streets of New Orleans.
We spent the early hours of Saturday morning preparing goody bags for both the men and women of the club while also spending a great deal of time in prayer. My dear husband felt drawn to Joshua 1:9 and even prayed it over each member of our group. Some of us actually had written this verse out on an index card and placed it in our pockets so that the Word of God went with us everywhere we went that night and early morning. We had no idea how much these words would mean to us later...
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
At 2:30 a.m., we loaded up our vehicles with breakfast food, decorations, goody bags, Bibles, and bottled waters and started making the drive to the mission field God had very specifically called us to, yet none of us could have ever imagined or even dreamed up. The closer we got to our destination, the more anxious I became. As I saw club after club with parking lots full of people and cars, I thought to myself...what have we gotten into? When we stopped at a red-light, I thought...I can jump out now and run. But the fear of what I might find myself in on the streets of New Orleans kept me paralyzed. As we turned into the parking lot of the club where we'd be serving, complete and total panic set in. There were at least a hundred people, mostly men, congregating outside the entrance to the club. The volume of their conversations was so loud; I couldn't tell if they were screaming, yelling or laughing. We all stood outside our cars and prayed before we made our way to the front door of the club. There were 12 of us women who would go inside to serve and hang out with the women of the club. Our 7 men would stay right outside next to the front door. All I can say at this point is...I had no idea that our experience inside the club would be totally different from what I ever expected, AND it would also be very different from what our men would have to endure outside on the terrifying streets of New Orleans.
Stay tuned for New Orleans Part 2.