March 02, 2015
Sadie and I pull into a parking space near the massage parlor but not directly in front of it. A small sign proclaiming “Foot massages" hangs in the window. Next to the sign is a picture of a foot with all its parts labeled in Chinese.
We prayed just before we left her house, ten minutes ago. We pray again now. “Father, go ahead of us. You know all about the women working in this place. You love them. Please let Your love shine through us." We take a gift bag from the backseat and go into the parlor. A woman stands behind the counter. “Massage?" she asks.
We tell her, no, we're from a church nearby and we're here with a gift for her. We just want to say hello.
The gift rattles her, and she looks around for something to offer us. “Water bottles?" She holds out one to each of us.
Sadie and I were told during our training to expect this, and we accept them, tell her thank you, and then leave.
When we are back in the car, we pray once more, thanking the Lord we were able to talk to a woman, to place the gift directly in her hands. We ask that the Bible verse—printed in Chinese—along with the candies and small treats inside the bag would be a testimony to His goodness, and we pray that the woman will be intrigued by the New Name business card and seek out more information.
New Name is a local ministry that partners with area churches to reach out and walk alongside women in sex trafficking and adult entertainment industries. It does this in two ways: 1) Outreach-pairs of women visit local adult entertainment venues with a gift bag containing a card with Scripture, candies, lotions, etc.; 2) Call Centers-women volunteers at churches make calls to women advertised online for prostitution, offering prayer and resources.
Since New Name was started in 2009 by Rez member Heather Anderson, it has expanded exponentially under its current leader, Anne, who attends another local church. Men and women at Resurrection have led weekly prayer times for New Name, donated generously to gift bags, and volunteered for outreach at various times since then. Due to the increasing numbers of volunteers from multiple churches, Anne encouraged local churches to start their own New Name chapters and thereby reach more venues. Currenly 12 chapters of New Name are based in local churches, each overseeing regular outreach, prayer, and gift bags for different venues.
Resurrection has not had its own New Name chapter—until now.
Resurrection attender Sadie Singer contacted Anne a couple months ago about joining New Name as a volunteer. A couple weeks later, I did the same. Sadie and I had never met, but Anne knew we both go to Rez, and she connected us. We both received New Name training and Anne helped us create an outreach route. She suspects all the businesses on our route are involved in sex and/or labor exploitation. We have visited each spa on our route twice now. On our second visit, we learned the names of two of the women, and one of them gave each of us a hug. All of them remembered us from our first visit. We will continue to visit these women every two weeks in the hope that we will be a visible sign of God's love for them. We have also planned our first Call Center night to phone women advertised for prostitution.
We want our New Name chapter to grow. If you are a Resurrection woman and this issue tugs at your heart, please contact Jen Underwood to find out ways you can be involved.
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November 25, 2014
Communion during my childhood felt like the bridge challenge my brother and I gave ourselves whenever we were on road trips. We’d see a bridge a little ways ahead, breathe fast in-out, in-out, and then, as soon as the car was out over space rather than earth, try to hold our breath till we made it to the other side. Our faces turned pink with the effort; we stared at each other with wide eyes, daring the other to hold on just a little longer; and we sucked in fresh air as soon as we were back on solid ground.
Communion was much the same; on rare and random Sundays the silver towers of tiny crackers and grape-juice-filled cups came near, and I would hold my breath—because I was terrified of taking Communion “in an unworthy manner."
First came the searching for past sins. I began at perhaps a week before and scoured my actions and thoughts up to that present moment. Discover-confess; discover-confess.
Then I held on. My main thought—prayer?—was “Don’t do anything. Please, God, don’t let me commit any new sins. Blank mind, blank mind. Don’t look at anyone.”
I simply had to make it till the two silver trays made their way past and the pastor said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Then the wafer was popped in the mouth. Hold it; try to be thankful in this moment—Remember, this is Christ’s sacrifice. A lot of pain went into my forgiveness!—don’t sin, don’t sin. Then came the juice—accompanied by guilt at my enjoyment of its sweet taste.
Finally, the release of breath. The feeling that, if I were to sin at that point or thereafter, it wouldn’t be quite as big a deal.
Communion was not a celebration; it was an ordeal.
Not now—and I am grateful to the children at Rez for their part in this transformation.
I cannot deny it was a shock to my fundamentally-brought-up soul to see tiny children taking the bread and cup my first Sunday at Resurrection. But week after week, as I watched little ones joyfully bounce up to accept the gifts, something began to resonate within me.
This, this, I wanted to shout one week, is the way to accept it! No pride, no self-awareness, in complete weakness, presenting nothing, simply ACCEPTING.
Communion brings me back to the Gospel, again and again. Like the children, I have nothing to offer, nothing to exchange, and I never will. I come forward with a confidence that is based solely in Christ.
I simply accept the Gift.