God gave our YWAM team members a powerful key for both walking in freedom and leading people who were coming out of very broken lifestyles to walk in freedom. He led us to create a culture of gut honesty and accountability within our relationships. Every morning, the house staff met and openly shared whatever they were struggling with. People would admit, "I just wanted to get drunk yesterday," or "I was jealous of you," or "I was really struggling with lust last night."
Not only did this accountability help us guard our hearts since we lived in such a perverse culture; it also introduced those brand new believers to the idea that "normal Christians" actually did confess to and pray for one another, just as the New Testament taught. Because we as a staff were already doing it with one another, it was easy to turn to our street roommates or people at the breakfast table and ask, "Hey, how are you struggling? How can we pray for you?" They saw no pretense, no religious effort to appear holy and righteous. Instead, they saw what may be the central formula, if there is a formula, of the Bible: God gives grace to the humble, but He opposes the proud. We all need lots of grace!
This practice of mutual confession was not something mandated by YWAM; it was something we chose as a team because we saw that without a release valve for what we were dealing with on a daily basis, we would not last long. Our neighborhood was rough, to say the least. I could walk two blocks from my house to the men's house and county fifty prostitutes on the street, many of them selling drugs as well as their bodies. We had to have someone on duty in the houses around the clock. If you have ever worked with street people, you know most of them do not sleep at night. Many are kicking their drug habits. After living for so long in such an unsafe environment, they have nightmares and other manifestations of fear. The stress involved in helping such people will make most anyone start looking for some comfort and relief pretty quickly. God has provided a Comforter for us, but if we do not plug into Him, we will seek an illegitimate, counterfeit comfort somewhere else. As a staff, we fought to help one another stay plugged in to our true Source.
Of course, the payoff made it all worthwhile - the reward of seeing the real Gospel at work setting people free from bondages and addictions. I am not joking when I say that literally every day we saw people getting saved, healed and delivered. It was powerful.
I will never forget one of the prostitutes we helped. Over several months, I frequently saw her on the streets. A few times I handed her a business card with our crisis hotline number on it and invited her to call us when she wanted out. We had to let these girls find a safe moment to call us, because their pimps were watching them and would go to great lengths to keep them on the streets.
Sometimes we got a call from a girl who said, "I'm at the such-and-such bar. My pimp is watching me, but I want out. Can you come and get me right now?" If all went well, the girl would find a way to sneak outside and meet us safely, but sometimes her pimp would spot us and chase us through the city. Other times, as I have mentioned, pimps would break into the shelter house and forcibly try to take their girls back. Freedom was risky for these prostitutes, and often the girls would stay on the streets until something happened to make them desperate.
In the case of this particular girl, that desperate moment of decision came when her pimp decided, in a fit of rage, to beat her up with an iron. She called us from the emergency room. They had to shave her head in order to stitch up all her head wounds. I brought her home from the hospital and shared the Gospel with her, which she immediately accepted. The transformation in her life was dramatic. God freed her from anorexia and drug addiction, and she grew healthy and whole in every way. Wonderfully, she ended up marrying a pastor and going into full-time ministry.
I lost track of this girl after I moved out of Los Angeles, but five years later, when we both wound of doing a three-month ministry crash course in England, she ran up to me out of the blue and threw her arms around me. I hardly even recognized her. You would have never guessed that she was the same woman I had picked up from that emergency room. She was living, breathing proof that our Savior truly does make all things new.
EXCERPT from Outrageous Courage
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