I've started to write this post at least a dozen times. I feel like it's something I'm constantly faced with in this ministry. I also feel like no one else (save my teammates and those in similar ministries) will understand and so I struggle to put down in words what is so evident to my heart and mind but likely foreign to the rest of the world (ok, maybe not the WHOLE world!).
We are often asked what our success rate is in ministry. I think that means "how many people have been saved and are now radically living for Jesus, off the streets and walking in abundant life?"
To which I would reply "maybe one or two...". Then I start working on my resume and filling out job applications because apparently I'm just wasting everyone's time and need to do something else with my life, something "successful".
But God has changed my perspective and now my reply is different... now I say, "we have redefined success and we have new successes everyday." I didn't just come up with that to make all of us feel better about spending our time, money and talents on this ministry, but because I actually believe it.
As I write this my heart is grieving the choice a young woman made earlier today to leave the safe house we had brought her to and go.... well, I don't actually know where she went, but I would guess back to her pimp. She called just last night and we picked her up and took her to a safe place for the night. This morning the battle was intense and I honestly believe that she wanted to choose life but she just wasn't quite ready. And you, like me, may be really tempted to be discouraged by that story but we shouldn't be. We should see it as a great success that she held onto our number and called when she wanted help, that she took a step of faith even if it was small, that she saw that there are people who care and are willing to sacrifice to help her choose life...when she's ready.
So for us success looks like a young woman taking one of our gift bags, telling us part of her story, letting us pray for her, or calling us when she needs help. Last week I asked one of the women if what we were doing was a blessing to her. Not because I wanted her to give me a pat on the back but because I have no intention of wasting my time or hers, if we need to change how we are reaching out, I want to know. Her response was powerful. She said, "Sure it's just a gift bag and that's not what we really need, but everytime you come out here and give us one, we know that someone cares about us and that means a lot. No one cares about us, prostitutes die all the time and no one cares." And so maybe that's what success looks like, proving to someone who feels abandoned and rejected that someone actually cares and that that's not going to change.
We would love to see these women coming to Christ and leaving the streets in droves and perhaps we will someday, but for now, we have redefined success and we praise God for His faithfulness in each and every one of them. It is His work, done by His Spirit, in His time. Maybe success looks like us being faithful when we don't see the results we expect.
"Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down. The LORD shall reign forever--Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!" Psalm 146:5-10
*Would you keep praying for D, the young woman we were able to minister to these last 24 hours? She has tasted and seen....pray that she will return and receive life!