Kelli is a heroin addict and a prostitute. She does sexual favors for cigarettes. She has been enslaved by sex traffickers, abused by her alcoholic father, and written off as useless by the world. She is a high school drop-out, yet surprisingly intelligent and articulate. She is ashamed of herself, yet knows there is something better for her. She feels worthless, yet somehow knows she is of infinite worth. Kelli is a paradox: she fits neatly into stereo-types, but defies most of them at the same time.
I came across Kelli while I was walking the streets one night with a group of college students. I thought I was just showing them around our parish, but God had bigger plans. At the end of the walk, as I was taking the students back to their cars, there was Kelli. She was walking with a man we later found out she was about to “service.” She saw this group of students and called out to them asking what they were doing, if they were a church, and if they would pray for her. I didn’t think too much of it really, this kind of thing happens a lot on the streets. So we crossed the street to pray for her and that is when God surprised us. As the group prayed Kelli began to weep and fall to the ground. I began to talk with her, find out about her, and finally ask her if she wanted to be free this very night. She desperately did, but not just in some other worldly spiritualist way, rather in a very concrete “my life depends on it” kind of way. The would-be client walked away and God’s church went into full action.
Church on the Street doesn’t have a detox/rehab center. We don’t have a shelter. Instead, we walk the streets, befriending the thrown away stranger, hoping for God to surprise us. That night He did. We called our partners in ministry, Night Light Atlanta. Courtney, the director, informed me that there was little that could be done that night, but that she would make sure that first thing in the morning Kelli would be taken care of. So I took two female volunteers with me and we put Kelli up in a hotel and supplied her with some basic needs. After spending some time with her we left, but the two volunteers and Courtney checked in on her during the night. The next day Courtney came through as promised. She met up with Kelli and took her to a hospital where they will hold Kelli until space in a detox unit and rehab center opens up. It may take a couple of days. Meanwhile, volunteers from different churches and backgrounds sit with Kelli around the clock praying, talking, laughing and crying together. The world may have written Kelli off, but God redeems the lonely and afflicted (Psalm 25:16-22).
I love it when God surprises me. I love being a part of the church. And I love that you have allowed me to be your missionary to the streets.