by Maria Gambone DeJesus, current ISM intern at NightLight Bangkok
It was my first day ever on outreach with the NightLight Bangkok team or in a red-light district. I remember feeling so small and completely lost as to what I was supposed to do. What did God expect of me? What did NightLight staff expect of me? As I prayed through these questions and worries, Lucia, one of our marketing staff, grabbed her camera and a candle, and led me out of the quiet, cozy outreach building and into the busy, city night-life. She then had me stand in front of the neon lights of the main club area, placed the candle in my hands, and lit it. This is how I spent the first 20 minutes of my very first outreach – standing in the middle of darkness literally holding a candle.
As we stood there, I felt the atmosphere of everyone around us change as they gazed at that candle. I could see people looking from the street and from their bar stools, thinking, pondering. I sensed that if any of those individuals had ever had the smallest experience with God before that night, the Holy Spirit was stirring up those memories, questions and convictions in their hearts. I began praying to that effect. Some people passed us by with a smirk, as if they were in tune with an insider’s secret. Then, an Indian man walked up to us and asked us if we were praying. Mind you, I was just standing there waiting while Lucia walked around me with her professional camera shooting pictures, SURROUNDED BY SEDUCTION AND OPPORTUNITY. Yet, that man instantly thought about spiritual things. In those minutes, God answered my nervous heart saying “I’m not asking you to do anything but walk, sit, be where I send you, to carry my light and to trust that, yes, my presence is this powerful. Watch with anticipation and I will use you in spite of yourself. Just hang out, be yourself, make friends, be in love with me. Listen to me at all times and watch what I WILL DO.” It was then that I finally understood why NightLight leaders advise that if anyone asks what we are doing in that place to say, “We’re just visiting friends and making new ones.”
Recently, this message came to me again from the testimony of an elder cousin. She grew up in inner city Philadelphia, known for some of the highest crime rates in the USA. But to her, as a little girl, this neighborhood was home. She would walk by the street-corner drug dealers on her way to play at her friend’s house. The neighbors would talk about who graduated, dropped-out, got married, got arrested. As she grew older and started to realize the things she was seeing weren’t right, she had no idea what to do about it. After her parents put their faith in Christ as adults, she began to see their corner dry cleaning store turn into a light for that neighborhood. Somehow, the community members sensed that it was a safe place. They would walk in and, whether on purpose or in response to a simple question such as “how are you today,” they would begin pouring out their burdens and hurts. She saw her parents love, pray with and minister to many in that neighborhood. With willing hearts, they gave their everyday lives, including their business, to serve God. There, in that broken community, in everyday relationships, God used them to glorify Himself and shine a big light. She concluded her story by saying “I tell you this story so that you know and remember that the light ALWAYS outshines the darkness. Just by you all being there, things have changed in that place. Trust that God’s light in you will ALWAYS outshine whatever darkness you see.”
So in the hard moments – like when I’m sitting next to a half-naked, 40-year-old woman whose circumstances led her to prostitution and my heart breaks because all I can do is sit there and listen – God brings me back to the minutes I stood there holding that candle. When I’m angry that God keeps walking me even deeper into an awareness of the pains and sins present in our world, and I don’t want to know any more, God reminds me of His power to save. When I don’t feel like I’m strong enough, experienced enough or skilled enough to do much of anything to help, He reminds me to trust in this truth: that the light will ALWAYS outshine the darkness, ALWAYS. So, following the example of my leaders, I keep pressing forward and I fight to trust God with all circumstances.
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