I went to Kentucky last week to visit my friend Jani Lewis. Jani founded the ministry Bruised Reed, which came out of a desire to reach women working in the sex industry. Jani felt called to this mission because she found herself lured in as a young single mom. What I found interesting about Jani’s story is that she came from a “good home”. She grew up with loving parents, in a safe environment. At the age of sixteen she “fell in love”. Her parents cautioned Jani, but she left home, married the young man, and soon learned she was pregnant. They were right on the cusp of marital bliss when Jani found out about her husband’s girlfriends. The marriage crumbled and Jani was left alone to support her infant son. The covering of shame and an element of pride kept Jani from admitting failure to her parents and returning home. Jani worked three jobs trying to keep afloat. One night while out with a friend she visited a club. From 5:00 - 9:00 it offered drinks and “dancing” and after 9:00 a band performed. Jani convinced herself that dancing was not a bad idea. She thought she would make enough money to move into a nice place in a safe neighborhood and then she would quit. Several months later she was still dancing, trying to make ends meet, and in the same terrible apartment. It took two years but eventually Jani was able to walk away from the industry.
Years later when her son became a bouncer in one of the clubs Jani knew she had to do something. Her son was able to get the club owner to agree to allow Jani and her daughter, Bethany, in one night a week to bring a home cooked meal. After weeks of being a constant on the scene women began to trust Jani and her daughter. If they had problems they would share with Jani and Bethany. Eventually they were able to help some ladies to rehab, support ones who decided to get out of the field and most importantly share the gospel and love of CHRIST. At one point Jani was ministering to five different clubs in Lexington, KY. One of my favorite quotes is,”speak the gospel everywhere and if necessary use words”. It is amazing to think what a home cooked meal led to.
For years Jani watched as many women in the clubs turned to drugs. Some of the women became so addicted and out of control they could not even perform up to “strip club standards”. These women would be thrown out and many turned to prostitution to survive. The LORD broke Jani’s heart for these women so she asked GOD how HE could use her to help them. At the same time the LORD had broken the hearts of two Lexington police officers and their wives. They were simultaneously asking the FATHER how to help these lost souls. New Years Day 2013 Jani received a phone call informing her the first murder of that year was a prostitute named Natalie. Jani knew Natalie and now knew it was time to act again.
Jani and the Lexington Police now partner in Jani’s new ministry called Natalie’s Sisters. They hit the streets together taking sack lunches and inviting women to to the Natalie's Sisters drop in center. The center is actually a home located in the middle of the neighborhood the women work. Instead of arresting the prostitutes, police give the ladies an opportunity to receive services while building a relationship with the volunteers of Natalie's Sisters. From 10-2 four days a week the women become a family. They sit around a table, the women share a meal together, they are offered community resources, they can make phone calls and set up appointments, the women talk about their problems and their hopes. They become people again. They are lavished in GOD’s love. They remember although they have been in many inhuman circumstances they are still human created in our Father’s image. The darkness that has enveloped them for some time must flee in the light of this place. When the dark is pushed back and these women come out of the shadows it is a beautiful thing! GOD is pleased to see HIS daughters extending and receiving HIS love. Oh how powerful that love is! It has broken chains and restored years the locust have eaten away!
At the end of the day when the center closes you can sense the gloom begin to creep in again. As the women gather their belongings and prepare to endure the long cold night the heaviness becomes difficult to bear...but Jani and the volunteers and the officers care more about what GOD says to do for HIS girls, than how they feel. Yes it is difficult, and most certainly it hurts to spend time pouring into the women only to see them chose to walk back into the cloak of darkness. However, the blessings of GOD are laid out along the path of obedience and many times that obedience seems “unreasonable”, as my good friend and pastor Bryan Collier stated. Nobody understood when GOD’s son went willingly to the cross. In death we were offered life. The kingdom of God is upside down. Death becomes life, and a prostitute a daughter of THE MOST HIGH KING.
“ For GOD so loved the world that HE gave his one and only SON, whoever believes in HIM will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In the book of Hosea The LORD uses the relationship of Hosea and Gomer as an embodiment of the spoken relationship between HIMself and The nation of Israel.
Read Hosea 1:1-3. What does the LORD instruct his prophet to do?
Read Hosea 2:7. What does Gomer/Israel do?
Read Hosea 3:1-3. How is this similar to the New Testament covenant?(Romans 3:23-26)
*Recommended reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers