to hell and back

holding a miracle baby born in the brothels of southern sudan

I stood surrounded by smoldering rubbish heaps topped with tin shacks.  The sun was dipping low in the sky as men swaggered by in drunken stupors.  I carefully picked my way between burning trash and the streams of sewage that carved out the landscape.  One thought crossed my mind.  This was a corner of hell on earth crying out for heaven.

Women lounged in doorways looking for customers.  They sold themselves for the same price as a box of juice on the streets to pay their rent.  Daughters who became mothers before they were children.  Mothers who never got to be daughters.  Their disease ridden bodies their only source of income: trapped by circumstances, choices and bondage.

I could hear demons cackle over their charges as I walked by.  I stepped into the tin shack alley way and met a beautiful young woman sitting in her door way waiting… crocheting table covers that were dainty rose patterns joined.  I was stunned by the irony of such beauty being created amidst such brokenness.  Stopping, I looked into two scared, beautiful eyes set in a dainty face.

“Your work is beautiful,” I told her.  She smiled and brought me a chair.  We began to talk.  I told her just like she was creating things of beauty and was proud of them– Jesus created her and thought she was beautiful.  It was her turn to be stunned.  Her eyes looked down, her smile became shy like a little girl who had been told she was pretty for the first time.  I could see the words penetrate beyond the harshly made up exterior.

Four feet away from us the wall bounced violently as bodies slammed into it in a drunken brawl and voices screamed profanity only faintly masked by the mind-numbing dance music blaring through the windows.  She and I kept talking just like we were on a porch in the cool of the evening sipping lemonade.

I bought her crochet work.  50 sudanese pounds.  That would be the equivalent of 10 men.  Will I use it on my table?  I don’t know.  But perhaps for one night she can close her door and not entertain customers.  Perhaps she will remember me looking into her eyes giving her the dignity of being seen and not judged.  Perhaps the call to embrace her destiny beyond this hellish corner will echo in its stillness louder than the deafening atmosphere around her.

Maybe her storm might abate even a little even for a night.  Or better yet, maybe she will find the one Who is true, pure Love itself, Who is inviting her to dance through the storms into her destiny in Him.

In the middle of a storm filled with violation and violence, addiction and abuse, pain and shame the light of heaven penetrated this corner of darkness pushing it back for one moment of hope.  Beauty is longing to be created in our most broken places.

While I have never prostituted my body, there have been times I have walked through broken seasons and sold out to lesser loves, even in the name of ministry.  Lesser loves of performance and striving, of fear of man, of fearing to fail.  Letting my heart run after other loves is no less a prostitution in heaven’s eyes.  But every time grace calls my gaze back to my first Love, Jesus.  And every time He brings beauty out of the brokenness and leads me deeper into His heart.  Every time I am reminded of the One who went to hell and back for me.  Now we can bring heaven to the corners of hell on earth through the power of His love.

(repost from Dancing Through the Storm: Living a Life of Love that Outshines the Darkness, my new dedicated blog for an upcoming writing project 😉 aka future book.  You can follow it too and receive posts by email.)

9 thoughts on “to hell and back

  1. I’m glad you spoke with that girl. I am a 50 yr old woman who 30 yrs ago was her. Wow seems like many lifetimes ago. But Father may take her life and do so many wonderful things. She indeed may be wearing new shoes (in the spirit) with your gift. His ways are so….so…indescribable. A kaliedascope of white butterflies dancing to the rythm of Love. Oh, its so hard to describe unless you live in it and through it huh? Like cancer me thinks:-) God Bless you baby girl of his:-)

  2. We are blown away. You make it possible for us to walk with you and feel the pain and the hope. You are a light of encuragement and inspiration. Thanks for helping us see through Jesus’s eyes

    1. I so love you guys! Hugest of hugs from Kampala… not long now! I hope I get to see you when I am in FL maybe maybe… or at least we’ll catch up on the phone 😉

  3. oh, amen, yes it does (grace, calls back my gaze)–every time. I remember reading that God told someone He was sending overseas, “Just show up.”
    Glad I found your blog tonight. really enjoyed it.

  4. Michelle,
    Jesus love shining through you is earth shattering. My heart is challenged and moved by Our Saviour’s love reaching out through your hands, eyes and words.
    God Bless You and give protection and grace for all the broken lives you are touching and healing in Jesus precious name.
    Love you sis, Louise

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