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Long before I knew anything about human trafficking and it’s victims I had a dream to build and run a home for hurting women. The dream abruptly died two years ago, but as I became acquainted with the truth of human trafficking, my dream returned and expanded.
In December I was fasting and praying for the floor where I was working … praying for direction for those in authority, for those residing on the floor and that God would show me what my part was. As I meditated it seemed that everywhere I looked I saw the words, “I am going to get you out of here, “”But, God”, I protested, I am not praying to leave the Dream Center, only for wisdom for all involved.
New Years Eve I was on night duty and some things transpired that made me certain I could no longer support the program I was in. Ever since returning from Oregon I had been struggling and even though I don’t agree with everything, I love the Dream Center and I believe in what they are doing, I also believe that if you agree to work somewhere it is their rules you need to follow and I could no longer do that.
I am so blessed to have been at the DC. I have learned so much and have made friends that will be life long. There are some incredible people there and some amazing stories of redemption. I have also learned that God works in spite of us.
The day I left the Dream Center two friends called me and were at a loss as to what to do with their lives. We began talking and I mentioned that most of my adult life I have wanted to get away, fast, pray and mediate. As I talked they got more excited and to make a long and very complicated story short, we decided to go camping and to seek God’s direction for our lives.
We are now camping in the southern part of California. God has provided amazing weather and already some amazing answers to prayer.
In the beginning we were very cold, but at peace. It hasn’t always been easy, but we are rejoicing. We cook on a propane stove with very few provisions, but we are filled.
After I left the Dream Center I prayed that God would forgive me for sometimes being a problem, for being so unconventional, so different … crazy if you will, and I heard a small still voice say, “I made you exactly the way you are for a reason and I love you.”
I believe that God is directing me to volunteer at a another program for the rest of my time here in California and in the summer will be heading back to Oregon to make my dream of opening a home a reality.
In the last few months my life has finally began to make sense to me. It has all been for a purpose and I am free. Free to choose who is in control of my joy … no matter where I am or what the circumstances … free to choose to worship God or not … I choose to … and, finally … at the end of all my strength, I found utter weakness. In my weakness, I have found God as my source and in that complete weakness He is showing Himself strong.
Thank you God!
I pray for the little girls who feel that unwanted hand on them at night
I pray for the little girls who never get held or feel loved
I pray for the little girls who are screaming for help on the inside
I pray for the little girls who feel like help is never coming
I pray for the little girls who have to pretend to be asleep
I pray for the little girls who feel shameful and dirty
I pray for the little girls who do not know the real meaning of love
I pray for the little girls who feel helpless and unworthy
We see our darkness and sin as a prized possession because it drives us stronger into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair and for some self destruction.
“But I will call on God and the Lord will rescue me morning, noon and night. I cry out in my distress and the Lord hears my voice. He ransoms me and keeps me safe from the battle waged against me. Though many still oppose me. God who has ruled forever, will hear me and humble them.” Psalm 55:16-19
No pain is too heavy for the Lord.
Written by M
Published with permission
I would never have guessed when I started this blog that the very thing I was assigned to do at the Dream Center, I would not be able to write about. For that very reason I have not posted recently, but in thinking about it I have decided to start posting about other things; lessons learned, observations etc.
To say the least, I have been busy. Too busy really, but I am so grateful that I have family and friends near so that I can get away when possible and rest.
Do I still love the Dream Center and what I am doing? That is an unequivocal yes. In fact, I am so passionate and am so dedicated to what I am doing that I have signed up for another 6 months. It does mean that I will have to raise support to sustain myself. I have been so grateful for those of you that have helped me during these past months. If not for you I would not have been able to do what I have done.
It also means that I will have to take a break during most of the month of November to fulfill previously made obligations. I will be with family and friends for an early Thanksgiving in Oregon and am really looking forward to that.
We can’t all volunteer at the DC, we can’t all pick up our pillow and go, but by praying and supporting me you are just as much a part of what is happening as I am. I have been so delighted to have my daughter and her son volunteer at the DC on occasion. The door is open for any of you to come and stay a day, a week, a month or longer. I will warn you that it will change your life.
Personally, I can never imagine myself living an ordinary life, in an ordinary house, doing ordinary things, when I know that I am at a place in my life where I can make different choices. It is not for everyone, but it is for me and I am so excited for what God is doing at the DC and in my life.
… never again make or even read another prostitute joke. 85% of prostitutes were molested as young girls and the majority have been forced into it in one way or another. According to the LAPD there are thousands of children in our country kidnapped or sold into prostitution each year.
… never again stare if I happen to see a prostitute peddling her wares. The average age of girls going into prostitution is 12. Think about the implications of that!
… never again look disparagingly at a prostitute long past her prime. Who was there to rescue her? Was I? Were you? Was she kidnapped as a young girl? Was she sold? What is her story? I know it would break your heart … the stories break mine.
… never again watch movies that depict prostitution in a favorable or unfavorable light. It is an ugly, life destroying, evil beyond the imagination business, and I refuse to have any part of it.
… never again believe that if it is happening somewhere else, to someone else that I have no responsibility. What if it were my daughter? Would I make jokes then, stare, be disparaging? Do nothing? Would you?
That woman on the street is someone’s daughter, often someone’s mother. God loves her and so do I.
I’m sitting outside the 2nd floor laundry waiting for my wash to finish. We had a fire on the family floor last week, so now the rule is that we cannot leave our laundry to wash and dry on it’s own.
The laundry room was filthy, so I got my broom and dustpan and started cleaning. I was about to wash the floor on my hands and knees when the “boss” from the teen discipleship floor came running out of his office from across the hall and begged me to stop because one of his guys had hours (discipline) and was coming to detail the laundry room and could I please put the dirt back.
Could I put the dirt back? I put the dirt back with glee and added a bit more from the garbage can (with his approval, of course) and now the guy on discipline is in the laundry room yelling how much it sucks.
The assistant just came in and asked him what he had learned from his task and he said, “not to write on the concrete” and as she was walking away “in front of staff” Ha ha! I love it. Makes me wonder what he was writing.
The Dream Center rocks!
Fires, drama, people leaving, others coming … it really is all good. God is in everything and I rejoice in what is happening here. So exciting!
What has come home to me this past week is this. It is in the little decisions that a life is built or destroyed. My choice.
I love the DC and I love being here. But … as my new found friend Ce Ce exclaimed when she first walked into the chaos that was to be her room for the next year, “Welcome to the Dream Center?
Nightmare, is what I thought when I was first shown to my room. Envision 2, 3 and as many as 6 people sharing one small room and then sharing one bathroom with as many as 9.
Imagine them being mostly in their late teens and twenties and kept so busy that cleaning ones room becomes low on the list of priorities. Physically this place is anything but a dream. I’m not complaining though.
The only word for the food is BRUTAL … not complaining about that either. We never really have a day off … not complaining.
Rules that make no sense, rules that would make sense, missing … not complaining. Toilet paper rationed … not complaining.
Stairs, endless stairs and then more stairs … nope, not complaining about them either.
Every day I hear stories of lives redeemed. Like Matt, who used to be a drug dealer and user and living on the streets as a teenager. He has 19 raps against him and was given the choice of the Dream Center discipleship program or “Juvie” Hall.
Now at 22 he says his life is completely changed and he has committed the rest of his life to work with the desperate of the world. He leaves for Africa in the New Year. He goes before the judge in the next few months and believes that all charges against him will be dropped.
Then there is Robert who was trained in every elite program the US army has to offer. He graduated in the top 5 of each one and then ended up using his skills on the streets of LA as a gang member.
As he tells it, a little old grandmother from Canada had the guts to walk up to him on the street as he was leaving jail and invite him to the Dream Center. At that moment, he says, “something stirred within me and I ended up on the bus to the DC … just for one night.”
One night turned into two, two into a week and a week into three months. At three months he accepted Jesus as his savior and has now been here over 5 years. He works with the gangs of LA. Over 10,000 gang related deaths have occurred on the streets of this city.
When you hear stories like these very day and you watch tough guys like Robert break down and cry as they tell their stories, everything else fades into meaningless details.
People from all over the world come to volunteer their time here and more than 200 Dream Centers have been established as a result.
Matthew Barnett, the founder of the DC, came here at the age of 20 to build a church, because his father could find no other man that would do the job. In the beginning Pastor Matthew tried to attract ordinary folk to his church but failed dismally. He almost gave up, then God told him this.
“If you take care of the people that nobody wants, I will send you the people that everyone wants.” Pastor Matthew hit the streets and the Dream Center was born. Today the church, The Angelus Temple, is one of the most visited places in the US. It is not unusual to see the famous in attendance sitting right along with the homeless picked up by the DC buses.
Complain … I wouldn’t dream of it. I feel humbled and honored to be a part of what God is doing here. The DC is a place where the formerly desperate and sometimes those not so desperate began to dream again.
The Dream Center … You betcha!
I love the graphite pencil drawing at the top of my blog. It isn’t just any drawing, it is the LA Dream Center and it was done by a well known local artist here in LA. Jennifer Celio, the artist, is not just any artist either, but my daughter-in-law as well.
Jennifer is a native of Southern California who actually loves Los Angeles. She creates drawings depicting the urban environment’s offerings of beauty, which often takes unexpected forms.
Her drawings have been exhibited in venues such as Cristinerose Gallery in New York, the Creative Artists’ Agency in Los Angeles, Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles, the Long Beach Museum of Art, The Laguna Art Museum, Romo Gallery in Atlanta and Bandini Art in Culver City, CA.
Her work has been included in curatorial projects by Meg Linton, Tyler Stallings and Scott Canty amongst others. Her work was published in Studio Visit (2009) and New American Paintings (2003) and was Shortlisted in the 2008 London International Creative Competition, which also published a book.
Her drawings have received critical review in such publications as The Los Angeles Times, Art Papers, Artillery Magazine, Flavorpill, The Orange County Register and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Wow, and her drawing is at the top of my blog! Thank you Jennifer!
The drawing was done long before I ever heard of the DC and it is amazing to me how it came to be. Jennifer told me she was driving down the 101 freeway and spotted a huge halfpipe skateboard ramp in front of a large old white building with an enigmatic sign that read “Dream Center.” Intrigued, she took photos, and later did the drawing.
In December I happened to mention to her my desire to come to the Dream Center. She asked me a few questions and then told me that she had in fact done a drawing of that very place and brought it in from her studio
It sat on the mantel during the time that I was filling out my application to the DC. It sat there as I waited and each day I would picture myself there.
I have been at the DC going on a month and I know that I am here on purpose. The DC is awesome. If any of you would like to come volunteer for a day, a week or just come visit, I would love it.
“The skater was added,” Jennifer told me, “because it seemed appropriate and symbolic in front of the sign.”
The Dream Center! Indeed!
From where I sit, the white Hollywood sign is off in the distance, in another direction the LA city skyline. If you climb to the roof of the Dream Center, in yet another direction, lies the former mansion of Charlie Chaplin. It sits like a ghost from the past, on a hill surrounded by lush green vegetation.
I sit under an avocado tree at a picnic table next to what is known as the “black top.” Meet you on the “black top” is a constant. The “black top” is the center of everything. It’s the Dream Center’s main parking lot and if you are looking for someone, wait a bit, they are likely to show up before long.
Surrounding the “black top” are buildings of all shapes and sizes … all dwarfed by the 15 story main building. Built in 1926, the DC was a hospital run by nuns until lack of funds forced them to shut it down. Before it was sold to the DC founders, Hollywood used it to film movies such as Nightmare On Elm Street.
The DC “compound” is large, it’s sprawling.It has a labyrinth of tunnels (where Friday The 13th was filmed) that run beneath the buildings. The tunnels facilitated the doctors getting quickly from one building to another and were oh so perfect for filming scary movies.
The ministries vary from feeding of the homeless to discipleship programs for both men and women looking to be free from addictions, to the Rescue Project, which provides a home for those women that have been involved in human trafficking.
The latter is the ministry that I have been assigned to. The entire I-5 corridor has a thriving human trafficking community. I have been told there is a market for every type of human. Fat, thin, young, old, it doesn’t seem to matter.
You can only begin to imagine the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual suffering these women endure. I have heard enough stories in one week to last me more than a life time. The home provides a safe place for these women to heal. I work with the women one on one. They have professionals working with them as well, but they are never left alone and that is where I come in.
The job is an awesome responsibility and I cannot do it … alone. It does not matter what your religious beliefs are, prayer has been proven to be a benefit for the prayer and for the recipient of requests made. I need you to pray for me specifically that I will have wisdom, strength (both physical and spiritual) and that I will be God’s love to these women.
If you are a part of a prayer group, would you please began praying for the human trafficking problem in our country? Would you please pray for the LA Dream Center as it seeks to help women that escape the clutches of their pimps or owners? Because of laws, I will never be able to share specifics, but know that it is desperate.
I feel both humbled and excited that God has called me to be part of this project. I need you to stand by me … I cannot do it alone.
Coming soon: Drawing By Jennifer Celio, Welcome To The Dream Center? The Miracle Stairs and more.
They say behind every great man is a great woman. I say behind every grateful person is a multitude of friends without whom that person would surely have failed.
Today I am giving thanks for my “multitude”. Names will not be named. I could forget to mention you, but I have not forgotten the smallest kindness that has been shown to me this last year and in particular the last few months.
What began as a year from hell is emerging into a year of hope, life and dreams yet to be fulfilled.
I thank my God for peace, direction … for joy. Thank you family, friends and strangers (who I now call friends) for helping me on my way. The Dream Center would be just a dream without you, my family and friends
I humbly thank you for your prayers, gifts and love.
Quiet the night
The people Sleep
The city hums
Down a dark alley
In an abandoned building
They are our sisters
Our family lost
To the least of them