TAKING A STAND: ORGANIZATIONS
Sometimes the darkness in the world feels like its going to completely swallow up the light. We are a people of hope but the weight of the world can often feel like it will take us out. The Bible tells us that Jesus was full of compassion, even sadness, at the broken state of things so it should be no surprise that those of us who have centered our lives around him should from time to time share in that sadness.
Things are not as they should be.
However, what we see in our newsfeed or on T.V. isn’t truly the whole picture. Though there is great strife in the world, right in the middle of it are countless stories of people rising up to do something about it. There are heroic brothers and sisters in Christ who have decided to use their gifts and talents to bring healing and hope where people are desperate for it. So today, in a small act of rebellion against the notion that everything and everyone is rotten, here are a few organizations you should check out led by Jesus-loving women, full of the Spirit, who are making a difference. My prayer is that as you read through just these few examples of sisters using their time, talents and resources to make a dent in the darkness of the world, you will be inspired to explore ways in which you might be able to support them as well as discover how you might be able to make a dent all your own.
Head For Change:
When Jenni Bailey graduated from Paul Mitchell beauty school in 2010, she dreamed of being a “famous hairstylist”. At 19 years old she landed her dream job working for iconic Paul Mitchell hairstylist Kelly Cardenas, moved to Las Vegas overnight, and soon found herself doing hair and makeup for celebrities, magazines, various fashion weeks, and more. Her dream started to become her reality. However, God had a different dream for her, one that would require sacrifice and humility, but one that would be better than she could imagine.
At age 23, she found herself directing a million dollar salon and living a life of success by the world’s standards, but she learned it wasn’t where God wanted her. She says “Working for Kelly was amazing and changed my life in so many ways. I’m forever grateful; but after God called me to serve in Kenya (July 2014) my world was changed.”
In Africa, God started a fire in Jenni’s heart and, in her words, “My dream no longer was to be a famous hairdresser, but to make my Lord and Savior famous.” It was there, in Kenya, that God gave her the idea of a salon that would give back. The name “Head For Change” just made sense since she would be making a huge change in her career, and each time someone would get their hair done it would be helping someone in need.
“I left the salon with no plan, no client info, but a ton of faith and confidence that God would provide. Sometimes He calls us to do something crazy we don’t understand so people may understand him more!”
The formula is simple: Jenni uses her mad skills out of her shop in San Diego to beautify individuals, and each month chooses a person, family, charity, ministry or missionary in need around the world to receive 10% of all her profit. She says, “I think, before, money controlled me and was my motivation. God showed me that all of it belongs to Him, and my purpose for working is completely different now. Now I want to be busy and work hard so I can bless the heck out of people! Head for Change has lit a new fire for me and my passion for hair. I do hair for the people. It’s not about the creativity, hair color or products anymore; it’s about the person in my chair and how I can bless them, and in doing so bless someone less fortunate around the world!”
Jenni is now in the process of opening a hair school in Kjabe, Kenya for young women involved in prostitution. The desire is to provide a place for them to know their worth and beauty; and to be safe, learn a skill and start and new life making others feel beautiful.
She says “God blesses each one of us with unique talents and special gifts. How we use them is our gift back.” So if you’re in the San Diego area, go get your hair done by Jenni and know that she will faithfully use what she is given to serve our God. You can also check out what she’s up to in Instagram and check out how to get involved!
Head for Change is located at:
1822 Marron Rd. Suite A
Carlsbad, California 92008
Call 951-704-3703 to book an appointment, or email Jenni at:
You can follow Head for Change on Instagram under the user name: headforchange
After Hours is an outreach ministry in Los Angeles with a heart to see men and women involved in all aspects of prostitution on the streets of the inner city set free and healed. I first heard about what After Hours is up to through my friend Jen Cecil who is the current Director of the ministry.
I met Jen working at Starbucks in college. She was my store’s Assistant Manager and we bonded quickly over our love for Jesus and cranberry bliss bars. She quickly became one of my favorite people and remains so to this day, but her life is absolutely nothing like it was back in our Starbucks days.
Jen’s story goes something like this, in her own words, “When I was in college and 21 years old, during a time of prayer and personal study God broke my heart for women in prostitution, it was a piercing so deep I wept for hours and knew that I needed to pray for these women and pray about how God would use me to share with them the freedom that can only be received through Christ’s shed blood on the cross. I prayed for 7 years…that is a very long time. I had no idea how God would ever bring this to pass in my life, I didn’t know any prostituted women, hadn’t been one, didn’t know where to find one…but I continued to pray as the Lord brought it back time and again and my heart continued to be burdened.”
After a few years of serving at a Bible college in Germany Jen found herself back in California and got connected to a church in Los Angeles. With a heart still stirred for those who were sexually broken, particularly those involved in prostitution, she found After Hours through this community and got involved.
Now Jen and her team spend their Friday nights on the streets, giving gift bags to women trapped in prostitution in hopes of starting relationships with them. They’re working to create programs which offer these individuals safety, healing, and what they need to move into a future of sustainable freedom. Their heart is to see every woman and man involved in the slavery of prostitution completely set free and restored to wholeness by the love of Jesus.
Jen will be the first to tell you that what she and her team do is straight-up hard. They offer resources and hope to women and men on the streets and, like our God, often spend years pursuing the same people only to watch them continue to live in fear of receiving freedom. However, the glimmers of redemption that they witness within those who, even in seemingly small ways, start to believe that God loves them and has more for them than the life they know; those glimmers keep them going and confirm that their pursuit of the lost on the streets is not in vain. Jen would say,“There is nothing extraordinary about who I am, or where I came from, I simply serve an extraordinary God who does exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine. Who takes a willing vessel and molds and shapes her into His image that she might lead others to Him.”
For more information on how you can get involved with After Hours, you can visit afterhoursministry.com
To read more from Jen’s point of view on her experience within the ministry, you can check out her blog: www.cecilnator.blogspot.com
My Refuge House:
One Tuesday evening last year I had the pleasure of sitting with some women at a book club in the home of a girl I had never met. I sipped on the tasty soup she made us while asking her what she did for a living, and what she meant when she told us she was never home. She described how she split time between home and the Philippines working with My Refuge House, a home where survivors of commercial sex exploitation can live and receive holistic quality care.
As I’ve listened to her share about the work she’s a part of over in Cebu, I’ve both mourned and celebrated the stories of young girls being rescued from sex trafficking and given new hope, being equipped in every way to stand on their own two feet.
She shared with me a recent story of Hannah*, a firecracker of a girl who is currently on her way to college because of her experience with MRH. When Hannah was a child she was trafficked through local gang members in her neighborhood. She was rescued at 15 and, after the pain she had already endured, went to trial to fight against those who had trafficked her. The judge, instead of showing her compassion berated her, telling her that what she had been through was her fault. So when she arrived at MRH, she was deeply troubled and often took that pain out on others.
Staff members at MRH recognized early on that Hannah was a natural born leader, and had tremendous potential that was being hijacked by the horrific circumstances she ended up in. They warmly describe how Hannah was rebellious and would lash out, but how they saw through that to a tenacious girl who one day, after some time in a safe place and the healing of Jesus, would develop into a serious force in the world.
Hannah found hope at MRH. Her faith flourished and she gradually transformed into a gentle, sweet, and welcoming presence at the house. She is now not only one of the peer leaders, but was just granted a scholarship in criminology and is pursuing a career in law enforcement. The staff at My Refuge House have become for so many like Hannah the hands and feet of Jesus, offering not only a safe place away from the horrors of being trafficked, but education, counseling, small business training, legal assistance, health care and spiritual edification.
There are countless other stories of restoration and miraculous transformation that have come out of the work MRH has been a part of.
Check them out at myrefugehouse.org.
*name changed for confidentiality
Shelene Bryant would be quick to tell you that she had no intention whatsoever of ending up doing what she has been doing with her organization, skip1.org. In her book “Love, Skip, Jump” she shares how she was a comfortable Christian woman, happy to float through life believing she was pursuing all that Jesus had for her, but truthfully living, like most of us, in pursuit of what was comfortable and “safe”. Through a bit of a crazy set of events, she ended up in Africa when a lightbulb came on in her heart. She realized that she could offer what felt like small amounts of her resources to those in desperate need, and actually make a huge impact in their lives. We don’t often recognize how far our dollars, minutes, and creative minds can go when put to use for the benefit of those who are suffering.
She created skip1.org around the idea that if we really examined the luxuries we are able to partake in, and be willing to skip something every now and then, offering that money or minute to another who desperately needs it, we could change the world. “The idea is simple: instead of spending a few bucks on that latte, a car wash, that magazine, a manicure or even lunch – SKIP IT! And donate the money instead to Skip1.org. 100% of your donation goes to the acquisition and distribution of food and water projects worldwide.”
Her story is both hilariously candid (and familiar to too many of us) and rather convicting. To read more about it, check out her book “Love, Skip, Jump”. To join in on the experiment, check out skip1.org and get involved!
(PC: @maryellenskye via The Giving Keys)
The Giving Keys:
You may have already heard about Caitlyn Crosby and her work with The Giving Keys, but incase you haven’t heard, her story is pretty cool. Caitlyn is an actress and singer/songwriter who had a simple idea one day that lead to something truly special. Here’s her story:
“It started with a New York hotel room key…Caitlin Crosby, wore the key as a necklace and had the idea to start engraving old, used keys with inspirational words. Realizing that in a way we are all like these keys – unique, flawed, scarred, and at risk of being discarded – she wanted these keys to have their purpose renewed over and over again. Their message is yours for a time, but once they’ve served their purpose with you, pay it forward to inspire another…Wanting to add a charitable dimension to the business model, it wasn’t long before Caitlin’s vision became clear. She found the missing link on a rainy day when she saw Rob and Cera on Hollywood Blvd, sitting under an umbrella, and holding a sign that read Ugly, Broke, & Hungry. They went to dinner and Caitlin discovered that Cera made jewelry – this was the a-ha moment. Rob and Cera joined the team and started making Giving Keys the next day.”
Essentially, The Giving Keys has partnered with the United way, PATH (people assisting the homeless) and Chrysalis (a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a pathway to self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income individuals) employing individuals experiencing homelessness in the making of their jewelry, providing opportunities for the team members to move into permanent housing.
Not only are the pieces stylish and inspiring, they are helping empower those struggling with homelessness, giving them a way back onto their feet.
Check them out at: http://www.thegivingkeys.com
For many of us, reading stories like these is a bit daunting. We think “I could never do that!” and “That’s great but, I don’t know how I could possibly make a difference like that.” When we think this way, we’re missing something huge. When we start to think that the fruit of our lives is dependent on our own goodness, we miss that God can do immeasurably more with us than our capabilities alone can produce. (Ephesians 3:20) There are ways you can get involved in serving and loving this broken world, but don’t for one minute think that you aren’t qualified to do so. It is Jesus who qualifies us for the work He calls us to.
For starters, don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel. There are people all over the place faithfully serving in creative ways that need support. If you’re passionate about something, don’t feel like you need to start an organization or a new movement all on your own. There are countless ways to get involved in what is already happening by giving your time, resources, and support to organizations which are already on the map.
Secondly, know that in each of these stories lies a daughter of Christ who has simply been faithful to go where He’s calling one day, one decision at a time. None of these women woke up one morning and decided to be amazing and change the world all at once. No, they were given one tiny piece of the puzzle at a time. With each piece they said “Yes” to the invitation God was giving them to be a part of the work He wanted to do in the world.
He can and will use you, just like He’s using these women. Your gifts, your skill set, your story is enough. Like my friend Jen reminded us, it has nothing to do with us being extraordinary, and everything to do with the extraordinary God that we serve!
Please go check out more of what these fantastic organizations are up to and see if your heart strings are pulled to join in!