Today, I pulled up to a familiar scene; on the side of the road was a woman holding a sign with her gaze fixed downwards.
If I’m being totally honest with you, my normal tendency is to look away and pretend to be busy since I don’t believe in giving money directly to people and I don’t know what else to do. But as soon as she lifted her head, it was as if she was waving red flags in my face. She looked young, maybe even 17.
One of my greatest passions is working with young girls who are victims of human trafficking, so as soon as I saw her face, I instantly felt concerned for her safety. (Runaways are usually approached within 48 hours of being on the street to be groomed for trafficking.) I sat there in my car unsure of what to do. I wanted to know her story, to know what kind of help she truly needed. But what was a supposed to do, roll down my window and expect her to spill her guts out to me in five seconds before the light turned green?
My time was up and the cars in front of me began to take off. I was halfway through the intersection and I sensed God say to me, “Well, why don’t you get out and ask her?” To which my obedient heart responded, “That’s crazy.”
This girl wasn’t just on a street corner; she was literally smack dab in the middle of the street between the freeway on ramp and off ramp in one of the busiest intersections at rush hour. My one year old son was singing in the backseat and I remember thinking “What do you want me to do Lord, plop my baby on my hip and walk out into the middle of the street to talk to this girl I know nothing about?”
Suddenly, I remembered a concept I had just read about in a book called “Divine Opportunity” written by a professor of communication. The simplified concept is this; when we feel God prompting our heart to do something, we all experience certain thoughts and emotions: fear, anxiety, skepticism and the like. CHECK. As my heart began to pound, I knew I was experiencing those emotions. Instead of getting wrapped up in those emotions, the next step is to accept them as a sign that God is prompting you. “Ok Lord, I hear you.”
But the next part is the powerful part; you are supposed to consider your values and then act on your values instead of your fears.
So I began to think of my values: I want everyone to experience the hope of God I want all girls safe from the harm of the streets
“Ok Lord, I’m in.”
I bought myself some time and ran my quick errand that I was on my way to in the first place, circled back to where I last saw her and parked at the nearest parking lot. The crazy thing was, as I was sitting there trying to pull some resources for her, I realized that I had just visited a Christ centered homeless shelter for women and children just hours before. I wrote down their number and a few others. I pulled out a bag of toiletries and supplies that I always keep in my car for a 24/7-response team that I help coordinate for trafficked girls. I peered my head around the corner to where she had been.
“Well, shoot! She already got in someone’s car!” I secretly felt slightly relieved. But then I took a few more steps and realized she was just covered by the freeway sign. My heart leapt with insecurity again. I went back to my car and started unbuckling my son from his car seat. “Ok buddy, I guess that means we get to do the crazy thing.”
Baby on the hip, my mind was fighting with me the whole way as I walked what seemed like a very long ways and waited at two pedestrian crossings to get to this girl. “What are people going to think of you out there talking to her?” “What if she asks you for something that you can’t give?” “What if she’s just straight up crazy?”. Even the automated pedestrian crossing kept echoing to me “Don’t cross.” Thanks for that boost of confidence automated voice...
“Name the emotions, Britney. Act on your values.”
Up close, I could tell she wasn’t as young as I had feared but I was still, nonetheless concerned for her safety. “Hey, I saw you when I was in my car and I wanted to help but I just didn’t know what kind of help you needed. What’s your story?”
She smiled at me and began to share some details from her life about how she had been on the street since she was 14 and has a hard time finding a job. I asked her about shelters and services and she had never heard of the home I had just visited, so I told her about it and gave her all the information. I noticed a bible in her bag and asked about and she explained how someone gave it to her while she was standing there. I warned her about the dangers of trafficking when living on the streets and gave her a bag filled with toiletries. She was gracious, kind and engaged. Dozens of cars were zipping past us and my son was getting quite restless so I said goodbye and told her I would be praying for her.
I can’t say anything truly profound happened there on the side of the freeway on ramp. She didn’t leave her post to call the shelter and get the help that she truly needed. We didn’t have a profound conversation about God. (Isn’t it funny how we always think of all the amazing things we could have said after we leave?)
But one thing I do know; God wanted this girl to know that she was seen and I got to be the one he used to make that known. How amazing is that?!
As I walked away feeling excited for my first small yes to God’s promptings, a concerned man yelled out to me from his car “Are you ok? Do you need help?” I was, after all, in the middle of the street with a baby talking to a homeless lady. But I realized I didn’t care what people thought of me because of where I was. I gave him a reassuring smile and thumbs up as I walked towards my car. Every morning, I pray with my son, “God gives us eyes to see the needs all around us and help us to be a light wherever we may go.” Today, God allowed us to be his hands and feet and I feel so grateful that he did. Our God is the God who sees, he is the God who acts, and he is the God who is calling us to join him. Will we?
Don't stay stuck in your emotions. Act on your values.
Check out "Divine Opportunity" on Amazon to be further inspired to have your own divine opportunities! Use smile.amazon and select "Forever Found" as your non profit and amazon will donate a small portion of every purchase you make to help the fight against human trafficking in Ventura County!
*I do not make any money off of you going to these links, just wanted to share!