Twenty-one years ago, I had the opportunity to accompany a friend and his girlfriend’s father—Bob—on a mission trip. A couple of times each year, Bob would collect medical supplies and then deliver them to a mission group in Mexico. I knew I would be impacted by the trip, but what I didn’t know is that it would change my life and world-view.
Up to that point, I believed poverty was usually about bad choices and morality was a spiritual issue that could be corrected if those who were making the bad choices would only change their beliefs.
What I saw on that trip changed everything for me. Sometimes poverty was the result of poor choices but more often it was from a lack of resources and hope. It was institutional and generational. In fact it seemed to me that there were business advantages in keeping the poor, well poor. I met people who desperately wanted to change their circumstances but with the deck stacked so high against them could not.
One experience stood out to me above all others. We were sitting for an afternoon with a man who started a home for women and children. The home provided educational assistance, parenting assistance, job training, safety, food and shelter. Most of all, it offered love without judgement, hope beyond measure, and resources that were sorely lacking.
We asked the man how he decided to start the home. He replied, “The building across from ours is an abortion clinic. Most days, the lines of young women waiting for an abortion rounded the block. Others and myself would go daily and preach to the women waiting in line about the evils of abortion and the reality of hell. It seemed as if no one ever listened. Then one day a young girl stepped out of the line and walked up to me and simply said in a quiet humble voice, ‘Sir, don’t tell us that what we are about to do is wrong. Give us another choice, give us hope.’”
As he told the story, our mission trip host teared up and said that when the girl approached him, he felt God tell him to stop screaming on the sidewalks and instead find a building that offers, love, hope and choices.
I could not have known it then, but I think that experience was the beginning of my heart for rescue ministry. I think that day, the seed was planted in my heart that would eventually bloom into my calling today as the CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries. It is easy to stand on the corner, up at the pulpit, in our living rooms and preach, complain and judge. But is it working? “Sir, don’t tell us that what we are about to do is wrong. Give us another choice, give us hope.”
Here is what’s hard: Entering into someone’s life, building relationships, and seeking to understand before seeking to be understood. I hope and pray that Mel Trotter Ministries is like the program in Mexico. We seek to love without condition or judgement, inspire hope beyond measure, and offer resources to meet the needs of each individual. Every single day with every single person who comes through our doors, we are trying to earn the right to share the gospel… not only with our spoken words, but more importantly in our actions and our love.
What I have found is that when you start with love, you are actually inviting God’s Holy Spirit into the situation. This is when hope is restored, homelessness is overcome and people move forward in their faith journey.
In the Bible, Jesus was confronted by religious leaders after a woman was caught in adultery. The law commanded that she be stoned to death. Jesus could have done that. He could have begun with a sidewalk and sand sermon about the evils of adultery. But what did he do? Jesus did three things that are the foundation of what we are trying to do at Mel Trotter.
First, he saved her life… he rescued her. Not spiritually, but physically. He protected her and saved her from the stones that the men would have used to kill her. He saved her from their judgement and condemnation.
Second, he loved her. Right there, just as she was. In her shame and brokenness and in her sinfulness, he loved her, period. He stooped down in the dust, demonstrated compassion and he gave her hope.
Finally, he spoke with her about her life and choices, but he did not start there. First there was rescue and relationship.
The man in Mexico said that once he opened the building and programs for women that were pregnant, the lines at the abortion clinics disappeared and his rooms filled up.
That is our prayer for the ministry at Mel Trotter; that those without hope, love, and resources would come to us and experience the compassion of Jesus Christ and find the hope and help they are so desperately seeking.
(John 8: 1-11)