Got Questions? I’ve Got Answers.

One year ago, NightLight Branson was born. During that year, I have been asked a ton of questions. There are always four questions that I am consistently asked. I thought it might be easier to go ahead and answer these questions on here. I will start with the least important and move on to the only one that really matters.

1: How old are you? 26, and yes I am already aware I look 14.

2: What does your husband think about your job? Is he concerned? I do not have a husband/boyfriend/or love life. So no. He does not care.

3: I will present this question in the form that the conversation really takes place.

Other person: Where are you from?

Me: Branson

Other Person: Where are you really from?

Me: Branson

Other person: Where were you born?

Me: California.

Other Person: Ohhhhh that explains it.

Let’s be honest people. The real question here is, ” Why are you brown?” That is a good question. I am half Hispanic (thanks, mom) and half question mark. The truth is, I don’t know my biological father and so I cannot really answer this question. My family calls me the Mexaranian princess. You may as well. Also, I love being brown.

4: Why Branson? This is a legitimate question. I mean, does trafficking and prostitution, and other forms of sexual exploitation, actually happen in the Branson/Springfield area? Yes! It happens EVERYWHERE. No city is immune; not even Branson. The reason NightLight chose Branson as their 4th location really was because I felt called here. I grew up in Branson. I could see the need in Branson, and God called me to do something about it. Below are some stats on why the need in Branson is obvious to me.

There are five obvious factors that play into the issue of sexual exploitation. Honestly, there are more, but we will start with these five: tourism, drug usage and trafficking, former abuse, single parent homes and neglect, and poverty. The numbers below are for Taney, Greene, and Christian counties, the counties NightLight Branson is currently focused on.

Tourism: Branson has 8 million visitors in a year. Where there is demand, there is supply. Tourism creates demand.

Drug usage and trafficking: Missouri is leading in the nation for meth production. Greene and Christian counties are on the Federal High Density Drug Producing Counties in the nation. We’ve got meth coming out our ears, people.

Former abuse: This is probably the biggest contributing factor to the issue of sexual exploitation. The reason? When a person is abused, this speaks negatively to their identity. A person begins believing that if they’ve been abused, they are less valuable. First, let me say to anyone out there that has been abused: YOU ARE VALUABLE. YOU ARE PURPOSED. YOU ARE LOVED. Secondly, last year in Taney County alone, 2500 women were physically or sexually abused. This is just the report from one shelter, in one county. We have an issue that needs to be addressed.

Single-parent homes and neglect: When a child lives in a single-parent home, they are often neglected. This may or may not be on purpose, but it is often true. When a child is uncared for, they are often exposed to dangerous situations, with dangerous people who want to exploit them. Currently, 27% of families are single parent families in the Tri-Lakes area. The children in our communities are at risk of exploitation.

Poverty: Poverty is a risk factor for the same reason single parent homes is a risk factor. Poor families are an easy target for traffickers and pimps. In the Tri-Lakes area, 30% of families live below the federal poverty line.

Sooooo there are the numbers. No, I don’t have any specific information on the number of women soliciting in the area. What I can tell you is that we’ve had 3 women referred to us in Branson since our launch, and we’ve encountered over 100 women working in the strip clubs in Springfield. Those women are enough reason for us to be here doing what we are doing. The truth is, I also grew up in a very Jerry Springer-like environment with these risk factors existing in my life in some way, shape, or form. I’ve seen the damage that the sex industry has done to individuals, families, and the church in my community. That is more than enough reason for me to start a NightLight location in Branson. So that, my friends, is Why Branson.

If you are wondering why I chose NightLight, you can find out here. Also know NightLight chose me, and I am grateful.

What about you? Have any questions you are itching to have answered? Spit yo game. I am ready for your questions. Your questions don’t have to be NightLight-related, so just ask.

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Worth the Cost

Just a side note here… This post if my article from the NightLight Branson newsletter for July! Thanks for reading and as always feedback is welcome!

There have been moments in my life when I have been accused of taking the Scriptures too seriously or too literally.  Often, it leaves people around me feeling like I am too much.  Too holy, too serious, too bold, too harsh, and too reckless.  I’m sure there are moments when I am out of balance and some of these things are true.  But I am also sure that being too much in some of these areas has actually qualified me to be the director of a ministry location at age 26.

The reality is that, when I was younger, I read the Scriptures, believed them to be true, and took great risks to do great things regardless of circumstance.  This has left me uncomfortable, exhausted, and overwhelmed–and absolutely and foolishly hopeful.  One of the Scriptures that I took as absolutely true when I was 18 years old was Isaiah 58:10:

“…and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Six years ago, I truly started believing that, if I spent myself for the sake of the Gospel, the lost would be found, the captives set free, and the glory of God would shine through me.  So, I started sacrificing in lots of ways to invest in things that are eternal.  In return, God has taught me some incredible things and led me on an awesome adventure.

I think the church wants adventure and freedom and desires to shine forth the Glory of God.  But I think the church has also somehow forgotten that God was serious when He asked us to spend all we have on eternal things.  When I look back at other times in history when people have fought for freedom, I am amazed by how much people sacrificed during the fight against slavery, the fight for women’s rights, and the fight for civil rights.  Some people sacrificed everything.  This only reminds me that I am called to spend myself on behalf of the oppressed.  If others have given up so much for human rights, how much more should we, the church, be giving up for the oppressed who need to know freedom through the Gospel?

I know what you’re thinking, “Mindy is going to ask us for money again. That’s why she’s talking about sacrifice.”  But you’re only partially right.  Instead, I’m asking you to truly partner with us as we spend ourselves to set the captives free.  This is not simply about writing a check.  Yes, we need you to give so we can keep doing ministry.  But we also need you to care about what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.  We need you to pray with us and encourage us when it’s hard, when we walk through the desert, and when we feel like there is no fruit being harvested.  Don’t base your giving off of numbers.  Base your giving off of our vision, purpose, and heart to see God set the captives free.  We need you to celebrate with us when we have small victories and when we see mountains move.  We need you to spend yourself right alongside us as we spend ourselves.  I know this costs your time, money, talents, and energy, which are probably things you feel you don’t have to offer.  But I am asking you to sacrifice so the Gospel can go into the dark places:  Into the streets, the clubs, and the brothels.  We have an amazing opportunity to see God work in impossible ways.  How much better will the journey be if we spend our lives on things that last, together?  So go ahead.  Join us.  You know you want to

Thankful For the Harvest

Just a little note to let you know that this post is actually the article I sent out in NightLight’s April newsletter.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.  Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.  I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

-John 4:31-38

I’ve been stuck on the truth in this passage for the past six months. Since we first publicly launched the Branson location, we have found so much favor. Whether it’s with volunteers, with club owners and managers, or with other organizations, so many connections have just “happened” to fall into our lap. The prideful side of me would love to think that this has something to do with me. But this passage tells me something different. It tells me that I probably have nothing to do with the fruit I harvest, whether in my personal life or as part of this ministry. Instead, this fruit comes from work that other people in the body of Christ have done before me. When we reap a harvest, it is because someone else has sown out of obedience before us, and when we sow, we should do so with hopeful expectation that someone else will harvest what we sow.

Interestingly, the passage above comes immediately after a conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman about how true worship should really look. I believe the proximity of these stories is no coincidence. Rarely do we get to see the fruits of our own labor. Often, this can be discouraging. We want results—immediately and in large amounts.  When we don’t see them, we get discouraged.  Why? Because our focus is on ourselves rather than on kingdom things, which often require legacy to create. And this is one way the enemy distracts us from true worship; how he can keep us from hope and joy. You see, hope and joy are found when we drink from the eternal water that Jesus provides. We find joy when we humbly receive and harvest the fruit of someone else’s labor. We find hope when we sow out of obedience to our Father, because we expect Him to do something extraordinary with the little we have to offer. This is what true worship is. We worship in spirit and truth when we hear the voice of our Father, respond in obedience to His voice, and give Him the glory for the fruits harvested. True worship is when we can sit in the knowledge that the fruit harvested is a gift from a holy God who loves us so passionately, and respond with thankfulness.

I am so thankful for the things people have done to sow into our ministry: the financial gifts given, the seeds planted in the girls working in the sex industry, the people who have helped pour into me and our team. Some of these things started a long time ago, and some have just started, but all of them have affected eternity. So now I ask you to sow again into what we are doing. Sow with your time, your talents, and your finances. I can make no promises on what the harvest will look like. I have no idea when it will come, how much will be harvested, or the circumstances surrounding it. But I can honestly say with great expectation that God will multiply what you sow and do something incredible for His kingdom with what you have to offer. How will you invest in the harvest?

Why NightLight

In the crazy journey of the last year, one question I get asked pretty frequently is “Why NightLight?” First, let me tell you a bit about NightLight and my job. NightLight is an international organization that addresses the complex issue of sexual exploitation through prevention, intervention, restoration, and education. I am the director of our Branson location. Yes, things like trafficking and prostitution exist in the Branson area. There will be a post about that later. So why NightLight? There are a ton of ways I could answer this question. There are so many things I love about NightLight and about my job. But the most efficient way I can think of to answer this question is with a Top 10 List. So here you go. The top 10 reasons I chose to work with NightLight.

10: NightLight wants to make Jesus famous. Not NightLight.

9: NightLight isn’t afraid of the dark places. In fact, we storm the dark places with gentleness, love, and joy. It’s kind of our thing.

8: Our founder, my boss, and the other directors really really want to be honest about what we do, our numbers, and the reality of what this kind of work looks like. There is no smudging the truth to get donors on board.

7: I have permission to dream big dreams about where we are going and what we are going to do.

6: I have permission to follow through on those big dreams. Not just dream them and hang them out to dry.

5: I get to do my most favorite things – minister, make disciples, raise up leaders, pour into the church, and hang out with other broken people.

4: NightLight loves men. Everyone at NightLight longs to see men restored as much as women. Men are not the problem, but the answer. They have a story that God wants to redeem, restore, and use. NightLight wants to join in on the journey.

3: Courtney Dow. My boss believes in me. She empowers me and encourages me. She is the kind of person I have always wanted to work for. She cares about the state of my heart, not only my job performance. She genuinely thinks I am awesome. What a crazy blessing.

2: Who I am is enough. My gifts, my talents, and my resume are enough. I don’t have to fit the box to fit the job. The job fits who God has called me to be in this season. I don’t have to play the part to keep the job. I just have to be obedient to God. HOW MUCH FREEDOM DOES THAT BRING?

1: NightLight’s heart is not only to end sexual exploitation, but to see individuals, including staff and team members, find complete healing through our Father God. It’s not just about the issue. Its about the individual and the gospel. My favorite things.

OK! Why do YOU love NightLight?

What? You know nothing about NightLight. Find out more here. Then tell us why you love NightLight. We can always use the encouragement.

Want to help me pay the bills while I work for NightLight? You can donate here. My entire salary is fund-raised so I only eat if generous people give. Make sure you choose my name in the drop-down box on the website.

Have more questions about my role, where your money goes, NightLight, or how you can help? E-mail me at mindy@nightlightinternational.com.

Need more NightLight? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

My truth about starting NightLight Branson

Hello, Friends! It has obviously been awhile since I have posted anything, and there are lots of good reasons for that. Really just one. NightLight.

A year ago, NightLight International decided that they wanted to launch a new location in Branson, Mo. Even more crazy than that, they decided that they wanted me to launch the location. NightLight addresses the issue of sexual exploitation through prevention, intervention, restoration, and education. You can find out more about NightLight here.

What is true is that I have used the launch of this location as an excuse to hide out. I want to tell you that I’ve just been too busy to blog, or hang out, or build new relationships, or invest time in hobbies. And there is a part of that, that would be true. What is also true is that in the last four years, I’ve changed, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve moved a lot, I’ve believed in lots of truth and lots of lies, and I’ve been deeply hurt. That hurt, and those lies, have given me a great excuse to use NightLight as a way to hide out.

Launching NightLight Branson is by far one of the hardest things I have ever done. It consumes the majority of my time. I mean, I am not really sure what free time even looks like anymore. That’s a choice I consistently make. I think its true that we make time for things that matter the most to us. I love my job. I love what God has called me to do for this season. I feel the weight to steward and lead this ministry well. So because of my love for NightLight and for sharing the gospel, I will spend a ton of my time, effort, and heart on it. I also know that I can’t hide behind it anymore.

When I hide out, I lose sight of things that are true about me. I’ve stopped dreaming about what could be next, I’ve forgotten how to have fun, and most importantly I have forgotten how to rest. Am I saying I am going to jump back into all the old things I was part of before? Not even for a second. I never loved some of those things to begin with. I hope it does mean a little more blogging, because I have been blown away by all the cool conversations that have come from this. What I plan to do is seek out God a lot, ask for tons of grace, and step out with boldness into things that could hurt, but also could bring great joy.

“You’ve got to forget about all the other stuff. You’ve got to forget about logic and fear and doubt. You just got to do everything you can to get to the one woman whose going to make all of this worth it. At the end of the day, you gotta jump.”

Jim Halpert – The Office

Jim is obviously referring to a romantic relationship in the above quote. I feel like it totally applies to this season of my life. I have to forget about all the other stuff because nothing matters as much as being in a deeper relationship with my maker, and experiencing the fullness of abundant life. And at the end of the day, that’s really why I can’t hide out anymore.

So what about you?

Ever been in this season?

What do you hide behind? Marriage? Kids? Your job?