willing to walk on water
STEP OUT IN FAITH AND LET GOD WORK MIRACLES THROUGH YOUR LIFE
By Caroline Barnett, A.J. Gregory, Bonne Steffen
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC. Copyright © 2013Caroline Barnett
All rights reserved.
I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.
I Couldn't help but notice their eyes—extremely made up, but empty. These scantily clad young women were selling their bodies on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. It seemed as if they had already sold their souls.
I had moved into the Dream Center as a full-time volunteer in the beginning of 1997, a few months after I turned eighteen. I wanted to focus on ministries that pulled at my heartstrings, so I volunteered on many different outreaches to find the right fit. I had heard about the prostitution outreach and wanted to see what that was like. The team headed to the streets every Friday and Saturday night. Volunteers met at the Dream Center parking lot at midnight to get instructions from the leader as well as an overview of what to expect, and then the team would drive toward Sunset Boulevard. Once there, they would spend a few hours praying with and encouraging the prostitutes.
I went on my first outreach a month or so after I moved on campus. There were about sixteen of us paired up, within sight of each other. It was 2 a.m. and the "night shift" was in full swing. As police sirens blared in the distance, the prostitutes leaned provocatively against streetlights or slowly cruised the sidewalks looking for their next trick of the night.
Our team, consisting of men and women, spread out to talk to as many of the women as we could. We handed out roses and told them they were beautiful and that God loved them. Some politely smiled, while others rolled their eyes, their hearts hardened by years on the streets. I realized that they were numb to the possibility of another kind of life. How could I convince them they were worth so much more? How could I make them understand they had a loving Creator who could heal their hurts and give them a future they could look forward to?
I started talking to one of the prostitutes and told her about the Dream Center and the opportunity she had to get off the streets. After leaving her with a flyer with more information about our program, I walked farther down the block and glanced toward the street. A car approached, slowing down right alongside me.
The driver leaned over, hungrily peering out of the front passenger's window. He assumed I was one of the working girls. We stared at each other for a second. He didn't say anything, just stared me up and down. The evil that washed over his face—the lust, the insatiable appetite for pleasure no matter the cost—radiated so much wickedness, it made me feel sick to my stomach. Every night, hundreds of women get into the cars of these kinds of men. I shuddered to think of the dangers that lurked on the streets. And my heart broke when I imagined the emotional decay that grows deeper after every trick turned. It's no wonder these women feel hopeless.
As a full-time volunteer at the Dream Center, serving in some of the worst communities in the heart of Los Angeles, I felt I was being faithful to God and His call on my life. I wasn't looking out only for me. I was following the apostle Paul's exhortation to "take an interest in others, too" (Philippians 2:4). I wasn't oblivious to the suffering that existed in the world. I was doing my part to change it. From ministering to prostitutes to feeding the homeless and building relationships with struggling youth in crimeand gang-infested neighborhoods, I was making a difference.
And then God opened my eyes.
My family had immigrated to California from Sweden in 1980, when I was two years old. My parents wanted to live the American dream of starting a Swedish crystal chandelier and area-rug business called Scandinavian Handicrafts. Before coming to the States, they had sold their home and invested all of their savings to buy the inventory for the store, which they had shipped from Sweden to America. My dad left a successful job with an insurance company to follow his dream. He was the youngest of four boys, so it was hard for him to leave behind his mother and siblings. Moving was also difficult for my mother; she didn't speak English and didn't know anything about American culture.
Though they started out hopeful, it became apparent that crystal chandeliers weren't hot sellers in the early 1980s. Eventually, my parents liquidated their inventory at swap meets. Times were tough. My dad took any job he could find to make ends meet, including working as a truck driver. Yet my parents never regretted their decision to move to the United States; they loved the freedom and opportunities America had to offer.
I grew up in a strong Christian home. My parents were very involved in church and volunteered for everything, from the worship team to children's church. My mom sewed all the costumes for the Christmas pageants as well as vests for the choir members singing in the Christmas cantata. She also helped with costumes for Easter-related sermons. And she was an incredible cook and baker who baked desserts for every event.
My parents always opened our home to Swedish missionaries and ministers passing through town, usually on their way to South America. It didn't matter that my parents, my three sisters, and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment. We loved having the missionaries stay with us. I was always fascinated with their stories and hearing my parents talk about their own experiences as traveling evangelists in Sweden.
Both my parents have worked for God their entire lives, while they were single and married. My dad had started traveling as an evangelist when he was sixteen years old. Once he got married and held a full-time job, he had to limit his time on the road. He did, however, continue to hold tent revivals, lead worship, and preach at his church while he lived in Sweden. My mom has been devoted to the church since she was a little girl and has always volunteered as much as she could.
Through their strong faith and their devotion to service, our parents taught my sisters and me to generously serve others for God. However, the thought of going into full-time ministry never crossed my mind when I was younger. Growing up in a family whose finances were always tight, all I wanted was to be successful in business.
I was a good student. I went to a public school and had lots of friends with different backgrounds. During my junior and senior years of high school I started going to parties, dancing, and drinking every now and then with my friends, some of whom were Christians. As a cheerleader, I partied with most of the girls on my squad. I'm not trying to justify my behavior, but I was just curious, having fun with my friends.
I still went to church regularly, attended youth group meetings, and participated in all the youth camps. My parents were unaware of my double life. When my friends invited me to a party, I would tell my parents that I was staying overnight at a friend's house. Mom and Dad trusted me and never gave it a second thought. Though I felt convicted and would repent to God privately afterward and at the end of every Sunday morning church service, I continued.
Is There Something More?
Toward the end of my senior year I began to change. The parties were getting old; I wasn't having as much fun. There has to be more to life than this, I thought. I started searching for answers in the Bible.
Reading the words of Jesus fired me up—I was intent on finding God's plan for my life. I ended up con
Excerpted from willing to walk on water by Caroline Barnett. Copyright © 2013 by Caroline Barnett. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC..
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