You may know, John regularly suffers bouts of depression about being stuck in America. In wrestling with God about this again, he asked, “If you won’t let me go overseas, can I please do what I train others to do here?!”
The sad truth was that we were not modeling well for our children. Our oldest three had attested to a missionary calling, and yet they knew nothing about evangelism. We, their parents, were spending all our time ministering to other Christians—discipling, teaching, preaching, counseling meetings, conflict resolution meetings. We—they—did not even know any people who didn’t know Jesus! We wanted to make a life change!
God gave us the “Go for it,” and through a series of “God-coincidences,” we discovered a part of Oklahoma City called Valleybrook. It remains its own city, within a city, having its own mayor, police force, courthouse and jail. This .3 square miles has maintained its own identity, as it is the only place in Oklahoma that allows full nudity in the strip clubs, this being the main industry here—one club after another, as well as a couple of convenience stores that supply the poor community with cigarettes and pornography. The neighborhood is run down and infamous for drugs and crime.
We first dreamed of putting our church right amidst the clubs, maybe even renting one of them on Sunday mornings (What? They don’t open that early. We never did quite figure out how to incorporate the poles into worship though.). But we ran into a state law that prevents strip clubsand churches from opening within 400 yards of each other.
So we meet as a church down the street in a warehouse and began trying to figure out how to get into relationship with the people of this community. Jamie had the God-inspired idea to open a coffee shop. It is called Joe’s Addiction and sits right next to Valley of the Dolls.
Joe’s, as we affectionately call it, has become everything we dreamed it would be. It is just like bartending! A simple, “How are you doing today?” is often met with a massive unloading of the emotional garbage of life. We are not a “Christian” coffee shop. We don’t play Christian music, have “Jesus” logos up or serve the coffee with a “God bless you.” We are just Christians hanging out with our new friends and looking for opportunities to tell them what Jesus has done for us.
We wish we had space to tell you the details of every story. Every one of them is amazing! God is pouring out His love on desperately broken and hurting people. We are seeing homosexuals, prostitutes, drug addicts, and criminals being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light!
The mayor’s son gave his life to Jesus after a life of homosexuality marred by AIDS. Jesus, in His kindness, healed him from diabetes! A 30-year drug addict, who attempted suicide, has been freed from drugs and is enjoying life! A “sex offender” has found a community of friends who love him. Our most recent joy is a girl who used to dance in the clubs getting free from demonic oppression and abuse and is getting married to a young man that God has delivered from heroine addiction. It is a happy story!
We have enjoyed serving in the community by cleaning homes, fixing fences, mowing lawns, chopping trees and Christmas caroling (an absolutely terrifying/exhilarating experience, as we encountered multiple homes where drugs were being snorted right in front of us while we sang, and some where we were met with violent explosions of anger! I know. I know. We were a bit naïve!)
Are we risking our children to this environment?! Most certainly. But Jesus has called us to be light in darkness. It was a fearful thing in the beginning, but so far it is accomplishing our hope. People are coming into the Kingdom, and our kids are experiencing true ministry. They are deeply involved in the coffee shop and service projects. The first man to come to the Lord was through friendship with our daughter, Jessi. Josiah and Jael have cleaned community homes and yards, and played countless hours of Skipbo with customers. They are developing a heart of compassion for those who know nothing but the destruction of sin. You can pray that they will continue to choose to reflect God’s love.