In October in Harrisburg, PA Felicia had walked the runway interceding…in their shoes.
She told the horrors of the stories of the more than 20 million trafficked simply by wearing a dress. It’s a runway show called Unchained (click the link here to find out more) and Felicia is a co-founder (along with my beautiful sister, Stephanie!). 24 dresses designed by the acclaimed Project Runway designer Korto Momulo tells the story of the broken daughters: innocence stolen, the abuse and addictions of the trafficked, then hope, rescue, and redemption.
Compassion had been building for those just steps away from the trafficked as the stories of women who struggled to live free were shared.
And something had been born in Felicia as she walked that runway in the shoes of their story.
Her own step-mom had squeezed her feet into stilettos every night, danced on a platform, wore the makeup so heavy no one could see the scars.
And she was also the one who pushed through the turnstile at a Billy Graham Crusade, who brought Felicia to hear about Jesus.
And if compassion is just love stored up,
then compassionate action is love spilled out.
Because we get them. Don’t we? We all crave love.
And desire substituted and crammed down tight keeps the hunger pains down.
Most had their “no” robbed early, their glory carted away by the power gorging. And powerless, they grasped for power wherever they could find it, landing them here in the dark smoky interior of a strip club.
And every captive daughter needs a Rescuer.
And all the image-bearers need to feel the weight of their value, taste hope in order to walk out of the dark of hell.
It was through Harmony Dust’s work at iamatreasure.com that love started surging into action for Felicia. Harmony, who was trafficked herself, has outreaches for those in the industry and trains women to do the same. On her site, rescued girls tell their stories of sinking into hell and the Rescuer who walked right in and found them there.
A few weeks ago Felicia’s love broke wide open with urgency. She shared with her Ohio State campus church that she planned to gather Christmas gifts for the girls at a nearby club to begin an outreach. Hearts and wallets opened and gift cards for Bath and Body Works were brought to Felicia. Another member of the church, Shaytell Furman linked arms with her to share her mission. With the gift cards for Bath and Body Works, she and Shaytell went shopping choosing the language of lotions to tell the girls that they have value and worth.
They prayed the girls would rub in truth every time they rubbed the lotion in deep. They hoped the salve of the gospel of peace would begin healing the wide open wounds.
Thursday night they wrapped the gifts up pretty in gift bags and she and Shaytell prayed for just the right girls, just the right club to walk into. They had their sites on a big commercial establishment but as they pulled into the driveway, Felicia glanced off to the left at a small shady club. Felicia found herself driving up deeper into the unknown. They parked out front, prayed for courage and then pulled open the heavy metal door.
Once inside their eyes needed to adjust to the darkness, the covered windows, the few bright spotlights. Music pounded out a techno beat and men sat at a bar laughing with a few mingling girls. The air was stale with smoke and alcohol.
As they walked up to the bar to ask for the manager, a few women sitting at the bar smiled brightly. Felicia was startled. Their demeanor was entirely incongruous. They were bright August sunshine in the midst of the hard looks, hands wrapped around glasses tight.
When they announced to the manager their desire to bring Christmas gifts to the girls, the angry manager softened. She pointed to the women at the bar with the wide smiles. It was then that Felicia noticed the Bath and Body Works bags sitting on top of the bar.
They were Christians on a love mission as well.
How to have beautiful feet this Christmas?
1. Like Felicia, ask God for where your story and the need of the world meet. Our testimony brings empathy which in turn will keep us focused when the journey seems long. Understand that the relationship building that opens doors for the Gospel takes time, grace, and truth. See this quote picked out by Harmony from iamatreasure.com by Cloud and Townsend:
For God’s system to work, you have to have all three. Grace and time together, without truth, will make you comfortable in your stuckness. Truth and time together, without grace, will discourage and break you. Grace and truth together without time will give you a vision and then not have you reach the completion of that vision. They must go together.
2. Ask God to build in you a love for the broken beautiful.
3. Do something tangible to show them you care…to share with them their true value.
4. Listen well.
6. Introduce them to the Rescuer slowly, how He runs to those who come home, forgives their sins, carts away their shame. Then He wraps His robe around them tight, introduces them to His neighbors as His beloved child.
The two women greeted Felicia and Shaytell. “We’ve been praying for you,” one of them whispered as she leaned over.
Felicia and Shaytell learned that the smiling women at the bar had been coming to the club for years every Thursday night, praying, and slowly getting to know the girls. Now the leader was moving out of state and was afraid the ministry would be dropped. “And here you are,” she said, hope spreading across her face.
“How beautiful are the feet of them that bring the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” (Romans 10:15b)
And now for a much more “soulful” version of Handel’s “How Beautiful are the Feet.”
photos by Andrea Hoppel
Make-up provided by Maria Teresa Hair and Make-up Artist