Living in a fast paced society like Sydney it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and take our focus off what God desires for us. He is not interested in shallow relationships, quick fixes or how fantastic our lives may appear on social media. He is concerned with the state of the heart and yearns for us to have deep, raw and authentic relationships with our loved ones, with individuals pushed to the margins of society, and also with him.
These relationships can be messy and sometimes painful, but are always worthwhile. I’d like to share with you a story which I believe reflects God’s heart and captures the essence of HopeStreet. This is the story of Sarah, a 42 year old mother of four, who has been connected with our Women’s Space program for the past 13 years.
Sarah grew up in a dysfunctional family with little money and moved house often, she found it difficult to make friends. She was desperately lonely; hated life; felt ugly and was frustrated by her family’s lack of money. Sarah longed for acceptance, so she began partying and took her first alcoholic drink at 12. After being raped at 13, she says she really didn’t care what happened anymore; she progressed to using heavy drugs and at 15 was lured into sex work as an expedient way to make money. Sarah thought it was all ‘a bit of a game’ and enjoyed the façade of independence and self-determination.
When Sarah was introduced to HopeStreet’s Women’s Space she had been involved in sex work for 14 years, she was addicted to heroin and her four children were in foster care. She saw Women’s Space as a safe and welcoming space to visit and obtain practical support and had no intention of giving up sex work or drugs.
Sarah says there isn’t a definitive ‘change’ moment, but a gradual and growing awareness that her life was headed nowhere. She identifies the stable and loving environment at Women’s Space and the modelling of a healthy and Godly lifestyle as the influence which led her to desire positive changes in her own life.
Over the years, Sarah has made many attempts at kicking her drug habit and leaving sex work only to slip back in to old ways, but after each cycle, she proves to herself that it is possible and life can be different. She describes Women’s Space as “a relaxing place where it was ok to be myself, they have been like a proper family and someone is always there for me”. When asked how Women’s Space has helped her, Sarah responded: “Just by being there. There has never been any judgement or pushing, instead there is trust and alternative choices presented”.
During the past two years Sarah’s search for meaning in life has grown stronger, in 2012 she attended a couple of sessions at Colour Conference – she explained “I was unhappy and searching for something, I just didn’t know what”. Life continued to cycle around, and earlier this year she attended church with a friend, “and that was the night I found what I had been searching for”. On 25 May 2014 Sarah was baptised, she says that for her becoming a Christian is “literally like being born again, I actually feel like I’m living and not just existing for the first time in my life. I have a sense of purpose and I no longer have suicidal thoughts which used to consume me”.
Of course this isn’t the end of Sarah’s story, she’s a realist and is totally aware of the struggles that lay ahead but she says “this time I’m not doing it on my own, now I have God. I know there’ll be times when I fall but I don’t have to bash myself up over them, God understands”.
Sarah hopes to reconnect with her family when the time is right, several years ago she ceased contact because of the hurt her lifestyle choices caused, she is understandably fearful of how this may be received. Sarah has demonstrated determination and courage throughout her journey and I’m so excited for what God will continue to do in her life. I hope you will join with me in celebrating her precious life and supporting her through prayer for the journey ahead.
It’s almost impossible to achieve and sustain this type of transformation alone and this is why HopeStreet exists. Sarah says she will always remain connected with Women’s Space because “we’re family and a part of who she is”, I trust that you might feel the same way and support us so we can continue to ‘be there’ for the many Sarah’s of our city.