Thursday morning, my alarm chimed at me.
It was 4:00.
In the morning.
Amazingly, it didn’t hurt to get up.
“Wow,” I thought to myself (because I didn’t want to evoke the wrath of Jeff by speaking aloud at such an hour). “Bonnie was right. Bonnie is always right.”
The evening before, Bonnie Grove (author of “Talking to the Dead” and self proclaimed “smarty pants”) mentioned that 4 a.m. doesn’t hurt. Rather, 6:15 a.m. is when the pain would arrive.
Somehow, Thursday at 4 a.m. I didn’t consider how I would feel at 6:15 (by the way, Bonnie was 2 for 2 on her prediction).
I pulled on my jeans, a shirt, and sweatshirt and, without time to heat up coffee, walked out into the ridiculously dark morning.
By the way, and this is an important detail, NOTHING is open with decent coffee at 4:00 a.m.
I found my way to Downtown, Grand Rapids. Got a parking spot. Didn’t hit anything while I parallel parked (a miracle even when highly caffeinated). Wound up in the right place. And early.
Now, I’m not a morning person. Getting up before 7 or 8 is my bane. It typically takes several cups of joe to become coherent.
So, why would I get up at 4 a.m.?
Because I had the chance to be on television.
No. That’s crazy! Who wants to be on television at that time of the morning?
Hmm. Because I was promised donuts and coffee.
What? That can’t be right.
I woke up to support one of the best organizations in the West Michigan area. And that is saying a lot. West Michigan is the Bible Belt of the Mid-West. Do you know how many incredible organizations exist here? Me either. But I’m sure it’s a whole bundle.
I got up to show my support for The Manasseh Project , “an outreach ministry of Wedgwood Christian Services dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of young men and women in West Michigan“.
Right now, The Manasseh Project is spreading the word about sex slavery within our city. But, really, it serves as a mirror to reflect the sex slavery that occurs in communities around the globe. They are doing this by having a presence in our annual ArtPrize event (an art competition that draws artists and tourists from all over the nation and the world).
Thursday morning, Andy Soper (the director of Manasseh) had the opportunity to speak on the early, early, early morning news. And they needed people to stand behind him, to show support, to demonstrate to our community that we care.
The cameras panned over the crowd of supporters. Our faces were on screen behind the heads of the anchor people. It was fun to see how the T.V. magic works (really, it is a bit fantastic).
But all the while, behind our early morning, delirious smiles and hands wrapped around steaming cups of coffee, a truck served as our backdrop.
On the sides of the truck were three mug shots. Mug shots of a woman. Each more broken down than the one before it.
They were the mug shots of a woman I know. Who I have served next to. A woman whose perfume lingers on my clothes as I write this (after a hug this evening).
A woman who has lived a life that is so very different from my own.
Getting up at 4 a.m. was no big deal. Hitting the wall of pain (as Bonnie promised) at 6:15 was alright. Not getting a donut didn’t phase me.
Because, somehow, standing with those supporters, listening to Andy’s interview, standing in front of the mug shots became a holy act.
The mug shots of an abused, broken down, drug addicted woman weren’t just pictures of a screwed up person. They were photos of the very image of God. And other images of God had hurt her. Raped her. Thrown her away.
But here’s the beautiful thing. The reason that I can have hope.
God didn’t leave her. He came to get her. He reclaimed Leslie.
He is reclaiming bits of His image all over the place. Through people like Leslie, when she roams the dark streets at night to help girls escape the streets. Through people like Andy, who will not give up fighting the battle against exploitation, no matter how worn down he may get. Through the people who are willing to give of their time, money, comfort to make sure that victims can become survivors.
So that victims can learn how precious it is to be made in the image of God.
And that, my friends, is true at any hour of the day.
Please take a moment to watch this 4 minute video about sexual exploitation. Not suitable for young children. But it is something that ever adult needs to see.