Preparing for a Porn Conference: This Christian’s Walk on the Wild Side

I never thought these words would ever come out of my mouth, but here it goes… In exactly one month, I will be attending a porn conference in Vancouver, Canada.  

Now before anyone freaks out – or rushes over to their cell phones to call my parents and tell them that their 24 year old daughter has fallen off the deep end – let me tell you why I will be attending this conference.

First things first: Jesus loves porn stars.  No, really – He’s crazy about them.  He doesn’t just like them, He loves them.  And you know what else?  Jesus loves people who watch porn too.  Yes, you read that correctly.  While I was in South Africa this past year, my faith and knowledge of “who God is” was challenged immensely.  I realized that His love ran deeper than I ever could have imagined and that His healing power was greater than I ever could have anticipated.  He is a God of inclusion, and His arms are always open to receive anyone who runs to Him (no matter how dirty or how sinful that person might be).  Isaiah 59:1 says, “Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.”  

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Jesus had a talent for drawing in the people that everyone else pushed away.  The whores, the murders, the diseased, the liars, the cheaters, the arrogant, and even the dead.  Not only did he draw them in, He made it a point to chase after them.  When the religious leaders looked at a deadbeat or a criminal, they saw a waste of space – but when Jesus looked at them, He saw a daughter or a son who needed restoration and freedom.  If Jesus, brimming with perfect holiness, was willing to walk into the most dimly lit and shameful places of the world to find the people who needed Him desperately, then I must be willing to do the same.

Only God can turn our ashes into a thing of beauty.  The Lord has an amazing way of redeeming our pasts.  He can take something that was once ugly and disgraceful and He can turn it into something worthy and full of hope.  It’s my turn to get free with ya’ll.  I had a really bad porn addiction in high school, and I had an incredible talent for hiding it from the people closest to me (which meant that no one knew I needed help).  I used porn as an escape, as a coping method, and as a way to “take the stress away” until it finally began to consume me.  Some serious damage was done.  My perception on love, sex, and “healthy relationships” became completely disfigured, I felt so much shame and guilt that I started to lash out on my family members and I distanced myself from God, and I started buying into the lies that I was worthless, broken, and most definitely gross.

BUT GOD.  Those are two of my favorite words in the universe.  But God… put me back together.  He reached out to me when I was deep in my self-made pit of despair, and He pulled me out and grabbed ahold of me (despite the fact that I had no strength at the time to hold onto Him).  Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  He cleaned me up, set me free, healed my hurts, and He told me who I was in His eyes: valuable, beautiful, righteous, blameless, cherished, loved, and most importantly… His.  He’s given me a heart to reach out to those who struggle like I did, to reach out to the women who think they aren’t worth something (or someone) of value, and to reach out to the brokenhearted and abused.  He had taken the messed up pieces of my past, and He redeemed them for His glory and for my benefit, and let me tell you… it’s the greatest feeling in the world! Now, I get to find others who are in need of hope and healing.  I get the opportunity and the honor of sharing the love of Christ with those who have never experienced love before, and it’s all because of His mercy and grace.

Even though this trip (with Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale and xxxchurch) will only last for a short week in February, my mission to create change and to bring hope and love to others will last for my entire life.  It’s not going to be an easy journey.  It will be dark one, a dangerous one, and the fight will be a spiritual one.  Sex trafficking, prostitution, and pornography are all over the world.  The battle is a big one, and it’s one that ends in death, both spiritually and physically, for so many.  I was recently challenged with the thought… “What would happen if I loved those people (the johns, the strippers, the porn stars, the addicts, and the pimps…) as much as Jesus loves them? How might the world be different?  

I’ve decided to give it a go and find out.  Partner with me in prayer and with steps of faith.  Let’s be bold together as a community (all over the world) and as a united church.  We are commanded by God – Who is the Mighty Warrior fighting on our behalf – to not be afraid, so let’s be strong and courageous, and let’s inspire change. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Nothing is to hard for Him.”

If you’d like to donate and support me in this fight, please visit:

http://ssmfi.org/missionary/samantha-stokesberry/

If The Church Went To Hell

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.  Some windows are lighted, but mostly they’re darked.  A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!  Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?  How much can you lose? How much can you win?”

Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

If I were to give Christianity a catch phrase, I’d have to quote a title from the wonderfully wise Dr. Seuss:

“Oh The Places You’ll Go!”

Oh, the places I’ve been!  When I told Jesus that I was going to follow Him wherever He would lead me, I never dreamt that I’d end up in prison, I didn’t know that He’d book me on a flight to South Africa, and I never would have thought that I’d be spending my Friday nights making conversation and sharing snacks with women caught up in the prostitution industry.  He led me into the dark places; He led me directly to the spots where no sane person would ever want to venture.  So, call me insane.

When I look back at the life that Jesus lived, I really shouldn’t be surprised.  He didn’t hang out with the “hip and happening” people of His day.  He sought out the loners, the outcasts, and the troubled.  He reached out and touched the dirty, the sick, and the broken.  He ran into the dark places without hesitation; He fought for the ones who didn’t have a voice.  Man, I love that guy.  Then it made me realize, wow, He fought for me too.  That means that I was sick and broken, and in need of some serious help.  With this little nugget of knowledge in mind, my perspective of the world around me began to change.

The unfamiliar didn’t seem so scary anymore.  The world around me didn’t seem as intimidating.  The women in prostitution became my long lost sisters, the boys in prison became my older brothers.  Together we are becoming one, great, big, intercultural, and relatively dysfunctional family.  Perfect love really does cast out fear.  It connects people.  It brings hope and life.  It motivates the soul, stirs the mind, and convicts the heart.

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Everyone comes from somewhere, and we each have our own story written out with twists, turns, setbacks, and failures.  Not one of us can claim the “perfect human” award … but we have a habit of trying to anyways.  Let’s be real, the church especially has a knack for covering up it’s blemishes, scars, and imperfections with legalistic and hypocritical makeup (my two favorites are “Bless Your Heart blush,” and “I No Longer Sin eyeshadow”).  The more make up we put on, the more we appear to be fake. I used to pretend that I had my entire life in order because I was under the assumption that to be a “good Christian” I wasn’t allowed to screw up ever again.  I was in total self-denial about my constant need for my Savior.  The second I started to believe that I didn’t need Jesus anymore, was the second that I forgot the true meaning of the Gospel.  He found me and pulled me out of my dark place, and it is only because of Him that I am still free.

Instead of following Jesus into the dark places, we tend to stay within the comfort of our Christian bubbles.  Jesus is just ahead of us calling our names, but we decide to keep chilling in our cushioned church pews saying, “no thanks Jesus, I’d rather not get my hands dirty because I just got a manicure and the nail polish hasn’t dried yet.”

The church needs to go to hell.  Now, before I get any emails asking if I’ve fallen off the deep end … let me explain what I mean.

There is an undeniable darkness all over the world, and to so many people, those lonely and despairing places can become one’s very own hell.  To the girl who sells her body just to make enough money to buy food for her family, the street corner is her hell.  To the boy who just wanted a family and was forced to murder an innocent to join a gang, the prison cell is his hell.  To the children being abused by their drunken parents every evening after school, walking into the front door is their hell.

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Jesus met people in the dirty places.  He didn’t ask them to get their act together, He didn’t ask for perfection, and He didn’t seek restitution.  He just loved.  So, just as Jesus loved and entered into my messed up situation, I am called to do the same for my neighbor (aka. everyone).

If I continue to get the privilege, I am going to run into those dark places (with wisdom and discernment, of course), and I am going to do my absolute best to love.  I am not going to lecture or judge, and I am definitely not going to condemn (because who am I to point out someone else’s weak spot when I have plenty of my own).  Instead, I will guide the struggling and the lost to the Great Problem Solver, to the Sin Demolisher, and to the Healer of Hurts.  I can’t fix or change the hearts of those around me, but Jesus can.  My only job is to share hope, love, and grace with my fellow homo sapiens.

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Salt is no good if it stays in it’s shaker.  So, if we are supposed to be the salt of the earth, let’s start being salty and shake things up a bit!  (Corny I know, but I couldn’t resist.)