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/

Most Definitely Quite Possibly

I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve heard (or said) the phrase “God opens and closes doors,” but last night the Lord challenged me with a question that rattled my brain a bit:

Why do I limit Him to the confines of a house?

I have kept God in a metaphorical “one bedroom flat” my entire life.  The flat has two doors and one small window incase of emergencies, and it has limited His power and His ability to work in my life for years.  But, last night while I was lying in bed having a minor panic attack about how my money is running out and how my plans for the future keep getting screwed up, God told me to burn the metaphorical flat down.

So, I did.  I set a fire to my expectations, my fears, my worries, and my 5 year plan.  I set a fire to people pleasing, to following the crowd, and to stereotyping Christianity.  I set a fire to who I thought God was and to who I used to be.  Now, I stand out in the open – vulnerable to the world – ready to be used and lead by my Awesome Dad. There’s no turning back now.

It’s a really scary place to be, but when I look back through the bible at all of the other crazy people who decided to follow God in reckless abandonment, I am comforted by the fact that I’m not alone.  Abraham almost had to kill his only son after God promised him decedents that would number the stars, Gideon had to fight a battle against over 100,000 men with only 300 soldiers, and Paul was thrown in prison and beat up because of His hope in Jesus.  If they can move forward in faith, so can I.

I moved here 8 months ago, and within this past year God has turned my entire world upside down.  I came to coach soccer and impact the lives of little kids, but He had something much greater in mind.  I’ve worked with the training4changeS after school futsal program to keep kids off the streets and to equip them with life skills and a safe place to play and grow. I’ve partnered with STOP human trafficking South Africa to teach kids about love and purity along with the dangers of sex trafficking and prostitution. I’ve spent time in Drakenstein Prison building relationships, sharing the Word, and playing soccer with the boys from Ambassadors Football. Not to mention, I’ve been given the amazing privilege of playing the sport I love for a team that has become my second family.

Whew. Ok. Fast forward to today.

Well, a lot of things have changed.  Firstly, I am no longer coaching, and to be honest, I never saw that coming.  However, as more stepping stones are being lit up on my path, I’ve realized that the road looks a bit different than I thought it would.  But, it’s a road that is better than anything I could have imagined, and God knows the desires of my heart better than I do, so my only responsibilities are to be willing and available.

I am investing more and more of my time working with the youth, especially girls.  God keeps putting me in situations where He uses me to speak and teach about the things I struggle with most, and it is absolutely insane.  Purity is a huge area of weakness for me, yet He has me working and speaking at girls conferences and churches and schools about sex and love and lust.  Every time I speak, I know that He’s really the One doing the talking, and every time I feel accused and judged by the enemy for not being “good enough,” “pure enough,” or “holy enough,” I am reminded that Jesus loved me even in my darkest times.  His power is made perfect in my weakness, and His grace shines brightest in the darkest places of my heart.  And that’s enough to make me fall on my knees in worship.

I am going to be spending much more time working alongside STOP human trafficking who’s aim is to save girls who are being sold, abused, and used for sex.  I have been given the opportunity to write STOP’s blog posts and to speak in front of the hundreds of kids we reach out to when we present the Valuable to Jesus and the Traffic Proof Prevention programs to them.  Also, (and this is a HUGE also) I have been asked to join the STOP team on a week long trip to Uganda next March to help train up the army staff and their wives in human trafficking prevention.  We are also going to do an outreach to a refugee camp in the North of Uganda, and I may even get to teach the girls soccer!

To help equip me for this adventure, I am hoping to attend an International Human Trafficking Conference for Africa in October in Simon’s Town, SA.  It’s a three day long conference that will teach us about Illegal Migration, Human Smuggling, and Trafficking.  I am pretty pumped up about the opportunity!

The more steps I take forward while holding the Lord’s hand, the darker and riskier it gets.  But, the beautiful thing is that the tighter I grip my Fathers hand, the softer my heart gets.  I am led into places where most people would never dare venture, but I am comforted by the fact that I don’t go there alone.

Alright, now this is where one of my biggest steps of faith comes in.  I need your help.  As you guys know, I am here in South Africa on 100% donations.  I cant work because I am on a charity visa, so I need to be supported by my friends, family, and anyone else with a giving heart.  I am planning on coming back to South Africa in January to finish what God has started, so here are practical ways you can help:

  1. The International Human Trafficking Conference in October is 125$ for me to attend.  This will really equip me to fight human trafficking in a more efficient way.
  2. I don’t know exactly how much the Uganda trip will cost, but I do know that I will need to pay for food, accommodation, and travel. The estimation is about 10,000R. which is about $800.  I am totally trusting God with this one because it is going to be a dangerous trip, but the Lord promises to be my Protector and Provider so I’m going to walk by faith here!
  3. I plan on staying in South Africa for at least another year, so my monthly budget is about $2500 to cover rent, petrol, food, electricity/water, healthy insurance, phone bills, and ministry expenses/tithes.  Thank the LORD for the amazing exchange rate (10R = 1$).  I owe Him big time for that, haha!
  4. There is a girl here in South Africa who is a good friend of mine. She has a heart for God and for serving the girls as a football coach in South Africa.  She is an overcomer, but her dad lost his job, her brothers and sisters are addicted to drugs, she has a daughter who she can barely afford to keep in school, and she is trying to move out of her home because of the dangerous environment surrounding her with drugs/alcohol and violence.  I would love to be able to help sponsor her monthly because I know that she has so much potential to change lives, so if any of you feel the Lord nudging your heart to specifically support her, please let me know!

To donate: 

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

Or send a check payable to Shepherd’s Staff by mail to: 

Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators 

6739 Academy Road NE, Suite 320 Albuquerque, 

NM 87109

(Put my account number #6020 in the memo section)

I never would have made it here if it wasn’t for you all.  I wouldn’t have had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and move across the world if it wasn’t for the constant love and support that I have received from my family and friends.  I am so grateful for the army of loved ones I have standing with me.  I want you to be blessed by what God has been doing, because without your financial support, none of it would have been possible.  I know that things are about to get hectic, so please keep me and the ministries (especially the STOP team) in prayer!  Even if you don’t have the means to support financially, prayer support is something that I will need even more!

I’ll end this letter with these honest words…

The plans I have for my life will most definitely quite possibly come to fruition, but even though I can’t and won’t put my faith in my own plans, I can and will put my faith in a God Who’s love will never fail, Who’s plans are for me to prosper, and Who’s never going to leave my side.

My Heavenly Dad gave me these verses to hold onto in tough and nerve-wracking situations, and I want share them with you.  Hopefully they will encourage you as much as they have encouraged me:

“I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, because I’m with you; don’t be anxious, because I am your God. I keep on strengthening you; I’m truly helping you. I’m surely upholding you with my victorious right hand.” 

-Isaiah 41:9-10

Love you all.

Sam