Reclamation for Man and Mortar

There exists a striking parallel between Don Cornelious and the Chicago Kroc Corps Community Center, where Don works and worship.

“We’ve both undergone extensive reclamation,” Don witnesses.

Don is a 20-year veteran of the Chicago Police Force, and, as you can imagine, he’s seen just about everything there is to see. This is particularly true in the blighted neighborhood that would one day become The Salvation Army’s Kroc center in the “Windy City.”

“The location where the Kroc center now stands used to be a vacant lot, filled with garbage and debris,” Don explains. “The only thing sadder than that was the fact that my life was exactly the same as that vacant lot—filled with garbage and debris!”

Before Don became a born-again Christian, he was a divorced father—three of his children being conceived by different women. He was not happy with the life he was living. Something had to change.

“The ‘clean-up’ of my ‘lot’ started about three years ago,” Don says. “Around the same time the messy divorce I was in was finally resolved; but that year was especially rough on me.”

Don goes on to say that in that year alone, he had to make 47 court appearances. He felt the frustration, disappointment, and anger welling up inside of him and he knew a radical transformation had to come about if he were to keep his sanity.

“The (police) department offered an early retirement opportunity, and they didn’t have to say it twice. I began looking for a new beginning out-of-state for a place to move—it was a kind of ‘out-of-mind’ type of retirement. I could forget the past, and just look forward to a happier future.”

Don was becoming desperate.

“I was hurting, and others around me began hating,” he says.

“My stress level and blood pressure sent me to the hospital. Soon after, I visited the Kroc center. Making a change in my life wasn’t easy, but I was determined to make a new start.”

Exercise is a great remedy for stress and to lower blood pressure, so Don began looking for a good place to regularly work-out. He also happened to be looking for a good church home. He found both at the Army’s Chicago Kroc.

Don thinks of what that blighted block of real estate used to be, and he saw in that neighborhood reclamation an example of what could become of his life once he turned the controls over to God.

Three years later, Don is still in Chicago, but his reclamation did come about—when he discovered that only Christ is able to create the “new creature” he was longing to become.

In fact, Don likens his situation to that of the Apostle Paul in Acts, when Paul received a vision from the Lord to cross over to Macedonia to spread the Gospel.

“Paul wanted to go elsewhere to preach—kind of ‘out-of-state, out-of-mind’ desire that I used to feel back then.”

There are more comparisons Don is quick to point out:

  • “I wore a police uniform, and put people down and locked them in jail; Now, I was a Salvation Army uniform, where I pick people up and tell them about freedom in Jesus.”
  • “I used to pass out bad news (Here’s your traffic ticket); Now, I pass out good news (Here let me pray for you).”
  • “I used to wonder if I’d come home at night, alive; Now, I look forward to each new day serving my Lord by teaching a Bible class, working with Men’s Ministries, driving a busload of kids, or facilitating a singles’ ministry.”

All in all, Don Cornelious is a reclaimed man—just like the Chicago Kroc center that used to be one of the city’s worst eyesores.

Sex is a Great Idea!

The Bible,contrary to what most people imagine, is very sex-positive. In fact, it is full of good sense about sex and how to enjoy it. Take the story of creation in Genesis: Then God said, “Let us make human beings in Our image, to be like Us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in His own image.

In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground” (Genesis 1:26-28).

There are several important truths to understand in order to enjoy sexuality in a way that will bring you happiness.

The Pinnacle of God’s Work
The passage above comes at the end of the account of God’s creation of the universe. Creating human beings was the pinnacle. In some wonderful ways humans are like God. We have consciences; we have the capacity to enjoy fellowship with God; we can share in His creative work because we have minds and imaginations; we are entrusted with the control of His world.

We are not just like other animals; in reality, we are like God. We are very different from cats and dogs and elephants. So it is only reasonable that our sexual conduct would have different standards and values.

Male & Female
God made human beings male and female. Sex was God’s idea and a vital part of His design for the universe. Since we are like God, there is nothing incompatible between the spiritual and physical sides of our nature.

Indeed, we can say that there is part of our likeness to God that can only be seen in our sexuality. Of course, we know that God is pure spirit, that He is not limited to a body. At different times the Bible describes Him as being like a father or mother. So the fact that we are made in the image of God will be seen in the proper use of our sexual instincts and desires.

More Good News!
If you’re finding this encouraging so far there’s even more good news for you. The first thing God did after He created human beings was to bless them and then say, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Some of God’s first words to Adam and Eve were a command to get on with it!

This is all very different from the way my father spoke to me when he first tried to tell me about sex. He coughed, shuffled his feet, looked out the window, blushed, stammered out a few words, and then changed the subject. But God told His creations to make love!

Have you ever seen one of those illustrations in which Adam and Eve are eating the apple from the tree? Usually the snake has a wicked look in its eye and Adam and Eve are looking at each other with an expression that leaves no doubt that they have just discovered sex.

Many believe that the message of this passage of the Bible is that sex and sin belong together, and if sex wasn’t a little sinful, it wouldn’t be much fun. But that is a travesty. When sex and sin get mixed together people get badly hurt. The real truth is that the people who follow God’s guidelines for sex within the confines of marriage are the people who really enjoy sex. God knew sex would give us pleasure; He intended it to. He also knew that such a powerful force needed to be controlled. His guidelines were designed to maximize our happiness and minimize our pain.

Making Love Is Serious Business
Sexual intercourse is the way that new human beings are created, and there is nothing more serious than bringing a child into the world. That means that pleasure must always be balanced with personal responsibility. Making love is the greatest pleasure in the world, but it is also serious business. It’s not wrong to enjoy sex, but it’s wrong to treat it lightly. The happiness and safety—indeed, the very existence—of other people is at stake.

Let’s appreciate how generous and loving God is. He could have made sexless human beings. He could have devised a completely boring way of making new people. He could have made sexual intercourse a thoroughly unpleasant experience. But He didn’t, and we’re glad. As a friend once said, “If God’s invented anything better than sex, He’s kept it for Himself!”

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By Chick Yuill

Reclaiming Sexual Wholeness

While many believe problematic sexual behavior has steadily increased since the dawn of the sexual revolution, it is only in recent years that we have been able to more fully comprehend the impact of these behaviors on the formation of the spiritual and psychological aspects of personhood. Specifically, the emergence of sexual addiction has forced a conversation in Christian circles about topics dismissed 20 years ago.

The landscape has changed with the advent of more personalized technology and the privatization of behavior. No longer is pornography purchased at the drug store counter or gas station or viewed on a VCR on the single television in the house; rather, it is stored away in the hidden areas of our cell phones, tablets and laptops, where its secrecy compounds the shame of its existence. We must understand that in today’s virtual world, pornography is a predator, stalking the far corners of the internet for its prey. Even if we never seek it out, the industry is working hard to find a way to get it in front of us, from pop-up ads to spam email. For the masses, it takes just one click to be swept away in a flood of adrenaline, devouring countless images in a mindless binge. The onslaught can cause entrapment in an addictive cycle that leads to a range of emotions that compete for control and leaves the individual more and more isolated.

With enough repetition, the behaviors associated with acting out sexually become ritualized and reflexive, and one manages one’s emotional state through sex. Thoughts, locations and behaviors, as well as the emotional state in which they commonly occur, can become triggers that initiate an urge to participate in the addictive behavior.

According to Dr. Mark Laaser of Faithful and True Ministries, sexual struggles of an addictive nature involve the meeting of a legitimate emotional need through compulsive sexual behavior. According to Dr. Pat Carnes, the grandfather of the sexual addiction movement, sexual addiction is considered a pathological relationship to a mood-altering experience.

“When His Advisors Were Away…”
“In the spring time, when his advisors were away at war…” (2 Samuel 11:1). NIV

One method for discovering the origins of sexual addiction draws on the breadth of scientific literature as well as Scripture. This model seeks to provide deeper understanding into the nature of the struggle so that counselors and ministers can be even more effective in journeying alongside those in need of help. This model recognizes that sexual struggle begins with isolation. This source of entrapment is nothing new. When King David ruled over Judah he reached new heights of acclaim, and was lauded for leading many military victories. When the time came to battle the Ammonites, David “sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites… However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

“Late one afternoon… David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her” (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

David finds himself isolated and elects to soothe his angst through communing with flesh instead of God. He fills his legitimate need for connection with an illegitimate solution.

One of the common patterns for individuals struggling with problematic sexual behavior is “re-sensitization”: when one becomes consciously aware again of the emotional state that was medicated or numbed with sex. This initiates remorse and regret, common byproducts of sexual acting out; the greater one’s sense of shame and despair in this process, the more likely that person will act out in the same way in the future. Adam and Eve’s experience in the Garden of Eden underscores the motivation for this behavior. After they disobeyed God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they “heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees” (Genesis 3:8).” We can see from the experience of our first ancestors that the primary function of shame is to protect our sense of insufficiency by replacing it with inauthenticity. In short, shame leads people to build a façade to try to appear healthy from a distance, but the more they let people in, the greater the chance of their struggle being discovered.

The shame evidenced in this façade creates cognitive dissonance, fractures in the mind and heart. Paul the Apostle expresses this honestly, revealing the pain he feels by not living authentically: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate… And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:15–19).

Such self-awareness and public confession is rare. And when it comes to the highly charged topic of sexuality, the addict remains detached from other people to avoid being exposed, resulting in a return to a state of isolation that fuels the next addictive cycle.

Although an addiction can be incredibly powerful in controlling one’s life, there is a greater power that can free a person from this sense of bondage: the Spirit of the Lord. The most essential aspect of any recovery or healing process is a deepening sense of God at work in the life of the individual. Also essential is a commitment to not only sobriety of thought and behavior, but to filling the void created by ceasing the sexual behavior with things like prayer, Scripture reading and worship. Many, however, attempt to experience transformation in a vacuum, persisting in the same sense of isolation that fostered the sexual struggle in the first place.

To paraphrase John Wesley, there is no personal holiness without public holiness. Healing from sexually addictive behavior necessitates that one learns how to form more healthy patterns in relationships than he or she has experienced previously. This is where the Body of Christ becomes critical in overcoming this struggle.

No One An Island
Community: “Now you are the Body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.”

The first step in helping others to live sexually pure lives is to engage them in community. Recall that is why God created man and woman in the first place. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (Genesis 2:18). We are created with a desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Our desire for belonging is a reflection of our desire to know God and to be known by Him and to know that we belong to a community of grace and compassion. That is exactly what God calls people to be, in a most literal sense, as we take part in His new life. “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Healing happens in community. It is an intentional process. Simply showing up and hiding in the anonymity of the crowd will not suffice. We are created for deep and meaningful connection at every level of our being, and not just connection at the sexual and marital levels, but meaningful connection with those with whom we interact. Establishing a sustainable sobriety in the aftermath of sexual addiction requires that we move into a place of authentic intimacy with others.

A 12-step recovery group can be an important starting point for those who are just beginning this journey.

There they will find a place where they are understood in ways most individuals struggling with sexually addictive behavior have never experienced. As a result they will be challenged and held accountable in ways that only those who have previously struggled and been healed can offer.

Space for the Hard Things
Confession: “Confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!” (Nehemiah 1:6b).

When there is participation in community and a growing sense of connection in discipleship and recovery, there is space for confession. True confession is penetratingly honest, and recognizes the extent of calamities caused by unhealthy motives. Nehemiah demonstrated such deep confession when he learned that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins and the people in disgrace. And the root of sin implicated not just him individually but his family and, by association, the community. “O Lord, God of heaven… who keeps His covenant of unfailing love with those who love Him and obey His commands, listen to my prayer… I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned” (Nehemiah 1:5-6).

Some folks struggling with sexually addictive behaviors are liberated instantly from their struggle. Most, however, reflect Peter’s denial in spite of his guilt when he denied he was a follower of Jesus. After Jesus was arrested and Peter was near where Jesus was being held, “Peter was standing by the fire warming himself, they asked him again, ‘You’re not one of His disciples, are you?’

“He denied it, saying, ‘No, I am not.’

“But one of the household slaves of the high priest… asked, ‘Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?’ Again Peter denied it” (John 18:25-26).

When community is healthy and connection is authentic, there is room for confession, the freedom to be real, as a means of deepening holiness. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, each cycle of struggling and slipping— when met with grace for what has happened and challenge to learn from it, so as to not repeat that mistake— is a successive approximation toward healthy spiritual, emotional and sexual living.

“You Are That Man”
Confrontation: “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are that man’” (2 Samuel 12:7a).

Much like healthy community empowers space for confession, it also opens the door for confrontation: specifically, the gentle, reflective prompting of a greater sense of insight or self-awareness. When David’s best friend Nathan told him how a rich man took the only animal a poor man owned and killed it for food, David was outraged. Then Nathan said, “You are that man” (2 Samuel 12:7), referring to David’s relationship with Bathsheba. “Then David confessed to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’” (vs. 13).

Those who have struggled with sexually addictive behavior have done so, at least in part, due to a lack of self-awareness or insight. Rather than screaming at David, it is possible that Nathan instead used a voice that was more consistent with the story he used to evoke David’s anger. Confrontation, when misused, can drive a wedge of isolation that sends people back to their problematic behavior. But when used correctly, it can be the means of grace that keeps them rooted in the Father’s arms.

How can you grow in your capacity to help foster sexual purity in the lives of those in your world, your community, your church and your home? Whatever small step you can take today, go and do so.

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By Dr. Todd Bowman

Restoring Dignity in Mumbai’s Red Light District

Inspired by the saving love of Christ, The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) works with local Salvation Army forces to free individuals from the chains of human trafficking and to offer strength to the powerless, comfort to the oppressed and hope to men, women and children enslaved around the world.

The red light district of Mumbai is home and workplace for 9,000 young women and girls tied to the sex trade industry. In the same densely populated area, an estimated 5,000 children live on the streets. Located in the heart of this district are The Salvation Army Jeevan Asha Drop-in Center and Aruna Girls Home. Funding from SAWSO supports these centers for women and children seeking a safe alternative to the sex trade.

Women desperate to provide a better life for their families find counseling, health education, literacy classes and vocational training at the drop-in center. Their children receive schooling, meals and a refuge to be with caring staff members. Within the safety and security of these shelters and the care of staff, the children learn that they are loved by God and able to pursue a better life.

Selma
When Selma was 13 years old, she was lured to a Mumbai brothel from Nepal by a man with the promise of a job with the circus. For five years, she was forced to work in a brothel until the owner died and she was free.

Selma enrolled her daughter in school at The Salvation Army Aruna Girls Home to ensure her safety. The staff motivated Selma to take computer classes. Soon, The Salvation Army hired her as an outreach worker for the drop-in center, where she regularly visits women working in brothels and conducts meetings in their homes to help them find solutions through Salvation Army programs.

“Because of the stigma of prostitution, women do not share their trials with others. I used to be afraid to share my story, but now, I am not afraid of what others think as long as my story might help another woman who can identify with me,” she says. She now has five children of her own, who receive education at the drop-in center and Aruna Girls Home.

She says, “I see so much hope in the red light district,” she says. “When I go out into the community, I meet so many who have been trafficked from Nepal, like me. I always share with them that they too can come out of it and have a better life. Helping them has helped me.”

Rehman
Rehman was a child when he came to the red light district to live with his grandparents. “I would always witness fights breaking out at home,” he remembers. “We slept hungry many nights. Outside on the streets, there was fighting. There was no place to find safety and I was constantly living in fear. I felt I had no future and no one to look after me.”

Rehman enrolled at the drop-in center when he was seven. “Through their support, I recently took the standard test for 10th grade and passed.” At 20 years old, Rehman now works as a night care staff member for boys from the red light district who themselves are seeking safety and shelter. He counsels them, conducts prayer meetings and oversees their school studies. “My favorite part of working at the center is teaching the children, because I remember when I was young, no one guided me. It was my dream to help school children in their future, and as I am teaching them now, I see their dreams are coming true.”

Aruna
Banished from her husband’s family after his untimely death, Aruna was 25 when she moved into her sister’s house in the red light district and began cleaning houses. “The brothel owners would often tempt me to come into the profession, saying I would make more money than cleaning houses,” she says.

With three children to care for, mounting stress and fatigue moved her to consider suicide. Aruna recounts, “One day The Salvation Army visited my sister’s house. They offered prayer and a place for my children to learn at the drop-in center. They gave me a job to cook for the children at the center, which has helped me provide food and shelter for my own family.” Her sons and daughter reside at the Salvation Army shelters nearby, where they are educated and attend Sunday school. Aruna has saved and paid installments on a four-bedroom house outside of the city. “I receive so much love from the children of mothers who work in the district. I am now loving others and receiving love.”

With financial support from The Salvation Army, Aruna pursued healthcare training, and now offers counseling and support to women trapped in the red light district. Aruna says, “God is faithful to me. I have an identity in Christ and I want to shield women and children by helping them build a foundation for their lives. I want them to learn to love like I have learned.”

Meena
Originally from Nepal, Meena came to Mumbai as a 13-year-old and began working in a brothel washing clothes and cleaning houses. “One day when I was working, I found a baby girl lying in the street. I decided to care for her. As she grew, I learned she was unable to speak—even still, she became my daughter. Her name is Asha,” she says.

Meena enrolled Asha in the drop-in center. The staff helped her find a school and encouraged her to learn despite the disability. Meena participates in an Army program in which she works with a savings group and has learned how to sew and create garments as a sustainable source of income.

“So many women in the red light district are asking how they can come out of prostitution,” Meena says. “I want to be an example for them; that they too can come out of the brothels. I believe that if we all work hard together, united with The Salvation Army, we can actively fight prostitution.”

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By Major Frank Duracher

Worst Bargain in History