A Red Light District Story

Michael wrote about something yesterday that brought up a memory of mine. In fact, him and Donald tag-teamed the topic “Knowing What To Say”. Be sure to check both posts. Good stuff.

In Michael’s post he writes about the feeling of not being able to relate to someone based on past experiences. For example, how can I relate to the murderer and drug addict when I have never experienced anything like that in my own life?

Let me share with you a story…

In 2003, as I’ve mentioned before, while in college I went with my campus ministry to Amsterdam on missions. We served the local church, did music and drama outdoors in the squares, and talked and built relationships with many people from all over the world.

One night during our time there, the guys and girls split up. Us guys went to a youth hostel to perform a concert and hang out with some younger kids. The girls in our group went to the local flower market, purchased roses, and hand delivered them to the prostitutes in the Red Light District (RLD). RLD is a general term, but the one in Amsterdam is widely considered to be the most well known. This urban area contains a network of alleyways and streets that have single-room cabins where prostitutes offer sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated by a red light.

Photo credit: MarcelGermain (Creative Commons)

They came back that night with many stories, but one in particular stood out.

As three girls on our team were talking with a lady, they started sharing their individual stories of how they came to know the Lord. One girl talked about past drug and alcohol abuse, and another shared childhood relational abuse that has haunted her for years. Lastly, the third girl, unaware how her story would even relate, started sharing. She talked about how she went to church her whole life. Her parents raised her to love and fear Jesus. All of her family grew up in the same, loving situation. Nothing ‘out of the ordinary’.

…then God did His work.

I’m sure you can guess which story resonated most with the prositute. It wasn’t one of the ones you’d expect. (Hint: it was the third girl’s story.)

I am reminded, and encouraged, through this simple example that God can, and will, use my story as a conduit for His glory.

Despite my insecurities, fears, and “lack of an exciting story”… His glory will be made famous. His name will be magnified.

It will be unmistakable. It will be unshakable. It will be undeniable.

He will make Himself know.

::

How has God used your story to speak into someone else’s life?
If you’ve been on a mission trip before, where did you travel to?

61 Comments

  • Adam

    June 22, 2011

    I think its funny despite our stories how satan and make you think they don’t matter.
    Because honestly after everything I have been through I have had those moments creep in when I hear the voice saying. “if you bring that up it will just dampen the whole mood”…”people can’t handle hearing that…why even bring it up”

    But I think our stories not matter what they are have a profound impact on people, and that usually when the devil tries to get not to share its because that person NEEDS to hear it.

    Ive been on a mission trip once.. to Cancun.. oh wait nevermind that was my Honeymoon, and the only time ive ever been outside of the country. But I would love to do a mission trip sometime.

    Reply
    • Moe

      June 22, 2011

      You can come to NYC and do missions. First mission, coffee with your brother Moe!

      Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      absolutely, adam. those are lies that we need to fight daily. thanks for sharing and contributing your thoughts. always appreciate them.

      Reply
  • Sandy Sandmeyer

    June 22, 2011

    I often think I don’t have a great story to tell. Thank you showing me that I do.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      absolutely. i’m in the same boat sandy – more to share on Friday’s post. :)

      Reply
  • Michael

    June 22, 2011

    Exactly man. Making Him famous is what it’s all about.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      what its all about. thanks MP.

      Reply
  • Arny

    June 22, 2011

    My Pastor always says that we all have a story…if you don’t have one…you have to find it…

    My story was pretty much the same as any one who “grew up” in church…but it wasn’t till I was 13 years old and a couple of guys brought the Gospel to my house door while my parents where at the store. They asked me questions, that no one a church had ever asked me (i guess cause they assumed i knew) Like, if i died right now, would I be sure with no doubt that I would go to heaven?….i thought about it…and said no….the answer suprised me cause i had gone to church my whole 13 year life! lol…There was no “religious tracts”, no suites and ties, just a couple of days in old jeans and t-shits sharing the Gospel…

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      …and the rest is history. Thanks for sharing Arny.

      Reply
  • Joseph

    June 22, 2011

    I’m a lot like the third girl. I don’t have an exciting testimony. I don’t have a story of where I was so far in the darkness and then God pulled me out. I’ve never drank, used drugs, I’ve only had relations with my wife, I’ve said maybe a handful of cuss words in my life and most were just repeats, I’ve pretty much always went to church. I never hung with the “wrong” crowd.

    I use to struggle with the fact that I didn’t have this “awesome” testimony. Then I started to realize that I have been blessed with a life that many haven’t. My testimony now is to young kids that you can make it through life without conforming to what the world has to offer… sex, drugs, alcohol, hatred, anger… But it can only be done through Jesus.

    I’ve never been on a mission trip. But I have decided recently that one day I will go. Hopefully before I turn 30. 5 years from now.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      We’re similar in a lot of ways. Thanks for sharing Joseph. I feel the same way at times – then I’m reminded that is what the enemy wants me to believe.

      Reply
      • Joseph

        June 22, 2011

        I believe your right. He wants us to think we don’t have a testimony. It’s his way of getting us to think we’re of no value to the kingdom. I’m glad I figured out he’s wrong. :)

        Reply
  • Jim F

    June 22, 2011

    God has used my story in a variety of ways through the years and He always gets the glory from it. I am a guy who has been a part of “church world” since I was 8 yrs old but even in “church world” I have experience things, done things, and been a part of things that God has been able to use here in the USA and around the world. The great thing is that the Heavenly Father has redeemed me and that has used that to connect me with others who have never met him.

    As far as Mission Trips, I have been to: An Indian Reservation in Arizona to help build a church, Jamaica to do construction work at a School for the Deaf, Romania to do Evangelism, Mexico to do construction work at a deaf School, Peru to do Evangelism, Africa to do Evangelism, and Costa Rica to preach in churches/ Evangelism.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      Wonderful. I love the way you simply see your life as Redeemed. It’s all God’s work… and He connects the dots with other people’s lives as well. Thanks, Jim.

      Where in Africa did you go?

      Reply
      • Jim F

        June 22, 2011

        I spent three weeks in Nakuru, Kenya which is in the middle of the Great Rift Valley – it was awesome.

        Reply
  • Moe

    June 22, 2011

    I have a great story to tell, but I don’t tell it often, unless I’m asked. I just try to listen and relate to people. I try to be compassionate and truthful. I’m a hugger, so I’ll probably hug the gospel into people! :)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      Brothers don’t shake hands… brothers gotta HUG!

      Reply
      • Joseph

        June 22, 2011

        One arm hugs, two arm hugs, side hug, or the big bear hug?

        Reply
        • Moe

          June 23, 2011

          I say start with one, then lean towards two and end with bear hug. :)

          Reply
          • Dustin

            June 24, 2011

            as long as the bear hug pulls the receiving party off the ground… if not, then it’s not a true bear hug. FYI.

            Reply
  • Jay Cookingham

    June 22, 2011

    All our stories matter…and the Father will use them to proclaim who He is…IF, we step out in faith.

    Thanks for sharing Bro’

    Reply
  • Alex Humphrey

    June 22, 2011

    “I am reminded, and encouraged, through this simple example that God can, and will, use my story as a conduit for His glory.”

    Amen. I have nothing more to add. That was fantastic, Dustin. Thank you for this, thank you for telling your story. Thank you for letting God glorify Himself through you.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      wow, thanks Alex. more to come on Friday’s post…. kinda go a little more personal. :)

      Reply
  • Jason

    June 22, 2011

    I love the ways God will make Himself known through us if we just get out of his way like that third girl did.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      that’s the thing: even if we’re “in the way” i think God will make Himself known regardless. if we get out of the way, it just makes it easier on everybody. :-)

      Reply
  • Ben

    June 22, 2011

    I believe “our” (mine and Kim’s) story is speaking into the lives of our small group, individually I know for sure Kim’s story resonates with her youth. It’s pretty awesome to watch.

    Mission trips: Dominican Republic, Mexico, and in 3 days I’m off to Venezuela!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      Venezuela FTW! Exciting and excited for you. You know we’ll be asking you to share stories on 7/8.

      Reply
  • Ryan Tate

    June 22, 2011

    Awesome. I love it. Stories are compelling and when those stories align with the one true Story, they are epically compelling! God has used my story which is similar to the 3rd girl’s story above. My story is one in which I was like the “older brother” from the prodigal son story who finally realizes he is no different than the “younger brother”.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      Yup me too Ryan (about the older brother). More to share about what you said on Friday’s post (aligning with God’s story). Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  • Jon

    June 22, 2011

    You know what verse that I love, and always keep note of: Rev 12:11. My story has a lot of heavy stuff, but I know now that God has been using it. It’s been a crazy journey, but I’m thankful that God’s been there every step of the way. It doesn’t matter the content of your story, it’s just that you tell it, be real, and see how God awesomely works.

    I went to Guatemala for a short mission trip. It had its up and downs–I got extremely sick, but I experienced God in such an amazing way. Totally awesome.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      Love what you said right there, Jon: doesn’t matter the content… just that we tell it and are real about it.

      Reply
  • Cindy Holman

    June 22, 2011

    Like the 3rd girl – I don’t feel anything remarkable about my story – was saved at age 4 and really didn’t rebel or anything in my teen years – married my college sweetheart at age 20 – raised two beautiful children – been in ministry all my life. But that seemingly boring story has been a blessing to others that hear it – I believe it shows the faithfulness of God to sustain and keep. I’m not perfect – far from it and had some serious problems in our marriage about 2 1/2 years ago – but our faith in God sustained and kept us there too – and we found a “new normal” and a better way to communicate – that too is a testimony of God’s unbelievable grace and mercy – His healing power and His faithfulness to us even in the darkest days of our journey. When I was 17 I went to Honduras on a mission trip – it changed my life in so many ways.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      awesome. thanks for sharing, cindy – we have similar experiences it seems. i’m grateful that it has been our mutual faith in a good God that has sustained the ups and downs of our marriage as well.

      Reply
  • Loren Pinilis

    June 22, 2011

    What an encouraging reminder that God can use anyone and everyone. Not only did the prostitute benefit from the story of the third girl, but I know that the third girl was probably smiling ear to ear when she thought about how God could use her. He works in so many ways, and it’s amazing how he blesses us through the process of us trying to bless others.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      you’re right Loren – I hadn’t thought of it from the girl’s perspective. so encouraging!

      Reply
  • Michelle

    June 22, 2011

    I remember being in church one time and they had this girl share her “horror” story of being in a gang, on drugs, using alcohol, sleeping with all kinds of men…etc…and everyone was clapping so loud for her as if the more bad things she did, the more God looked good. I remember sitting there thinking about how lame my testimony was – this was before all the other crap hit the fan in my life–I was the girl next door with some family problems, but I pretty much was the golden child, but I was amazed at how much God protected me from. God didn’t have me go through drugs, sex, alcohol abuse, gangs, etc…He protected me from A LOT of things that I COULD HAVE done, but because of HIS GRACE (not because of my strong will or my awesome ability to resist temptation) I didn’t have to go through that to see there was a God. That doesn’t mean my life is cookie cutter from point A to B to the Gospel, but at that moment, I felt God telling me that my “boring testimony” was a powerful one. Great post Dustin.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      michelle, thanks for sharing. what you wrote about really resonated with me. i want to remember that, ultimately, it is because of His grace that I have a story in the first place.

      Reply
  • Adam

    June 22, 2011

    I was hurt in college playing baseball and through much prayer was able to play again. It has allowed me to have an awesome story on the healing power of the Lord. I hope that those who hear the story knows and sees that God is still in the business of performing miracles.

    Reply
  • John

    June 22, 2011

    The only mission trip I have been on was to Saltillo, Mexico in 2005. It was a great week full of hard labor, door to door evangelism and puppet skits for the kids.

    I often use my story when I talk to the kids I have on probation here. I am able to share with them how I once started down their roads when I was a teenanger and in doing that I am able to help them see how they too can be changed.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 22, 2011

      love it when God uses our experiences to impact future generations. thanks for sharing, john.

      Reply
  • Tony Alicea

    June 22, 2011

    God’s given me grace to share my story through a divorce and the restoration process to encourage a lot of people. I also have a crazy story with my dad that’s way too long to share here. I feel honored every time I get to share my testimony.

    I did my first missions trip last year and since then I’ve been to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Israel and Brazil.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 23, 2011

      way cool, tony. i appreciate your story as well.

      dang boy, you were busy last year!

      Reply
  • Rob Shepherd

    June 22, 2011

    Great post. I was once asked how I could relate to the teens that I work with because I hadn’t experienced xy and z sins. I’m not Jesus but Jesus related to people and He was perfect. Somehow prostitutes, corrupt tax collectors, and sinners were drawn to him. That’s our example. Again this was a great post.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 23, 2011

      thanks, rob. i appreciate what you said!

      Reply
  • jenn

    June 22, 2011

    I went from having a “boring” testimony (raised in church, accepted Christ as a child, no drugs or sex or alchol…) to having a story that’s almost too crazy/awful to tell. Now I tell pieces of my story, and I think those pieces encourage some people, but I don’t usually tell the whole story. I honestly don’t personally know of anyone in the same situation so I don’t think there has been a reason to tell the whole story.

    I’ve never been on a missions trip, but I would love to go on one. It’s probably not something that will happen in the near future though. Because of a story I hear from a missionary as a child, I’ve always wanted to go to India.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 23, 2011

      our stories will encourage people. God has a way of doing that. :) believe it!

      india? that is a long way… but i’m sure it would be an amazing trip. :)

      Reply
  • Lizzie

    June 23, 2011

    Great thoughts, Dustin. As a studying and freelancing writer, I wonder about this often. I don’t feel like my job is to just write for Christians, but also for unbeliever’s. But I’ve been incredibly blessed. I have a loving, functional family. I definitely have my share of sin, but if you just saw the surface, you’d probably call me a “goody two shoes.” And there is just not a reality for me without God in it. So I don’t always feel as if I know how to relate, and struggle for the words sometimes.

    But I think you pointed out something really good here: God can use anyone. It’s our job not to put him inside a box. Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 24, 2011

      you’re welcome, lizzie – funny, because i feel the same way sometimes. how can i ever relate to this person? all lies. thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • Danyen

    June 23, 2011

    Hello. I just found your blog today. As an expecting father committed to the life of Christ, I am very interested in tagging along.

    The story of my journey to belief, then faith, and finally commitment is one that tends to move hearts naturally. However, I have seen over and over again in ministry how it doesn’t even matter most of the time what my story is. It is God’s story that shines through. Regardless of what I say, and often in spite of what I say, the Holy Spirit does His thing.

    Many a time, a “normie’s” testimony has floored me because their childhood experiences were so foreign to mine. As I look forward to being a father, it is the experience of others and instruction from God that helps form my understanding of the word “father.” Here, the testimony of others whose childhood’s were blessed in an entirely different manner than mine are informative and helpful.

    Thanks again for the post. I’ll be following along.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 24, 2011

      hey Danyen- thanks for the comment. First off, congrats! Imogen is going to be here in no time –less than 10 weeks! you’re going to absolutely love being a father. if you haven’t noticed, i’m partial to girls… :)

      i like what you said: ultimately it’s God’s story shining through. that’s what really matters.

      Reply
      • Danyen

        June 24, 2011

        Thanks Dustin!

        It does seem like she will be here very soon now. I am very excited about having a daughter.

        I think we too often forget that It is the Holy Spirit’s job to work through us. Now, we are responsible for our words, and to be prepared to share the hope that is within us. But, the burden is not on us as sharers. It is on the hearer, and on the HS who is the only one that can truly create Godly change in a person. We trust that, regardless of what we say, the HS will move in that persons heart to draw them closer to Himself. In practice, I think we forget this too often. We worry about the value of our words, or their strength, or their coolness factor. Thank God we do not have to carry that burden. We can trust in Him.

        Reply
  • I am His beloved

    June 23, 2011

    Just found your blog through another link and I must say, it is nice to see a guy reach out to other guys and blog with such passion, authenticity and grace. Also love the way you interact with your audience. Refreshing and encouraging. Great job.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      June 24, 2011

      thanks for the kind words, julie. thanks for stopping by and commenting! i like the idea behind “cardboard testimonies” – way cool.

      Reply
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    May 5, 2013

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    Reply

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