I am delighted today to share a conversation with my friend Lauren Pinkston. Lauren is married and has a delightful toddler who will soon become a big sister through international adoption. Lauren is super energetic, fun, and so graciously open to chatting. She and her family live in Southeast Asia and work with human trafficking. I wanted to talk with her because I wondered if Self Talking the Gospel is a nice refrain we say in polite society, or can it hold up under even some of the most horrific realities.
Lauren, first of all I love chatting about these kinds of topics and I know you do too. Please share a little bit about where you live and the work you do.
I live in a creative access country in SE Asia, so it is really difficult to talk about what I do. Based on the audience reading this interview, I believe people will understand the heart behind all the dreams I have for my work in this place. I am also greatly bent towards justice, so other than praying like crazy for Good News to be spread, I want to see physical redemption brought to the people of this land.
Evil walks around on this earth, and as Believers we forget about it.
I work in the mornings at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, where I’m writing my dissertation and researching human trafficking patterns in the area. In the afternoons, I direct a new social enterprise where we employ women who are seeking safe work…from girls in safe houses to women actually running brothels. We believe that if we rescue one girl from human trafficking, we will be opening up a spot for other girls to be victimized. So, slowly, we are developing relationships with brothel owners and offering employment if they shut down their business as usual and reopen their business as a handicraft co-op.
Being a wife and mom are my full-time, fun jobs. : )
Human trafficking seems so dark; I think many don’t even know how to approach the subject. What have you learned about darkness from your work? Paradoxically, how is it not as dark as you thought?
You know, there really is so much darkness. Just last week I sat across the table from a woman who answered a phone call from a man looking to buy a prostitute for the night. As I listened to her talk so casually about selling another woman’s body, I got so angry on the inside it took everything in me not to turn the table over and scream at her to get out of my workspace.
It reminded me of just how blatantly evil walks around on this earth, and how as Believers we forget about it. We stay tucked away in our comfortable faith communities where people understand us and think like us and welcome us. We do this even on ‘the field.’ I’m guilty! We just simply forget that the majority of the world is living unthinkable realities every day.
On the flip-side, I’ve seen how truly resilient humans are. It’s incredible to see the young girls we’ve employed giggling, running around, and going about their daily lives as if they haven’t experienced the horrible abuses they once knew. His redemption really can blot out painful pasts, and I am so thankful I get to witness this first-hand.
I must be in conversation with God all day, asking for discernment and clarity.
At Self Talk the Gospel we realize that one of the greatest areas we need to start with preaching the gospel is to ourselves because if we don’t believe it, we can’t live the gospel out. What helps you to battle the lies you are tempted to believe? What helps you to have the gospel woven into your self talk? What scriptures help you?
As a woman, there are a million lies I’m tempted to believe every day. My husband has helped me develop an imaginary air horn in my head that goes off when I hear one of these lies. “Honkkkk! That wasn’t an encouraging word. Honkkkk! That wasn’t a true word. Honkkkk! That wasn’t a statement meant for making me a better ME.”
I must be in conversation with God all day, asking for discernment and clarity. With as much as is thrown at us in this Information Age, I think we all have to do this, right? But Scripture is what sustains me. Some verses I love are:
“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.” -Psalm 140:12
Justice isn’t my responsibility! It is the heart of God to do these things already. I just have to show up and be willing to be used.
“For it is by grace you have been saved by faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God.” -Ephesians 2:8
I forget that I can’t work my way to Heaven. I used to think that if I was poor enough, if I sacrificed enough, and if I worked hard enough, then God would love me and I would have earned my spot in eternity with Him. This is just bad theology! I need to remind myself daily that my only job is to be faithful to Him; His grace covers the rest.
What does hope look like in your work? How do you feel the brokenness, but feed the hope?
Hope is what motivates everything I do. But gosh, sometimes it is so hard to find. After you’ve discipled someone for a full year and you lose her to a resurfaced drug addiction, you start to question why you poured so much energy out for her in the first place. You start to wonder if it really is possible for people to change, to turn their lives around. And I’ve been down this road too many times to know that hope is one of the easiest things to lose.
We have to believe that God designed people with free will so that we would ALWAYS have the opportunity to come back to His love and mercy.
Self talk comes in to play here, and this is where it becomes crucial to blot out the lies that fight for your energy. It’s important to mourn the loss of a person’s soul…we can’t ever minimize the magnitude of another person’s place before the Throne. But if we are going to go into dark places, we have to believe that God designed people with free will so that we would ALWAYS have the opportunity to come back to His love and mercy. It breaks my heart when people turn away from this incredible gift, but when I read instances of amazing grace, I find that hope again to keep pushing forward.
We could talk forever! But at some point need to wrap this up. Any final remarks you’d like to make?
Well I guess while I’m preaching, I’ll just say this: I don’t understand why the church has so much trouble being the church.
I’m thinking about light and darkness a lot in this interview, so an image of an auditorium with a stage is coming to mind. You know how, when you have a really bright spotlight shining on a stage, the other parts of the room are still dark? And when you’re standing on the stage, if you look into the spotlight, it’s really hard to see anything else in the room? The light kind of blinds you for a minute.
I feel like so many times as the church, we are that spotlight. We all clump together in our safe huddles, and become this spotlight shining in one direction so that we are too overwhelming for the person standing in front of us while the rest of the room is left in the dark.
For example, when a hot-button topic comes up in the news (like Planned Parenthood), we shout and scream and wave our Bibles so much that the rest of the world is blinded by our yelling and they can’t hear our message. The issue of abortion is center stage, but there are pregnant, single moms and orphans without homes scattered throughout the audience. No one is wandering into those dark places of the auditorium. We can’t all go to one orphan in a group. We can’t sit beside our friends if we go to that young, scared teenager. That’s all too uncomfortable.
If we dispersed ourselves amongst all the people in the room without light, we could all see. Sitting side-by-side with those in need, offering the little we have, and being the church that believes in lighting up the whole world.
How I wish we could just forget about being the spotlight and instead just carry a little cell phone flashlight. If we dispersed ourselves amongst all the people in the room without light, we could all see. Sitting side-by-side with those in need, offering the little we have, and being the church that believes in lighting up the whole world. With whatever talents we have, with whatever little thing we have to offer. Just spreading out our little so that the whole room is lit up.
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Image Credit: Volcan Olmez, UnSplash