Leaving Las Vegas

Last week the Justice  & Worship tour blew into Las Vegas, Nevada, carried by a dust storm with winds almost reaching 80 miles per hour. Trying to drive the trailers across the desert in that wind was one thing, but it was a whole different experience once we finally got to the Hitchin’ Post  RV park and then tried to sleep. It actually felt like we were in a cruise ship cabin except the rocking was not gentle and rhythmic but more of a sporadic shaking, along with some screeching and howling sounds as the wind forced its way into the trailer around some of our windows. Nothing like starting off with a bang!

We are happy to report that we all survived the winds and there wasn’t any damage to our homes! This tour is going to look different, and that is a scary and exciting thing.  There will certainly be a wider variety of ways that God uses us and one of those ways is to share with you some stories of the amazing people that we get to meet along the road. Today, I want to tell you about some new friends who are pioneering the gospel in a city where sin is celebrated.

Meet Sami:  We met Sami on Wednesday afternoon. She is a young woman who has discovered that doing real ministry is not a glamorous job. Sami is leading the efforts of Youth with a Mission against human trafficking in Las Vegas and currently, she is her only staff.  She shared with us how, shockingly, this city has no aftercare centers or shelters for victims coming out of trafficking, so the only place for minors picked up on the streets to go (estimated 400 last year) is jail or back on the streets.  Youth cannot even enter a homeless shelter for the night without signed permission from parents. You’d be surprised, as notorious as this city is for trafficking, how few ministries are actually in operation here. Sami is creating awareness presentations and taking them into schools to help with prevention of at risk youth. At one point, we asked her if she is staying encouraged and she said, “Yeah, Jesus is my rock” and you knew she meant it. She isn’t in ministry for the romance, glory, or really anything other than obedience.

Meet Chris: Friday afternoon we tracked down a guy named Chris, who made some time for us in between hosting two different ministry teams that traveled to Vegas to work with their ministry, Casa de Luz. Chris grew up as an atheist and nine years ago, God changed his life. Chris and his church rented a building in what is known as “Naked City,” which is just off the strip where a lot of gentlemen’s clubs, drug dealers, and prostitutes hang out. They wanted to see the neighborhood changed, and within the last 2 and a half years, change has happened. They are a ministry loving the people rejected by society and shining the light of Christ in places most Christians wouldn’t want to go, loving on the streets kids, homeless, substance abusers, drug dealers, and sex workers that surround them. It is a ministry without judgement and one with a zealous pursuit of being the hands and feet of Christ, even if that means looking very different than your typical “church.”

Meet Ray and Clare: Ray and Clare came to Vegas with Youth with a Mission about 10 years ago for their Training School and decided to stick around, hearing God’s call for the orphan in the city of Las Vegas. With no background in social work, legal studies, or any ‘traditional’ training to make them feel qualified for it, they felt compelled to start a ministry called Foster Connect, which helps connect kids in the foster system to loving families that could care for them. Within 5 years, they have seen many kids get placed into homes, but they don’t stop with the placements. They support these families by visiting them, helping with court appointments and adoption processes, providing needed resources like clothing, toys, and baby gear and praying with the families. They heard God’s heart for the orphan and instead of looking at what they lacked, they moved forward to do what they could to love these kids without families.

So exciting to have the opportunity to meet and proclaim the faithfulness of these men and women who are reaching this city without any fanfare or glory for themselves. More to come as we head to Phoenix…

*written by Jenna Wilson

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