I’m an American born Chinese girl who grew up in the white, middle-class suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska. I grew up in a wealthy home with loving parents. I was practically born in the church and have attended every Sunday I possibly could. As long as I can remember, I’ve always received everything I ever needed, plus more. I’ve never known anything else…
Now my life is completely different. I live in north Omaha, a place where the middle class people avoid. A place known as the ghetto is home to me. Rather than being around friends with a mindset of materialism and successful futures, I am surrounded by children who tell me they haven’t eaten for an entire day. My immersion has given me opportunities to interact with those I never would have been able to…
How many of you personally know an former gang member or ex-convict?
How about an former heroin addict or former prostitute?
Through my connections through my inner city church, Bridge Church, I have been immersed in an entirely different world. One Sunday, two prominent gang members from rival gangs came up to give their lives to Jesus at the same time. Another Sunday, former gang members encouraged current gang members who wanted to quit the gang life were invited to the front for prayer. Some even put their faith in Jesus!
Ex-convicts are found all over our church. Those who used to live for power, success, and a street reputation ended up incarcerated. However, now, to start movements for Christ in the jail cell. We even had an ex-convict co-pastoring our church before he left to plant his own!
Recently, I have become acquainted with a black lady named Ynez. Just last weekend, we went with a group of women from Bridge Church to hear Priscilla Shirer teach on God’s Word. Here’s a picture of Ynez (left) with Priscilla (right).
Ynez grew up in inner city Chicago. She identified herself as a prostitute who was addicted to heroin for about twenty years. Ynez didn’t have any desire to become sober or be changed whatsoever. She was trapped in her lifestyle and didn’t see a way out, so she didn’t even bother trying. Yet God had a different plan for her life.
Ynez would say she was “snatched” out of the streets of Chicago and placed in Omaha about two years ago. What turned out to be a support trip for her sick mother led her to a relationship with Jesus. She got connected to her brother, Ron, who was previously in jail but had an experience with Jesus. (Ron is now on our staff team at Abide Network and Bridge Church.) When God called Ynez into a personal relationship with Him, her desire for heroin, drugs, alcohol, and prostitution were completely gone.
Two years later, Ynez is actively involved in Bridge Church and on fire for Jesus. She has never received therapy from her past drug addiction and that desire has never returned to her. God has entirely freed her from her chains of addiction!
What is Ynez doing now? Ynez is living in a transitional women’s home that helps women who are overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. God is using her past to influence others so that Jesus would be made known in others’ lives!
Ynez knows how far God’s brought her. One morning, she told me that she woke up with tears of joy in her eyes as she pondered how the Lord had rescued her! Her life constantly reminds me how Jesus frees people in bondage and sets them free for His purposes and His glory.
Ynez is a spark of energy. She is one of the most outgoing people I know and isn’t afraid to tell anyone about Jesus or Bridge Church. She has a story to tell.
She once was in shackles, now she’s free.
She once was in prostitution, now she knows who Love is.
She once was living for herself, now she’s living to make His name known.
She once was a drug addict, now she’s investing in recovering drug addicts.
She once was lost in Chicago, now she’s found in Jesus.
Ynez is changed, transformed. Why? Because Jesus, only Jesus, has set her free!