Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stories from the Streets - Tiffany

Tiffany knew she was going to hell…

We met Tiffany in Wichita, KS during the 2009 Riverfest Outreach. A group of us were riding out a severe thunderstorm and tornadoes inside Metropolitan Baptist Church – our base camp for the street outreach. Some of our team members tried to go out and witness but I just don’t do storms.

We were waiting in a Sunday school classroom when Shawn, one of the team members, brought several young people in to dry off and warm up. Tiffany was among them.

These young people were members of a group called the Juggalos – a counter cultural movement made up of fans of a rock group called the “Insane Clown Posse.” They range in age from early teens to late 20’s and hang out in “The Pit,” an abandoned fountain on the banks of the Arkansas River, right across the street from the church.

Since arriving Thursday, Penny and I had spent most of our time in the Pit talking with these kids and found that almost every one of them came from backgrounds of broken homes, abandonment, abuse, rebellion and tragedy. Their experiences have hardened their hearts toward church and Christians – and especially against God.

We began to chat with these young people. It was very clear that Tiffany was the outspoken one. Her language was like a sailor and she had no regard for the fact that she was inside a church building.

Soon, the conversation turned to spiritual matters. When we asked if they would spend eternity in heaven or hell, Tiffany said, “I’m going to hell,” she laughed, “I’ve been going to hell for 18 years.”

She then began to share her story with us. Her father abandoned her when she was young. He was killed shortly thereafter; he was drunk and stumbled in front of a car. Tiffany sternly warned us, “And don’t you tell me you are sorry about that either!” Her mother had had a series of men afterward that abused Tiffany. She had moved out of the house at age 18 because of it.

Tiffany began to spew out all of her pain and anger from the years of injustice she had experienced through those abusive relationships. It was obvious that she had been hurt many times and that she was trying to prove to us that she was unlovable.

Many times people who have experienced very little love from their parents grow up believing that they don’t deserve to be loved. They then make this a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing people away who attempt to love them. You see this in the way they act, dress and speak. It’s as if they are saying, “You’re not going to love me, so I’ll give you a reason to reject me since you weren’t going to love me anyway.”

Tiffany was going down that same path with us. She kept saying off-the-wall things like, “I have multiple personalities. One is a demon and one is a vampire.” She also continued to use profane language. I think she was expecting us to be shocked and tell her to leave. Instead, several of us began to tell her how valuable she was in the eyes of God. She didn’t deserve the things that had happened to her in the past. God had something special in mind for her future. Tiffany, and many other girls we talked to that weekend, had no concept of a loving heavenly Father because they never knew a loving earthly father.

Unfortunately, I have to leave many of the details out for the sake of space. The turning point came when Penny grabbed a Bible and began to read Psalm 139. As she read, she began to substitute Tiffany’s name for each of the impersonal pronouns. “I praise you for Tiffany was fearfully and wonderfully made…”

A peace descended upon that room that I cannot describe; it was clear to us that the Holy Spirit was present and doing His job of drawing Tiffany to Jesus. He kept leading Penny to share scriptures from the Roman Road and to speak words of peace and love to her. She began to listen intently to the gospel. Her countenance and demeanor changed.

Finally, Penny said, “Tiffany, I know you joked about going to hell a few minutes ago. I can assure you that hell is no joke. Are you ready to give your heart to Christ tonight?”

Tiffany, holding back the tears, said a simple “yes.”

She didn’t feel comfortable praying out loud so Penny led her to trust Christ in her heart. Then Penny asked, did you mean what you just prayed? Tiffany said yes. It was as if the whole room breathed a sigh of relief. We gave her a New Testament and some encouragement. Shawn and I took Tiffany and her boyfriend home that evening.

The next day, we had another opportunity to sit down with Tiffany and disciple her. Penny told her that God was going to make some changes in her life. She said something to a friend and almost used a curse word, but stopped herself and looked at Penny. “See Tiffany! He’s already changing you!”

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