Diana Chandler reports for NAMB.net:
NEW ORLEANS – Sue Yocum thought the man was crazy. He had approached her in Washington Square Park during one of her daily strolls with her daughter, Lena, who was only seven months old.
“Your baby is very pretty,” the man had said. The proud mother thanked him, but his next comment took her by surprise.
“Can I buy her?” he asked. “Can I buy your baby?” Yocum recalls the man asking. “It didn’t click. I asked ‘excuse me?’”
The stranger repeated himself.
Assuming his insanity, Yocum quickly returned to Baptist Friendship House across the street, a Southern Baptist mission and her home since her boyfriend deserted her upon the birth of their child. There, staff members explained to Yocum what really happened. The man had asked to buy her baby as his property.
Unable to support herself and her baby, Yocum’s circumstances placed her in two groups the Friendship House works diligently to help: the homeless and those vulnerable to human trafficking.
“To know that under-aged girls are bought, obtained, prepared, packaged and distributed like products into strip clubs, online pornography and prostitution breaks my heart,” says Kay Bennett, Baptist Friendship House executive director. “God has given me a passion to reach out and help women, one at a time.”
Yocum temporarily found work in Birmingham for six months, but returned to New Orleans in March to reunite with Baptist Friendship House, the only family she knows. The mission allowed her to clear her head, find God and learn how to pray again. The home, she says, is providing for all her needs.
“One of the biggest things that Baptist Friendship House did was give me the ability to pray and be a stronger person,” she says. “This is my extended family.”
About 10 miles away at Celebration Church in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb, 34-year-old Andrea Robertson considered hers a lose-lose situation. Facing her husband’s infidelity and alcoholism, she was ready to end their marriage.
“There was no doubt I was done. I was at the end of my rope,” she says. “If I leave him, I lose and if I stay, I lose.”
Robertson and her husband, Eddy, enrolled in counseling classes at Hope Center, a ministry of Healing Hearts for Community Development, a non-profit arm of Celebration Church. Hope Center helped the wife and mother deal with the “paralyzing pain” of betrayal. Eddy also enrolled in Celebrate Recovery, a sister ministry at Celebration Church incorporating 12 Christ-centered steps and eight biblical recovery principles. Eddy has been sober and faithful for the past six years.
Today, Andrea and Eddy are still married and providing a loving home for their four children, ages 7 to 18.
Southern Baptist churches and ministries are fighting numerous social ills in a city known for good times and easy living. In efforts to fulfill God’s command to love the least of these, to love loud, Southern Baptists are leading souls to Christ and penetrating lostness in North America.
The North American Mission Board recently launched its LoveLoud initiative to encourage and move Southern Baptists toward community transformation through compassion ministries, evangelism and church planting.
What does it mean to love loud? “It means loving neglected and hurting people as Jesus did—and pointing them back to Him as the source and ultimate author of that love,” says Al Gilbert, executive director of LoveLoud. “It means a daily commitment from churches and individuals to connect mercy ministries with missional living in support of church planting and church strengthening. Ultimately, it’s about integrating the Great Commandments of Christ in Matthew 22:36-40—to love God and love others.”
More stories of multiplying justice from New Orleans here.