"Starting when I was only three, I was sexually abused by four men in my life for twelve years. Now I'm almost 47. I was abused for 12 years, but I've not been abused for 35. Today I choose to step into the future believing God's word to pursue the abundant, purpose-driven passionate life Jesus has for me." This proclamation was spoken by Christine Caine, an Australian-born-Greek-Orthodox-turned-Hillsong-Church-globetrotting-Bible-teacher at Willow Creek Community Church's Midweek church service Wednesday. After interviewing her for a feature article in Today's Christian Woman ("Abused But Not Defeated"), and breaking down in tears after her anti-human trafficking sermon at the 2012 Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I knew she would deliver.
And deliver she did.
"I'm a woman, and I'm Greek, so I only speak one way: hard, fast, and continuously."
The founder of both the A21 Campaign, one of the largest anti-human trafficking organizations in the world, and Equip and Empower Ministries, an organization she founded with her husband, Nick, dedicated to local church growth in communities around the world, has plenty to talk about. She overcame a past of sexual abuse to eventually be hired at Hillsong Church as a full-time pastor who speaks at churches around the world sometimes over 300 days out of the year. She's married with two beautiful children, and loves the Lord with a passion.
Her message Wednesday at Willow Creek went from Deuteronomy to Joshua, and focused on "God calling us out so we can go in to the promises laid out for us in his Word." It was convicting, inspiring, and jam-packed with encouraging wisdom from both Scripture and her own life experiences. The audience exploded in applause at least seven times during her sermon, and choruses of "Amen!" and "Praise Jesus!" rang out in the auditorium on numerous occasions. It was a beautiful thing.
The beauty of the evening stemmed from the message she proclaimed. Her sermon focused on how nothing is impossible with God, but that sometimes moving forward with God means letting go of the weights and anchors that may be holding us back in life. Her emphasis on the need for us to shake free from restrictions like culture, tradition, relationships, or memories of negative past experiences were hard to hear, but true -- her examples of individuals making sacrifices in Scripture to move forward with God were powerful.
"You have to deal with your past to move into your future," she said. "Don't settle for deliverance when you can be free. If you're going to lay hold of the future God has for you, you have to pay a price."
For Chris, this meant addressing the pain of her past with prayer and counseling before she married her now-husband, Nick.
"Most of us don't embrace the pain of emotional or spiritual recovery because there is pain. We have to undergo a process of restoration to have the wounds of our soul healed, and to allow Jesus to touch those dark places," she said in our interview.
Her story definitely inspires me. She's living proof nothing is impossible with God, which is the statement Nik Wallenda stuck to in our interview before he walked the tightrope across the Grand Canyon (read my interviews with him on ChicagoNow and Christianity Today :)). Even though Chris isn't planning to walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope anytime soon, I would argue the work she's doing with the A21 Campaign (rescuing girls from human trafficking around the world) is just as daunting. But there's a reason Chris wrote a book called Undaunted last year--because she's addressed her past, and is confident in Christ's sacrifice on the cross. She chooses to live life every day fearlessly for Jesus.
"When I go out to do my work, I say, devil, I bet you wish you'd never messed with me--because I'm going to make you pay."
Here's my live tweet breakdown of her talk at Willow last night -- I hope you find it as inspiring as I did:
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