Jesus moments and smelly dumpsters

By Colleen Smith

She was nodding like most of them do. She could barely stand. My eyes saw a woman who’d appeared to have lost herself, but my heart recognized a vulnerable girl waiting for another man to pick her up.

I thought to myself, “This girls is broken and beautiful. She is simply looking for something to sustain her.”

I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts girl. It probably runs through my veins. On that morning, I used a gift card I found at the bottom of my bag to order two coffees, three donuts and one bagel. Then I drove back to where I’d seen the woman earlier. She was leaning against a dumpster in the gas station parking lot.

“I hope you don’t mind I brought you breakfast,” I said. She looked at me like I was crazy. I wanted to sit with her so I asked, “Can I eat with you?”

My seemingly normal life in Kansas, raised by my grandparents, hadn’t prepare me to minister to women on the streets. In fact, before I started my ministry, Pink Ladies, I had an incredibly skewed version of prostitution.

Like most people, the only exposure I had to prostitution was from the movie Pretty Woman starring actress Julia Roberts. And it didn’t seem damaging to the heart. When I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I didn’t view what I did as prostitution.

There was a particular business man who would sweep me off my feet every few months when he traveled to my city. He’d take me to dinner and spend time with me. But then we’d go back to his fancy hotel rooms, and we’d sleep together. I’d wake up to a wad of cash and watch him walk out the door to the next city and the next girl.

In my mind, he took care of me so it wasn’t prostitution. But now I see how I allowed a man to take advantage of my vulnerability. I thought he was showing me he cared by helping me pay my bills, but the reality is I was having sex with a man who paid me money. And that is prostitution.

As I sat against the smelly dumpster with my new friend, she asked why I was sitting next to her in a gas station parking lot. “If someone hadn’t taken time to step into my mess so many years ago, I have no idea where I’d be,” I told her. “But I see something in you the rest of the world doesn’t see. I see someone who is beautiful, broken, but still really beautiful.” She, again, looked at me like I was crazy.
“You have a future. You can change the course of your life,” I reassured her.

We sat next to that dumpster for nearly two hours. We laughed. We got serious. She skipped three “dates” (which she later told me she was grateful for). We cried and prayed, and I hugged her. “I’ll be looking for you more often,” I said. And I meant it. That would be the first of many dumpster chats I’d have with her.

You may not think you have what it takes to be a missionary. But that’s simply not true. I didn’t think that but now I realize God can use me anywhere. Some of my most intimate moments with Jesus are sitting next to a smelly dumpster with a woman I don’t know yet.

You’re a missionary wherever your feet are planted now. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself, “How will I be the image of Christ here?” And watch God deliver in the most amazing of ways.

As I head into my twelfth year of ministry it’s still not pretty most of the time. It’s dirty, smelly and sometimes unpleasant. But the other side is so intimately beautiful that it outweighs those messy, unkempt, dumpster moments.

Colleen Smith is a team member of Captivate Church and serves as a missionary in her neighborhood.

Published November 27, 2018