Anniversary Highlight: Verve Church
The Lost, Found
Kerra didn’t grow up dreaming of working in the sex industry. She never planned on living that kind of life. She didn’t want to. She just… did. She was a call girl in Las Vegas and an actress in porn.
You may feel like you can’t relate to someone who fell into that kind of sin. But the truth is, we all can. We all end up in places we never planned. We all end up wrestling with issues and temptations we never wanted.
Kerra didn’t choose a life of sin. Neither do we. We all just ended up here. Actually, it may be easy for some to judge someone like Kerra, but Kerra had one excuse for her sin that most of us don’t have: Kerra didn’t know Jesus. But then … she did.
Kerra met Jesus. Well, actually, Kerra met Jen. Jen is my wife. I think the best thing that can happen to a person is to meet Jesus. Meeting my wife is a close second.
Kerra met Jen, and, because of Jen, Kerra met Jesus. She started coming to our church. Soon she put her … love in God. She put her faith in Jesus. Her heart changed.
Ten years ago, with the help of Stadia, we planted Verve Church in the heart of Sin City, just off the Vegas Strip. I am so grateful for so many things, but at the top of my list is that God has used us to see so many people who were really far from Him come close to Him. We have had about 500 people put their faith in Jesus and get baptized. Those people include a pimp, pit bosses, Buddhists, atheists, gang members, drug addicts, Jews, strippers, marijuana growers, poker players, cirque du soleil performers, and, well, you name it.
Jesus gave us his mission – to seek and save the lost. We start with that why. We launched our church with that why in 2010, and to this day we start basically every meeting, every service and every thing, with that same why. We want to see the lost found and transformed.
The Broken, Healed
Kerra met Jen. Kerra met Jesus. Kerra didn’t want to sin anymore. She didn’t want to be involved in the sex industry anymore. So, she didn’t. She just stopped working. She got into my wife’s small group and asked everyone to pray she’d find a job. That might not seem like a “big prayer request,” but it was for Kerra.
Her recent employment history would not get her called in for many interviews. Kerra wasn’t working, but she was filling out job applications, and her group was praying. Kerra fought the temptation to go back to her old work today by trusting God for her tomorrow. And then one day it happened. God was faithful. She got a job. She wouldn’t make as much as she had been, but she was fine with that.
She started work, and then came the bad news. Her employer wouldn’t be paying her until she had worked for 2 weeks.
Soon Kerra met with me and my wife. She explained that she already had gone over a month without making any money, and was now looking at another two weeks.
She had bills she couldn’t pay, and those bills were not just about her. Kerra has an elderly father who lives with her. He is financially dependent on Kerra. She also has a severely handicapped brother who has to live in a special home. He also depends on financial assistance from Kerra. That’s why Kerra ended up living the life she did. She was trying to take care of her father and her brother.
Now, she was in what seemed to be an impossible bind. She hadn’t paid her rent. She had received notice from her landlord. She hadn’t paid her electricity and it was about to be turned off. She had no money for food. She was desperate and didn’t know what to do.
She looked at my wife and me and, with tears streaming down her face, asked, “Do you think God would be ok it if I did it again for just one more weekend? I don’t want to, but I feel like I have to. If I did it for just one more weekend, I could pay my bills. Then I’d never have to again. Would God understand if I did it for just one more weekend?”
Listening to her, I sensed she was dying inside. I knew I was dying inside. I said, “No. Don’t do that Kerra. God loves you no matter what, but you don’t need to do that. You trusted God for a job, and he gave you one. Let’s trust God that he can take care of your bills.”
She took a deep breath and said, “That’s what I was hoping you’d say.” We prayed together, telling our “but God” God that we trusted him, and asking him for help.
The next morning I woke up praying for Kerra. As I talked to God I had a sense that instead of praying for God to do a miracle, God could work through me to “be the miracle.” Kerra needed a couple of thousand dollars; if I asked enough people, I could get together a couple thousand dollars.
The trick was that I wanted Kerra to know that it wasn’t me, or our church, but God who was taking care of her.
Learning to trust me or our church wouldn’t help her someday if she moved and had a different pastor and church. I wanted her to know God took care of her. That the solution to her problem was something God did for her.
That morning I went to my men’s small group and our church staff meeting. In each I mentioned the situation as a prayer request. In each, people volunteered to contribute money to pay Kerra’s bills. In fact, less than 10 people together committed to pay almost all of Kerra’s bills. Awesome!
But if I told Kerra a bunch of people from our church were paying her bills, she might think she went to an amazing church, instead of understanding that she has an amazing God.
That’s when my phone rang. It was a friend of mine who’s the pastor of a huge church who has supported Verve. That’s another thing I’m thankful for – in addition to Stadia, we have had so many people and churches praying for and giving to Verve. I’m privileged to have front-row seat for what God is doing in our church, but man has it been a team effort.
This pastor asked how my morning was going. I told him it was a little crazy. He asked why. I explained about Kerra’s past, and her decision, and her current financial situation.
My friend immediately said, “I want to pay for all her bills.” I thanked him but shared how I had already raised most of the money needed.
He said, “Vince, every time I talk to you, you have some amazing story about a pimp or a prostitute or a drug addict whose life has been changed at your church. No one like that will ever come to my church. This is my one chance to be a part of a story like that. Don’t take this away from me.”
That night we told Kerra that all of the bills she couldn’t pay were going to be paid, by someone who lives in a different state, who she didn’t know and would never meet, who just happened to call at the right moment.
We also told her some other people had given enough money to pay all of her bills for the next month, so she could get ahead and wouldn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck when she finally got paid.
Kerra asked, “Wait, is this real?” Yes. She said, “I’m sorry. I have to go cry for a while.”
Finally, Kerra got herself together. We heard back from her. She was freaking out. “I can’t believe this is happening to me! I can’t believe God loves someone like me so much! I can’t wait to tell my father! The next week her father came to our church with her.
Kerra’s bills were paid. Her only problem was that she didn’t have a car. She was Ubering to her new job and back every day. And, then … someone in our church gave Kerra a car. It was unbelievable.
Today, a couple years later, Kerra is a different person. She leads one of our recovery groups. It’s amazing.
What’s more amazing is that we have tons of stories, like Kerra’s, of God healing the broken and transforming their lives.
We are grateful to Stadia and to everyone who has helped us along the way, and mostly to God. He’s really good at doing even more than we ask or imagine!
Vince is married to his wife Jennifer, and they have two children. Vince is the author of I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt, Guerrilla Lovers, Renegade, God For The Rest Of Us, and Restore.