Born and raised in the Chicago housing projects, Lawanda’s future had little hope. Raped repeatedly by her uncles and cousins at seven years old, she never told anyone afraid that her family would be killed.
Lawanda's childhood had been brutally taken away from her, and as an early teen marijuana became her solace.
Finally the unconditional love Lawanda had never felt arrived with the birth of her first child at fifteen. However, the reality of supporting her baby girl turned Lawanda to prostitution and life got worse. Marijuana use turned to cocaine addiction for the next ten years.
A family member suggested she get away from Chicago and at 26 she moved to Minneapolis. She found work but soon lost her job when she was caught stealing to support her drug habit. Addicted to crack cocaine she turned to the only thing she knew – prostitution. She joined the other girls on the street corner looking to make enough money to stay high. Lawanda would do anything for a fix. One night the guy she was with tied her feet and put a plastic bag over her head. She thought it was the end, but somehow she managed to survive. She was looking for “fatherly love and acceptance”, but men just kept using her. She was arrested many times but never sent to prison. Every time the judge sentenced her to probation, saying, “I believe there is good in you”.
Lawanda was in and out of treatment several times. Every time she returned to the streets looking and searching for happiness but only finding pain and abuse. Then her brother, a male prostitute, was murdered and Lawanda felt it was all her fault. She remembered going to church with her Grandmother as a child, but that was so long ago. She knew she was better that the life she was living. While in treatment she surrendered her life to God.
A friend invited her to come to church at the Life Center and during Pastor Monica’s message God told Lawanda that this was where she needed to be. She has been clean and sober ever since. It’s been three years and soon Lawanda will graduate from Discipleship Class and she looks forward to enrolling in Global. She is working at Breaking Free, in Saint Paul, helping other women to break free from prostitution.
During all the years of abuse she was repeatedly beaten and hit in the face causing a retina to detach. Lawanda recently had her eye removed but she proudly said, “God has given me double the vision in the other eye". Her self-esteem is up, and she believes she can do whatever she sets her mind to. Since she completed Discipleship class she has been facing all of her fears – swimming, GED, tubing and praying for others.
On Friday nights you can find Lawanda back on the streets, but now she is part of our Friday Night Street Team. Reaching out to the lost and hurting, praying for them and letting everyone know that, "God Is My Refuge!"