By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
SHREVEPORT – For six months, God kept asking Cassie Hammett if she would accept the call to stand up for women involved in prostitution.
And for six months she continued to deny the challenge.
Then, one morning during her personal Bible study time at a Starbucks coffee shop, Hammett said God asked her for what she believed would be one last time – and she finally said yes.
And ever since she accepted the call, Hammett has seen firsthand how God has rescued women from the sex industry in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.
“I remember just knowing that if I said no this time that I was missing out probably on the greatest adventure I would ever go on,” Hammett said in a recent Louisiana Baptist Convention video interview. “And I would learn things about God if I said yes.
“He wasn’t asking me just to heap a heavy burden on me,” she said. “He was asking me because he knew that if I said yes my life would never be the same.”
The ministry to these women, called Purchased: Not For Sale, is part of an overall ministry to the homeless known as The Hub. In addition to ministering to the women in the sex trafficking industry, The Hub also meets such needs as tutoring for children, food pantry, meals, worship services, weekly Bible studies, counseling and outreach to apartments.
According to www.purchasednotforsale.com – the website of Purchased: Not For Sale – 89 percent of women in the sex industry indicate a desire to escape from the lifestyle, yet have no other means for survival. Furthermore, about 300,000 children in the US each year are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.
Named after 1 Corinthians 6:20, Hammett says that verse communicates perfectly something in which the women she and others minister to can identify.
“Because our girls understand being bought, they understand being purchased,” Hammett said. “And that communicates so much more. Once they communicate who God is and what He has done for them they don’t have to do it every again because they’ve been bought already.”
Hammett said Purchased has three words as its cornerstone: locate, love and motivate.
Locate signifies active outreach to women in the sex industry. These include jail visits, prostitution outreaches, strip club outreaches, prevention classes for girls in high risk situations and a program for girls living on the street to drop in at a certain location and visit with the ministry volunteers.
“We wanted to be a part of that culture – separate but apart,” Hammett said. “We wanted to be face to face with these women in what they consider the darkest part of their life.
“We wanted to walk up to them and start a friendship instead of saying to them when you decide to get your life together you can come to us,” she continued. “Instead we flipped it and said we will come to you no matter where you are.”
Love signifies an unconditional care for all the women who come through Purchased: Not for Sale, whether they want to get out of the sex industry or remain there.
“We love them regardless of the decisions they make,” Hammett said. “We could just work with the women who get out. But we decided very early we would be there for any woman in the industry.”
Motivate is the third descriptor, signifying their efforts to show the women who truly want to walk away from the sex industry and begin a new life in Christ.
“Most women in the sex industry have been told multiple times they will never get out and they carry that,” Hammett said. “That becomes who they are. We try to reverse that and say it’s not too late and God can redeem and change you in an instant if that is what you are seeking.”
Without the support of area churches and the Georgia Barnette Offering for State Missions, the ministry to the women through Purchased would be more difficult to sustain.
The facility that houses The Hub was financed largely by funds from the Georgia Barnette Offering, which is a statewide offering that supports numerous Louisiana Baptist causes. The offering has also helped with the day-to-day operations of The Hub.
“The average length of life in sex industry is seven years, so we take it very seriously,” Hammett said. “Every dollar we get goes to lengthening the life of the women, saving the women. We literally celebrate over every dollar that comes in because we can go on another day.”
Hammett said being on the receiving end of Georgia Barnette Offering funds is a reminder that others are constantly praying for and supporting the ministry of The Hub.
“I encourage you to give to the Georgia Barnette Offering, mainly because it is the heart of God to love people,” Hammett said. “It is the greatest commandment to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.
“God takes very seriously our treatment of our neighbors and it is God’s heart to truly be a part of setting people free,” she said. “And that’s what the Georgia Barnette Offering is all about – funding things all over our state that are bringing people to Jesus. If you give what God is asking you to give He’ll take you on the greatest journey you’ve ever been on.”
To view a video testimony of Hammett and others involved with Purchased: Not For Sale and learn more about the Georgia Barnette Offering, visit georgiabarnette.org. The week of Sept. 15-22 is designated as the Week of Prayer for the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering.