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Malia Rodriguez

“Woman, Be Free!” *

M aking a Difference

eventually grew to 40 women, Session came to understand that the women thought of “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, be- the Wednesday meetings as their church. cause he anointed me to preach the gospel Many of these women, having left the sex to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim industry in search of dignity and purpose in release to the captives and recovery of Christ, didn’t feel comfortable in the trasight to the blind, to set free those who are ditional church. So in 2006, Rev. Session planted New Life Christian Church to give oppressed...“(Luke 4:18-19). Rev. Irie Session understands Jesus’ these 40 women a proper church home. New Life held its Sunday services in the mission and every day shares his liberating grace with women on the margins of society. chapel at the Rosemont Christian Center, a After investing in countless lives as a multicultural church in Dallas, and after three senior parole officer for the Texas Depart- years Rosemont hired Session as the pasment of Criminal Justice, as an investigator tor for its Sunday morning English service. for Child Protective Services, and as a social With open arms the members of Rosemont worker at Bryan’s House, an organization in Christian Center embraced the women of Dallas that cares for kids and families im- New Life Christian Church, incorporating pacted by HIV/AIDS, Session sensed the them into the larger body. For the first time many of these women felt at home in a traditional congregation. In addition to her preaching responsibilities, Session mentors seven women through New Friends New Life. She has also initiated a women’s c o n f erence Rev. Irie Session (front row, second from left) facilitates a weekly Bible study for women reaching out to who have found their way out of the sex trade and into the arms of the church. women leaving call to full-time ministry. Walking by faith the sex industry, which Rosemont Christian alone, she quit her job and enrolled in semi- Center hosts in April. “Church people need to understand nary at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth. In her second semester she started that most women who've lived lives of prosapplying for jobs. When a position at New titution were themselves abused as children,” Friends New Life, a ministry to women says Session. “In fact, statistics point out leaving the sex industry, opened up, she ac- that over 90 percent of women in prostitucepted it reluctantly, sensing the sacrifice it tion were sexually abused.  Not only that, would demand of her. But she soon learned but many were runaways because of sexual that God would supply the grace and love and physical abuse in their homes. But they ran away only to run into the arms of trafthese precious women needed. At New Friends New Life, Session dis- fickers, also known as pimps.  Much of socicovered her God-ordained calling—to love, ety is under the false impression that women mentor, and help women who had aban- choose a life of prostitution.  However, what doned lives of prostitution, trafficking, and they don’t realize is that, in most cases, prostitution is a survival strategy for women substance abuse. Launching a weekly Bible study that with little or no education, family support,

or job skills, women whose self-worth is at rock bottom.” One of Session’s protégés is Gwen, a loving mother of three who has experienced the transforming power of God’s grace through the love of the church. Negative experiences with men made it hard for Gwen to understand the God we refer to as “he.” But through the pastoral care and biblical teaching of the church, Gwen is learning to trust God, love others, and to live as a woman of God, precious in his sight. She has served as the director of hospitality for New Friends Christian Church, started a Bible study at work, and teaches her children to trust God. When Session finishes her Doctor of Ministry at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, N.Y., she hopes to pass on her passion and calling to college and seminary students. “Serving this special population of women has taught me that God does not count anyone out!” enthuses Session. “In fact, the marginalized are God’s target group. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners; he fellowshipped with prostitutes, women accused of adultery, and lepers—those considered the ‘untouchables’ of his day.  The church has a responsibility to do the same. We must ask ourselves, ‘Who are the untouchables in our day?’ Once we've answered that question as a church, we can get down to the business of being the heart, hands, and feet of Christ.”  Under Session’s leadership, Rosemont Christian Center (MyRosemont. org) has become a poignant embodiment of Christ’s passion for outcast women. *Luke 13:12

Malia Rodriguez is a recent graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a freelance writer. She lives with her husband in Dallas, Tex.

Making a Difference is a regular column that features churches with unique, cutting-edge, and/or highly effective approaches to holistic ministry. To nominate a church for this column, email the editor at Kristyn@esa-online.org.

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"Woman, Be Free!"  

Making a Difference March/April 2011

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