By Norm Miller
Sarah Conort just turned 20.
She spent her birthday Sept. 16 at a homeless shelter – willingly.
"I thought about taking a road trip with my friends, or going to the beach," said the sophomore at Truett-McConnell College, Cleveland, Ga. "But then I looked back over my life and asked myself, 'What have I done with my life? Have I done enough to make it count for God's kingdom? What have I done to further the name of Jesus Christ and make it famous?'"
Reflecting on how God has blessed her life with "hot meals and a roof over my head," Conort said she was glad "God has given me another year, and I want to celebrate that by giving something back to those who don't have as much as I do. I want to see life from their side."
Conort searched the Internet for a ministry site and found a homeless shelter: SafeHouse Outreach in Atlanta. Joined by her sister, Rachel, and her college suitemates -- Natalie Mitcham, Courtney Ryan and Alicia Taylor -- Conort spent several hours trying to give hope to the homeless.
"When I got there, I thought I'd do something to help the people," Conort said, explaining that she and her compatriots mingled with the shelter residents, befriended them, and established relationships that may lead to more ministry.
"I'd never been to a homeless shelter; but now I've worked directly in one," said the TMC cheerleader. "Now I know the names of some homeless people."
"I had never met any homeless people before and never had much compassion for them because I believed they gave themselves that lot, and they deserved it," Conort said. "But they all have been dealt a bad hand in life, and I've been dealt a good one. That doesn't make me better than them, or of any greater value."
"I met a lot of interesting characters. Some are drug addicts, and others are people who lost their business," said Conort, whose father, Timothee, is pastor of Union Baptist Church, Griffin, Ga.
"I saw really good people who had things taken away from them, and now find themselves in a place where they have nothing. How much more grateful I need to be for what I have," she said. "I should take nothing for granted just because I know where my next meal is coming from."
Many of the residents do know the Lord, Conort added. "They have hope in him. They see a bright future, and that's because they're believing in the Lord."
Though Conort believes that God honors obedience with blessings, she said it was "rewarding enough to be with people I love, and to serve the Lord."
"I took away from that shelter a thankfulness toward the Lord that I have a stable home and food," said Conort, noting she and her sister decided that, even at their "lowest point in life, we can come home, or go to a friend. But being homeless means you don't even have a couch to sleep on, nowhere to return."
"Being homeless is not something I just hear about," Conort said. "I've seen it, touched it. I know what it means."
By Vicky Kaniaru
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) -- Uncomfortable with the thought of a tight skirt and heels, Nikki is wearing sweat pants tonight. She stands on a bustling street, waiting. One of her usual customers pulls to the curb, and Nikki is glad to be making money tonight. It won't be too long till the weight of her unborn baby keeps her from working.
Nikki is one of countless women victimized by sex trafficking and prostitution in Atlanta. Sarah Conort, Natalie Mitcham, and Courtney Ryan met Nikki while ministering to prostitutes through the Atlanta Dream Center (ADC).
The ADC is a church reaching out to prostitutes through Princess Night—a weekly effort to rescue women trapped in prostitution. The TMC students ministered in a manner reflective of ADC's purpose, which is to build relationships with the prostitutes so they may know Christ and change their lifestyle.
Conort and Mitcham said God awakened their hearts regarding sex trafficking during separate missions endeavors. During her trip to Uganda two years ago, Conort confronted prostitution while teaching about sexual abstinence.
"We gave some girls abstinence cards to sign," Conort said. "Many of them were crying because they couldn't sign it. They said they made money by having sex with men."
Though Mitcham learned about the issue on a mission trip in Nepal, the Princess Night ministry impacted her the most.
For Ryan, it was an encounter with a prostitute rescued previously by ADC that jolted her heart: "It really got to me because she was given this new life and she chose to run back to her old ways."
"The girls were seen more as items than people," Mitcham noted.
"I think we forget they are normal people," Conort added, remembering her long conversation with a prostitute that same night.
"I asked the girl if I could pray with her about anything, and as soon as I said that, tears started pouring," Conort said. "She said, 'I grew up in church and I have a good family, I'm just choosing to do something different with my life.'" Conort prayed with her and gave her a card with ADC's contact information.
With regard to all the men involved in prostitution, Ryan said, "These guys need help just as much as the girls."
"It's as much slavery for them as it is for the girls," Conort added.
Using ADC's methodology, the TMC students would "tell a girl that she's loved and beautiful and hopefully, make her feel so valuable that she will not want to sell herself that night," Conort said.
"The responses are different. Sometimes the girls will walk away and won't take what you have to give them," Mitcham added. "Sometimes you really don't see many girls get into the van."
Unlike Hollywood's portrayal of prostitutes, their appearance varies from tight skirts and high heels to T-shirts and jeans, the TMC students said.
"Sex does not need to be glamorized,"Conort added. "It doesn't matter what you're wearing, 'I'll buy you because that's what I want,'" said Conort, noting the attitude of men soliciting sex.
The three friends agree that coming face-to-face with sexual slavery has changed their lives.
Referring to her friends, Conort recalled, "We used to say, 'Don't wear that, you look like a prostitute.' But, we know prostitutes. We know Tamia and we know Nikki. We shouldn't diminish them; they're not any lower in the Lord's eyes," she added.
All three students believe that Christians should speak for those who don't have a voice.
"It's one thing to give money, but we're called to go," Mitcham noted.
Conort, Mitcham, and Ryan want to give "prostitutes back the dreams that have been stolen from them." Therefore, on Sept. 27, they will sponsor a Princess Party in TMC's Nix Student Center. The event will raise awareness regarding the plight of prostitutes and their spiritual needs.
"So many times we prostitute ourselves out to everything else in this world," Conort said. "So, who are we to say we're not going to go help them because they've prostituted themselves? We should be following Christ's example as to how he continues to come after us and rescue us."