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2002 Frontline Reports

Churches, members mobilize to help people with disease (December 30, 2001)

Pilot shows plane, shares the Lord (December 23, 2001)

SonBeams provides social outlet, spiritual training (December 16, 2001)

Veterans Day (November 11, 2001)

Chi Alpha chapter reaches the world (September 30, 2001)

Church's Independence Day celebration draws more than 50,000 (September 16, 2001)

A passion for missions (September 9, 2001)

Lifestyle evangelism influences hedonistic neighborhood (August 26, 2001)

Church takes Christ to inner-city needy (August 12, 2001)

Nontraditional services draw worshippers (July 22, 2001)

Dirt floors and horses: Welcome to Cowboy Church (July 13, 2001)

Northland Cathedral members know God's timing is best (June 24, 2001)

Youth, children's outreaches spur church growth (June 17, 2001)

Revival transforms blighted neighborhood (June 10, 2001)

Vacant mall becomes home for growing church plant (May 20, 2001)

Single moms find strength to build strong families (May 13, 2001)

Spiritual freedom is hallmark of three-decade ministry (April 29, 2001)

Modern hangout serves as haven for teens (April 22, 2001)

Merged congregation challenges stereotypes (April 8, 2001)

Hell's Alternative: The Reality (March 25, 2001)

Vietnamese congregation moves forward (March 18, 2001)

Rejoicing in the rubble (February 25, 2001)

Faith Health Clinic treats the whole person (February 18, 2001)

Former prostitute befriends box-dwellers (Feb. 11, 2001)

Crisis Pregnancy Outreach saving lives, helping mothers (January 21, 2001)

Ministering at the Gates of Hell (January 14, 2001)

2000 Frontline Reports

Former prostitute befriends box-dwellers

(February 11, 2001)

Lavonne Savage was making $2,000 a day, but she was broke. Virtually every dollar went for drugs and alcohol until this prostitute gave her life to Christ. She says, "I was about 15 when I started selling myself." Now a minister, Savage is pioneering a church among box-dwelling homeless people in Los Angeles.

Lavonne Savage

Five years ago, a drug dealer deposited Savage at a Teen Challenge center. This hardened profiteer, who sold crack to Savage and condoned her prostitution, forced her into treatment. He told her, "I know something that can help you get off drugs."

"My dealer wanted me to get off drugs, so I could get back on the streets and make more money," Savage says. "What he didn’t know was that I would get saved."

Savage had tried eight drug-treatment programs. One day someone spewed a hateful threat at her: "You’re going to be like this forever."

Savage, summoning every ounce of courage, replied, "You know what? God is not going to leave me like this."

And He didn’t.

Violent withdrawal symptoms rack the bodies of some recovering addicts, but Savage slept her way through detoxification at Teen Challenge. When dark images invaded her sleep, the Holy Spirit intervened.

"I’d go to sleep at night and have drug dreams," she says. "Then I would experience encounters where God would come in the dream and fight the enemy for me."

God healed Savage of addictions and used a drama troupe to bring her back to Him. "I had been saved when I was a little girl," she says, "but I rededicated my life to Him at that drama. I still have my dedication card from when I gave my life back to Christ. I look at it every day."

Soon Savage started telling L.A.’s homeless about Jesus. She and fellow Teen Challenge residents knocked on cardboard boxes where the homeless people stay on Skid Row. "They wouldn’t come out to talk because they didn’t know me," she says. "So I’d climb in and try to talk to them."

That was three years ago. Now the homeless know Savage well because she lives among them. Women’s Ministries groups helped her obtain an apartment with modest furnishings and basic necessities.

"Talk about being thrilled to live on Skid Row," says Savage’s mentor, Judy Rachels, Women’s Ministries director for the Southern California District of the Assemblies of God. Rachels salutes the former addict’s willingness to not only reach the street people, but also keep churches informed. "We have 18 sectional meetings where missionaries speak for about five minutes. Lavonne spoke at every one of those meetings."

Savage relishes her circle of mentors such as Rachels, several pastors’ wives and women ministers. They are godly role models who not only inspire and encourage, but also energize her.

"Most women don’t really understand what it’s like down here where people live in boxes," Savage says. "But Women’s Ministries members understand that these homeless people need love, so they pour love into me, and I pour it into these people."

She takes one box-dweller with her to speaking engagements. Although Sue* doesn’t literally travel with her, Savage’s compassion for her and the other homeless people is evident when she preaches.

Weaving compassion with tact, Savage creates a portrait of Sue: "Sue hasn’t washed her hair in several years. Her skin is worn from the drugs and the weather, and her teeth are yellow. She sleeps in a box. In the morning she folds up her box and walks around all day. Rumor has it that some of these homeless women are raped eight or nine times daily. Sue looks bad and that protects her. Men won’t rape her."

Before Savage started kindergarten, two men began molesting her. She entered adolescence with wounded self-esteem and a dysfunctional understanding of sexuality. She became promiscuous and by age 15 had become a prostitute. When Savage was in her twenties, she began to see a link between being molested in childhood and the bad choices she made. She became angry.

Savage says that, after she rededicated her life to Christ, she had no trouble forgiving the men who abused her, but struggled to forgive herself. The Holy Spirit and friends have helped her work through this.

Violence is part of daily life on Skid Row. Savage estimates that as many as 500 homeless live in her neighborhood. Shootings occur several times a week.

"I am safe because I’ve been coming here a lot," Savage says. "The Lord gives me wisdom when to move out of the way. I don’t go out by myself at night, and the complex I stay in has 24-hour security."

God is also using the people of the street to protect her.

"Some guys who sit next to the pornographic theater next door to our church won’t let anybody touch my car," she says. If anyone approaches the pastor, these new friends intervene. "They respect me; they don’t curse around me; they put away their drugs, and we talk. They haven’t been inside the church yet, but now they’re starting to stand outside the door to listen to me preach."

Henry Perez, pastor of Bible Assembly of God in nearby South Gate, has witnessed Savage’s people skills. He describes his church as the "mother church for Lavonne’s ministry." And, he says, Savage is a "godly woman, very determined and really good with people." His church sends two volunteers to help deliver food and the Word weekly.

Savage is now senior pastor of the one-year-old Harvest of Hope Assembly of God. She will be ordained after she completes correspondence classes through Global University.

Savage juggles college classes with her church’s services, children’s ministry, outreach events, neighborhood canvassing and speaking engagements. She feeds the homeless and provides basic necessities such as toothbrushes and combs, while building relationships with them.

"I want to have an opportunity to disciple them. You know how that’s going to be done? Through relationships."

— Colette Walden

*Name has been changed.

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