“How was Vegas?” has been the question ringing in my ears this last week as I returned from a quick weekend spent in the infamous Sin City. I cheerfully exclaim how it was a fantastic trip and usually add in a quick blurb about what I did or how strange the city was. So if that is all you want to know, you can stop reading here. If you are someone who has been asking for more information – here’s a look into my adventure in Vegas.
The whole trip was set up in a really odd, divinely matched together sort of way. Originally, the intent of the trip was to attend a training on outreach to strip clubs. Women who are in the sex industry – even those of their own choice – are so close to my heart. Currently, I’m in a season of preparation and praying and waiting, but someday, I would absolutely love to be a part of a relational ministry to women in strip clubs.
So I prayed about attending this training. I realized flights to Las Vegas weren’t too expensive and I gave God a bit of a deal by saying that if He wanted me to go on this trip, He was going to need to provide a place for me to stay. I put a feeler out in some facebook groups of Christian photographers and one fellow photographer who shares a mutual heart for inner city/nonprofit work reached out with a connection. She connected me to Sarah, who moved out to Las Vegas this summer with her husband to be a part of a church plant.
Much quicker than I anticipated, I was all set up to stay with this couple I had never met and to do it for free. After everything was confirmed, I booked my tickets.
A few weeks later, I got an email saying that the training was canceled. My first thought was to just cancel my trip and that’s what I told Sarah I was going to do. Yet when I called to cancel my flights, I realized I was going to lose too much money and it made more sense just to go to Las Vegas.
I had no clue what I was going to do.
I had this idea that had been floating around though that seemed like it may just work. So I emailed every group I could find in Vegas that worked directly with women in sex trafficking or prostitution to see if any would be interested. Through this, I was able to set up a meeting to interview and photograph two women with histories of prostitution who are at Walter Hoving Home going through addictions recovery.
About a week before the trip, I got the idea to visit the YWAM base as well.
And that’s about all I had planned before flying out to Las Vegas.
It was slightly terrifying.
Somewhere deep down though, I knew that even though I’d never really had a desire to see Vegas, I was going to love it.
Here’s How it Went Down: the Highlights
Walter Hoving Home.
This was a ten bed Christian addiction treatment facility where I had the honor of interviewing and photographing two of the women there who had been in prostitution. There women were incredible. Like insanely amazing women who have been through so much in their lives. They both spoke of hope, God, second chances, dreams, and healing. I am so excited to be able to share their stories with you in the future once my project is complete.
My hosts graciously showed me around the city and answered all my curious questions. Driving through the strip, it definitely was a sensory overload of lights and sights. There is so much to take in. So much glitz and glam and gaudiness. They took me to see the Billagio and we wandered around a bit – seeing the gardens, chocolate fountain, casino, and water fountain extravaganza. My hosts also told me about the other side of Las Vegas. How in the shadows of billion dollar buildings, people lived on the streets. There are up to 1,000 people who are living in the tunnel system under the strip. The homelessness problem is huge and it’s coupled with meth additions and all the other side effects of instant gratification gone wrong.
YWAM has a DTS (Discipleship Training School) located in Las Vegas that is centered on worship as well as an Abolitionist training. While they were in major prep mode, they graciously allowed me to come in a tour their facility and chat with their staff about what they do. The base is located in a really rough area of town, the sort of looking neighborhood where you can feel the brokenness and poverty. It reminded me of places that we send missions trips to in Mexico. One staff member took me on a quick walk around the block and she pointed out two brothels on the same street. I heard several other stories of just how open and blatant the prostitution in this neighborhood was. Even as I was leaving, there was a family digging through the garbage bins in the alley, hauling off finds in their truck. The need here is is very real and very out in the open.
From a selfish perspective, this was definitely my favorite part of the trip. My heart swoons at mountains. I love views and I love the boldness. Their majesty is my favorite thing in nature hands down. We went out to Red Rock and hiked in a canyon that contained pine trees and a creek in the desert. Fittingly, it was called Pine Creek Canyon trail. We had a fantastic talk about all the spiritual analogies of hiking and being able to just get outside in nature and not be an icicle was a nice relief.
I need to highlight Sarah and Greg. They showed me so much grace, generosity, and kindness. Their faith and their obedience is steady and obvious. Their heart for God and for the people of Las Vegas shone through every conversation. I was so inspired and encouraged by them and blessed beyond measure to be allowed into their lives for a weekend. Sarah and Greg are both on staff with a church plant in Las Vegas and while I was there, I got to meet a handful of the other staff. I was welcomed into their homes and social gatherings and we joked around that I was spending the weekend shadowing what missionaries do on their days off. Which, from my conclusions, is eating 1/2 off sushi and play card games.
There are more things that I could say about Las Vegas. I have typed up this blog post multiple times and am still at a bit of a loss for how to describe it all. These are my meager attempts for those of you who have been asking for more details and for more stories.
For a city that I never had a desire to visit, it certainly gripped my heart mighty quickly. The need there is so huge. The vibe from the city is so strange and different than anything I’ve ever known. This is a place that exists outside of my comfort zone. This is a place of surprising beauty.
I don’t think God is done with the combination of Liv and LV.