Unashamed Love: 3/3 – New Orleans

In Part 2 Donna saw people in need as she drove from her dorm room to her church – prostitutes. The school gave her their blessings to start a ministry to prostitutes and strippers. She was adopted by one of the clubs as their pastor. Click Here to read Part 2.

Before Donna graduated from Brownsville Revival School of Ministry, God gave her a dream confirming he had called her to work with prostitutes and strippers. Upon completing her education, she had a sense her time in Pensacola was over. She returned to New Orleans thinking she would immediately start her ministry again. Instead she found her aging parents needed help. She focused on caring for them and ministered when she could.

She connected with some Baptist who used the same approach to ministry she did in Pensacola. They warmly received her, trained her and allowed her to minister with them when she could. One night she walked into Temptations Gentlemen’s Club and felt drawn to a young dancer whose arms were covered in tattoos. Donna sat on the bar stool next to her. Her efforts at small talk were ignored. Donna persisted silently praying God would give her something to say the dancer would respond to. Suddenly, she looked Donna in the eyes and said sarcastically, “My name is Riot, but you need to understand something. I need to stay in the mode to do what I do.”

Donna matched her sarcasm, “Riot, I get being in the mode. When I come in here, I am in the mode, and my mission is to get those walls around your heart down, so we can talk heart to heart.”

Donna’s boldness made Riot laugh, and brought the wall between them down. Riot poured out her heart. Her real name was Jaren Lockheart. She supported her disabled boyfriend and had a three year-old daughter. They lived in a motel. Jaren listen to Donna’s testimony and allowed Donna to pray. Donna returned twice to minister to Jaren. “If ever you are in a real jam, you remember to call on the name of Jesus,” was the last thing she said to Jaren. Caring for her parents prevented Donna from returning.

One night, she scrolled through posts on Facebook and saw a picture of Jaren. She clicked on the picture, which brought her to a local news story. Jaren’s torso, and then her head, arms and pieces of her leg washed ashore on a beach in Mississippi. The tattoos on her arms helped the police identify who the body belong to.

Donna grieved the loss of Jaren like a mother grieves the loss of a child. “I will never forget Jaren Lockhart,” said Donna. “Sometimes we give a gift and walk on, but I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit’s leading that would not let me leave until Jaren talked to me and allowed me to pray for her. When I look back I think I could have said more, done more, but I have to trust that in these brief divine encounters the Lord is awakening them to his love. These dancers and prostitutes are street savvy. I have to believe that once she got to a certain point with this couple, she realized that she made the wrong decision and called on Jesus.”

Donna’s step-father died, and her mother developed health problems that needed professional care. Donna made arrangements for her mother’s needs and found herself free to devote her time to ministry. She obtained permission from her pastor to develop a ministry team at her church. The first club they entered threw them out. Donna encouraged her team and they pressed on until they found clubs that allowed them to talk to the dancers.

“We do more than give gifts. We look into their eyes. We whisper prayers into their ears, so we can be heard above the music. We tell them they are loved and valued by God,” said Donna.

Throughout our conversation Donna was candid about the results of her efforts. Divine encounters are many but conversions are sparse. Donna’s passion to share the love of God and win souls for the Lamb of God keeps her shoulder to the plow. She sows seeds of the gospel trusting God to send another to water and another to reap (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). I’ve never met anyone with a purer love for those God entrusted to her care than Donna Engvall, and doubt I will ever forget her. 

Click here to view a video relating to this story.  

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