Blazing Grace Radio Episode

Interview with Letitia Shelton from City Women – Australia

Recorded: Jun 27, 2022

Listen to the live broadcasts in Arizona on Faithtalk 1360AM, Fridays at 3:00PM, listen to the shows now on our Podcast Page, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio or Google Play.

  • Listen on Apple Podcasts
  • Listen on Spotify
  • Listen on Google Podcasts
  • Listen on iHeart Radio

Listen to the Podcast:


Blazing Grace Radio
Blazing Grace Radio
Interview with Letitia Shelton from City Women – Australia







/

Letitia Shelton, founder of City Women in Toowoomba, Queensland calls in from Australia to discuss the ministry God gave her more than 20 years ago. City Women goes into strip clubs and brothels in Australia, ministers to the sexually abused, and leads a campaign called “A City Free from Porn” that includes billboards.

From Letitia:

  • “If you want to find Jesus, you go to the broken. I think I’ve learned more from them than from a trillion sermons.”
  • “We (the church) are going to have to step out and take some high level risks.”
  • “I’m just so thankful that God saved me from a boring Christian life.”

Podcast Transcript:


ANNOUNCER:

This radio program is PG-13. Parents strongly cautioned – some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13.

Jesus’s mission was to comfort those who mourn, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives, and open prison doors for those who are bound. For those who want more than status-quo Christianity has to offer, Blazing Grace Radio begins now. And here is your host, Mike Genung:

Mike Genung, Host, Blazing Grace Radio:

Hey, Mike Genung here, and welcome back to Blazing Grace Radio. A couple of months ago, I ran into a news story on an Australian news website, and the title was “Disruptive Women Leave the Church World to Reach the Brokenhearted“, and that caught me. I’ll read you a couple of paragraphs from it. It says, “You might think the last place you’d find a Christian anti-porn campaigner is in a brothel. But Letitia Shelton regularly visits the brothels and strip clubs in her hometown in Queensland, Australia. In fact, she’s been visiting sex workers for years. For the past 22 years, Letitia Shelton has been leading a radical movement. It’s a movement made up of Christian women from different denominations who, together, are ministering in the same way Jesus did, moving beyond the four walls of the Church to serve those in need in their local communities”. They quote Letitia, saying, “If you want to find Jesus, you go to the broken. I’ve learned more from them than from a trillion servants”. We’re blessed to have today Letitia calling in from Australia. Letitia, thank you so much for doing this. Welcome to the program.

Letitia Shelton, Founder, City Women:

Hello, Mike. Thank you for having me.

Mike:

So I want to invite you to share your story, stories about your ministry, and what you see there.

Letitia:

Well, that’s a huge open-ended question. [laughs] We’ve been on a journey for the last 20 years. How do we, together as churches, reach our city? How do we pastor a city? We’ve got to do these things together. We always say, “It takes a city-wide church to win a city-wide battle”. So 20 years ago, when we became aware of some of the issues in our city, I thought, “We’ve got to work together as churches.” The biggest sin in the city is the disunity of the Church. The most dysfunctional family in a city is the Church. We compete. We don’t join together. We work against each other. So we’ve been on a journey of “How do we not only move into our community, but how do we work together in that way?”. So I started the organization “City Women” 20 years ago to mobilize women across the churches to work together into our city. So not only have we been involved in strip clubs and brothels, but we’ve been in our schools. We’ve been helping refugees, kids in care, pregnant women, women on drugs, the whole range. So it’s just been an exciting journey.

Mike:

The article mentions where you took 20 girls away to the mountains and five of the girls were sitting around a table and sharing about [being] sexually abused. Talk about that.

Letitia:

Yeah, that was one of the catalysts that really kicked it off for me. That was our very first camp – back in 2001, would you believe? – after the mayor of our city had challenged us to get outside church and do something for the young people of our city. So we took away 20 girls up to the mountains, just 2 hours from where I live, and had these five girls sitting around the table. On the second night they’re still sharing their abuse stories, and so it was, I guess, a bit of an epiphany for me that night, realizing, “What the heck are we doing?” We are so busy inside our church, but we’ve got to get outside and move the Church into the pain.

I think quite often we expect the world to come into the Church but that’s not going to happen… it certainly won’t happen in Australia. People don’t come just to do religious duties. So it’s been a continued journey of, “How do we mobilize people?” and hearing those girls stories that night certainly woke me up to the fact that we have got to be a lot more, I guess, on the front-foot and running into the pain, instead of expecting it to come to us.

Mike:

Here in the US, we see numbers of two-thirds of Christian men in the church, and 30% of women in the church, viewing pornography. 74% of youth viewing porn, and sexting is blowing up in our youth. What do you see there in Australia?

Letitia:

Yeah, exactly the same. It’s a worldwide culture, unfortunately. We’ve all got access to the same mobile phones, don’t we? Have access to the same garbage. I’ve just been in a little country called Fiji, little Pacific island off the east coast of Australia. Population is only a million people, but they rate fourth highest in the world for googling porn. And 64% of their nation attends church! So these same issues are everywhere, unfortunately, because it’s a global culture that are seeking to destroy lives.

So we decided in our city about five years ago that we would address the issue of pornography, and we launched a campaign called “A City Free From Pornography”. Now that might seem like a bit of a crazy title, or an impossible goal, which in the natural it probably is, but the kingdom of God coming to my city looks like a city free from porn. I think it’s important that we declare something that is different.

We’ve been just wanting to highlight and really educate our city on the harms of porn, especially the parents. I think so often they don’t have a clue what is going on, and kids are into it, but parents don’t know how to speak to their kids. So part of our campaign has been to do billboards, which happens around a lot of cities. But we’ve done radio ads, television ads, school presentations, church talks… and I’m just actually, today, heading off right up to the top of Australia to cycle my bike 1000 km – which I don’t know how many miles that is, sorry – but I’m raising money to get a book into homes in my city. It’s a book on how to speak to your kids about pornography.

So I’m doing this cycling trip and I’ve raised $107,000 so far, and we’ve been able to deliver 19,000 books into homes. So trying to get on the front-foot and give parents of our city a resource. Even though it’s available online and they could get it for free, I just want a hard copy of a resource that fits in their home, maybe for years, and makes them think about pornography and what it’s doing to their children and how to speak to their kids. So we’re just having a go and doing what we can with the limited resources we have. But yeah, it’s fun.

Mike:

What we see here is that kids are getting smartphones as early as age six, and then we have people come people come to us for help, and it’s a parent and they’re saying, “My nine or ten year old is addicted to porn, what do I do?” So that connects with what you’re saying about parents haven’t gotten a clue. Is that what you’re seeing there?

Letitia:

Absolutely, yeah. And again, parents parenting is hard enough without having to keep up to date with the latest pornography, and where it’s coming from, and how it’s affecting our kids. But unfortunately, you can’t parent without talking about pornography these days, and it’s damaging effects. Our Australian government surveyed Australian parents, and 77% of parents believe it’s their job to speak to their kids about pornography, but less than half actually do, just because they don’t know what to say or how to say it. So we’re trying to take away any excuses by putting a resource into their hands. So anyway, I’ll be cycling for the next two weeks.

Mike:

You must be in great shape then. That’s 650 miles on our side.

Letitia:

Okay, you’ve done a good job. I might be by the end of it, because I’ve been overseas the last month. I have some limited training. But anyway, I hope for the best.

Mike:

So tell us what you encounter in the way of spiritual warfare.

Letitia:

Yeah, there’s always opposition, but I’ve got to be honest, a lot of things… I don’t know, I just feel the grace of God in a lot of what we do, and we experience a lot of favor. Yes, there’s opposition and I’ve got some great prayer teams, but I don’t make it a big focus. You just got to keep going and keep walking, all that God has called you for, the long term. We’ve been at this for over 20 years now and we’re not going away anytime soon, so it just takes a long term obedience in the same direction, doesn’t it?

Mike:

Yes, it does.

Letitia:

Making sure you got good prayer teams, you walk in wisdom, you have good people surrounded by you. But I think as we’ve worked together as churches, the Bible says God commands a blessing, and you really experience a different grace and joy that you don’t when you’re just doing it on your own. I think a lot of our spiritual warfare comes because we’re trying to fight alone, and the Enemy can pick us off easily. But fighting together is God’s way, and it brings a lot of fruit and joy in that. So I don’t want to make light of the work of the Enemy, but he’s not my number one problem.

Mike:

Well, when I go and speak, sometimes I’ll ask the audience to raise their hand if they meet with another believer consistently for the purpose of prayer and support. Usually only about 15% put their hands up.

Letitia:

Yeah.

Mike:

So that goes back to what we see here, is most Christians are isolated.

Letitia:

Yep. No, they can be. Most churches are isolated, and most ministries are isolated. When you think that God has called us to be one body, there’s one body in each city. There will be many congregations, but we’re the Church of Jesus, and the sooner we can find each other, the more powerful, and can make a greater impact.

Mike:

One quote from something you said in the news article was, “If we can have less porn, we’ll have less domestic violence, we’ll have less rape, we’ll have less abortions, we’ll have less broken marriages”. So it’s really preventative. Talk about that. Because I think a lot of people think, “Well, porn is just… we’re just looking at pictures, we’re not really hurting anyone”.

Letitia:

Yeah. This is why I started our campaign in our city, because when you look at all the research, pornography fuels all those things you just mentioned. While we work with vulnerable women and girls – and we’ll continue to pick up the pieces and help those suffering – you want to prevent and get to the bottom of what is causing a lot of this pain. I’m not sure what it’s like in your nation, but our nation has a huge domestic violence problem, and we spend billions of dollars per year trying to fix it. But no one wants to address the issue of pornography. Not that porn causes every bit of domestic violence, but it sure does a lot, and shapes those violent tendencies within – especially young boys – from a young age, and their ability to look at girls and women as human beings. So, yes, we’ve got to begin to speak up and it’s not always a popular discussion. But especially as I keep it focused on our children, no one disagrees that kids should not see pornography. If we can stop them from seeing it and ending down roads and years of addiction, hopefully that will stop them from acting out in ways that could end them up in prison and with criminal charges.

In the nation of Fiji, where I’ve just been, I’ve got a friend who works in the prison in the capital city, and his job is to interview sex offenders as they come in, and he said 100% of them have been addicted to porn. 100% of the sex offenders. So is that a coincidence? No, not at all. So that’s why we stand up, and not just to stop these evil things from happening, but we want to see beautiful marriages, beautiful relationships, beautiful intimacy and sexuality. So we’ve got to fight for the beauty of all that God has created, don’t we?

Mike:

Amen. So on a nationwide basis in Australia, do you see pastors talking openly about porn and equipping people on how to overcome and break free from it, or what do you see?

Letitia:

The by and large, no. I mean, there will be little pockets, and maybe the youth pastor will do one or two talks a year. But generally, no, it’s not on their radar. Again, it depends. Some are brilliant. But that’s not really the majority, and that’s why they have me come and speak. It’s hard for them to keep up to date with where it’s all at – not that they need to be up to date – but look at a big rate to see the church engage in a lot more of the cultural issues, not just porn. And not just speak about them, but actually come up with solutions in their cities, really. Because yes we need to talk to our people, but we’re also here to pastor a city.

That’s why I just didn’t start a campaign to the churches in my city. I started a campaign to the city, because actually Jeremiah 29: says, “When you seek the welfare of the city, you will be blessed.” So it’s amazing that as you look at the bigger picture first, it trickles down into the churches as well. Very few pastors think city-wide and think with the big vision like that. And that’s okay. They’re not all wired that way. But there’s people – that’s why we need the body of Christ – because there’s people in our cities who think bigger, and we need to tap into each other. Otherwise we’re going to get nowhere, and we are getting nowhere. Look at our nations, your nation and my nation. If only we’d stop and go, “Is that really working as churches? No. What does the Bible say?” But we continue on thinking that we’ve got the latest and greatest, don’t we?

Mike:

The early Church was devoted to prayer, fellowship, and teaching, and they changed the world. And we focus on the worship band and the teaching, and we’re crumbling.

Letitia:

Yeah, well, when you look at the books of the Bible, Corinthians was written to one church in Corinth. Philippians was written to one church in Philippi. So they weren’t all these little denominations there that were competing against each other. They were devoted together in unity, meeting together daily, and the Spirit of God fell upon them and they turned the world upside down.

Mike:

You’re quoted, and this really resonated with me, “I’m so thankful that God saved me from a boring Christian life”, and I can relate to that because I’d rather be right in the thick of the fight than sitting on the sidelines and watching.

Letitia:

God calls all of us into an adventure with Him, and I’ve just been called to the vulnerable in my city. But wherever people find themselves – we’re all missionaries, aren’t we?

Mike:

Yep.

Letitia:

Whether we’re a truck driver, or mother at home, we’re on the street with neighbors. Whether we’re a school student, we’re at school. So we’re meant to be a missionary. And again, I think most… 99% of Christians want to wake up every day going, “I’m going to the mission field today”. They think it’s a boring life. So they’re not engaging with the Spirit of God to see his kingdom come, where we find ourselves, the missionaries, each day. So we just allow the boredom of life, rather than stepping out and seeing what God wants to do, where he’s placed us, and taking some risks.

Every time I take a risk, yes, it’s scary, but I find that God is out there in the unknown. He’s waiting for me to step out. He needs us to move. We’re his plan A for his kingdom come. I don’t know who else we think is going to do it, but when God decided that he wanted to populate the Earth, he put us, human beings, and Adam and Eve were given a job right at the beginning. So I think we don’t have an understanding of what our role is on Earth, and we live just like the rest of the world, and it’s boring. And just going to church every week is boring, too. Maybe not your church [laughs] but mine can be, sometimes. So I’m thankful that God gave me a bigger vision than even just pastoring my own church. He gave me a bigger vision that we’re here for the city, that we’ve got to do it together, and that we’re going to have to step out and take some high-level risks, which are exciting.

Mike:

I couldn’t agree more. I also agree with what you said about sometimes church can be boring, because we’ve been looking for a new church here for the last two years. Sometimes it just feels like there’s too much of an emphasis on comfort and making people feel good, but not challenging them to take those risks like you’re talking about.

Letitia:

You know that you’re following Jesus and he can… obviously, he’s got you on a journey that’s exciting as well.

Mike:

We’re doing a billboard campaign ourselves in Las Vegas beginning the end of next month. So we’re right there with you.

Letitia:

Good on you. Yeah, keep going.

Mike:

How did your billboard campaign go?

Letitia:

Yeah, we just kind of do them every… probably twice a year. I’m in – compared to las Vegas, I’m in a tiny little city, called Toowoomba with about 150,000, so we’re nothing like you guys. But we’ve got some big digital billboards in the middle of town which we use, and whenever we put them up there there’s always a greater foot traffic to our website. We always get more letters of abuse. Conversations are happening in workplaces. The local newspaper usually picks up on it. So to me, it just keeps creating conversations, and if you can send people back to our website where we have a lot of information and resources and just local people speaking. So, again, it’s not going to change the world, but it’s just kind of something to keep a pebble in your shoes to make you feel discomfortable and get the conversations happening. Again, this is long term stuff, so one billboard campaign’s not going to win the day, but I just got to keep going for many years from different angles, I think are really important.

Mike:

Yeah, it’s “planting seeds” is what I would call it.

Letitia:

Yep.

Mike:

So talk about City Women. I think we have about a minute left here. Talk about City Women. So who’s coming to you to help out? What does your organization look like?

Letitia:

Yes, we’re an umbrella for about ten different ministries that are helping different people in the city. I mentioned before, we’re out there with the sex workers, the refugees, kids in care, school kids, pregnant women, a whole range. So each of those ministries have different leaders over them, and our job has just been to make women across the city aware of these ministries and how they can get involved. Generally, I find that women really want to do something; they feel the pain of a city, they want to get involved, they’re happy to work together, they don’t have so many hangups. So, yeah, it’s just great to see them come forward and want to volunteer, in whatever area they’re passionate about. As we’ve work together, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot more than if we do this work by ourselves. So that’s the general gist of how it works. It’s been an exciting journey, and it’s changing. Things start and then they stop. There’s seasons for different ministries that we’ve run, but it’s just been an exciting journey as we’ve tried to look at how we can meet the needs.

Mike:

Well, we’re out of time and I want to thank you very much, Letitia, for joining us and calling us. I know it was five in the morning, your time when you called.

Letitia:

Yeah.

Mike:

I love what you’re doing, and I love the impact you’re making. So thank you for joining us, and we’ll talk to you next time.

Letitia:

My pleasure, Mike. Thank you so much.

ANNOUNCER:

Blazing Grace is a nonprofit international ministry for the sexually broken and the spouse. Please visit us at blazinggrace.org for information on Mike Genung’s books, groups, counseling, or to have Mike speak at your organization. You can email us at email@blazinggrace.org or call our office in Chandler, Arizona at (719)-888-5144. Again, visit us at blazinggrace.org, email us at email@blazinggrace.org, or call the office at (719) 888-5144.