Years of sexual and physical abuse didn’t conquer Angel Austin.
She found the faith to overcome that painful episode of her life and also found deliverance in Christ.
“Knowing Christ enabled me to accept what I could not change and what people had done to me. But he showed me what they did to me was not who I was; it was no fault of my own,” said Austin, the pastor of Faith to Conquer Outreach Ministries in Baton Rouge. “Knowing Christ was like finding me, and I could not find me until I got in him, and I had a reason to live then. I had a new hope.”
Austin turned that hope into a ministry that helps people who have suffered the kind of abuse she endured starting at age 8. She founded Faith to Conquer, at 1037 S. Tamari Drive, in 2005 as a mentoring advisory service and support group for victims of sexual and physical abuse.
“Any form of abuse in those areas, I understand that pain and what it’s like to try to get help and not be heard and try to explain to people what happened to you without almost thinking you’re going to lose your mind,” she said. “My passion was to help people who had gone through what I had gone through. … My misery actually became my ministry.”
The ministry’s theme is “With God, nothing shall be impossible” from Luke 1:37.
After six years of helping the community through various services, Austin felt the call to offer a different kind of service: leading a church service as a pastor.
“That was a major shock,” she said. “All I thought I was called to do was help people get back on their feet in a specific area. But to lead a congregation of people, I was reluctant because I just didn’t desire to. I never saw my life that far. That taught me not to argue with God.”
Austin was a longtime Sunday school teacher and had experience as a ministry team leader but fought God about becoming a pastor.
“It took me two years to convince him it wasn’t me, but he won,” she said.
Now Austin is trying to win souls for Christ, feeling humbled by the calling.
“I’m honored and grateful that God would chose someone like me,” said Austin, who was saved at 16. “When I say someone like me, someone who’s messed up so many times, who’s made so many mistakes. He never stops loving me. For me to serve God and still be in the fight is physical and living proof that I’m not by myself.”
Even during her 14 years of abuse, Austin never felt God had abandoned her nor did she ever blame God.
“It could have been worse,” she said. “It could have killed me. There’s so many people in insane institutions because they lost their mind. But I can remember each and every time there was a voice of the Lord talking to me and showing me who he was as opposed to what was happening to me.”
Austin placed the blame somewhere else.
“It was the enemy’s attacks, but his weapons could not work because the enemy’s attacks on my life couldn’t stop me from being where I am, because I am a serious threat to hell. I know that for sure,” she said.
Austin will be among the speakers for Faith to Conquer’s annual fundraiser called Mother’s Day Out in January.
The program is set for 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, in the large first-floor meeting room at the Main Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd., Baton Rouge.
“The world has decided to only honor mothers on Mother’s Day, but I wanted to reach those women who are not actual biological mothers but who have dreams they haven’t given birth to,” Austin said.
The program encourages women to push through their labor pains, Austin said.
“Someone gave up in 2014, and we want to revive their faith and revive their dreams,” she said.
Other speakers for the Mother’s Day Out in January program will be Ministers Nichelle Landry and Stella Righteous.
Tickets are generally $10 but free to needy families. For more information, call (225) 273-1166 or go to faithtoconquer.org.
Women making it happen
Edna Brown Hickman is helping make it happen for the United Methodist Women.
Hickman will be the main speaker for the United Methodist Women Sunday celebration at 10 a.m. Jan. 18 at St. Mark United Methodist Church, 6217 Glen Oaks Drive, Baton Rouge.
The program is the yearly membership emphasis for the United Methodist Women, the mission arm of the United Methodist Church and one of the world’s largest faith-based organizations, with 800,000 members.
The theme is “Membership for Mission: Making It Happen.”
“It’s up to us to make it happen,” said Hickman, a longtime St. Mark member and president of the South Central Jurisdiction of United Methodist Women, one of five jurisdictions in the country. “We are God’s feet, we are God’s voice, we are his eyes and we have to make it happen. He’s given us the road map. He’s shown us what to do. Now it’s up to us. … God has a purpose for all of us.”
United Methodist Women, which is open to women of any denomination, offers a variety of programs and opportunities in missions and other areas. Among them: Bible studies and spiritual retreats; leadership training; advocacy for social justice; partnership with women around the world; and supporting work with women, children and youth.
“If you’re passionate about helping those who are less fortunate, if you’re passionate about what you can do to make the world a better place, United Methodist Women is an excellent group or organization to be affiliated with,” Hickman said.
Hickman is a Southern University graduate. She also has served as leader of the Louisiana Conference United Methodist Women, conference vice president and St. Mark’s president.
“It’s important,” Hickman said. “I feel very passionate about it. That’s why I put so many years into it, because I believe in what we do. I have seen firsthand. I have learned so much.”
For information, call (225) 357-6150.
Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Call Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.