And we know that in all things God works for the good of those
who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
For some people, life is tough. Then it gets tougher. Then toughest. Until Christ makes it better. Harmony Dust can tell you about all of it.
Tough. "One of my earliest memories is of my father watching porn in the bed next to me during one of my weekend visits. I couldn't have been older than three or four. He left the state when I was five years old and I only saw him about a dozen times throughout my childhood after that." Harmony's mother began dating man who, in time, molested the young girl. Her mother, aware of the boyfriend's molestation, did nothing about it. "She explained that if I wore long pants and stopped practicing my dance routines in the living room, this wouldn't be happening."
When Harmony was thirteen, her mother ran off with her boyfriend and left Harmony to raise her eight-year-old brother. "She left us with $20 and a book of food stamps." In order to keep her and her brother in food and supplies, Harmony began stealing, always cautious to protect her little brother from any involvement in her petty theft.
"That was the summer I lost my virginity to the first boy who told me he loved me." Then, she became involved with an older boy in her neighborhood, another in a successive line of people to facilitate Harmony's loss of self-worth. He was her boyfriend, source of food, and security … "'Anyone mess with you, I got your back;'" … and abuser. And, it was he who first mentioned that he could "make money off me". Within two years, Harmony was giving him money from her job at the beach. Another two years and she was fully supporting him. By the time Harmony was nineteen, she was $35,000 in debt.
Tougher. "I was losing control. Young, naïve, and hopeless, I began stripping. He told me that I would only have to work for a couple of months in order to pay off my bills. Then I could return to a ‘normal' life. I found myself trapped in the lifestyle."
By day a quiet conservative college student, Harmony was at night another person's fantasy. "Gradually, I began to lose sight of who I was, and became lost in make-up, stilettos, and the glare of stage lights. I felt fragmented and compartmentalized. My life unraveled like an episode of Jerry Springer."
Already feeling empty, with a declining self-image, Harmony began to use stripping as a way to take back control of her sexuality. "I finally felt like I had the upper hand. I learned to exploit for myself, the very thing that men had already exploited…my body." In spite of her feelings of being in control, by day she hid her fear of recognition by hiding behind baggy clothes and sunglasses. And, by clinging to a boyfriend whom she knew didn't love her. Who even impregnated another woman.
Toughest. "I thought that my life and existence was hopeless and that the relationship with my boyfriend was the only salvageable thing left. In my search for one good and pure thing, I clung onto him with all of my strength and sacrificed my dignity to keep him in my life. All of my adoration, love and worship were focused on a person who was too selfish to ever really love me."
Until Christ makes it better. "I met a friend who showed me the unconditional love of God. She never tried to ‘fix' or ‘change' me and her friendship with me was not contingent on me going to Church with her. I never felt like a ‘project'. She was not afraid of my ‘messy' life. Through her friendship, I began to see an example of a woman who loved God, loved people, and loved herself."
Harmony's friend didn't lecture or give her a set of guidelines she must live by. The friend did two other things that impressed Harmony. She invited Harmony to join her at church. "From the moment I walked through the doors, I knew that I was ‘home'." And, she trusted the Holy Spirit enough to do the work in Harmony's heart. "This internal transformation is ultimately what led to change in my life and choices." Harmony left stripping behind her. More than that, she became a witness for the Lord. "From the beginning of my encounter with Jesus, I had a sense that God was going to use my story somehow." After returning from a trip to Mozambique, where she shared her story publicly for the first time, Harmony knew that, "I wanted to do work that made a difference somehow."
Once back in the States, Harmony contacted Mercy Missions, a faith-based organization with a mission to serve young women caught in a spiraling life. She wanted to know what kind of education a person would need who wanted to work for Mercy or an organization like it.
"I will never forget their response. Nancy, Mercy's founder, believes in anointing over education. ‘However,' she said, ‘many of the staff members here have a Masters in Social Work.' I hung up the phone and immediately began applying to MSW programs." Harmony decided to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
One day, shortly before entering school, Harmony found herself sitting in her car, across the street from the strip club where she used to work. She felt compelled to do something to reach the women still caught in "the life". God already knew that was coming. So, there turned out to be a stack of postcards right there in the car. They read, "Her value is far above rubies and pearls". This was exactly the message that Harmony wanted to share with the women. She began writing hand-written notes to the women in the clubs and placed them on their cars.
"After I did this, I began to wonder if I could find a way to reach the rest of the clubs in my city and if others would want to join me. The vision of Treasures was birthed! I continued to build and run Treasures while I was finishing my Master's."
Treasures' mission was ambitious but unequivocal. " … to reach, restore, and equip women in the sex industry and victims of trafficking to live healthy, flourishing lives, and train others to do the same across the globe."
Harmony graduated from UCLA Magna Cum Laude, at the head of her class. Shortly after graduating, she began her new career as a case manager for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
"As someone who spent a brief period of my childhood in foster care living in a group home, I found it incredibly rewarding to work with children in the foster care system. I loved being an advocate for them and knowing that I had the potential to make a difference in their lives."
While Harmony was still working for DCFS, the story of her life was featured in Glamour magazine. The response to her story, and the mission and work of Treasures, was overwhelming.
"Our phone lines, website and email all crashed! My team and I worked around the clock to try to respond to everyone. I couldn't keep up with my workload at Treasures while maintaining my full-time job at DCFS so I took a leap of faith and quit my job with its comfortable government benefits and went into full-time ministry."
And, that is why today young women from all over the world, caught in "the life", can seek help from women who can say with veracity, "I know how you feel". Why troubled souls can find women who can tell them, from experience, that when they accept Christ as their Savior, their sins are buried as deep as the deepest sea.
"He is a genius! If we let Him, He will take all of the threads of our past, our unique passions and giftings, and weave them all together into a beautiful tapestry of purpose!"
Harmony's complete story can be found in her book, "Scars and Stilettos", which is available on www.iamatreasure.com.
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