Tattooed By Iniquity No Longer

INK 180What comes to mind when you see a person covered in tattoos? A person that has had a rough life; someone that has taken the road of hard knock and a path of pain and agony? Or perhaps someone who has been rebellious and possibly pushed aside by society?

If we are not careful, we may judge a book by its cover while failing to understand what the content inside the book really reveals. The Bible says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT).

God loves people; he came to seek and save that which was lost, including the most unlikely candidates. For example, Zacchaeus, an evil tax collector during Jesus’ time on earth took advantage of people by charging them more money than what he should have. And, due to his corrupt practices, he became very wealthy. Yet, Jesus knew who he was and still pursued him. He sought after him to redeem his life, even despite the murmurs and complaints of the self-righteous religious people surrounding him (Luke 19:1-10).

This same scenario is true in our own generation. Many judge those that have tattoos, labeling them as being rebellious, hellions, and individuals that are nothing but trouble. But what if, regardless of their outward markings or past mistakes, God is pursing them to be part of his eternal family? What if the hurting and broken that society so easily tosses aside as “not worthy” are the very people that God wants to redeem and use to display his amazing grace?

Tattooed by grace
This happened for Chris Baker, a man that came to Christ during his adult life. Much of Baker’s earlier days were spent living for himself, pursuing things he tried to use to fulfill himself, but that left him feeling empty. God was calling him, wooing him to himself, and eventually he accepted Christ. And because of the love that was shown him, he wanted to provide this same opportunity for others. Baker shares, “I believe everyone deserves a second chance at life, and I want to offer them help to live their second chance.”

Overwhelmed by God’s mercy and acceptance, he knew he had to do something to help others, to offer hurting people a hand up, a new beginning. But what would he do? He decided to use his skills and passion for tattooing to make a difference. Baker set out to help ex-gang members cover up tattoos and markings so that they could leave their negative pasts behind and embrace a new future. Many times employers and various businesses will not hire ex-gang members simply because of their tattoos. Baker saw an opportunity to help them cover their destructive markings at no cost. So he took his idea to law enforcement officers in the Chicago area, and they loved it. From this, the ministry of Ink 180 was born.

Another door opens
Baker soon started working with correctional facilities to give ex-gang members a second chance. After a successful meeting with Homeland Security’s gang division, Baker was invited upstairs to meet with another department – Human Trafficking Operations. Baker’s eyes were opened to a whole new world that day – a world filled with hundreds of young women that had been trafficked in the U.S.

Sadly, many of these precious victims that had been forced into sexual slavery had been tattooed or branded by criminal organizations or their pimp so that they would be easily recognizable and known to be the property of their “owner.” If they would go missing or they tried to escape, they could be found much easier this way. Some victims are even tattooed with barcodes. If other pimps find them, they can scan the barcode with their smartphone and return the victim to his or her captor.

Day after day, these women live in fear that one day their “owner” might locate them due to the markings left on their bodies. And because the process to conceal these tattoos is so expensive, police do not have the funding to help them in this way.

Baker saw an immediate need to help these victims cover up their tattoos; he saw an opportunity to offer them a fresh start, a new beginning.

He was marked – tattooed – by God’s grace and now he offers God’s unconditional love through free tattoo cover up services for ex-gang members and human trafficking victims.

The most unlikely candidates
Tim and Sandi Savage are a couple that society could have easily pushed aside because of their past struggles. Tim’s previous life was filled with drugs and alcohol; it ruled him and almost destroyed him completely. Sandi is a former stripper who was so ashamed of her lifestyle that she felt like she could never set foot in a traditional church. She shares, “I know it was really hard for me to walk into a normal church because of my 13 years of working in the sex industry. I was afraid people would judge me and not welcome me into their church,” Yet regardless of the Savage’s soiled pasts, God was after them both; he saw them as perfect candidates to reach broken, hurting people. They were individuals that God would eventually display his power, immeasurable love and unending mercy through; they would become trophies of his grace for all to see.

A church for the unchurched
Several years after entering a relationship with Jesus Christ, Tim and Sandi saw a real need to provide a safe, accepting environment where people that would never attend a traditional church service could go and learn about a God of second chances – a God that would love them right where they were. The couple took their dream and connected Calvary: Kendall, opening as a multisite in South Beach (SoBe). The church meets in a South Beach tattoo shop – a place where the unchurched can feel comfortable and safe – located at 1218 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach. The services are from 8-10 am on Sunday mornings. This multisite of Calvary: Kendall has exploded in growth, as it strikes a chord with those that feel condemned and rejected by society.

Are you looking for a place that will accept you? Then Calvary: Kendall’s SoBe site is just the church for you. According to Tim Savage, the church is open to anyone and everyone, “No matter who you are, you are welcome here.”

God wants to use you
Never underestimate what God can do through individuals that surrender their lives to him. He redeemed Chris Baker and Tim and Sandi Savage – outcasts the world would have pushed aside. God marked – tattooed them by his grace – and he is now using them to help others who are experiencing rejection and judgment. God can even redeem your past failures and turn them around and use them for great good. So what are you waiting for?

To find out more about INK 180, visit ink180ministry.com
To find out more about South Beach Fellowship, visit calvaryconnect.com or email [email protected]

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