At age 21 Lauren felt a big calling on her life—to start a Dance Ministry. Her whole life she had a passion for dance and helping others. But throughout her teenage years, she had experienced the pain of bullying. This led her to have an extremely low self-worth and to struggle with the way she perceived herself. She wanted so much to fit in and to feel accepted. She’d look at herself in the mirror and not recognise the girl staring back at her.
Her parents could see she was tearing herself apart, but she didn’t realise it until the day her doctor told her she was no longer well enough to dance. Her one escape from reality ripped from her, she went from feeling on top of the world to experiencing the pain of losing her passion. Then one day Lauren looked at herself in the mirror and heard a still small voice: ‘This isn’t the plan I have for you.’
It was as if a switch went off in her mind—she could see things clearly for the first time. A fog had lifted. She realised she was worth more than this and that God had a purpose for her life. She felt His love surround her. Lauren began seeking help and eventually was able to dance again after a lot of support from her family and friends.
It wasn’t until a few years later when Lauren was completing an internship in Creative Arts at Planetshakers College that she felt God speak again. ‘I was journaling in my room one night when all of a sudden I started writing. I had no idea what I was writing—it just kept flowing. After I had finished writing I looked back at what I had written, and it was a list of everything I was passionate about and a plan for a Dance Ministry.’
Lauren tucked this experience away and soon was offered a job teaching at Upstaged Dance and Performance Studio. She got so caught up in the dance world that she started heading that direction full time. Then one day the door to full-time work slammed shut suddenly and she was left feeling hopeless and wondering what was next. She heard that still small voice again: ‘It is time.’
God placed in her life two other girls with the same passion to reach young people for Jesus using movement and dance. Lauren and her team formed a Dance Ministry called Eleven88 Movement. This comes from Psalm 118:8, ‘It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than in man.’ This was a real testament from Lauren’s life, as she had always looked at others for approval until she found only God could fill that void inside.
I can now smile, knowing that God had a purpose and used everything for His good
Eleven88 is formed of many different components. They have a core team of young teenage girls whom they disciple. Together they create and choreograph routines with a powerful message to reach young people. Eleven88 work in the local high schools running dance programmes where they aim to journey with the students using dance as a tool to connect with them. From this stepping stone, God continued to open more doors:
One student shared: ‘I had lost hope. I believed my life had no purpose, that I was worthless. One morning I woke up and thought to myself, “This is the day that I want everything to end.” I wanted to die. But for some reason I felt like something was telling me to get up and go to school. I don’t know how but I made myself go to school that day. That was the day Eleven88 came to my school and ran a body image workshop with my class and told me I was beautiful, and I did have worth.’
Amy became a Christian at one of Eleven88’s outreach events and since then has a desire to share her story to encourage her peers who may be struggling with similar issues. Amy is now part of the core team and last year travelled to Western Australia and toured the schools running this body image workshop and sharing the Gospel with young people.
While in Exmouth, Amy decided to take the next step in her faith and be baptised to show her obedience to Jesus who saved her life. ‘It is no coincidence that on the same day
I wanted to end my life, Eleven88 came to my school and gave me hope. Jesus healed me and mended my heart. All the pain and anger I had towards those people who had hurt me was gone and for the first time I felt joy and happiness from a God who loves me.’
Lauren shares similarly: ‘For a long time, I looked at my past and wondered why God allowed me to go through these struggles. I can now smile, knowing that God had a purpose and used everything for His good. I am thankful that God allowed me to go through my struggles and I am now able to share my story with other young girls and share the hope that Jesus Christ offers to all.’