Speaking before about 200 members of the Madison Christian philanthropy community, Lilada Gee told a story she’s told many times before — but a story that never gets easier to tell.

With a waver in her voice, she recalled the pain and despair and suicidal thoughts that weighed on her heart after she was sexually abused by her stepfather.

A lifelong Christian, she offered God a deal in a moment of desperation.

“I said ‘God, if you get me from this hell and damnation that I’m in, I promise you that I will reach into hell and pull out other women and other girls who are experiencing the pain that I feel,’” she said. She said God then gave her the courage to stand up in front of her church and tell “the secret that I had intended to carry to my grave.”

“After that, women, girls, teenagers started showing up at my front door and coming into my living room,” she said. “We prayed, and cried, cussed a little bit sometimes. But they found a place to bring their shame. I spent so much of my life asking God why me, why this. When God gave me healing in my life, I started saying how, God, can I use this for your glory? And this was His response.”

The result was Lilada’s Livingroom, a nonprofit that works to give girls and women, especially African American girls and women, refuge from the pain of sexual assault and “to deconstruct the historical trauma that black women and girls endure,” Gee said.

Lilada’s Livingroom was one of five local charities highlighted at the annual Madison Christian Giving Fund dinner on Thursday, September 8. The Madison Christian Giving Fund, a local chapter of the National Christian Foundation of Wisconsin, awarded $10,000 in startup funds to Lilada’s Livingroom this year.

The grant to Lilada’s Livingroom was one of 22 grants awarded in 2016, totalling $120,000.

“We’re just excited for what God is doing here in Madison,” said National Christian Foundation of Wisconsin President Linda Maris.

Pastor Marcio Sierra of Lighthouse Church praised the organization in his keynote address.

Recalling his immigration to Madison from Honduras 23 years ago, he made it clear that “Madison is my home.”

Pastor Marcio Sierra
Pastor Marcio Sierra

“I love Madison,” he said. “I know that God loves Madison, but there’s a lot of issues going on in Madison. There’s a lot of problems. We are all aware of these problems. We have racial problems. For the minority children, Madison is one of the worst places to get an education. There are issues with homelessness. There’s a lot of issues here.”

Those issues can be addressed, he said, but only with some help.

“My desire, and God’s desire, is for things to change,” he said. “And the truth is that nothing is going to change without Jesus. Jesus is the way things are going to change. If we want sustainable change, Jesus is the answer.”

Sierra said he was immediately impressed when introduced to the Madison Christian Giving Fund.

“I saw a group of people who love Madison just like I love Madison,” he said. “And more than Madison, they love Jesus. They wanted to do something to help Madison in a way that would honor Jesus Christ. What the Madison Christian Giving Fund is doing in Madison is bringing the church together. Those who have the finances, those who have the time, those who have the knowledge and expertise, those who have the ministries — they’re bringing all of us together so that together we can deal with the issues that we have at hand.”

The grants being celebrated at last week’s event include:

  • $5,000 for “Jesus Lunch”
  • $10,000 for Redeemer City’s new after school programming
  • $6,500 for Nehemiah’s Academic Center for Excellence outreach
  • $10,000 for Shelter from the Storm’s new homeless shelter
  • $7.500 for Lifest at Bratfest
  • $10,000 for Lilada’s Living Room startup funds
  • $5,000 for the EC Alliance outreach event
  • $5,000 for Madison Christian Schools’ new program to allow children of color to attend private schools
  • $3,000 for Iglesia Restauacion y Vida’s homeless outreach program
  • $3,000 for Young Life camp scholarships
  • $3,500 for FOSTER’s Power Program, helping ex-offenders who have children in the foster system
  • $5,000 for Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Spectacular event
  • $10,000 to send 50 African American students to the Impact Movement’s national conference
  • $3,000 for new technology at Lighthouse Christian School
  • $5,000 for Campus Crusade’s college and high school outreach concert
  • $5,000 for A Pathway Home’s sober living residential program
  • $2,500 for BigBig House’s work to rescue girls from sex work and human trafficking
  • $5,000 startup funding for the Workplace Chaplaincy Foundation
  • $3,000 for Life Promotions to bring an anti-bullying message to several area schools
  • $5,000 for the Madison Area Lutheran Council’s jail ministry
  • $5,000 for startup funds for Lazarus Liberation’s new ex-offender program
  • $3,000 for the Salvation Army’s program for single homeless women

The Madison Christian Giving Fund will next gather on March 16, 2017, for an opportunity to learn about ways to support ministries and programs that are making an impact in Madison.