Words from this young teenage girl have sat in my heart since I heard them yesterday.
I hear a lot of things. I see a lot of things.
A few days ago my friend walked in to visit our clothing closet with her family and had a sling on her arm. "What did you do to your arm?" Silence. "Don't want to talk about it right now?" Then she just said it; "The police hurt my arm when they were putting me into the police car Friday night." ...Oh.
She has my number. I told her to call if she needs to talk.
During prayer meeting Tuesday, one of our mentor students, a boy around 10, walked in with a baby girl in a stroller, who felt feverish and smelled like vomit. "J" was very respectful as we prayed. He left then came back. "Ya'll got any snacks for her?" One of the staff picked up the baby while I found a snack to share. Why is a 10-year-old taking care of this baby? I thought. She was his niece. He has a sister old enough to have a baby, but lives with her father, also his father. But He lives somewhere else, with his mother and 3 other siblings, one as young as 3, and a string of different fathers within that sibling group too. Most of our kids have no father in the home. Some are in prison, or were never in their life to begin with.
"Give me 30," one of the mamas said when one of our "Aunties" (a lady on our leadership team) went to pick her up to take her to lunch. So Auntie C went across the fence for a while to find some kids to love on while she waited. She came back in 30 minutes to pick up our friend, and she was "ready" now...and high as a kite. She loved her and took her to lunch anyway, and got to hear pieces of her heart she may have never shared in her own environment. You see, just the day before, this mama was sitting in our prayer room crying, saying "I need me some Jesus." She had been evicted and sat there with her 2 daughters (whom we have loved and mentored for years) and a beautiful One-year-old-baby girl.
I love these people. They are my people and I want to see them free. They know that we are not there to call the cops and get them in trouble, but to call on Jesus, journey with them and help them get OUT of trouble.
The house was packed Tuesday, with a steady flow of people for 2 hours straight. Young and old and in between. Food, clothes, hugs, play time and prayers were swirling through the HOPE Center everywhere you looked. And I loved every minute of it! I am blessed more than they are. This is when I feel fully alive. I needed to stand in that circle of beautiful brown sisters who love me, and hold hands and agree in prayer as we supported each other, quoted God's word and thanked Him for bringing a son home from prison after 8 and a half years! So many memories. So many stories. So much hope in store for my precious Village of Hope! I call it "mine" not as a leader, but as a neighbor.
I have stood on the porch praying with prostitutes while the "man" of the house politely let me pray for them as he waited behind the screen door. I have witnessed a girl come to me and confess to stealing from our donation jar, say "sorry" and pray to God and ask for forgiveness right in front of me. (She put the money back too.) The community waves at us first now, we don't have to initiate all the contact or conversation when we're walking around. Sometimes I hear a voice without a face. It is a "Hey Miss Jessie!!!" being said through a window screen, somewhere close. There is mutual respect and dignity. I have been hit, cursed at, vandalized, stolen from... but a million times more I have been blessed. They know I have not abandoned them when times got hard. They know I am there through the good and bad. Just like Jesus has been for me!
Yesterday one of the staff and myself were in "The Gardens" just sitting and spending time with one of our new friends who is also facing eviction and is afraid to tell her "boyfriend" (a man about 20 years older than her, probably a "sugar-daddy," very common in that community...) and introduced us to her son, a sweet boy and gifted basketball player. Within minutes, I watched as a group of about 10-15 people were "stirring" right across the yard in the next building. About 6 waited for someone to answer the door and then attacked them. A "brawl" was breaking out. (This was about the 4th fight in a matter of days) It was loud, angry and there was blood. There was also a sweet little toddler right up in the mix. Did we run? No. We got on our knees and worshipped Jesus. The atmosphere calmed down almost immediately. Then God told me to go over and hold the babies. I held a sweet little one and just waved and greeted everyone. And then? We left and came back with 50 hamburgers. We asked if we could sit in their breezeway and have some shade. "Sure."
So We sat on the concrete, ate a burger, and shared the rest. I loved on another baby, I walked up the stairs and passed out more food. LOVE WON THE FIGHT.
And Love will keep winning this fight.
Baby girl, I know of a Dad in Heaven that is nothing like your daddy who "touches anything." He's a good Father, and He is coming for you. You can trust Him. And you can trust us. We love you too.