Every year, the Ministry with which I serve, Proverbs 31:20, heads out into local women's shelters and pampers the women. An army of volunteers splits out over 5-6 different shelters and we do manicures, pedicures, facials, paraffin wax, hair styles and massages (the last two are if we have licenses practitioners volunteer).
Last year I had the honor of leading a team of 10 women into Seattle. This year I get to lead a team of 7 wonderful women at a DV program much closer to home. I'm not going to be able to take any pictures this year - respecting the privacy of the women we'll be serving and their most vulnerable position as victims escaping domestic violence.
If it's anything like every other year, though, it'll be an amazing couple of hours of "girl time" where we'll get to love on these women, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very real and tangible way.
What I love is their absolute joy at the services we bring. For most of these women, the closest they've ever been to a facial may have been the night they slept in the doorway outside a salon. It is their joy, though, that is infectious and keeps me doing it year after year after year. I have yet to meet someone who isn't simply amazed that we would be willing to touch her feet or massage her temples. For most of these women they have spent months if not years battling against those demons who have been telling them they are not worthy, that dirt has more value than they do.
It is an honor to show them there is One who values them beyond all imagination. That because of Him, we love them - warts, bad feet, missing teeth and all. We see them as Jesus would see them and that's something they haven't had a whole lot of in their lives.
Jesus ~ in calling us to go out into all the world ~ probably didn't want us to forget about those in our own backyard. It's easy, sometimes, to get wrapped up in missions to foreign lands and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is, however, wonderful every once in a while to stop looking so far away and bring into focus those who are living right here. There is so much that is misunderstood about those who end up homeless or in DV situations. It is almost always assumed that they did something stupid and therefore deserve their fate.
That misconception was blown away completely for me when I was first getting involved in volunteering at the local women's shelter. The gentleman giving us the tour talked about how hard it can be in this "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" society. He learned of a woman who ended up in this shelter who has been battling a lifelong addiction to drugs and when I say lifelong, I mean lifelong. She spoke of her mother giving her and her brother drugs when she was 8 years old. Kept the kids quiet so mom could go off and party...
Tell me. How does a person pull themselves up by the bootstraps when they've been stolen off their boots? Or worse - their boots have been stolen.
I have yet to meet a woman living in the shelter who wanted to end up there. They are grateful for it, for the chance to make their life right and whole. In going through training in another program, another quote that stuck with me came out of the mouth of a teenage girl who hadn't been able to bathe for several days. This program offered her the chance to shower and when she got done and was toweling off her hair she let out a huge sigh of relief and simply said "Now I can think."
Without the basics - without being able to shower, eat, sleep safely - all energy is spent on trying to make those things happen. Getting past that is next to impossible. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons someone can end up homeless and granted, for some it is a choice - a way of life. But not for most. For most it is a nightmare in which they find themselves trapped.
Every day I thank God for the family He gave me. Without them my son and I would have ended up homeless in 1994. I definitely made some foolish choices but never once, as I made each choice, did I ever think those choices would put me on the street. It wasn't a goal I had, it was an almost-outcome. I was fortunate, though. Rescued by people who cared - if not for me then at least for my son.
So...tomorrow night, a small army of women will be out and about near Bothell, Washington, loving and serving women who are in situations they would much rather not be in at all. If we come to mind, would you pray for us? Please? Pray that we step out of the way and these ladies see no one but Jesus.
No one but Jesus.