Living into It by Karen Doucette, Community Pastor at Bethesda UMC
I was invited to lead a short Bible study and prayer time at a nearby women’s shelter. The length of stay for each woman varies and there are many community resources who partner with the shelter to offer them provision and hope. We have been meeting for the past two months and the group size ranges between four and six women. We begin our time together sharing about last week’s activity and any plans we have for the day. The lovely women, and at times their children, come together from various backgrounds and difficult challenges to have shelter in one community.
As a community pastor, this time together is allowing me to experience grace. I often wonder how a person who is homeless or without stable shelter goes about the flow of a day. I wonder where they find some semblance of hope and belonging. I wonder about the badly abused runaway girl waiting at a hotel for her parents to come get her, a bus rider who goes dumpster–diving to place something new beside beside her bedroll, the couple who has to make a difficult choice because their dog can't go with them into a hotel room, the man who lives in the woods and uses his car as shelter on especially cold nights, and the old friend who needs reassurance as he tries manage a one day while figuring out long–term solutions.
These brief touches into the lives of others are only snippets of who they are and what they desire. During our time together in the women’s Bible Study, our questions are the same. We are curious, frustrated, sad, confused, happy, and glad. We laugh and cry and share with each other to better understand the strangeness of life. The insights I glean from our conversations are helpful and informative. When we pray together, it is a humbling experience as I disappear into the deeply rich and powerful prayers from these hearts seeking God. The prayers first speak of thankfulness, then they move to prayers for each other, then they offer a variety of requests such as: places to go after their stay at the shelter, fears, worries, the need for clarity of mind, an impassioned relationship with God, and guidance to repair relationships.
It is difficult to put into words the deep “dependence” and profound needful desire that is being expressed. Metaphor is replaced by real experience when they pray for times of darkness to be replaced with light. Their faith and their talk with God is well beyond shallow talk and offers an invitation to “lean in” to help each of us to see God more abundantly. I have been struck by the healing touch of encouragement and the flow of the Spirit within the room. There is such strength in this shared time together, and it offers ways to live into hopes or dreams still ahead with God.
Come join us April 26th, 2:45 to 4:30 at the Haw Creek Retreat house for a time of making bed mats. Please bring regular plastic grocery bags and crochet needles if you have them. All ages are welcome and this is a public event open to the community.