I’ve visited the women’s winter emergency shelter at Grace Community Church the past two nights, and it’s a peaceful and happy place to be. I already knew most of the homeless women who are staying there, but it’s so cool to get to hang out with them at night like this. It’s like a big slumber party, which is exactly what we all talked about at the library months ago, when I first spoke to some of these ladies about winter shelter, and asked what they thought about doing a women’s-only shelter at Grace. They were excited about the idea, and I have to say, it’s even better than what we imagined.
Tonight, they were eating cake and ice cream to celebrate a birthday, playing cards, writing out Christmas cards, laughing and joking and talking, and just enjoying being in a warm, dry, safe, comfortable place with people who care about each other. I had such a sense of joy and peace being with them. I got to hug them all. I got to say “I love you” and hear it back from them. And those are not just words. These ladies are precious to me. We may sleep in different places, but we laugh at the same things, we long for the same things, we cry about the same things, we struggle with the same things. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. I am so thankful to my church for providing a safe place for them. Thank you, LORD!
Earlier in the evening, Audrie and I found one of the ladies who had signed up for the shelter but hadn’t come in yet. We brought her in before the shelter opened to see the room. Her eyes lit up when she saw the beds with clean linens and fluffy comforters and the piles of towels and bags of toiletries — plus a bin for each woman to store her things. But we had talked with this precious friend last week when we served soup at the library, and we knew some of what she was struggling with, and that it wasn’t an easy decision for her to make.
We hugged her and told her how much we wanted her to stay. We told her, “You’ll be safe here.” Her eyes filled with tears and she nodded. As we all left to go to the memorial service and dinner, Audrie and I were praying that she’d come back and stay. When I came back a few hours later and saw her there, I was so happy and relieved. Thank you, Jesus!
She was sitting on her new bed, holding her Bible and calling out favorite verses from memory with one of the volunteers. When I left later, she was sitting quietly, wearing her reading glasses, studying her Bible. She’s been sleeping outside for a long time, and she’d told me and Audrie that she wakes up in the middle of the night and reads her Bible. It was so good to see her in that room, warm and safe and at peace, doing what she loves — reading her Bible. It is such a gift and an honor to be with her, to be with all these ladies whom the LORD loves so much. He is sheltering them…
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…”
– Psalm 91
***The women’s shelter at Grace will be open through March 15th and we need volunteers and donations. Please click here for more info. Thank you to Marsha Cole at Grace for your tireless efforts in making a home for our friends!