Stacks of applications—stacks of stories—scribbled out on three pages or less that are supposed to describe where applicants are at and where they want to go.  Some tell of extreme emotional distress, others attempt to write down their out-of-control journey of addiction, many explain dire financial situations brought on by relationships.  It has been nearly seven years that I have worked at the women and children’s shelter, yet no story repeats itself.  Yes, it is true that many women without ‘homes’ have experienced domestic violence and struggles with addiction and significant amounts of trauma.   Though there is yet to be found a single cause for homelessness.  Nevertheless, there are some commonalities among all people, which include women experiencing homelessness.  We all, as fallen human beings, struggle against believing lies.  When a lie takes root in our hearts, regardless of socioeconomic class or ethnic group, there are effects, some significant, some obvious, others seemingly minimal.  One thing is certain though, believing lies does not lead to holistic health, but to death.

Some women never wonder where they will sleep at night, but many do.  Women that do experience homelessness also encounter shame, isolation, fear and anger.  Many people’s lies lead to fear, anxiety, sin, codependency, and isolation.  Even if we never live without physical shelter, we can feel so alone and vulnerable that we seek to construct every sort of protection to provide shelter for our hearts, not realizing God beckons us to allow Him to protect our heart.  I long for other women to know who they are in Christ, to not live as children without fathers, and to know the fullness and satisfaction there is in our Heavenly Father.  Women experiencing homelessness are in transition, full of vulnerability and many times in crisis.  Throughout the Word we see God’s heart for the vulnerable, the poor, the widow and the orphan, and we also see Him show up for them—in the book of Ruth specifically and in Jesus time and time again.

The shelter that I have the honor of serving at is an incredible testimony of God “showing up.”  This “showing up” is seen in the private donations that help house 200 or more men, women and children every night.  When guest’s begin to understand the community’s generosity and God’s goodness to them, it is almost as if you can see the walls coming down around their hearts as truth enters in: “I am lovable…someone cares…God’s goodness has not run out on me.”  When we battle lies, we need a team of people around us, for both material and spiritual support.[1]  The shelter is not meant to negate the Church’s calling to minister to the vulnerable but to be an arm of the local church.

Michael Dye, creator of the Genesis Process, states that “recovery is returning to a formerly healthy state.”[2]  We realize that poverty is not just material.  Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, authors of When Helping Hurts, quote Bryant Myers to explain poverty as “the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable.  Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”[3]   Staff work alongside guest’s as mentors, coaches, cheerleaders and case managers, from the time of interview to the aftercare program to help bring shalom.

At the core of anyone’s healing journey, is replacing lies with truth.  All of us, regardless of socioeconomic status, or addiction history, have dealt with lies that have influenced our entire lives.  Foundational to what we do at the shelter is introducing women to the Truth of the Gospel, and what Jesus says about them individually and about Himself.  John 8:31-32 describes this well: “To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””  Replacing lies with truth is one way that we encounter and create shalom.

[1] Welch, Edward T. Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2001, 252.

[2] Dye, Michael. Genesis Process: Counselor’s Manual, 2007.

[3]  Bryant Myers as quoted in Corbett, Steve & Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts, 62.

(All views expressed in this blog are solely those of myself, Bridget.  I do not speak for my family, my workplace, my church, my denomination, or for God.  Names and identifying features of people in the stories of this blog have been changed to protect their privacy and confidentiality.)