I knew, walking away from her apartment, that I would not be able to sleep tonight. Silly me, I still tried. But I'm back up now as all I can see when I close my eyes is her face.
Tonight a small group from Nexus started a community surveying project at Trinity Palms, the apartment complex we began meeting in a couple of weeks ago. We're going door to door, asking a few simple questions about what people see as the biggest in need in their community, what individual/family needs they have, and what programs they would like to see offered.
Hers was the first apartment we visited. My husband, John, and I went to the door, knocked, and she cracked it open suspiciously, wondering, I'm sure, what these strange white people were doing on her doorstep. As we introduced ourselves and began to talk with her the door opened more and we could see her pretty face. She didn't have the look that many do in these neighborhoods, hard and worn out. Instead she looked young and fresh. But in the few short minutes we were at her door, she gave us a glimpse of her life that her face did not reveal. She had recently gotten a DWI, lost her job, and because of this her three elementary aged daughters were staying in another state with her mother.
Who makes this kind of confession to a stranger? It was given in response to the simple question of how many children lived in the home (there was a pink bike outside the door). I think of all the people in the world who try so hard to hide their mistakes, trying to keep the darkness of their lives under the radar of even their family and friends, walking around with hard faces and heavy hearts. Yet here she was.
I can't help but think of the lectionary text from Ephesians 5 for this week, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light."
By the end of our conversation we discovered that she had not yet found a church home since moving to Trinity Palms (transportation being an issue) and had seen our flyer the week before and meant to come but didn't make it. She had told her grandmother on the phone (who was asking if she'd found a church yet) that sure enough when she can't get to church, the church had come to her...and now the church was at her doorstep. Now, I'm not the type of pastor that just goes around asking strangers if I can pray for them, but as we were about to leave I felt that urgency not to just say we would pray for her, but to actually pray with her. And after a simple prayer for her and for her girls, her eyes were full of tears.
Something about her just fills my heart with compassion and a desire to do something, to help. I want to be her friend. She's struggling to find work, relying on public transportation and public internet access that is not close by or easily accessible and limits her time to an hour. I have ideas, lots of them, not just to help her, but also the people living in the other apartments we visited, others without work, many concerned about safety for their children. Somehow this is exciting to me, but I should be feeling overwhelmed (I'm sure that will set in eventually). This was only the first night. Collectively, our group spoke to 12 families out of 390 inhabited apartments in this complex.
I have to remember that success will not be in fully meeting the needs of every family in the complex (as much as we hope God will use us to help many). But if every person in our church who knocks on these doors ends up with one face they can't forget, one person they deeply desire to help, to love, to disciple, to befriend, then this project will be a great success.
Light will shine in the darkness at Trinity Palms.