Saint Hilda's House

through the gates and into the city

Love Working in the Lives of Homeless Women

By Shancia Jarrett

For more of Shancia's writing, check out the St. Hilda's House Winter Quarterly.

 

Jesus the Homeless, sculpted by Timothy Schmalz (source: Huffington Post)

Jesus the Homeless, sculpted by Timothy Schmalz (source: Huffington Post)

Serving the community: what on earth does that mean!?!?  I guess it’s the commitment that we Hildans make to be conduits for those in need; conduits of the services of Christ and His Church.  

Whether we can be these conduits, though, is only proven in our ability to walk for Christ. This walk for Christ, as I call it, literally means an active process of human mobility. Every week, Monday to Thursday, I walk to CareWays, a homeless shelter for women and children, in order to serve as both an administrative assistant and a motivational figure.  I obviously want to encourage the women with the Truths of the Gospels, but I’m also conscious that calling directly upon the Name of Jesus can be a problematic thing to do, for many reasons.

Nevertheless, through personal prayers and house meetings, I seek to utilize one of the fundamental pillars of Christianity in my work at CareWays: love. In addition to honoring God, Christ remained us that we must love our neighbors for it is right to do. Even when they drink our milk, steal our parking spots, and ignore our morning greetings.  We must strive to love them unconditionally, with a love which can only be found in the mercy and compassion of Our Lord (after all: God is Love).

As such, I begin my house meetings with this phrase, “It’s great to receive and give love! How many of you love yourself, today?”  Sometimes the women respond, “of course, I love myself!”

I reply, “Good nice, you love yourself and yourself only. What are about your children?” They say, “You know we love our children.”

Calmly, I then say, “Okay, so you love your children and yourself. Interesting… but what about the people you meet, especially within this shelter? We live as a family; we share a kitchen, a living room, a laundry room, and a computer room. What about those you cross paths with daily? Life is greater than what we see and possess. If we live for ourselves and just our children, our love becomes limited. There is only one source of love existing in your life and it’s the love you share with your children. Yet, if we love each other in an honorable manner, we share an unlimited source of love. Instead of one source of love, we have ten families living in love and unity. I feel much more at ease knowing that I have nine people loving me rather than just one person. Think about that…”

Some of the women laugh, smile, and reflect on my opening. Some even say, “Shancia! You always say things like this…” [It’s true!]

I love these women, I see Christ in their testimonies. At times, others tell me to be cautious and distance myself from the needs of the women.  Professionalism, however, is not counter to compassion: I affirm that I take a professional tone at all times, even as I speak about love. Most importantly, I refrain from being a verifier: I allow the Holy Spirit, to do its job! Instead, I pray for wisdom and grace to serve the needs of the women. If I assumed a role of verifier or enabler, then I myself will be a judger of the brethren and that I am not (for it is written that Jesus Christ alone is the judge of men (2 Timothy 4)).

The fact remains, however, that these women are homeless, and love is their last resort. With my heart, I desire for these women to commune with each other in grace and peace, for I know that they have already received a beating from this world and those in it.  Their testimonies remind me of my unmerited favor in Christ to have a supportive family, a fruitful internship with Christ Church, and an active relationship with God.

I pray that they knew how much I care and love them. Daily, I pray for their increase in strength, joy, prosperity, health, faith, and love as God moves in their lives (and I would ask that anyone reading this prays for them too).  For I believe that He is there, even (especially) in our hardships.  He will never forsake us, for we are His. Born of His breath and formed in His image, we belong to the Lord. It feels wonderful to know that we belong to the Almighty. When I draw into these intimate moments of reflection, especially as I witness the power of God in the lives of others, it brings me to tears of joy. Yes: we must find joy in the lives of the homeless, those stricken with poverty. For in their fears of financial instability, God makes a way. It may not be what we envision such as the immediate needs of providing housing and monetary provisions.  All the same, God gives us compassion, faith, and strength to love; God gave me compassion, faith, and strength to love. Faithfully, then, I try to serve these women in  that love by being an accommodating but challenging motivator.

Below is a piece of prose inspired by the women of CareWays.  During a house meeting, I asked the women to reflect on their contributions to this world. None of their contributions could be defined in monetary provisions and other material needs; but this didn’t mean that they hadn’t contributed anything.

Women who Care

This moment begins with me.

Life is about me: my relationships and my reflections.

Every day, I witness the present world and envision the great things in which I contribute to this world.

For I am a person, a friend, a dreamer, a believer, a worker, and a mother living in this very space.

In this space, I share me with you today, my feelings and my ambitions.

Henceforth, let this moment only begin with me.

By knowing me, I discovered that motivation and empowerment derives from me, my willingness to believe and to live in the power of my dreams.

In the midst of my fears, I possess power.

The power of life- that compassionate power to make a change, a difference to live in and for the Greater LOVE within me….

So today and every day, I smile and send my love to all those who witness me.

For there is changing power so beautiful and compassionate moving within me and…

I rejoice in this very day.

Written by Shancia Jarrett

Inspired by the Women of CareWays, December 2014

This prose is posted on the all CareWays bulletins and recited at each house meeting. I must admit I read it to myself at times for encouragement. We will begin a writing club, once a month.  This is just one way I hope the women of CareWays will be able to see how much they have to give to the world.

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