Why Don’t They Just Do Better?

We are extremely grateful to all of you who “get” what we are doing and why we do it. Donors continue to shower us with food and supplies, and volunteers not only help distribute the items to our women, but stay for a while to offer a smile and a listening ear.

But not everyone recognizes the wisdom in showing up week after week to serve most of the same women. Some who hear about our work ask questions that begin with these four words: Why don’t they just …?

Here are a few examples.

  • Why don’t they just get treatment for their addiction?
  • Why don’t they just go to a homeless shelter?
  • Why don’t they just go live with a family member?
  • Why don’t they just get a job and stop prostituting themselves?

To offer such simplistic solutions is to disregard the enormous complexity of the problems that weigh our women down. Addiction, homelessness, prostitution, isolation, and lack of self-worth are only symptoms. No permanent change can occur until a woman is ready and able to address the root cause of these symptoms, which most often is trauma. And they will never be ready or able until they trust those who can offer them holistic, lasting solutions.

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We can’t count that high

We are sometimes asked how many times a woman may visit our planned drop-in center before we would turn her away because she hasn’t made any effort to leave the streets. Our response is that we can’t count that high. We refuse to set a limit because every woman’s situation is different, and some need longer than others to start the path toward healing. Some may never be able to make that move. Regardless, we are convinced that our efforts to show these women real love by meeting some of their basic needs is the right thing to do.

Even without the drop-in center, we have been able to build trust over the past few months, and a few women have decided to trust us enough to get the help they need. But most of them are still on the streets. Nevertheless, we cannot and will not rush the process. It takes as long as it takes.

Last Thursday, we found out one of our women had been attacked. Thankfully, she showed up before our visit was over, so her injuries were not life-threatening, but one of the other women got upset that her sister on the street had been hurt, and she became loud. Yet we continued to treat her with love and kindness. We know that when the women act out, it is the trauma talking—or yelling or screaming or crying. Our hearts break that our women have to endure such pain. Yet we must also say that we have never seen more resilient souls. They are grateful for whatever we provide. They smile and laugh despite the pain, and when they ask us to pray with them, it is a sweet moment of hope like no other we have ever experienced.

Please continue to pray with us for these precious souls whose eternal worth gives us joy, even as we grieve for their situation. Please give whatever you are able so that we can open the drop-in center, where we will be better able to meet their needs.

Thank you.

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Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Laundry Room

No doubt you are wondering what could possibly be exciting about a laundry room. Some of us dread doing laundry so much that we postpone it for as long as we can. I’ve heard people say their only motivation for washing clothes is that all of their favorite outfits are in the clothes hamper.

laundryBut if you have ever done without the use of a washer and dryer for any length of time, you quickly realized the benefits of having clean clothes on demand. Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but it makes a huge difference in the way we feel about ourselves, as well as how others view us. It is also important in creating a sustainable lifestyle, as most homeless people must rely on clothing donations, and they often have to discard clothing because they cannot find a way to wash it. Thankfully, one organization offers homeless people an opportunity to wash their clothes at a local laundromat periodically, and some of our women have been participating in their program and are grateful for it.

Then why, you might ask, is it important to offer a laundry room in our drop-in center? As a commercial venture, a laundromat is not designed to give our women at least three things that our laundry room will provide: dignity, community, and additional services.

First, when the women participate in the laundromat programs it is obvious to them that they are accepting charity because the sponsor provides the money to operate the washers and dryers. At the drop-in center, they will get free use of a washer and dryer with no exchange of money and no strings attached. But out of gratitude, many of the women have eagerly offered to serve as volunteers in the drop-in center. Allowing them to serve as they are willing and able gives them the dignity of being part of their own solution.

Second, one of the main purposes of the drop-in center is to provide our women a healthy sense of community in a home-like atmosphere, where they can eat a meal together around a table, chat with a volunteer, or just relax in privacy while they wait for a load of clothing to wash or dry.

Third, the drop-in center will offer the women access to additional services a laundromat cannot provide, such as health screenings and various types of counseling.

So that’s why we can get excited about a laundry room. It will be much more than the place where we offer our women the use of washers and dryers. It will be a room where we offer them the opportunity to take care of themselves. It will be a room where they gain a sense of accomplishment in a supportive atmosphere where their multiple and complex needs are addressed. It will be a room where they can reclaim what might otherwise have been discarded. It will be a room symbolic of dealing with the past to prepare for the future. Most important, it will be a taste of home.

Will you pray with us that the God who clothes his people in clean linen will provide a way for us to open a drop-in center with a well-equipped laundry room?

How can you help us make this vision a reality?

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NIMBY

By Sandra Ferrell, Executive Director, The Lisieux Community

I have always preferred the winter to the summer. We can add on clothes, coats, and blankets to help warm us in winter. In summer, we can take off a certain amount of clothes but even if we stripped, we would not be cool if the temperature outside was hot. I have always had a hard time when it is extremely hot. I begin to sweat, get dizzy and my legs get weak.

My mind today keeps going back to our visit on the streets Thursday night with the women we serve. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a line of people next to the building that had an overhang of about 18 inches. Some were sitting on milk crates, a couple with a lawn chair and some were standing. The women had on shorts and t-shirts pulled up from the waist to right under their breasts. I believe the heat index was slightly over 100 degrees.

We parked and got out, and immediately the women came to the car. We stood and talked after we gave out sandwiches and water. Within just a few minutes, I began to feel uncomfortable, so I sat on the back bumper of the car. I eliminated the danger of falling over but did not feel any better. Trisha Henderson, our Survivor Advocate, had gone to the store and picked up washcloths so the women could wipe their faces. They stood around us and talked.

One woman who I will call Susan said some hard things about her circumstances. She got loud and used words that are not easy to hear. Some years ago I would have been frightened. But I know this woman and I know she is full of love for everyone and just had to vent. One of the other women came to her and began to sing and dance and there was laughter, even though no one had planned it. Susan’s posture raised and she seemed much lighter after leaving the painful words behind her. I looked at the faces of the other women who came with us; they also honored Susan by letting her get the pain out of her heart.

Another woman I will call Betty always comes up offering a hug and I always accept it and thank her. She laughs when I thank her. Last night, when I thanked her, she said, “You’re awesome!” Then she asked for prayer. She said people don’t want her to be like she is but she has to be who she is and needs to be accepted. I do not know what about her is not accepted and I don’t need to know. Some of us, including the women she is with on the streets, held hands and I prayed. When I finished, I left room for others to pray and when no one did, Betty said, “in Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.”

When we are uncomfortable, we get real! Also, when we are with those we love, it is safe to be real.

Today I am so sad that these wonderful women must stay out in the heat all day. After about 40 minutes I got in the car and turned the air on. There was not room for all the women, and I felt guilty but I did not want to faint. We have dreamed of the drop-in center for many months. NOW is the time to recognize the necessity for the center.

house.pngIn the area where we meet the women, there are many homes listed on the “blighted property” list, but when I inquired of the nonprofit that holds title to them, the response I got was that the neighbors did not want to do that. Yet the women walk the streets there! I do not understand! There must be someone in the area with a suitable building who will be willing to say, “Welcome, Lisieux” instead of “Not in my back yard.”

Please pray for a house for us to open the drop-in center. Donate if you are able. Any amount helps, whether you have $1 or $50,000 to give. What can you do to offer hope to the women we serve?

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Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Bathrooms

As we continue our virtual tour through our planned drop-in center, the second stop is a room that some might see as embarrassing, but we see as empowering—indeed, as humanizing. A bathroom provides us privacy as we care for very basic personal needs. But women on the streets have few opportunities to tend to their needs in a sanitary, private, safe place. So walk with us now into one of the drop-in center bathrooms.

bathroomYou will notice first the fresh smell and gleaming surfaces indicative of a place that is cared for with love. Even the toilet is shiny clean, ready for you when you need it. You turn on the water in the sink and run your hand under the refreshing flow. Then you dispense some citrus-scented hand soap and wash your hands. As you dry them on a fresh towel, you peer into the freshly polished mirror and see that your hair is out of place, so you put it right again to restore your confidence. As you turn to leave, you see the tidy stack of fluffy white towels ready for anyone who wants to bathe. Then you pull back the flowery shower curtain to reveal a spotless facility.

Everything about this room sets your mind at ease and restores your dignity as a human being. If you have a home, you have a bathroom like this—or even more luxurious—available to you whenever you need it. But what if you did not?

Right now, Memphis is experiencing our usual summer heat. How many times in the past week have you paused to be thankful for a bathroom with hot and cold running water? There is nothing quite like a refreshing shower in the summer or a warm bath in the winter to give us much-needed comfort. Rest assured that women who spend most of their time on the streets will never take for granted the opportunity to have access to a bathroom like the one we have described.

Will you pray with us that the God who refreshed his people with water in the wilderness will provide for our women the benefit of bathrooms designed for their needs?
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Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Kitchen

A couple of weeks ago, we gave you a glimpse of life on the streets. Truth is, the life that our women endure is much harsher than we are able to convey to you. That is why we now want to begin sharing with you our vision for a drop-in center by describing, room by room, what we will offer the women we serve. Let’s begin in the kitchen, the most important room of any house. A kitchen sustains life and fuels hope; it is both perfectly human and beautifully sacred. And the kitchen of our drop-in center will be a great blessing for women who are entirely too acquainted with hunger.

Welcome to Our KitchenAlthough it must be fitted out as a commercial kitchen, we will make it as homey and inviting as possible, fitted out with pretty things—dishes, coffee mugs, curtains, and dish towels. Open the refrigerator and you will see only the freshest vegetables, fruit, milk, cheese, eggs, and meat, all waiting to be made into nutritious meals and snacks. The pantry will be stocked with tomato sauce, tuna, rice, pasta, and cereal. From the stove, the aroma of a hearty soup or spaghetti sauce will blend with the fragrance of bread or cookies or peach cobbler baking in the oven. Most important, the air will be filled with the sounds of lively conversation and laughter as our volunteers interact with women who have sought refuge at the center for the day.

After the meal, the dishwasher will hum and slosh as volunteers clean the counters and store the leftovers, while our guests move on to other activities. Contrast this scene of love, joy, and peace with what you know about the noise and danger of the streets.

Are you beginning to share our vision for the drop-in center? How much are you willing to pledge to make this vision a reality?

Will you pray with us that the God who fills the hungry with good things will provide for our women the benefit of a kitchen devoted to their needs?

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A Glimpse of Life on the Streets

Every Thursday evening, rain or shine, our Survivor Advocate, Trisha Henderson, and at least one other member of the Lisieux Community (usually our Executive Director, Sandra Ferrell) meet with the women who are willing to be served by Lisieux. We’ve told you in the past about the blessings that our representatives bring with them through the generosity of donors, as well as the blessings they receive in the form of the women’s gratitude and trust. But what we haven’t mentioned is the challenges they encounter. This aspect is best told in some of Trisha’s words from May 30:

The things we see, hear, and smell when we are on the streets with our sistas are heartbreaking but keep us encouraged to not give up on them. The disrespect and name calling from others, the fights, the smoking, the drinking, men pulling up to buy sex, the women jumping in and out of cars . . ., the loud trap music, fancy cars, condom wrappers, and empty beer cans on the ground are all part of the lifestyle. But today, one of our sistas was ready to go get help and another started a new job, and it makes it all worth whatever we see, hear, or smell because we know that surrender, prayer, and God is what works.

As Trisha notes, our women are worth whatever we can do to love them right where they are, but also to show them the way to a better life. We extend to them the grace that we have received, and we will be able to do so much more of that when our plan for a drop-in center is realized. But we cannot do this alone. Your support is vital to this ministry, and we ask you to consider making a recurring donation so that we can not only continue bringing food and hope on Thursday nights, but also expand our work to provide additional services.

Will you help?

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More than a Meal

The Lisieux CommunityThursday evenings are a special time for the women we serve on the streets of Memphis. Trisha Henderson, our Survivor Advocate, and Sandra Ferrell, our Executive Director, go to a place where the women gather, taking them a meal and whatever supplies are available each week. But they don’t just drop off these items and drive away. They stay and talk with the women, encourage them, and pray with them when the women request it. They bring the love of Christ to them.

Here are just two examples of how they are connecting with the women and building trust with them:

From Trisha:

When people are caught in the grips of addiction, it’s so hard to break free or even see themselves free. The person addicted not only suffers but the whole family suffers. Our sistas on the streets sometimes talk about their children to us. Some talk about how proud they are of their children’s accomplishments. Some have lost custody of their children and talk about how they miss them. They all shed tears when they talk about their children—some are happy tears, some are sad tears.

What we, Lisieux Community, want them to know is that when they get tired and want their life to change, there are people who are willing to help them, pray with them and walk alongside them every step of the way.

From Sandra:

Trisha had picked up things for the black women to use on their skin and hair, and we passed those out in small bags. One woman needed a pick, and all of them had been passed out before she got her bag. I hesitated before I reached in my purse to get mine out. I was concerned that she would be offended that it was used, and I didn’t have a place to wash it. When she saw that it was mine, she cried. She cried because I gave her something personal of mine.

The women want so little and give so much.

You may not realize that a great deal of preparation goes into every one of these visits. Trisha is doing a great job of gathering donations of needed items such as shoes, socks, hair care products, and bus passes. She is also making contact with various organizations that can provide assistance to our women and help reduce their vulnerabilities.

Trisha, Sandra, and the volunteers who assist them are living out the mission of the Lisieux Community to provide support and education for women who have survived trauma, addiction, prostitution, and life on the streets. And this is our mission because we believe every human being is worth the effort. As recipients of grace, we have no choice but to lavish it on others, especially those who need it most.

We continue in this much-needed ministry with the resources we currently have, but just think how much more we will be able to do when we open the drop-in center. Please continue to pray with us for our women, and pray that we will be able to serve them even better in the days ahead through the drop-in center. If you are already donating to our work, we are more grateful than we can say. If not, please consider becoming a monthly donor and move us closer to our goal of opening a drop-in center. You can have a part in providing help and healing to women who have lost hope. Is there any higher purpose than that?

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