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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Introducing Trisha, our new Survivor Advocate

The Lisieux Community is pleased to announce that Trisha Henderson has accepted the position of Survivor Advocate in our new program. Trisha, a Certified Peer Counselor, was one of the guest speakers at our Holiday Social in November 2018. She has worked at Lakeside Behavioral Health System for two years with people in recovery from substance abuse, and before that she worked for a year at BabyLove, a residential facility for pregnant women.

Trisha has served as a volunteer with Lisieux over the past three years, and for the past three months she has led our weekly visits to deliver food and supplies—as well as love and encouragement—to the women we serve on the streets. In her capacity as Survivor Advocate, she will be a key component in helping build a relationship of trust with the women, assessing their needs and helping communicate those needs to our donors. She will also train the volunteers who will interact with the women. Trisha is passionate about helping our women see their worth and learn their options, and we know they will greatly benefit by her ministry among them.

See Trisha in a recent story on WREG

Our Next Phase

As we continue to go out once a week to meet with women on the streets and deliver food and other necessities, we are working toward the next phase of our plan: a drop-in center.  This would be a place where the women could come to take a shower, sit down and eat a meal, wash their clothes, or just rest in safety and comfort for a few hours. Most importantly, it would provide additional opportunities to build trust with them. We would have a social worker on staff to serve the ones who are ready to discuss the options available to them for recovery and restoration. Although the center would be a key component to increasing the success rate for follow-on programs such as residential communities, its primary purpose is to serve the women where they are right now so that they will see that someone cares about them and that they have not been abandoned.

You probably have many questions about this concept, so we’ve tried to anticipate a few of them here and will answer more as they arise.

First, would women on the streets of Memphis be likely to participate in such a program? The answer is a resounding yes! When we explained the idea of a drop-in center during a recent meal delivery, the women’s faces lit up with excitement. Several even offered to volunteer during the hours the center would be open. The things we take for granted seem like luxuries to them and would go a long way toward helping them regain a sense of self-worth.

Second, would the center offer overnight accommodations? No, the center will be open for a few hours a day, two or three days a week. It is intended as a temporary respite from the streets and would not replace residential programs. It is only a step in the path to full recovery.

Third, would there be a maximum number of visits a woman could make? Absolutely not, and this is very important. We would not pressure any woman to make changes before she is ready, and we would not turn anyone away unless she is a danger to others. It will take some women longer than others to develop the trust that is needed to move forward. Some may never get to that point. Either way, they are human beings who deserve the care we will offer.

Fourth, what would it take to open a drop-in center? Our immediate need is to locate a building near the area where we are currently serving the women along Summer Avenue in Memphis. And as with any program, we need start-up funds, sustaining funds, and volunteers.

Finally, what can our supporters do to make this vision a reality? Pray with us for guidance as we move forward. In addition, funding will be needed to obtain a building and renovate it to suit our purposes. If you are a Facebook user, you can start a fundraising campaign to help us fund this stage of our work. Or you can make a one-time or recurring donation using the button below:

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In the meantime, we welcome support for the weekly meal that we offer. If you want to provide a meal or a portion of a meal, contact Sandra at (901) 800-8840.

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For more information, read about a drop-in center in Chicago.

The Mission of Lisieux

On January 7 we announced that Thistle & Bee has leased our residence, so you may be wondering what we are doing now. We want to assure our supporters that the mission of the Lisieux Community has not changed. We continue to provide support and education for women who have survived trauma, addiction, prostitution, and life on the streets. That is where our heart has been and will remain.

But over the past four years we have learned a great deal about how deeply trauma has affected the women we serve, and we came to realize that an important piece is missing between their time on the streets and their entrance into a residential program. That piece is trust. Some of the women accepted in our program stayed only a few weeks, in large part because they were not yet able to trust.

Imagine you had spent months, years, or even a lifetime in which your only interaction with other people was to be manipulated, exploited, and traumatized. Even if someone offered you a safe home and resources for health, education, and personal growth, the defense mechanisms you had developed in order to survive might not allow you to let down your guard. Women who have been on the streets have a difficult time getting past the question, “What’s the catch?” They do not understand why anyone would help them without wanting something in return.

What, then, is the remedy? Simply put, we must meet women where they are and interact with them with no strings attached. Our first step has been to begin building relationship with about 20 women, meeting with them one night a week to provide nourishing food, as well as warm hats, scarves, socks, and other supplies. By showing them that we truly care about them as people and not as a project, we begin to build their trust.

As you can see, although our mission has not changed, our focus has. So if someone should ask you what we do, you can tell them this:

The Lisieux Community serves those women on the streets who are not yet ready to live in a residential community because their past has taught them not to trust easily. Our goal is to meet their immediate needs, while showing them that other choices are available to them. Though we cannot change anyone else, we can empower women by offering the support and resources they will need when they are ready to choose a different life.

The most important thing we do is love the women we serve right where they are today and then do it again tomorrow and the next day.

We hope that by now you are now wondering how you can help. Here are some practical opportunities for you to be part of the work of Lisieux:

  • During these cold winter months, we need warm hats, scarves, gloves, and socks. You can call 901-800-8840 to arrange to have your donations picked up.
  • All year round, we need travel-size toiletries and washcloths.
  • For $100 you can sponsor a nourishing meal to the group of women we serve.
  • If $100 is not in your budget, then consider the following:
    • $25 will sponsor gas for our van for a week.
    • $25 will sponsor enough fresh fruit for a meal.
    • $75 will sponsor the main portion of a meal.

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As always, we cannot do this without you, our faithful supporters, who share our desire to see that every woman has the resources she needs to thrive. Thank you in advance for your continued support.

Giving Beyond Tuesday

Maybe you don’t find it difficult to ask other people to donate to the causes you support, but we sometimes do. As committed as we are to the work of the Lisieux Community, it is not always easy to ask for money. Maybe it’s because at this time of year we are all bombarded by requests for donations. Giving Tuesday is followed closely by year-end appeals, with each worthy organization vying for your attention with the reward of a tax benefit held out in front of you like a carrot on a stick. Did you know there’s a term for the exhaustion you feel at receiving so many appeals? It’s called donor fatigue, and it can make you want to wash your hands of the entire process. But that would be a shame.

So here’s what we propose. First, catch the vision that we have for the women we serve. We want to make a lasting impact on the lives of women who have endured trauma, addiction, and prostitution. We want them to exchange exploitation for empowerment.

Second, commit to supporting this work as you are able. Just as we know that meaningful change in the lives of survivors takes place little by little over time, we ask you to provide for that change little by little, in the form of a monthly donation. To borrow a phrase from St. Thérèse of Lisieux, we are asking you to make small sacrifices for the sake of love.  You can make a one-time or recurring donation through PayPal by clicking on the button below.

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rosetrans50If you make a monthly commitment by December 31, 2018, you will have the honor of being listed as a Founding Rose Garden Member on the Lisieux website.

Read more about the Rose Garden

Thank you for reading yet another appeal, and thank you for your generosity.

Rescue the Perishing

One hymn that has stuck with me from my Baptist childhood is “Rescue the Perishing.” I wasn’t sure what the word “perishing” meant, but since the song went on to say, “care for the dying,” I figured it couldn’t possibly be good. My seven-year-old self sang this song at the top of my lungs without thinking about whether I knew anyone who was perishing and if so, whether I was responsible to “snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.” Everyone around me seemed just fine, except maybe that one little boy at school named Mike whose clothes were always too big and slightly dirty and who rarely had enough money for more than a bowl of soup for lunch. My life in the suburbs was so sheltered that I had no clue about the people in Memphis who lived near the brink of despair and death.

juliaIt wasn’t until I was much older that I came to realize how many girls of the girls I knew who looked perfectly fine were anything but fine. Some had fathers who beat them and mothers who were too distant to care. Some had relatives or family friends who sexually abused them and warned them not to tell a soul.  Some became addicted to drugs when they fell under the spell of “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Some who were aching for love they didn’t get from their parents became sexually active at a young age, got pregnant, and were turned out on the streets. Some hastily married the person they thought was their prince, only to find that he was really a toad. And possibly the worst, some girls were abused in the name of God under the auspices of the church. Girls and women around me were perishing then, and sadly, they are still perishing now.

Each woman who comes to Lisieux has been through a variety of painful experiences that led her into the hell of addiction and prostitution. The path back to health and freedom is painful as well, because it requires shedding old patterns of behavior, learning to trust, and developing new skills for coping with life’s ups and downs. Such a path cannot be walked alone. The residents of Lisieux receive the tender loving care of a supportive team of volunteers, as well as a variety of professional services and programs to assist them in their recovery. But for lasting change to be achieved, that care must be coordinated by a licensed social worker who is able to spend enough time with each resident to get to know her specific needs.

Will you help us raise the funds to pay a full-time social worker to serve as our Clinical Director?

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Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.

Lyrics by Frances J. Crosby, 1869

 

Completing the Picture

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We’ve recently shared photos on Facebook of the beautiful bedroom makeovers that some of our generous supporters provided this summer. Having lovely things in a neat and orderly environment is important for our residents. It shows them that they are important and treasured, that they are loved with no strings attached. It shows them that we have their best interest at heart.

But you must understand that those pieces of furniture in the picture are not just beds. Each bed is a place of peace for a woman whose life on the streets was frightening and chaotic. Each bed is a place of safety for a woman who had previously been subjected to abuse and exploitation. Each bed is a place of shelter from the elements for a woman who has spent nights in the bug-infested heat of a Memphis summer or the bone-chilling cold of winter.  Each bed is a place of uninterrupted rest for a woman who may not have slept two hours straight in years. Each of those beds represents freedom, comfort, wellbeing, joy, and sometimes life itself. We want you to see and know that Lisieux is first and foremost a home. It is a place of companionship without exploitation. It is a place of healing and hope. It is a place of learning and growth. It is a place of building trust and friendship. It is a refuge for those who are wearier than you can ever imagine.

Yet something important is missing. We need a full-time paid social worker who is dedicated to the care of Lisieux residents and who will focus her attention on helping our women achieve the goal of self-sufficiency. We need someone who is trained to recognize the underlying causes of each resident’s particular struggles and to identify the resources that each one needs. Although we have access to specialized counselors from local organizations who work with our residents to resolve specific issues, we have come to realize that profound healing cannot be accomplished through a series of one-hour appointments. It takes a trained professional who can consistently spend time building a relationship with each woman to help her work through the complex range of issues from her past that threaten her future. We truly believe this is what will benefit our residents most.

Will you partner with us in raising enough money to employ a full-time social worker? We have accomplished much already: four of our former residents who keep in touch remain free from their former way of life, and all of them are working—one has her dream job, and another has held the same job for more than 15 months. One former resident is married, and one has been reunited with her sister. Help us complete the picture and provide even more consistent care for all who follow them.

Make a one-time or recurring donation
through PayPal or debit/credit card

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Thank you!