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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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.