Healing and Hope

One of the things we’ve learned in ministry with the residents of Lisieux is that because trauma takes place in the context of unhealthy relationships, healing can only occur within the context of healthy relationships. Everyone in our community—from board members to volunteers to donors to the residents themselves—is committed to fostering the kinds of relationships where healing can occur. We always know that each resident will leave eventually, but our hope is that during their time with us we are able to help them develop the skills and mindset that they need to survive. We also pray that when they decide to go, they are leaving for a good reason and with a good plan.

We have reached that point with Mary, who has been with us for almost a year now. She has spent her time with us wisely, making good use of the resources we provide and developing friendships not only within the Lisieux Community, but also among the community of faith at the church she attends. While she worked and prayed and healed and hoped, God was preparing an opportunity for her to have a nice home and a good job, but better still, to be restored to a relationship with her family. For Mary, this is truly a dream come true.

While we will miss having her at the residence, we couldn’t be happier for her. It has been a blessing for all of us to see how she has blossomed over the past year, and we can’t wait to see her continue to grow in grace. This weekend, our board of directors, volunteers, and staff gathered at the residence to celebrate her transition back into the larger community. She will never be far from our hearts and our prayers, and she knows that we are only a phone call away. Though we may not see her every day, she is still a beloved member of the Lisieux Community.

Mary is deeply grateful to every supporter and friend of Lisieux for your love, kindness, and generosity. You made it possible for her to reach this milestone. How does it feel to know that you are helping these precious women build a better future for themselves than they could ever have imagined? You may say, “Oh, it was nothing.” But we at Lisieux would beg to differ. To us, your support is everything. Thank you.

Photo by Cindy Putnam McMillion

Photo by Cindy Putnam McMillion

A Labor of Love

If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you may already know that our community has recently lost two of our former residents a few days apart. Lindsay had left the residence about 18 months ago, but she remained in touch, and we rejoiced with her over every accomplishment. She had a rewarding job and had recently married the love of her life. Wendy was with us for only six months, but her enthusiasm was infectious, and her inquisitiveness was unstoppable. She also had a job, and more importantly a church where she was accepted and respected. She loved—and was loved by—the community of women who surrounded her. This mutual love and respect inspired growth in Wendy and in everyone who knew her. Both Lindsey and Wendy had found a significant amount of healing.

Yet all of these benefits were not enough to conquer the insidious disease of addiction.

At such times, there are more questions than answers. Some might ask whether there is any point in continuing the work that we do at Lisieux. But the real question is, was the Lisieux Community a place of growth for Lindsey and Wendy? Without a doubt, the answer is yes. We grieve over their death, and we rejoice in the healing that they had experienced. Neither of them died in the horror of trafficking. Both were working hard and using the resources needed to continue in recovery. They had made great strides since first coming to us, and we choose to focus on their many successes.

Some might also ask if this task is too great for us. While we would be negligent if we did not take time to reassess our approach after these events, we are confident that our program offers the resources needed to put the women on the road to recovery. Through cooperation with other organizations, we provide excellent resources for health care, specialized counseling, 12-step meetings, coping skills, and spiritual growth. The one change we would make is to have a full-time social worker to help each woman identify the source of her woundedness and ensure we are making the best use of those resources.

We have no illusions that we can heal anyone. What we can do is offer each woman the opportunities and make ourselves available to walk alongside our residents in their journey toward healing and hope. Each woman who comes to us has deep wounds, but she does not have to deal with them alone.

IMG_1270Before Wendy died, she had started crocheting an afghan, but she completed only a few inches. One of her many friends found it and decided to complete it. Pictured at right is this beautiful work in progress. That is the same choice we have made as a community. We will continue this work to honor all of the women who are or have been residents at Lisieux, and to be here for those who will need us in the future. We will continue crafting a community of love, for that is a powerful defense against the sorrow of this world.

We invite you to continue walking with us on this journey.

A Better Story

“Once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don’t have a chance. Not living a better story would be like deciding to die.”

Our friend Dana Welty shared this quote from Donald Miller. My first thought was my own journey some 20 years ago. I started therapy completely ignorant of what was ahead. Beginning to work on my own stuff was difficult. I began to confront parts of myself that are not pretty. Because I had not seen those parts, I had not owned the good parts either. The things I knew about myself were superficial. The next step was to learn how I had been on this earth for 42 years without having a clue who I was. As I began to own who I was and how I got there, I started to change habits.

I remember saying that I thought everyone else had the rules except me. I stayed around folks who had already walked this path and I learned from their experience. I also went to groups that had recorded others’ experiences and I realized I really didn’t have “the rules.” I tried out new things to see how I felt internally and to see how other people reacted to my new way of living. It was so hard! I feared losing the others in my life because they might not welcome my changes. My insides often felt queasy, afraid I’d make more mistakes and not be accepted by the new people in my life.

Once the experience was underway, I told my priest / mentor that I would never have started if I had known how painful it would be. He smiled and told me it was God’s grace that I didn’t know. Most of the women engaging in prostitution would prefer to leave that lifestyle. Some of the things the women say would help them do that are: a safe place to live; job training; health care; support; self-defense training; and legal assistance. We assist with these things, yet we see relapse. While we all want to live the best life we can, it is scary to go through the process to achieve it. They are having to learn the rules just like I did.

The women we serve may rail at us or even relapse but it will never be the same if they return to the streets. They’ve seen a glimpse of a different life. They must find their own compelling reason to persevere. And the grace of God.