A Note from Jeff…
Monday started out like most Mondays. I got up and ready for work, listened to the Daily Audio Bible during my drive, and began opening the building and unlocking the gates when as I arrived at the Life Enrichment Center. But this (past) Monday was not like the rest.
As I was opening up the gate, I noticed a bicycle laying behind the paper recycle dumpster. I went over and picked up the bike and as I did I happened to look into the dumpster. Lying inside was a woman curled up in the fetal position. My heart sank, I thought she was deceased. I stuck my head in through the small opening and said, “Girl, what are you doing in there?”
She startled and began crying and cursing about her life. She said she was freezing. No wonder she was freezing in a cold metal dumpster. I remembered asking my wife what the temperature was as I was leaving the house earlier and she told me it was 49 degrees. This child of God wore only a pair of shorts, a nylon jersey, and a pair of sneakers – no coat in sight.
“Let me help you out of here,” I said. She was resistant, saying she had trouble trusting men. I promised her it would be okay and I just wanted to help. She wasn’t able to climb out herself because the dumpster was wet inside with dew and her shoes kept slipping on the sides. I went into the Life Enrichment Center and returned with a ladder. She was still struggling to get out and I said, “Look, just trust me for a moment. Reach over and I will pick you up and I promise I will set you right down on the ground.”
She did and we managed to get her out and into the building. Wanting her to feel safe, I enlisted the assistance of Lisa, a Toward Independence staff member, who was nearby. Lisa got some hot chocolate and some apple sauce and we both sat down with her as she ate. By now some of my other staff arrived and all hands were on deck. Denise made sure the showers were open and ready for use. Stacy opened the clothing room and waited for the woman to finish her food. I found a new sleeping bag and a zip-up tote bag for her. I called Shayna, our Director of Development, and asked her to stop on her way in to pick up a hot breakfast for her as the kitchen was still quiet.
As we interacted, trust grew. The woman told me she was tired of this life. She said she was tired of being dirty and having nothing. She hadn’t always lived like this. I told her we wanted to help her in any way she needed and that we would take good care of her. Immediate needs were met first — a shower, clean clothes that she chose for herself, and more food. As the morning progressed, she said she felt much better and felt human again. We offered her a new bike with a basket on the front, a carrier on the back fender, and a lock, in exchange for her raggedy bike. She met with Kari, our Recovery Café Program Manager about some treatment options as I recorded the events of the morning.
My mind is still filled with the scriptures from Isaiah 58 that the Life Enrichment Center was founded on. Verses 6-8 were ringing in my heart as the Lord reminded me:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”
It is good that the Lord reminded me of why I come to work every Monday — why I answered His call and how blessed I am that so many join with me in His work through the Life Enrichment Center. God is good all the time. Because everyone has value. I am thankful and I am humbled.