Side of the Road -- Part I.
Within a year at seminary, we were offered an opportunity to spend the summer as interns for an international non-profit based in St. Louis. We joyfully agreed and began to spend time together learning, but also praying for more understanding about how some of the issues that they were dealing with on an international level [specifically sex trafficking] were occuring in our city. After meeting with the session of our church and sharing a little bit about our desire to become involved, we were encouraged to engage the countless women who walked the street as "prostitutes" right there in the middle of our neighborhood. And so, with a prayer and a small team of people we went to work in a community garden maintained by our church just off the side of the road most known for prostitution in our area. To be honest, I wasn't sure what we'd say or do if/when we encountered a woman who might be willing to talk to us, but we prayed and gardened and waited...for about 10 minutes.
Jessica walked up and sat down eager to share a cup of coffee and a muffin and talk. She shared a small part of her story, and more specifically she shared that she had been drugged the night before and had her belongings stolen by a man who intended to hold onto her legal documents and medication so he could be her "boyfriend." She told us that she had just been praying this morning that God would send someone to her that would help her out of this life. I looked at a friend and we looked back at Jessica and told her, "well, I am pretty sure that is us and while we don't really have a clue what the next steps look like for you -- we will walk with you through them." She wept and threw her crack and pipe in the middle of the street and went back with us to the church office where she rested on the couch while I called through every drug rehab facility in the state that would take an uninsured woman. We found one finally, but it wouldn't take her until the next day. As we made plans for the evening, she gathered with a small group of college volunteers who were staying with us for the week. As they sat down with her she shared with them how the night before she had opened a Bible as she was praying for God to send her a way out and the Lord had given her Psalm 18 which she read it out loud to us:
1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge [this means something different to a crack user who has depended on false "rocks" of refuge, she explained. *You buy crack in "rocks" for those of you who don't get that.]
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Shortly after that, the withdrawal effects of crack came on strong and we headed to the ER where she spent the majority of the night. The next day, we picked her up and drove her to Farmington, MO to a rehab facility. We dropped her off with a few belongings and some money on her phone account to be able to touch base and pray with her each night. We hugged her tight and said "goodbye" -- she stopped me on the way to my car and said she had one question before we left. I then listened as she explained to me how the nighttime was a place of deep fear for her as she was often tormented by voices and Satan who would tell her over and over again that she was worthless and ugly and would never get free and should simply take her life. "What do I tell him when he comes?" she asked. It was a profound moment for me to see just how real the enemy seeks to devour and destroy and so we prayed together and I encouraged her to spend some time in that Psalm before bed. We decided that if he still came then she would tell him, "I am a daughter of King Jesus and you have no authority over me, not over my body, not over my mind -- I belong to Him and He loves me and in His name I command you to leave me alone." She claimed a peaceful night followed and many after that. Then, at some point near the end of her time in Farmington, MO a man came to rehab who "triggered" her trauma. I recieved a call from the social worker in Farmington, MO around 10:00 who simply told me that she had been walking between group therapy sessions and then suddenly began to run from the treatment facility toward the interstate. I sat stunned and longing to know if my friend was safe, and it would be nearly 3 months until I saw her again.
Read more about that at Part 2.