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“Full Life in the Emptiest of Places”

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

[This was originally shared by Emmalyn, Rachel's House Director, in an email to LLM staff. We thought it was a beautiful, powerful story and wanted to share it with all friends of Lower Lights.]

On Saturday morning, Lower Lights welcomed college students who were part of the "Justice Project," a campus ministry of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. This weekend kicked off the beginning of a "justice immersion" partnership series for LLM and MVNU. The theme (they self-selected) was on poverty and practical ways we can alleviate it. We began our time at the Lower Lights Leadership building with the Poverty 101 class. For lunch, we did the "interactive lunch experience" giving the students the opportunity to see for themselves the realities of a food desert and "enterprising" corner stores who make their living off of selling supermarket products at extortionist prices (i.e. an Aldi $.89 cent loaf of white bread for $1.99) because it's "convenient."

After eating our bologna sandwiches (students were given $2/person), we walked through the neighborhood and discussed human trafficking from a domestic violence and drug addiction perspective. We toured the Franklinton library so they observe the scant selection of books, but experience that it is more of a community center and safe place for kids to do homework and for adults to learn how to use computers and create resumes, learn job readiness skills through classes, etc. (“So kids, be good citizens and always vote for library levies!”).

The absolute highlight of the evening - and really, the point of me sharing this with everyone - was sharing Community at one of our Rachel's House properties. Two of our housing participants prepared a 3-course homemade lasagna dinner and baked and beautifully decorated cakes. Three of the Recovery ladies came, including one of the newer ones who didn't want to come and then changed her mind and ended up coming after all. We had a full house of participants from all three programs and the MVNU students. As I stood taking it all in and watching everyone enjoy a huge meal (certainly made up for the corner store "sandwiches") and laughing and sharing, it was Isaiah 58:12 alive on Bellows Avenue! The community "was livable again."

“If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” Isaiah 58:9-12 "Full life in the emptiest of places" (The Message)

The last two weeks have been very hard for us, especially those of us who live on Bellows Avenue. The multiple car, house, and church break ins (shattering that sense of security), the inordinate amount of drug trafficking (and not even summer yet!), and just the cold, gray "bleak midwinter" blahs....all this taken together takes its toll and tempts me to wonder if "anything good" can happen or come from this area! But, alas! On Saturday evening, the Lord in all of His beauty, pulled the curtain back and showed me/us what a flourishing, well-watered garden looks like...literally taking it in with all of our senses.

After dinner, we had "community time." I asked if anyone from each of the housing programs would share about their program. It ended up that all of them shared (I wish all the program directors/staff could've heard what your ladies shared. You are doing a GOOD, GOOD work. It is evident from what they shared.) And then we did a mini version of St Ignatian's "Examen" where we asked what we are grateful for today and where have we seen God revealed lately. This is where "blessed are the eyes that see what you see" came into full view. God's Spirit was so evident and real in our time of fellowship. My favorite thing is when we realize that regardless of background, we really are not that far apart when it comes to hurts, trauma, coping, hopes, dreams, and desires. I praise the Lord for His grace in revealing beauty and hope, especially when we really needed reminded of it the most.

Emmalyn Jerome - Rachel's House Director

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