By Rev Becky Brown
I have been spending my Tuesday mornings at the Pathways Center in the Family Dorm exploring the possibilities of being a chaplain for the mothers/grandmothers and their children. I have been drawn to Pathways’ ministry for many years, but haven’t made the time in my schedule to volunteer there until this past July. God’s pull to spend time there has been strong. I didn’t really have the time to dedicate, but I finally decided to stop fighting God, and just do it. I’m so glad I have been going weekly. I have come to love the families there and look forward to checking in on them. Let me tell you a story.
I came through the gate this past Tuesday, and I saw a familiar face, and friend seated at the picnic table on the patio outside the new family dorm. She was smoking a cigarette and venting with another woman, who I haven’t met yet. They shared their concern over the grandmother/great grandmother who was really struggling to raise a 12, 6, 4, and 2-year-old on her own and the havoc the children were wreaking in their common spaces in the dorm. After a few minutes, my new friend went inside to finish her breakfast, and I was left with my old friend as she finished her cigarette. When I asked her how her day was going, a massive smile came across her face. She said, “I knew you were coming today. I can’t wait to tell you my story! You’ll never believe this! Prayer works. It really does.”
My friend shared her story with me. She has always struggled to make it on her own. She has a son who will be turning 19 this weekend, but he’s not living with her and their relationship is strained. She has a 12-year-old daughter who is living with her in the family dorm. Because of the recent stress of the intake of the new family, she and her daughter have been talking with the case manager about how to manage stress and anxiety. While the 3 of them were talking, the case manager asked her daughter what her biggest fear was. My friend said she thought she knew what was going to come out of her mouth. You see, my friend has struggled with drug addiction. When her daughter was small, she raised her on her own from birth until 8 years old. She began a relationship with a man and moved in with him. They were doing drugs together, and it became so bad that her daughter went to live with her dad. Her dad that she barely knew. After a year, my friend sobered up, and took her daughter back in. They started doing better. A year later, the same scenario happened again. This time, her addiction left her homeless and she truly reached rock bottom. Once she was sober again, she was able to have her daughter back, and now they are safe and have a clean place to live at the pathways center. My friend said she just knew her daughter’s greatest fear was that her mother would get back into drugs and abandon her again. That had been the biggest strain on their relationship for years. She was surprised to hear her daughter say something completely different, that didn’t even involve her! My friend asked her daughter, “Wait, I thought your biggest fear was that I would abandon you again.” Her daughter laughed and said, “No, mom. I’m not worried about that anymore.” My friend said she began to weep. This is a tough, tough woman. Not one prone to showing emotion or being vulnerable. Her daughter asked why she was crying, and she said she couldn’t believe her daughter has overcome that fear, and that she trusted her, and had faith in her. She said they both cried together, and then laughed together.
My friend said this is how she knows God is real. This is how she knows prayer works and is meaningful. She told me every day is a struggle. She wakes up and prays for God to take her desire to get back into drugs away from her. She asks for her daughter to be released from the fear of her mother leaving her again. She doesn’t ask for her daughter to forgive her, because she knows of the pain and hurt she has caused her, and doesn’t believe she deserves it. She just doesn’t want her daughter to carry that the rest of her life. She experienced the power of God, and she said she was planning to tell her story to anyone and everyone she saw!
We talked about the community that has been formed in the family dorm. She shared with me that the difference in her recovery this time is that she has friends. She’s not alone. Each of those mothers have a common experience, and they’ve leaned in to support one another. They’re bearing one another’s burdens – even in their lowest point. They understand each other, offer each other grace without judgment, and show love to one another. It’s a beautiful image of Christian community.
My friend said that she has a housing voucher and is on the hunt for a 3 bedroom. She said once she moves out, she hopes to ask for a pass for 2 of her friends in the family dorm. She wants them to come over, see her new place, and spend the night together with their children. She wants to show them hope, and that it’s possible to make it. She wants to keep those friendships forever because she’s become an aunt to their children. It’s fantastic. Maybe she’ll invite me over for some cold brew coffee, too. She makes the best coffee in the house.