There are so many things that I want to remember about serving the homeless with Ravenna for the first time...more than anything I want to remember that God is so faithful when we step out into what He is calling us to do. Ravenna continues to want to go and serve even when she found out that her very favorite thing, snowcones would be at the event Doug was taking the other kids to. My 7 year old said, "the snowcones will be there again...I am going to care for people without homes."
As we were driving in I tried to explain a little bit about what she might see just to help her be prepared. I explained that being homeless meant that you did not have a home so, some people might be a little bit dirty or have messy hair because when you do not have a home it is not easy to find a shower. Also, I told her that some people might be missing teeth because it is expensive to go to the dentist. As I tried to think of what else to say, she held up a little pad and said, "I brought my paper and pen to draw them pictures because they might need something beautiful." and I began to see that God had far more planned for both of us than I could imagine. Stunned by the beauty of her heart and the truth of what she just said, we drove on.
The beginning of the night was worship and getting set up in assignments. The Scripture they quoted was the exact same one I used to title my post about coming there with Ravenna, Isaiah 58! During this time she worked hard on her drawings, most of a cross with light shining from it...far more powerful than she probably knew. Then, she curled up in my lap and fell asleep.
I wish I could say that she woke up all rosy and ready to go...but she didn't. She woke up hot and tired and grumpy. She tomped her feet and loudly said she wanted to go home, that she didn't want to serve anymore. As we headed to the spot under the bridge where we were to serve I had to almost pull her along! I prayed hard not knowing what to do, I did not want to force her to serve, did not want to overwhelm her but also knew that we were supposed to drive a friend home that was helping somewhere else so we could not leave. Partway there I pulled her aside and wrapped my arms around her and told her, "I love you so much and nothing will change that. You are welcome to be grumpy all night if you want but this is something we have committed to doing. What attitude you choose is between you and God and I will love you either way." I held her hand and continued walking.
As we got to the bridge, the scene was amazing. There were about 60 volunteers setting up stations for food, clothes, haircuts, footwashing, toiletries, fingernail painting, popcorn and more. I would guess there were at least 100 homeless men and women already lining up for the stations. Because of Ravenna's stomping etc earlier we had missed out on signing up for a station, so we wandered around.
Then, the fingernail polish station caught Ravenna's eye and all of a sudden it was me that was being pulled along! She sat right down next to a middle school aged girl, turned to me and said, "this is what I want to do!" So we stayed! Honestly, I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Who was going to want their nails done by a 7 year old? If I was homeless and had a chance once a week to get my nails done, I'm pretty sure I would pick the chair in front of one of the teenage girls further down the table. Ravenna happily began arranging the nail polish colors and painting her own nails when a woman came and sat down in front of her. The woman had on many layers of polish and began to slowly take it off. She and I chatted about her life, her kids, what she was doing now, and Ravenna just sat quietly checking out the nail polish. After about 10 minutes of this, out of the blue Ravenna spoke up and siad, "I'll take that nail polish off for you" to the woman in front of her. The woman was almost done but smiled and said, "What I would really like is for you to paint my nails. Would you do that?" I could not believe my ears! I stood behind Ravenna and mouthed "thank you" and the woman smiled. She said, "I have a grown daughter and this reminds me of when she was little, I would love to have her paint my nails."
...and paint she did. For an hour and a half Ravenna painted that woman's nails. She poured her whole heart into it, working meticulously to get each nail perfect. I'm not sure if she looked up once during the whole time. The woman and I kept chatting, now about her writing, how we each deal with stress, and Ravenna painted on. Bright red, then gold hearts, then more gold hearts and finally as she started the top coat she looked up and asked, "how much time do we have left?" Me, thinking she must be tired since it was almost 9:30 said, "Just a few more minutes." and my sweet girl said, "Oh no Mama, I want to do this all night long!"
As it all wrapped up, my little girl flitted around with a broom, weaving through the groups of people gathering their things to go and find a spot to lay their head for the night.... a little fairy dancing right in the midst of the darkness sweeping her heart out to pick up every tiny speck because she knew that some would lay their heads right there that very night. She worked and worked far after other had laid their cleaning supplies down, right up until we were called to round up and pray for the night...and then she skipped and danced all teh way to the car.
When I asked her what she thought she threw her arms up in the air and said, "I loved it!" and "when can we come again?"
Once again, I am in awe of what God can do, what He wants to do, how He wants to mould all of our hearts and I find myself once again begging that He lay my life open to be used as He sees fit no matter what.
“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.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 58: 6-14