After a prayer session in Hannah’s House, we said our farewells to our friends at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Their third visit to Cairo proved again to be transformational. On many levels.They arrived only yesterday with trucks full of supplies to set up two photo studios (one at each of the housing projects in town), soda pop, toys for the children, and cashews galore, a fatty check, and hearts ready to serve. They are a small community of farmers and each year they tithe a portion of their harvest to a ministry. We are blessed to receive this money from their harvest, for a harvest (of souls).
With raving reviews from their last years photo studios they decided to come back and give ‘er another whirl. After driving 6 hours south they were ready to set up and bless the community again with a tangible need of Family Christmas photos. I was pleasantly surprised to see over 50 families come through Elmwood each getting their own 8×10 photo to take home. Many children came unsupervised by their parents (which is common), boasting that they would give their photo to “grandma” or “auntie” or “mom”. The building was filled with a variety of different folks in the community. Only a few fathers came in with their children, and ONE couple. Does this give you a picture of the family structure here?
I had to drop off Sara at the center to make dinner for the group, so I selfishly decided to stop off at Dairy Hut for one of their famous “Blasters” filled with peanut butter cups and Oreo cookie (yeah, I know, not good for me). God even blesses those gluttonous acts when lacking self-control…I ran into some old friends. Beth and Susan were there waiting for their next customers, Beth had a beer in hand. After greeting them with hugs, I asked if they would like to get their picture taken. Susan was into it and so they both came back to Elmwood with me. Susan was so proud to get her Christmas picture taken, I think she even held the teddy bear (this is a grown woman – 29 years old mind you). Beth just stood by, fidgety from her high. She didn’t know what to do with herself in this new environment. They wanted a ride home, and knew I had to help pack everything up at the end, so they pitched in and helped. I was pleasantly surprised by this, people in the community rarely volunteer to help with things.
We were almost out the door when I overheard Joyce (volunteer from the church) say, “Susan, I will be praying for you, God will allow you to have your children back.” I always enjoy taking time to pray WITH people when they will receive it, so I asked if we could all pray right at that moment. Grabbing hands we prayed for these two women who have been abused, used, and trampled on by our community. His light is broke forth in the darkness. On the drive home both women could hardly contain tears. Beth muttered, “I always feel depressed when I am around you all.” I asked what she meant by that, knowing she really didn’t mean ‘depressed’ but could not put her feelings into words. She came to the conclusion that she was forced to face reality when we interacted.
Sitting in front of the looming white house that many refer to as the ‘crack house’, I asked if I could pray for them again. This time more specifically about God’s provision for them, a way out of this lifestyle. They said, “Heather, we can’t take anymore!” with eyes full of tears. I knew what they meant. Couldn’t take anymore of the pain, the emotions that are so often stuffed way down inside were being exposed. It hurt. Like an open wound. No more band aids. Father wants to kiss their wounds and apply His anointing. Full healing. Time. Yes, it will take time. Our Father restores ALL things!
They did let me pray with them one more time, as I prayed, I heard the phrase, ‘You don’t know how much you are worth. You are worth more than any dollar amount someone may place on you. My blood purchased you.’ His mercies are new everyday! We met the volunteer groups back at the center for dinner after our photo shoots, sharing in fellowship. Worship was next. During worship, I was encouraged by the testimonies that were given. I also shared this one, as they didn’t know the whole story when they met Beth and Susan. With tears I thanked them for coming and ministering to our community. Will they ever know how much of an impact such a small thing had on these people’s lives? Susan told me on the way home that Beth was her only friend and that she had not been in the presence of positive people in months. Last night she had been crying out to God for help. She so desires to live a holy life. Pray for her and Beth (their names have been changed) as the Lord is pursuing their hearts. They may wonder into our worship service on Friday night. I truly hope so.