We walk quietly into the long, rectangular shaped bedroom. The smell of a fresh coat of paint and new carpet lingers in the air. There are no curtains on the windows yet and I can see the trees moving softly in the wind. There are four twin size beds lined against the wall, but there is no other furniture in the room. As we all find a place to sit or stand in the room I am suddenly overcome with the reality of it all.
Today we are praying through the home that will be our Chicago Refuge For Women. I am overwhelmed by the reality that God has provided such a beautiful, spacious home for his precious daughters to heal and be restored. The reality that these precious daughters will have the opportunity to start over and step into a new life that is good and full of purpose is about to happen and it hits me like a ton of bricks. As I sit on the bed, my eyes well up with tears. I can picture these women resting their head on a clean pillow, in a safe room, and surrounded by people who love and care for them.
I see this room in stark contrast to the reality of where she came from. I know she probably bounced around from hotel to hotel unsure where she would be from one night to the next. I know there were probably nights she cried herself to sleep wishing her life could be different. I know she often felt hopeless, worthless, and unloved. But here in this room, she will now have a place to call her own. She can lie down at night free from the fear of physical violence and free from people filling her head with lies about her worth. I know that some nights will be hard and she may have night terrors and flashbacks of the horrible things that happened to her, but she will now have someone beside her who can comfort her, pray with her, and ease her fear and anxiety. She will no longer have to turn to drugs to numb herself from the pain. I know that in the morning she can wake up and choose what she wants to wear that day and not what someone else has chosen for her to wear.
The dining room area hosts a long oval table, but not much else. There are no chairs around the table, but as we stand there to pray, I imagine the women sitting around the table for one of their classes. They are hearing, maybe for the very first time, what a healthy relationship looks like. They are learning the importance of boundaries, what is healthy, and how they should expect to be treated. I know the life they came from was very different than what they will experience in this home. Most of the women who come will have grown up in homes filled with dysfunction, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect. They have not had healthy relationships modeled for them and so the way they began to form relationships of their own was skewed by what they had been exposed to. I know they accepted being treated as “less than” because they had been told so many times that they were unimportant that they actually began to believe that about themselves.
I am overcome by the reality that soon these precious daughters will begin to see themselves in a new light. The light. The light of Jesus Christ and how He sees them. The hard work of healing won’t be easy. Their days will be long and structured, but they will learn that no matter what their past has been, that they can have a future that is bright and full of hope. Despite whatever their past held, they will learn that they have a heavenly father who loves them beyond anything they could ever imagine. He loved them before they even breathed their first breath and nothing can ever separate them from that love. In His eyes, they have infinite worth and value. He sees them as forgiven, beloved, known, cherished, and accepted.
My heart bursts with joy at the reality that these women will soon arrive and they will soon begin to see themselves the same way that Jesus sees them. As we set out the coffee, we anticipate the smell drifting through the house during morning devotions. We make the beds, to prepare a safe and private place. We ready our house, because though we do not yet know who is coming, the Lord does, and he has prepared their place at Refuge for Women.
Refuge for Women Chicago is now open and serving residents. If you would like to book a guest speaker, partner with this location or learn about volunteer opportunities, please email Nina.firstname.lastname@example.org.