As a Christian, and a student of the humanities and social sciences, I’ve essentially spent the past few years constantly confronted by human nature and injustice. Whether I’m reading Scripture, sitting in a class discussing sexual violence, or just observing the world around me, I’m surrounded by conversations about injustice.
It’s easy to be discouraged by constant mention of injustice and evil that seems to govern the world we live in. And each time I think about injustice, sooner or later my mind comes back to All Worthy of Love.
But I realized recently, to my surprise, that I’m not discouraged at all when I’m thinking about AWOL. Our work deals with parts of the world most people would rather ignore. It’s dangerous and uncomfortable, and it stays with us even when we’re not driving around on outreach. Outreach reports are sometimes devastating, and it often seems that the work we put in is only barely acknowledged. Yet when I reflect on it, and our friends on the streets, I’m filled with hope and joy.
Through AWOL, I get to see God working more clearly than I get to in my everyday life. Everything seems so much smaller, and the Gospel so much bigger. The same Gospel I learned when I was five years old is at work on the streets of Detroit and Austin, setting men and women free from slavery – from a life they never asked for, but was forced upon them.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of being present for a rescue. A woman who had been on the street for 23 years decided that day was the day she would start on a new journey toward restoration. She was dead-set on leaving her old life behind and looking toward the future – she had already given her pet cat away and even picked out a name for her next cat, the one she was planning to own after rehab. She dealt with red tape and sudden changes in plans with tenacity that night. By the time we left her at the restorative care home, she had already picked out a home in a nearby city for herself to live in after her one-year program was up.
We were so joyful and encouraged that night. And it was an incredibly encouraging experience – until it wasn’t. The very next day, the pain of detoxing got the best of her and she returned to the streets.
This news was devastating. And though I know she was going through something more painful than I have probably ever experienced in my lifetime, I was grieved and disappointed. Yet when I think about AWOL, about our friends on the streets and about this specific woman, I’m not discouraged. I feel hopeful.
Injustice has many causes, and its effects are devastating. But God’s justice is founded in love. Because he loves his children equally with intensity I can’t even imagine, he never stops working to take care of us. His justice is informed by his perfect love. It’s who he is.
And because of this love, he heals us from the ways in which we hurt one another. Living in this world is painful, and we can’t fix anything ourselves; only our loving, all-powerful Father can bring about restoration. But restoration is who he is. This is the desperation and the certainty we take with us on outreach.
Amy is a Michigan Wolverine who likes to run, travel whenever possible, and cook (and eat) Indian food. She loves to experience new things and is always excited to be a partner with Christ in serving others. She loves being on the Detroit outreach team and witnessing God’s love and healing where it is desperately needed. Amy hopes to eventually obtain a Master’s degree in Social Work, but is excited to see how God will use her to fight injustice and serve others no matter where she ends up.