A lot of people think we’re crazy. It’s ok. We know you’re they’re out there. 🙂 Others think we’re just plain stupid. “Why?” they want to know. “Why do you go to that part of the city? Isn’t it dangerous? Why do you take that risk for those women?”
It’s true, there is risk involved for us. This isn’t the safest part of Detroit. There’s a lot of shady stuff that happens here. Often, we interact with people who are under the influence of one substance or another. And that can make for an interesting…and unpredictable…encounter. So why do we go?
The other day, I was reading in Luke 13 about a time that Jesus healed a woman who had been sick for 18 years. Eighteen years is a long time, y’all! And the religious leader got ticked because Jesus had healed this woman on the Sabbath. It’s a story that I’ve read many times before, but some of the details suddenly stood out. First was the way that the synagogue official responded. “…[he] began saying to the crowd in response, ‘There are six days in which work should be done, so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’” Wait, what? Did he really just tell this woman who had been suffering for 18 YEARS to come back on Monday to get healed?
But then there was the way that Jesus responded. He points out her identity. “This woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” I mean, come on guys, you feed and water your ox and your donkey on the Sabbath. But this is a woman. A daughter of Abraham. One created by God, and in his very image. Isn’t she worth being set free right now?
That’s what Imago Dei means – the image of God. In Genesis we see that we, humans, are made in the image of the triune God. Every one of us. The women and men who are out here, bound by traffickers and drug addiction and hopelessness, are valuable and worthy because they carry the image of the living God. That’s why we go to the streets with lunches and hygiene kits and desperate prayers and open arms.
And we go because WE, as followers of Jesus, are image bearers of God and are being conformed more and more into his likeness. And this is what Jesus did. He left what was comfortable and safe and came to Earth where he was persecuted and crucified. And he did it because that hostile place is where we, his creation made in his image, were. He came to us. And we go to them.
We love these women and these men. When we see them, we see the beauty of a life created by God, known to him before the foundation of the world. We see reflections of God himself in these women and men. And there is no sweeter thing in the world than tell them that God of the universe thought they were valuable enough to create, and worthy enough to die for; and to show them that we believe the same by coming back for them week after week.
Heather Fitzgerald moved to Detroit from North Carolina because Jesus burdened her for the women and men here who are engaged in street prostitution. To the dismay of her family in friends in NC, she LOVES living in Detroit and has no plans to move back. Being a part of the AWOL outreach team is one of her favorite things; driving in the snow is at the opposite end of that spectrum. She hopes to, soon, be able to open a drop-in center for women on the streets here in Detroit.