Making Meaning out of Suffering, Death, and Life

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In October, I had an invasive, traumatic experience at night in my car, involving a threat and a gun.  (To clarify, this was not on outreach or in Detroit.)  The timing coincided with great stress in my job, and I decided to take a month off of outreach.

 A few days later, our outreach team received the news that someone we had prayed with most days on outreach had been killed. Shortly after, our team received the news of another death. Extremely violent. I don’t mean to have favorites, but this woman was the first I witnessed ask for our card and say she was ready to leave the streets. As we drove away that day, I remember my outreach team members commenting with so much hope in their voices.  They had never seen her so clean or sober before. We were all hopeful, but especially me—it had only been my second time on outreach. I didn’t understand yet that it was less likely that she would call than not call.

As I grieved her death, I reflected on how the threat of death I faced once had been what she faced every day. I started changing my prayers for the women. Not only did I want to pray for freedom from sex slavery, but also for life, not spiritual life like I usually thought of, but physical breath and life! That these women would even have the time on this earth to decide they wanted off the streets.

And what, then, of spiritual life? If evil comes to end her life before she even has the time to decide she wants off the streets, what, then, of her greatest need to be in reconciled relationship with God? I resolved to grow in praying the gospel when praying aloud. That these women might hear the gospel even if they are not physically freed from slavery during their lives on this earth.

My first week back after a month off of outreach, we saw an older woman we knew, Sarah (name changed to protect her identity), fallen over in a parking lot.  Against our team leader’s directive to stay in the car while he got out, my other two team members couldn’t take seeing Sarah like that. They got out of the car to hold Sarah upright while sitting beside her on the pavement. I sat in the front seat, alarmed, the empty parking lot and main road behind me. I was in a car again, it was dark again, and there were wide open spaces inviting invasion again. I eventually turned around and sat awkwardly backward in the front seat, so I could see my surroundings and watch the strangers who had approached us. My fears of them threatening us were never realized, and in fact, one of them was a loyal friend of Sarah’s who literally carried her home. (Sarah had refused to go with an EMT even though she could not walk or stand, and the EMT never did arrive even if she had agreed!)

I was challenged by my team members’ love for Sarah.  I told myself, outreach is not just about sharing the gospel through prayer or helping those who are working get off the streets. I began praying that God would help me see people like Sarah.

A week or two later, our team met a woman who was in distress. We asked her why. She had just seen her close friend, Sarah, violently run over by a car and die the day before.

Now when I read “see people like Sarah” on my prayer list, I am reminded of all that I have written here and wonder how to make meaning of it seven months later.  It would be appropriate to end with a conclusion for you, but I have none. I can only thank you for allowing me to share with you.  May God use what you have read to draw you closer to him.

Holly Chuang
All Worthy of Love Outreach
Copyright 2016

 

profile pictureHolly Chuang is a woman not too unlike those on the streets.  She fears being worthy and has a deep need for her Father’s perfect love.  Sometimes she regards prayer with suspicion, and other times, humble desperation.  The kindness of a stranger who stops …to pray with faith on her behalf can cause her to cry.  Holly is a Christ-follower and desires true repentance in her life and the lives of others.  She believes freedom and healing, which come from Christ, may be lived on this earth.

 

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