We are two weeks from our annual retreat for women who have been affected by the incarceration of a loved one and/or family member. It is a work of great blessing and joy, but it is hard work. Our weekend leader brings many skill sets for which we are grateful, because doing months of planning and team building with a large group of delightful, busy, scarred, beautiful, energetic and wholly human women is a lot like herding diva cats passionate about getting the job done. (Please pray for her and all of us and the woman who will be our guests in two short weeks.)
I've been impressed with so many exchanges of compassion and encouragement and ideas and savvy problem-solving and generosity....and an amazing amount of love. But I think the thing that has been the most impressive is the significant lack of ego and the lack of gamesmanship and posturing. Each weekend takes a minimum of 6 months of hard work and, if it were a many years commitment things might get less cohesive at times. But for this time people choose to set their own needs aside to an amazing extent, soliciting family and friends and church connections to pray, give, volunteer and they give lots and lots of their time and talents so we can welcome women who have in any way "served time with" someone important in their lives.
Our guests include mothers and wives and baby mamas and daughters and sisters and best friends whose idea of what life would be like has been significantly altered by the actions of another. And they are trying to find their way again, find a functional new normal, and they long for healing within their families of blood and choice. Many of our volunteers reach out to be a part of the ministry after they had similar experiences themselves. Others deal with different kinds of prisons that have colored their journey, but they feel the call to bring their hope, experience and faith into this ministry. Some work a weekend, some stay for a few years, and some serve for decades. All practice our primary directive: Listen, Listen. Love. Love.
So today I read Psalm 131 and thank God for these amazing women who minister to other women who stand in need of a little assurance that they are essentially God's amazing children, beloved daughters of the King of Kings, and in such ministry are themselves reminded of their own valued status in the eyes of God. I can hear this song with each act of kindness, love, service and mercy:
"Adonai, my heart isn’t proud; I don’t set my sight too high,
I don’t take part in great affairs or in wonders far beyond me.
No, I keep myself calm and quiet, like a little child on its mother’s lap --
I keep myself (safe and loved*) like a little child.
Isra’el, put your hope in Adonai from now on and forever!" AMEN
*added by this author