Another ministry that I wanted to partner with on our Jamestown trip was House of Hope. This ministry didn’t exist when I worked in the area, but I knew it was a dream of Dianne’s. Dianne’s office was right next to mine at the church where I used to work at in PA. I remember her talking about her desire to have a house in Warren for some of the girls she was working with at the prison.
I actually contacted Dianne when I was in the Philippines. To see what resources or program they were using to rehabilitate girls. And when I started planning the Jamestown trip, I knew I wanted to take our team there. I was excited to see a vision turn into reality.
Dianne was very up front about us coming. She said she couldn’t promise that any of the girls would show up, as they were all busy with different schedules, appointments, and jobs. And she also told me that they most likely would not be able to connect with any testimonies from typical suburban upbringings.
I appreciated Dianne’s directness. She e-mailed me several times before the trip, still asking me if I wanted to come or not since she couldn’t promise that any of the girls would be there. I felt like God wanted us there, and He would have show up, who He wanted to show up.
I didn’t really have a plan for what to do once we were there, I just knew that we needed to go. I felt like we were to listen more than share… and then God dropped an idea in my mind, that well… was kind of awkward. I e-mailed Dianne about it and she was open to it but wasn’t sure how the girls would respond.
We crossed the the state line into PA on Monday after VBS. We were all piled in Jess’ mom’s white aztec, with Shannon in the trunk. We pulled up in front of a beautiful victorian style home. I couldn’t tell if the house was divided into apartments so I didn’t know what door to go to. Dianne pulled into the drive way and we followed her in.
We all gathered in a beautiful living room, that fit the victorian exterior. I almost felt like I was in a beautiful museum or hotel. 4 girls joined us, as well as Dianne. I told them we’d buy them pizza and that we were grateful for them having us over. One of the girls wanted pizza hut, with the cheesy bite crust. So that’s what I bought, Jeff and I went and picked it up after we played my favorite “get to know you game.” Which is sharing your favorite color, nature scene and animal and then telling why those things are your favorite.
One of our team members shared her testimony while Jeff and I were getting the pizza. We brought it back and ate with them in the living room, and asked if they’d mind sharing their stories. A few of the girls did.
What we heard was atrocious. Upbringings filled with neglect, sexual, mental, emotional abuse. The destructive cycle of alcohol and drugs. Abusive boyfriends, introducing them into harder drugs. And then hard time behind bars.
But then we heard a story of redemption. Of the faithful ministry of Dianne and her team, who came in to the jail to share about the good news of Jesus. And we heard of how lives were transformed, and how these girls were brought to group sessions by evangelists also serving time.
We heard of the transition out of jail, and how it’s more difficult because they are faced with so many more opportunities to choose incorrectly. We heard stories of intense spiritual warfare as these girls walked in greater freedom in their new identities. We heard of the continuing work of The House Of Hope to walk with these girls through their transition.
I had shared with our team, God’s “awkward” idea beforehand, and told them we’d just play it by ear. And being the amazing team that they were they were down for whatever.
So after the girls finished sharing their stories, Hannah asked them if we could wash their feet. And she pointed them to the scripture where Jesus washed His disciples feet. I chimed in, asking them to remember that we serve a God that knelt down and took the place of a servant and washed His disciples feet. I asked them to remember this when other Christians were not as gracious or forgiving to them. These girls were blessed to have been on Dianne’s radar, a woman who loves unconditionally like Jesus. Who fights for their true identity as daughters of the King of Kings.
I made sure to always give these girls choices. They didn’t have to share, they didn’t have to have their feet washed. They have already been through so much, where they had things forced on them. I let them know that they could choose to have their feet washed or not. Two girls said yes. So Jess and Hannah filled up bowls of water and paper towels and knelt down and washed these girls feet.
The beautiful moment here was that as our team washed their feet, one girl had a house arrest ankle bracelet on, and the other one smoked from vaporizer e-cigarette, but I sensed the Lord smiling down on the beauty of this situation. After all it was His idea anyway. We spent time praying for them and blessing them and we were on our way. We found out that the week after our visit, one of the girls who was hesitant to share with us, accepted Christ.