This week I experienced an object lesson in grace. A group of volunteers from the WoFfice drove down to a mildly frightening area of Dallas, where our mission was to ready an apartment for a new resident and her small daughter. By the time you read this, they have probably moved in. At the time we were there, she was still incarcerated.
Exodus Ministries (and I quote) “assists Dallas County female ex-offenders that are re-entering society after incarceration in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system and have demonstrated a willingness to make positive changes in their life. These women are dealing with the residual pain of having been separated from their children for a long period of time and do not have the immediate financial resources to sustain their family. Exodus helps them and their families to become productive members of society by serving their spiritual and physical needs.”
When we arrived, her quarters looked like this:
We combined donated decor and found ourselves with a “Parisian” theme. We crafted a window valance out of place mats and transformed a table with a “people” skirt. We left a “Welcome Home” cake in the fridge. (Forgot to take that photo, sorry.) We talked constantly about what our new resident would need, what she’d like, what would work for her, how excited we were to give her this gift and how we wanted to make it as nice as possible.
Some six hours later, the place looked like this:
Before we left, we gathered to pray for our little home’s new resident. We prayed that she would complete the year-long program and change her life. We prayed for her family and her future. The whole day was a wonderful experience…but don’t take just my word for it. Here’s what Richard, one of the other volunteers, had to say about it:
It wasn’t until the project was over that I learned this: The resident is allowed to keep everything, provided she graduates the program. We weren’t just giving her a home, we were giving her a new start.
My heart was full, but at the same time it was cracking. You see, I had also learned during the day that many women do not graduate, choosing instead the life and the things they had before Exodus. Drugs, crime, abusive relationships to name a few.
I simply couldn’t understand. I couldn’t comprehend why someone, given everything they needed for a new life, would not accept this free gift. Are people so consumed with addiction and self-infliction that they can’t grasp the hand of help when it is extended?
Later that evening clarity came crashing on my conscience. Every morning I wake to an un-promised day, gifted by God extending His Hand of Grace. My free gift. His promise to give me everything I need. Do I always accept? Absolutely not. But some days I do. And now I understand that I’m not really that different than many of these women who live in Exodus House.