By Hannah Bemis
The woman entered with her shoulders hunched, the weight of the life she’d lived carried in her body and written on her face. Her hands were shaking but her eyes were clear and eager. “I need prayer to stay … consistent,” she said. After being clean and sober for a couple of years, she had just had a bad drug relapse. I could see that her disappointment, as well as the fear that she would fail again, was crushing her. As our team began to pray, her shakes (which I had attributed to detoxing) got even more intense. As we asked Jesus to partner with her and provide healing and power, we felt the atmosphere change. The intensity of our prayers rose with the intensity of her response, and everything about her posture (leaning in toward us, wiping away tears while repeating, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”) told us she was ready for the deliverance she was receiving. She was starving for it.
As we continued to pray, two verses came to my mind that I felt led to tell this sweet woman, but of course I couldn’t think of their references. I apologetically stumbled through the words of each verse out loud, and it wasn’t long until she began to say the words with me, telling me the references afterward. “Well, thank goodness someone knows!” I laughed. She told me she had felt called to memorize Scripture, and that those were two verses she’d been working on the past couple of days. The first was Philippians 2:13 (NLT): “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” The other was Philippians 1:6 (NIV): “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” As she left, I was reminded again how deeply blessed I was to get to do this, to pray for these dear women.
Five years ago, my friend Ann Apperson mobilized our church, Turning Point Open Bible Church in Spokane, Washington, to create an event called “Cherish,” with the goal of showing the love of Jesus to homeless and drug-addicted women and their children in the month of February. Ann and many others from our church got in contact with the homeless shelters, halfway houses, and rehab centers in our community and invited them to come to this one-day event. Turning Point would provide transportation. Once there, the women would be treated to a six-hour day of free food, entertainment, and pampering as well as opportunities to encounter Love Himself. We held the event on February 20 this year, and served 110 women and children.
When these women arrive at the church, they drop their children off for their own fun day of care that includes dance lessons, crafts, storytelling, songs, photo booths, and more. The women, after hearing a simple message of why we are providing this day for them and how much we hope they experience the love of Jesus, spend their time getting a massage, having their nails, makeup and hair done, going to the cafe for coffee and treats, making a journal or jewelry, or of course, going to the prayer room.
Nestled in one of our church’s “coves” is a small gathering area with comfy seating within the larger atrium where our team’s sign simply states, “PRAYER.” This year the five of us on the team laughed nervously, unsure whether anyone would choose prayer when there were so many luxurious and sparkly options elsewhere. But it didn’t take long at all for women to start trickling in.
There were Deana and Joann,* who came initially to get prayer for Joann’s baby. Protectively stroking her barely swollen tummy and beaming with pride, Joann told us, “It’s my first.” Both ladies had lived at the mission for over a year. We began by praying for the baby, but as we continued, several members of our team began to receive prophetic words for both women. God revealed specific things about Deana’s call to motherhood and mentoring as well as His original call over her family line to be a prophetic voice for God. Deanna audibly confirmed that her children were involved in drugs and sorcery but that she knew they had been called to be prophets. When we finally began winding down, the women looked up incredulously, saying, “You guys just prayed about everything we were JUST talking about in the cafe. That was crazy.”
Another woman named Jessa walked in and told us she was going through a grieving process over her eight children. She vaguely shared that not all of them were with her due to abuse in the past. As we prayed, a member of our team felt led to ask whether there were unhealthy male relationships in her past. Jessa admitted that she had been sexually abused as a child and had married five times. As a child, she had lived her life on the street, soon learning “there were ways to get what I wanted.” With Jessa’s permission, we prayed for a severing of any soul ties (unhealthy emotional and spiritual ties to past hurtful relationships), so she could move into a new life of freedom and health. After praying, she shared with us her dream to eventually lead worship and serve in ministry at her church.
At the end of Cherish, the women are treated to a fancy, five-course meal that is served by trusted men and boys in our church. It is often the first time these women have been served by or treated with respect by a man. As the women eat, they listen to a testimony given by a woman who, after meeting Jesus, has come out of a life of homelessness and/or drug addiction. Afterward, the women are invited to respond in a couple of ways. They can pray and invite Jesus into their healing process, and they can also announce their fresh start by getting baptized. This year 17 women were baptized, many of whom had received prayer from our team earlier in the day (including Deana and Joann!). During the dead space while the baptistry was getting set up, Ann, who was emceeing the event, spontaneously asked, “Does anyone out there sing?”
Several people began chanting “Jessa! Jessa! Jessa!” After vehemently shaking her head for a minute, Jessa nervously went forward. She later shared that she’d felt lonely and unknown by those at the halfway house where she was living. It had come as a revelation to her that she was not alone when so many not only knew her name, but also her passion for music. As she began to sing shakily, the words pouring from her mouth told the story of every one of us in that room.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found
was blind but now I see
As Jessa stepped down from the stage, the place erupted with applause. I imagine it was just an echo of the applause happening in heaven for every woman who said “yes” to the love of Jesus that day.
*The names of the clients have been changed to protect their privacy.