Seven years ago, on October 10, 2010, Redeemed Ministries opened the doors of the Sparrow House. We welcomed two survivors with open arms. We were willing servants armed with hopes, dreams, prayers and God’s word.
We reflected on Acts 26:16-18 “…I have a job for you. I’ve handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you. I’m sending you off to open the eyes of outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light; see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.” ~The Message
We imagined women arriving tired, beat down and broken, hungry for relationship and healing. We imagined women arriving hungry for God and digging deep into His word seeking answers for their questions and comfort in the knowledge found there. We imagined devotions and Bible studies taking place on the deck beneath the oak tree (maybe even as the Fall leaves drifted down around us). We imagined laughter echoing throughout the house while dinner was prepared in the kitchen. We imagined scrapbooking, GED studying, jam and pickle canning and late night swims in the beautiful pool. It didn’t take long for us to realize what we had imagined and what life in the Sparrow House would look like would be accurate, but also so, so different – it’s been all of that and so much more. In the past seven years 50 women have walked across the threshold of the entry since we opened and each one has left an indelible mark on my life.
Women have arrived tired, beat down and broken, but the women who come are STRONG. They are fighters. They are survivors. They are overcomers. They have all been hungry for relationship and healing, but many are so confused by what healthy relationships looks like. Many have walked through the doors of the Sparrow House hungering for the relationship with their trafficker and desperately missing those they left behind. They desire relationship with the parents who molested, beat or sold them for drugs. They hunger for healing but often expect it to happen quickly. They hunger for healing but don’t want to dig deep and participate in honest self-examination. Some women have arrived hungry for God, but many have arrived angry with God and having no desire to learn about a God who allowed the pain and suffering they had endured.
We used the back deck, not just for devotions and Bible study, but also for times of mourning after receiving STD diagnoses or remembering vivid details of a gang rape or reminiscing on their first encounter with prostitution. It was used for times of rejection and anger and wrestling with the tough questions we simply don’t have answers for. The laughter happened and it happened often. Some of it was healing, some not. Some laughter echoed as women watched movies or tried to exercise to impossible DVD’s or as they shared “war stories” from their time in “the life”. The dinner table became the gathering place as we played games, shared meals, celebrated birthdays and pondered devotions. The Sparrow House became a place of refuge to many.
To some it became a prison as they were surrounded by self-doubt, self-loathing, and hopelessness. One woman stayed 19 hours – she couldn’t leave fast enough needing to connect with her drug dealer and find her next fix. One stayed a couple of days – she was confused and searching for significance in the eyes of her biological family. Many stayed 12 – 14 months – they dug deep and sought approval and significance from many directions. 50 women, each with her own agenda and individual needs for healing. Seven years, three different locations, each better equipped than the previous. Countless dedicated staff, volunteers and giving partners praying for and loving each woman. Countless memories and changed lives.
When Harvey hit Texas shores in August we prepared the Sparrow House for the possibility of losing power and water. We stocked up on water and canned goods like the rest of Houston and prepared for possible high winds by stowing the outdoor umbrellas and other lightweight items that could take flight and cause damage. We all settled in for a long weekend of rain, movies, games and comfort food. What unfolded was more devastating than any of us expected. The city of Houston and surrounding suburbs were impacted by floodwaters reaching beyond the 500-year flood plain. Thousands were affected including our recently donated Sparrow House. After an unrelenting night of rain on Saturday and awakening to see standing water on the private road leading to the Sparrow House we began to monitor things more closely. On-site staff began sending us photos and videos every couple of hours, clients began to feel panic, and everyone was glued to our respective TVs.
As we watched boat rescues happening throughout Houston and the water level rising on our property and reaching the steps of the front porch, we made the decision to evacuate. We still didn’t think the water would enter the house, but we knew our clients and staff were nervous and having peace, calm and safety became our priority. Arrangements were made. Dennis, Will and Kent arrived with the boat owner and hauled clients and staff off the Sparrow House island through waters that had risen to approximately three feet in some places. Because all lives matter to us the guys went back in and rescued all nine chickens as well! Once our five clients and staff were settled into a hotel north of the flooding we all sat back and watched the continuing devastation extend throughout Houston to Southeast Texas.
Calls and texts began pouring in with offers of help. Help to pay for the hotel, help to bring food to the ladies, help repairing the Sparrow House if need be. As soon as the waters receded enough for a trip to the house we went and boated in. Waters were over five feet high in some places on our property and on the private road leading to our property! Our hearts were broken for our nearest neighbors who had obviously taken on water – we felt our hearts drop knowing if they took on water then so did the Sparrow House. As we waded though water and opened the garage door we held our breath. The water line was at least 20 inches up on the walls. Most everything in the garage had floated to the center and landed in a large, smelly pile. The steps leading up the house were wet. The water line was above the foundation.
As we toured the house we celebrated! We had definitely taken on water, evidenced by the puddles in the living room and the soaking wet area rugs throughout the entire downstairs, BUT water levels were low. While we lost all of the area rugs and pretty much everything in the garage, we lost none of the furniture in the house. We were relieved and so thankful God had protected the house. As outlined in the newsletter last month, partners from all over came quickly to begin the restoration process and as a result our interior walls and studs dried within two weeks of the flood and new walls went up during week 3 post Harvey!
As we welcomed women back into the Sparrow House last week we were once again willing servants armed with hopes, dreams, prayers and God’s word. As they came back home they each expressed enormous gratitude for the home and for the hands that worked to restore it and for the financial partners who have been and will continue to contribute so they can remain within the walls of safety, family, security, and refuge.
As we come full circle nearing our seven year anniversary we are once again blessed to be called to work with the marginalized, victimized and often forgotten- the strong survivors who somehow climbed out of the dark dungeons they have been held in (some literally and some figuratively). We are blessed to work with those who will fight to heal and those who are too weary to fight, those who will dig deep into God’s word seeking truth and those who will reject God, those who will fill the rooms of the Sparrow House with laughter and those who will fill it with sorrow and mourning. We are blessed to be hand picked servants called to show these precious women the difference between the light and the darkness that they may choose the light and the difference between God and Satan that they may choose God. We are blessed to journey with those easy to love and those difficult to love. We are blessed to know we are not on this journey alone – that we have hundreds of fellow believers journeying with us, hand in hand ready to give and sweat and pray so these women will have a safe place to call home.