What Will Happen to Her Now?
By Connie Blaylock
How I would describe my volunteer activities with The Net, in their work here in Fort Worth, Texas? I am an ordinary person, doing ordinary things, but within a relationship that is both very unlikely and unordinary.
I am an advocate for one woman in The Net’s RISE program, which works in cooperation with the Tarrant County court system to help her in “Reaching Independence through Self-Improvement,” aka R-I-S-E. I also love the name for this program!
My “Rise Woman” has sexual abuse in her past, became a mom when she was barely a teenager, was addicted to heroin, and was once a prostitute living on the streets. It’s been twenty years since she’s had a regular paying job. With only an eighth-grade education, no vehicle, and no place to live, she continues to be in a very vulnerable situation. Through the RISE program I see her developing motivation, persistence, self-confidence, independence, and hope.
One of the practical challenges of being an advocate is the time and commitment it takes to build a new relationship. It can be a bit uncomfortable, considering there is a requirement to talk to one another weekly and to meet once a month. The relationship feels a little forced and unnatural at times. Coordinating a time to meet–between my work and her required evening meetings–is minimal, and that often makes it hard to get together. Both of us are introverted, which increases the difficulty of having a meaningful conversation.
“Yet she has become someone you care about and are burdened for, and your concern is real.”
In regards to the emotional challenges, there is a fear of unmet expectations or unrealized hopes for your new friend. For some advocates, the fear becomes reality. At times the required meetings are skipped, or harmful relationships resumed. Drugs might come back into the picture, and soon the woman drops out of sight and out of the program. Yet she has become someone you care about and are burdened for, and your concern is real.
Then the questions surface. “Was there something more I should have done?” “What will happen to her now?”
Among the spiritual challenges of being an advocate is the commitment and responsibility to pray for another person. I go before God on her behalf hoping to support her well and help lead her into a restored life through Christ. That means my faith and trust in Jesus needs to be strong and consistent and that is a challenge!
She hears my prayers for her which expose my heart. I want her to hear encouragement and compassion. I don’t want to be judgmental or assuming; am I asking God to change something she doesn’t see as unfavorable? This brave woman hears my expectations of her–and of God. When I pray, she also hears my confessions and my weaknesses. My desire is to advocate for her in every respect and according to God’s will.
Despite the challenges, I find our relationship so special. After three years, it has grown into something comfortable and regular. We genuinely care about one another. The Lord, through this relationship, has opened my eyes to see her–and others that look like her–as significant, loved by God, and not that different from me. I know I’ve made some of the same wrong choices. It is only that I wasn’t caught, or addicted, or quite as desperate.
I’ve become more aware of just how difficult it is to rise out of these kinds of circumstances–to break off communication with your old, comfortable, community, to resist the temptation to return to former habits, to get a job when you have a record, and to believe God sees you as worthy of all good things.
I am learning that when I choose to show compassion and love for others, to consider their stories, I am reflecting the abundant love and grace that Jesus has shown me. The longer I live, the more I realize what He has done for me, and to serve Him by serving others is a joy.
“She is trusting God, she has hope, and she has a plan.”
The story to date is that my “Rise Woman” has prevailed in the program. Despite hard times and disappointments, she expects to graduate from RISE in a few months. She’s anxiously awaiting her own apartment (first one ever) and currently has a part time job that will allow her to open her first bank account. She is trusting God, she has hope, and she has a plan.