Why The Church Needs to be a Home for the Homeless

By Emily T. Wierenga

I can’t rest for remembering her.

The woman in the old man’s jacket.

I found her one week ago in Edmonton, two hours from here. I was on my way to visit a friend in the hospital and I’d stopped at a Wendy’s to use the bathroom. I walked in behind a mother and her daughter and we all stopped because there were two skinny legs in men’s pants, white socks and black slippers sticking out from beneath the stall door. I thought it was a man, and I thought he was dead.

But it was a woman and she was stumbling but alive, rising and apologizing and she had rich brown skin and the reddest eyes. She wore an old man’s winter coat, the hood pulled low and she exited slow from the bathroom but she didn’t smell like she’d been drinking. Or like anything, really, except the dankness of an unwashed body.

There was an empty pop can in the stall. She’d spent the night there.

I followed her from the bathroom, until she turned around and saw me. “Can I buy you lunch?” I asked, and she nodded, walked up to the counter, ordered chilli and a coffee and then went and lay her head down in a booth. I paid for the food, brought her the tray and she ate without swallowing. Lay her head back on the table.

I reached across the table then, touched her arm and she flinched. I asked if she had anywhere she could go, anywhere I could drop her off, and she shook her head.

I decided then, she could rest in the back of my van—the second seat pulled, and the trunk space empty. It was autumn, mid-October but the sun was shining and the temperature around twenty degrees Celsius. “I’m visiting someone in the hospital across the road,” I said. “You can sleep until I’m done, okay?”

“Okay,” she said, rising immediately, because it was better than a bathroom stall. We walked outside; I gave her my coat to use as a pillow and she curled up in the back of my Dodge, the red caravan Uncle Phil got us for $600 at an auction. In a moment she was snoring.

I wanted to bring her home. We have a guest room and I wanted to give her a bed and a bathroom and home-cooked meals because everyone deserves a home. A place to find themselves, a place to know they are more than a number, but when I called Trent he said she needed more help than we could give her.

So after my hospital visit, I dropped her off at The Hope Mission with its beds and its programs and its long line of men in scruffy beards, and I cried the two hours back to Neerlandia. I cried for the world’s Leah’s who have no one to make them supper, no one to care if they’ve gone missing, no physical address or postal box.

That night I was tucking Aiden in, and I was praying with him, my three year old with the long lashes and serious eyes, but I kept seeing Leah’s face.

“I met a woman today,” I told him. “She has no home.”

He turned to me, his eyes wide. “She has no home??!” he said. “We have to help them!”

Yes, honey. We have to help them.


 

This excerpt is taken from Emily Wierenga’s new memoir (the sequel to ATLAS GIRL), Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose. Order HERE.

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What does it mean to be a woman and to make a home? Does it mean homeschooling children or going to the office every day? Cooking gourmet meals and making Pinterest-worthy home décor? In Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose, author and blogger Emily Wierenga takes readers on an unconventional journey through marriage, miscarriage, foster parenting and the daily struggle of longing to be known, inviting them into a quest for identity in the midst of life’s daily interruptions. Get your copy HERE. Proceeds benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree.

Get FREE downloadable chapters from Making It Home HERE.

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Sign up for the FREE Making It Home webcast featuring Liz Curtis Higgs, Holley Gerth, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Jo Ann Fore (with Emily Wierenga as host), 8 pm CT on September 10, 2015, HERE. Once you sign up you’ll be automatically entered for a giveaway of each of the author’s books!

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, columnist, artist, author, founder of The Lulu Tree and blogger at www.emilywierenga.com. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Relevant, Charisma, Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Dayspring’s (in)courage and Focus on the Family. She is the author of six books including the travel memoir Atlas Girl and speaks regularly about her journey with anorexia. She lives in Alberta, Canada, with her husband, Trenton, and their children. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.